What do I pack for Burning Man?

It doesn’t matter whether you prefer to dress or go naked, you’ll need to pack appropriately for Burning Man.  Even nudists get cold in the desert night and need something draping their bodies.  But for everyone, I recommend you always wear shoes.

The playa surface is highly alkaline and can do some real damage to unprotected skin.  My wife and I make a practice of always wearing socks, even with sandals.  And we bring several pair of socks because they become infused with playa dust and stiffen up during the week.

We try to keep all shoes and socks outside of the RV to minimize dust within our living space.

Judie and Alan dressed for a day of playa fun

And we always keep handy lotions for our feet to keep them from cracking and other damage from the alkali surface.  Vinegar is one of the inexpensive secret treatments to counter the effects of the playa on your feet.

What about clothing for the rest of your body?  Remember that days are hot and you’re better off in shorts and very light tops (tank tops, tee shirts, etc.).  Since most costumes tend to be warm, save them for the evenings or for special events (including our famous Lamplighter Bloody Mary Brunch on Wednesday and the Sangria Soiree on Monday).

Evenings tend to be cool and sometimes outright cold.  Long sleeves, pants, leg warmers and fur, fur, fur are right for night.  But be sure to light yourself up for safe traveling during the night.  Because while some roads and art installations are well lit, most of the playa is inky black.  If you can’t be seen, you can become the victim of a bike or art car rundown.

Look for a future article just on lighting.

These are just a few hints of what to pack for Burning Man.  But remember, the worse it looks in the default world, the better it’s likely to be on the playa.  Fashion takes on a whole new meaning at Burning Man.  The unexpected is expected.  If you wear your regular day clothes, you might be thought of as “performance art.”


I Didn’t Get A Ticket!

Lottery results will be announced on Tuesday and Wednesday, January 31 and February 1.  We already know from the Jack Rabbit Speaks that there were many more requests than there were tickets  (40,000 were allotted to this “main” lottery).  What if you didn’t get a ticket?

The Burning Man organization believes that there are actually plenty of tickets available, but because people ordered more than they need or, by asking others to order tickets for them, more than they were actually entitled to (2 per person).  According to the Jack Rabbit Speaks (JRS):

“…the reality is that there are now a lot of tickets held by our community that will now simply be redistributed to those who need them. Based on analysis we hold a strong belief that things will settle out over the course of time, once that redistribution takes place, such that most everybody who wants a ticket will find their way to one.”

This sounds a little simpler than it may be, but the fact is Burning Man has developed a system for helping people find tickets or get rid of tickets to someone else who needs them in the Burning Man community.  Again, from the JRS:

“The STEP (Secure Ticket Exchange Program) is a web-based system that will allow Burners to sell their unneeded tickets, and Burners wanting tickets to access them.  This will allow for safe and secure transactions in a central place for community-monitored, face-value resales.”

Check the tickets area of the Burning Man website (http://tickets.burningman.com) for more information on STEP as well as other details on ticket sales.

Finally, the JRS has asked that Burners not use “secondary resources (eBay, Craigslist, StubHub, etc.) for the resale of tickets, and we encourage those who do not obtain tickets from the Main Sale/Open Sale to utilize community-centric sources to keep a handle on this process together.”

This information may not feel fully satisfying at this point in the ticket purchasing process, but we all need to be patient and try to let the system work so that everyone who truly wants and ticket and plans to go to the Burn in 2012 can get a ticket.  Please remember, if you have extra tickets, do your best to sell them to a real Burner and not a scalper.  There is likely to be some panic early on over tickets, and scalper will try to get the maximum price they can during this early and unsettled phase of the process.

Sunrise Burners will continue to watch for updates on the ticketing issue and let our readers know the latest information.

A Fun and Entertaining Site For Us Oldsters

Judie and I live part of the year in a retirement community, and I’ve always thought it would be hilarious if someone set up a Del Webb camp at Black Rock City for retirees.  Well, someone else found the idea funny enough to create a website about just such a community.

Read and enjoy it here.  The site is a great example of the whimsy of Burning Man.  Hope you find it as amusing as I did.

Getting There – Part II

You’ll hear this warning over and over, but it’s important to heed it:  drive the speed limit and drive carefully on Highway 447.  Watch for changes in those speed limits as you frequently go through small towns or tribal areas that usually post 25 MPH speed signs.  There are Nevada and tribal cops just waiting to pick up speeders on their way to the Burn.  Burning Man is the biggest week of the year for this area and therefore the biggest opportunity to bring in some cash to the local coffers.  Save your money for the merchants rather than giving it to the Nevada and tribal courts.

Passing on 447 is not difficult because the road is mostly flat and straight (albeit with some climbs and curves here and there).  Obviously, you should always pass with care.  But you should also make an effort to stay out of the way of others who want to pass you.  Slow down just a little as they go around you to make their passing easier.  You’ll always see some hot-shots in an enormous hurry to get to the Burn.  Let them get by you.  Later on, you’ll probably pass them on the side of the road with a cop giving them a ticket.

