Eye care: a little goes a long way in the dust and wind


Your eyes will be subject to wind, dryness and dust at a level of intensity and constancy that will probably be unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. True, it’s not always windy and dusty all the time, but when it is, oh boy, do you want to be prepared. Plus, some TLC and eye care along the way will be minutes well spent each day.

Eye moisture drops are a must

I recommend that you keep eye moisture drops on your person all the time, not only on playa, but starting when you first arrive in Reno. Start caring for your body how you plan to care for it on playa when you arrive in Reno. It’s dry and windy there, and you’ll arrive less dehydrated and fried at the playa if you start acting like you’re already in the desert when in Reno.

The brand of eye drops that I usually get is Similasan, and I get two or three bottles plus the single-use packs. I keep a bottle of the drops on me in my everyday bag plus I keep a bottle by my bed. More than once I have gifted people some eye drops (either from my own bottle or the single-use packets), and it can be a lovely and appreciated gift, indeed.

Add eye drops before you go to bed

Add eye drops before you go to bed, when you wake up, throughout the day. The moister your eyes are, the easier they can handle irritants (such as dust) and the dryness. Don’t wait until it’s a problem. Keep dousing your eyes. You really can’t add too many eye drops, is the advice I’d offer.

There’s a difference between eye drops when wearing contacts

I’m 54 years of age, been wearing contacts for a good 25 years and only discovered in the past year that there are different eye drops to use for when your eyes have contacts in them and when they don’t. If you wear contacts, check out the different types of drops and bring bottles of both.

Sunglasses or tinted goggles are a day-time must

Always have eye protection on you: day or night. In camp and out and about. You don’t know when a dust storm is coming or how long it will last. Eye protection is one of the key things you need to navigate your way from here to there, from out there to back home, from base camp to your next adventure, or just to get much-needed ice from Arctica. You may not always be wearing your sunglasses or goggles, but they always need to be on you in case you need them. No exceptions. Ever. They either need to be around your neck or in your backpack, even if you just go to the portos real quick.

That said, I started out my first year listening to dire warnings about goggles and dropped some cash on expensive ski goggles which I hardly wore and which were cumbersome as all heck to carry and use. So, there’s that. For me, I’m fine with sunglasses. Many others wear ski masks and more intense goggles, and it works for them. Especially if you’re a first-timer, bring several options.

Many people get funky, fun, sexy, wild sunglasses and goggles. They bling them out, decorate them and have fun with them. Bring at least two pairs. Maybe more so you can try whether you like sunglasses, full-on goggles, a ski mask, et cetera. It’s better that you have choices and can adjust your eye-protection options rather than having only one type of eye protection that you may not like using all day. Plus, they’re easy enough to lose, so bring extras as backups.

Do make sure your sunglasses actually work, e.g. a $5 pair of sunglasses may be adorable, but do they work, block the sun and protect your eyes? You’re going to be out in the sun and desert for a week, or more. Eye care is important.

Make sure you have clear goggles for the night (no tint)

Especially if you get tinted goggles for the day, you need to make sure you have clear goggles or eye protection for the night. My preference? The clear, definitely dorky, cheap Home Depot-like work goggles. I like them because they are soft, they squish into my pack with ease and they fit comfortably on my face. Many people go for more stylish goggles. Have fun with them. Choices abound, especially if you’re crafty. Bring at least two pairs.

One year, I was out in deep playa as part of an art-car crew. My role was to watch diligently and make sure people weren’t jumping on or off the vehicle while it was moving. (You know to never, ever, ever jump off a moving art car, right? Even one going 5 mph. People have died that way.) A dust storm came upon us, and everyone pulled on their goggles. Well, everyone except one couple sitting there with no eye protection. Out in deep playa. Mercy! Without question, they were virgins. You can only make that mistake once.

Dust storms, while common in the late afternoons are not relegated to the late afternoons. There are dust storms at night. Often. I’ve even experienced a fierce dust storm early in the morning one day when a bunch of us went to see the sun rise.

Contact lenses or prescription glasses, which is better?

In my first year attending Burning Man, I faltered between bringing my prescription glasses or my contacts. I decided on contacts as my base and prescription glasses as a back up. I recommend this approach. Glasses get instantly covered in fine, talc-like playa dust that is probably making numerous micro-scratches in your lenses. Contacts are easy to use, care for and see through.

Bring whatever items you need to be comfortable with your aided vision.

Bring a small standing mirror

Keep this mirror on your nightstand; it’s especially important to bring a small mirror if you use contacts.

Tips for wearing contact lenses at Burning Man

Because dust storms like this really do happen


And then there’s this…


Photo by Manuel Meurisse on Unsplash

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