Preparing for Burning Man, Food 101: Tips, Recipes, and Resourcesfeatured

SpamTanic by Karen Weir (Burning Man 2012)

SpamTanic by Karen Weir (Burning Man 2012); Photo credit: Wendy Goodfriend

I survived my virgin burn last year and I’m going back for more.

In a few short days, I’ll be pulling on my tutu and heading into the dusty playground that is Burning Man. As others in my camp focus on things like acquiring lasers, remodeling art cars, and learning how to solder el-wire, I’m sticking to what I know: Food.

I’m prepping meals for me plus 20 this year and thought it would be helpful to share some lessons learned from last year’s experience, along with some great tips I’ve come across in my own research of what to eat at Burning Man.

In general, last year’s Tips on Preparing Food for Burning Man hold true — although I did find that buying my coffee at Center Camp was much more preferable to dealing with cleaning out my French press, and forget the sparkle shoes, everything gets coated with dust anyway and glitter is a big MOOPy (Matter Out Of Place) no-no. Here’s an updated list:

  1. Ziplocks are still your best friend. We used big 2-gallon ones to portion out the ice from our daily ice run. When the ice melted, we had cold refreshing water ready to drink. (Bonus packing tip: organize your outfits with accompanying accessories into big Ziplock bags to minimize mess and chaos when you’re digging through all your stuff to find that gold lamé g-string you know you packed.)
  2. Cooler management is key. Label your cooler with contents, make a cooler map, do whatever you need to do to minimize unnecessary opening and closing. Investing in some dry ice is a good idea. Wrap the dry ice in a towel to give it little extra insulation. We found that a good system is to keep your dry ice cooler as your freezer and use a second cooler as your thaw-out cooler. Transfer your meals for the day into the thaw-out cooler in the morning and by evening they’ll be ready for fast re-heating.
  3. Not all coolers are created equal. Here’s a high-end cooler test that does a good cross comparison of a few major brands. Or get crafty and MacGyver yourself a better cooler.
  4. Coconut Oil is amazing. It is great to cook with, won’t spoil, and works wonders on tangled rat’s nest playa hair. (Bonus beauty tip: if you have long flowing locks, braid it or risk leaving Burning Man with one massive dreadlock that used to be your hair.)
  5. Prep as much as possible in advance. You’re not going to want to worry about cooking or cleaning, so do yourself the favor of doing as much of that ahead of time as you can. Things are much easier in your home kitchen where you don’t have to worry about things like grey water and dust in everything. Make a few freezer-friendly meals, portion them out, air-tight seal them, and freeze them. That way all you’ll have to do is thaw, reheat and eat. Your future burner self will thank you.
  6. You won’t eat as much as you think you will. With all the heat, you’re just not as hungry. You will also inevitably be gifted a meal or two. So don’t stress about planning out every single meal.
  7. Hydrate. Duh. The Burning Man Survival Guide recommends you bring 1.5 gallons of water per person per day for drinking, washing, and cooking.
Steph Hua, cooking for Burning Man // @lickmyspoon

Cooking for our camp’s Bayou Ball fundraiser

Here are some favorites from my Burning Man Meal Plan:



  • Frozen grapes
  • Frozen cooked shrimp with cocktail sauce (all you have to do is thaw and serve)
  • Beef jerky
  • Pre-sliced salami
  • Laughing Cow cheese
  • Dried fruit or fruit leather
  • Miso soup
  • Pre-cooked bacon – just heat and serve, and you won’t have to worry about discarding a ton of grease
  • Unicorn Crack
  • Banana Boats

What are some of your favorite things to eat at Burning Man? Or favorite camping meals?

For those who have never been to Burning Man, I’ll leave you with this stunning time lapse video from last year’s burn, so that you can perhaps catch a glimmer of the glow that draws tens of thousands of people back year after year. For those who know what I mean, get ready to go home.

Timelapse-icus Maximus 2012 “A Burning Man for Ants” Tilt-Shift Time-lapse by James Cole, Byron Mason & Jason Phipps from Cinematic Digital Media on Vimeo.

This post was published on KQED’s Bay Area Bites on August 14, 2013.

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