Freestyle: Burning Man countdown

Jul. 26, 2013 | 1 Comment

In less than a month, tens of thousands of people will gather in the Nevada desert. At the center of it all: the Burning Man. (Associated Press)

In less than a month, tens of thousands of people will gather in the Nevada desert. At the center of it all: Burning Man. (Associated Press)


In less than 30 days, I fly out of Hawaii toward Black Rock City and the crazy/wonderful gathering known as Burning Man. It’s a major endeavor, and needless to say, the trip is just about all that’s on my mind.

Some of you out there reading this are going, too. If it’s your first time: There’s a “Newbie Q” — potluck barbecue to welcome first-timers to the Burning Man community — scheduled for Saturday, July 27 in Waimanalo. RSVP for directions to: The event is free to attend.

At the Newbie Q, hosts affiliated with the Hawaii regional group, Ka Pilina Interactive Arts Society, will help you figure out how to get to the playa (high Nevada desert, a couple hours outside of Reno) from Hawaii. They’ll also talk about survival skills, like how to raise a shade structure that stand up to the Nevada wind, how to cope with the wide temperature swings, and what some of the big camps on the playa have to offer.

There’s also going to be talk about the first-ever “all-Hawaii photo shoot.” Watch this blog and the Ka Pilina Facebook page for updates, but if you’re heading out from Hawaii, you’re invited to take part in this.

A week later, on Aug. 3, PREcompression: Oahu’s Pre-Burning Man Party is planned at The Loft, 115 N. Hotel St. in Chinatown’s Wo Fat building — a suitably offbeat location! This one is a goggle and dust mask decorating party for those 21 and over; bring your goggles and Ka Pilina will supply embellishments. There will be a costume exchange and music from Hawaii DJs, too.

You never know who — or what — you may encounter on the playa. (AP photo)

You never know who — or what — you may encounter on the playa. (Associated Press)

BURNING MAN takes place in a harsh desert environment, so being ready to cope with sun, dust, heat, cold, wind, rain and high altitude is essential. However, those who have gone before (since 1990) have built a store of knowledge for a relative beginner, like me, to work with. It is important to be prepared, because whatever you need, you need to bring with you, or work with a group to bring.

At Burning Man, little money changes hands. Nothing can be sold except for coffee, chai and ice. Motorized traffic is prohibited (except for art cars, those driven by volunteer “rangers” and law enforcement officers, and sanitation trucks). So if you’re going to want it, you really need to have it with you on the first day.

I have a checklist for what I’ll need to bring to the playa, based largely on suggestions from Burning Man’s Survival Guide, as well as other lists that burners have shared. I’m still sourcing some of these items, or will need to pick them up once I get to the West Coast. It adds an extra layer of complication to try to equip yourself for a survivalist trip / massive party / money-free, contributory, communal festival from thousands of miles away, but that’s really helping me to appreciate the Internet as a magical vehicle for getting stuff where you need it to be!

Remnants of my Burning Man adventure in 2012 — ticket, media pass, glow stick, bandana...

Remnants of my Burning Man adventure in 2012 — ticket, media pass, glow stick, bandana. (Star-Advertiser photo by Elizabeth Kieszkowski)

Thought you might like to see my list, as it is now. In coming weeks, I’ll tell you more about my shelter solutions, and the “community” that makes Burning Man such an awesome experience.


» Shelter (more on this later!)
» Bike
» Tire repair kit, pump, spare parts and extra tubes
» Bike lock (also, tag your bike with name, playa address, email address and contact info)

Food/Drink/Kitchen Necessities:

(Note: All trash we generate has to be packed back out. Not even ice water can be dumped on the ground, because Burning Man is super-serious about the concept of “leave no trace.” My plan is to rely largely on things like nuts, citrus fruit, salami, hard cheese and olives that will not turn into a nasty mess, supplemented by a few vacuum-packed vegetarian meals, also less likely to result in messy leftovers or bad smells. That’s important, since you have to live with what’s leftover!)

» WATER: 20 gallons; drinking/limited washing water provided by camp; PLUS it’s possible to drink melted ICE if it’s transferred on purchase into clean containers.
» One bowl and set of silverware (our camp will have a washing station, and I don’t really plan to “cook”).
» Caffeinated gummie drops-MUST HAVE
» Inexpensive wine that’s good for making sangria
» Canned meat.
» Packaged, ready to eat meals
» Dried fruit/trail mix
» Hard cheese
» Snack bars and bottled drinks
» Salami
» Olives/marinated peppers.
» Oranges/limes
» Good beer – a necessity for me!

A scene from my Costco run for provisions last year.

A scene from my Costco run for provisions last year.

Camp Safety/Housekeeping/Identity

» LED lights/nightlights
» Camp marker (flag, flasher, distinctive marking)
» Battery-powered lantern
» Flashlights and spare batteries (headlamps are useful)
» Replacement batteries, lots of ’em
» Duct tape
» Carabiners
» Bungie cords
» Mesh bags for dessicating trash
» Sheets – extra sheets used to cover items as dust protection
» Sleeping bag
» Tarps
» Clean towels (sealed in ziplocks is good)
» Big zip-lock plastic bags (dust protection for clothing, electronics
» Shallow tub to stand in when sponge-bathing
» Milk jugs, frozen full of water for first round of cooling, then use to transfer grey water/water waste
» GLOVES to clean up camp site
» Garbage/recycling bags.

Hygiene/First Aid and Comfort

» Spray bottle for misting/cooling
» Sunscreen/sunblock & sunglasses
» SINGLE-PLY-toilet paper (only single-ply T.P. is allowed in the porta-potties)
» VINEGAR (clean/disinfect)
» Hydrogen peroxide (for cuts, small OK)
» Eye wash
» Alcohol (sore muscles, cuts and scrapes)
» Dr Bronner’s soap
» Burt’s Bees wet wipes (don’t have that awful chemical smell)
» First-aid kit: Bandaids, Neosporin, Arnica, cracked-skin lotion

Clothing/Dust Protection

» Dust masks (helps to have a new one every day)
» Scarves / keffiyah / bandanas
» Goggles that can block dust from all sides
» Furry hoodie
» Big sun hat and PARASOL (Really could have used one last year!)
» Boots
» Knee socks (the playa dust is irritating)

Tickets: GOT ‘EM!
Elizabeth Kieszkowski is editor of TGIF, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s weekly arts and entertainment section. Reach her via email at or follow her on Twitter.

  • ElizabethKieszkowski

    If you’re going to #BurningMan from Hawaii, and want to share your experiences, contact me: ekieszkowski [at]