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Preparing for Burning Man? Home Depot is Too

August 13, 2015

If you think it’s rare for a group of 65,000 people to choose to spend the last week of summer in the hot Nevada desert, think again. An event like this not only exists, but is thriving. We’re referring, of course, to Burning Man, the ephemeral celebration of art, self-expression and self-reliance in the desolate Black Rock Desert. The gathering takes its name from the first event, when an eight-foot tall wooden man was set aflame on San Francisco’s Baker Beach almost thirty years ago.

The Culture

Participants, dubbed “burners”, fly in from all over the globe to unite and share experiences with other creative, uninhibited individuals at Black Rock City—an elaborate city built in the desert and completely taken The Surge for Burning Man Graphic down a week later. Unlike the vibe at other festivals around the country, Burning Man is not just a big party. Burners build imaginative structures, generously share gifts with each other (no money trades hands) and enjoy the highly social environment.

Evan Cudworth, a 28-year-old at an edtech startup who attended Burning Man for the first time last year, describes the event as a real-life magical adventure common in children’s imaginations. “Burning Man is about the boundaries of art and experience,” recalls Evan. “You witness the building of magnificent spires and temples in the sand, flanked by giant mutant vehicles engineered to look like octopi shooting fire from tentacles.”

The Preparation

No food, water, transportation or shelter is provided—you must bring everything with you, and equally important, take it when you leave. Packing is key. “I’ve seen Excel document packing lists containing thousands of items,” says Evan.

“On their way out to the desert, people will stop in our stores in Reno, Carson City and a few near Black Rock Desert,” says Gregory Hart, store manager at the South Reno Home Depot. In many cases, these stores are the last stop for picking up materials, tools and paint for art installations and temporary housing. Each year, associates set up additional areas in-store to accommodate the surge in supplies needed.

The demand for certain products is remarkable. Dust masks see a 521% increase in sales during the two weeks prior to the event. Tarps also fly off the shelves; in an average week, 25,115 square feet of tarp are sold, but in the throes of Burning Man, 5 times that amount is rung up at the cash register (more than 126,000 square feet).

Gregory told stories of a man that flies over from Europe every year, and stops at the store to purchase everything from generators to air conditioners to coolers and freezers. It seems Home Depot isn’t his only stop before heading into the desert. “He actually has a baby grand piano that he stores in Reno and takes out to Black Rock City,” says Gregory.

Aside from ropes and generators, Home Depot stocks up on everything from florescent spray paint—take your pick of pink, yellow, orange or green— to glow-in-the-dark spray paint and rubber bands. In an average week, Nevada Home Depot stores sell around 450 packages of rubber bands. That number soars to 12,800 packages in the days leading up to the event.

But what’s the most important item to bring? If you ask Evan, he’ll tell you, “Water, water and more water.”

The Survival Kit

Burning Man Supplies

Don’t forget rope, tarps, spray paint, flashlights, tie-downs, batteries, extension cords, combination locks, hand sanitizer, dust masks and heavy-duty tape.

This year’s event takes place August 30 – September 7. In the meantime, Home Depot is steadfastly preparing for the rush of rebar and dust masks that is sure to come.