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Mark Atwood
After half a month in transit or on the playa, I'm back.

I may write up some of my experiences and thoughts that touched me while I was out in the dust and the lights.

As always, it was an amazing and thoughtful experience, and will have echoing repurcussions on my life in this the "default world".

Now I have a few thousand emails to process, a small mountain of filthy laundry to wash, and a career to kick back into gear.

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Current Location: Metrix Create Space, Seattle WA

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Starting on Monday, I will be at Burning Man, and will be more or less unreachable from the default world.

If you want to try to send me a postcard (which would be lots of fun), the BRC Post Office *might* work:

Mark Atwood
Pi & Monorail Camp
6:45 and Baghdad
Burning Man
Gerlach NV 89412

If you are on playa, drop on by, and leave a message. During build week I will be out working on the monorail, and the week of the burn I will be either at camp, at the monorail, or (most likely), out walking around looking at art.

If you are on playa, and have a FRS/GMRS radio, I stay tuned to 17/12.

If you off playa and need to get an *emergency* message to me/us, email to 911@burningman.com and include the above contact information, and it *might* get to me.

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Pi Camp
6:45 and Baghdad
Burning Man
Gerlach NV 89412

Send us a postcard! :D

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Clothes at Burning Man are very much an interesting intersection of necessity, preference, comfort, personal style, and public expression.

Again, I will mention the blazing sun, the corrosive mummifying dust, the hot days, the cold nights.

If you want to be as practical as possible, then loose-fitting natural-fiber khaki or light colored clothing with long sleeves and long legs make the most sense, with a broadbrim hat. You will look like you are on safari, in a National Geographic special, or a movie about the Australian Outback. And you will look like a Ranger (Black Rock City's crew of civic peacekeepers).

But this is Burning Man! There is a huge and evolving culture of self expression via clothing there.

You will see people who are not wearing a single stitch. You will see people wearing gear (boots, googles, camelback), and nothing else. You will see people wearing kilts, sarongs, crossvested, safari clothes, burkas, arbian thobe, gis, tutus, body paint, fireman turnouts, fake fur, and very bright colors.

I'm still deciding how to dress this year. I was far too bland and khaki last year.

Express yourself, have fun, and remember, it's hot during the day, and cold at night. (Thus the fondness for fake fur...)

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The playa is dry and hot. Very dry. Very hot. And the dust is hydrophilic. This means that you will be dehydrating, literally mummifying. And you probably won't be able to tell that you are dehydrated. The most common "medical event" at Burning Man is acute dehydration.

You will be "out and about" all the time. On foot, on bike, climbing on and off of art cars, climbing around on art projects, setting up camp, striking camp, and dancing.

This means you need to be drinking water all the time, you need to carry a LOT of water around with you to drink, and you want to have your hands free.

The solution is called a "camelback". It's a backpack that contains a plastic water bag, and has a flexible tube coming over your shoulder. There are a couple of different brands of these things, including the eponymous Camelback.

You want one, and you want the largest one that you can comfortably carry.

You can buy them online, and at any good sporting goods store.

My personal one holds 2 liters. While on playa, I will typically refill it 3 times each day, and twice each night. There is a reason that the on-playa newspaper is titled "Piss Clear".

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You may notice a common topic in my Burning Man Advice posts so far. The dust. You don't want it on your feet, and you don't want it in your eyes.

You don't want it in your lungs.

This stuff is corrosive when damp, and holes in your lungs take a long time to heal, if ever.

Some people just breathe it and cough it up later. I don't understand how they can do that, but then, I don't understand how people can smoke, either.

Some people wear a bandana, and breathe through it during the dust storms. They claim it is good enough, but I don't believe them.

Some people use disposable painters masks, medical masks, cute Japanese public-health masks, and even full-on fireman's or safety respirators, which is awesome but expensive and overkill.

What you want is the "Mu2" sports mask. You can order them here, or from REI or other high end sporting goods stores and sites.

It is AWESOME. It's cheap, it's light, it's comfortable, and you clean it by wiping it off ever day or two. And most importantly, it works very very well.

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The interface between your body and the outside world that is the most delicate is your eyes. In the difficult environment of the Burning Man playa, you will become very much aware of that.

During the day, it is VERY bright. The sun is bright, hot, and merciless. There is no cloud cover. The playa dust itself is almost white, and it scatters and reflects light, instead of absorbing it.

