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Burning Man—the annual festival of art, community, self-reliance and radical self-expression—kicks off August 30 in Black Rock Desert, Nevada and ends September 7 (Labor Day). The festival, which originated in San Francisco in the ’90s and sees folks flying into Reno before making the trek out to the desert, now boasts more than 65,000 visitors annually. But just what the heck are the uninitiated supposed to pack for a communal event in the middle of literally nowhere? We asked a longtime “Burner” friend how to best prepare for a week like no other. Here’s a list of things to pack for Burning Man.

Photo: Courtesy of Robert Duffy

1. A huge (faux) fur jacket
Surprising for first-time visitors to the desert, temps can drop drastically at night—just ask anyone who’s ever visited Palm Springs in January—so it’s important to stay warm, especially since the fest offers a plethora of reasons to be out and about after dark. Stay warm and look  fabulous with an outageous fur—faux of course!—coat. “The bigger and ballsier, the better,” says our insider.
2. A reusable plastic mug or cup
You’re going to want to drink plenty of Tang at Burning Man. We’re kidding, of course. In truth, you’ll not only want to stay hydrated during your time under the hot desert sun, but also want to booze it up if you’re so inclined. Our insider argues against using those ubiquitous red party cups that are busted out at collegiate soirees. Instead, “take a reusable cup or mug, that you can attach to your outfit, so that you can always welcome the plentiful beverages that will be directed your way,” says our Burner. “No cup, no boozing.”
3. A bike
Burning Man is seven square miles, to put that number into perspective that’s roughly the size of San Francisco (where the festival started). Arriving without a proper mode of transportation (mountain bikes and adult-sized tricycles outfitted with outrageous lights and colors are de rigueur) means you’ll be left hoofing it from camp to camp or spending the entire week trying to score a free lift from people. Make your life easier and bring a bike!
3. A bike lock
Despite the communal spirit that prevails at the festival, there will always be some drunken fool who steals your ride in the middle of the night. Remain mobile throughout the week by bringing a sturdy bike lock. Also, nobody wants to tote a key around so purchase a combination lock and make the code an easy one to remember.
4. Outfits, outfits, outfits
Our Burner describes the festival as the world’s biggest dress up party and says that a classic rookie mistake is to not bring a range of outrageous costumes to the world’s biggest dress up party. Take itfrom those of us who’ve been to themed parties on both cruise ships and at festivals around the world, even a minimal effort goes a long way toward making you feel part of the crowd. Hint: Go with the boldest, brightest outfits you can possibly find.
5. An open mind
Burning Man is not a Sunday worship service. You’ll likely see and experience gratuitous boozing, nudity, drug use and radical self expression. Our source recalls riding a bike on the playa when he ran into a guy with a giant fake fish head on his shoulders. “My immediate reaction was that he looked like an idiot, but then I decided to actively banish any judgements for the week,” he says. “Not always easy, but the best decision I could have made.” Amen.
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Jason Heidemann

Jason Heidemann

Jason is a Lead Content Specialist for Expedia Group, and manages content initiatives across numerous Expedia-owned brands. His work has been featured in the Chicago Tribune, Time Out, the Huffington Post, Chicago Magazine, Passport and many others.

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