Chapter 11.6 – The Checklist and Collected Advice from the Burning Man Forums and Survival Guides

I am releasing this checklist as-is so that any virgin burners who might find some small help in here, may see it before having to pack for the Playa. I will continue to add comments to this checklist up until Burn time.

This list, again, was tailored to my needs as a non-camper camper. I had an RV, with microwave, and fridge, unlike some of my fellow villagers who made do with small tents and who knows how few amenities on the playa. I salute their ingenuity and guts. When next I get to Burning Man, I will have pared down what I take and how much I use. This was my 2008 checklist, with comments regarding the items in RED and other information gleaned from both the Burning Man site and the forums there.

If the list seems to ramble or repeat itself a bit, it is because I was trying to organize and prioritize my needs and be as redundant as possible with what I needed – I always like to have backup – more than one of something just in case – that way I feel more confident if one of something breaks, spoils or goes bad. Since there is no easy way to replace things in the desert, it’s always best to have a spare. Some items may appear more than once under different category headings.

Revised Check List of items (August 8, 2008)

Items specific to Traveling to / from Las Vegas

◊ Printed map and itinerary
[Don't believe the times on most map services they seem to assume you will drive at 66 mph continuously with no break for food or gas]

◊ CD collection of tunes
[Gotta have tunes - even took a CD player for on-playa but... make sure you have a big variety with you, even 10 or more CDs gets tiring when played on the road over and over again]

◊ Drinks and snacks
[reduces the number of stops along the way - until you discover that Mountain Dew can actually make some people sleepier ]

◊ Overhead luggage rack for roof of vehicle
[I knew I would be leaving the car in Vegas - and needed all the luggage space I could use until I could pack the stuff in the RV - the clothes packed in plastic boxes fit well in the roof mounted luggage bag]

Items related to Purchases in Las Vegas at Costco or grocery store

◊ clear maps to Costco in Vegas and grocery store locations

◊ 6 Cases of bottled water
[This became 3 cases of 1 liter bottles, 2 cases of half-liter bottles and two 2.5 gallon containers with dispenser spouts on them. Of all this water, I used 1 case of 1 liter bottles, 1 case of half-liter bottles, and gifted one of the 2.5 gallon containers. All the rest ended up coming back home with me.]

◊ Soda for Donation to Lamplighters Bar as mixers
[I Originally signed up for two cases of cola and a case of lemon-lime type soda. After checking the needs list for donations in Las Vegas, I realized that it would not be enough so I sprung for 5 cases of cola and 2 of lemon-lime soda, and then rationed them out throughout the week so they would not run out too quickly. I also picked up some Captain Morgan, since they were complaining about how they always run out of Rum. That stayed with me until later in the week when they really needed it.]

◊ Groceries and Sundries
[Check out the forums, and some of the things I've listed from the Burning Man site below to determine what kind of foods to take. Some foods spoil quickly if not refrigerated, so consider the conditions on the playa when determining what to take along. I decided to hold off on buying most of the groceries until Reno]

◊ Last minute items
[Again, I chose to wait until Reno to get the last minute things I might think of.]

Items to pick up in Reno, last stop before BM

◊ make clear maps to all locations for dry ice, groceries, water fill-up

◊ Parachute material / shade cloth
[This was related to an idea I had for shading the RV and creating a shade space out front, I abandoned this idea after the list was done and never even got to set up any shade, as my location, next to a road, had no room for the shade materials I'd brought along.]

◊ Fill extra water jugs if used.
[This included two six-gallon jugs for spare / shower water, and several collapsible jugs that I partially filled to act as ice blocks in the cooler. The grocery store in Reno had city water available out front for those who wanted to fill up jugs/ barrels / whatever.]

◊ Fill spare gasoline container(s)
[Back in Utah, during the 'miracle' gas tank thing (Chapter 2) I was wishing I had filled my spare gas container, but at those prices, I decided to wait and keep my load lighter by the 40 pounds of gas I didn't buy until Vegas.]

◊ Dry Ice for cooler w/jugs
[If you're going to do the dry ice thing (Chapter 9), bring heavy gloves to handle it and remember that any foods in the same cooler as the dry ice, may become 'carbonated'. I heard someone on the forums mention about fruits and vegetables becoming 'carbonated' when kept in the same cooler. Don't know if it's true but...]

