Burning Man: Most Important Items

First Time at Burning Man? Don’t Forget to Pack These 17 Essential Items!

So you’re a Burning Man virgin? Get ready to make dust angels on the playa as soon as you pass the ticket checkers and face the infamous BM greeters. “Welcome home!” is their preferred way to say “hello and thank you for waiting in the epicly long line to get in”. This will be the first of many bizarre encounters you’ll have throughout the week at (arguably) the most amazing and challenging festival in the world.

It can be quite overwhelming preparing for Burning Man – especially if this is your first time attending. We’ve created a detailed Burning Man packing list, but don’t forget these 17 must-have items that will help you to survive your first Burning Man!

What to Pack for your First Time at Burning Man

Packing Items 1, 2 & 3: Tickets, Cash, and Plenty of Water

First time at Burning Man: Essential Items for Burning Man Virgins to Remember to Pack

Okay so most newbies don’t forget these three things but we can’t emphasize enough how important they are not to forget! You will not be allowed entrance to Burning Man without your actual, physical ticket so you’ll be really upset with yourself if you leave it sitting on your kitchen counter on your way out the door.

And while Burning Man operates on a “gifting” system, you’ll still need cash to buy ice. It’s one of only two things you can buy on the playa (the other is coffee). And you’ll definitely want ice throughout the week to keep your drinks and any perishables cold.

You’ll also need plenty of water so you don’t die. Just kidding, you won’t die, plenty of people will give you theirs if you run out. But plan on bringing 2 gallons per person per day.

Packing Items 4 & 5: Goggles and a Face Mask

You can’t fully appreciate a Burning Man dust storm until you’ve been caught in the middle of one. We were out in ‘deep playa’ and had to crawl into an art installation for several hours until it passed as it was impossible to see more than a foot in front of us. It’s crazy and if you don’t have a pair of goggles and something to cover your mouth and nose when a dust storm hits, you’ll be in trouble.

Be sure to buy a pair of comfortable goggles and a bandana to cover your mouth and nose and keep them on you at all times. Wear them on your head or keep them in your backpack, just don’t leave your camp without both!

Packing Items 6 & 7: Earplugs and a Sleep Mask

If you are planning to party 24 hours a day, 7 days a week during your first trip to Burning Man, these won’t be necessary. But if you are interested in getting any sleep whatsoever you’ll want to be sure and pack a pair of ear plugs and a sleep mask.

The pounding EDM music rages on until the morning hours. That, coupled with the neon strobe lights makes it nearly impossible to fall asleep without them.

Packing Item 8: A Warm Jacket

The weather conditions on the playa are incredibly extreme. Of course it gets unbearably hot during the day. But what may surprise you is that it also can get really cold at night. In preparing for Burning Man you’ve probably seen plenty of photos of people in nipple tassles and tutus but very few photos of people bundled up when the sun goes down.

Don’t forget to bring a coat that will keep you cozy in the cold but will also look fly.

Packing Item 9: Closed-Toe Boots

The only reason you should ever wear flip flops on the playa is if you are running to the potty in the middle of the night. The alkaline dust on the playa is terrible on your skin and can actually cause the bottoms of your feet to crack and bleed.

DO NOT plan on walking around barefoot or wearing flip flops all day on the playa!

Bring comfortable, heavy duty boots that will keep as much of your feet and legs covered as possible.

If you do end up with “playa foot”, you’ll want to have a jug of vinegar on hand. Dilute with water (1/4 vinegar to 3/4 water) and soak your feet to help neutralize the alkali.

Packing Item 10: Playa Chalice

You’ll cruise around the playa every day and encounter countless camps offering free coffee, mimosas, beer, or other tasty concoctions. But rarely will you find any that have extra cups.

Single-use, disposable cups wind up as MOOP (AKA trash) around the playa and are frowned upon.

Don’t forget to bring your own durable drink container – the more unique the better and bonus points if you can find one that’s hands-free. Be sure to decorate your cup so it’s unique to you!

Packing Item 11: Lighting

Essential Items for Burning Man Virgins to Remember to Pack for Burning Man: Lighting

Lighting is really important at Burning Man. And not just to keep you looking neon fresh. The biggest reason is so that other people can see you – specifically so that you don’t get run over by art cars while you’re cruising around on your bike in the deep playa.

It’s extremely dangerous to walk or bike around the playa at night without a light to alert drivers of your presence. It’s literally pitch black so it’ll be up to you to light up your camp, your bicycle, and your body.

We like Luci Lights to hang around camp while cooking and eating dinner (they are solar powered and inflatable so they pack down super small). Attach one to the back of your bike, solar panel side up, and it will charge all day and light up your ride all night.

And we recommend battery-powered string lights to decorate the wheels of your bike and your body so you are easy to spot. And so you can find your bicycle among the masses after you’ve parked it to party.

Packing Item 12: Combination Bike Lock

Don’t forget to bring a bicycle to Burning Man and definitely don’t forget to bring a simple combination bike lock as well. While there aren’t really any actual asshole bike thieves preying on other Burners, there are plenty of drunk people who mistakenly wander off with the wrong bike. A simple lock will keep this confusion from happening.

Make sure you get one with a combination rather than a key or you’ll be sawing off the lock after you accidentally lose your key in the playa dust. And if your bike does disappear, don’t worry, BM has loaner bikes you can borrow.

TIP: If the seat of your bicycle isn’t particularly comfy, add some extra padding. You’ll be riding around all day every day and will probably prefer to have a happy burner bottom. 

Packing Item 13: Nasal Spray

TMI time… during my week at Burning Man I woke up to a pillow smeared with blood boogers every single day. Sound gross? Hell yeah it was. But it happens to everyone on the playa. That fine alkaline dust covers your skin and gets into every possible orifice. And it wreaks the most havoc on your poor nasal cavity.

Do not forget to bring a bottle of nasal spray to give your dried out nose a little relief, and use it every morning and every evening before bed!

Packing Item 14: Biodegradable Wet Wipes

You are about to be dirtier than you’ve ever been before. Stock up on biodegradable wet wipes, trust me.

Note: Even if they are biodegradable you CANNOT put baby wipes in the port-o-potties. Bring ziplock bags to pack the dirty ones out. Sorry it’s gross but those are the rules! Bring single-ply paper for the portos. 

Packing Item 15: Tent Fan

Unless you plan on staying in a fancy motorhome and blasting the AC while attempting to get some shuteye, you’re bound to absolutely roast in your tent as soon as the sun comes up. And since you’ll likely have a lot of late nights, you’ll want to sleep past sunrise. Hang a battery-powered fan from your tent ceiling to keep the air flowing while you sleep. 

Packing Item 16: An Extra Fitted Sheet

After an especially epic dust storm, we returned to our tent to find that everything inside was covered in a half inch of playa dust. Those tiny particles had weaseled their way through the tent walls and for a minute we were like tomb raiders, sifting through the dust to find our belongings.

Most of our things were okay because we’d packed everything in tupperware containers. The worst casualty ended up being our bed. We attempted to shake out the dust as best as we could but with little luck. Sleeping at Burning Man is already difficult. Sleeping in a bed that is covered in dust makes it almost unbearable.

Bring along an extra fitted sheet and cover your bed every time you venture out for the day.

Packing Item 17: Change of Clothes Sealed in a Ziplock Bag

At the end of your epic week at Burning Man, you’ll be exhausted. And everything you own will be covered in dust. You will be filthy dirty and will be dreaming of a shower. But, depending on where you’ve come from, you probably have a long journey ahead of you before that can happen. And sitting in a car, on a plane, or on a bus in your dusty playa clothes won’t be fun for you or anyone around you.

Seal a complete outfit (including socks and undies!) in a ziploc bag or trash bag so you can change into clean clothes for your journey back to civilization!

Now that you’re all packed – read all about the mistakes I made during my first Burn!


  • Valerie Wheatley

    Val grew up in Portland, Oregon but moved to Oahu on a whim back in 2013. She sold her house and all of her belongings and bought a one-way ticket. Since then she’s taken two around-the-world trips and has visited 60-ish countries while living out of a duffel bag.

    Val started documenting the Wandering Wheatleys travels back in 2013 as a way to update friends and family about her whereabouts and to relay humorous daily interactions. The only readers were her mom and her mother-in-law but that didn’t stop her!

    These days you’ll find Val dreaming up future trips, creating new travel content, managing a team of amazing travel enthusiasts, and chasing around her two adorable but naughty kids.

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