feels like burning
August 12, 2010 9:39 AM   Subscribe

BurningFilter: best (and worst) advice for a handful of twentysomething female newbies camping for a week in the desert?

We're five twentysomething girls heading to Burning Man at long last. Hooray! Four of us (including me) are newbie burners; one attended once a few years ago.

We've read the Survival Guide, perused ePlaya, and are relatively confident we know what we're doing -- goggles, lotsa water, carport for shade anchored by rebar, zero MOOP, etc. But we welcome any additional tips/warnings, especially from experienced Mefites. Most of all: What's the very best item or product you brought? What did you desperately wish you had? What would you do differently?

Even if you haven't been to Burning Man, if you have experience camping in rough conditions (especially in the hot, dusty desert) we'd love your advice, too. Thanks!!

p.s. will you be there?
posted by changeling to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (16 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Have you been to the Eplaya forum for helpful tips and preparation? Tons of information there - a lot of snarkiness too, but that's really the best place to go. Hundreds of great information.

There's a Mefite meetup at Center Camp at 4 pm on Wednesday - come join us!
posted by HeyAllie at 9:47 AM on August 12, 2010

*One of those bottles with a fan on top. Any drugstore has them right now.
*Spray on sunscreen that you bring with you everywhere.
*Double up on stuff in case you lose it, as you can't replace it. (2 pairs sunglasses)
*Extra shoes/boots that are only about comfort.

Biggest girlie recommendation:

***Over the counter UTI and yeast infection medication.

Just in case. You will be very, very thankful.
posted by Vaike at 9:52 AM on August 12, 2010

Response by poster: thanks, HeyAllie! I have been to ePlaya, it's fantastic. And thanks for letting me know about the meetup, I am SO there.

forgot my other important question -- is it really mandatory to get there on Monday? (is the traffic appalling?) like, if we get there Tuesday, will we be stuck camping a foot away from the porta potties or something?
posted by changeling at 9:52 AM on August 12, 2010

Figure out your group dynamics early. Do you want to do everything together and are you willing to deal with the herding cats phenomenon? Will you be upset if one of your pals couples off with the hot satyr she met at 3am on at the trash fence and is otherwise occupied for the rest of the week? Do you expect to eat dinner as a group every night? Personal dynamics get really freaky out there and with all the distractions and with an absence of "real world" expectations, people act differently and feelings can be hurt. Don't expect that since you say "Let's meet at 2pm at Center Camp" that everyone will be there. Just do your thing and have your own fun.

Also, pee funnels are kind of a waste of time.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:55 AM on August 12, 2010

You'll be fine if you get there on Tuesday. Traffic will be fine. Drive slowly .5mph or less on the playa and stay within the posted, ridiculously slow speed limits posted on the highway that approaches the playa.

Give yourself a nice foot bath with a little bit of vinegar in the water at least once a day, followed by a heavy slathering of lotion. Bring tons of clean socks and change them often.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:58 AM on August 12, 2010

Okay, I see you've been to the Eplaya....

Best tips from my own experience:

* using old towels to wick up gray water (works for a camp of just a few people)
* For women - wide mouthed bottle and a pee funnel ARE GREAT at 3 am
* best gifts are helping total strangers
* vise grips for removing rebar
* battery-operated fans while soaking feet in water with a splash of vinegar

I like arriving Tuesday mornings - less traffic getting in and still plenty of space.
MeMail me if you have any questions.
posted by HeyAllie at 10:00 AM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Estimate how much water you will drink per person, then double that. This is how much you should bring. Trust me, better to be the people saying "sure, fill your bottle up, we've got extra," than to be the person meekly searching to fill your bottle.
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:00 AM on August 12, 2010

Also.... time has no meaning on the playa.... I have a sinking feeling that it'll be Friday and I'll have forgotten that the Mefite meetup was 2 days ago.

Also, volunteer if you can. Great way for a newbie to meet people. I'll be volunteering at the airport to greet people and hoping to jump into a couple of shifts at the Arctica ice trucks - the best place to be in the desert during a hot afternoon.
posted by HeyAllie at 10:03 AM on August 12, 2010

Lip balm. So much lip balm. More lip balm than you ever ever thought you could possibly need. And make sure that you have both lip balm with sunscreen (Badger Balm is great) and a super-moisturizing one for nighttime. Don't wait until your lips are chapped! Slather it on as soon as you get off the plane, and don't stop 'til you fly back home. Bring more lip balm to give other folks you see with cracked, bleeding, ultra-chapped lips.

Bring earplugs and a sleep aid if you've got it. The oonceoonceoonce doesn't stop.

Bring an absorbing book, or some other way to completely tune out the world. You're going to be completely and continuously surrounded by people for a week. Taking a daylong break in the middle of that week can help you reboot and feel ready for the rest of it.

Go out on your own, completely alone, for at least one night, and be open to everything, even if it's a little outside of your comfort zone. Look at art, meet people, talk to everyone.

Here's the mantra that helped me: You are responsible for your own good time.

Have fun! I so wish I could be there this year.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 10:51 AM on August 12, 2010

If you want to meet up with people there, find out whereabouts they are planning on camping beforehand, or make a plan to have them put their location in the center camp system. Any plans you have to meet at any particular place at any particular time are subject to change, because it is burning man and that's how plans go.

I completely missed the mefi meetup last time I went, mostly because suddenly it was Saturday and the meetup was a few days ago and oops. This will happen, and you'll be happier if you just let it happen.

Also, I highly suggest spending some time wandering on your own.. lots of fun things happen then that don't when you've got folk with you.

On preview, most of this has been mentioned, so seconding as appropriate. I, too, wish i could be there this year. Alas.
posted by nat at 11:02 AM on August 12, 2010

Burning Man isn't just any hot, dusty desert; it's a hot, dusty, alkali desert. It can mess up your feet something fierce. You may or may not have heard of "playa rot", but believe me when I say that it is something that you want to avoid experiencing if at all possible. Regular foot baths and lotion go a long way towards preventing it.

Also, in regards to your follow-up question: You don't need to get there on Monday, but even if there's plenty of space, you may not want to dismiss camping near the portas. Given the volume of water you'll be drinking (if you're doing things right), there will be times when you will find yourself extremely grateful that the portas are close at hand.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 11:38 AM on August 12, 2010

If everybody in your camp is pissing you off, you're probably dehydrated. Drink water and sit down quietly for at least 10 minutes — your campmates will probably seem far more reasonable.

My own experience is that we always included a day or so of feeling crappy and at least mildly sub-par in the "time budget" for the early part of the trip. Knowing that we wouldn't be able to do as much early on as we might want to made the adaptation easier.
posted by Lexica at 11:53 AM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Even on the playa, it's a good idea to travel with a buddy at all times.
posted by batmonkey at 6:12 PM on August 12, 2010

Forgot to mention - do you get the weekly Jack Rabbit Speaks email? It's the (usually) weekly emailed update on playa conditions, interesting projects, tips, advice, awesome stuff going on, etc. from the BMan org.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 3:10 PM on August 13, 2010

*My first time, my first day, I felt awful. Heat, dehydration, dust storm. . . I took a nap and drank a lot of cold beverages, and then the sun went down, and then suddenly it was great. Be prepared to take a day or two to get into the swing of things.

*Buy on of these space blankets and use bungees to suspend it over your tent. Reflects heat = cool tent = sleeping in = feeling good! Best idea I ever had.

*You will need a lot of glowy stuff and LED's. Not for style (or not just for style) - they are for safety so others can see you at night.

*Keep in mind that with all the psychoactives, emotions can run high. Take care of yourself.
Many other people will be totally great with all that intensity and it will feel really fun, until around Friday, when people suddenly realize that they will soon return to the real world. I noticed people tend to withdraw to the friends they came with around that time.

*Do at least one thing in the What Where When, just to do it. But don't feel the need to do and see everything or even a small fraction - it is impossible.

*Bikes make the city more quickly navigable. But you notice more when you walk.

Geez I am so excited.
posted by mai at 4:44 PM on August 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: thanks so much!! I'm crazy excited. just bought a trillion items ranging from respirators to skanky petticoats. I hope to see everyone at the meetup!
posted by changeling at 6:27 PM on August 16, 2010

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