Shaman’s Black Rock City Supply & Preparation List


Preface

This is in no way intended to be a complete end-to-end list of what to bring with you to Black Rock City. For example, i am not telling you remember your ticket or to bring X gallons of water per day per person. But i may provide some details about those items. In fact, I wont even try to re-state what you should already have read and memorised:

What i do list, i do so out of desire to share learned experiences. I stand by these items & processes as they’ve been formed over years of experience and vetted in the field. The items listed are in no way hierarchical or prioritized by importance. Some lists may be in somewhat chronological order, but are meant to be digested as a whole.


Getting to Black Rock City

The following assumes your arrival will be from the South (395N) or Southwest (80E); at very least travelling thru Reno. I have no personal experiences accessing Black Rock City from the East (80W) or from the North (395S).)

Drive Safety

The entire drive out there, use better than average common sense. Road officials from Los Angeles to Reno to BRC itself know there are 50k additional people on the road, any number of which carry with them a higher than average potential for contraband, tom-foolery, etc. This is NOT the way the majority of law enforcement officials think. But YOU should.

  • Have all vehicular documents accessible & ready: Drivers License, Registration, Proof of Insurance.
  • Know your rights if stopped. Here and here.
  • Dont have open containers or other gotchas in plain-sight
  • Keep no more than 5mph over the posted limit. If you’re pulling a trailer, your speed limit may be less, regardless of posted limit.
  • If you’re a passenger, remind driver & other passengers of these things

The moment you leave Fernley on 447 North, the stakes get even higher:

  • You’ll be travelling through at least two Native American Reservations, each of which with their own law enforcement, each of which actively maintains zero-tolerance for speeding
  • You’ll be on 2 lanes now, for 80 miles: you’re going to have cars & RVs stacked in front and behind you the whole way, dicks will pass you on blind curves over double yellows.

Dont be a dick:

  • Dont pass on blind curves or on double yellows; be patient and wait for a safe hole (snicker)
  • Dont tailgate. Communicate with cars ahead of you in other ways. Seems like in all countries EXCEPT the United States, the universal way to send this message is to flash your brights.
  • If you’re GETTING tailgated: Is there a stack of vehicles behind you? Is there a good deal of distance ahead of you? Has the vehicle behind you flashed their brights at you? Congratulations: you are slower traffic, and need to keep right. This has nothing to do with going the speed limit. Please use a turn-out and let them pass
  • Be ALERT, be SAFE. And sweet baby jesus look around you: this is one of the most breath-taking drives i’ve ever seen. Enjoy it. And revel in the fact that by this point, you’re only a short distance away from Home.

Arrival

Best rule of thumb is that the sooner you get to the playa, the better. No brainer here. But this also applies to time-of-day: Early morning is going to have far more agreeable entrance lines versus 2-4 pm, for example.

Try to use co-pilot solutions to drive thru the night to arrive early morning. Try to stage the drive by getting a hotel in Reno (Grand Sierra has good rates)

Enroute Supplies

Buy whatever you can in Reno, especially water, which typically makes up a large portion of weight in your vehicle. All the less weight you have to lug up & over the Sierras. Less weight equals better gas mileage. Use the stores on I80 between Reno & Fernley to (drain and) top off your coolers with more ice. Just remember that whatever cold goods you pick up at this point, even though they’re cold, will contribute to ice melt.

Supermarkets

  • From The West
  • Safeway – 5150 Mae Anne Avenue, Reno, NV – (775) 746-9000 – MAP
  • Raley’s – 1630 Robb Drive, Reno, NV – (775) 746-6400 – MAP
  • From The South
  • Raley’s – 4047 South Virginia Street, Reno, NV – (775) 825-2151

24-Hour Supercenters (some with full grocery)

  • From The West
  • Wal-Mart – West Reno: 5260 W 7Th St, Reno, NV 89523, – (775) 624-2000
  • Wal-Mart – Fernely: 1550 Newlands Dr E, Fernley, NV 89408 – (775) 575-4832

Last Minute Outdoor Gear

  • Cabela’s – 8650 Boomtown Road, Verdi, NV 89439 – (775) 829-4100 – MAP

Last Last Chance

  • Buy whatever you can in Emprire or Gerlach: support local communities. Even if you’re stocked up, you should stop and browse. Exercise caution during peak hours as you’ll most likely have to park on the shoulder and walk a short distance to the store.

Fuel

Gas-up in Reno, or better yet, one of the stations along I80 between Reno and the Fernely turn-off. You want to have enough fuel to get you from the gas station on 80, up 447 to Black Rock City, and then back down again X days later.

Don’t wait until Empire or Gerlach to top off: these stations are almost always at least a 30+ minute wait for fuel. And i’ve seen them run out. If you’re arriving at odd hours, and there are no lines, then yes: top-off again in Empire/Gerlach. Especially if you’re in an RV.

Basically, you want to have as full a tank as possible prior to Exodus, when you’re idling for what may well be many hours. Moreover, after Exodus, Gerlach/Empire will have worse lines then arrival.

Playa Turn-Off & Entrance

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  • Your ticket(s)
  • Keys to locks on trailers (for inspection)
  • Your mask & goggles (headlamp if late-afternoon; it will be dark soon)
  • Maps to or street address for your camp
  • Camera
  • Celebratory beverage(s)
  • Take some pictures of the sign. Dont worry, everyone does, you’ll be happy you did, and is a great kick off.

Stop here to gather some critical essentials:

Depending on time of arrival, the line for the gates & greeters could easily be 2 hours or more. The line moves the whole time; its just a long line. But more lanes are open during peak hours.

The chokepoint is the multiple lanes compressing into fewer as you approach the inspections, which may range from under a minute if you’re in a car, to a few minutes if you have a trailer or RV. Have keys ready to unlock things. You wont have to UNpack, but these cats are thorough. That impressive Tetris-worthy packing job in your trailer? They WILL insert their bodies up into your shit looking for stowaways. Its quite entertaining.

Once inspected, you come upon the Greeters. Keep in mind THIS is where the 5mph limit should really begin. Use your best judgement based on volume and time of day.

Dont be a dick and make your own new lanes. Sheep will follow you and NO ONE gets in any sooner.

Tune your car sterio into BMIR (94.5 FM) or (welcome back) RFBM (99.5). There may be dozens of stations; keep searching the dial. Incredible entrance soundtracks abound

If you’re lucky enough to be caught in a sand and or wind and or rain storm, DONT get out of your car. It will only get your interior dirtier than it will already get, and you may get caught in whiteout and lose your car or your passengers.

Greeters

Love them.

Perform for them. Offer them a beverage. Get them laughing so hard they break character

Get some and give up some extra hugs & stranger squeezes. They have the hardest but perhaps most fulfilling job at BMORG if you ask me…

The packet of information they’ll give you (1x per person) is invaluable. It contains art maps, newspaper, invites, late announcements, stickers and many other items that immediately start your BRC archive for that year.

Once Inside

Stop. Pull over and just stop. Get out and share the moment. Even if you’re solo. Perhaps especially if you’re solo. Revel in it. It all starts right here. Acknowledge that is is beginning. Ok, get back in and go find your camp.

Dont be a dick:

  • Observe 5mph speed limit. Slower than that or even STOP to get past walkers, bikes, zombies, large unhinged steam-powered ferris wheels, etc.
  • Not unlike a boat in an inner harbor kicking up a wake: if you’re producing a dust plume behind you, you’re driving too fast.

Your Camp

Your greeter package should have a street map. Get it out.

If you are part of a theme camp, you should already have a street address.

If you are not part of a theme camp, or otherwise lack a specific street address to drive to, then you need to make a decision. Or, preferably, implement a previously-made decision amongst your passengers & support vehicles: WHERE TO CAMP?

You’re all about to make a highly subjective decision

Inside: You may have very good reasons for pressing on into the center of the city to find a camp closer to Esplanade. Just keep in mind this is a popular decision, and therefore the closer you get to city center, the less room you’re going to find. Many plots that look open and available will be reserved by the camp on either side (for their friends yet to arrive, or to maintain frontage/margins). Engage them with a smile; Strike up a conversation; y’all may within a few days become life-long friends you guys.

  • Ask how much space they need
  • Communicate how much space you’re likely to take up
  • Ply & sway them with the good shit & wonderful company your troupe will offer.

Outside: If its space and elbow room over location location location, then my personal preference for non-themed camp is 8:00 – 10:00 on the ORT (outer ring territories). By this i mean the block created by the 2 outer-most roads, where you should shoot for a camp on an edge of one of the hour spokes, preferably on a corner.

  • These are the last places to fill up, so there is typically lots of space to establish a sprawling camp
  • These are far away from Esplanade, and do require more than average distances.
  • But they’re typically much quieter, and still see a fair amount of art car touring (for when you’re home)
  • The sunsets out here are astonishing. They’re not unlike beachfront property sunsets: nothing much to obstruct.
  • There are land surfers and kites and R/C planes and all sorts of activity you might otherwise not see on the other side of the city.

Your Cooler Situation

The Ice Wars

Def: The battle to retain ice for the entire duration of Black Rock City without resorting to Arctica

General Guidelines

  • Ice melts much faster when you’re trying to change an items temperature (cold to colder)
  • Ice melts slower when its used to keep colder (frozen) items from getting warmer.
  • Keep the cooler in the shade at all times, but not in a tent away from a breeze. If you can, elevate the cooler up off the playa (again, for brreze, airflow)
  • Open the cooler only when absolutely necessary, and only for a short amount of time. Size of cooler and internal organization helps here
  • Freeze anything you can to act as cold elements to slow the ice melt. Especially liquids, provided they wont burst when frozen. But also applies to meats, sauces, & pre-made meals; thawing on the playa is very easy
  • Remove items from any sort of paper-based or plastic containers. This not only frees up valuable real-estate in your cooler, but also reduces the amount of trash you’ll accumulate as you use these items.

Multiple Coolers

If you have access to more than one cooler, try to strategize, with one you hardly open, another for items you’ll use more frequently. The hardly open should be your food, meat, dairy, cold cuts, etc (what you’ll use less often thru-out the day). The frequent open should be your canned beverages, drinking ice, etc (what you’ll use more often than 2-3 times a day)

Size/Construction

  • You need at least a 50 quart cooler per person, 62 quart
  • Try to find one with wheels.
  • Some of the retro steel-belted metal coolers from Coleman, while expensive, are very efficient
  • If you have access to or funds for a marine/boat cooler, they too are constructed a bit better
  • Cooler handles are notorious for first thing on a cooler to fail. Have zip-ties and/or rope to repair or augment.

Compartmentalize!

Use one or more clear plastic shoeboxes with tight clasping-lids for keeping different cold foods both separate from each other, and relatively dry. Container Store has good odd-sizes here, to utilize real-estate. You wont keep your cold compartmentalized items totally free from moisture however, so…

For added compartmentalization, wrap your frozen cold items in a couple layers of paper towels, then seal them in zip-lock freezer bags. Nest these within the clear plastic shoeboxes.

These clear plastic shoeboxes are also great ways to keep a set of cubes clean for drinking ice

Ice War strategy

Freeze 3-4 one-gallon water bottles, and place them in the corners of the cooler.

    Crystal Geyser 1-gallon squares

  • These should be IN ADDITION to your daily water! Not a replacement for ice cubes; just a way to keep the core temp of the cooler down. Towards the end, they become 4 additional gallons of drinking water.
  • This tactic is a serious hit to real estate in your cooler, which is why something larger than 50 quart is key.
  • Crystal Geyser has the perfect bottles that are not too squat, and their square format makes them great for maxxing real-estate. UPDATE: These things are now round, no longer square. But they’re still the key tactic in the Ice Wars.
  • Steer clear of the traditional gallon milk jugs, as the walls of these containers are too weak, and they will split.
  • Start the freeze process at least 4 days prior: takes that long for core to freeze.
  • Before you freeze, unscrew the cap, and drink or dump some of the top few inches. Otherwise, when these babies freeze, the water expands and will extrude up & out the hole. Oh, and freeze with the caps OFF!

Organization & Loading

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  • Items you use the least, or plan on using last should be placed at the bottom of the cooler
  • Using the above tactic of 4 x frozen water gallons as corner items, most cooler shapes (depending on size) should offer a good space in the middle.
  • Fill cooler to half-way with ice cubes, then compress the cubes down; remove space between cubes.
  • Insert the clear plastic shoeboxes between the frozen gallons, then line the remaining space with as many frozen items as possible.
  • Fill remaining real estate with ice cubes, then compress, repeat. When closed, cooler lid should be in-contact with top of ice

Arctica

Provided you have a quality cooler (insulation) and don’t open it too often, the above steps should render you victorious in the Ice Wars. If you’re not successful, no worries: Arctica will sell you ice. If/when you do, beg borrow or abscond with a dolly or other wheeled contraption for the ice. Bike baskets work, but can tear the bags. Be prepared for long lines, or get there early. Arctica can sell out later in the day.

And keep in mind: sales of ice from all Arctica locations go directly to Gerlach-area charities and community groups. Oh, and they also love tips. These guys are magicians keeping a shipping container full of ice out on the playa.

  • Locations:
  • Ice3 in the 3 o’clock plaza
  • Arctica in the Center Camp Inner Circle
  • Ice-9 in the 9 o’clock plaza
  • Hours of Operation:
  • Monday – Saturday 9:00a – 6:00p
  • Sunday after the Burn 12:00p – 6:00p
  • Labor Day Monday @ Arctica only 9:00a – 12:00 noon
  • Please note: There will be no ice sales at the 3 or 9 o’clock plazas on Labor Day Monday!

Prices: All Ice Sales locations have 7lb bags of crushed ice and 10lb bags of block ice. The price for individual bags is $3 each. Six-packs of 7lb bags of crushed ice will be available for $15 – buy 5 and get the 6th bag free! Proceeds from ice sales go to help the local Nevada communities.

Dry Ice

  • Guidelines
  • Remember first & formost that touching DI with bare hands can cause burns & serious discomfort. Use Gloves!
  • Anything in your cooler that is right next to the DI will become frozen solid
  • In my experience, DI melts at about the same rate as ice, maybe a bit slower.
  • Just like ice, if you use it to get items colder, that transfer of energy will melt it; Use it to keep frozen from warming up.

