How to Prepare for Your First Burning Man Experience

Every year 70,000 people head to Black Rock City to experience Burning Man. It’s a wild adventure filled with dusty sunrises and sunsets, playa hugs, and beautiful experiences. It’s tough to explain what happens during those dusty days in dreamland because everyone’s experience is different.

(In 2020, Burning Man was a virtual event due to COVID-19.)

Getting ready for your first burn? Planning another visit to the playa? 

Burning Man isn’t really a place where you can just show up and wing it. You need to come prepared to live in the desert for a week.

For the ultimate Burning Man experience, think about: 

  • How are you going to get to Black Rock City? 
  • Where are you going to sleep? And what are you going to sleep on? 
  • What are you going to eat, and how will you cook? 
  • What to wear
  • Essentials to bring 

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Burning Man Experince

My Burning Man Experience 

I went to my first burn in 2017 and met the people in my RV the night before in San Francisco. I connected with the group through a mutual friend, and they’re now some of my closest friends. I’ll never forget showing up to the playa after dark and feeling blown away by the vibrant scene. 

That week, I met the most amazing group of people, danced until I couldn’t feel my feet anymore, cycled around for miles, snapped pictures of the spectacular artwork, and watched the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets. 

I’ve been to Burning Man three times now, and every experience has been a new incredible adventure. 

Burning Man tips for first timers

How to Prepare for Your First Burning Man  

You may have heard people say that the “playa provides.” Once you get there, you’ll understand what that means. Keep in mind, Burning Man is not a barter system, but someone may give you a gift. You can only buy coffee and ice on the playa, but if you’re traveling in an RV, bring cash to dump your gray water and fill up your water tank. 

When is Burning Man? 

Burning Man is a week-long event typically held at the end of August and beginning of September.

Where is Black Rock City? 

Black Rock City is located in Nevada approximately 122 miles north of Reno.  

How to get to Burning Man

You can drive to Black Rock City, book a ticket on the Burner Bus, or fly onto the playa.

How much does it cost to go to Burning Man? 

Costs vary depending on what you consider essential. Here are some of the basic expenses 
– You’ll need a ticket ($550), a vehicle pass, or a Burner Bus ticket.  
– Food, water, and drinks for a week
– RV, yurt, or tent
– Sleeping bag, pillows, etc. 
– Transportation to Black Rock City and if you’re traveling overseas you’ll have to add flight expenses 
– A bike and a lock 
– Burning Man clothing, costumes, accessories including a torch and lights for your bike, comfortable shoes, a coat, goggles, dust masks, etc. 


Expect it to be sweltering during the day and very cold at night. Dust storms are common, so you don’t want to go anywhere without goggles, water, and a mask to protect your face from the playa dust. 

Black Rock City

What to do Before You Arrive to Black Rock City 

Whether you have a year to prepare, months, or only a week, start planning now. 

Get organized.

  • Schedule time off and give yourself a few days to recover after the week is over. 
  • Create a budget, buy your ticket, and find a camp. 
  • Decide where you’re going to sleep and how you’re going to get there. 
  • If you decide to book an RV, make reservations early. 
  • Stretch and get ready to move, because you’ll be cycling a lot. 

Get your shopping done early. 

If you don’t want to wait in line, try to buy as much as you can before you get to Reno. It gets so busy, and you might not find what you’re looking for. 

Be prepared to wait. 

I’ve waited anywhere from 10- 13 hours to get into Burning Man. Keep in mind, there are thousands of people arriving at the same time as you. If it gets too dusty to drive, they may stop letting people in until conditions improve. 

Where to stay in Reno

If you’re planning on staying in Reno, book your room early. They will sell out.

Where to Sleep 

You don’t have to find a camp, but it’s a great way to meet new people.  

RV – They’re comfortable, and you’ll have AC! You also don’t have to worry about where you will store your food or where to cook. 

Yurt – I stayed in a yurt one year, and it was awesome. It can get a bit dark in there, but ours was always comfortable when the AC was on. 

Tent – Bring everything you need, including a sleeping pad, sleeping bag, shade for your tent, and camping essentials. 

Burning Man Outfits

Burning Man Fashion: Outfits, Costumes, Accessories 

There is no dress code for Burning Man. Wear anything you want (or nothing at all.) It’s totally up to you. I’ve bought a lot of my Burning Man Clothing at secondhand shops, Poshmark and Depop

Wigs are awesome because they protect your hair from the dust. 

Comfortable boots. Break-in your shoes before you arrive to the playa. Comfort is key. I always bring slides to give my feet a rest when I’m at camp. Some of my friends bring slippers. 

Bathing suits are a great base layer. 

Lights – Even if you think you have enough, bring more. Don’t forget extra batteries. 

Goggles and Sunglasses – I’ve made the mistake of buying goggles that were tinted, and it was tough to see at night. Stick to clear ones. 

Bandanas – These are great to cover your mouth during dust storms. (Bring one per day.) If you have a mask, that’s even better. 

Coat – You’ll need a warm one. If you get tired of carrying it, loop your bike lock through the sleeve when you lock up your bike. 

Socks – 2 per day 

By my third burn, I packed separate outfits into smaller bags into my suitcase, so I didn’t have to go shuffling around looking for something. It made life easier because I had everything I needed for the day sorted and in one place. Pack something comfortable to wear in a ziplock bag, so you have something clean to wear after the burn. 

Everything will get dusty. Although the last thing you probably will want to do is clean all your playa gear when you get home, it’s a good idea to get that dust off before you store away your stuff. 

Black Rock Desert

Burning Man Packing List Essentials

For ticket information, click here.

  • Water – 1.5 gallons per person per day is required, and they will check to make sure you have before you’re allowed to enter. 
  • Your ticket and vehicle pass
  • Lights. A torch, LED lights to wrap around your bike. 
  • Bike and a lock
  • Goggles
  • Dust Mask + Face Masks
  • Your ID. You’ll need it if you want to get a drink. 
  • Trash Bags 
  • A cup 
  • Hydration pack or water bottle 

Burning Man Essentials: Toiletries 

If you use it every day, then bring it with you. 

  • Coconut Oil – Moisturise your skin, add a little bit to your boot zipper if it gets stuck, and I’ve also used it on squeaky bike chains. 
  • Eye drops 
  • Wet wipes 
  • Earplugs
  • Toilet Paper
  • Moisturizer 
  • Sunscreen 
  • Lip balm 
  • Bandaids and a first aid kit
First Burning Man

After the Burn 

Burning Man is a leave no trace event, so you’ll have to pack out everything you brought in, including all your trash. Be prepared to wait in line to leave. If you’re traveling in an RV, you can dump all your black water in Reno. 

Once the dust settles and you get home, clean all your supplies, wipe them down and store them for another round next year! 

Everyone’s time in Black Rock City is entirely unique, imaginations run wild, and the possibilities are limitless. It’s a temporary city built every year to welcome burners from around the world. Around every corner, you’ll find something new. 

Happy Burn, make the most of your Burning Man Experience and have the time of your life!

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