FOOD AND SHELTER
In preparing for Burning Man, it's always helpful to remember Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, which instructs us that we need to see to our basic needs at the bottom of the pyramid before we can even think about approaching the enlightenment at its pinnacle. And that begins with food and shelter.
Contrary to common misconceptions, you don't need an RV or trailer on the playa — and it's too late to get one at this point anyway. Frankly, you'll be fine in a cheap pup tent as long as you place it under a sturdy shade structure, such as the 10-by-20-foot steel carports that are ubiquitous on the playa, or a cheaper shade structure with poles reinforced by PVC or something to help it from being flattened.
You may need to make adjustments during the course of the week, but jerry-rigging your shit is just part of the fun. Or if that's not your cup of tea, more and more burners in recent years have been building their own yurts or turning to custom-made designs like the Playa Dome Shelters from Shelter Systems (www.shelter-systems.com/playadomes.html).
For food, just try to keep it simple, nutritious, and free of unnecessary waste. That means lots of simple snacks and easy meals, such as those you make ahead of time and reheat. There are also some good entrepreneurs out there that have perfected this approach, such as Gastronaut SF (www.gastronautsf.com/playa-provisions), which makes meals that you boil in the bag, which even allows you to reuse that water.
And don't forget to take your vitamins because playa life can really take it out of you. Dr. Cory's Playa Packs (www.drcory.com) are one of many good companies that understand what nutrients you'll need and try to provide them.
Let's face it, for all the talk about decommodification and intentional communities and all that hippie crap, you're going to need stuff at Burning Man. Lots and lots of stuff. Luckily, San Francisco is a great place to get it, and here are some of my personal favorite spots to shop for my playa gear.
Mendels This art supply store has everything you need for your costumes and other Burning Man projects, and many things you didn't know you needed. For example, when I was looking for a cool covering for my bike years ago, I found tubes of thick acrylic paint that dries hard (now known as 3-D Paint), which has lasted for years and drawn compliments the whole time.
1556 Haight, SF. (415) 621-1287, www.mendels.com
Fabric Outlet Fake fun fur has become a staple item for Burning Man costumes and art projects, particularly as the styles and varieties of it have gotten better. And this place has the coolest fake furs in town, as well as a huge selection of other fabrics, patterns, and sewing kits.
2109 Mission, SF. (415) 552-4525, www.fabricoutletsf.com
Multikulti This is the best place in town to find a great selection of groovy sunglasses for just $6 each — and you'll want a good selection of shades out there to go with your costumes — as well as a variety of other accessories and costumey geegaws to accent your Burning Man ensemble.
539 Valencia, SF. (415) 437-1718
Five and Diamond If there is a store that grew directly out of the feather-and-leather fashion aesthetic that has come to take center stage on the playa, this is it. From groovy utility belts (important when your costumes lack pockets) to elaborate leather outer wear to some of the coolest custom goggles that I've found (mine has a built-in light and both clear and shaded lenses), this place has great — if slightly pricey — stuff.
510 Valencia, SF. (415) 255-9747, www.fiveanddiamond.com