Helping others:  it’s a Burning Man tradition to help each other while at Black Rock City.  Does this ethos extend out to car problems on 447?  That’s an individual decision, and one you should make with caution.  We find it best to help out by making certain people have a way of contacting the authorities or AAA for help rather than getting entwined in their problems and changing the arc of our own trip.  It’s a lonely road and you don’t want to get involved in something that could end up costing you dearly.  I’m speaking here for us older folks and preaching caution.  Others may feel differently.

Luci, the Lamplighter vehicle would never survive the trip down Rt. 447 (with Judie sitting up on top)

Picking up hitch-hikers:  I’m more inclined to pick up a lone hitchhiker or two if there’s room in the vehicle.  Just make sure they are willing to stick to your rules (e.g., no smoking in the vehicle) and aren’t carrying any illegal substances that could cost you your entry into Burning Man or even a night in jail.  It’s a judgment call.

Now for the enjoyment part:  if you travel by day, you’re in for some visual treats, including the desert itself.  You’ll pass beautiful Pyramid Lake on your left as you’re traversing 447.  It’s a huge lake with almost no development around it.  There’s fishing, but only with reservation-issued licenses.  Although I’m sure there’s boating on the lake, we’ve never seen a single vessel on the water in all of our trips.  But we love just watching the lake go by and wondering at its beauty.

Traveling by night has the advantage of fewer cars on the road, but you’ll see almost none of the unique geography that marks this area.  Of course, you can always drive back during daylight hours.  But we find it more exciting to actually see the desert evolve around us.  Plus, the Gerlach and Empire shops are usually closed at night.

As you near the festival, you’ll hit two towns that are badly in need of whatever you can afford to spend.  Both Empire and Gerlach were hard hit by the bankruptcy of U.S. Gypsum – the only major employer in the area.  Both towns have been enterprising in finding ways to serve Burning Man customers with their shops and eating places.  You can even buy a bicycle in Gerlach and benefit the struggling public schools.

There’s not a lot of room on the side of the road, and there are many Burners who traditionally stop at these small towns for supplies or a bite to eat.  The traffic can be a bit tricky at times, and pulling in and out of the little shops requires full concentration.

But you’re almost at the Burn when you’ve reached Gerlach, so let yourself relax and start smiling.  You’ll soon be at the gate and where at Greeter will say, “Welcome home.”

Getting there – Part 1

The trip to Burning Man is both a joy and a chore.  Be ready for both.

The number one rule of thumb for our family is good preparation of the vehicle.  The final leg of the trip that most people take – highway 447 north from Wadsworth to Gerlach – is 75 miles of lonely two-lane highway with only limited space to pull off for a flat tire or other repair.  Once you reach Gerlach, you still have a good 8-10 miles to the gate, and you sometimes have to wait as traffic snakes along slowly.

While there’s no way to prevent car problems, you can take sensible precautions to reduce the potential for breakdowns.  Check those tires.  If you’re driving an RV or pulling a trailer to Burning Man, remember that your tires may look better than they are.  RV and trailer tires can rot from lack of use and still look like they have plenty of tread.  My personal advice, replace suspect tires before you depart.

Overheating can be a significant problem as you approach the Black Rock Desert.  It’s hot, you’ll have your air conditioning on and you may find yourself in a long line creeping slowly toward the gate.  Prevention is the key to making the trip a safe and enjoyable one.  We always check all our fluids, belts and hoses and replace anything that is slightly suspect.  We also carry extra supplies of oil, brake fluid and radiator coolant.

(Judie and I will be putting together a post on how she prepares our RV to enter the Burning Man environment and depart without heavy dust contamination.  We’ll also discuss other RV-specific issues.  Look for it soon.)

The drive down 447 offers some interesting safety challenges of its own.  There are areas without much in the way of shoulders, so you don’t want to drift over too far to the right.  If you’re sleepy, stop and rest, or, better yet, change drivers.  There are a few places along the road where you can pull off and rest (and there are even a few food stands – most featuring Indian Tacos).  It’s always nice to give some of these tribal folks your business as they rarely see much traffic along the route.

Our son Jacob joyfully motoring his way to Burning Man

Don’t depend on timing your gas consumption for a fill-up in Gerlach.  We usually top-off when we get there so we have plenty of fuel to run our generator and so we can leave the burn without making a stop in Gerlach, but we try to go onto 447 with a full or nearly full tank.  You can always fill up in Reno (if you’re coming from the west), but you can also do so at the Wadsworth gas station that is very friendly to Burners.  It’s the only one between 80 and Gerlach, so think hard before you pass it up.  You can also get a decent cup of coffee at Wadsworth to help you stay awake on the road.