Where to Obtain

  • Dedicated Dry Ice Sales
  • Airgas – 6438 Martin Luther King Jr Blv, Sacramento – (916) 428-4700 – MAP
  • Praxair – 3100 Power Inn Road, Sacramento – (916) 452-1261 – MAP
  • Crystal Ice & Oil – 1345 West 4th Street, Reno – (775) 323-5145 – MAP
  • Airgas – 1545 Industrial Way, Sparks – (775) 358-2260 – MAP
  • Supermarkets
  • Safeway – 5150 Mae Anne Avenue, Reno, NV – (775) 746-9000 – MAP
  • Raley’s – 1630 Robb Drive, Reno, NV – (775) 746-6400 – MAP
  • Raley’s – 4047 South Virginia Street, Reno, NV – (775) 825-2151

For most, the DI sold by larger supermarket chains will be enough. They come in blocks roughly the size/shape of a large textbook.

Optimal Setup would be the same as above Organization, but first: line bottom of cooler with 2-3 in of DI. This keeps both the frozen water corners and the ice frozen longer. The layer of ice cubes should prevent the goods in the shoebox(es) from freezing solid.


What’s In My Bag

Get the proper bag

Camelback or similar brand of hydration pack.

  • Anything else means you’re carrying a bottle. With as much & as frequently as you’ll be drinking, this will quickly become a pain.
  • A bare-bones hydration pack with JUST the bladder is good; one with additional pockets & zipper compartments is very good (assumed in all below). More space the better; read below
  • A 70oz bladder is minimal size, for all, regardless. You’ll refill it daily. A 100oz is best to lessen refilling. Note: A scoop or 3 (or more) of powdered gatorade mixed in with a full fill helps the body replace electrolites without being too strong tasting

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Contents

What you bring with you out onto the playa for your adventures, be they either day or night a or blend of both, is a critical set of decisions. You need to weigh – literally – what you feel you’re going to need. At very least, you’re going to need at the very least a pack that will keep your arms & hands free, as well as large enough to carry some of the essential items listed below. You’re just going to have to field test yourself and your bag.

  • Cup or Mug – Bartenders almost always pour stronger when you provide your own vessel. With handle so you can clasp it to the pack when not in use.
  • Extra goggles – These are in addition to those you’ve got on your face
  • Extra dust masks – Again, additionals to your primaries.
  • Lights – Anything: blinkies, headlamps, etc. You have no idea how long you’ll be out and if you’re out after dark, you’ll want these
  • Clothing layers – See Lights, above. If you cant make it back home after dark to change, you’ll be happy to have a layer or two extra.
  • Identification – Or a photocopy thereof. You WANT the bartenders to be responsible and card you, right?
  • Lip care – I have a tube of soft vaseline intensive care AND a stick of chapstick.
  • Sunscreen
  • Eye-Care – Spare contact lenses + case, saline solution, eyeglasses in case both above fail
  • Baby wipes – Try to find the smaller travel sized boxes. A Costco brand brick with 1/2 to 1/3 left compresses nice
  • Q-Tips
  • Snacks – PowerBars or granola bars. Baggies of crunchies. Oranges. Beef jerky
  • Paper – Clean ruled paper for journaling, note taking, leaving notes, etc. A few loose sheets will do, but a bound composition book is better. Clean blank sheets (for sketching)
  • Writing utensils – Personal preferences trump here. I like having both pencils as well as pall-point pens as well as sharpies. See below.
  • Pencils – Perhaps better for sketching. If you bring wooden pencils, dont forget your sharpener. I will be trying mechanical pencils this year (use softer leads (HB and up) as the arid climate makes hard leads too hard)
  • Ballpoint pens – Handy to loan to others, wont smudge like pencils
  • Sharpies – For writing on structures like the Temple
  • Extra carabiners
  • Lighter/matches
  • Make-up + compact
  • Condoms
  • Camera + Gear – Lens cleaning, Memory card(s), Charger. For all camera-related gear, it is best that they’re all in their own nested bag. GorillaPod, mini-tripod. Consider nametags: Each year, dozens of cameras are lost and returned to owners. nametags make this easier
  • Tools – Pen knife, Zip-ties (for bike repair), Wrench or multi-tool for bike
  • Cash (for coffee)
  • Map – Handed out by greeters, this names & locates all art installations
  • Bike Gloves
  • Hair ties – Even if you have short hair, they’re great gifts to those without
  • Zip-Lock baggies – For trash you create (above) or MOOP you encounter
  • Toilet Paper – Or personal size kleenex. If its your time, and the freight train is coming, it might not coincide with when the nearest porta-potties were last cleaned/stocked

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