10 Gifts to Give at Burning Man

One of my favorite aspects of burner culture is the gifting. Burning Man has what’s known as a gift economy, not a barter nor trade economy. That means you give without expecting anything in return. Humans are wired to give and it feels so good to both give and receive, so your Burn will be enhanced by bringing thoughtful gifts.

But don’t know what to give? Here’s 10 ideas:

1. Food & Drink

There are lots of camps who give out food and even more that give out booze, but even if you aren’t in a food camp, it feels good to feed and hydrate burners.

One of my favorite Burning Man moments & gifts was being given an ice cream cone in the deep playa on a sweltering hot day. That gift required some logistics (and a ton of dry ice) but many other consumable gifts require far less. Popular food gifts (due to their low cost & ease of making) include: grilled cheese/ quesadillas, hot dogs, pancakes/ waffles, popsicles, and fruit. Popular beverage gifts include: booze, coffee, lemonade, and more booze.

2. Dust Protection

Black Rock Desert is a harsh environment which many people come unprepared for. Dust masks and bandanas are useful (and sinus-saving) gifts. Make them memorable by printing them with your art or message. Or hand-make them from upcycled fabrics.

3. LED Lights

It’s dark at night and being seen by art cars and other burners is essential. Consider gifting wearable LEDs to those who aren’t well illuminated. Glow sticks are cheap but they are pretty toxic to the environment (LEDs aren’t great either, but they hopefully last longer than one night)

4. Handmade Jewelry

One of the most common gifts are necklaces and bracelets. Giving jewelry is more than a token of a connection, but a bit of the playa you can wear back in the “default world”. Some people give out small vials or urn jewelry filled with playa dust, so you can literally wear the playa after the burn.

5. Your Art

Even if you aren’t creating large scale art, your creative expression is still a gift. Print your art on postcards, temporary tattoos, stickers, and decals to give away.

6. Survival Kits/Items

Chapstick, bandaids, tampons, condoms, sunscreen, earplugs, mouthwash, mints are all very useful as a kit or on their own. I’ve received a survival kit in a customized Altoids tin, and one that fit a surprising amount of helpful things into an old film canister.

7. Customized Lighters

I still have a couple of gifted lighters that remind me of Burning Man every time I light a candle. And people who use camp stoves and smokers will be extra grateful for this gift.

8. Sunglasses

Sunrises often catches you unprepared, especially if you only intend to go out for a couple hours and end up dancing until dawn, which has happened to me a few times. The last burn, sunrise came and I was deep playa without sunglasses, and someone gifted me a pair, which kept the perfect morning from getting harsh. And those sunglasses have gotten a lot of wear since the burn too.

9. Journals & Pens

Journalling at the burn is a powerful practice and giving journals and pens are great gifts. I’ve been given a few over the years, and I love notebooks that are small enough to fit into my fanny pack so I can jot down ideas, inspiration, moments I want to remember, and new contacts.

Sharpie pens are also a good gift, especially at the temple which gets covered in handwritten messages before it burns

10. Aromatherapy

Fortunately, the alkaline playa dust neutralizes many smells, but nothing can completely neutralize a portapotty. Consider gifting small vials of your own aromatherapy blend. Or, gift small spray bottles of rose water and peppermint to mist on hot, dusty skin. One 110° day, I was given a cold towel with peppermint oil that felt like heaven, and the giver took the used towel so I didn’t have to carry around afterwards. That happened eight years ago, and I’m still grateful for it.

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