dr.placebo wrote:Temps can get over 100 F in the day, down to freezing at night (usually over 40 F, but freezing has been observed more than once). Temperature can vary by 40 F in the space of a few hours.
The sun, wind and dust are challenging. Having something that gives protection is a plus. A bikini (or less) in the daytime is usually OK, but I've enjoyed having a light robe for cover against the elements (not for modesty). A light robe is also useful for those transitional times as the temp cruises through 60 F in the morning and evening.
Many people need good foot covering. The playa dust is corrosive as all hell. Personally, I use a pair of crappy sneakers that give full foot coverage, but my feet are on the sensitive side. Oddly enough, my hands are not easily attacked, but some people insist on having gloves when working in the dust. Goggles and hats are useful, too.
Air mattresses are often not as good as backpacking pads. Air mattresses can be bulky, puncture prone, and they don't insulate you all that well from the cold (yes, cold!) ground.
Rent a bike, or buy a junker when you get here. The playa ruins bikes.
Second the advice about leaving the drum. Too much weight and bulk for too little use. Borrow a drum when you must have one (they won't be far away).
Have a great trip, and enjoy the dust!
Thanks for the great tips dr.placebo! I have seen pics of ppl with gloves on. So mainly they are just for working on things...not something you have to wear when walking around?
I have never tried to sleep on a backpacking pad. Is that ok for your back? Blankets on the bottom of a mattress help a lot with the cold. I have camped on one in freezing weather. My sleeping bag is also made for the freezing cold. If I can get around lugging an air mattress, I will. I'll give the pad a try before BM. Thanks.
If the Playa ruins bikes, how well does that go over with bike rentals? lol
Thank you so much!
The playa bike thing is an iffy subject. My bike was fine after the playa. I just cleaned the dust off the chain when I got home and had no worries. A friend of mine from NYC also brought his "real" bike like me and had no problems. The dust may cause some problems with the bearings and working parts of cheap bikes, but it doesn't ruin them. I'm pretty sure there are a few threads on that with all sorts of opinions.
I wore desert issue combat boots (Air Force sage before, playa color after) and they were comfy. I had some odd canvas Adidas sneakers (non-cushioned rubber sole, rubber toe cap, I bought them at an outlet but never saw them anywhere else) that were also fine after. All the clothes I had went in the wash in a laundromat in Hawthorne, Nev., on the way home, no special washing or treatment. The car still has a layer of playa dust inside as does the non-working parts of some camera lenses and bodies. My little radio is a nice shade of beige instead of boring black.
I left my smartwool sweater at home but brought a 100-weight fleece jacket instead. It's less of a pain to wash and was all the insulation I needed at night. (Smartwool socks are simple to wash, but this sweater isn't).
Goggles and a scarf/bandana/shemaghs/neck gaitor is a good idea to use as a dust mask or to keep the sun off of your skin. They can also add some insulation depending on the fabric. I had a hat or two with me, one from Outdoor Research and the other a well-worn Tilley hat. Keeping the sun off of your skin and out of your eyes makes a world of difference in keeping cool during the day. Also a hat may help keeping your hair from becoming playafied (haha ... not really). I found the boots were better for walking since they didn't accumulate dust in them, but the sneakers were better for riding my bike around.
A light, non-cotton sweater (preferably fleece -- even better if it's wind proof) and a lighter layer or two should keep you comfortable and not take up too much space. A light jacket like a Marmot Precip packs down to nearly nothing and is windproof and water proof. The windproof being the bigger deal on the playa. It's inexpensive and can be easily washed ... or just hosed off later.
The first day or two you may get fully dressed to use the loo, but by the end of the week you'll just walk over stark naked with boots on. Or at least I did. By the end, everyone is dusty (except the ones who hide in RVs and shower), everything is dusty and no one even notices anything. All of your gear will have dust in it, except whatever is in unopened plastic bags.
One tip I learned here on ePlaya is to have a clean set of clothes in a vacuum-sealed plastic bag to change into once you're away from the dust. You may not even realize you're filthy, crusty and coasted in dust until you change. If you pack all of your clothes in vacuum bags, you can squeeze more in whilst still keeping the bag under weight restrictions.
I used a Camelbak Ambush with a 3l bladder (until I tore a hole in it accidentally by dropping an effervescent electrolyte tablet with the thing nearly empty. It sat in a small puddle in a corner and somehow built up pressure enough to rip a hole. It was a super-durable bladder, not the wimpy blue ones) that allowed me to carry water, a blinky light, Powerbar and some other stuff. I have a lighter weight back pack I plan to use this year, but either one will go into a carry on or checked bag with no problems. I had a spare 1-liter aluminum bottle but I had to refill it a million times and carry it. A bladder in a back pack (there are several brands and they all work well) is the easiest way to do it.
One thing not to forget is a good headlamp. Big box home centers have them with their flash lights or you can go to an Eastern Mountain Sports or REI (or other outfitter/ adventure gear store) to see what they have. Don't get the cheapest one they have because it will fall apart. It's a good way to light up what you're doing around camp (or home or traveling!) and keep you from being a dark wad out in the playa. You don't want to be run over by a fire-shooting praying mantis.
I slept on an air mattress and it was oddly cold. Something about them sucks the heat right out of you and they're heavy. A sleeping pad for camping is a better option. I had a borrowed sleeping bag and a wicking "travel sheet," which is like a sleeping bag with no zipper that packs into a SMALL bag. It's for adding some comfort in motels or guest quarters, or possibly places where the sheets are less than springtime fresh.
The playa isn't like visiting somewhere and staying in a hostel or Motel 6. Your sleep patterns will go out the dusty window and you may find yourself taking naps in center camp mid day and being awake all night, only to fall down from exhaustion on whatever looks like a bed in your camp/tent. You're not going to sleep well or normally. Black Rock City is like nowhere else you've been and no one is born with a reference.
The best anyone can do is read everything here, maybe check weather patterns and take an honest look at what you really need.
I was living in San Antonio in an epic drought at the time (which was hotter than the playa) so I was able to figure out how to stay comfortable in dusty conditions, so I maybe had a better chance than a virgin coming from Maine or Florida. I also was able to camp on the beach of the Gulf of Mexico before and was lucky enough to have a fierce storm the whole time. The playa was actually more comfortable than I expected.
Unless you're bringing costumes you should be able to get all of your clothes and a lot of camp/comfort gear in a large checked bag. If you bring a cooler keep in mind how long the lines for ice can be. Maybe look for a thread on camping with no refrigeration or ice. It's not only possible, it's easy and less to worry about.