How to take care of yourself at Burning Man – Part 2

Most of the “rules of the road” for all Burners are collected for you in a single, invaluable publication called the Survival Guide. You can link to a PDF copy of the most recent Guide by clicking on and looking for the Survival Guide link at the top of the right-hand column. Here you’ll find all the important information about such critical matters as the amount of water you’ll need to bring and the dangers of heat stroke.

But for older Burners, there’s a step or two that we are well-advised to take in preparation for our trip.

1. Burning Man can be a physically taxing event. Transportation within Black Rock City is generally limited to bikes and walking (art car rides are always possible, but rarely reliable or able to deliver you to a specific destination). Be prepared for some tough biking conditions because, even with a flat-as-a-pancake Playa, the buildup of sand can make for some pedaling distress.

It helps if you’re a regular biker with calves of steel, but if you’re just the average occasional cyclist, you might want to spend a few weeks getting in shape prior to the Burn. Even more important, if you haven’t ridden a bike in years (or ever), better get your internal gyro geared up.

Biking is the only reasonable way to cover the vast territory of Burning Man – to see plenty of the art and visit your choice of events and activities. Walking is simply too inefficient and, especially during the day, too exhausting. So be prepared and don’t let yourself cramp up because you haven’t taken a few extra hours to get in shape.

2. Plan to rest. Burning Man is a 24-hour-a-day festival and you’ll never get to everything, but you’ll miss more if you don’t take time out of your schedule to rest. Mid-day is my favorite rest time for obvious reasons: it’s too hot to do much else. My wife and I take our RV to the Burn so we can rest mid-day in air conditioning. I know how horribly un-ecological and non-camping that sounds, but it’s part of the reality of being older. We trade off some of the Burning Man experience for creature comforts that allow us to attend for the entire festival.

Judie and Alan enjoying a rare cool morning nap

There are options other than RVs for keeping cool such as insulated tents with their own swamp-cooler devices (humidity is generally single digit on the Playa, so one of those low power-consuming units might just do the job if you engineer your quarters properly.

During my first year, I tent-camped with my son, and I’ll never forget the experience. But I hardly slept at all. Between the magical deflating air mattress and the art cars circling our area, sleeping was not really an option. Fortunately, I was so enthralled with the event that I had the spirit and energy to keep going. Although I occasionally fell out during the day from pure exhaustion, I found mid-day napping nearly impossible because the heat was so efficiently captured inside our tent.

So stay cool, stay rested and get in shape to make your Burn both memorable and safe.

Please let us know your other ideas and suggestions for staying safe at Burning Man when you’re of a “certain” age.

How to Take Care of Yourself At Burning Man — Part 1

Many adults, much less seniors, won’t attend Burning Man out of fear. How many of life’s richest possible experiences are missed for this same reason? So I’d like to spend the next few posts allaying fears about the festival and – I hope – eliciting additional concerns that have stopped you from attending one of the greatest examples of Americana still going strong annually.

Eric and Alan in Lamplighter Garb

Let’s start with the general issue of what happens if you get hurt or ill at Burning Man. There is probably no place in the world with better, cheaper and more reliable healthcare than Burning Man. Think I’m kidding? Black Rock City is a model for universal healthcare that is largely free for all, easily accessible and totally wired into the nearest system of critical care facilities (Reno).

This unified healthcare organization has been refined over the years to near perfection. What used to be a single, centrally located medical tent near center camp has now been split into a decentralized group of medical tents at three different sites around the playa. Any one of the dozens of active Black Rock Rangers can radio for a golf cart or an EMT van which will reach you in minutes, or you can be walked over to a medical tent if you’re ambulatory. If a Ranger doesn’t see you’re in trouble, a Black Rock citizen will, and that’s when you see the difference between a city and our City. No one passes by people who appear to be having a problem without checking on them.

Once you reach one of the medical facilities, you’ll be evaluated and treated by trained doctors and nurses who volunteer for set shifts in exchange for free entry to the festival. These medical professionals are fully trained not only in their own areas of expertise, but in the typical problems that beset people on the playa – including dehydration, sunstroke, eye irritation and simply excessive partying. For most Burners, they’re back on the playa in anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. Our medical magicians even make house calls if you’re too sick to leave your tent or RV.
Although services of the doctors and nurses are completely without charge, the EMT services and ambulances are not cost-free, nor are rides to Reno (whether by ambulance or, in extreme emergencies, by helicopter). But all services take insurance and Medicare.

In six trips to the playa, beginning at age 60, I have never been to one of the medical tents except to pick up my son who has needed his eyes irrigated a few times. We know that the best way to prevent problems is to prepare for life on the playa, and that will be the subject of my next article.