How much food should you bring to Burning Man
You know, of course, that there is no food for sale at Burning Man. And while there are camps that provide food and generous souls who proffer the extras from a camp meal to passersby, you still need to bring all the food you’ll need for the week. The next question is, how much food should you bring to Burning Man?
Bring less food than you think you’ll consume.
Most people also bring way, way, way too much food to Burning Man. And few people feel like hauling back to the default world–and later eating–food that has sat around in a dusty desert for a week or so. So, when provisioning for your food needs, bring significantly less food than you think you’ll need because, most likely, you won’t want to eat much in the hot desert and because, quite often, people gift food, either as their camp’s offering, or because they have extra beyond what they plan on eating.
That said, always make sure you’re self-reliant and have enough food for yourself because a gift is a gift, not an expectation, and because being radically self-reliant is sexy.
Dry goods and perishable foods
When I provision my food for Burning Man, I break it int two distinct categories–dry goods and perishable food. This section is focused on the dry goods, the canned, packaged and sealed foods that don’t require any cooling or refrigeration.
No question about it: packaged foods and dry goods are part of what you’ll be bringing to Burning Man. Too many people (not only in my opinion, but in their own admissions as well) rely too heavily on granola bars, power bars and the like. That kind of food is nice for a snack or two, here or there, but not as your meal base day after day. Most people who bring a lot of that type of food find themselves disgusted with it and so over it, by mid-week or sooner.
I encourage you to expand what you may think of as dry goods or packaged goods, and I offer my dry goods packing list here for a sense of the volume and range of food that I bring. This list is an addition to the perishable food I store in my cooler. (ADD LINK) Notice that there’s not a single granola bar or power bar on my list. Also, aim to bring a variety of tastes and textures.
Flying or driving in from you home? It affects how you may provision for food.
How you prep for eating at Burning Man has much to do with your start point. If you’re driving from home and going directly in to Burning Man, you can cook at home, vacuum seal your meals and freeze your food weeks ahead of time. You can also bring pots and pans, utensils, spices and other items from your home kitchen. Flying in? That’s a whole different set of preparations.
Me, I fly in. So my food “prep” consists mostly of shipping out some beloved dry goods and then buying a combination of easy-to-eat fresh food and some bulkier dry goods when I’m in Reno.
Here are the dry goods I bring for two weeks at Burning Man.
Phố or miso soup, a dozen or more packages
I love the Mama Phố Bo. It comes with its own bowl for cooking the noodles. I’ll often go around and offer people sips, especially during camp build and pack down. Just a bit of salty, warm soup can be very satisfying. I eat/drink phố morning, noon and night when I’m on playa,, and I like phố (rice-based) versus Oodles of Noodles and other instant-soups that usually have wheat-based noodles. It works better for me.
A friend of mine brings a 5-gal stock pot and makes a fresh batch of hot salty broth many nights and gifts it to people. How epic and thoughtful! She never has leftover broth that goes uneaten. Broth is good!
Potato chips, 2 bags
Salty, satisfying, love ’em. Great quick snack. Make sure you have clippies to close those bags. There’s nothing enjoyable about flat, stale potato chips.
Olives, single packets, 8-10
Wee bits of tastiness in a single-serving. I like the Oloves brand, and they offer many flavor options. Remember to include savory options in your dry-goods snack purchases. You’ll appreciate the wider range choices you’ve given yourself.
Nuts, trail mix – single packets, 20 or more
I love the single-serving, ready-to-go packs of nuts from Trader Joe’s (and now other stores). I bring quite a few of them to the playa! They’re super-easy to toss into a bag or pocket and are often just enough to tide me over, plus the fat content of the nuts helps satiate hunger. They come in 10-packs and I usually get two or three bags.
Jerky, 2-3 pounds
I often buy jerky ahead of time, pack pieces of it in small ziplock bags and have the bags at the ready for DIY “single-serving” snack packs. That’s how I roll.
Seaweed snacks, 4-6 single-servings
The combination of salt, crisp, oil and flavor can be magical, especially on the playa. Eating this snack provides nutrients and flavor without a big commitment to cooking. If you like these snacks already, bring lots! And share them.
Prunes, a jar or two
Bring something that you know will keep your bowels moving in a healthy way. Whatever that is for you—prunes, a certain supplement or pill, or some other food—bring it. And don’t wait until you’re slowed down or blocked up to use it. Start using this elimination aid the first day you’re on the playa, or sooner, depending on your travel schedule, body and needs. Eat a few (or however many you need) every day.
Coconut oil, for drinks (and the fat)
Add coconut oil to drinks for healthy fats and energy, and emulsify it.
Sour candy packs or xylitol candy/gum
Both sour candies and xylitol create salivation in different ways, but they both help your body produce saliva, which is critical for keeping your mouth and throat moist (and the many other good things that saliva does).
Fruit cups in syrup liquid, two 6-packs
In my first year on playa, I was the first person in my camp to arrive in Reno. I had rented a car (Uber had yet to become a thing), and I’d agreed to pick up one of our Aussie burners who was arriving an hour or so after I did. His name was Sean, or Prawn, as he was often called. We said hello, hugged and headed straight to Walmart to do some shopping. (It was cheaper and easier for Sean and others flying in from overseas to buy supplies in America than to ship them from Australia.)
He’d been to Burning Man the prior year, so, to me, he was a fount of wisdom, and as we shopped I hung on to his every word and suggestion of things I might yet need. Then we came to the canned-food section of Walmart and, in particular, the canned fruits section.
Let me just say, I do not like canned fruits. Any of them. I’ll tolerate canned pineapple chunks now and then, but that’s about it.
But, Sean lifted up a six-pack of single-serving sliced peaches, dripping in high fructose corn syrup, and said, “Ah, these are the best! Put them in your cooler and let them float around in the melted ice water. They’re amazing!” And I believed him, bought two six-packs (peaches and mandarins), and am now here to tell you: They are amazing!
There are going to be times when you know you need to eat yet can’t figure out what to eat. I find that these little cups (nice and cold from the melted ice water) are perfect for these moments. I also pack them in my backpack for a quick snack when I’m out and about. Love ’em! At least for a week or two a year.
I don’t agree with her assessment about not bringing perishable foods, though she does have some useful tips.