What Not to Pack for Burning Man: Black Rock Lighthouse Art Installation

15 Things NOT to Bring to Burning Man

So you’re one of the lucky ones to score tickets to Burning Man – woohoo! As you undoubtedly already know, Burning Man is unlike any other festival in the world! It is held in the middle of the Black Rock Desert in Nevada in the middle of a dry lake bed known affectionately as “the playa”. And it is attended by over 70,000 people from all over the globe, making it the 6th largest city in Nevada for one week a year.

Burning Man has 10 guiding principles and everything that happens during the week should be guided by these principles. “Radical inclusion”, for example, is the first principle and it dictates that anyone and everyone is welcome at Burning Man. “Gifting” is the second principle which means that you should give unconditionally, with no hope to get something in return. The fourth is “radical self-reliance”, meaning that you have to rely on yourself to survive a week in the desert.

And for this reason, the only two things that are actually sold on the playa are coffee and ice. You’ll need to expertly plan and prepare for Burning Man. You’ll also create a detailed packing list for everything you may need during that time.

Along with reading all about what you should pack for Burning Man, be sure you also know what NOT to bring to Black Rock City. Check out our list of 15 unnecessary things below!

Don’t forget to check out our web story: Things NOT to Bring to Burning Man

15 Things NOT to Bring to Burning Man

1. Costumes with Feathers or Sequins

Burning Man: What Not to Pack

One of the core principles of Burning Man (you should familiarize yourself with all of them before going) is “leave no trace”. And to do that, the founding members have coined the term “MOOP” meaning “matter out of place”. This refers to anything that is not originally OF the Black Rock Desert. So basically any kind of trash and greywater.

Most Burners are very aware of MOOP on the playa and will pick every last piece up. Even if that means sprinting after a napkin caught in a windstorm. They’ll often yell “MOOP!!!” before stooping down to pick it up.

And if you happen to wear a costume that is a frequent MOOP offender, you’ll be frowned upon by fellow Burners. And you’ll be known as a “MOOPER”. Common MOOPY costumes involve sequins or feathers because they can easily detach and become playa litter. To avoid leaving your trash all over the desert and angering your fellow Burning Man attendees, avoid costumes containing sequins, feathers, or other small pieces.

Bring This Instead:

Pack costumes that are made of fabric that won’t shed while you wear them. Leather or pleather items are popular, as are faux fur jackets. Many people opt for a swimsuit or even just nipple tassels to beat the heat. Nudity is also perfectly acceptable at Burning Man if you’d prefer not to bother with a costume at all!

2. Glow Sticks

Speaking of MOOP, glow sticks are another common offender that you should avoid bringing to Burning Man. You may be thinking that glow sticks are great to bring. I mean, they light up at night and you can give them away to all your new Burner friends! But once the glow in the sticks runs out, they usually get discarded on the ground. So, they become litter that someone else will have to deal with.

Stick to battery-powered fairy lights to keep you illuminated when the sun goes down. Leave the glow sticks at home!

Bring This Instead:

Skip the glowsticks and choose lighting options that aren’t just single-use. If you invest in battery-powered or solar-charged lighting options, you can use them over and over again on the playa and when you return home.

Wrap yourself in these waterproof color-changing LED twinkle lights and decorate your camp with solar-charging Luci Lights. They are more sustainable and less MOOPY!

3. Fireworks

What not to Pack for Burning Man: Neuron Sculpture (Art Installation)

Fireworks are explicitly not allowed at Burning Man. The surrounding hills are a fire risk and the debris left behind creates more MOOP. People occasionally sneak them in but expect a hefty fine if you get caught. Plus, a bunch of drunk people playing with fire is never a great idea.

Fireworks can only be used as a part of art projects in deep playa if they are pre-registered and approved.

4. Firearms

This one should be obvious – leave your guns locked in a safe at home as they are strictly forbidden in Black Rock City.

5. Laser Pointers

What Not to Pack for Burning Man: Black Rock City at Night

Handheld lasers have been banned from Burning Man since 2015 as they can cause permanent injury, and have, to a ranger who lost his eyesight as a result of a laser among others. Lasers are actually so strong now that they can cause damage up to 10 miles away!

The only lasers that are permitted at Burning Man are mounted lasers for art installations, Mutant Vehicles, and some theme camps but they have restrictions to abide by.

