This is how we pack for Burning Man. We are two people in an RV. We consider this packing heavily and not roughing it by any means. Radical self-reliance means having everything you need (and a bit extra for friends). You could show up naked, no food, no tent and just a ticket. The guy in the video did…and made a great film about it. But if you plan to be more self-reliant this guide will steer in you right.
What to Bring. There are some great guides to what to bring based on how you plan to travel. We find Travel Grom’s to be a good list. Read this comprehensive list to make sure you’ve considered all the options of what to bring. The list below is our packing list, including links to the products we use when relevant (we earn no affiliate fees or any other income from any part of this website). We feel very prepared for BM, but not burdened with things we won’t be using.
How to Pack it. We pack our heavy items in durable bins and clothing in lighter bins, each of which we clearly label on all sides. We also print our packing list, and annotate where each bin is stored in our RV. We have found spending extra for tough bins is worth the money because you can stack them high when they are being stored.
Cheaper bins will break under the weight of the bins above them. This style of Homz bins work well. Home Depot sells their HDX tough bin — the same bin as Homz, in 27 gal or 38 gal sizes for around $10 each. Figure out which one will fit in the RV (and your off-season storage). We also use small (4 gals) clear bins with blue flip up lids for daily stuff (“Mini Bins”). They aren’t sturdy, but we are fine for what we put in them (see below).
Getting Ready. We stage all of our gear well before loading the RV (weeks before). As a result we have a few cardboard boxes of items that will be loaded into the RV and put in drawers, etc. These boxes don’t come with us to the burn, but we want to have them all in one place well in advance of leaving for BRC.
Large Bins (in RV outside storage)
These three bins are large, heavy-duty bins (30 gals) and remain stored in our undercarriage (only outside-accessible) storage areas in the RV. If we didn’t have good undercarriage storage, these bins could be locked and stored under the RV itself. Bins 1 and 2 are almost empty once we are camped. Bin 3 remains close to full. Between burns these bins are restocked and stacked in our storage locker - we find the restocking/cleaning process to be a soothing part of our decompression ritual.
RV Setup and RV Protection (Bin 1)
White gaffer tape. It’s more expensive than painters tape but leaves no residue on RV.
Blue painters tape (if gaffer tape runs out). Blue tape will leave a residue if left in the sun. So we only use inside our RV.
Ikea mat for entrance way inside RV. We bought a stack on sale for $1 each at Ikea. We stack 5 on top of each other and just peel off the top one every other day (to be cleaned at home and reused the next year)
Cheap door mat for outside of RV (make sure it won’t leave MOOP - our first year we used a high quality front door mat that left us picking up fine bristles for a few hours on our way out).
Old bed sheets to cover surfaces
Clips to keep sheets in place
Corn husk broom for RV (we found small handheld “Dustbusters” not be to be effective)
RV Septic Drop-ins. If you rent, your RV will likely come with these, but you need to confirm.
White noise generator - Surprisingly effective for a better nights sleep
USB wall chargers. One with multiple charging outlets is best
USB backup batteries. For charging or powering any USB device.
Tapestry for RV protection and decoration.
Star Laser - Do an image search of the laser above - a lot of places sell the identical product under different names and different prices. They are all the same. $100 is a good price.
Electrical (Bin 2)
Generator tarp A tarp to keep generators off the Playa. It protects the ground from oil/gas, and reduces dust in the generator significantly. This tarp is great for Burning Man, but has a strong smell when it arrives, so keep it wrapped up until outside. The smell will disappear when dust covers it.
Lag bolts to secure tarp (including chain links). Read the link to understand why you want these.
Way to screw lag bolts in (socket wrench, ratchet wrench…. or impact driver if you own one). Hammer the bolts in an inch or so, then start turning. A hand socket wrench will do the trick if you don’t already own an impact driver.
Socket head for lag bolts (probably 1/4” is needed)
Cable to lock generators. Generators get stolen. Lock yours.
Lock for generators. Use a re-settable combo lock so you can have the same code for all the locks.
