Don’t Get Burned at the Burn: Tips for Playa Survival

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Dust, scorching heat and a flurry of 70,000 thousand people creates a harsh living environment. Prep for the playa with safety tips from Renown providers.

There’s no doubt about it: Preparing for Burning Man takes a lot of planning, research and shopping. But how do you prep for a bustling city, home to tens of thousands, that exists for one week every year in the hot, dry Black Rock Desert? We asked some Renown care providers — who happen to be veteran “burners” — for their best tips.

Dress for Playa Success

First off, it’s critical to remember that the desert is a land of extremes, with searing temperatures, nighttime cold and pouring rain all a possibility any given year. It can be over 100 degrees during the day, and it can be in the 40s at night. Bring clothing suitable for weathering those extremes. Participants should be ready for just about anything — especially since there aren’t any stores or services once you’re on the playa.

Drink Up

So what should be at the top of any burner’s shopping list? Water, water and more water, and of course, a well-stocked first aid kit. Here’s the rule of thumb for water: 1½ to 2 gallons per day for drinking and washing.

“Dehydration is a real risk. Burners should have water with them at all times while on the playa and be drinking it liberally,” says Derek Beenfeldt, MD, a family practice doctor with Renown Medical Group.

He also says injuries are common and can happen at any time. He recommends paying attention to surroundings and setting up camp during the daylight hours. “There were some traumatic injuries incurred while people were setting up their camps,” he says.

 

In fact, it’s a good idea to orient yourself with the layout of the camp as soon as you arrive. According to organizers, there’s six medical stations spread throughout the playa for easy access.

Prep for Lots of Dust

Another issue to prep for: dust storms. There will be one, or many. Beenfeldt recommends shoes, as the alkaline playa dust can cause burns to the feet (also known as Playa Foot). Also, eye protection in the form of goggles is essential, as is a dust mask.

“And since the dust storms are unpredictable, carry eye protection at all times,” he says.

Effective goggles — think safety goggles that block out any foreign matter rather than the ones you’d use to ski — can be found at any hardware store along with a dust mask.

Sari Jokela-Willis, MSN, RN, OCN, of Renown Infusion Services, recommends packing several safety lights for yourself and your bicycle.

“You need to keep yourself well lit at night if you are on your bike because it is so busy,” Jokela-Willis says.

Above all, make self-care priority number one on the playa, and even take a few days after the event to decompress.

“I find that I need a few days to relax before returning to work,” Dr. Beenfeldt says. “My suggestion: Take a day or two off after Burning Man.”

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