Once you've adjusted to the altitude, you've still got to set up camp. You'll probably be pitching a tent. Do this during the day, even if it's still hot out. You never know if you'll be around your own camp later, and pitching a tent on the playa at night can be difficult. Here are my common sense steps to pitching your tent:
- Make certain your water container (preferably a backpack hydration system) is full. You're about to do some work and you don't want to be scrambling for water later on. Start pitching your tent by drinking a bit of water.
- Orient your tent so that you enter it in the same direction that Burning Man would if he were walking to center camp. The wind usually comes from the "south" (6:00) to the "north" (12:00) (these directions aren't true north and south, but they're close enough), and you want to minimize the dust invasion into your tent over the week, so orienting your tent door in the opposite direction will be most effective.
- Now that you know which direction your tent will face, take a long swig on your water supply. Good job.
- Use rebar instead of the tent stakes that come with your tent. Rebar is inexpensive and are thicker and longer than tent stakes, which is good because the wind will make a sail of your tent and if it isn't secured well, it will decide to wander during the windstorm that you're not at your campsite. There's a caution with rebar, however: more people are hurt by rebar ends at night than anything else.
- Man, that was hard work, hammering in all of that rebar. Treat yourself to another long drink of water, and maybe go introduce yourself to a new neighbor, but don't take too long because the next step is really important.
- Because you're using rebar, you've planned ahead and you broke out the twelve-pack of 12-ounce bottles of water the moment you started loading your vehicle back in the default world. You've been drinking this water the entire trip and are now fully hydrated, but more importantly, you've been saving those bottles so you can place them over the ends of the rebar, taping the mouths around the rebar so wind doesn't help them wander.
- Congratulate yourself on saving lives by taking another long drink of water.
- Another killer at night are guy ropes holding up your tent stakes. People trip over these things all the time. If you're conscientious, you'll hang a new glow light on these ropes each night, but since you never know how often you'll be visiting your own campsite, tying an inexpensive bandana to each one will hold you.
- You can consider your tent set up once you've taken one more drink of water.
So now you're hungry and you could probably use some protein. Good thing you planned ahead for this! Before you left for the playa, you cut a chicken breast into strips and tossed it into a ziplock with one tablespoon of olive oil per chicken breast, a teaspoon of chili powder, and a few shots of tequila. You also chopped up onions, bell peppers, and tomatos and threw them in a separate ziplock bag with another tablespoon of oil and a teaspoon of chili powder. If you're creative, you've probably also chopped up eggplant and zuccini and mushrooms as well. You packed these full ziplock bags up in a large pot which is going to serve as your primary cooking kettle for the rest of the trip. In fact, if you'll be cooking for vegetarians, as well, you'll be bringing two pots to keep the meat separate from the veggies. You also poured in a little ice into a few more ziplock bags and tossed those into your pot(s). Last, you tossed in a package of flour tortillas. Now, you're on the playa and hungry, so you extract the bags from your cooking pot(s). You can use the ziplocks full of melted ice (also known as water) for drinking, later on. Set the pots on your camp stove. Remove the chicken from the ziplock with a fork; do not dump the baggie into the pot because there's a ton of extra oil (which was used for the marinade and seasoning process and might be useful for tomorrow's dinner, but for now you just want to keep as much oil in the bag as possible. At this point, it's just a matter of heating the contents of the baggies (keeping the vegetable separate from the meat for the sake of any vegetarians) and scooping the resulting concotion onto a tortilla for quick digestive disposal.
Don't forget that your neighbors will be thrilled to receive a tortilla-full of chicken and/or veggies.
Now that you've given away your extra food and it's time to clean up, remember that playa is an excellent scouring substance. Toss a handfull into your pot, mix it around, and scrape it into a ziplock (maybe the one your vegetables came in) for later disposal. Repeat the process if you require additional cleaning. Do not use water to clean your pots unless you've planned ahead for grey/blackwater storage and removal. It is a crime against nature to dump cleaning water on the playa.
If you take away anything about first night's food from this post, I hope it's that you planned ahead and took care of the preparation before you left for the playa. Don't worry, your food will keep. For the next few days, you're not going to want to spend much time preparing food; there's way too much to see and do...