The life of a Playa Diva

July 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

I went to my first festival in 2006. It was the Burning Man Festival, located on a dry lake bed in northern Nevada. When I decided to go, I didn’t know many people who had been before and was trying to gather necessary information: what do I need to bring? how will I get there? who do I camp with? what is the playa?? A few friends were lovely enough to help me with my questions and concerns and I had one of the most amazing times of my life. The art! The land! The music! But more than anything, the people were what amazed and inspired me the most.

Burning Man sunrise and me, the Playa Diva, 2006

Since that first festival experience, I have created lists and compiled the information needed for new attendees to make their first festival experience as smooth as possible. In 2007 I assisted 5 people in getting to the playa, in 2008 I assisted about 20, in 2009 I assisted almost 50, and in 2010 I hosted a camp for 80 international travelers called Wanderlust, most of whom had never been to the playa before.

Big Rig Jig, 2007

Playa Diva and Chris 2008

This site is an outlet for me to post all the information I have gathered over the years for anyone who has the desire to attend a festival, including tips and tricks and personal stories about the festival life.

Art on the playa 2009

Playa Diva at Burning Man 2010

Tips and Tricks – Bike Addition

August 19, 2012 § 1 Comment

So you’re flying into Reno from an exotic land and you can’t put your bike in your carry on luggage. You start to wonder… “How the hell do I bring a bike with me? Do I really have to buy a new bike in Reno for $250? But I am only going to use it for 1 week! I can’t take it back home with me on the plane… What do I do with it afterward? Do I even need to have a bike on the playa??”

Playadiva bike

According to Matt Roth on The Burning Blog, “Black Rock City, more than any other urban area, has been given over completely to bicycles, making it unquestionably the highest bikes-per-capita metropolis anywhere on the planet.”  So as much as you do not have to bring a bike to the playa, the city is made for bikes. Not having one will impact your experience and your ability to get around the city with ease.

Imagine you are camped at 8:30 and C. You are lounging around camp, regrouping after an amazing day of adventures. Suddenly a friend pops in and tells you your favorite DJ in the entire world is playing (right now!) at the most amazing sound camp on the playa… which happens to be at 2:00 and B. Without a bike it will be extremely difficult to get there in time to catch the last minutes of this potentially mind blowing moment.

Playa Diva biking in the city

To get a bike in Reno is an easy task. You can get one at big box stores like Target for $80-$250, or go to one of the many general bike shops in the Reno area listed in the Bikes page in the Preparation – Reno guide. There are bike shops in Reno that specialize in bikes for Burning Man. They offer used bikes, new bikes, rental bikes, accessories, and gadgets…

  • Black Rock Bicycles – Bike sales and rentals for burners by burners. The rentals start at $75 for the week, but are sold out as the event approaches. New bikes (especially created with the playa in mind) start at $230.
  • Reno Bike Project – Selling used bikes to burners for $55. You cannot reserve a bike, they are first come first serve. I highly recommend you call them when you arrive in Reno and ask if they have any available, as they only have 600-800 playa bikes for sale. 775-323-4488
  • Save Mart Supermarket – There are a few Save Marts in Reno. The Keystone location in particular is a one-stop-burner-shop. They have a very limited number of bikes from Kiwanis and Black Rock Bicycles.
  • Kiwanis Bike Program –  They have over 400 recycled bikes to choose from, starting at $40. They accept advance reservations and usually sell out in June.
  • Rats Bikes of Reno – offers rentals exclusively to long-distance Burners. Usually sells out by spring. However, if you are looking for a real good bike rental for Black Rock City in 2013, AND you live outside of the United States or really far away from BRC (like 1000 miles), remember to send Rat an email early in 2013 at

You can also buy a bike from one of the street vendors between Wadsworth and Gerlach along the 447. Every year as I am driving this route I see a pile of bikes on the side of the road with a hand painted sign that says “BIKES $50”. Dependable? Reliable? Good condition?? Probably not… Last minute cheap bike? Absolutely! And I love the idea of giving money to the people in the local community instead of a big retailer like Target or Save Mart.

Then there is the Yellow Bike program. Such a wonderful, amazing idea. The realization of it, however, is quite dismal. This is a program that was first brought to the playa in 2006 (or was it 2007?). There are apx 700 bikes brought to the playa for community use. Remember: There are 60,000 people and 700 of these bikes. They are not always available. In fact I have gone through the entire week of Burning Man and not seen 1 Yellow Bike until Monday when the city has emptied. Then I saw 2.

Yellow Bikes, ironically painted bright green with the words “Yellow Bike” painted on in red

Now that you know it is a brilliant idea to bring a bike, and you know where to get one, you can pimp it out like a pro. At the minimum you need a light on the front and a light on the back of your bike, it’s a good idea to light it up any other creative way you can as well. I love these Monkey Lights that create beautiful lights when your bike is moving across the playa.

A bike basket is on my list of essential bike accessories. I have 1 in the front of my back and 2 saddle baskets on the back. The back ones are foldable which allows for a streamlined bike when I don’t need them. I also put pegs on my back tires so I can give quick rides to people. And when my back baskets are folded in there is a nice place for my rider to sit while they are taxi’d around! HERE are some fun photos of bicyclists in Amsterdam and all the creative ways they get 2 or more people on their bikes.

In addition to those simple accessories I would also recommend a bell, a super comfy seat, 2 extra bike tubes (make sure you get the size that fits your tires), a bike tool, bike lube/oil, and a combo lock (according to “The number of bikes reported lost were high (400+ reports), and these bikes are rarely recovered. This tells us that bike theft is still very prevalent in Black Rock City. Lock your bikes!”).

Playa Diva biking across the playa

After the burn is over, you are packing up your camp, you wonder “what do I do with this bike now? Maybe I can just leave it here. I’m sure someone will want it…” WRONG!! Abandoned bikes are a huge trash problem at Burning Man. Please take the opportunity to donate your bike to a community program. HERE is a list of all the places in Reno that will let you recycle or donate your bike.

Even during years where it has been extremely dusty and I have not used my bike very much, I am always grateful to have my bike when I need it. Personally, I will do whatever it takes to bring a bike to Burning Man. I don’t care how dusty it’s going to be or how much trouble I have to go to in order to get a bike there. For me, it’s all worth it.

Playa Diva Home

August 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

One of my favorite things about Burning Man is that it is a huge empty canvas where you are encouraged to create whatever you want. This encourages so many possibilities for your Playa Diva home. And like everything else you plan to bring to the playa, you must first consider the wind and the dust. Watch THIS video to get a good idea about what the dust storms are like (watch until the end to get an idea of what Burning Man is like). Then consider “will my Playa Home survive? Or will it get tossed into the wind and injure my lovely neighbors?”

If you want more people to tell you crazy dust storm stories and remind you how dangerous a poorly executed structure is, read THIS and THIS.

The most used home on the playa is a tent. It’s cheap, it’s compact, easy to set up, and you can get one anywhere. But dust gets in easily, it’s hotter than an oven during the day, and you have to bring all the necessities separately (kitchen, cooler, bed, storage space, etc). Read my article about tents on the playa.

Tents, RVs, rental trucks, structures, and rainbows
Click the photo for more information about TENTS

The second most common home on the playa is an RV or trailer. The air conditioning factor alone makes an RV the most glorious thing ever. Add to that a kitchen with a stove, refrigerator, and oven; a bathroom with a sink, shower, and toilet; a few comfy beds to sleep in, a few chairs to lounge in, and storage space! DEE-lux. However, you are going to pay for the high cost of all these luxuries, which means you will probably have a few roommates to share the costs. And this is only if you can find an RV to rent, as all the rental companies in California and Nevada sell out months prior to the burn.

Click here for more information about RV and trailer camping

I love wandering around Black Rock City and looking at the unusual homes that people have created. Tipis, yurts, and domes seem like a spacious and beautiful option. Some of these structures can be built at home, disassembled, then transported to the playa using a surprisingly small amount of space.

If you are especially crafty and excel in the area of construction you can literally build a house on the playa. Of course, you have to consider all the materials you need, the tools to create your dream home, and how you are going to make sure there is no moop from your building project.

I love this janky home on the playa

I have heard of a lot more people sleeping in their cars recently. But keep in mind that if you don’t plan this one right, you will be more miserable then if you brought a one man tent. The heat and dust will be almost unbearable, and closing all the windows and doors to keep the dust out will only make you feel suffocated. My friend Donna brings her SUV and a giant dome. She puts the back of the SUV in the dome and covers the entire thing with a parachute. The back of the SUV is her super delux, comfy sleeping area, and the rest of the dome is her living area.

Super Pro Tip: Don’t stress about bringing your own car, trailer, rv, etc to the playa. YES, it will be dusty. Everywhere. Just have your mechanic check your car before you go. The dust is especially unfriendly to tires and air filters. Then get it detailed when you get home and your vehicle will look good as new.

Playa Diva Shoes

July 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

It’s hot, it’s dusty, you’ve been dancing at The Deep End all day, and now the most amazing people in the world (who you just met 5 minutes ago) have asked if you want to bike across the playa to the Black Rock Roller Disco.

Dancing at The Deep End in a dust storm

After skating to Donna Summer’s greatest hits until sunset, you and your new best friends bike out to the deep playa to dance until sunrise at Temple Of Breaks. As the sun comes up and you make your way back to your camp, you fall in love with your shoes and thank them for keeping your feet feeling so good that you could say yes to all the ridiculousness you got to experience. This is why wearing comfortable shoes at Burning Man is at the top of my priorities list.

Playa Diva in flat boots with fringe from Santee Alley

But how does one define “comfortable shoes”? Sandals are comfortable, so are your new Toms slip ons… but this is the playa, where there are unique things to consider such as Playa Foot. If your feet are exposed to the dust, they will dry extremely quickly and your feet will crack. It is not a serious injury, but it is uncomfortable enough to keep you at your camp for an entire day while you pamper your feet until they heal.

I mention some items to bring to keep your feet happy in my Tips and Tricks list. But as for your shoe choices, the best thing you can do to prevent playa foot is wear closed toe shoes. Sandals are OK for quick runs to the porta potty, but I always put lotion on my feet even if they have only been exposed for a short time.

Playa Diva in moccasins with fringe by Minnetonka

Playa Diva in flat slip on boots from Urban Outfitters

Another thing to consider is your transportation options in the city. (Hint: Your feet will play a major role) To get around the city you will be biking and walking, with the occasional art car ride here and there. Think about the type of shoes you will be able to ride a bike with, or what if you have to run to catch that art car? Any type of heel just seems like an illogical option, as do the multi layered platform boots. And if you are walking, you won’t want stilettos that just pierce straight into the playa.  You will want something that gives you good arch support so your legs and back don’t get sore, and something that can adjust to the areas of unevenness on the playa.

Keep in mind that Black Rock City is huge. According to “In 2008, the site covered 5 square miles. If one were to overlay it, our city would cover most of downtown San Francisco.”

Playa Diva in flat boots with faux fur lining

Playa Diva in tall riding boots from Buffalo Exchange

So how does a fabulous Playa Diva stay sexy, happy, and comfortable while dancing and prancing for an entire week?? 2 words: Flat Boots. Moccasins, Uggs, anything that has no heal, a soft sole, and are easy to get on. My favorite festival shoes of all time are boots with sneaker soles. They don’t offer a ton of arch support so I throw in some Dr Scholls and BAM! Instant happy feet forever.

In 2009 I brought a bin of flat boots, probably about 6 pairs or so. Two of the ladies in my camp had brought their super high platform boots. They looked super foxy, but they kept coming back to camp throughout the day to rest their feet. I suggested they borrow some of my flat boots, as we happened to all be the same size. Later that night one of the girls returned to camp for dinner and yelled “Sara!! Your boots saved my life! I am in love with your boots! I was dancing all day and I never had to stop! I didn’t even know that was possible!” Her life was changed forever.

Playa Diva in flat boots with ties by Sugar

Playa Diva in flat boots with sneaker soles by Blowfish

I get 1 new pair of playa boots every August and wear them for a couple weeks before the burn to make sure they are broken in. I also try to stay away from zippers, the playa corrodes the metal and zippers break. Super Pro Tip: rub a candle on your zippers. The wax will keep the metal lubricated and the zipper happy.

I have found my Playa Diva Boots in so many different places:

Santee Alley: Located in Downtown LA, this place is where all trends go to die. There are apx 150 stores that make up Santee Alley, but it seems like there are only a few different types of items being sold. Luckily, one of those items is shoes. It may seem that there are a lot of shoe stores, but really there are only 2 or 3 shoe store owners that each have a few stores on each block. That is why it looks like they all have the same thing. They do. The quality is subpar, but for 20-30$ for boots it is amazing. I have purchased fringe moccasins there for $30, as well as basic calf-height boots for $20. Both pair lasted me less then a year before the soles were eaten away and the tops sagged, but they did their job on the playa.

Online: I was in a store and saw a great pair of boots. I tried them on and they fit great, but they were a hideous camel color. I wrote down the name of the brand and did an online search when I got home. BING! I got them in black and for $40 cheaper then the store had them priced at. I like Zappos because they have everything, they don’t charge for shipping, and their return policy is amazing.

Thrift Stores: My local Buffalo Exchange always has new and lightly used boots. I got a slouchy pair of black boots by Sugar for $20, and a pair of above the knee riding boots for $30. I got my Minnetonkas at another local resale store Crossroads Trading for $40,  All of them looked brand new and have lasted me a few years.

Random Stores: I have found perfect playa boots at odd places like Urban Outfitters and a local vegan shoe store. When it’s playa prep time, I always got my eye out for my new playa boots!

flat, faux fur lined boots can be found on for around $50

Another Super Pro Tip: Get your most comfortable sneakers and adorn them. You can make them into furry playa boots, make some cute spats to go over them, or just throw on a pair of leg warmers. You can even make your own leg warmers by cutting the sleeves off an old sweater you don’t wear any more and pulling the sleeve onto your leg. Get inspired, get creative, and keep your feet so happy that after days of dancing, climbing, biking, and walking, you will want to keep going and never stop.

Playa Diva in flat boots from Santee Alley

Playa Diva Hair

July 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

As a luscious diva who has always idolized every girls hair other than my own, Burning Man is a fun time to explore my deepest hair desires…

Playa Diva with braids

Playa Diva with braids

Preparing for my first trip to the playa I heard a few grumbles about “playahair”, including a rumour or two from ladies that claimed they had to shave their head when they came back from the burn. According to the rumour mill, the dust, wind, and non-shower-having experience had wreaked havoc on their manes, and they were forced to shave it off and start anew. It didn’t help that when I arrived at the Reno airport and began to scavenge the baggage area for a ride to BRC, a girl ran into the airport to pick up her friend with half her hair cut off. After the 2 screamed and hugged each other and bounced around for a minute, the girl said “o, ya know… playahair!” with a big smile.  I thought I was looking into my own future. Well, if that is what comes with the Burning Man experience, I guess I’m already in…

Playa Diva in a hairwrap

Playa Diva with short hair

Playa Diva with a scarf

After 5 years on the playa, and multiple other festivals, I have yet to meet someone who really did have to shave their head upon returning home. Just like every other city, there are “hairstylists” and “beauty stations” in Black Rock City. And being in the spirit of Burning Man, they are fun, creative, wacky, tacky, and uber fantastic. For her first burn in 2009, my friend Bee stated that she wanted to get her haircut on the playa. She was open to having a fun and silly time with it, and on her second day she met a young gentlemen who she felt would do an amazing job at providing this service to her. He had never cut hair before… Perfect! She got him some scissors and encouraged him to have fun with it. She came back to camp with crooked bangs, half her hair short, the other half kinda long, and a huge smile on her face. I think she had 3 haircuts that week. By the end of it all her hair was completely short. Brilliant.

Playa Diva in an afro

My own personal style has varied each year, but my favorite is when my hair has been braided with Kanekalon. It is the closest I will ever get to realizing my teenage dreams of having beautiful dread locks. I bought a couple bags of the giant braids and emailed the ultimate braid diva, Carmen King. She spent a few hours braiding my hair, and it lasted for 3 months! Of course, I could have taken them out whenever I wanted, but I loved it! I have also gone low key with short hair, brought wigs and hats when I have longer hair, and ultimately surrendered to the playa and accepted the boring mousy brown hair I was born with. In reality, after not washing my hair for a week and letting the playa do it’s thing, I learned to love my locks. What is it about the playa that makes everything better?!

Playa Diva in a helmut

So, ease your minds fellow Playa Divas, your hair will look amazing. No matter how you choose to wear it. Get creative, get inspired, get that blond wig you always wanted, learn how to sculpt those liberty spikes you dreamed of having when you were 14, or have a stranger shave your head. Just clean up your hair moop when you’re done.

Playa Diva in a hat

Playa Diva Tips and Tricks for the Minimalist

July 10, 2012 § Leave a comment


I just finished editing my tips and tricks list for the minimal traveler. This list is specially formulated for the virgin burner that is traveling by plane. Of course, this list can be helpful for many others, and there are some who get on with even less then what I recommend as the bare minimum. Every individual that attends Burning Man creates their own personal experience. I hope this list will inspire you to create yours…

Lady Sassafras – Burning Man 2011
Photographer: Jose Caballero

Playa Diva Tips and Tricks – Burning Man Edition

July 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

It’s that time of year again. Playa prep time!

Over the years I have compiled and edited a tips and tricks list for anyone going to the burn for the first time. I just finished editing the new 2012 Burning Man edition and posted it Here in the Tips and Tricks page. There is so much information that can be gathered and shared about the playa… what to bring, what to expect, how to build a shade structure, how to stay cool, how to stay warm, and on and on… My list is a general overview of important items to bring, and why they are important. I include some links to further reading about some of the topics, and I will add more interesting bits of information as it comes up.

Happy planning and packing!

Me at Burning Man 2009
Photographer: Jose Caballero
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