Skysquid’s Tips

Thanks to Burner Skysquid, firstly for hosting and facilitating so many amazing Burning Man art projects like those from Peter Hudson and Marco Cochrane in his Treasure Island warehouses; and also for this excellent selection of tips for Burners. Some good stuff in here, even for veterans. Burgins should watch this video also:

BurningMan2008ICenterCampNapI often get asked about tips and tricks how to make turn your burning man experience up to 11.  So here is my simple stream of conscious first pass of “Skysquid’s Tips and Tricks Guide to a more pleasurable Burning Man Experience”.  In essence, most of these tips and tricks are about reducing suffering to allow more space for pleasure.  This tip guide is aimed towards fresher faces on the scene.  But even if you are an old hat at this game, it wouldn’t hurt to give it a quick scan and add your favorite tips as part of the thread.  Collectively, we can make something that can have value for others.

Some top tips:

1) Bring ear plugs and a good eyeshade.
2) Try to go to bed clean.
3) Bring extra lip balm, and over use it.
4) Make your camelback you best buddy
6) Wear glow at night
7) Bring or arrange for a bike

1) Bring ear plugs and a good eyeshade (the kind that doesn’t touch your eyelids).  Self explanatory

2) Go to bed clean.  If you can shower inside, great.  If showering outside, shower before sunset (it gets much cooler without the sun on you) then sponge/wet towel off before going to bed.  One of the biggest pains at Burning Man is getting your RV’s waste tanks pumped.  It can be a very unexacting art to get it done in the timeframe that is ideal.  The number one reason for needing to be pumped is a full grey water tank because of non-efficient showering.   My recommendation is to shower while standing inside a dishpan (the small rectangular plastic tub that fits in your sink) and turning off the water between steps.  Here’s how you do it.

In the shower, stand in a dishpan (with a washcloth in it)
Fully rinse and have the water run off into the bucket. Turn off the water.  Saturate the wash cloth with the less-than-perfect run off water in the bottom of the dishpan, and wipe off the top layer of dust and grime from your entire body, often recharging the washcloth with the bucket water.  (It will seem gross but it gets better.) Then rinse off this layer with the run off from hair washing.  Make sure you turn off the water between each step.  Hit your pits now.  Give a final rinse.  If you do this right, the dishpan will be 1/2 to 3/4 full.  Let the water sit overnight if possible and the dusty dirt settles to the bottom.  Rather than letting this water own your drain and thus filling up your tank, you can distribute this water outside of your rv/trailer out on the playa by “broadcasting” the water around by  swinging water around in an arc.  It will evaporate quickly.  The goal is to never fill up the gray water tank before the black water tank.  (On that note, if easy, pee away the RV wherever possible—see peeing tips towards the bottom of this guide).   Bonus tip:  once you connect with the RV servicing guy, offer him food and sneak him an unopened cold beer; (I’ve never seen a woman do this yet).

3) Bring extra lip balm, use it.    Cracked lips with loads of dust don’t mix well.  Bring extra because you will most likely lose it or to to share.  For super extra style points, tape your cap stick on a string (or beads) around your neck—not only will it be harder to lose, you look like a pro.   Bonus tip:  Extend the lip balm slightly from the tube and stick it in your nose.  Yep, that’s right.  Then wipe off the stick. Alternatively, you can schemer some on your finger and then stick it up your nose.  As gross as it sounds, it really helps.

4) Use a camelback.  You drink far more fluids when wearing a camelback.  People theorize it is the oral fixation action.  I like it.  A squeeze of lime juice always makes it fresher.  Further, you can add a bit of tequila or pisco or even diluted mixed drinks (with ice) for that night out on the town.  (For you types that try to reduce the chances of picking up a bug from others’ contagious lips, I often carry a small bottle of water for those inevitable encounters when people ask for a sip from the nipple.)  When placing your camelback on the ground, make sure the nipple doesn’t hit the dirt.