(2) Extension cords Long enough to get power anywhere you think you’ll need it. Bright color help if it’s going to be running somewhere people can trip on it.
(2) Plug bars. Cheap 6 way or 8 way bars. If being used outside, put tape over all unused outlets, and place entire bar in a zip lock bag.
Parallel cord for generator. If using two Honda generators, you’ll need this cord.
Adapter for RV if needed [50 amp to 30 amp] (attached to extension cord)
30 Amp extension cord. Cord to plug generators into RV
Hammer (Old heavy-duty hammer). Buy one at a Goodwill donation type store for $2 and leave in your bin year round.
Fuel containment system. You are required to store fuel in a containment system. These work fine. Underinflate. Keep your five gallon fuel jugs in a contractor bag for protection from the dust. (Your generator tarp will also help to ensure you don’t end up with fuel on the playa.)
Tools (Bin 3)
Latex gloves (used during fuel/oil handling especially).
On the playa do an oil change on a windless, mostly dustless day. Simply pour out the oil from both generators into the aluminum pan (positioned on your tarp to minimize damage from oil spills). Then pour the fresh oil into both generators. Then pour the used oil into the oil can you just used.
Note: Honda 2200i takes 14 ounces of oil, so a single quart (32 ounces) is too much for two generators, so be careful not to overfill generators.
Tool box containing:
Screwdrivers, and other basics
Super glue (small, one-use tubes work best)
Small roll of duct tape (you can buy small rolls or just roll duct tape around a pencil).
Razor blade knife
Tie down gear
Strap baggy. It’s useful to have old climbing straps/runners and daisy chains. These sell cheaply used (never ever use used for climbing!) and are very useful in life in general. Any good collection of zip ties, tie downs, bungies, etc. will do, however.
Zip ties, assorted sizes including some 250 lbs zip ties.
Duct tape roll
Safety tape. Caution tape used to mark anything that won’t be visible in the dark, or might be dangerous.
Fix-a-flat cans. If you RV gets a flat, fix-a-flat isn’t your first choice. But it may be a life saver if you learn a tire change is three days away. If you have a rental RV, using fix-a-flat may result in you having to buy another tire for the RV.
Pan for used oil (aluminum foil type from a grocery store is fine)
Oil funnel (paper or improvised is fine). We use a heavy magazine cover rolled up into a funnel shape.
Generator service baggie
(2) Feet soaking bins It’s nice to have two if you really enjoy soaking, but if water is short, a single shared bath is more efficient.
RV white hose. We use two of these. One for standard RV refills. And one to go from the drill pump to water barrels. See Drill Pump below.
Electric drill for drill pump. Any decent electric drill will do. Corded is fine if you have power readily available. $20 on Craigslist type drill is fine.
Drill pump. We bring a pump because our RV requires pressure to refill the water. Being able to refill water from 5 gallon jugs is very useful.
Hand fuel pump. Not a key item, but if you need to get gas out of an RV or car into a generator, better than improvised siphons.
Contractor bags. Heavy-duty contractor bags are a must. We put or gas cans in them. All trash eventually ends in them. Many uses. Get as thick as you can find.
We each bring two bins of clothing - usually 20 gallons each. For these we use lighter-duty bins, such as these. They weigh less than the heavy duty bins we reference above, but we only stack two together, and they are filled with clothing and are much lighter our equipment bins.
We don’t follow as rigorous of a packing list for clothing, because it changes significantly each year. Our general approach is a fairly stereotypical playa look, but we find ourselves gravitating to a few key clothing items each year because of their extreme functionality. For example, it would not be a challenge to wear every day the same basic outfit: (from top to bottom) a cowboy hat, sunglasses or goggles, jewelry items, funky cargo shorts like these and some work boots, leaving just clean underwear changes required. Evening, throw on an interesting t-shirt or just a black t-shirt, a cool fake fur jacket, and some long pants and be set for most of the burn. Accessories can add artistic touches and a few beloved items go a long way. For gods sake please don’t wear jeans and t-shirt… unless they are really interesting jeans and hockey jersey, and option for functional clothing that express your inner superhero. Forget what’s in or out and have fun being exactly who you want to be. (Unless you want to be someone in jeans and a hockey jersey… that’s so 1996). Halycon’s video is a great starting point for ideas (and his videos are among our favorites). Also we belong to a camp that requires hard labor setting up stages, etc., and some of our clothing is for that work.
