The Burning Man Hangover Survival Guide

burning man artMedina Maitreya, San FranciscoBurning Man is an annual week long event held in the Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada. It takes its name from the ritual burning of a large wooden effigy on Saturday evening. In 2008, 49,599 people attended Burning Man. The event is described by many participants as an experiment in community, radical self expression and radical self reliance. To some it’s a spiritual experience. To others it is ultimate artistic fulfillment. And to a select few thousand it’s hedonistic debauchery at its finest.

The Black Rock Desert is a thoroughly flat, huge prehistoric lake bed, composed of a hard pan alkali, ringed by majestic mountains. Daytime temperatures routinely exceed 100 degrees with nighttime dropping to 40 and lower. Also the humidity is extremely low, which rapidly and continually wicks the moisture from your body. Because the atmosphere is so dry, you may not feel particularly warm, but you’ll be steadily drying up. At nearly 4,000 feet above sea level, the atmosphere provides much less filtering of the sunlight which causes sunburn. As a result, you will burn much faster and more severely than at lower elevations.

If you are already cringing at these facts imagine being supremely hungover on top of all that. Oh and lets not forget the most exciting part of the whole event: rogue sand storms, called white outs, that are so intense they rival the ten plagues of Egypt.

As with any event that focuses on radical self expression, there are as many ways to get hungover as there are naked people hula hooping on a pink double-decker bus. So lets just focus on these two.

Scenario A: The Jolly Daytime Drinker

If you are gonna get a hangover this is without a doubt the best possible way to go. You wake up at 10 am, having slept a hearty 3 hours and immediately reach for a breakfast beer, swig of warm sake, or the leftover Jim Beam that some douchebag left at your camp. Slippery slope time sets in as the temperatures get higher and you need to get drunker to deal with how uncomfortable it really is. Next thing you know youre changing into jogging shorts and a bow tie and doing jazzersize with a hundred people at the “80′s workout camp”. And it doesnt stop there, maybe you find the ice cold pickles and cocktails camp and chug down 2 dirty martinis like its the most delicious thing you’ve ever tasted.

In a word, screwed. By the time the sun is setting you have little mice wielding hammers in your head, your tongue is stuck to the roof of your mouth and you’re puking blood under someones RV. This is also the time when mystery injuries occur, leaving wounds and bruises for you to figure out about later… or not.

But all is not lost, the temperature is dropping, you can stumble into your filthy tent and snuggle up your sunburned body to a scratchy sleeping bag and pass the fuck out. And you’re in luck cause at this point you can get at least 5 hours of freezing cold sleep before the 100 degree heat and bright ass sun cooks you like a roast turkey in your plastic bubble aka nylon tent. And out there, 5 hours of solid sleep is worth more than gold.

Scenario B: The All Night Rager

Ok so you and your friends went on an art cruise that afternoon, riding your bikes thru the desert checking out all the amazingness that Burning Man has to offer. You bring a strong cocktail in a big canteen to tide you over, which by the way are called “Road Sodas”, and by the time the sun sets you are drunk, sweaty, dehydrated and ready for more.

Here is where you need to rest and recoup before attempting the All Night Rager. But you dont. You dont drink that gallon of water or eat anything of nutritional value.  Instead you stuff half a bag of beef jerky in your mouth, make another cocktail or just bring the bottle and head out to party your ass off some more.

You hit every attraction on the esplanade, ride away on a huge elephant art car, stumble back to the neon lighted strip and spend an hour looking for your bike, end up pole dancing at Spikes Vampire Bar, find some friends and head out across the Playa to some obscure camp to hear some DJ you love, head BACK towards your camp to re-up the booze and energize your tired, crusty, body in whatever way you see fit, grab your coat cause its 40 degrees out now and head out to open desert with a gaggle of other wasted people all on bicycles.

The sun comes up, you need sleep, food, water, and some compassion. All you’re gonna get is a face full of 100 degree heat, and all i can say is…. god be with you.


  1. Hydrate - Drink water… lots and lots of water. I mean it. Chug that hot plastic gallon youre using to hold down your shade structure. Dehydration is one of the main causes of hangovers, and a headache is usually the first sign that you are dehydrated; that and the fact that your skin looks like the dusty ground you’re camping on, and your eyelids are stuck open.

  2. Medicine - Naproxen sodium. Yep… good old Aleve. This shit is your best friend, and I mean your REAL best friend…. not that giraffe in the tutu who explained the meaning of it all last night. Dont believe him. Hes a liar, and prolly up to no good.

  3. Sleep it off – This is pretty much the best thing for your situation. Essentially, you’re hiding from the world and from your hangover. Pretty sweet if you can pull it off. But it’s easier said than done at Burning Man. From dawn to 8 am its moderately chilly, then it hits you like brick wall, BAM! 100 degrees and full sun with no where to hide. Add a hangover to this and you’ve got Medina’s worst nightmare…. cause I’ve done it.. many, many, ouchy times.

  4. Eat Something -Even though pizza sounds like the right choice, it’s not, especially at Burning Man. I mean, I guess if you can find pizza out there go for it. But if its a mushroom pizza, you might want to inquire with the chef so your hangover doesn’t turn into a magic carpet ride.

    Breakfast foods like eggs and milk contain cysteine, which can help to purge the body of toxins, shortening the duration of a hangover… but you’re miles from civilization, with nothing but dirt, antelope, scrub brush and 60,000 weirdos between you and a home cooked breakfast. So yah, you’re pretty much screwed.

  5. Cry Wolf - If you are a bad person and feel comfortable taking advantage of the resources provided to you by Burning Man, head to the medic tent and tell them you have heat stroke, have been puking for hours and cant keep anything down. They will give you an IV fluid bag and an anti-nausea medication as you lay on a cot with a cool towel on your head. Tho beware, the Burning Man medic tent is like being at Circus Circus in the 70′s, but everyone has some horrible injury like broken bones or head wounds and/or is high on acid.

  6. Hair of the Dog -This is a no brainer, and everyone does it, you’re at Burning Man for christs’ sake, why would anyone take it easy and moderate their funtime? Just be sure to follow steps 1 thru 4 as well.

So best of luck to you, my fellow booze hounds, heed my advice and be careful out there. This is Medina, signing off.  See you on the playa.

Caveday Author: Medina Maitreya
medina at burning man

(Note: Caveday does not condone photo bombing with your testicles. Even at Burning Man.)


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2 Responses to “The Burning Man Hangover Survival Guide”

  • david Says:

    It sounds like a lot of sacreligous good old fun! Thanks for the guide!

  • Gina Says:

    Amazing advice!! i am going to lay low on the booze cause i need all the energy i can get….i say this and then someone hands me a cocktail…i kick up my heals and say oh well its burning man! :) xx

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