Before you leave for the playa, do your future-self a favor and pack a “go bag” of clean clothes for the slog home. I keep mine in the front seat of the car during the event. After everything has been torn down and packed away, before I step off the playa and into the car, I drop trou and change every item I’m wearing. The bag contains blissfully clean stuff that hasn’t been tossed around my tent with the dirty bits. It’s the only way to go for the long ride home: clean undies, dust-free sunglasses, unscathed flip-flops, a hat to hide my scary hair. Clean shorts and a T-shirt feel restrictive and straight but when I stop at a diner along I-80 I’m glad for the armor. You’ll still look crazy-dirty to the outside world — might as well not bring the funk too.
If you are flying home from Burning Man this advice is more of a mandate. Kisses!
A burner sleeps at Dr. Deb's "Collective Dreams" installation, 2005. Photo by Scott London.
Man oh man is it crucial to get sleep on the playa. It’s not always the easiest thing to do but a little planning will help you get some beauty rest in the desert. Here are some tips.
Bring your pillow from home. There is something about being able to fall asleep on your own pillow. It’s comforting. Sleeping bags without pillows are a quick way to strain your back in my experience. I’ve seen people in RVs who bring all their bedding from home, fancy duvets and throw pillows and such.
2. Eye Mask
You will probably be partaking in some nightlife in Black Rock City. Regardless of what time you go to bed, the sun’s going to come screaming through your tent or trailer window. Eye masks are great for afternoon catch-up naps as well.
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When we think of the Black Rock City we tend to think of the insufferable heat and unbearable sun. It can be hotter than Hades up on that playa and refuge is fleeting — perhaps some shade and a cold drink, or a sprint behind the water truck, will cool you off. But like everything at Burning Man it lasts only for the moment.
The first year I went to Burning Man it was scorching during the day and balmy at night. I made due with a tiny sweatshirt that I donned late in the evening. The next year I headed to BRC loaded down with hot pants, an electric fan and a secret stash of Cherry Garcia on dry ice. And I froze my ass off.
I was not prepared for the wind and cold of Burning Man 1999. At night I wore every article of clothing I’d packed, topped with an ugly grey hoodie. The 2000 event was downright blustery, even colder and wetter. But in 2000 I was prepared! That was the year the fashion tide turned to fur, when our collective unconscious zeroed in on form and function.
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There is no better place than Burning Man to wear what you dig. Back when I volunteered for The Man we talked about Radical Self-Expression, this idea of Going For It, of opening yourself to who you really are and letting your freak flag fly. For many Burners, costumes are the door to accessing and expressing ourselves and feeling A Part Of It.
Home sewing projects, thrift store finds, random cool junk you found: do not be intimidated. Here are a few suggestions for the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-hotpants crafter.
*When sewing by hand, thread several needles before you begin stitching. This way you can keep on sewing when the thread snags or runs out.
*Very little can be done with less than a yard of fabric. I usually buy 2 yards of anything unless I have specific pattern measurements.
*Old or discount thread snags and breaks. Get the $1 upgrade and buy the good stuff.
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My favorite playa projects were all started around this time of year. There is just enough time to visualize, begin work, screw up, fix it and complete it. I’ve pulled off things that were beyond my skill set, that took twice as long as I’d hoped, that were my most rewarding creations.
Here are some of my playa pro-tips:
If you’ve got a flicker of an idea, head to the supply store now. Walk the aisles. Let the materials come to you. Fabric stores are a lightning field of inspiration for me. Bonus: buying supplies now will help offset the costs that accrue in the lead-up to the playa.
Simple, cheap and clever: I swiped this mantra from a friend who is a real do-er. Good stuff.
Schedule project time during the week and not just big weekend pushes. An hour here and there really adds up. If you’re able to cut and measure in one night, you’re that much closer to being finished. Chipping away at the steps makes projects more approachable and less tiring.
Double the amount of time you think the project will take. I have a bad habit of convincing myself that because I’ve done something before, I can do it in half the time now. This is magical thinking.
One project at a time! If you work on one thing at a time, you are more likely to have a finished project instead of a pile of junk and two half-dones that you’ll “finish on the playa.” In my experience, finishing things on the playa does not work out because I’d rather be riding my bike checking out your art than sitting in camp finishing mine.
If you start now you may just pull off that giant scented candle/DJ booth/dancefloor/actual working candle.
Cheers to finishing early.