Here is a sample packing list for us:
12 changes of socks (some people bring more but my boots keep my socks relatively clean.)
12 changes of underwear
1 pair black tactical pants.
1 pair tan desert pants like these. For working around camp during hot daylight times.
2 pair cargo shorts like these. One black, one tan. These are my go-to pants. This plus a hat and accessories gets me through most days. Mine are from the etsy shop linked above. $65 isn’t cheap, but they are extremely well made, and have lasted years. Overall, the guy’s stuff is great, and most is made to measure. (No affiliation whatsoever, just a big fan.)
10 t-shirts. 3 simple black t’s, the rest less traditional. I am shirtless almost always until too cold in day to do so. Then I put on a t-shirt.
3 to 5 long sleeve shirts, which I seldom wear. I find that if in a long sleeve, I also probably have my fur coat on, so these shirts are very functional in nature - solid tan or black.
Lots of accessories. Many are gifts from past years, but also etsy stuff and home made stuff. I’ll give away much of what I bring each year.
Sunglasses. Cheap ones with UV protection. Mine will be gifted, lost or broken by end of burn. Last year I brought 10 of these, and gave away a pair each day to the first person that commented on them. A fun playa gift, that made people super happy.
Long faux fur coat. Goodwill has good ones. Worth spending $50 to get a good quality one. It will last many years unless you lose it. Helpful suggestion: Loose key items of clothing the last day, not the first.
Two pair of work style boots, one black one beige
One pair tennis shoes
One pair gloves for warmth
Rain jacket. Rain isn’t frequent, but when it comes, it impacts you.
Compact/ultra light puffy hiking jacket in case of extreme cold can be worn under fur jacket. The type of jacket designed to be wear under an outer shell work great. I use a vest rather than one with sleeves, as I find it most comfortable under my fur jacket and my arms stay warm with a long sleeve shirt on.
Skull cap type hat for cold weather (not decorative but can be worn under other hats)
1 pair long underwear (top and bottom) for extreme cold. I have a merino wool pair from Icebreakers, purchased in New Zealand a few decades ago before they went international. They were expensive, but are still in great shape after 20 years of regular winter use and a few uses on the playa too.
Mini Bins (Inside RV)
Up Front in RV Mini Bin/Glove Box
Auto Insurance info
Roadside assistance numbers
Documentation for RV
Identification with age (to carry on Playa)
Medical insurance card
Extra RV keys
DVDs/CDs [for drive and wait in line in/out. We waited 11 hours to get in for 2018…]
Cables to connect phones to stereo, etc.
Female Daily Mini Bin
Foam ear plugs. Make sure they fit comfortably. Earplugs are rated for how much noise they block out, so shop carefully. Men and women often need different sizes. Read up on this, it’s important to get the right ones. Make good playa gifts.
Headlamp. Any small reliable headlamp will work. Bring extra batteries just in case, but we seldom use headlamps at BRC.
Tinted sun screen
Small cuticle pack
Toiletry bag containing:
facial/makeup remover wipes
AZO cranberry pills. UTI’s are common on the playa. AZO may help prevent UTIs. (Cranberry does not treat existing UTIs)
Male Daily Mini Bin
Foam Ear plugs Make sure they fit comfortably. Earplugs are rated for how much noise they block out, so shop carefully. Men and women often need different sizes. Read up on this, it’s important to get the right ones. Make good playa gifts.
Sound protecting headset. Used in combination with ear plugs, and you can block out a lot of noise. We often wear ear plugs at events, but when sleeping we will throw on the headset as well. Ear plugs are your first line of defense, but the headset can add another 25 to 40% reduction, and work well to block out low frequency sounds. If you can sleep with the combination, noise will not be a big issue for sleeping unless you very close to a sound camp or a very deep bass source, which will shake your body regardless of what you do with your ears.
