One Piece of Advice for a Birgin

Questions, answers, tips & tricks for newbies and veterans alike

Re: One Piece of Advice for a Birgin

Postby Zhust » Mon Apr 07, 2014 6:53 am

Assess yourself. Will you commit to being there for as long as your friends will? What are the conditions that will get you to leave? You might find it a very pleasant and relatively easy experience; you might find it astonishingly awful.

Now, have a discussion with your friends about this. Define, something like a safe word, and get someone to commit to getting you out of there if you absolutely must leave.

Second, talk about what your requirements are for observation and assistance. Are you very communicative about your mood and needs?—that's great! Do you close off when you're having a bad time? Do you want people to hold your hand? Do you want people to let you go? What do they want? Have they ever hosted a "birgin"? If not, do they want to ensure you have a good time? Will they be able to have their own burns? What if you wander off and aren't seen for several days? Will you commit to some periodic communications? (e.g. promise to stop in at camp on Saturday morning or else they'll send a search party.)

You can—and many people do—just show up by themselves. So all this stuff is rather unnecessary except that you are going with a group. You'll be fine and have some kind of an adventure.

I have hosted "birgins" twice—both my ex-girlfriend and my current girlfriend. I felt an obligation both times to provide a good experience, and this affected my own burn. Obviously thousands of other factors did as well, but there were times in each case where I wondered if she was getting a "Burning Man experience". Clearly this is an issue that I need to deal with, and by actually doing I learned a lot about who I am and how I deal with situations. It's one of the things I love about Burning Man: that I can do new things and explore aspects of myself which lets me know so much about who I am.
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Re: One Piece of Advice for a Birgin

Postby remi » Mon Apr 07, 2014 7:04 am

Plan good meals. don't try to survive a week in one of the harshest environments imaginable on granola bars and fruit (although granola bars and fruit are a great snack food on the playa.) That was my mistake my first year. I love eating good meals, so bringing a bbq and frozen chicken and steaks made my experience quite a bit better. Gave me more energy to walk around and meet people.

Another tip.. bikes are awesome and all, but try leaving it and walking around sometimes. You'll find yourself engaging in more random conversations and you'll meet new interesting people easier.
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Re: One Piece of Advice for a Birgin

Postby remi » Mon Apr 07, 2014 7:15 am

Oh.. sorry to add another.. but this was a big deal my first year.

If you decide to use a landmark to locate your camp (for me it was a big deathstar looking thing,) please, PLEASE make sure that the landmark you chosen is not an art car. When you're frolicking on the playa and the deathstar drives by.. you'll start to get worried you may never find home.

A good way to avoid this is to just learn how to tell addresses in the city. I was a stupid rookie.

Half the things I notice people are saying you can find on youtube. Search "Burning Man Playa tips and tricks", and there will be about 14 web episodes by a guy name Halycon. He's a little preachy but the pee jugs, photo taking, 10 principles, carry a cup, and all that jazz was mentioned on his videos.
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Re: One Piece of Advice for a Birgin

Postby FlyingMonkey » Mon Apr 07, 2014 12:52 pm

remi wrote:Oh.. sorry to add another.. but this was a big deal my first year.

If you decide to use a landmark to locate your camp (for me it was a big deathstar looking thing,) please, PLEASE make sure that the landmark you chosen is not an art car. When you're frolicking on the playa and the deathstar drives by.. you'll start to get worried you may never find home.

A good way to avoid this is to just learn how to tell addresses in the city. I was a stupid rookie.

Half the things I notice people are saying you can find on youtube. Search "Burning Man Playa tips and tricks", and there will be about 14 web episodes by a guy name Halycon. He's a little preachy but the pee jugs, photo taking, 10 principles, carry a cup, and all that jazz was mentioned on his videos.


So true, moving landmarks only lead to more adventures, which isn't bad unless you’re beat & just want to sleep. My biggest mistake while navigating at night was relying on the street signs, which were completely misleading by Monday. This was also compounded by the fact that some roads dead-ended at the "mega-blocks".

Considering the map is based on the face of a clock it should have been much easier :roll:

I realized around mid-week that the porto-potties never moved & my camp was just around the corner from one of them. After that I never got lost.

This year I plan to make a very distinctive sign/beacon out of RGB LEDs & hopefully only get lost when I try to. :D
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Re: One Piece of Advice for a Birgin

Postby Eric » Mon Apr 07, 2014 2:25 pm

Re: landmarks to get home by: make sure you understand in advance that even those "permanent" landmarks start disappearing Saturday night/ Sunday. The Man? Gone Saturday. That huge alien looking thing at the end of your block? Might get burned on Thurs or Friday. The huge dance camp at 8? They may be torn down Sunday AM.

Try to find a couple things that (hopefully) won't disappear by Sunday - I always use Center Camp as a good permanent landmark, and the camps at the corners of 2 & 10 usually stay up until at least Sunday afternoon. Knowing where things like Thunderdome & the French Quarter are will help as well. Basically, be prepared to lose your bearings after the Man burns.
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Re: One Piece of Advice for a Birgin

Postby BoyScoutGirl » Wed Apr 09, 2014 10:02 am

In a moderate to thick dust-up, the lampposts are good, permanent landmarks for navigation:

- If you're on a inner city street with lampposts, it's either 9 or 3 o'clock and you're Manside of the keyhole or in the keyhole plaza itself. Or you're on the road around Center Camp.

- If there are lampposts but open playa on one side, you're on the Esplanade.

- If you're in inner playa, the lampposts will lead you to either the Man, the Temple, Center Camp, or the 9 or 3 o'clock plazas.

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Re: One Piece of Advice for a Birgin

Postby tatonka » Wed Apr 09, 2014 11:35 am

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Re: One Piece of Advice for a Birgin

Postby some seeing eye » Wed Apr 09, 2014 11:56 am

Have to support Mr Zhust. Brought a friend first time. Individual had a sinus infection which was exacerbated by the dust. Had to drive that individual out to Reno for an early end of the experience. Thanks Mr Pearly Gates for gate assistance! There are many things that can happen and having a close personal group to support in a temporary city of strangers is what the event is about.

Do not take self sufficiency as an absolute, it is a practical strategy to reduce the load on the organizers and create a resilient culture.

There is a great BMORG support infrastructure for emergencies, but it incurs large expenses. It is the safety net. Responding to emergencies of friends is better all around.

Bottom line, if you need help ask for help. Your camp, neighbor camps, rangers, medical, LEO.
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Re: One Piece of Advice for a Birgin

Postby bad-and-ugly » Wed Apr 09, 2014 12:14 pm

You know, I really missed having my hair wet when I was there. Think of that when you decide how much water you'll bring. =]
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Re: One Piece of Advice for a Birgin

Postby Bexx » Wed Apr 09, 2014 3:27 pm

put your wet wipes in a ziplock bag! Because the wipes with the self sealing baggies will stop self sealing by day 2 and then they will begin the dry out death!
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Re: One Piece of Advice for a Birgin

Postby bad-and-ugly » Mon Apr 14, 2014 8:42 am

remi wrote:Plan good meals. don't try to survive a week in one of the harshest environments imaginable on granola bars and fruit (although granola bars and fruit are a great snack food on the playa.) That was my mistake my first year. I love eating good meals, so bringing a bbq and frozen chicken and steaks made my experience quite a bit better. Gave me more energy to walk around and meet people.


This is so interesting =] Last year was my first and I was all alone and I don't even drive, so I was very worried that I wasn't bringing enough "comfort" in mu luggage. The food I brought, for instance. It was enough energy (I brought a total of approximately 16000 kcal =P), but they snacks and not proper meals. I brought dried apricot, a lot of mixed nuts, cereal bars, jerky meat and... That's it, that's everything I brought to eat. And once I was there, I was very satisfied with the food I brought - not because it was everything I ever wanted to eat in the harshest environment I could be, but because everywhere there was so much food being offered the whole time! It's funny, so many people everywhere offering drinks and food, but I didn't see a single person offering water =]
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Re: One Piece of Advice for a Birgin

Postby BBadger » Mon Apr 14, 2014 5:27 pm

Ahem.

There is no free food at Burning Man. All you hippie moochers should either bring your own or, better yet, stay home.
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Re: One Piece of Advice for a Birgin

Postby Eric » Mon Apr 14, 2014 9:28 pm

Have to agree with Bbadger, to a degree. Any food that's given away out there is someone's gift to the community, and should not be counted on as your source of sustenance (and "free" for you doesn't mean they didn't pay for it). When it's offered, it's a lovely bonus to what you already have, but going around expecting to be fed is a good way to make people ... not be fond of you. Not directed at bad-and-ugly, but the whole "free food & booze" idea has turned into newbies showing up expecting to be fed & get drunk on someone elses dime, without contributing back.
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Re: One Piece of Advice for a Birgin

Postby *Kat* » Tue Apr 15, 2014 3:59 am

My advice:

Bring enough booze. Enough as in plenty for you and plenty to share.
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Re: One Piece of Advice for a Birgin

Postby remi » Tue Apr 15, 2014 7:10 am

*Kat* wrote:My advice:

Bring enough booze. Enough as in plenty for you and plenty to share.


I found this really easy to do when I saw your cheap American beer prices. "A case of 35 beer for 17$? I'll take a dozen."
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Re: One Piece of Advice for a Birgin

Postby Fidget » Tue Apr 15, 2014 9:49 am

Yeah way too easy with your crazy US beer prices.. basically giving it away!
We bought WAY too much beer last year; gave piles of it away to neighbors and later in the week to bars that were running low. When we left we still had loads which we donated to the clean-up crew.
Next year - less warm beer, more gin!
Also when you're buying mix, double up. That shit goes fast out there and late in the week most bars have run out - you'll be an instant hero when you show up and donate a pile of mix to a bar that's been serving warm rum all day! :)
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Re: One Piece of Advice for a Birgin

Postby VultureChow » Tue Apr 15, 2014 10:08 am

I always have way too much booze. I have to be in camp and in the mood to drink it, and I just have way too good a time without alcohol to force myself to drink more. And there's so much around, that I don't have to go back to camp to get a drink. It just magically appears in front of me wherever I am.

Steak and cinnamon rolls on the other hand are gone soon after I cook them.
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Re: One Piece of Advice for a Birgin

Postby AntiM » Tue Apr 15, 2014 10:34 am

We have bottles of booze which have been to the playa more often than some people. Yep, double up on the mixers, especially if you have one you prefer, or if you need to be choosy.

We don't stand around telling people we give away water, but if you are in need, we would surely fill your water bottle for you.
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Re: One Piece of Advice for a Birgin

Postby TT120 » Tue Apr 15, 2014 10:37 am

Last year, I brought extra mixers specifically to give to bars later in the week. Couldn't give away a single drop. I went around to several bars in my "hood" and they all said "no thanks". I brought it all home with me.
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Re: One Piece of Advice for a Birgin

Postby shroom » Tue Apr 15, 2014 10:49 am

two pieces of advice..... read everything you can here and on the burning man site (this helped me not feel like a newbie when I arrived)

and happily put your cell phone away when you arrive. (it feels fantastic!)
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Re: One Piece of Advice for a Birgin

Postby theCryptofishist » Tue Apr 15, 2014 12:21 pm

Fidget wrote:Yeah way too easy with your crazy US beer prices.. basically giving it away!

Well, it's not like it's actually beer, is it?
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Re: One Piece of Advice for a Birgin

Postby Fidget » Tue Apr 15, 2014 2:06 pm

Hahaha, well certainly when compared to some stuff brewed up here in the great white north.
Although I'll have to give Portland a pass, there's some amazing breweries there.

theCryptofishist wrote:
Fidget wrote:Yeah way too easy with your crazy US beer prices.. basically giving it away!

Well, it's not like it's actually beer, is it?
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Re: One Piece of Advice for a Birgin

Postby Sidhe » Thu Apr 17, 2014 12:09 am

Drawingablank wrote:Shoes / boots - bring several styles, all broken in and comfy.

Switching off every day or two to a different pair seems to help a lot.

