How to attend Burning Man while avoiding the sun?
August 2, 2010 11:02 AM   Subscribe

I really don't like the sun. I would like to go to Burning Man. How do I make this happen?

I wear sunscreen every day. I cross the street to find shade. I pass up trips to the beach. I have a pathological dislike of blinding sunlight.

But I've wanted to going to Burning Man for years and now the stars seem to have aligned. If you've been, do you have any tips for spending a week in the desert while avoiding the sun? Will I miss out on too much if I plan to sleep in the shade during the day and venture out mostly at night? Is sleeping during the day even possible given the heat? Tell me what can I do to take the burn out of Burning Man.
posted by the jam to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I grew up in Arizona and was pretty sun-averse for a lot of it. There's a lot to be said for carrying an umbrella with you everywhere you go. Bring a couple extra along in case you lose or break one. Bonus: you'll have absolutely no chance of looking like a weirdo.
posted by hermitosis at 11:05 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

sleep in the shade during the day and venture out mostly at night

This describes the strategy of ~80% of Burning Man attendees. You won't miss out on much, though you may find it difficult in practice if you have a hard time sleeping around heat and noise. Bring a well-ventilated RV or a very opaque shade structure, ear plugs and an eye mask. A hammock or other sleeping arrangement that gets you off the ground and surrounded by cooling breezes is great if you can manage it.

As for keeping out of direct sunlight on those occasions when you must venture out due to sleeplessness or something really cool, there's the obvious sunblock and wide-brimmed hat, but you could also rock a parasol if inclined.
posted by contraption at 11:11 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

There will be shade by the truckload at BurningMan. Bring a parasol (or two, the paper ones dry out and crack easily), a hat with a brim and a chin strap, goggles, something to cover our face in dust storms, and a way to carry water easily. That way you can scurry from shady place to shady place easily.

It is hard to sleep in the heat. It is easier if you have a portable cot that lets air circulate underneath, cotton sheets that absorb moisture, and deep shade. Next best thing to a portable cot is an air mattress, but they can get very cold at night and can be sweaty in the day if you don't insulate yourself with a wool army blanket as mattress pad and a cotton sheet (wool is an excellent bedding material in the desert, as long as you're not directly on it). The best sleeping arrangement I ever had there was a futon in the back of a minivan that had it's windows covered with reflective insulation, and that we had built a shade structure over. The second best was the times I had my small tent under the shade of a much larger tent. If you can situate yourself on the northeast side of some big moving truck or RV, you'll be able to sleep in later in the morning.

Save yourself a change of clean clothes for the ride home.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:23 AM on August 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

My first year at Burning Man I applied SPF 45 sunblock every hour on the hour during daylight hours. I sunburned so badly that my skin turned a shade of purple that made it look like I was covered in hickies. You have never experienced sun like you'll experience on the playa.

Having said that, I have never found it difficult to sleep during the day. Camping on the quiet(er) side of the event helps with this. The heat actually makes it easier for me to fall asleep.

Also, there are plenty of ways to keep the sun off of you during the day. I've managed a couple of costumes that can keep the sun off of me, which remain light enough that I don't pass out. The umbrella suggestion also works, although it's a rare umbrella that will keep the sun off your entire body.

I have never felt that I've missed out on anything by waiting until the hottest part of the day was over before venturing out. I'm confident that you'll come to the same conclusion.

If you do come out, come to our meetup. Feel free to MeMail me if you have any further questions relating to the event.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 11:26 AM on August 2, 2010

I am also uncomfortable in the sun and wanted to go to Burning Man.

I tried to find a dishdasha at a reasonable price, but couldn't get one in time. A dishdasha is a traditional Middle-Eastern garment that covers the arms and body with loose-fitting fabric. I settled for two nightgowns on sale from a department store's women's nightwear section, that were just plain white and a cotton/linen blend. Those came down to mid-forearm and to my knee. Combining those with a wide-brimmed hat really felt like it kept the sun from beating down on my skin, without getting me too hot.

I also spent a lot of time sleeping during the hotter parts of the day.

Also, I know you don't explicitly have this problem, but I wear sunscreen but can't stand the feel of it. The alkali dust there does such a good job of being dusty and sticking to everything that within seconds of applying sunscreen, my skin would feel dry and smooth and not greasy at all.
posted by MonsieurBon at 11:32 AM on August 2, 2010

sleep in the shade during the day and venture out mostly at night

Well, you don't have to SLEEP. During the hottest part of the day, I tend to hang around the shade of my camp, talk to strangers, read, or people-watch (SO much better than reality TV).