Needed at the gate

◊ Documentation for camera tags
[fill out the camera forms ahead of time and avoid delays at the gate.]

◊ ticket !!!!!!

Items to be packed or purchased along the way.

◊ Shelter
[This never really worked out at all, as stated above, the shade structure idea never had a chance. I carted tie-down bars for under my wheels, and many feet of rope and two large shade tarps there, only to not have to use them. Even so, there was always somewhere shady to go and the AC kept the RV cool in the mid-afternoon heat.]

◊ Tarps to cover the entire ground area of the camp site.

◊ RV and shade material

◊ Poles and materials for shade structure or portable shade structure

◊ pre-made Rebar stakes

◊ Tools for installing and removing rebar stakes

◊ Tools for restoring the playa where stakes were placed  shovel / rake

◊ Bungee cords / tie downs for shelter coverings

◊ Coverings for rebar stakes


◊ Hydration packs
[I brought along two - just in case - only needed to use the one but I like to have backup whenever I can]

◊ Salty snacks to keep water retention up.
[I found that a 30-pack of assorted snacks would keep me going through the week and even allow for gifting some if needed]

◊ Bottled water in coolers, ready for use.
[Turns out the fridge in the RV was better at keeping the water cold - used the coolers for keeping meal donations cold until needed.]

◊ Two coolers, one for dry ice and frozen jugs, the other for cold items and thawing jugs

Shade structure furnishings

◊ Chaise or comfortable seating
[collapsible chair]

◊ Small table or stand for items
[didn't happen]

◊ Solar fan for creating a breeze if necessary
[this was a small solar powered 'attic' fan I thought about using but it was too big to pack]

◊ Radio / CD player
[Battery / AC powered mini boom box radio / cd player]

◊ Small outdoor carpet remnant
[didn't happen]

Protection from the Sun / Safety & Health

◊ Sunscreen

◊ Aloe gel / lotions for sunburn

◊ Lip balm – unflavored spf 15-30?

◊ First aid kit

◊ Vitamins / Prescription drugs / Tylenol / antibiotic ointment / etc.

◊ Fire extinguisher
[Took one with me, just in case. The RV had one in it too]

◊ Protective clothing – spf 15 UV blocking sportswear

◊ Large brimmed hat plus spare

◊ Dust masks – drywall type

◊ Dust goggles / face mask – changeable filter type / earplugs
[I took standard 'shop goggles' just in case the swimming goggles didn't work out - they didn't and the shop goggles worked ok - even in Saturdays white-out. I also took several types of face masks - which helped after my original neo-mask wore a gouge in the bridge of my nose.]

◊ Water spray bottle
[sprays pressurized mist of cold water from its reservoir - could not find mine to take along]

Tools and equipment

◊ Standard list of tools in chest for any disaster.
[screwdrivers, wrenches, hammers basic repair tools]

◊ Rake / Shovel / mallet / rebar pulling rig / chain / pry bar / broom
[of these, only the broom and the mallet made it in the packing]

◊ Tarp / covering fasteners / painters tape / solar blanket material
[The tape and solar blanket material were to tape mylar reflective solar blankets over the south facing windows - to cut heat. Dust storm on Monday precluded me from doing that.  After that it was too dusty to tape them up.]

◊ Bungee cords / rope for anchoring shade material

◊ Duct tape / utility knives / hand clamps / tarp clamps

◊ Emergency parts for car – fanbelt / hose repair / fuses

◊ Foot pump and small portable air compressor

◊ Painters extension pole for adjusting / setting up shade material over RV / shade structure

◊ Compass to orient shade structure / RV for north facing

◊ Two pair leather work gloves

◊ Step ladder for setting up shade structure

On-Playa transportation

◊ Mountain bike

◊ Spare tubes and tire

◊ Hi visibility lighting for night riding

◊ Bike rack for car / RV

◊ Two Chain locks for bike
[I took two because losing your bike on the Playa is no fun and I could use one for the bike rack, and one for the bike. I had more than the bike on the rack, I had a small ladder on there too.]

