As we round the corner towards the high summer peak of festival season 2017, the BIG ones loom on the horizon… and I begin to wonder if I should just sit this one out and skip ahead to the afterparty — at least Depressurization will have air conditioning and pool parties. Fear of FOMO, sheer will, and a pretty rad crew that I’m planning to camp with drive me onwards as I prepare for my first Symbiosis event, which judging from the general frenzy attendees and the internet have whipped themselves into around the Eclipse, I have dubbed Eclipsalypse. Ok, so I stole that name from a post I saw from the Oregon Dept of Transportation, but it’s perfect, right?
There are brave warriors who will be continuing on afterwards to the desert mecca shortly after that, and I salute you, but this year I’ll be getting right back to work after Eclipse and preparing to decompress with you all in Reno, poolside, and hopefully with very little residual dust or sunburn left by that point.
While I haven’t ventured to the playa since 2012, I have learned a few tricks over many years of event participation, and I also have Google. And a network of amazing colleagues and friends who shared their survival tips for the good of all.
My top piece of advice: PLAN AHEAD. A week-long outdoor event in the high desert is on a whole other level than your typical weekend festival. Bring way more water than you think you’ll need, and remember that the desert is a place of extremes — not just heat but it can get pretty cold at night. Planning ahead starts with getting nerdy and reading some survival guides and FAQs, coordinating with friends and the inevitable accumulation of stuff and playing of car Tetris. You got this!
Read on for tips collected from festival veterans across the interwebs as you prepare to hit the dust. Best wishes on your adventures, stay hydrated, and take care of each other. <3
That Golden Ticket
Making sure your tickets are legit is especially important once the event sells out and the search goes on to message boards and Craigslist. Here’s some great info to keep in mind from Johnno, a 16 year burner and Reno local, on your quest…
“A little tip from the Golden Gate Mutant vehicle crew on how to prevent getting burned sending someone money in exchange for them to ship you tickets. If the seller of the ticket is out of area, find a licensed courier or process serving company and ship your cashier check and photocopies of what the ticket looks like to them. Have the courier and/or process server arrange to physically meet the seller to make the exchange. Last year the courier service in Florida charged me only $45 to conduct the exchange. Saved me $1000 when all of a sudden the seller would not answer their phone to set up an appointment. While at the same time my friend calls me and tells me he found a seller in Florida. Guess who that was. Yeah… burn, but don’t get burned.
The common deal I was finding on Craigslist were the sellers had great pictures to show you the tickets and would text the serial numbers of valid tickets… and on the phone they would give you the years they went and random camp names, and tell you a story to get you comfortable enough to ship them the money and promise to ship you the tickets. But when you call them to let them know a process server was going to be showing up at their house, all of the sudden, radio silence. Basically calling their bluff. That scenario happened last year to a couple people who I gave that advice to after I discovered the process server/ courier service technique. And for the sellers that were legit, not one of my friends who bought tickets using my exchange technique had any issues at the gate. You tell him a driver will be by with validating tools and a money order, you will find you won’t get a call back.” Thanks for the head’s up Johnno!
It’s also a good idea to make sure the serial number on your ticket is not already voided. Lots of folks get scammed just by buying tickets that were already called in as lost or stolen. Burning Man offers some great information on their website about making sure your ticket is valid.
A few other ticketing tips: Don’t ever put your barcode on social media or publish photos of the full tickets. Don’t use Paypal (they don’t secure tickets). In person exchanges are often your best bet, meeting in public spaces and taking a friend along if possible. There are online message boards or groups for ticket exchanges organized by many larger events, like the STEP program that are great first places to check.
Battle the Elements with Proper Planning
You’ve got your ticket, now what?! It’s always a good idea to read the event’s website, look up directions, and print out your tickets. Oregon Eclipse has several resources including an Essential Things to Know page, and a comprehensive FAQ section. I also found a pretty handy unofficial guide PDF and occasionally pick up some good tidbits (and a lot of laughs) from an Eclipse Attendees group on Facebook. Burning Man publishes an excellent survival guide each year that’s well worth a read, and their first timers’ guide is handy if you’re new to the scene or just need a refresher. However, the burner Facebook group is not the most helpful place to get an answer to your questions… it is a great place to load up on snark though!
