While you can’t buy anything at Burning Man, as I described in my last post, you sure as heck need to acquire a lot of gear before you get there.
I got really nerdy in the months leading up to it and researched the shit out of it – not only the hedonistic-Disney-character-with-daddy-issues outfits (as I like to call them) but also the sort of stuff you would only ever need to survive in a desert.
Some of the stuff I was given, other stuff I was loaned, some I procured, and the rest I made using a sewing machine. Yes really. I taught myself by watching a series of really bizarre but very helpful Asian YouTube tutorials.
Etsy, I would say, is the best place to raid. Then stores that specialise in stuff that lights up. Then costume shops. Then eBay for the cheap leftovers.
So without further ado, a list which might actually be useful for anyone going next year.
P.S. Other generic essentials which I have not detailed here include: sunglasses (cheap ones you don’t mind losing or breaking), bandanas (to protect your nose and mouth in dust storms), baby wipes (you can’t have too many), lip balm (your lips will suffer) and sunscreen (for obvious reasons).
*note, all the hyperlinks links open in a new tab so as not to ruin your browsing pleasure
FACE PAINT AND TATTOOS
The boys were very into their face paint, and according to them the absolute best brand for this is Ben Nye.
And we were all very into my Flash Tattoos, which are shiny, metallic, come in all sorts of sizes and patterns, and can survive anything. Seriously, these guys do not budge. It takes a good few days and a lot of scrubbing to get them off.
I love me some pirate costumes. Always have. Always will. I got mine from costume shops and some of them I customised.
Pictured, (clockwise from main left) pirate top from Angels, scalemail dragon shoulder epaulets from Crystalsidylls‘ Etsy store, incredible tribal skirt/belt from ForgottenPast on Etsy – this woman is brilliant, she sources handmade items from tribes around the world; black pirate dress from Party Delights; brown pirate dress from Angels; scalemail cuffs from BisouKnits on Etsy; white, red and grey pirate dress from Party Delights worn with cruelty-free feather pieces from LucentFeathers on Etsy; shoulder epaulets on knitted shrug from BisouKnits on Etsy.
It’s lovely and hot during the day, so most people are fairly minimally clothed.
Pictured (left to right) custom-made bejeweled bra and hotpants from Electric Laundry – I adored this and wore it nearly every day. You just send them your measurements and a mood board to demonstrate the sort of thing you’re after and they send you back a glittering masterpiece – worn with light-up tutu from Neon Nancy; gold mirrored mermaid top from WEKOKO; customized NASA top from H&M (sold out), unicorn leggings from eBay.
It is highly, highly important to have stuff that lights up for night time explorations. The more the better. There are lunatics on bikes riding around everywhere (yourself included), quite often twatted, and if you aren’t dressed up like a Christmas tree, you’re invisible. What does that mean for your general safety? Smash bang wallop.
Pictured (left to right) wolf hood from Electric Styles which I wore every single night. It’s soft, it’s warm, it changes colours and it has a really handy little zip compartment for squirrelling; custom onesie from The-All-In-One-Company, which I can’t praise enough. You design every aspect of it yourself on their really easy and addictive website, and I went for fleece leopard print (obviously) with my name embossed, a union jack flag, hood, tail and zip squirrelling compartment. I’m obsessed with this thing. I wore it every night there and it’s the first thing I put on when I get from work every day back here in London; faux fur coat from Shuba Designs on Etsy, magnificent. Toasty warm, enormous, snuggly, with a kaleidoscopic printed lining.
This bra (left) from Neon Nancy was fairly special. Admittedly a bit too small, but better than too big I reckon. It looks cool during the day and even cooler at night when it lights up and flashes (centre). You definitely can’t blame anyone for talking to your tits when you’re wearing this. Then I got a ton of EL Wire from EL Wirecraft (right) – it’s basically light-up cable you can use to attach to costumes and bikes, and is extremely handy.
These shoes from Electric Styles were bloody brilliant. They are kind to your feet, and should you suddenly feel the need to walk around on a moving platform of coloured lights, you just press a button. The colours change by the way, and there are loads to choose from.
I got very, very into making my own stuff. As I said, this required teaching myself how to use a sewing machine. I’m still terrible at doing anything neatly, but that’s not really the point here.
I made these outfits using the most fantastic fabrics from Abakhan – faux fur, faux leather faux suede – all really un-tacky and soft, with equipment from Hobbycraft. I’d say it was even more fun to make this stuff than to wear it.
Fabrics, ribbon, trimmings and iron-on motifs from Abakhan; sequins, studs, tools and gluey stuff from Hobbycraft – both very reasonably-priced and highly recommended companies
The makeshift Burning Man factory in my living room; with sewing machine from Hobbycraft, EL wire from EL Wirecraft, feathers from LucentFeathers, and sailor’s hat from eBay, which I covered in gems using a glue gun
Foam angel wings from FishPishStudios on Etsy, which I sprayed silver, added gems to and flung a load of glitter over. The beauty of these is that they are almost as light as air, and therefore easy to transport.
Before I went, my friend and long-time hair magician Tatiana Karelina taught me how to do some lovely Daenerys hairdos (left). I’m a bit obsessed with braids. She also sells human hair clip-ins which you can wind into your own hair (right) should you want to quadruple your volume.
This headdress from LucentFeathers comes in two parts which clip on to either side of your head. I adore this designer because she gathers feathers which birds have shed naturally rather than plucked feathers from horrible cruel factories. I should note that I altered them by adding that striped fur panel. And I didn’t just wear them on my head, I clipped them onto my belt sometimes.
Goggles, which are absolutely essential for coping with dust storms, these frankly mind-blowing chaps are from Moxie & Mojo, and were custom made. They also have an Etsy store here. Supremely comfortable headturners. They are now displayed on a shelf in my room waiting for next year.
If you watch Game of Thrones, you’ll get it. This is now officially my favourite jumper. It’s from Bow & Drape, a brand which lets you customize their designs with whatever slogans and motifs you want. Also, I’m not sure how… but you know that incredibly soft fluffy fleece material which goes boring and flat the first time you wash it? That’s what this is lined with – except for that it keeps its fluffiness after plentiful washing. Miraculous.
I got this faux suede backpack from eBay and then plastered it with mini iron-on flags from every country I’ve been to on my travels. The only company that sells such a massive range of these teeny little beauties is smALL FLAGS, and they ship ludicrously fast.
I lugged along a ton of things which I never actually used. But all the following gizmos and gadgets did prove worthy, and will be coming back with me next time.
Pictured (left) the Evo Endurance, a great battery pack case for your phone from tech21 – your phone won’t have signal at Burning Man but you’ll want the camera; and to save it from a dust-induced casualty, this OtterBox Defender case (right) has you covered.
Lots and lots and lots of people at Burning Man ride around with CamelBaks in their backpacks. I am shit at remembering to drink water at the best of times so this Jack Wolfskin version (left) probably saved me from a certain dehydration disaster. It has a 2l capacity and a nozzle which is weirdly satisfying to drink from hands-free as you ride around on your bike. Then, as I mentioned in my previous post, you have to bring your own cup with you if you want to frequent bars. This collapsible silicone guy (right) from Not Just A Gadget was perfect. It stretches into a decent-sized vessel and has a clippy thing with which to attach it to your bag. Lots of people had cup envy.
Finally, a bike. You really, really, really, really need a bike here. It’s a pain in the arse getting them, and most people buy cheapos from Walmart which they drag in from the outside world. I rented a really good bike from the inside, at a place called Playa Bike Repair. It’s great. You order it before you get there and then just go and collect it. When you’re done at the end of the week, you just bring it back and leave. My bike was muey high-end and muey comfortable. Lots of people had bike envy. This place also rents bike locks. These are essential. Your trusty steed will last all of about ten minutes without one, before some confused passer-by wanders past and ‘borrows’ it. And they rent monkey lights, which illuminate your wheels at night. ALSO, as the name suggests, they fix other people’s bikes. Those cheapos break all the time.
And, last but not least, a nod to these shoes, which cost FIVE QUID from eBay and which I wore almost exclusively except for at night when I switched to my light-up trainers. I wear these boots all the time back in London too. They are faux leather and faux fur, provide excellent grip and are supremely comfortable. FIVE QUID people. Americans, that’s about $8. The boot on the left is coated with playa dust, the boot on the right has been cleaned.