How do you get your gear to Burning Man?
How your body and how your gear get to Burning Man may require very different planning.
Moving your person, your body, from your start point to arriving on the playa, and moving your gear from your start point to your camp location, may–and often do–require completely different logistics and planning.
Personally, I fly in to Reno, so I’m speaking as someone who makes plans through that lens. You may be carpooling with a friend and have limited car space. You might be flying in and taking the Burner Express shuttle into the playa. You might be driving a large SUV in all by yourself.
If you are in any situation other than the last one listed above, you have to plan with care how you’ll be getting the main bulk of your gear to the playa. Getting your gear to Reno, Nevada, is reasonably doable. You can bring it with you on the plane, send it out in a locally organized shipping container (more and more communities in the east coast of the U.S. do this), or rent space in someone’s truck who’s driving to Burning Man. Maybe you shipped your gear out on a Greyhound bus or by a FedEx Ground to a Reno pickup location.
For many people flying in from outside the country, the bag/weight costs can be prohibitive and it’s often a better choice for them to provision in Reno or whatever city they fly into.
In any case…
Ok, so your gear is in Reno. Now what?
Again, unless you are in your car by yourself (and your have already tested that all your gear, all your bins, your cooler, your water, your food, your bike and everything else you’re bringing fits and gives you good visibility while driving), you will probably need to arrange for your gear to get to the playa, independent of you.
Fwiw, unless you are a brilliant tetris master, I can tell you that what you think will fit in your vehicle and what actually will fit in your vehicle probably don’t match.
What about your friends joining you in your carpooling adventure to the playa? How much gear do they have? How many bins and hard-shaped containers such as coolers need to be stuffed into your car? How much extra food are you purchasing in Reno? Have you discussed the total volume of stuff everyone is bringing? Have you tested packing your vehicle?
Who’s stuff gets jettisoned if stuff doesn’t fit in your vehicle at the last minute?
During my first two years of going to Burning Man, one of my roles was to close down our group rental homes in Reno and to make sure the second wave (those who didn’t have early arrival/build week passes) of campmates got on the road and caravanned in together. There were times when, by mere centimeters, everyone’s gear got into the cars and vehicles we had at our disposal.
As much as possible, you need to know how all of your gear and possessions are getting to the playa, including the fresh food purchases before heading in. What is the total volume of your stuff? What about all the food and drinks you’re purchasing at the last minute? How much space are you allotted, or paying for? Just because three passengers can fit in your vehicle doesn’t mean three people and all their gear can. Stuff has a tendency to add up real fast.
The ride in and out is long. You’ll want to be somewhat comfortable in your vehicle
Furthermore, when packing, keep in mind you’ve got a long ride ahead of you. What happens if you stuff a vehicle with so much gear that the only way the person sitting in the back seat will fit is to become a contortionist and squeeze into the last remaining space available? I mean, you can do it, but why would you? You’re not going on a short hop, skip and a jump across town. You will likely be in your car for six hours, maybe eight hours. Maybe longer.
Your passengers need some sort of comfort and, if you’re the driver, you need safety and visibility. Your have to be able see out of your rearview mirror. If you’re carpooling, I encourage you to underestimate rather than overestimate how many people and how much gear can fit in your vehicle.
In a car? Use soft duffel bags rather than bins and suitcases
Also, if your gear is going into a personal vehicle, pack as much as you can in soft duffel bags and cases. Hard suitcases and bins make for more challenging car packing, though easier truck packing.
Rent space on trucks and containers
As much as possible, aim to get your larger gear and bins ferried in on trucks, containers and the like. Connect with others who are going to TTitD. (Check the Burning Man Regionals page to find burners near you.) In the Washington, D.C., area where I live, local burners have come together and rented (at first one, and now three) 53-foot containers that get packed in D.C. and moved by train, then by truck, to the playa. I still have to figure out how to get my gear from the container camp to my camp, but that’s a problem solved with a borrowed car and a few hours of time.
People driving trucks to the playa often rent space to offset their costs
Oftentimes, people driving trucks to Burning Man are looking to rent space in their vehicles in order to offset the cost of getting their truck or bus out to the playa.
Connect with your local burner community to tap into these options
Again, you’ll want to develop relationships with local burners (for many reasons and many resources). Depending on where you live and the local community, there may be art installations, theme camps or individuals who are looking to connect with people like you who are looking to rent space on someone’s truck. Many local regional communities have Facebook groups, listservs, happy hours, Introduction to Burning Man events and more. Connect with them.
Truck photo by Rhys Moult on Unsplash