Headlamp. Any small reliable headlamp will work. Bring extra batteries.
Toiletry bag containing:
Saline nasal spray
Neti refills packages
Lip moisturizer with SPF
Skin repair moisturizer
Hand moisturizer. Any good moisturizer works while on the playa so long as it doesn’t attract sand. We like Working Hands for overnight repair, but try it at home at first as it can irritate sensitive skin.
Sippy cup. There are two good ways to go. I prefer the sippy cup style (may I recommend these), they are small and never spill. Or a camping cup style like these, which are larger. These cups will be used at bars and the like for offering.
Joint Daily Mini Bin
Skin moisturizing (watch this for some skin care tips)
Coconut oil packs (or sunflower if you have very sensitive skin). Good for skin moisturizer after cleaning up.
Essential Oils (which can be also used in a diffuser…but may damage typical humidifiers)
Lubricated eye drops
Sunblock spray We bring ten of these for two people. We use creme before going out but on the playa refresh with the spray. Very light skin. Very little clothing. Never a burn. Our two favorites are Trader Joes spray or Banana Boat. Re-apply every two hours. (You need way more than you do at any beach).
Sunblock creme. Neutrogena Ultra works great on the playa. Apply 15 minutes before sun exposure. Use an ounce/shotglass worth to cover the body. which means one tube is about enough for a single application for three people…if using a separate face sunscreen. That’s the right amount… You’ve been using too little.
Sunblock for face. Eltamd sunscreen is great for sensitive skin. Others may find standard sunscreen to be just fine for the face.
Body wipes. Alcala bamboo body wipes are magical. It’s one of the few times we would strongly recommend a brand. These are fairly large wipes (10”x10”) that are almost as good as a shower. And small and light enough to keep one in your pack at all times.
Personal wipes, for the most sensitive areas.
Aloe vera for sun burn.
USB Batteries (power banks for USB charged devices)
Extra batteries AAA
Extra batteries AA
Extra batteries (2032)
Sewing kit. For normal sewing needs.
Specialized sewing kit for leather and costume repair.
Disposable dust masks. Having a couple hospital type masks work well in a pinch.
Mini E6000 for fixing stuff
Joint Medical/Restock Mini Bin
Note: Anything we start using regularly in this bin gets moved to our Joint Daily bin for easy access. This bin is usually stored somewhere out of the way.
Zofran a/k/a Ondansetron to prevent nausea
Sulfameth/ for UTI
Gold bond foot powder
Backup supplies to stock daily bin
Extra batteries AAA
Extra batteries AA
Extra batteries 2032
Extra Sunblock spray
Extra Sunblock creme
Extra Wipey wipes
Extra body wipes
Extra Coconut oil packs
Extra sippy cup
Extra Hand warmers
Backpacks & Backpack Bin (Items that will often end up in your playa pack)
Note: Many of these items just stay full time in our packs, such as a dust mask, clear goggles, a shemagh, sunscreen, chapstick, notebook, ID, etc. We also keep a bin handy for when we pull things out of our packs so we can easily find them when needed.
(2) Backpacks. Etsy is full of backpacks for reasonable prices.
(2) Camelbak bladders. We like larger bladders, with neoprene drinking tubes, which have a wire to allow the tube to remain in any position. The Mil Spec style are thicker and less likely to be punctured. We prefer the 90 degree bite ending to the standard straight one. Get one on the larger size for long days. If you only fill it half-way, “bleed” out all the air before you put it in your pack to avoid all day sloshing.
Water bottle. You can use a standard bike water bottle, but Hydro Flasks are unusually effective at keeping drinks cool albeit expensive.
Road cup/sippy cup
Goggles. You will want a clear set and a tinted set. We use motorcycle style glasses like these (you need to plug the small holes many goggles include). These welding goggles work well in bright light too, and look cool - but we seem to end up with the motorcycle type most days.
Dust mask. We swear by these masks. You can get them on fast, they are comfortable and fairly effective with N99 filtering.