◊ Basket or Carry rack for bike

Camping gear

◊ Sleeping bag

◊ travel alarm

◊ Coleman Lantern for outside RV / small bottles of gas / mini-heater
[Both the lantern and the mini-heater use the same small bottles of gas]

◊ Flashlights / Head lamps

◊ Pillows

◊ Towels / Wash cloths in plastic containers

◊ Toiletries – shaver / toothbrush / tooth paste / deodorant / brush / etc.

◊ Single ply toilet paper – for use in porta potties.
[Only single ply TP should be used in the porta potty, that is one of the important rules at Burning Man - single ply, and nothing else but what your body makes, should go in the porta potty. No trash, no tampons, pads, etc. should go in there!]

◊ Two 6 gallon water jugs as backup supply / use in shower unit.
[Originally, these were for absolute emergency, but in 2008, the camp had a shower unit brought in and it was BYOW - bring your own water. So I could use some of the water for that.]

Playa Wear

◊ Plastic boxes for clothes

◊ Duffel style laundry bag

◊ Water soaked neck band / headband
[I had several of these but never really felt that it was hot enough to need to use them]

◊ Large Brimmed Hat plus spare – mentioned above

◊ Cloth neck covering to shade neck area – bandanna

◊ hiking shoes – break-in before Burning Man!
[ While I bought some new walking shoes and sandals just for the playa, some folks said it was not necessary to get expensive hiking shoes just for that. I agree, as long as the shoes are broken-in and comfortable to walk in, your feet will last longer on the Playa.]

◊ lightweight material, shirts and pants to minimize exposure but stay cool

◊ comfy, loose shorts

◊ warm tops & sweatshirts for night


◊ clean socks & undies
[I recommend at least two pairs of socks per day, since I changed into fresh socks after soaking my feet in the evening and put the dusty ones in the laundry bag]


◊ Unscented baby wipes, non-alcoholic – resealable small pouch packs

◊ A reusable mug or cup for beverages at the Center Camp Cafe and a D-ring to hook onto belt / pack.

◊ Zip-lock bags – various sizes

◊ Batteries – D for radio / C for flashlight / AA and AAA for headlamps / etc.
[Take extra batteries with you. You never know when you might need them, and they make great 'gifting' items when your camp mates need some.]

◊ Garbage bags
[Remember This is a Leave No Trace event - everything you take in must come back out. See my tip below on food and garbage. You must make sure that your campsite is devoid of even the smallest MOOP (Matter out of place) when you leave.]

◊ Towels / Washcloths / Soap / Shampoo / hand & foot lotion / etc.

◊ Solar Blankets for window shading

◊ Painters tape to hold the solar blankets up

Photographic equipment

◊ Digital Still Camera x2
[I had a really good digital camera, and bought a really cheap one for dusty conditions, so if it was somehow damaged by dust, I would still have my good one clean and undamaged. The inexpensive camera turned out to work great under any conditions, so most of my pics were made using that one.]

◊ Digital Video Camera
[Same as the digital cameras, I bought an inexpensive one just for use in dusty conditions. This worked out OK, although the transfer from tape to computer was less than optimal.]

◊ Tripod / Monopod

◊ Batteries and charger w/ 110v and 12v cords

◊ All memory cards cleared and ready for use

◊ Filters / protective lenses / camera cleaning materials / dust-off

◊ Protective cover for camera
[Could not find one in time for my trip. Luckily it was not needed]

Food preparation
[I knew that I would have at least a gas cook top, so I brought along a set of pans and cooking utensils.]

◊ Cooking set – pots, pans, spatula, etc.

◊ Utensils

◊ Plates, bowls, cups

◊ Dish washing supplies

Food products for easy prep / easy disposal
[Note: While these foods may not be for everyone, you should consider the amount of waste and trash an item will generate when buying for the Playa. You will find that most of the foods listed here leave little waste material for the garbage bag. I am happy to say that ALL of my food product waste for the entire week, fit into one kitchen trash bag. Not a BIG trash bag but a 14 gallon trash bag. Also remember that in the desert, you will probably eat less than you normally would. Once I found out that the RV had a microwave oven as well, I was able to get foods that needed little or no refrigeration and could be prepared in a few minutes.]

◊ Ramen noodles

◊ Capri Sun 100% fruit juice

◊ Peanut butter & jelly sandwiches
[frozen, pre-made sandwiches that thawed in the fridge made great lunches during the week and took up little space.]

◊ 2-64oz Orange Juice

◊ Microwaveable breakfasts

◊ Healthy snack bars

◊ Microwavable meals – non-refrigerated – Hormel Lasagna, Chicken Alfredo, etc.

◊ Fruit cups / fruit in Jello / chilled

◊ Big assortment box of Lays snacks for salty snacking

◊ Bag of animal crackers

[Breakfasts and mid afternoon lunches were simple but gave me the required nutrition to stay healthy and alert in the desert. Snacks and healthy foods keep you balanced and keep your salt / electrolytes up too so you don't completely flush out all your electrolytes by drinking a lot of water. Remember: Alcohol consumption WILL increase dehydration!]

◊ Pickles!   Are a source of electrolytes and can keep yours balanced during your stay in the desert!

Every Lamplighter should bring:

◊ Jet-flame style butane torch lighter – refillable

◊ can of butane lighter fuel

◊ pair of work gloves

◊ pair of cheap two-position pliers

◊ turkey baster

◊ pair of small sharp scissors (for wick trimming)

◊ sponge type dish brush

Meal / Bar donation items
[I was lucky enough to be staying with the Lamplighters, a camp with a working Playa kitchen. Not all camps prepare meals, and if you are on your own, you will need to buy enough food to meet your own needs. Meals are pre-planned and created through donations from each villager, In this way, they are able to provide their own with a hot meal every evening after lamplighting. Otherwise I would have to have brought much more food of my own along.]

◊ 12 bran muffins for Thursdays Thanksgiving Dinner

◊ 3 lbs of cheese for Quesadillas for Mondays Sangria Soiree

◊ 2*36 pk cola for bar mixers

◊ 1*24 lemon/lime soda for mixers
[became 5 - 24 packs of Coke, 2-24 packs of Sprite]

◊ 2 Bottles of Captain Morgans for late in the week.

Other items

◊ A Unique flag for Campsite

Survival Guides and forum advice on Playa needs
[These were culled from many different sources but helped me determine what I really needed to have to survive in the desert and stay cool and un-burned in the sun.]

Food & Coolers

* Elevate your ice chest above the ground a few inches, even if it’s in the shade.

* 2 smaller coolers work better than the 104-qt. monstrosity

* make tabouli and other re-hydratable foods in a zip lock bag instead of bowl

* milk crates used as stacking storage — keeps things from flying around; put cutting board on top for work surface

* wonderful colored plastic wineglass instead of disposable; makes it easier to find your drink & creates zero trash

* A reusable mug or cup for coffee and beverages at the Center Camp Cafe

Food tip o’ the day: hard-boiled eggs. Nutritious and compact; cook ‘em and peel ‘em before you go and throw them in some Tupperware, and you have a great meal with no mess! And Miso soup to keep the salt content in the body up…

Foot Care

Nothing seems to better prevent, or relieve, Playa Foot better than a liberal coating of Dr. Bronner’s Soap. Use it straight from the bottle; once a day to prevent Playa Foot or several times daily to cure it.

Clothing and Miscellany

Pajamas are comfy and provide great protection from the sun, both tops and bottoms. And there are all kinds! Go to your local Asian center or Chinatown for silk lusciousness, cotton comfort or satin gleam vivid colors. Hit the thrifts and vintage stores for old cotton or satin.

* hiking boots (light ones just don’t have enough support)

* long sleeve cotton PJs (provide great protection from sun)

* comfy, loose shorts

* warm tops & sweatshirts for night


* clean socks & undies (stored in ziploc bags)

* The Big-Assed Shade Hat

Playa necessities!!

* lip balm-on-a-string (just put an “O”screw in the top)

* water bottle holder

* goggles

* respirator or particle/dust mask

* headlamp flashlight

* clean towels (sealed in ziplocks)

* AA batteries, lots of ‘em

* rig some kind of basket on your bike

* peanut butter & jelly sandwiches (before the bread dries out or gets moldy)

* Thai iced tea (prepackaged in nice collapsible boxes!)

* Superfood & other juices, frozen in small plastic pint bottles

* comfy folding armchair

* ziplock bags, ziplock bags, ziplock bags

* bike

* leather work gloves.

I hope these lists help in some way, I know it is nearly time to pack up and head to the Playa. If it’s your first time, good luck. I hope you have as great an experience as I did and meet many new friends.

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