Preparing Yourself for the Playa

Life on the playa is different from life at home.  You spend more time walking and biking and much, much less time sitting around.  There’s no TV to watch (unless you bring a satellite hookup – but why would you do that?), and there’s a lot of distance between sites.

It’s especially important for those of us a aged 50, 60 or older to be prepared for a more physical week then you might normally spend.  Of course, this article will not be relevant if you’re already a tri-athlete or riding 50 miles a day on your bike.  But for most of us, getting ready is a good idea.

I like to start with more biking or at least riding a stationary bike – every day if possible.  You can easily ride 10 or more miles a day while on the playa, so don’t skimp on your preparations.  Take a walk or two everyday, and go for some distance.  I personally expand my dog walking distance prior to Burning Man (and because I have four dogs, I take them in two waves giving me extra walking time).

Chillin' at Center Camp: a way to relax, conserve energy and still enjoy the burn.

While you’re outside, let yourself get adjusted to warmth and bright sunshine.  Don’t forget sunscreen, a hat and plenty of water.  It’s good to get in the habit of staying hydrated so you won’t forget to do so during the Burn.  Dehydration is one of the top medical problems people encounter at Black Rock City.  Don’t let it happen to you.

Work on staying limber as well.  You can never tell when you might get challenged to a fight a Thunderdome and need all your flexibility and more.

Some things you simply can’t prepare for, like dust storms (you could have a friend, spouse, etc. throw sand in your face and test your goggles and face mask that way, but I don’t recommend it).  You could also get in practice for the porta potties by stopping frequently to use gas station rest rooms, but, again, this is an optional exercise.  There may actually be nothing you can do to prepare for the Burn’s (usually) well-managed system of porta-potties.

In case you don’t already do it, start taking a mid-day nap and extending your nights a little later than usual.  Finally, get your body used to a skosh more alcohol than usual.  There’s a lot of dinking at Burning Man and you won’t want to suffer because of it.

We may be a bit older than the average Burner, but there’s no reason we can’t enjoy it just as much as everyone else.  As many of us learned in the scouts, Be Prepared!

Preparing Your RV for the Playa

This entry is for those of you planning to bring an RV or trailer to Burning Man.  Whether it’s your own vehicle or a rental, you’ll want to protect it as best you can from the punishment of a week on the playa.  There may be little you can do to guard the outside of the RV (although there are RV covers, which aren’t particularly useful unless you don’t plan to go in and out of the unit), but you can do quite a bit to keep the playa dust out of the interior and protect the most vulnerable gear.

We cover all of the upholstered furniture with Press ‘n’ Seal plastic wrap, then cover the plastic wrap with old blankets and sheets.  We roll up all the pleated shades, cover them with Press ‘n’ Seal, and tuck the shades away using duct tape.  Then we replace the real curtains with paper shades that we buy from Home Depot or similar stores.

We seal all the windows with painter’s tape (the blue stuff) and seal off vents that won’t be used (not the air conditioning – you’ll need that to be operable in the heat of the day when you’re trying to rest.  You probably won’t have any need for the heater vents, however, so cover those.).  We cover the floor with a layer of heavy plastic that we cut to fit the various areas of the interior (it’s like making a large jigsaw puzzle).  When we put the plastic in place, we hold it down with heavy-duty staples.  We then cover the plastic with carpet samples, which we get for free from local carpet dealers.

Once at the burn, we always take our shoes off before entering the RV.  You’ll never keep the interior pristine at the burn, but every little improvement helps you during cleanup.

We cover the front of our RV with a portion of our RV cover.  This protects the engine from all the dust and helps avoid problems re-starting your engine.  If you have a separate truck and trailer, you’ll want to cover the truck’s hood in a similar fashion.

In case you want to leave your windows operable, remember to close them when you head out to the playa.  Dust storms can come up suddenly and you might just find your entire interior coated with playa dust – not a pretty sight.

And here’s one final warning:  even with all the effort you put into protecting your camper/RV, playa dust will make its way into crevices and corners.  There’s simply no way to block it all.  Besides, a little playa dust is a badge of honor for burners.