Besides carrying precious fluids, the camelback is a great carrier for your dust mask, goggles, chap stick and glowy thing at night.   Bonus tip:  buy a camelback with a widemouth filling bladder for easier filling.  Bonus bonus tip:  Tag your camelback with your name and camp location.  People will return a lost bag if they know where to find you.

5) Wear glow at night.  Bring some sort of section of EL (electroluminescent) wire, glow stick/ rope or other blinky thing and wear it at night.  It’s best to be visible from the front and back.  This way people on bikes and in artcars can see your trajectory on the open playa and can avoid running into you.  This is especially helpful when the dust is up.  Also, having glow will prevent the never-ending chastisement from people yelling at you to “get some glow”.  Bonus tip, put your glow up high—get something lightweight like a plant supporting piece of bamboo and put your glow on top.  Also, think of a incorporating a distinctive pattern for your glow, like to bundling two reds and a blue glowsticks together—and buy accordingly.  That way your friends can easily find you in the throngs at night.  (All this might seem like overkill, but when you’ve lost your friend(s) or they’ve lost you—which is not hard to do) it makes finding each other easier.

6) Bring a bike.  Make sure to style it up.  Also tag and lock it.

Xander Shepherd and Cole Purdy, grey sweater, sleep at the base where The Man was burned during the Burning Man 2011 "Rites of Passage" arts and music festival in the Black Rock desert of NevadaComfort Tips:



Bring dust masks.

Force feed yourself (and others).  You won’t be hungry often.  Force yourself to eat regularly regardless of whether you are hungry.  Your body needs it.

Bring clear-lensed glasses for nighttime travel.  I always wear clearish glasses at night.  Keeps the dust out and looks pro.  http://tinyurl/nightglasses . Bonus tip:  Wear yellow lenses if being around blacklights (it cuts out the UV rays).

Bedding.  If you go to bed clean, your bedding lasts much longer.  Bedding gets dirtier on the playa much faster than at home.

Top sheet.  Bring a large top sheet and leave it on your bed during the day.   Remove the sure-to-get-dusty-during-the-day top sheet at night for a dust free bed.

truth and beauty 2013(The following is usually only applicable if you are on the playa for more than 5 or 6 days).

Vinegar:  The playa (ancient fish poo) is massively alkaline.  Vinegar is very acid.  They cancel each other out.  Make a little foot bath with diluted vinegar at night, you will be amazed.  It’s an amazing quick fix for crusty dry hands.  Bring an extra small bottle and share the love.

Bring work gloves.  You are more inclined to participate when you can protect your hands.  Bonus tip:  I often overload up my hands with hand lotion before putting on my gloves.  Yum!

Latex gloves at night.  If you like pampered hands (or repair damaged hands) load up your hands with lotion and put on latex gloves.  (You will need help doing this).

Wear socks.  Cover your feet with boots or shoes.  Wear socks.  Cracky feet suck.

Resist FOMS.  (Fear Of Missing Something).  It is impossible to see everything.  You will always be missing something, and it is ok.  Make sure to leave room for randomness.

Fashion Tips:

Don’t wear stilettos.  Go chunky heels.

Pre plan outfits.  While I don’t do this, some pros even pre plan their outfits in day-coded zip lock bags.  Obsessively wonderful and makes getting ready easier, especially when distracted.

Pre-coordinate color-themed days with your friends.   (Wear all white on Thursday or red on Friday, etc.)  It’s fun and builds good group cohesion.

Avoid pimp-style and “french maid” costumes.  Screams newbie.

Avoid cheap quality fake fur, don’t bring feather boas.

If you wear bunny ears, you may be captured by BRC Animal Control.  Seriously.

truth and beautyProfessional Party Tips:

Don’t peak early.  Many first timers start strong early in the week and are tuckered out right when the going gets good. Have discipline and subdue your desires earlier in the week so you can have some reserve for the big weekend crescendo.

Sleeping pills.  Bring a small stash of non-Ambien sleeping pills.  It can be a lifesaver.

Disco nap.  If you plan on staying up late or even be on dawn patrol, take a disco nap during the day.