Shemagh. Shemaghs can be used as your primary dust mask, but we tend to use them in connection with a N99 dust mask. Putting a shemagh over a dust mask adds another level of breathing protection, while keeping dust off your face and hair. You’ll want to perfect tying at home with one of the many online videos. Practice in the dark to get it right. Plus count on strong wind to make matters worse.
Buff. Can be used as a basic dust mask. Nice to keep you warm on cool nights. Tiny to store.
Spray on sunscreen for on the playa
Chapstick type stuff.
Small notebook and a pen
Doorbell remote. To ring the doorbell attached to our bike basket.
Offering of the day
ID/ID copy, Note most, but not all camps will accept a clear photo copy of your ID.
Medical Insurance card (copy)
Porto-bag (replenish as used)
1-ply toilet paper
ziplock of clean wet wipes
empty black ziplock bag (for used wipes)
Extra batteries (AA, AAA, 32s)
Fairy light screwdriver (eyeglass size screwdriver, to change fairly light batteries)
On Bike (Some in basket, some in saddlebag)
spare tubes (consider Slime tubes)
Items Loaded in RV (Not in Bins)
All of the following items will be packed up in moving boxes before we load our RV. But the items are all loaded directly in the RV storage, and the moving boxes are left at home.
Kitchen/Load in RV box
Latex gloves for food handling and prep
Real Plates, cups, bowls
Metal eating utensils
Disposable plates, cups, bowls and eating utensils
Can opener/bottle opener
Liquid Measuring cup
Jigger for liquor
Zip lock bags
Debbie Meyer Green bags for food storage (see here)
Nuun convenient drop-in fizzing electrolytes. Very mild flavor. (Add some crystal light to your water for more flavor)
Coffee Machine and coffee.
Clip on fan. A small electric clip on fan can be a wonderful luxury in an RV or tent. Place a humidifier in front of it for a cool moist breeze.
Humidifier. If you can spare the water, a humidifier, especially while you sleep at night, is a nice addition. Ours goes through about 1/2 gallon per night at a fairly low setting, which is plenty of added humidity.
Trash bucket with tight-fitting lid
Hardware stores like Home Depot sell 5 gallon buckets and matching lids for about $5. Just make sure the lid is fairly easy to put on and remove. We have found these to be the best playa garbage cans, although you’ll need to get some 5 gal trash bags like these. On the drive up to BRC, we use the trash cans to transport stuff we don’t want to spill around the RV, such as:
White vinegar (1 gal)
Spray bottle for vinegar solution
Biodegradable dish soap
Distilled Water (1 gallon)
Spare toilet paper (porta-potty safe)
Small bath mat (towel style). Any decent old towel works well too.
Toilet brush. We buy a very cheap one that comes with a holder each burn and throw it out after the burn.
Hand sanitizer (large)
Foot care kit. We don’t have big foot issues on the playa, but some do. If you think you’re prone to problems, meet John Vonhof, the guys who wrote the book on foot care. But we bring a decent foot care kit, which includes a lancing needle to drain blisters, moleskin, leukotape and Activflex Bandaids. I also have a small printout of foot care tips, such as how to lance a blister and how to use moleskin in various scenarios.
Warmie. A microwavable buckwheat pillow is a nice way to warm up a cold bed.
Blanket or comforter for cold nights
Hangers for closet
Extra sheets for bed. Three sets gives clean sheets every few days. An extra sheet can be used to cover the bed when you aren’t sleeping in it to keep in cleaner.
Bath Towels. Bring extra because they can get dirty/muddy quickly. Expect white towels to stain.
Floor length mirror if RV doesn’t have a decent mirror.
Not in boxes
Generator and companion generator.
These two generators are very quiet and can be linked together to deliver 30A, 4400 watts surge power and 3600 watt continuous operation power. Together this provides a good amount of power to run an RV with a decent sized AC.
Because they are inverter generators, when power draw is low they run at a low speed, for low fuel consumption and quiet operation. If you can afford $1k for one or $2k for both, this is the best BM generator solution you’ll find.
We cut key parts of the owner manual out and tape them to the inside panel of the generators. How to change oil, filters and spark plugs plus the meaning of the cryptic error lights are explained. Most is pretty common sense, but when exhausted it’s nice to have clear instructions.
