Burning Man Failures

Last week, I spent approximately three and a half days down in Burning Man with my wife. There were fun parts, such as chilling in Summer Lake Hot Springs pre-burn, and rolling around in an Art Car, but there were also some serious problems, some problems so serious that we had to leave the playa on Thursday morning, which seriously put a damper on the vacation.  This post is to talk about those failures as a cautionary tale to anyone who is going to Burning Man so they don't make the same n00b mistakes.


The Black Rock Desert is at an elevation of 3907 ft.  I grew up at an elevation of about 2000 ft, but I currently live at Sea Level.  My wife, who I will refer to as E, however, has only lived at Sea Level.  The first day we went to some camps which offered free alcohol.  The elevation change caused us both to get drunker than we normally would, and to get more dehydrated.  Since I grew up at a higher elevation, all this meant was to drink more water and to get through it.  However, E ended up getting a severe case of dehydration and ended up at Rampart, the medical tent at Burning Man, and got two bags of saline solution delivered to her by IV.  We were also told the importance of electrolites, which I clearly underestimated.


At the end of Tuesday, I noticed that I was getting numerous blisters and callouses.  This was obviously from my shoes which were going to be replaced after Burning Man.  I kept my feet clean the best way I knew how, which was to use Baby Wipes each morning, and to wear fresh socks that were thick enough to keep most of the playa away from my feet.  E did the same thing, but her sneakers got super hard and created a nasty blister that severely reduced her mobility.  I tried bandaging it up, but it looked infected, so we decided to make another trip to Rampart.  There, they re-bandaged it and gave us anti-bacterial wipes.

Stomach Bug and Exodus

Late Wednesday, E and I walked from Center Camp to a friend's camp, and E noticed that she had a stomach bug.  I will spare you most of the details, but this resulted in a visit to the 9:00 Medical Tent, and after that another trip to Rampart.  This time it was determined that E had a stomach flu which caused an extreme loss of fluids.  Rampart asked if she had access to a real toilet, which she said no, since we were tenting and didn't know anyone who would let us violate their toilets, and that's when we decided to call it and to leave the playa.  After another three saline bags, we packed up the car and headed back to the border, missing the CORE Burn, Burn Wall Street Burn and the Man Burn.  (We already planned to skip the Temple Burn).

Lessons Learned

It's super tempting to say that E should never be on the playa, but I think that this is probably more of a failure of seriously reading and understanding the Burning Man Survival Guide on both our parts for most of it.  It also states the importants of having a camper trailer or an RV over doing a tent.  It's in theory possible to tent at Burning Man, my first burn done with a simple MEC Explorer 2 tent, which is very similar to the Tarn.  That being said, it's nice to not have to share a toilet with the rest of the attendees.  I don't think I will be heading back to Burning Man without the following:

  • Giant Cans of Gatorade Powdered Mix
  • Leather Shoes with less mesh so less playa dust gets in
  • Bicycles
  • An RV or a Camper Trailer that has its own bathroom

The big downside of all this is that my current residence doesn't have parking for a trailer, so I'm going to have to look at RV rental for the next burn, which is kinda irritating.  I used to think that RVs are cheating, but after this burn, having your own toilet is kinda required.