The Ultimate Burning Man Survival Guide

When you’re getting ready to go to your first Burning Man, you might be feeling a little bit overwhelmed. You’re preparing for a great week, but you’re also diving into an experience unlike any you’ve had before. From theme camps to surviving the desert heat, there’s a lot to plan for. So, what should you know when you’re getting ready? Here’s your Burning Man survival guide to help you get the most out of the festival.


One of the main tenets of Burning Man is self-reliance, which means preparation is key. You probably won’t know exactly what you’ll encounter when you get to the festival, so you can’t rely on finding water, food, or even a shower on the playa. Instead, make sure you rely on yourself and only yourself.

Bring The Essentials

Some of the main things you’ll want to bring include food, water, and protection from the elements. The playa is a unique environment. If you’re like most people, you probably haven’t experienced the Nevada desert, so there are a few things to know:

  • Wear closed-toed shoes. With sand and sun, you may be tempted to throw on a pair of flip-flops, but doing so will give you a case of “playa feet.”
  • Be prepared for lots and lots of dust. Make sure you’re protected from it with a pair of goggles, a couple of bandanas, and a hat.
  • Hygiene. Wet wipes are your friend, since you can’t rely on finding a shower.
  • Sun protection. You’ll be out in the sun—a lot. Be prepared with sunscreen and a way to cover your face, head, and neck.
  • Hydration. Of course, bring more water than you think you’ll need. During the festival, you may not always know when or how you’ll find more.

The Pathogen Trackers theme camp is dedicated to providing the essentials to the people of the playa. Learn more about what we do, and sign up to join us during this year’s event!


Self-expression is the core tenant at Burning Man. That means you wear what you want to wear, no matter how ridiculous or unique. Whether you want to paint your face, walk on stilts, or put on a pair of lederhosen, the choice is yours.

Lights are a big part of Burning Man—wearing them, dancing with them, and more. But you’re not required to take part in that or anything else. However, it is vital that you join in. Burning Man isn’t for sitting back and watching. Additionally, put your phone and camera away. It’s fine if you want to get some pictures, but for the most part, you will want to enjoy your experiences in the moment rather than trying to capture them for later.

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Money isn’t so straightforward at Burning Man, and you probably will find that your money is no good in most of the camps. You can pay cash for beverages in the main village, but in general, the spirit of Burning Man encourages gift giving in exchange for goods. This can mean whatever you want it to mean, and you’ll see many different examples of this. It might mean a piece of artwork, a bottle of water, or a poem. It could also mean a hug or a smile. Burners will be quick to tell you it’s not a bartering system, but a gifting system that relies on kindness and generosity.

Part of the “gifting” culture of Burning Man goes to the idea that it is a community. Each camp and each person are responsible for gifting something to the community, whether that is cold beer for the hot day or music for everyone to enjoy.

Leave No Trace

When the week is over, the camps pack up and leave the desert for another year. The camps at Burning Man are dedicated to leaving no trace. That means everything must be exactly as nature left it before the festival arrived.

It is important and central to the vision of Burning Man to leave absolutely nothing—not even a plastic bottle, cigarette butt, or piece of paper. This means that when you leave, you need to take everything you brought with you. Make sure you don’t leave anything behind, in the true spirit of Burning Man.

Join A Theme Camp

As we mentioned earlier, Burning Man is all about joining in. In fact, without the participation of burners, there would be no Burning Man. There are no planned events or activities—it’s all about what the camps make of it. The best way to enjoy the festival for some is to join a theme camp that they can actively participate in. Here are some of the Best Theme Camps at Burning Man.

Pathogen Trackers

Pathogen Trackers is a theme camp that offers a totally unique experience at Burning Man. We are dedicated to serving our fellow burners by offering them whatever they need—whether that be food, water, shelter, or transportation around the playa. Learn more about our mission and how to join us at this year’s event: