Food And Cooking

If you have the ambition and can figure out the logistics you can eat like a king on the playa. If you are less ambitious or are flying in the logistics are much more difficult and a minimalist approach might be more suitable. And anything in between. Rather than tell you what to eat or how to cook it, I have made some notes of things you should take into consideration when planning your meals for the week.


The vast majority of people I've spoken to have a greatly reduced appetite on the playa. Keep in mind that you are consuming an awful lot of water which tends to make you feel bloated. Personally my appetite is almost non existent on the playa. Most of the year I consume between four and eight thousand calories a day. On the playa it is at most 10% of that, and I have to force myself to eat even that much. I lose about 15 - 20 pounds during the week and it takes several months for my appetite to return to normal. My son's appetite is reduced but far less than mine. Your mileage may vary so I suggest that you bring as much as you normally eat, but don't be surprised at how much is left at the end of the week.


If you plan to cook, it will require a lot of stuff. Stove, barbeque, pots, pans, utensils, dishwashing, cutting board, and so forth. Further, you will need a strategy to keep your fresh foods usable and your frozen foods frozen. Finally you will need a strategy to deal with all the gray water and smelly food garbage.

Mesh Bag

Many camps place food scraps that would otherwise rot and stink into a mesh bag and hang it up to dry out before putting it in the trash. This is particularly good for vegetable and fruit scraps.

Minimize Gray Water

Although most of us love pasta, cooking it generates a lot of gray water. Generally rice is a better option as it absorbs the cooking water. Using a pump spray for dishwashing also minimizes the water used. Every little bit helps.


Obviously coolers are an essential part of food storage at the burn. You need good ones like the extreme ones they sell. If you plan to keep stuff frozen you will need one containing dry ice and one to just refrigerate in. Note: Avoid styrofoam coolers - they are a moop disaster waiting to happen. Coolers should be kept in a shady spot and up off the ground (set it atop wood blocks). It is also a good idea to cover the cooler with a heavy quilt or moving blanket if possible.


My personal favorite approach since I usually find cooking too much effort on the playa - especially since I eat so little there. I live out of cans which can be heated up on the vehicle's dashboard (I wasn't joking about it being hot on the playa - I don't even bring a stove). This is the way I have always tended to eat when camping. Don't get me wrong - it gets old fast and after a few days you are basically just eating for sustenance, but it makes you appreciate the occasional gift of freshly cooked food so much more.


Your travel arrangements and budget will in large part determine your options for food. If you are driving then multiple coolers, stoves, etc... are much more doable. If you are flying and have a big budget, you could just buy everything you need after getting off the plane. Those of us flying in that are on a tight budget need to lean more towards the minimalist side or join a camp with a meal plan and kitchen facilities.


If you are bringing fresh food, it is essential to have a plan in place to keep it from spoiling. Believe me you do not want to get food poisoning on the playa. Remember that raw meat can contaminate everything in your cooler so be careful with packing it - vacumn sealing is a good option. Personally I just bring non perishable stuff as having to think about food is not my style.

Leftover Food

This is more of an issue if traveling by plane or train. There are several options here: