The Burning Man Festival is not for the faint of heart. If you’re thinking of going to this unique event, you're in for an experience that's out of this world. Here is a survival guide to help make sure you are prepared and know what to expect when attending Burning Man.

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burning man art installation

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What is Burning Man?

Burning Man is an annual week-long arts festival in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert (also known as the ‘playa’). Tens of thousands of people gather to create Black Rock City, a temporary community dedicated to community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance. You'll find countless art installations, music and performances to keep you entertained. 

When is the Burning Man Festival in 2019?

Monday 26 August to Monday 2 September 2019

Where is Burning Man held?

Black Rock Desert in Nevada, USA

desert road to burning man usa

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What to expect at Burning Man Festival

Attending the Burning Man festival is like going to a different planet. You will be in a hot dusty desert surrounded by peaceful, unique, friendly people who all have a culture of their own.

The desert will be filled with incredible art, including art cars, people dressed as characters, art installations, techno music and much more.

As this festival encourages self-expression, you will meet and see a lot of out-there people, and be prepared to see quite a lot of nudity.

People either camp out in tents or caravans and most people ride decorated bikes to get around. You must also leave no mess behind. They have a “leave no trace’ mantra, which means once everyone leaves there should be no evidence that you were ever there. 

What to bring to Burning Man

You’re going to the desert so you will need to make sure you pack lots of water, sunscreen, a hat, loose clothing and plenty of costumes (literally anything goes). Think LED lights, glow sticks, the lot! If you think your outfit is too outrageous, don't worry! There will always be someone dressed more outrageous, over-the-top or just straight-up nude.

While the days are often scorching, the nights still get very cold so make sure to layer up and pack some jackets or jumpers.

When attending Burning Man, you’ll also need to pack:

  • Food 
  • Esky or ice box
  • Toiletries
  • Wet wipes or baby wipes - it's the festival version of a shower!
  • Goggles to protect your eyes from the dust storms
  • Garbage bags
  • Flash lights and spare batteries
  • A tent or other shelter
  • First aid kit
  • Your Burning Man ticket

It's a great idea to bring a cheap bike to cruise around the playa, and be sure to wear your bike helmet, too. Burning Man is huge and art installations and attractions are often very far away from the camp, and also from each other. If you have a bike, your feet will thank you later! It's good to bring a headlamp for riding at night.

Leave the luxuries at home! One day in the desert will be enough for you to regret bringing your expensive brand name clothing or your entire make-up kit. 

burning man art house structure

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The dos and don’ts of Burning Man

  • Do come prepared. You don’t have to get it all right but make sure you have done your research and have packed your basic necessities. Don’t rely on the generosity of others.
  • Do participate. This is a week-long event full of experiences. Soak up as many as you can while you're there. Embrace the culture, talk to your neighbours, make friends and challenge yourself.
  • Do put the camera down. Don’t try and document everything you see. Enjoy it for what it is and immerse yourself in the culture. Set aside some time during the day to capture the moments, but check first before taking photos of others.
  • Do get some sleep. It is tempting to stay up and party the night away but your body does need a break, especially in the heat. es. Figure out what you really want to do and plan time to sleep. 
  • Do give and receive. Generosity is a big thing at Burning Man. It can be hard to decide what to gift but it can be anything from free hugs, a compliment, massages, or whatever else you see fit.
  • Don't leave anything behind. Everything you bring to Burning Man has to go home with you when you leave. Including any rubbish you've accumulated. So be smart and plan ahead. Consider only bringing things that can be reused, consumed, or (fittingly) burned. 
  • Don't push yourself too hard. There's a lot to take in at Burning Man, but if you try and do it all in one day, you'll exhaust yourself. Take the time to plan out your day and allow time to rest up, drink up and eat up to fuel yourself for the whole week.
  • Don't forget you're in a desert. Take water with you everywhere and always use sun protection
  • Don't judge! There will definitely be a whole bunch of colourful characters wondering the playa. Burning Man's number one principle is inclusion, so even if something isn't your style, keep an open mind. 

burning man art temple

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10 Principles of Burning Man

If you've already heard of Burning Man, chances are you've also heard there are 10 principles that surround the festival. These 10 principles below were created to reflect the community's culture and include:

  1. Radical inclusion - Come one, come all. Anyone is welcome to participate. 
  2. Gifting - Acts of gift giving are encouraged, but gift values do not need to be equal. 
  3. Decommodification - No commercial sponsorship, transactions or advertising will be found at Burning Man. 
  4. Radical self-reliance - Participants are encouraged to rely on their inner resources. 
  5. Radical self-expression - Be yourself. You as an individual are a "gift" to the world. 
  6. Communal effort - It takes a village. Creative cooperation and collaboration is important here. 
  7. Civic Responsibility - This is a civil society and as such, you must act within accordance of local, state and federal laws.  
  8. Leaving no trace - Respect the environment, and leave the area better than when you found it. There should be no trace of activities left behind. 
  9. Participation - Get involved. Everyone is invited to work and play. 
  10. Immediacy - Bask in the immediate experience that is Burning Man. 

One last thing to remember when going to the Burning Man festival is keep an open mind and positive attitude.

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