Beating the Heat (& Cold)
The Black Rock Desert is a flat, prehistoric lakebed, composed of a hardpan alkali, ringed by majestic mountains. Daytime temperatures routinely exceed 100°F and the humidity is extremely low. Because the atmosphere is so dry, you may not feel particularly warm, but you’ll be steadily drying up. Lip balm and lotion are key to your comfort. At nearly 4,000 feet above sea level, you will burn more quickly and severely than at lower elevations. Apply sunscreen every morning and repeat as needed. Be sure to have some kind of shade for your camp and lie low during the hottest part of the day. But when the sun drops over the horizon, temperatures can quickly plummet 50 degrees. Overnight lows can be in the 40s, so bring warm clothing and a good sleeping bag.
It takes nearly everyone a day or so to adjust to the desert climate. Don’t be surprised if you spend your first day feeling queasy and cranky. DRINK WATER! Begin drinking a lot of water when you leave home. To stay healthy and enjoy the week, drink water whether you think you need it or not. One and a half gallons of water per person per day is a good rule of thumb.
Eat salty foods to prevent electrolyte imbalance. Consuming alcohol, caffeine or other drugs increases risk of dehydration. Dehydration can cause headaches, stomach cramps, abdominal pains, constipation, flu-like symptoms, and mood swings and makes it difficult for the body to mend itself. If someone you know complains of these symptoms, or shows signs of either severe overheating or (worse) a case of chills under the midday sun, get them to shade immediately and seek prompt medical help. Go to one of the Medical Stations (see On-Playa Resources for locations and info).
The playa can be subject to sudden bouts of fierce, unpredictable weather. Storm cells may bring high winds, lightning and rain. Dust storms prowl the playa and can produce instant “white outs”. Long, sustained rainfall or prolonged white out conditions are unlikely, but you should be mentally and physically prepared for such occurrences. If you’re caught in a white out:
- Seek immediate shelter and stay there. Now’s the time to use those goggles you brought.
- If you’re far from shelter, sit down, cover your face with your shirt and wait. Carry a dust mask with you at all times!
- Be on alert for moving vehicles.
- If you are driving a vehicle, stop and wait for the air to clear. You will not be able to see where you are going and could hurt yourself or others.
- DO NOT DRIVE your vehicle. You will become stuck and tear up the playa surface.
- Relax and wait until conditions change.
- DO NOT RIDE your bike; playa mud clogs wheels and gears in just a few feet.
- Stay put and tune into BMIR, 94.5 FM for the latest info.
BRC does not provide water — you must bring your own! Bring 1.5 gallons of water per person per day for drinking, washing and cleaning. Always carry a full water bottle when you leave camp. Public pools and showers are not permitted. Water for private use that entails full body contact or consumption must be potable and come from Nevada State Health Division approved water sources.
The playa is dark at night, and it’s very easy to run into people or things you can’t see, like unlit art installations, pedestrians, or bikes. Imagine being the driver of a Mutant Vehicle trying to navigate safely around the playa and there you are, walking or riding around with no lights. NOT SAFE. NOT COOL. Light yourself, your bike, your art and your belongings well, front and back. Consider a good LED headlamp, LED blinky lights, or EL wire. Weak glow sticks and bracelets don’t cut it and become instant trash and potential MOOP.