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 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 and 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!
Quick Navigation Links
- 15 Things NOT to Bring to Burning Man
- 1. Costumes with Feathers or Sequins
- 2. Glow Sticks
- 3. Fireworks
- 4. Firearms
- 5. Laser Pointers
- 6. Drones
- 7. Small Plastic Water Bottles
- 8. Beer in Glass Bottles
- 9. Extra People Hidden in Your Car
- 10. Multi-ply Toilet Paper
- 11. Regular Tarps for Shade
- 12. Live Plants
- 13. Trinkety Giveaways
- 14. Gas-Powered Vehicles
- 15. Anything You Want to Keep Nice
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15 Things NOT to Bring to Burning Man
1. Costumes with Feathers or Sequins
One of the core principles of Burning Man (you should familiarize yourself with all of them before going) is “leave no trace”. And in order 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.
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 because 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 and 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 and leave the glow sticks at home!
Fireworks are explicitly not allowed at Burning Man as the surrounding hills are a fire risk and the debris left behind creates more MOOP. People occasionally sneak them in anyway 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.
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
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!
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 on May 15, 2020, 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
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.
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
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
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!
11. Regular Tarps for Shade
If you bring a regular tarp to Burning Man to provide shade for your camp and a dust storm blows through 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.
12. Live Plants
As mentioned previously, 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, 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.
13. Trinkety Giveaways
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, the list goes on and on.
If you plan to bring a playa gift don’t bring some wasteful trinket that will just get thrown away. Choose something consumable or a 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!
14. Gas-Powered Vehicles
Mutant Vehicles are allowed if they meet specific requirements. Motorcycles and ATVs are only allowed if they are a Mutant or a Disabled Persons Vehicle. 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 man-power 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!
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.