Have a meet up plan in case you get separated.  Suggest to meet and a designated (which is easily findable and rememberable) spot on the top and bottom of the hour for example.  That way you can still have a good time and know that you can rejoin your peeps shortly.   tip: don’t make the meet up spot an object that might move away, like an art car.

A super pro move is to be fully ready to go out before heavily partaking (if you are into that sort of thing, which I’m not) in your camp/rv/text/hut/etc.  Resist the temptation to do so untill you are fully ready to roll.  It’s comical how much  l o n g e r  it takes to get out the door when even the least bit inebriated.  Seriously.  Otherwise, you risk the dreaded “RV suck”.

If high, MAKE NO LONG TERM PLANS…repeat….MAKE NO LONG TERM PLANS.—involving relationships / other people.  Seriously.

Watch out for the PoPo.  Do not consume anything illegal in public.  Never.  Not worth it.  Go inside a tent, RV or somewhere.   Do not give anything illegal to anyone.  And if you must do, not do so to anyone you do not know.  Read:  Remember, this is Federal Land.

Style Points:

Bring extra lighters.

Bring goggles.

Bring led xmas lights.  A couple of strings of xmas lights (leds are best)  and a staple gun can totally change the feel of an RV/yurt/hut at night.

Lock your bike, everywhere.  Seriously.  A favorite bike “losing” area is in front of the porta potties.  Most bikes aren’t really stolen but borrowed by people who are high.   Bonus tip:  get a lock with settable letter combination.  It’s easier to remember your code and share your bike that way.

Wander the side streets.


Volunteer for a Greeter shift at the front gate or help art project.  You can ask people working on a project if the need help or go at the Artery.  (Be prepared with water, hat, sunscreen and work gloves.)

Take a playa name.  Some people think it’s stupid.  Some love them.  Having one helps anonymity if so desired.  (If you need one, let me know, I’ve got a great playa-naming trackrecord.)

The deep playa late night can be very cold.  Be very prepared.  If staying out late, you will most likely be on the open playa from time to time.  After 2 AM, it’s really easy to lose your body heat to the cold night sky when not well covered.  Warm coats / hats / scarves / wraps are winners.

Check out the trash fence at sunrise.  Besides seeing an often awe-inspiring sunrise, you can find all sorts of fun and strange and interesting things in the trash fence.  The wind blows all sorts of fun stuff into the fence during the night.  (For those who like to make out at sunrise, bring a small tent out to the fence).

Learn your landmarks *before* the burn.  Learn your landmarks *before* the burn.  Learn your landmarks *before* the burn.  Once the man burns people are often very disoriented.  Find big lit (non moving) objects to key off of days before the burn.  (The flags at Center Camp are a favorite.)   Bonus tip: remember the lamplighter lights run between 6-12 and 2-9.

No “spot erosion studies”.  When peeing or pouring out any water, don’t focus the beam in a single spot.  Spread it around since making spots makes mud.  For male folks, while peeing, try walking backwards while making big side to side sweeping motions.  For women folk, try hopping around one planted foot—it’s nearly impossible but fun to try once.

Gift, don’t barter.  Bring, carry and give gifts.  (Chapstick on a rope is da bomb)

Use the power of the fire ritual.  It’s different for many people and make it your own.   I usually bring something to burn that symbolizes something I want to banish from my life and toss it in the fire during the man burn.  I bring something the represents the attributes / things I am pulling towards myself (and myself towards) for burning in the more feminine energy temple burn.   (That’s just one way.  The Temple is a great way to say good by to your lost ones.)  Go to the Temple early in the week.

Many people have an intention for their experience. While not necessary, it is sometimes strangely helpful and enlightening.

Give without expectations.

Expect everything and nothing simultaneously.

Prepare, and enjoy!

Timothy “SkySquid” Childs


P.S.  A number of people said these where game changers and I will be trying them this year:


[Update 8/19/13 4:05pm] This post has stirred up some controversy, see the comments, because it’s against the rules to piss on the Playa. If you’ve got to go, Burning Man rules state that you must piss your pants instead, thus saving the precious desert that is underwater for several months every year. Just make sure your wet pants don’t drip!

Presumably these anti-pissers are city dwellers. For those of us who grew up in the country, it’s quite natural to take a leak outside in Nature. Perhaps even more natural than holding your breath in a port-a-potty with no running water or toilet paper (because BMOrg’s budget somehow isn’t ever quite enough to ensure an adequate supply of those).

Burners.Me is not a piss promoter, so suck it up! Everywhere you go, bring pee funnels and spare jugs. Perhaps wear them on a bandolier, since you can’t place them down on the ground (that would be MOOP) Piss jugs, the new fashion of Cargo Cult…piss, but don’t miss!

23 comments on “Skysquid’s Tips

  1. Wow, what do you do when you have to pee in real life? I bet you have some great advice there: “If you’re at work, of course try to go in the restroom, but if you can’t be bothered make sure you don’t pee in your boss’s office!”

    Also, make sure you take your trash out with you too.. unless you don’t feel like it, of course, in which case you should just dump it on the ground. I mean, don’t let Burning Man’s stupid rules get you down! It’s burning man! Just have fun! In fact try to spread your trash out as much as possible so it’s not all in one place.. personally I just toss it out the window as I drive around the Playa…

    I love how you act like it’s “OMG THE BIGGEST INCONVENIENCE EVER” to go in the portas that are a max 10 minute bike ride away from EVERYWHERE. Laaaazy mfs.

  2. Where does:

    “No “spot erosion studies”. When peeing or pouring out any water, don’t focus the beam in a single spot. Spread it around since making spots makes mud. For male folks, while peeing, try walking backwards while making big side to side sweeping motions. For women folk, try hopping around one planted foot—it’s nearly impossible but fun to try once.”

    This say it’s a last resort to pee on the playa? Also, that whole bit about showering by spreading out your grey water on the playa? You’re not addressing that point at all. All Katie and I were trying to address is that these things should be last resort. If you can work it out, use a porta, use a pee jug, ship out your grey water. If shit happens, it happens.

    But you’re acting like I’m saying we all have to be “model citizens.”

    Stop getting so pissy about this. We were criticizing one point where we though something was wrong. Instead of just saying “yeah sure it should be just in case you can’t reasonably make a better choice” you decided to be a whiny child about this. The post itself isn’t bad. I love a whole lot of the points. But, I went for my first time last year. All the blog posts I saw said to not bring so much food. I ended up nearly starving because I didn’t bring enough because I thought the “playa will provide”

    My camp mates all spared a bit to keep me from getting in trouble.

    That’s the point that we’re making. That a lot of these blog posts can be a little matter of fact about these things and virgins can get into the mindset that they can skirt the 10 principals because they read it in a blog.

    They’re there for a reason. They set a stand for us to live up to. And it creates a “spirit” of the event that really makes it that much better than every other “festival” that is out there.

    We’re just saying a bit of extra contents can work wonders.

    But go on head. Minimize and whine. We totally were personally attacking you when we originally posted.

    TL;DR. The whole “controversy” was because there was no disclaimer about peeing on the playa. Do it if you can’t make it to a porta. But, if it’s there and you can hold it for a couple minutes, then wait. No “dispersing” is worth it if there’s a better option.

    • I love getting lectured on what I can and can’t say about Burning Man, from someone who’s only been there once before. Fuck yer day! Write your own disclaimers dude. This whole blog should come with one big disclaimer “WE ARE NOT THE OFFICIAL STATEMENTS OF BURNING MAN”…in fact, I think if you click “ABOUT” on our site you can read that.

      • Yup, keep on not addressing the points. Just make personal statements. Keep going on bud. Have your fun. Have a great burn.

        You’re totally not wrong about anything.

      • Speaking as someone who will be 17 burns old this year, you have a terrible attitude about this. You are wrong to advocate pissing on the playa. Yes, it happens, but we should all strive to minimize it. I’ve stepped in those puddles many times and it’s always icky. But that’s not the real offensive bit here- it’s your attitude about gray water. If you aren’t taking it home, you’re a bunch of assholes. It’s full of the little shit that cleanup has to spend weeks or months trying to gather so the event remains in good standing with the BLM. If you dump it on the playa, you’re helping to shorten the lifespan of the event. Thanks tons.

