experiencing that festival in the black rock desert – the easy way


I’ll be away for a while. Help yourself to the cookies posted below, but keep your mitts off the monkeys in the header.


Having been to the big festival in the desert many times now, I’ve honed my prep time, labor, and disasters to a minimum. This is accomplished with a combination of laziness, technology, and attitude. What are my time-tested secrets? For you, my imaginary audience, I’ll reveal the most important ones.


  • No showers. That’s right; one person’s unthinkable is another’s relief. Yet, I do not stink. Every night at bedtime I wipe myself down with a couple of those little wet wipe (baby wipe) towels. This removes the sunscreen, the sweat, and also swabs the accumulated dust out of my ears and beard. You don’t have a beard? Even better. Every few days I hang my head over a little plastic kitchen tub and wash my hair with Dr. Bronner’s. By this time I’ve consumed a one-gallon container of water, which now becomes a grey water tank for the hair-wash rinse water. I’ll take it home and sell it as holy water. Benefits:
  1. No messing with sun-showers, building actual showers, evaporation ponds, or begging to use someone else’s shower setup.
  2. You really can get by with about 1.5 gallons of water per day, if you also consider the bullet point below.
  • No cooking and very little dishwashing. Your nightmare may be my joy. I bring the pre-cooked Indian meals-in-a-pouch and pop-top cans of chili, veggies, and fruit. I eat directly from these containers. Most of the rest is non-prep: mixed nuts, string cheese, etc. Benefits:
  1. No food prep at all unless I make some powdered milk, which is too complicated for me. You put the powder in first or the water? I can’t figure it out.
  2. No dishwashing except a spoon and a sometimes a bowl. Isn’t that tidy?


  • Get decent-quality equipment. This involves money, so if you’re on a tight budget, you may have to improvise. I’ve used much of the same equipment over the course many Burns, thereby “leveraging my investment for maximum value and utility,” which has the effect of making me wealthy in the long-term. In a manner of speaking. Buy … and save!
  1. It goes without saying, if you can get a reliable vehicle for this occasion, you’re avoiding a world of hurt.
  2. If you can afford to get a good tent, easy to set up, with room for everything you need in there, that makes everything simpler. Did I mention that set-up and take-down has to be easy?
  3. Don’t strap or rope any thing  or person to the outside of your vehicle. Doing so is the equivalent of saying, “Please give me a disaster on the road. Please. I love carnage and sorrow.”
  4. For Harvey’s sake, get some fricking lights to wear on your body and/or bike at night to reduce brutal encounters with pedestrians, bikes, and huge flaming art vehicles. This is really outside the scope of my minimal-hassle experience topic, but I couldn’t help it.


  • You can eat delightful meals and luxuriate in showers the other 51 weeks of the year. See the art, revel in the creative wackiness, the sensory overload, and the wonderful people. Participate. Fish for ravers. Help the newbies (while secretly laughing at them). Or did you come all the way into the desert in order to strike a pose with shining clean hair that says, “I am a sparkle pony!” If you want to bring a fully-stocked RV, run the generator and a/c, and produce a reasonable facsimile of not being there, that’s fine. I can think of reasons why someone might want or need to do that, but this blog post isn’t for you.
  • I freeload in someone else’s shade structure when I need relief from the heat. You can call me a hypocrite now. I tend to bring useful gifts to share with the shade owners. This year it’s some pre-stamped postcards that people can fill out and take to the BRC post office. One of them is pictured below.

That’s it. Gotta go. Later.  Hands off the monkeys.



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