Personal Survival Checklist
You Must Bring
- Your ticket or photo ID and confirmation number for Will Call pickup
- 1.5 gallons of water per person per day
- A reusable water bottle
- Food & beverages
- An extensive first-aid kit
- Sunscreen/sunblock & sunglasses
- Warm clothing
- Particle/dust mask
- Goggles to protect eyes during dust storms
- Rope or tie-down straps
- Hand sanitizer (60% or more alcohol content)
- Garbage and recycling bags, and tools to clean up your camp
- Duct tape — you’ll find a need for it, guaranteed
- Flashlights and spare batteries (headlamps are useful)
- Lights for your bike and your person
- A good camp tent or other shelter and warm sleeping bags and bedding
- Portable ashtrays if you smoke (e.g. mint tin that closes securely)
- Prescriptions (in their original containers), contact lens supplies (disposables work great), and anything else you need to maintain your health in a remote area with no services
- Fire extinguishers
- Common sense, an open mind, a sense of humor and a positive attitude
You Probably Should Bring
- Shade structures, umbrellas, parasols; something to break the midday sun
- A wide brim hat (a chinstrap is useful in the wind)
- A cooking stove if you expect to heat food or liquid
- A working bicycle (mountain bikes or cruisers with balloon tires are best)
- A bike lock (tag your bike with name, playa address, email and/or phone info)
- Bicycle tire repair kit, pump, spare parts and extra tubes
- Portable shower with a drain system to collect and manage gray water
- Lotion, lip balm and earplugs (not everyone will want to sleep when you do!)
- Watertight protective bags (e.g. heavy zip-type) for cameras or electronic gear
- Costumes, musical instruments, props, decorations, and anything that might make the experience more fun for you and your playa neighbors
- A battery-powered AM/FM radio to listen to BMIR radio and stay informed
- Camp marker (flag, banner, distinctive marking)
- 12″ tent stakes (rebar and lag bolts are effective too)
- Plastic bottles or tennis balls to top and protect dangerous rebar stakes
- Extra set of car keys (keys are easily lost!)
- A reusable travel coffee mug
- Emergency toilet: bring a five-gallon utility bucket with lid and garbage bag liners (doubles as a MOOP receptacle while MOOP walking your camp)
- Whatever you need to have a safe and healthy event (learn more info about prepping for a safe return to BRC here)
Beating the heat & cold
The Black Rock Desert is a huge, flat, prehistoric lakebed, composed of a hardpan alkali, ringed by majestic mountains. Daytime temperatures routinely exceed 100°F, with extremely low humidity. Because the atmosphere is so dry, you may not feel particularly warm, but you’ll be steadily drying up. Lip balm and lotion are your key to comfort. At nearly 4,000 feet above sea level, your skin will burn much faster and more severely than at lower elevations. Apply sunscreen every morning and repeat as needed. Have some kind of shade for your camp and consider laying low during the hottest part of the day. 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!
Consuming alcohol, caffeine or other drugs increases the 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 recover. If someone complains of these symptoms, or shows signs of either severe overheating or a case of chills under the midday sun, get them to shade immediately and seek prompt medical help. (See page 4 for Medical Station locations and info.)
The playa can be subject to sudden bouts of fierce, unpredictable weather. Dust storms prowl the playa and can produce instant whiteouts. The desert wind can whip up to speeds exceeding 75 mph in an instant, picking up everything and hurling it miles down the playa or smack into your neighbor — tents, chairs, card tables, ice chests, you name it. Prolonged whiteout conditions are unlikely, but you should be mentally and physically prepared for such occurrences. If you’re caught in a whiteout:
- When the wind comes, seek immediate shelter. Now’s the time to use that dust mask and goggles you brought.
- If you’re far from shelter, sit down, turn your back to the wind, cover your face, and wait it out.
- Be alert for moving vehicles.
- If you are driving a vehicle, stop and wait for the whiteout to pass. You will not be able to see where you are going and could injure yourself or others.
- Weight the interior corners of your tent. Rebar makes excellent stakes but the ends must be capped or bent into a candy cane shape to prevent foot or leg injuries.
Long, sustained rainfall is uncommon, but storm cells may bring high winds, lightning and rain so you should be mentally and physically prepared for this. Bring a bucket (in case the porta-potties are out of commission), pack for cold weather, bring all the food/medicine you need, bring a battery or solar-powered radio. BMIR (94.5) broadcasts news and announcements at the top of the hour.
In the event rain is headed our way:
- WALK back to your camp and batten it down. Do not drive or ride your bike; playa mud will immediately clog wheels and gears.
- Secure structures and art in your camp to ensure they can withstand high wind or rain.
- Get fresh ice for coolers.
- Inventory shared supplies.
- Protect all food, medicine, bedding and clothing by moving them to a safe, dry, elevated place.
- Use porta-potties before weather hits.
- Prepare your poop bucket.
- Stay off scaffolding, art projects and the tops of vehicles and trucks.
- Stay out of puddles, especially those with power cords and generators in them.
- Cover or secure anything electrical.
- With power off, use wood blocks to elevate power connections out of standing water and seal connections with electrical tape.
- Don’t operate generators or other electrically powered instruments that are standing in water.
- Keep flammable liquid containers and flammable gas containers above water level.
- Check on your campmates and also check on your neighbors to make sure they’re prepared (or help prep their camp if they don’t appear to be there).
- Don’t drive in wet areas — emergency vehicles are an exception.
You must bring your own water! You will need 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. Learn more here about where to get water in Reno, Sparks or Gerlach HERE.
The playa is dark at night, and it’s very easy to run into people or things you can’t see, such as unlit art installations, pedestrians, and 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 is NOT SAFE. Light yourself, your bike, your art, and your belongings. Weak glow sticks and bracelets don’t cut it and become instant trash and potential MOOP. Lasers are not appropriate lighting for your bike.