Surviving Burning Man: An Exercise in Planning

I’m not sure if I’ll go to this year’s Burning Man. But I’m thinking about it.


  • Have fun
  • Not leave in the middle because I need something
  • Minimize “hassle”
  • Be able to participate in “gifting”: bring enough extra so I can share

At a first approximation, I estimate that to survive I need one gallon of water per person per day. Since BM is seven days, we need 7 gallons per person per-week. In order to compensate for any issues, let’s round it up to 10 gallons per person per week. That should be enough for drinking and cooking in (more about cooking later). Vitamin C should not be an issue for seven days, but there’s no reason to take risks. Lemons take quite a bit of time to spoil if kept in the shade. Ten lemons per person should be enough: spike the water with a little lemon juice in the morning and you should be fine.

(Note: unless stated otherwise, all quantities are “per-person”)

  • 10 gallons of water
  • 10 lemons

Next, for survival, we need food. Food that keeps for seven days, while having minimal waste. Here, I am going to depart a bit from common wisdom, and suggest that canned food is actually pretty good. Cans can be compressed, a lot, and stuffed in a garbage bag.

  • 18 pounds of rice
  • 20 cans of beans
  • 2 boxes of granola bars
  • 10 cans of gas for gas stove
  • portable gas stove (one per 4 people, rounded up)
  • 2 teflon pots (per 4 people, rounded up)
  • 30 tea bags
  • garbage bags
  • 2 ceramic cups
  • 1 metal bottle (for carrying water around during the day)
  • 1 ceramic plate
  • stainless steal fork, knife and spoon

Of course, now that we have dishes we need to clean them. We don’t want to use water. Wet wipes, followed by drying with a towel, are perfectly ok — yes, you need to dispose of them, but they compress well.

  • 4 pack of wet wipes
  • 1 small towel
  • 1 large towel

That, by the way, also takes care of the necessity of cleaning, together with

  • Deodorant
  • Anti-rash cream
  • First aid pack (per 4 persons, rounded up)

Next order of business is sleeping. Some people erect a tent. That’s wasteful, and hard work. I advocate sleeping bags. Portable, quick, in-and-out of the cars in minutes. Add a sleeping bag pad, and make sure the sleeping bag is good for cold weather, and you should have no problems surviving the cold desert nights. Especially with a hot cup of tea before the night.

  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping bag pad

All of that should fit into a minivan, especially if the minivan only carries 4 people (and their equipment)

  • Rent minivan (per 4 people, rounded up)

4 Responses to Surviving Burning Man: An Exercise in Planning

  1. Noam says:

    Enjoy. If carrying is an issue, I recommend cooking up meals in advance and drying them with a food dehydrator. Excellent for hiking.

  2. In your first paragraph you wrote:

    In order to compensate for any issues, let’s round it up to 10 gallons per person per day.

    I _think_ you may mean 10 gallons per person for the week? Otherwise, you’re looking at bringing 280 gallons of water for 4 people?!?!?

    Also, don’t forget about human waste removal…

  3. Gwen Shapira says:

    Regarding tents: If you opt not to have a tent, you will need other means of creating shade during the day. Maybe a tarp-tent?

    Oh, and erecting a tent is not hard work these days. I have a nice REI half-dome and without prior practice, I erected it in under 5 minutes, after 10pm, in pitch darkness after a long day of hiking.

    You’ll be surprised at usability advances 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: