Sep 1

Tim O'Reilly

Tim O'Reilly

Burning Man Travel Tip

It's probably too late for those of you going this year, but the other day, I heard a novel bit of advice from Christine Herron (to Mark Shuttleworth) about travel to Burning Man: bring a gallon of vinegar. Apparently, the dust in the Black Rock desert is very alkaline, and will dry out and crack your skin badly. Washing yourself down with vinegar protects your skin. (Note: I have never been to Burning Man, so I can't vouch for the tip, but it makes sense to me.)

Meanwhile, in other travel tips ;-), John Gage was just telling me his road-warrior laundry secret: rinse out the plastic hotel trash can, put your clothes in it along with some shampoo, and tread on them with one foot while you take a shower. If needed in the morning, iron your underwear to dry them. I've often washed clothes in the shower but never tried the trash can as wash tub.

tags: life hacks  | comments: 17   | Sphere It

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Comments: 17

  Matthew Sporleder [09.01.06 01:05 PM]

You should read Travels with Charlie in Search of America by John Steinbeck. It talks all about washing clothes in a bucket. (steinbeck uses the natural vibration of his truck for the agitating of the wash)

  Mike Olson [09.01.06 09:28 PM]

Do you think John Gage woke up one day and said to himself, "Hey, let's see how many people I can get to douse themselves with vinegar?"

  Tim O'Reilly [09.02.06 10:31 AM]

Mike -- it wasn't John Gage with the vinegar tip. It was Christine Herron. I wouldn't put it past either of them to have a good laugh like that, but in this case, I know that wasn't the case.

  Adam Williams [09.02.06 10:39 PM]

I think I would rather douse myself with Lemon Juice (Citric Acid) or maybe even mix up some crushed Vitamin C Tablets with water to make an Ascorbic Acid solution, both would smell much better then vinegar, and probably better for you since both have Vitamin C

  Alexis Carlson [09.03.06 04:44 AM]

In case some future first-time burners read this for advice, I would offer some clarifying feedback. I've heard of people doing this, but vinegar tends to be rather pungent. Life on the playa will make you sufficiently pungent that I don't personally think adding an aroma to the bouquet is worth it. In any event, I would only even consider doing this to my feet, and I would wash them with water afterwards. I actually think a better approach would be: wear shoes as much as possible, even if you wear little else; wash your feet every day; and use lotion at least once a day! Good luck :)

  Sean Kelly [09.03.06 07:22 AM]

Especially if, like most people, one is shoeless (inadvisble) or wearing open sandals, the vinagar is a tremendously useful soak for the feet.

Different folks will advise different things regarding using lotion; the vinegar "hardens" the skin of the feet without cracking it. Japanese martial artists have been doing this for centuries (those that don't use "used" saki anyhow). It is also very useful in countering the effects of the alkali soil working its way into the ridges of the skin.

To the list of trunk junk, in addition to the 2 gallons of vinegar per person, I would add a plastic (Rubbermaid style) dish-washing type pan in which to soak the tootsies.

  Christine Herron [09.04.06 04:30 PM]

Just back from the burn...more snippets on the vinegar tip, while it's still fresh:

- Yes, vinegar smells. But since the playa dries out your nasal mucous membranes completely by Day 2, you don't notice it much.

- You don't need to go all-vinegar; the best part of the day is soaking your feet (and hands) in about an inch of cold cooler water (waste not, want not) with a healthy amount of vinegar splashed in. A kitty litter pan is ideal. Rub in some heavy lotion when you're done.

- Ditto for a washcloth rubdown before crawling into your sleeping bag at 4AM; use a vinegar-water mix.

- Don't forget washing clothes, towels, bedrolls, tents, etc. at home post-playa; the dust WILL NOT COME OUT without throwing a cup or so into the washload. This is how I am spending my day today. :O

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  Cat Allman [06.28.07 06:28 PM]

Apple Cider vinegar smells a bit better - and is soothing on sunburn. Give it a try.

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  Simon Hayes [08.29.07 11:01 AM]

Vinegar is absolutely true, some years there are even people giving out free vinegar, and sometimes you can get it in the medical tent.

I find walking on the "soil" (which is so dry you can pour water on it and it takes a few minutes to absorb; just sits on the surface) a pleasant feeling, so a bottle of vinegar is a good thing to have with you, if you go barefoot, otherwise you will be in pain!

I was told by a professional cook that vinegar should be stored in a dark place, and none of mine was, so I just took all my old vinegar and was glad I did.

You can donate anything you don't use to the cleanup team on the way out, they will be extremely grateful.

(Last time I went they loved our chocolate flavored electrolyte juice, which was totally disgusting as far as we were concerned.)

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  Joseph Dunphy [04.06.08 05:54 PM]

The corrosive Playa dust urban legend, again? Tim, this one of the many tall tales to have come out of Burning Man, and an unusually silly one, even by tall tale standards, as one can easily see just by thinking about it for a second.

Playa dust is lightweight enough to rise in thick, largely opaque clouds in seconds. To go out to the Playa and not breathe any of that stuff in is almost impossible. If the stuff was corrosive enough to do half of the things attributed to it (eg. burning through leather shoes), what would it do to the one cell thick lining of one's lungs? We'd all have shown up dead on arrival.

Chalk this one up to groupthink and don't take it too seriously.

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