Personal cooking at Burning Man

cutting board, onions

How ya gonna eat? One woman’s approach to personal cooking at Burning Man. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of online resources, blogs and videos about food prep at Burning Man, and if there are 70,000 people there, then there are 70,000 approaches as to how to eat and do meal prep at Burning Man.

I’m offering here what I do for personal cooking at Burning Man. They are endless options of how you want to prepare, though, I would caution you to pick the simpler approach for your first year. Once you have a sense of the conditions at Burning Man, if you choose to have a more elaborate approach to your meals, then that’s an informed choice.

Conditions that impact my personal food choices —

  • I fly in to Reno, so I’m not going to be doing meal prep at home and bringing frozen food in sealed baggies. That might work for you if you’ve got a short drive in.
  • I camp with a group that has a kitchen and (most often) some sort of dinner, sometimes elaborate, other times just a stew or something. In any case, if I want, I can tune into a hot meal once a day.
  • My only food-related purchases are for what I absolutely know I, as an individual, will eat. Again, as I’m both flying in and out, I’m not going to take home a half dozen raw eggs or an uneaten head of cauliflower on the plane, for example. (I use both those examples because both of those items I ended up having as extras at the end of my first burn.)

I purchase this food and only this food. I aim not to cook or deal with food prep unless I’m with a camp that provides meals and it’s my turn to do a cooking team shift. And I keep it simple at Burning Man in terms of what I eat and bring.

I have also always camped with a group that had a full-on kitchen. My Surviving (and Thriving at) Burning Man: A Packing List for First-Timers list is about personal care and personal needs, rather than full-on camp kitchen setup. Here’s what I bring for my personal “kitchen.”

My beloved Jetboil and sufficient fuel

A must for me is that I’m always able to make my own hot water…unencumbered and not waiting for a stove burner to open up in the camp’s kitchen. Ever seen a camp kitchen in the morning when lots of people are angling for the few propane burners available? Or ever wanted to warm some water for a sponge bath when dinner for 30 is being made and not a propane burner is available? Been there.

I use warm water for twice-daily sponge baths and hot water for tea. I also make phố often, so, for me, a Jetboil (or another brand) is a critical item. I’d offer that even if you don’t drink hot tea or coffee, having warm water for your sponge baths, in and of itself, makes this item an essential one to pack.

A small pan for cooking

If you envision yourself occasionally heating up some food without having to go into the camp kitchen to do so, bring a small pan.

Cutting board and knife

I always bring a small, flexible plastic cutting board and sheathed knives. Whether it’s an apple, salami or some pickles I might be cutting, I need and use a cutting board and knife in my personal, in-tent “kitchen” at Burning Man.

Condiments for cooking? Nah.

I don’t bother bringing condiments for cooking nor do I bring food requiring that I bring condiments. Simple enough solution. I tried the whole “I’m going to cook at Burning Man” in the past. For me, it’s too much extra work provisioning and prepping all the food. And the dishes. Agh. The less gray water I touch or create, the better, in my opinion.

I also come from the east coast and ship my gear on containers or bring it with me on the flight to Reno. You might feel differently about bringing olive oil, shoya sauce, sriracha and whatever else you might cook with if you can pack it in your car and bring it. To me, simpler is better for food prep on a small-scale level.

Of course, and always, you do you.


81-year-old man goes to Burning Man … sweet video

Cutting board photo by Webvilla on Unsplash

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