In Part II we’ll cover safe driving on Highway 447, plus the “joy” section of the tale.  Meanwhile, for more about how to reach Burning Man, click on http://www.burningman.com/preparation/event_survival/how_to_get_there.html

Why is Burning Man Getting So Expensive?

Whatever the cost of Burning Man tickets, there are always plenty of people who worry about the expense (with good reason…we’re all worried about our budgets).  This year, with changes in the way tickets are being offered and some price increases, there’s even more ferment out there about BM prices getting out of hand.  I’d like to put a little perspective on this matter.

Judie and Alan’s 40th anniversary wedding, a priceless Burning Man experience

You could easily spend $200 to attend a two-hour concert by some rock band or to see a top tier Broadway show.  If you spend between $240 and $400 for a Burning Man ticket, look at what you’re getting:

  • Up to seven Days of fun
  • Music, art, adventure 24 hours a day
  • A community that you’ll never forget
  • Lifelong friendships
  • A magical place to stay
  • An experience that makes you feel younger

The money is a pittance compared to the experience – in fact, compared to any experience at any price.  So don’t let yourself get hung-up on the cost of the tickets or the complicated (and confusing) lottery system.  Just go.  The money is the last thing you’ll think about when you count up your memories of Burning Man 2012.

For more about the new lottery system for buying tickets, go to http://tickets.burningman.com/.  Remember, tickets for the first tier lottery are on sale from January 9 – January 22.  Those tickets will cost anywhere from $240 to $390 each, depending on how you are selected in the lottery.  Two tickets may be purchased per person, and your credit card is charged once you are selected.  Selections will be announced by February 1.

Why the lottery?  The fact is, last year’s initial ticket sale was a cyber-disaster with a multitude of technical problems on the web-based system.  The result was much “gaming” of the system in order for people to purchase the lowest priced tickets.  Others without the technical knowledge or wherewithal to game the system simply lost out.  The new system eliminates unfair advantages by those who can manipulate the web better than others.  The chances of not getting a ticket through the lottery are tiny, but the ability to control the price at which you purchase your ticket is greatly reduced.  It’s a trade-off the Burning Man has elected to employ in order to avoid the confusion and frustration of last year’s ticket purchase misadventure.

So good luck as the ticket sale lottery opens up for Burning Man 2012.

Oh The Places You’ll Go

Those of you who have been regular readers of this site know that one of the things I love best about Burning Man is its whimsy.  I have just watched one of the best examples of that whimsy ever in a video shot at BM 2011 based on the Dr. Seuss book “Oh The Places You’ll Go.”  I’ve attached a link so all of you can see it and revel in it as I did.  Enjoy.

Here’s the link:


Rangers help make the Playa safe for all BRC citizens

This Post contributed by Ranger Carousel


Black Rock City’s all-volunteer Rangers sometimes head to incidents based on calls they get on the radio, but in my years as a Ranger, I’ve heard about far more participants who have expressed a need from shout-outs of this type.

Rangers are Burners, volunteer community members who give their spare time and energy at Burning Man (and many, many regionals) to help keep the citizens of Black Rock City safe.  The skill involved in properly “rangering” is astounding.  With little more than the right words said at the right time, most tense situations that Rangers encounter get de-escalated and the burners involved end up taking a breath and then going back out to have fun in the city.

Ranger Carousel, AKA my son, Jacob Markow

Rangers have many tools at their disposal. Every Ranger is trained in de-escalation and mediation techniques, as well as how to tell when they need to call for back-up if they are out of their depth.  Green Dot Rangers have special training to deal with mental health issues in the field and to sit with participants in need of longer-term care in the quiet area that Rangers call Sanctuary. Intercept is a group of specially trained Rangers who help stop and educate people who are driving on the playa in ways that could be dangerous to other participants.

There are Rangers who have special training and skills in dealing with dangerous art and large fires, Rangers who specialize in helping get the right tools and assistance to other Rangers in the field, Rangers who help the police to understand the community standards and perspectives of burners.  All of these skills and many more, including medical, fire, and emergency mental health services are just a radio call away for a Ranger in the field.

Night of the Burn:  Ranger Carousel on perimeter watch

In a sea of chaos, Rangers are there at the very crest of the wave, letting participants have whatever experience they seek, but being there in case someone is needed to help pick up the pieces.  They are not police, not security, but they are part of the very heart of the Burning Man community, as they are just burners who are committed to helping other burners have a great time.

(Editor’s note:  This story was prepared by Ranger Carousel, who happens to be my oldest son.  I’m extremely proud of the work he does as a Black Rock Ranger and would encourage everyone reading this post to give all the Rangers due appreciation for their volunteer effort.  You might also consider volunteering your services as a Ranger.  You can never tell how the value of your experience can be put into service at Burning Man.)