Your bed setup at Burning Man

seal sleeping

Sleep, its never under-rated.

Some people say you can’t get any sleep at Burning Man. Others say that they have some of the most restful nights ever there. In any case, how you make your nest of a bed will pay you back in spades. I encourage you to think of your bed as a bed, rather than through the lens of “I’m camping and I’m in a tent.” Collectively, we build a city at Burning Man, and individually, we build our homes, our camps and our villages. I sincerely recommend giving some thought to your sleeping area and thinking of how you can create a “semblance of home” feeling for your “bedroom” area.

This care may mean bringing some favorite pillows or sheets. Or your favorite throw. The desert is big, the skies are endless, the event is expansive and, sometimes, simply being able to come “home” to your personal space can provide a very needed and comforting sense of home base.

You may not feel that need, no worries, though it’s important to me, and so I prep and pack for it.

Bring a cot or something to elevate your bed off the floor

If you have one, a cot can be a very nice touch for creating a more normal “bedroom” feel. Think about it: you’re elevated off the ground, which most likely helps replicates the feeling closer to your bedroom at home. Plus, underneath the cot is a great place to store stuff that you don’t need during the event: items such as your “out clothes,” your tent packing case, an extra duffel bag and so on.

Under your cot is also a great place to store extra dry goods or drinks that don’t yet need to be in your cooler, and your “make sure you can find it when you need it” stash of admin items, such as your car keys, phone and charger, etc. (Some people call this class of items and how they are clumped their “Adult Bag.”)

Bring a sleeping pad of some sort

You absolutely need some layers of thickness and warmth between your body and the playa. What kind of air mattress or sleeping pad you bring may depend on how much total bin/suitcase/gear space you have access to. When I attend Burning Man regionals and events where I can pack my car for a long weekend, I use my nice thick mattress pad; however, it’s massive, even when rolled up, so I bring a small blow-up sleeping pad for the playa.

Some people bring luxurious memory foam pads, others bring air mattresses, while others still bring actual mattresses! (I’ve seen it!)

Air mattresses

If you do bring an air mattress, always test your air mattress before packing it; and if you’re bringing one requiring a pump, test that, too! Pack the air mattress bed and pump together. (You’ll appreciate your nifty organization the day you’re setting up your tent and sleeping area.) Also, label the heck out of your pump and any pump accessories. Put your pump in a bag. Label the bag. Label the parts. That thing will likely get moved around and borrowed by different people, and anything you can do to make sure all the pieces return to you intact, is a good thing.

Bring a patch kit for your air mattress. Even the best of them have a remarkable ability to develop small leaks, and when it comes to air mattresses, a small leak is a leak, is a leak.

One downside with an air mattress is that there is no storage space under an air mattress, so you might want to bring a bigger tent if you’re using an air mattress rather than a cot. And some people say it can be hard for the air in the air mattress to ever be truly warm and keep you comfortable. Others love air mattresses.

Bring a cold-temperature sleeping bag

Bring the coldest-temperature sleeping bag that you have, can afford or can borrow. The first two years I attended That Thing in the Desert, I used a cheap, borrowed-from-a-family-member sleeping bag. I froze. Not literally, but memorably. I was so cold on so many nights. Cold to the point where I couldn’t sleep. (I also didn’t understand as well about packing all the warm layers of clothing I now pack.)

By my third year, I said, “No more.” I walked into an REI store, got a 19-degree temp sleeping bag, paid an ungodly amount of money for said bag, and have never once regretted my decision.

Photo by Jackman Chiu on Unsplash


1 Comment
  • here’s a frostburn trick that i’ve coopted for many regionals. those silver mylar emergency blankets. put those under your bed. they are designed to reflect 80% of thermal energy so you don’t lose body heat to the infinite cold sink that is the ground. they can help you warm up your air mattress too!

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