The wind

Burning Man can get really windy – don’t leave anything lying around, and make sure everything you have is properly secured and tied down.

Rubbish - in the wind this makes dreadful MOOP (Matter Out Of Place). Tobacco, cigarette ash, sweet wrappers, drink bottles, sawdust, paper - put it in the bin IMMEDIATELY.

Tents and structures – make sure your tent is firmly pegged down. Since you’re effectively nailing it to compressed talcum powder, you need a little more than regular pegs. Adding a snow peg at each corner is a good solution. Rebar is often recommended, but can be hard to pull out and the uncapped ends are a hazard to other campers in our crowded camping area. Most importantly, keep something heavy like a rucksack in your tent at all times.

Chairs, tables and big items – these really will blow away in a high wind. And they will knock somebody’s head off. Don’t leave these out if you leave camp, even if it looks nice when you wander away. The weather changes in minutes.

If a wind picks up, check around you for stuff lying around the camp and pack it away, even if it’s not yours. If it’s unidentifiable, stick it in the dome lost property box to be claimed later.

The dust

Playa dust is an alkali and it burns. Wandering round barefoot or in sandals might seem like a fantastic idea, but unless you have insteps like dessicated cuttlefish the dust will eat your feet. If you must wander around with them uncovered, rinse them in a mixture of water and white vinegar to neutralise the alkali. Cut down water containers make great footbaths.

Dusty Man

The white-outs

In a high wind, the dust can pick up and reduce visibility to a couple of feet. Most people carry goggles and a dustmask to wear in these cases. Goggles are essential - dustmasks are a matter of taste, but many people find that a bandana wrapped over their mouth is just as effective and a lot less stuffy.

Dust gear

In the event of a whiteout:

  • If you’re near a big structure stay there. If you’re out in the desert, and can’t get to a structure don’t wander blindly - stay put. White-outs never last for long. At worst you’ll be becalmed for an hour. When the dust drops, head back towards civilisation. Listen for vehicles near you and be prepared to keep out of the way.
  • If you’re riding a bike, get off and push
  • If you’re driving  STOP. 

All these rules apply doubly for a white-out at night.

The dark

It gets dark at night. This might seem d’oh obvious, but unless you’ve been out into the desert when there’s no moon, you really have no idea how dark dark can get. It’s like being at the bottom of a coal mine in an eclipse at midnight during a power cut. With a bat covering your eyes.

If you’re using a bike, make sure you’re lit. Use LEDs, El Wire, trad lights, a torch - anything. People need to be able to see you coming and get out of your way. 

When you wander round at night, you should also light yourself, especially if you’re heading deep playa. Battery-powered LED lights pinned to the back of your coat, an El-Wire costume, a torch tucked into your boot. Blinky shit is cool.

The cold

Yes, it’s hot during the day. But it’s absolutely bloody freezing at night. It has been known to drop to single-figure temperatures, and these feel especially cold after the heat of the day. Bring warm clothes and a very good sleeping bag, as well as a roll matt or airbed so you don’t have to sleep on the desert floor. 

A fleece is essential. 

When it comes to making costumes, remember to bring warm weather stuff as well as cold weather stuff. You’ll be pissed off if your beautiful dragonfly/dominatrix/dormouse costume looks rubbish because you have to wear a jumper over it.

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