(Remember) How to Burning Man Part 5: Your Last-minute Black Rock City Checklist

Looking for a handy refresher on the burnerly arts? Feeling a little rusty or wet behind the ears? Whether 2022 is your first time going to Black Rock City or your gazillionth, we’re rolling out this series throughout the summer of Waking Dreams to acculturate and amuse with tips, tricks, and pearls of wisdom to help you thrive in Black Rock City.

If your destiny is taking you to Black Rock City in a few short days and your living space isn’t currently filled with bins and random piles of extremely useful or completely frivolous objects, we hope it’s because you’re a very skilled procrastinator. 

Because now is the time when list-building, spreadsheeting, instant messaging, and last minute errands accelerate across the Burnerverse. Yes, we’re all doing more than we usually do, BUT ALSO maybe time is also accelerating as we collectively feel the gravitational pull of our favorite dusty city. It certainly feels that way, doesn’t it?

This leads me to wonder why you even have time to read this article. But since you’re here, let’s talk about last minute-things to think about in those days before you embark to that dusty place.

Read Your Survival Guide!

It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been to Black Rock City. You change. The world changes. The things you need to know change! Before you get on an airplane or in your car on the way to BRC, read your Survival Guide. Read the print copy that comes with your ticket or read the online copy — ideally read it twice! Doing this simple thing will solve so many of your on-playa (and pre-playa) problems. It will also make you a Burning Man expert and the smartest Burner in the dome when others are lost and confused and don’t know what to do.

Watch Your Ticket Like Your Burn Depends on It (Because It Does)

First of all (I can’t believe I need to tell you this) DON’T FORGET YOUR TICKET. It’s not just a pretty piece of cardboard, it’s the thing that will physically get you into Black Rock City. If you’re picking it up at Will Call, you must present a valid government-issued photo ID. During your journey to Black Rock City, keep your ticket close. Don’t leave it in your car or some other random place. Tickets do walk away, especially while playa-bound Burners are staging in Reno. Ditto for stuff you might leave overnight in your car while it’s parked outside a casino hotel in Reno. Keep your stuff tight.

Pack Water and a Meal or Two for the Road

Gate for BRC, 2019 (Photo by Manuel Pinto)

When you pack your car or get ready for the Burner Express Bus, make sure you have enough food for a meal or two and an extra gallon of water per person. There are so many reasons why traffic can grind to a halt between where you are now and Gate. AND if you’re arriving in a vehicle Sunday or Monday the wait can easily be eight hours on Gate Road. Mentally prepare yourself for that now, so you can be delighted when things go as planned, rather than disappointed when they don’t.

Make a COVID-19 and Monkeypox Prevention and Contingency Plan

Have you thought about your COVID-19 and Monkeypox prevention plans? Around here, we’re keeping a low profile for a week before leaving for the desert (no pre-compression parties for this girl) to minimize the risk of bringing some unwelcome viruses along for the ride. Make sure you read Community Care: Living and Working Together in Black Rock City 2022. If you haven’t carved out time to discuss prevention and to make a contingency plan with your camp or crew, do it now, and pack Covid tests with you. 

Put Away Your Phone

“Nipper Man’s Best Friend” by Chris Mack and The Unintelligent Design Society, 2018 (Photo by Juan P. Zapata)

You have the other 51 weeks of the year to gaze into that shiny device. Turn it off and leave it in your tent or vehicle, s’il vous plaît (that’s “please” in French). We’re not going to lecture you on Immediacy here. But we are going to look askance at you for missing the stilt-walking poi dancer dressed head-to-toe in iridescent spandex; they might have been your soulmate, but you’ll never know because you were busy texting selfies to whomever. Take a break from social media, no need to livestream your experience. We have one beautiful week together, and it goes by quickly! Be present!

Print Your ID and Stick the Copy on Your Cup

(Photo by Susan C. Becker)

The legal age to drink alcohol in Nevada is 21. It doesn’t matter how old you are (or how old you think you look) – bartenders in Black Rock City will ask to see ID before serving you. Make some color copies of your ID and stick one of these copies on your Burner cup. Then you can go out adventuring night after night without losing your government ID somewhere between 9:00 and E and the Man. It’s also a helpful reminder in case you inadvertently forget who you are.

A Pep Talk About Gifting

When you grow up with the idea that a gift is an object that one person gives to another, it can take a hot minute to wrap your mind around Burners’ broader definition of “a gift.” The TLDR: you don’t need to bring stuff to gift. While Burners do love necklaces and bling — especially if you made it yourself — no one needs more plastic tchotchkes. YOU are the gift. You can gift your time as a volunteer. Make a meal, tell a story, help your neighbors — all these are gifts! That magnificent playa art out there? It’s a gift too. 

De-MOOP Your Food & Supplies Before You Hit the Road

(Photo by Jini Sachse)

Everything you don’t eat, gift or burn out there in Black Rock City must come back with you, including any packaging that comes with your food and other pre-Burn purchases. Lighten your load before you leave for the desert by removing all unnecessary boxes, paper and plastic packaging from your groceries and supplies. Then put all that packaging in all the socially appropriate recycling and trash receptacles. See, just thinking about doing it makes you feel lighter, doesn’t it?

Don’t Bring Cremated Human Remains to the Temple

Please do not bring human cremains to the Temple; this is out of respect for the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, who believe that leaving non-native human remains on native land adversely affects the living spirits within the lake and Black Rock Desert. Learn more about this topic and other Temple-related matters here.

What Else Should You Bring?

Here’s a great Burning Man packing list in case you are still looking for one. 

Also bring: earplugs, your medication, a battery-powered radio, a portable ashtray if you smoke, a bucket with a lid and cat litter (you’ll thank us if it rains), patience, a sense of humor… 

What to Leave Behind

Please do not bring feathers, glitter, or sequins. Do not bring costumes that appropriate other cultures’ rituals and customs. Leave your non-human pets, and your expectations, at home.

“Now Clock” by Matt Lavigne, 2012 (Photo by Steven Fritz)

About the author: Kirsten Weisenburger

Kirsten Weisenburger

Misadventures led Kirsten Weisenburger (aka kbot) to Black Rock City in 2004. She was captivated and hoodwinked into organizing theme camps, rangering and participating in Regional Events. As Communications Strategist, Kirsten works across the organization and global community gathering stories and writing for the Burning Man Journal, the Jackrabbit Speaks, and the annual Dispatch. She went to journalism school in the 1990s and then spent two decades at startups and digital agencies.

3 Comments on “(Remember) How to Burning Man Part 5: Your Last-minute Black Rock City Checklist

  • Trilo says:

    Copy of ID on the cup is unfortunately not legal proof of age in Nevada. Bartenders accept at their own risk.

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  • Hecktor says:

    There used to be enough veteran Burners to clue-in new attendees without a how-to guide. For some strange reason that no one knows why, they stopped going.

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  • Jessi says:

    Your are going to need your actual iD at many bars, so don’t be grouchy if they don’t accept your photocopy. They don’t want to get shut down, and there will be undercovers trying to make sure they follow the rules.

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