Burning Man Survival Guide
Everything you need to know about the week-long desert party.
Naked hippies and drug-fueled raves. These are two most common associations people make when talk turns to Burning Man. They’re also the two biggest misconceptions about the annual festival—a convergence of art, music and fashion in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert—which will take place from August 28 to September 5 this year.
(Which is not to say the naked hippies and drug-fueled raves aren’t a thing).
Drawing a crowd of 65,000 to its pop-up desert metropolis, there are celebs, Silicon-Valley types (Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg are fans) and other free-thinking creatives—many of them seasoned “Burners" who make an annual pilgrimage to the Playa (read: commune).
The rules are simple: no money (its a strict "Gifting-Only" economy); no branding (no famous bands or beer tents here); and no environmental impact (the festival’s mantra is "Leave No Trace.") But ask any Burner what really sets the fest apart from Coachella and the like, and he’ll cite "Radical Self-Expression"—one of ten quasi-spiritual tenets of Burning Man. You see it in the fashions (which range from apocalyptic-chic to desert bombshell), and in the playa’s themed “camps,” where like-minded individuals go to set up their tents and socialize. Want to nerd out? Join the “Math Camp,” and spend your days chatting about all things math related. Or, if you’d rather spread the love (wink, wink), sign up for the “… Only Love” camp; it’s “a place to love and be loved,” and also home to the world famous air conditioned Orgy Dome.
Given how much there is to, er, wrap your head around, we reached out to veteran Burner Kiersten Rich, or “The Blonde Abroad” as she is better known, to get the lowdown on the New Age fest and for her advice on Burning Man for first-timers. Plus, six fashions for this year’s event.
How would you describe your first time at Burning Man?
I went to my first burn solo, so I didn’t have a camp organized—just plans to pitch my own tent and live off what I had packed for that week. So survival definitely factored into my experience. But because of Burning Man’s culture of giving and sharing, I made friends and was welcomed into a camp within 24 hours of arriving. On the whole, the festival opened my eyes to what’s possible when people come together in a positive and purposeful way.
So what kind of people did you meet?
Every camp has a different vibe, so you can really cater your experience to what you’re looking for. I met locals, people there for sexual experimentation, family members spanning generations, and “Sparkle Ponies”—a Burner term for people who are there to be seen.
What other pieces of Burner wisdom would you pass along to first-timers?
The camp you choose will really affect your overall experience, so select one in line with your personality and interests. Also, be prepared for traffic! Getting in and out of Black Rock City can take anywhere up to 12 hours. And you definitely need to bring enough food and water for you and your neighbors. I drank 2 galloons of water per day.
Besides food and water, any other must-pack survival essentials?
A very, very warm coat. It’s hot during the day, but it gets pretty cold at night in the desert—plus the dust can be really irritating on the skin. You’ll also need goggles, a mask and a pair of closed-toe boots for the dust-storms. But half the fun is also the crazy, zany fashions, so what you pack should be fun and have personality! Sparkles and tutus are my go-to.
We hear you’re going back to Burning Man for your third time this year. What’s been your favorite festival memory so far?
There was something so magical about my first sunrise at Black Rock City. Everyone was up and waiting for the exact moment the sun broke through the horizon. It was such an incredible, euphoric experience.
Our Burner Must-haves:
From top left: UO Jakke Heather Orange Faux-Fur Coat | Lipstick Queen Frog Prince Lip Gloss | Breckelles Knee High Riding Boots | Vivian & Vincent Vintage Circle Frame Sunglasses | AutumnFall Women Strappy Crop Top | Dressever Vintage Tutu