I second this! Same advice also applies to underwear. The same style I wear every day in the default turned out to be distinctly uncomfortable on-playa. Also, an anti-chafing cream will keep your crotch and ass happy.
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Re: One Piece of Advice for a Birgin

Postby fernley1 » Thu Apr 17, 2014 3:53 pm

Last year was our first year. The one thing my wife really like was the "potty bag" I made up for her.
It had wet wipes, 1 ply TP, couple of empty zip lock bags, hand sanitizer, small hand towel, and extra room for whatever else she needed.
Made it easy to just grab and go, without having to hunt and carry everything separately.
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Re: One Piece of Advice for a Birgin

Postby shroom » Thu Apr 17, 2014 4:12 pm

fernley1 wrote:Last year was our first year. The one thing my wife really like was the "potty bag" I made up for her.
It had wet wipes, 1 ply TP, couple of empty zip lock bags, hand sanitizer, small hand towel, and extra room for whatever else she needed.
Made it easy to just grab and go, without having to hunt and carry everything separately.


very nice!
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Re: One Piece of Advice for a Birgin

Postby Savannah » Fri Apr 18, 2014 10:19 pm

shroom wrote:
fernley1 wrote:Last year was our first year. The one thing my wife really like was the "potty bag" I made up for her.
It had wet wipes, 1 ply TP, couple of empty zip lock bags, hand sanitizer, small hand towel, and extra room for whatever else she needed.
Made it easy to just grab and go, without having to hunt and carry everything separately.


very nice!


Aww, I love a good biffy bag. What a nice present for her, Fernley.

For those who are thinking of having one, a nice bright clip-on light is a must. :D

And the reason for the ziplock bags, new folks, is that wet wipes cannot go into the potty. They've gotta be packed out in a ziplock so they don't clog up the works (sanitation people have to clear wet wipes out manually. Not cool).
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Re: One Piece of Advice for a Birgin

Postby FIGJAM » Sun May 18, 2014 8:45 am

Be pre-paired!!! 8)
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Re: One Piece of Advice for a Birgin

Postby ygmir » Sun May 18, 2014 9:32 am

FIGJAM wrote:Be pre-paired!!! 8)

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Re: One Piece of Advice for a Birgin

Postby Captain Goddammit » Sun May 18, 2014 9:59 am

I agree with not wasting all your time taking pictures, I've known people who did. But I've done the opposite and never took what I think is enough.
I started going to BM in 2000, and never even brought a camera until 2007. Close to zero photos of my first several years even exist and now I wish they did.
But yes, don't spend every day seeing it behind a lens.

Taking some time to explore by yourself is great advice.
My "First Mate" Charlie was a first time burner last year. She was rarely not with me and didn't like the idea of heading out without me. One afternoon I got a toothache and had to take meds and sleep. She ended up finding a Yellow Bike and having a look around on her own and she came back with so many stories! It seemed like she did more that afternoon than the rest of the week!

If I had just one thing to bring on a late night porta potty run it would be (and usually is) a light.

Asking to do things is a good thing. It's different from asking for things. As mentioned, ask to pull the trigger on that fire cannon! Ask to join some group doing some silly thing. Example: many years ago, Costco Soulmate Trading used to dress up in suits & ties and go out at night on "corporate takeovers" of random large theme camps. They had a great shtick going on and it looked fun. I had brought a suit and tie with no idea what I'd do with it but I happened to meet one of them who said he was headed back to camp to put on his suit... I asked why... he told me about it...
Well, I put mine on and showed up, not knowing anyone but totally dressed for it, ended up going with them, and made some of my best playa friends there. I spent more time the rest of that week with them than I did with my own camp.
All because of some random thing I thought looked fun and asked to join in. That's also how my now sorta well known suit & tie playa outfit came to be.

Oh, mini-tip about formal wear on the playa: earth tones hide playa dust and look clean. Dark colors show it. A clean suit looks sharp, a dusty suit looks hobo!
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Re: One Piece of Advice for a Birgin

Postby Bexx » Sun May 18, 2014 9:02 pm

YES! A light! Get several small little hand held flashlights and or a head lamp. (Headlamp especially for night time hands free trips to the portos) - these things are perfect. If there's one thing that Burning Man has taught me, is to always have a flashlight in your bag. I carry one in my default bag all the time. I've used it countless.
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