BURNING MAN: The Ultimate Dust Survival Guide

BURNING MAN: The Ultimate Dust Storm Survival Guide

At Cambridge Mask we are always searching for new insights about air quality around the world. This week we take a look at the Burning Man Festival, which takes August 27 – September 4, 2017 in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada.

Dust storms occur daily with little warning. We teamed up with Max Longstone, a long time Burner and writer to put together a survival guide for anyone heading out to Burning Man this year.

It all started with a dog, a broken heart and a truckload of dubious narcotics.

Somewhere along the lines the fido got canned, and the festival jumped on a tricked-out jalopy, said farewell to peaceful and comfortable San Francisco and headed out to UFO highway - a desolated paradise, now home to the world’s most inhospitable festival.

Burning Man is where everyone from bankers to off the grid hippies and everything in between unite for one of the most unique festivals in the world. Without warning the winds can quickly build and the fine alkali dust sweeps through the city. Max sums up the experience: “all hell breaks loose; the desert finally decides to take back the land and swipe it clean of the madness. The sand storm barrels towards you. You stare blankly at the incoming Apocalypse, marvelling at the fact that you have just stepped into a Mad Max Movie.”

Medusa at Burning Man Medusa at Burning Man, Image Courtesy of http://www.nationalgeographic.com.au/travel/these-photos-prove-how-wild-burning-man-really-is.aspx

What you can expect at Burning Man

Burning man attracts over 60,000 people each year. As Max puts it “One minute the desert is completely vacant, then for over a week a makeshift city springs to life. A gigantic improvised metropolis. A big theme around festival is to be involved as a member of the burner the community. Burning Man considers itself a potlatch. Burners are encouraged to take care of one another and contribute and create the feast. It is important to come prepared and not too dependent on others for your wellbeing.

Dust storms at Burning Man are common yet unexpected, they like to surprise the Burners. Alkali dust is Burning Man’s farewell gift to its newbies; it’s the rash and harried cough that chases you like your own personal ghost long after the festivities have ended.

If you see a dust storm barreling down and decide to hunker down in your trailer until it passes you’re are committing a cardinal sin. In the middle of these would-be tornadoes, armageddon plowing through the field, is where and when some of the most fantastic, bizarre and incredible things happen in the festival. If you’re hiding under your bed in your RV, then you are missing that magical moment when the wheels come off the car, and instead of flopping to the ground dead, it soars into the sky.

Burning-man-Cambridge Mask

Your Survival Kit


  • Sun Protection - Anything to keep the rays off your skin. It is important to apply sunscreen everyday. Good options include umbrellas, sunscreen, sunglasses, wide-brim hats, even a Cambridge Mask to cover your face.
  • Water - Wherever your are we always recommend you stay hydrated. We recommend taking more water than necessary. Max recommends 1.5 litres per day.
  • Moisturiser, lip balm and earplugs - Look after any exposed skin.
  • Goggles - to protect eyes during dust storms
  • First aid kit - Hopefully you don’t need to use it, but it may be useful.
  • A quality mask - Okay, we were always going to recommend this. A good looking mask with filters tested to 0.3 microns. Cotton masks will remove the very big particles but the fine dust will still get through. If you are in a hurry you can buy a Cambridge Mask from Amazon stores around the world, visit cambridgemask.com.
Burning Man Image Courtesy of https://stuckincustoms.smugmug.com/Burning-Man/i-7v7tcHn


  • Portable shower with a drain system to collect and manage greywater.
  • Tent - Max recommends you ransack your local sports department store and double up on everything. Don’t forget extra long tent poles for the loose desert sand.
  • Cooking stove - Goes without saying, every Burner needs food. Bring your stove, cooking implements and food: The nearest Walgreens is a two-hour drive away! If you are going for a week, tortilla wraps, rice and veggies can go a long way.

Useful Bits and bobs

  • Duct tape, rope and tie-down straps - Fixes anything.
  • Bike - Red Rock desert is a hostile environment, it doesn’t want you there and will do everything within its power to get in your way. A bike makes moving around the site a lot easier. Remember to bring the bike lock and a plate stating address, playa address, mail and phone info. Repair kits with double contingency. Lights for night time strolling.
  • Protective dry bags for your phone and other technology which could fall victim to the dust.
  • Hot and cold clothing - The desert temperature varies from hot in the day to cold at night. Bring suitable clothing for both of these extremes.
  • Flashlight - Very useful at night.

Top Tips

  • Listen to BMIR radio and stay informed or download BURNER apps and find out what's happening around the playa.

Whether you are planning to go to Burning Man this year or sometime in the future. We hope you found this article useful and hope you have a great experience at one of the world’s most diverse festivals. If you have any questions or feedback please let us know your thoughts at info@cambridgemask.com.

Burning Man Vita Kamliuk of Russia poses for a photo during Burning Man at the Black Rock Desert north of Reno, Nev, Image Courtesy of www.time.com, http://time.com/money/4867493/burning-man-how-much-it-costs/