The weeklong festival of art, community and hedonism known as Burning Man goes down next week. One commonly touted caveat? Don’t arrive with anything you’re not ready to lose or at least have challenged, whether it’s a belief system, a relationship or a bicycle. And that goes double for gear. I journeyed to the Nevada desert and Burning Man for the first time last year. Below are a few tips, many of which apply for regular desert camping, too.
1. Bring goggles. When the wind kicks up, full eye protection is critical. Bring some ski goggles that you don’t plan on using next season.
2. Don’t get attached. Nothing will be new after a trip to the Burning Man. My buddy drove his Prius to the fest last year, had it detailed clean when he returned, and a year later it is still blowing out particles of sand from the desert venue.
3. Bikes rule. Bring one, decorate it, and always lock it up. (My Litespeed was stolen in broad daylight with a lock sitting idly in the pannier.) Most attendees choose an inexpensive rig, but there were a handful of Surly Pugsleys. Take a lesson from the Cadillac of the Burning Man Playa — the Pugsley can accommodate tires that are 4 inches wide. For any bike, run the fattest tire you have because riding at BM on the semi-packed surface is close to riding on sand. More tire diameter gives you more float.
4. Tech toys. Some tech, like the Eton Scorpion, is good because it allows you to listen to Burning Man radio and charge a cell phone, even though there wasn’t much of a signal last year. I’m bringing a similar device this year to charge my camera.
5. Camera Choice. Don’t use your fancy iPhone or smartphone to take photos, as you may ruin it. Instead, bring an old digital camera if you have one. Or, ironically for the desert, bring a waterproof camera. They’re as sealed as they come and many, like the Kodak Play Sport, shoot good photos and high-definition video, which is why I’m bringing this $130 model.
6. Bike lights. Bring blinkie lights for your bike and a flashlight for walking around at night. I’m bringing the battery-free night cycling vest.
7. Water. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. And bring some electrolyte tablets to replenish everything you sweat out.
8. Shoes. Comfy footwear is key. You’ll do lots of walking. I saw a lot of folks wearing Vibram FiveFingers Running Shoes. Even the people who didn’t participate in the Burning Man 5k swore by them.
—Stephen Krcmar has written about gear, art and fringe activity for The Boston Globe, New York Times and Men’s Journal.