Sunscreen: What Not to Forget for a Week in the Desert

You can be as open as you want but if you don’t take the time to prepare yourself for the elements of Black Rock City, you’re toast.

Everyone has their method, but the general rule, especially for first-timers like myself was to ensure I had enough water to last a week. The recommended calculation is 1.5 gallons per person per day. I planned to arrive on the first day and stay through the Temple Burn the following Sunday, that meant a minimum of 12 gallons of water. I upped it to 13, my lucky number, just to be safe.

burn throne
Photo Credit: Harry He, The Outer Playa Throne

The next priority involved learning how to manage extreme temperatures both hot and cold. After spending many a summer in Sicily, where temperatures could quickly escalate to 113º F, I knew I would be okay during the day. It was the night when temperatures dropped to Northeast winter conditions which had me most worried. After chatting with veteran Burners, I realized that I had to pack clothes for the polar extremes. So, in addition to shopping for cute barely-there booty shorts and tank tops, I was also trolling online stores and thrift shops for faux fur coats and wool capes.

Preparedness also included decisions about accommodations (tent, yurt, RV); food supplies (meals, snacks); hygiene (dry shampoo, medical masks to protect against the dust); and just about everything else you could think of to survive the rough terrain of the desert for a week. The playa is 121 miles from Reno. On an average day, it might take you 3 hours to drive from downtown Reno to the heart of Black Rock City. Burning Man is anything but average. The length of time from one to the other quadruples once the gate opens. And similar to summer weekends in the Hamptons or every day in Ubud, there is one road in and one out, so be prepared to exercise patience whenever possible.

Death and taxes are constants in the default world. On the playa it’s dust and sun exposure. My skin turns a shade darker within seconds on a New York summer day, but on the playa complexion is relative. It’s no holds barred: anyone contemplating a week in Black Rock City, especially those with a fair complexion, should be buying sunscreen and moisturizer in bulk. Friends warned me about the intensity of the desert sun and so I was able to take precautions early on. I suggest you do the same.

This post is one of a seven-part series reflection on my personal experience at Burning Man: Radical Ritual. Part one, Stoking the Fire was published on Thrive Global. 

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