Setting up shade at your camp is a huge priority for most folks, so don't take it lightly. I also bring battery-operated fans, bandanas with gel that expand when dumped in cold water to hang around my neck, keep baby wipes in the cooler, soak my feet in vinegar and water, and drink lots of cold liquids - all standard tips that help people from dehydrating and keeping cool.

One other thing you could do is volunteer at the ice centers (Artica) during the day. Nothing beats the heat better than standing in an ice truck for three hours.
posted by HeyAllie at 11:51 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I am pale as all get out, and have a strong aversion to bright lights. I went to BM twice, and I didn't have many issues. I found that the daytime was best spent at my home basecamp, staying hydrated and in the shade. More interesting and fun things happened in the evening hours anyway, and staying up til dawn was typical. You should invest in a good pair of sunglasses or shaded goggles for the dust. A parasol is also handy. Do enjoy! I hope I can go again someday.
posted by wowbobwow at 12:38 PM on August 2, 2010

I'm a ginger burner. I tend to hang out at camp during the day, with some short runs here and there and I have a parasol I use for longer expeditions - it provides a lot of shade. My cowboy hat has a brim that shades the tops of my ears (v important). I wear big sunglasses or sun goggles.

I have only RVed once, which made sleeping in the day easier, but it is much harder to do that when camping. Some years have been very chilly at night, so if you decide to become a night owl, you might find that more to your liking.

The conditions are hard out there, and your first time can be very intimidating, but if you prepare well (read the first timer's guide on the BM website) you'll be fine.
posted by poissonrouge at 1:41 PM on August 2, 2010

It is SO easy and pleasant to hang out in the shade all day while just calling out to random people walking by, or waiting for them to just wander up to you. Plan on making your shady spot somehow interesting or attractive to random passersby and you'll be fine. Alternately, you can carry a funky parasol/umbrella and wander from shady spot to shady spot, spending however long you want at each. Burners tend to not rush anyone out of a seat.

I say this as someone who tries to avoid 100 watt bulbs bc I burn so easily...I got a nice sort of "smacky burn" (felt like someone had been giving me open-handed slaps) the first day because I spent the whole thing in the sun. For the rest of the time, I ventured out when the sun was lower, earlier/later in the day, and hung in the shade for the worst parts of the day. I did fine, and I'm sure you will too.
posted by nevercalm at 2:41 PM on August 2, 2010

Clothing is a big help. I used loose, long sleeve shirts, long (broomstick) skirts, and wide brimmed hats. That allows for airflow and still covers your up. You'll want to be wearing a costume anyway. Sunscreen is mostly useless.
posted by chairface at 2:48 PM on August 2, 2010

If you or your friends are "crafty" on a large scale, maybe check into building a hexayurt?
posted by fiercecupcake at 3:01 PM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Umbrella. But choose carefully, because some are much more opaque than others.
posted by walla at 6:32 PM on August 2, 2010

Seconding the long-sleeved shirts and pants. As the guy who writes says, you'll notice that typical desert attire is not the bikini; rather, long, loose, light flowing garments.
posted by IndigoRain at 11:09 PM on August 2, 2010

You have never experienced sun like you'll experience on the playa.

Not true. It is important for people, especially if travelling, to realise that the UV rating is not necessarily correlated with how 'sunny' a place is.

Burning Man is nothing, nothing compared to New Zealand in Dec-Jan.
Tourists don't take tend to take us seriously when we tell them that the cloudy sunshine on a 14 degree celsius day (say half what it would be at Burning man) will burn them, until they go lobster red. Thanks ozone hole!

Years ago, after 2 hours where it slipped my mind to put on sunscreen, swimming in the sea on a sunny day in Auckland - I peeled 3 successive layers, had scaly skin on my back for a long time afterwards, and burn lines that were still faintly visible *4 years* later (skin not exposed to sun in all that time).

In comparison, I wore *no* sunscreen at Burning Man, tho I slept in quite late, but I didn't burn at all.
Note, for Kiwis and Ozzies? Burning Man isn't nearly as extreme as it sometimes sounds. Have fun! Go!

Actually, the heat is something of an advantage at Burning Man, because you'll naturally want to get out of the sun to stay cool. This may sound counter intuitive, but wear a bit more clothing - loose, say a kimono, to subconsciously motivate you to stay out of the sun.

Ah, to hammer the point home about UV with facts:
UV Index all this week in Gerlack* is '8' (Very High).
In New Zealand (pdf), it gets up to 13 over Dec-Jan. :(

* Closest town to BM.
posted by Elysum at 5:05 AM on August 31, 2010

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