Obvious Burning Man tips worthy of being highlighted

cat piggy bank

I used to have a communications and marketing agency. A small one. My clients were mostly small to match my small-agency size. I wasn’t, for the most part, working with large corporations with well-staffed teams. Nope, it was often the CEO with whom I worked. And by no means was communication or marketing their strength, or they wouldn’t be hiring me.

One of the things I noticed right away in my business is how often the obvious things got forgotten: an event flier that didn’t have the address, a business card that had the wrong phone number, a newsletter that neglected to mention the most important news that needed announcing.

In that spirit, I offer these tips: Just because something is obvious, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t get attention. Here goes.

Your Burning Man ticket—without it, there’s no Burn for you

As you are packing, always know exactly where your ticket is. Be able to find it and put your hands on it in a minute. Have utter certainty that it’s on your person. I like to put my ticket and key admin papers in small plastic envelope that I then keep it in my day pack.

Seriously, check, double check and triple check that your ticket is on your person. If you’re driving in with a group, confirm before you get in the car for the last leg of your journey that all your passengers have their tickets on them. Do this before packing your vehicle with everyone’s gear. If someone’s ticket is at will call, confirm they have their driver’s license or passport on them so they can claim their ticket.

You may think, “But of course, Jessie I’ll have my Burning Man ticket. Duh.”

Let me tell you a short story

At 2:22 a.m. one night, a dedicated crew of over a dozen people finally finished packing to the gills the 24-foot rented truck we would be driving to the playa in the morning. Everyone was excited (and exhausted… though more excited than exhausted) when all of a sudden, one of our key early-arrival crew members (and a veteran) said the unthinkable: “My ticket! It’s in my suitcase!”

We all looked at each other with a moment of dread. The truck-packing job had been managed by a master-level Tetris worker and had taken the majority of the day to pack. To unpack the truck at this point to find this guy’s suitcase and get his ticket seemed a daunting (and time-consuming) task.

We locked eyes and made the decision to find the ticket then and there (rather than try to find it in the morning before the truck rolled out.) With great luck and blessings from the Mighty Gods of Dust, the suitcase in question was found in less than 10 minutes. (Thankfully, it had been packed really close to the truck door.) A miracle, indeed. I wouldn’t be surprised if a few people had whispered to themselves in prayer, “The playa provides.”

We were lucky. And, yes, the playa does provide. (If you don’t know that term, or understand what it means, you will soon enough.) That said, I tell this story as a heads up about even the most obvious of packing-list items: make sure your ticket is in a safe place where you can retrieve it quickly.

After this incident, and as a theme-camp organizer for several years, I started asking everyone to stop and take the time to show at least one other person where their ticket was stored. I think this is a good practice, and I recommend it.

Why? Because for as loving as people are at Burning Man, there’s no sweet-talking the gate crew. You either have your ticket or you don’t. End of conversation.

Print your work pass (if applicable)

If you are going in to help build your camp (or maybe an art installation) before the gates opened and you have a date-specific work pass, print your pass and keep it with your Burning Man ticket in your day pack. You must have a physical, printed copy of your pass.

I would not recommend relying on your phone for an image or file to pull up. We once had a two-hour delay getting the key camp builders into the playa because one person forgot to print his work pass. As a backup plan (because we had considered the possibility that someone wouldn’t print their pass), we had asked an individual to print extra copies of everyone’s work passes. Great idea, right? However, the plan failed when this person and her crew, being anxious to set up, didn’t wait for us to get through at the gate.

We waited for nearly two hours, trying to figure out what to do. We couldn’t reach the people who’d gone in ahead of us, as the cell coverage was near nil. Finally, there was a sliver of a moment when cell coverage opened up, and our guy without the printed pass could retrieve his email and show his barcode to get it scanned. The playa provides, yet that was close. Real close.

It’s important to note if one person in your car can’t get into the event, no one in your car gets to go in. It’s an all or nothing thing at the gate. Do what you can as a group, as a team, to make sure everyone gets in, together.

Have an admin envelope

Bring a sealable plastic envelope for all admin/paper-keeping needs. Items stored here may include  your ticket and build pass, keys, your phone (in a ziplock bag), receipts for which you need reimbursement from your camp, a printed copy of the Burner Map, important papers needed on hand (such as a Nevada Health Department permit if your camp is gifting food), etc.

I think it’s smart to have a specific envelope or bag where you put important papers/things/stuff and to then put that envelope or bag in a place where it won’t be disturbed or moved throughout the week. Tuck it away. Pull it out only when needed. Keep it away from the fray that is all your other possessions and stuff in your tent.

FWIW, Some people call this envelope their “Adult Bag.”

You must bring cash

You need to bring cash. No credit cards, PayPal or Venmo are accepted anywhere at the event, which of course, you know, because you’ve read the Burning Man Survival Guide. I typically bring about $80 to cover ice and coffee. I don’t even drink coffee, but Center Camp also has tea, lemonade and an electrolyte drink

And, well, regarding your ice purchases at Antarctica, some days you might be the one footing the bill to buy a bunch of ice for campmates; other days you might be the beneficiary of someone else’s largesse. Bring a little more cash than you think you’ll need.

Some prep tips are so obvious—so, duh—yet if you forget to do them…

Photo by Alain Pham on Unsplash

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