There are plenty of other options for nighttime illumination that won’t blind your fellow Burners!

Bring This Instead:

It’s hard to get the pointing effect without an actual laser pointer, but you can still bring some unique lighting options to help you stand out. And you’ll be hard to miss with these neon glowing strobing electroluminescent lights (known as el lights)!

6. Drones

Burning Man: What Not to Pack
The Best Way to See BRC from Above

Burning Man regulates all mutant vehicles and RC aircraft on the playa to ensure that they are operated responsibly and stay out of no-fly zones. If you want to bring a drone to Burning Man, you must register, read the strict policies, partake in an on-playa briefing, and wear a safety vest when operating your drone.

It’s work to register and there are a lot of rules you’ll need to follow so best to just leave your drone at home. The best pictures are taken from the ground anyway!

Read more about drone regulations here.

7. Small Plastic Water Bottles

Burning Man: What Not to Pack
Water in hand!

You’ll most definitely need a LOT of water during your week at Burning Man. Two gallons per person per day to be exact. And the larger the jugs of water that you can find, the better.

If you bring a case of small water bottles you’ll just create a bunch of trash (MOOP) that you’ll have to pack out. Plus, it’s not very kind to Mother Earth to purchase all that unnecessary plastic.

Bring a large reusable water bottle to fill up every day before you head out on your bicycle for the day! If you invest in a vacuum-insulated bottle, you can throw some ice in there so your water stays cold for hours.

Bring This Instead:

Ditch the single-use plastic by bringing a durable reusable water bottle to Burning Man! Pack a reusable water bottle and fill it up with ice and water every morning before setting off to cruise around the playa. It’ll keep hot beverages hot and cold beverages cold so you can use it for both your coffee and your water!

8. Beer in Glass Bottles

Similar to small plastic water bottles, if you bring a bunch of glass bottles of beer, you’ll just have to pack out a bunch of empty glass bottles. It has the potential to create MOOP on the playa or it will be a big bag of heavy trash that you’ll have to carry out when you leave Burning Man.

Canned beers will be easier to dispose of and liquor will give you the biggest bang for your buck! Either is a better option to pack for Burning Man.

9. Extra People Hidden in Your Car

What Not to Pack for Burning Man: Nowehere Omnibus Art Car

This may sound silly but some Burners do get tempted to sneak extra friends into Black Rock City by hiding them in their car or RV. After all, once you’re through the main gate there’s no way to verify whether or not they actually have a ticket.

But the reason it takes so long to get through the line is that they thoroughly search every single car for weapons, fireworks, and most of all people! And if they do find a person hidden in your car, none of you will get the opportunity to experience Burning Man. It’s most definitely not worth the risk.

10. Multi-ply Toilet Paper

What Not to Pack for Burning Man: Port-a-Potties

There are approximately 1,700 port-o-potties on the playa, some of which are stocked with single-ply toilet paper. Unfortunately, single-ply isn’t as comfortable for your bum, but it is the only type of wipe that won’t clog the porto.

You’ll want to bring a pack of single-ply toilet paper to use during your week at Burning Man. And if you bring enough, you can help keep the portos stocked for other Burners. But don’t throw anything other than single-ply paper into the toilets, the people who have to clean them have a hard enough job as it is!

Bring This Instead:

Be sure to bring single-ply toilet paper for the port-o-potties, nothing thicker.

And it’s a good idea to bring biodegradable wipes to freshen up every day. Just be sure you don’t throw them in the port-o-potties and that you pack them out!

11. Regular Tarps for Shade

What Not to Pack for Burning Man

If you bring a regular tarp to Burning Man to provide shade for your camp and a dust storm blows through the camp, your tarp is likely to take off like a kite down the playa. Even if you have the tarp securely fastened with rope and rebar, no tarp is any match for the crazy wind storms that blow through Black Rock City.

You’ll want to pack a tarp that has holes to account for windy conditions but is also durable, large, and provides plenty of protection from the sun.

Bring This Instead:

While a regular-style tarp isn’t a great idea to bring to Burning Man, there are other options for a shade structure. Desert camo netting will provide ample shade on the playa but also has plenty of holes to allow the wind to pass freely through. You can stake it to the playa without worrying that it will blow away during a dust storm.

12. Live Plants

As mentioned previously, the Black Rock Desert is uninhabitable for the other 51 weeks of the year. Plants really don’t want to live here. Not only is it unfair to the plant to bring it to a dry, desolate desert, but it also has the potential to create a ton of MOOP. Leaves, dirt, and petals, all fall off of the plants and blow around the playa, all of which will need to be picked up by you and others.

For those reasons live plants have been banned from Burning Man for years. Leave them at home where they’ll be safe, happy, and MOOP-free.

Bring This Instead:

Skip the live plants and stock up on some fake greenery to decorate your camp. Ivy garland is perfect to drape across your tent or shade structure to give the impression that you’re in a garden oasis!

13. Trinkety Giveaways

Burning Man: What Not to Pack

As mentioned earlier, one of the 10 Principles of Burning Man is “gifting”. Many camps put together elaborate gifts for other Burners and many individual Burners bring smaller gifts to give to a select few. A few past examples of elaborate BRC gifts: champagne slushies, a fancy make-shift cafe where you could order coffee drinks (free of charge of course), a “belligerent butt fighting” competition, yoga sessions, dance parties, and the list goes on, and on.

If you plan to bring a playa gift don’t bring some wasteful trinkets that will just get thrown away. Choose something consumable or a type of service of some kind. Trinkets are wasteful and are likely to become MOOP on the playa.

Plus, offering a consumable gift or a service will encourage other Burners to stay and hang out for a while, so you’ll get a chance to make some new friends!

Remember: Burning Man has a gifting culture, not a trading culture. You should not expect that you’ll receive something in return.

14. Gas-Powered Vehicles

Burning Man: What Not to Pack
The slowest way to travel at Burning Man

Mutant Vehicles are allowed if they meet specific requirements. Motorcycles and ATVs are only allowed if they are a Mutant or a Disabled Persons’s vehicles. And stand-up and fat-tire scooters, gas-powered bicycles, quads, ATVs, mopeds, and motorcycles are NOT allowed on the playa.

Plan on bringing a simple bicycle and using your manpower instead of gas power to navigate Black Rock City. But you’ll want to style it up with some lights so you’ll be easy to spot once the sun goes down!

Bring This Instead:

Skip the motorized vehicles and bring a regular old pedal bicycle with you to Burning Man. And if you have extra space, a folding bike trailer is a great investment for hauling ice from Center Camp back to your camping space.

15. Anything You Want to Keep Nice

No matter what you bring to Burning Man, it’s going to get covered in a layer of alkaline dust. And that alkaline dust is harmful to pretty much everything it touches. It will corrode your bike, enter every crack and crevice in your car, make your feet crack, give you blood boogers, and exhaust your lungs.

Don’t take anything to Burning Man that you plan to keep. Leave your favorite jewelry and expensive clothing at home, and stock up on cheap stuff at Goodwill and other second-hand stores before heading to Black Rock City. Even after a thorough washing, it’s unlikely that your belongings will ever again be completely dust-free.

We hope you have an amazing Burn and that you’re prepared with everything you need, and nothing you don’t!



  • 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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16 thoughts on “15 Things NOT to Bring to Burning Man”

    1. Valerie Wheatley

      Hi Kelley – the official stance on the BM website on pets is “Dogs. Love ’em and leave ’em. Due to the numerous issues surrounding dogs at Burning Man, the organization has decided not to allow them at the event. Do not show up at the gate with your animal at Burning Man and expect to be admitted to the event.” So my guess is no, you can’t even bring service dogs. You might want to try to contact someone there to see if there are any exceptions.

      1. That is a violation of the ADA and they should be reported. Actually, a few BM execs need their children kidnapped and send back a few body parts. THey’ll get the message.

        1. Sir, you do realize that this is a travel blog right? We are not affiliated with Burning Man in any way, shape, or form. If it were up to us we’d love to let you bring a service dog along. I think you need to take your fight to the actual organization that manages the event and makes the rules. But also, these threats are pretty weird…

  1. Well, I tell you, if I ever go, I will have 4-5 shotguns with me. 00 buck, magnum shells. You have too many rapists in the for me to EVER go unarmed. Late at night, I’ll warn burners awat from my camp and if their “Rangers,” show up, we’ll see how well they do in a firefight. Is that what you want?

  2. I read the Burning Man facts and questions, but I’m still confused about what I can’t bring in. You should radically express yourself through your vehicle, just like you do through your outfit.

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