  3. The Playa is hundreds of millions of years old. Every year, it is completely covered in water. Wee-wee isn’t going to hurt something that is thousands of times older than human civilization. I mean, dinosaurs used to piss on it, and it’s still here for us to enjoy.
    People pee on the Playa, just like people drive faster than 5 MPH and wear outfits with feathers. And not just one or two people. I would say most Burners with 3+ burns under their belt have done this at some point, usually due to biological necessity rather than disrespect for the Ten Principles (although it is highly arguable that #1’s leave a trace detectable by the BLM). If you flop it out and get snapped by LEO’s, well, don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.
    Last time I checked, this was and not . They have to promote “the rules”, we can tell it like it is for the people who actually go to the event. If you do have to pee on the Playa, following Skysquid’s suggestions probably makes things better for everyone.

    • yeah we went over 5 mph last year and ended up with a broken leg. awesome advice. I sure hope you volunteer for cleanup…look I get the gist of what you’re saying, but some community standards exist for a reason. I will be pregnant out there, and when I go out to the deep playa, I will bring a pee funnel and jug on our little trailer cause I’m gonna have to pee a lot. there are ways to do it right that don’t impede on having fun.

    • The point isn’t that we’re “going to hurt the playa.”

      The permits the BORG gets are very dependent on the condition the playa is left each year. Sure they got the 4 year permit this year. But, if there exponentially more pee stains out on the playa this year, this could roll back the BORG’s ability to raise the pop cap and make for long term plans on the playa.

      Sure sometimes, these things happen and you don’t have another choice. But, Katie’s point is that the article seems to encourage peeing on the playa. Which doesn’t sit well with people.

      Also, the idea of dumping grey water out there is just stupid. Don’t shower if you can’t manage to handle the waste responsibly.

      • if people piss on the Playa, it won’t be because we published Skysquid’s tips for how to make the best of Burning Man. It will be because people have pissed on the Playa since Burning Man began, and even before; if you’re in deep playa and there are no portapotties nearby, what are you going to do? Take a pee funnel and jug everywhere you go, like Katie? What happens if you spill some of the pee, and not all of it goes i the jug?
        I can see piss jugs flying everywhere off bicycles when they hit playa serpents. Piss-stinking dance floors, where everyone is dancing around their piss jugs and pee funnels.

        People need to take responsibility for their own actions, and not just blame Burners.Me for everything. That is what radical self reliance is all about, surely?

        In terms of your comments about losing the permit because there are too many pee stains, well that seems to be exactly what this post was suggesting – sprinkle it around, don’t make soggy deposits. He’s not saying “EVERYONE GO PISS ON THE PLAYA!”. He’s saying, if you have to do it, this is a better way for everyone concerned.

  4. omg…peeing on the playa?? sure it happens occasionally, but holy crap, let’s not put it on a recommendation list for all to read. I’m pretty sure BLM will ticket you if caught in the act and they do use night vision stuff. also i would say ditch the paper dust masks for bandanas or other cloth varieties. they are so moopy. Everything else seems spot on.

    • Based on your update, you’d rather get defensive than actually read the comments. No one said that “you must piss your pants.” Just that peeing on the playa should be used as a last resort. All those portas you’re complaining about are there for a reason. And, there’s a reason why these rules are set up. It’s to set a specific standard for people to live up to. If we blatantly disregard it, then why should we care so much about other forms of MOOP?

      • If you’re saying its ok to piss on the Playa as a last resort, then what’s your point? This is what the original post is saying too. If you’ve gotta go, spread it around, don’t make a puddle. It’s really not that big of a deal.

    • That post wasn’t meant for you. But, rather, the poster of this article. Keep up to good work Katie. This guy is going to whine and fly off the handle despite any reasonable point you’re trying to make. But, you’re making some good counter-points for virgins who come by this article and get convinced that it’s okay to piss and dump grey water on the playa all willy nilly.

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