Stimulant drinks at Burning Man… for when you need to rally (and you will need to rally)

coffee at burning man

You are going to need to rally, to find an extra boost. Sometimes you’ll want to rally for fun activities and going out. Other times it might be for camp-critical activities such as setting up or packing down your camp. (Fwiw, being exhausted is not an excuse to bug out of camp duties. Everyone else is probably exhausted, too.)

It’s best if you know what stimulants you like and how they affect you. In particular, I recommend knowing how much of a stimulant you can handle without getting aggressive. Or jittery. Know which stimulants are likely to make you have to pee more urgently. (Hint, look down into the aromatic cup of brown brew you may see most mornings.) Know which stimulants are gentle in your body and which make you crash a few hours later.

This may not seem like a big issue, though I offer that it’s one you want to pay attention to, plan for and possibly even test ahead of time. You’re not going to be at home where making a cup of coffee is easy, nor will you be near your neighborhood coffee shop. And while it’s true that coffee is for sale, 24/7, at Center Camp, until you have been to Burning Man, you have absolutely no concept of how big it is or how long it takes to traverse land. In other words, I encourage you to have your own plan and provisions for stimulants.

I encourage you to experiment (long before coming to Burning Man) with some non-coffee stimulant drinks that 1) you can easily consume on playa and 2) you know how much you need (so you don’t take too much and get jittery) and 3) travel well throughout the day and night.

With the heat, the environmental stimulation, your body dealing with the assault of wind and dust, and various other things you do with and to your body, I’m confident that there will be times when you need to rally. Stimulants help.

Some stimulants (read: coffee, in particular) can cause the need for urgent urination

Not all stimulants are created equal. Some of them might even activate your need for urgent urination. (If you don’t know if they do this to you already, I say tune in to your body. Try going a day without your regular stimulants and notice.) I think this urgency issue regarding peeing is more of a thing with women. I notice women often have to pee urgently and men, especially men in midlife and beyond, often have to pee more frequently.

Having to pee soon is fine…like when you’re at camp, your bike is nearby and you’re but a few blocks from the porta-potties. However, when you’re venturing far from camp or are at a great dance party, the nearest bank of portos might be many blocks away (or even more than a mile away if you’re in deep playa). A sense of urgency around urination can make finding a porto an uncomfortable chore rather than an adventure.

My admonitions may seem like overkill and over-analysis of subject to a first-timer; however, my experience–and that of many others with whom I’ve spoken–tells me it’s not. Two people I know who’ve gone to Burning Man more than 10 times actually stop drinking water at Burning Man in the afternoon so that they don’t have to worry about finding and using the portos at night! Consider that tip from a credentialed source.

Especially if you plan on taking sparkly-inducing substances and other things that may or may not affect your ability to navigate to and from a location, I encourage you to be attentive to anything you put in your body that can impact your need for urgent (or frequent) urination.

Here’s my take on various stimulants, what I bring, and why

Natural stimulants such as green tea, runa, yerba mate and guayusa are a good base

Natural stimulant teas such as green tea, runa, yerba mate and guayusa can provide a nice lift all day versus the fast hike (and fall) from coffee. If you aren’t already knowledgeable of natural stimulant teas, try experimenting before you head to the playa with green teas and other stimulant teas to see what works for you.

World-class quality green tea is my go-to for an enjoyable, hot, stimulant drink, though it’s more challenging to work with as a loose leaf on the playa. (Cheap green tea is … gah, not worth it, imo!) Runa is my second choice (easy enough to get in tea bags). Yerba mate I’ve tried developing a taste for and have yet to, though I do consume it sometimes, and guayusa is too strong of a stimulant for me and makes me feel jittery, though many others like it.

Everyone’s body and capacity for such stimulation is different. Know your body. Choose wisely.

Synthetic energy drinks such as Red Bull can also be helpful

As much as I like my green tea and natural stimulants, I still bring a few cans of synthetic energy drinks, such as Red Bull. Also, the small-shot energy drinks have become quite popular, and Whole Foods and other stores now sell them at about a third of what the name brand drinks were selling for a few years back. Again, know what works for you.

Some energy hacks to consider


I use three supplements that give me sustained natural energy, EHT and Youth Factor tablet and powder drink. Those are my default-world daily sources, which I also bring to the playa. Using EHT, I went off coffee and caffeine with relative ease. Wasn’t even trying. It just happened. With Youth Factor, it’s best to take the supplements in the morning and the antioxidant drink in the early afternoon. I find that I have a good source of sustained, easy energy and no jitters. Plus EHT helps my cognitive functioning and Youth Factor supports cellular health and mitochondrial energy. (I sell these products and this is my affiliate link, though you can easily google the words and buy them from someone else. No worries.)


A rather inexpensive and easy-to-pack natural stimulant hack is matcha green tea powder. Add it to drinks, hot or cold. It’s best to know how much matcha you need for an energy boost (a little goes a long way with matcha) and it’s best if you’ve already tasted it and know what you’re getting into. Same with guayusa and yerba mate. They work great… and they have a specific herbal taste.

The first time I tried matcha, I didn’t read the instructions and made a cup of tea using the amount I thought appropriate for an average cup of tea. I was awake until 6 a.m. the next day. I know better now. A little is all I need.

One small packet is more than enough for the whole time I’m there; it’s easy to add a bit to other drinks and, sometimes when I need a fast “upper,” I take a small amount in a little bit of water and slam it.

Coffee and coffee prep

If you’re a coffee drinker, you may want to eschew visions of fancy french press-made coffee and come up with a different plan. Imagine cleaning your beloved french press in a dishwashing bin of tepid dirty water, brimming with food bits and floating oil from all the other dishes washed by your campmates…and then imagine your coffee grounds making the water even worse. Right. Not pleasant. Many people bring cold-brewed or liquid coffee concentrates, or go to Center Camp to get their fix.

A lifelong coffee lover and consumer (until recently), I no longer rely on coffee for my stimulant drink. Personally, I’ve discovered over the years that I’m more aggressive and prone to get into arguments when I drink coffee, plus, for me, coffee often makes me feel I have to urinate with urgency, and that is not a sensation I’m wanting to nurture at Burning Man. (I know this because I rarely drink coffee but the days I do … )

Whatever your choice with stimulants, have a plan for when you need to rally.

Center Camp is the official cafe and place to buy (yes, with cash — not credit cards, Venmo or your flashing smile) coffee

Brewing coffee at Burning Man


Coffee photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

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