Gas funnel (stored in contractor garbage bag). Ideal for filling car or RV with gas, and helpful for generator too.
5x - 5 gal fuel containers. This style, however I remove all spouts except for one, and use simple gas caps. I ditch tricky spouts and use a very simple vented spout, similar to this. The auto shut off style are terrible and you will end up with more gas on you than in your generator/vehicle. I fill up the RV and the gas cans at the last gas station. The gas cans should only be filled 80%. Some are known to fill them to 100% if doing an evening arrival, and then using a gallon from each can to re-fill the gas in the RV used between refueling and arriving at BRC and to load up the generators. We have never been short on fuel, but have a siphon to move gas from the RV tank to external generators, if need be.
Fire extinguisher for fuel (Class B). Stored outside near fuel and generators.
Fire extinguisher for RV. RV should always have one, but check dates and charge. Should be at least a B:C
(2) Camp chairs (possibly mesh)
Bike rack. Be sure not to cover your license plate with it…. see our Burning Man law enforcement notes for details on this important issue.
(2) bikes. We use Huffy cruisers we purchased for around $70 each.
Bike doorbell. We have a wireless doorbell attached to our bike basket. Find your bike pronto if, uh, “disoriented”.
Straw/Cornhusk broom. Best way to keep RV clean
2 rolls of foil-faced bubble wrap to cover windows. Essential for keeping the RV cool. Also keeps the RV fairly dark, allowing for off hours sleeping.
Coverings for floor like this that will stick to wood or the equivalent carpet covering
Heavy mat for outside RV
Rug for outside RV. Acquire a free area rug that will fit in your external RV storage area if you have one. 6’x8’ would work well. When you arrive, roll it out at the door of your RV and then either secure it with lag bolts or put weights on the corners. Then put your heavy door mat on top of it. The rug will bcome exceptionally dusty during the burn, but will keep dust down in front of the RV door, and give an extended area to keep feet clean. Roll it and then wrap it up with cling wrap or the like before loading it in the RV to take home. When back home, a leaf blower will get a lot of the dust off the rug.
Water and Food
Water (in 2.5 gallon “suitcases”)
We bring 10 to 12 of these (25 to 30 gallons) to use for drinking and cooking, which leaves extra to share. This is on top of a full water tank on our RV for all other purposes.
Food Box (non-perishable)
See what we eat to see what goes in the box.
Cooler 1 (1st Half Cooler) - Coleman Xtreme
Read about our cooler strategy here. Our coolers are 70Q Coleman Xtremes, which we bought for $35 each during the winter on Craigslist. Used Yetis in great shape are around $200. We’ve never found the need for an upgraded cooler with an RV. In a tent, Yeti’s are handy if you have the cash.
All food is frozen before going in cooler.
No dry ice in Cooler 1
Freeze water in zip lock bags to keep cooler dry as possible and to be able to re-freeze
Tape seam for trip down to BRC
Cover with insulating blanket at all times when cooler is not in use.
Temp prob in cooler with alarm set to notify of unsafe temp
Cooler 2 (2nd Half Cooler) - Coleman Xtreme
All food must be fully frozen before putting in cooler. The colder the better. So have your freezer at home at lowest setting the week before BM.
Dry Ice wrapped in newspaper. Do not let dry ice touch cooler sides.
Freeze water in zip lock bags to keep cooler dry as possible and to be able to re-freeze
Tape seam BUT leave drain plug open a tiny bit to avoid explosion. Only when dry ice is gone can plug be closed. Place a towel or bowl below to catch drips.
Temp prob in cooler with alarm set to notify of unsafe temp
Wrap in blanket
Remember, this cooler will initially be well below freezing due to dry ice. We typically see temps of around 10 to 15 degrees F for the first day. Temp will likely remain below 32F until cooler is opened.
We load our fridge with food we will be eating the first few days at BRC. The night before driving we load ice into the fridge and freezer to keep the temp very low, and then remove the ice when we load the morning or evening of our drive.