Look up some suggested packing lists for the event you’re attending, and then start organizing and laying out everything you want to pack. Reduce packaging waste and save money by hitting up thrift stores and yard sales for camping supplies. Bring food in bulk reusable plastic or stainless steel containers (glass is generally not a good idea), remove excess packaging from food and prepare foods ahead of time as much as possible (vacuum sealing is your friend). Plan for shelf stable items (dehydrated mixes, nut milks in aseptic packages, dry goods like oatmeal) and keep your cooler in the shade, tightly sealed, insulated and elevated to help ice last longer. Bring a dish bin, soap & dish rack to wash reusable utensils & dishes. Cooking in camp saves some serious cash. And always bring more booze than you think you’ll need… you can always trade it for water, and you’ll make friends!
Coordinating meals, sharing supplies and creating comfy camp spaces is a great idea. Our Eclipse camp is taking turns making meals for the group to make things a little easier and save some money. I never eat as much as I think I will at an event, especially in the heat. But I always drink more water than I think I’ll need: a water bottle, Camelback AND big 5 gallon jugs for camp with a pump are all on my packing list. Electrolytes are good to remember too. Bring some cash for the inevitable late night snack you’re really going to want by the end of the week. And carry toilet paper on you!
Plan a comfortable and well shaded sleeping space (yes, you’ll want to sleep, I promise it helps everything) and don’t skimp on the bedding and blankets. It will be colder at night than you imagine. Warm socks, good worn-in boots and lots of layers (pants on pants on pants is a wise move) and a head lamp are all good to have. Prepare for the sun, heat, and wind as well; pack sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, parasol, and lightweight sarong or towel that you can get wet and drape over your shoulders or sit on. Dust masks, bandanas, sunglasses or goggles are all a great idea, as is solar lighting for camp, and bring plenty of chapstick, lotion & moisturizer to keep skin hydrated.
Keeping a clean camp makes the pack up and leave part so much easier. Bring plenty of trash bags, sort trash and recycling, and pack to reduce the waste you bring out there. Pocket ashtrays are super helpful to have if you’re a smoker, littered butts is not a good look or fun to pick up after. Take any new items out of their packages before you arrive, and avoid anything single use to make MOOPing easier.
Fill up your tank often on the trip and top off in larger towns close to the gates since you’ll likely be in long lines. Turn off your car if possible in lines instead of idling the whole time. Yes, you’re gonna be waiting in line. Try not to let it bum you out, it’s all part of the journey. I’ve seen some pretty fun parties in lines during ingress and exodus… hula hooping on the roof of the trailer in line is always a good time.
Pace Yourself for the Marathon
Festivals are a marathon, not a sprint. You can’t party a week straight three weeks in a row if you’re doing it wrong. Your body literally won’t. Eventually. And we really want you to unwind with us at the end of it all for Depressurization, so take care of your body and mind, check in with yourself often, and take it slow and steady. Ease into it, and don’t go too hard the first night. You don’t want to end up thinking it’s all a joke on you and taking an Uber all the way back to Los Angeles… You don’t have to be ‘that guy’ to have a good time!
Keep up with your self care on the go at events, hydrate, moisturize, eat well, sleep, repeat. You’ll be able to keep going longer and if all goes well, you’ll still have some stamina left to enjoy depressurizing instead of nursing a gnarly hangover the entire afterparty. And trust us, you want to make it to ALL the Depressurization events!
Please take care of your feet. I have discovered that BOOTS ARE LIFE. Thick, breathable socks and a good pair boots with some ankle support are essential, some comfy sneakers, sturdy waterproof sandals and maybe some flip flops or slippers for chilling at camp are all good to have too. Even if you bring a bike (which is not a bad idea), you’ll be doing a lot of walking. A yoga mat so you can stretch out and take advantage of the awesome yoga & movement classes that are likely available is an absolute luxury for your body and stamina at festivals. And, since we’ll have some yoga classes available this year, you’ll want a mat for Depressurization too! Though it’s not quite as necessary since you won’t be downward dogging on a pile of playa dust here.
Look out for your friends, use the buddy system, and team up to plan carpools and camps. Meet your neighbors and keep an eye on each other. These events are about coming together after all, and surviving the harsh conditions on little sleep is just easier with a little help from your friends.
Most important of all, PACE YOURSELF. Because we want to see as much of your smiling face as possible at The Great Depressurization!
Book your rooms today and receive your Multipass good for access to all of the festivities in Reno or Tahoe September 4th – 7th.
Photos by Sunyata Studios