By: Emmi Buck
So you’re headed to the Black Rock Desert for a week of community, art, music, adventure, fun, hard work, and personal growth – but you haven’t figured out your gift yet? Have no fear! The below list of gift ideas are easy to procure, and tried-and-true crowd favorites on the playa! Have some gift ideas of your own to share? Let us know in the comments!
Whether or not you like pickles, there are TONS of people at Burning Man that LOVE pickles, and pickle juice. The heat at Burning Man can leave you craving pickled goodness (hence why many camps feature this item) because it has nutrients that you need when dehydrated. Some benefits are: relieving muscle cramps, hydration (sodium + potassium), electrolytes, antioxidants (vitamin C + E), and gut health / digestion (vinegar/fermentation).
The majority of the time, people don’t need a trinket, necklace, or sticker… they’d LOVE to connect with you as a person especially while you help out! Keep your work gloves on you, and as you travel Black Rock City, look for people: moving heavy objects, struggling with a task, setting up camp, etc. Seriously, the best and most memorable gift you can give is to practice 7 of the 10 Burning Man principles at once by lending a helping hand. While doing so you’re observing: Radical Inclusion, Gifting, Radical Self Expression, Communal Effort, Civic Responsibility, Participation, and Immediacy. Being a part of others’ experiences at Burning Man is one of the most rewarding things you can do for yourself and those you’re interacting with. Bonus points: carry a charged drill around with you during build days and you’re an instant hero (especially for camps setting up domes)!
Oral care usually isn’t discussed on playa, but I’m here to tell you that it’s crucial! While you sleep (however much or little that is on the playa!), your body processes toxins and some end up in your mouth, creating some nasty morning breath (and stuff you don’t want to re-ingest). Give the amazing gift of taking care of oral bacteria, teeth whitening, bad breath, dry mouth, and so many other oral care needs with an organic mouthwash! I’d guess it’s a 98% increase in chances of getting a playa kiss if you gift and use good oral care products 😉
While sometimes “MOOP-y” these gifts are extremely practical and easily found at many stores. Glow-sticks, glow-rings, glow-in-the-dark makeup, you-name-it; if it glows, it’s a great gift for “darkwads” or people who are out and about after the sun sets without being lit-up. To make your gift more sustainable, shoot for items that can be re-charged or batteries replaced if possible! Prevent bike and art car accidents by being visible at night and educating others on the importance as well. I’m an 8 year veteran and I still very occasionally find myself at sundown not totally equipped for night, so these are great gifts!
Share Your Talents
Whether you’re great at singing, engineering, playing an instrument, bike repair, hula hooping, massage, listening, dancing, painting, language translation – or – honestly anything, share it at Burning Man. That’s by far the most genuine way to both gift and self-express at the same time. I’ll never forget my first time on playa not really having “gifts” and being nervous about bit. However, I was constantly being told various things (knowing I could help make a situation better with a talent, joke, or expertise) were the greatest gift I could give.
Do you live near a beach with a plethora of beautiful shells or beach glass? Perhaps your local trees drop beautiful leaves that you can make bookmarks from? Maybe you have some neat paper-weight worthy rocks you’ve recently dug up in your garden… No matter what you might have access to or excess of, gifts that have a local flare always warm people’s hearts!
Infused Water / Alcohol
This is a really easy and extremely appreciated gift at Burning Man. It’s as simple as getting some water or alcohol (vodka tends to work best, but experimenting with various types and flavors is fun too) and some infusing items. Some fun combos include:
- Cucumber mint water
- Lemon lime water
- Berry water
- Raspberry basil vodka
- Orange clove vodka
- Cinnamon whiskey
Matches / Lighters
I love it when I still see friends carrying the personalized, glow-in-the-dark lighters I made a few years ago for my camp. They always say “it’s one of the best Burning Man gifts I’ve ever received!” Whether you’re lighting a camp stove, candle, palo santo stick, incense, or… *not advised* cigarette, many people at Burning Man would love to ask for a ‘light’ and receive their very own device for lighting things the rest of the burn!
This becomes especially appreciated towards the end of the week+ in the desert. Many have run out of ideal provisions or fresh food, and are too exhausted to cook even if they have it. Offering a weary traveler passing your camp a plate of what you’re cooking, or bringing your extra breakfast burritos to the sunrise Tycho set will earn you legend status points at Burning Man. Even if it’s sharing half your orange at the temple – some of my best gift memories have been a nibble of delicious food when needed most!
A Shoulder To Lean On At The Temple
The temple is a place of very strong emotions. At times you can feel waves of sadness, relief, grieving, longing, remembrance, pain, anger, shock, disbelief, and so much more. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had or heard of others having life changing experiences there. All of them center around one thing: sharing. Whether you open yourself up and leave a note or momento that moves another person into a state of growth, or you comfort or listen to a fellow temple-goer – it’s a great place to gift compassion and empathy. Many people are either experiencing the temple for the first time, or working through a new grief/dilemma there, so be respectful of space and ask consent, but know that many people there would love shoulder to lean on or an ear to just listen.