You will need dark sunglasses.

There is often wind. And there is always dust. Which means dust storms. And the playa dust is not just any ordinary dirt. It is strongly hydrophilic, it is corrosively alkaline, and it is microscopically fine. Which means that it LOVES your eyes, and your eyes will hate it.

You will need goggles.

You do NOT want to wear contact lenses.

You will go out at night. Every night. Most of the "action" really gets going after sunset. There are light shows, multicolored displays, lasers painting the sky, eruptions of flame. And when you go out into deep playa and look at the sky, there is no urban light pollution, so you will see the most amazing sea of stars.

You will need to be able to see clearly in the dark.


One of the things that you may notice when looking at pictures of Burners out on the Playa are the myriad ways that each of them try to solve this problem. Most burners have goggle with dark lenses that fit snuggly over their face. Those who wear glasses will either have Rx goggles, or they will get ones that fit over their regular glasses.

I use a 3-fold solution. I have my regular glasses, I have a pair of cheap dark sunglasses, and I have a pair of goggles that I had driving Transitions Rx lenses put in. I carry all 3 around with me, and keep a set of hard protective glasses cases in my pockets. When the goggles are not over my eyes, they either on my forehead, or around my neck.

You can get cheap dark Rx sunglasses online at Zenni Optical and at 39 Dollar Glasses.

You can buy good Burning Man goggles here. Buy one (or some), and then take them to an optician's shop, and have Rx lenses put in. You want "Driver Transitions", so they will go dark during the day, mostly clear at night, and will cut glare.

Or a cheaper solution is lab goggles that you can wear over your regular glasses at night, and your sunglasses during the day.

Remember to bring glasses cleaning solution and a lint-free cloth. You will want to keep your glasses clean.

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One of the important pieces of gear to have at Burning Man is foot protection.

You will be using your feet a lot, probably much more than you do in the Default World. You will walk and probably bike many hours each day. You will be on an uncontrolled surface that is covered with surprising rocks, bumps, divots, tools, and pieces of rebar. It is make out of a very fine dust that literally will eat your flesh if it gets wet. You will be climbing up and down stairs and ladders onto art projects and onto art cars. You will be surrounded by people who are wearing boots and are riding bikes. The sun will burn your skin during the day, and the air and the ground get cold at night.

My first burn, I wore Teva sandals. This was simple, not a big change for my feet, low cost, and didn't involve bringing lots of stuff. It was a mistake. The dust between my feet and the bed of the shoe got damp from sweat, and burned the soles of my feet. When I got home, I was literally crippled. I needed a wheelchair to navigate an airport.

The second year, I bought a pair of boots, and couple dozen pairs of natural fiber socks. I changed my socks every morning and evening, and washed my feet in vinegar each time I did. My camp actually had a foot washing station just for this. This worked much better. However, my boots didn't fit very well, and so I got sore feet from them, and playa dust got into them more than I would have liked.

Probably the best approach is to have a pair of good working or hiking boots, at least ankle high, that are already broken in to your feet. Burning Man is not a good place to get "new boot blisters". And do the "change the socks twice a day".

Some people who have tough feet go barefoot for the event, and trust the dust to keep them dry. This can work if you already routinely go barefoot over natural ground, but I think it is very unwise. It's just too easy to get hurt that way.

Some people wear "Vibram Fivefinger KSO" and other similar "barefoot shoes". I wouldn't have believed they worked, but they seem to do. I may try them this year.

Remember to reserve a pair of clean socks to change into AFTER you leave the city after the exodus. You do not want to wear playa-fied clothes on your drive or flight home, and neither does the airport and airline.

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I am starting a series of posts about my personal experiences and advice on how to enjoy Burning Man.

I will try to be as direct and practical as possible, and focus on my own experiences and lessons learned, and on what I directly saw myself.

This year will be my 3rd time to the Playa. There are many people with much more experience than me. In addition to my advice, you should use your own judgement, and also carefully read all the documentation at the Burning Man website.

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The Drizzle Developers,
hard at work



DSC_0129, originally uploaded by krow.



The Drizzle Developers,
hard at work,
thinking about Burning Man



DSC_0130, originally uploaded by krow.

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Current Location: Harbor Steps North Tower, Seattle WA

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