“Well, raggedy man… aren’t we a pair?”
Photo by Simon Riley
It’s nearly time! Im sewing a few thousand ringpulls onto the dress I forgot I had for the ball that I forgot was happening and am spectacularly unprepared for the upcoming Wasteland Weekend! As I fly on Wednesday, I’m a little stressed but… I promised a blog about how to survive the Mad Max party in the desert. Having never been to a desert, generally detesting the heat and committing heresy by preferring the second Mad Max film to the first, I wasn’t sure how to prepare for my first ever Wasteland Weekend (check out my review) but I’d decided to go even if it killed me. Fortunately I’m still alive:
Official rule list is here
Forums: look first, ask questions later.
There are a lot of Wastelander groups and forums dedicated to preparing newbies. Introduce yourself! The people are all really friendly and helpful but the sense of humour is often ridiculous and sarcastic- it’s meant in jest. 😉 If you have a question, check it hasn’t been asked a million times before.
Here are the main groups you will want to join:
Other groups dedicated to cars, outfits, LGBT+ community, diversity, curvy costumes, singles, ride sharing and much more exist but as some are private, it’s a good idea to search the main ones first. Often people will introduce their group on those pages.
How are you getting to the Wasteland and how will you transport your supplies?
If you’re coming with a tribe, you can sort this out together. If you’re solo, you’ll really need to take this into account: The camping ground isn’t walking distance from anywhere. If you’re coming alone, there are convoys and ride sharing options available- I don’t drive and was flying from London so got a lift there by asking in the forum. My lift back to Los Angeles was unable to attend after all but by asking around at the event, I was able to make other arrangements. People generally look out for each other- especially with newbies.
I’ll get to the actual supplies in a minute but if you are hitching a ride, you’ll need to check there will be space for your things. At the absolute least, you’ll have a tent, a sleeping bag, your outfits, several gallons of water and a weeks worth of food with you.
I didn’t know a soul before I bought my ticket and booked my flight. Being nervous as heck and suffering in extreme heat, I was worried I’d be left alone “to wander the Wasteland in search of my better self”. Not so- people take care of newbies and once I introduced myself, I was invited to join and camp with a tribe which existed to give lone wolves like me a place to come home to. There are numerous events designed to get people mingling so do not panic!
WHAT TO BRING:
The rules are:
1) Pack it in, pack it out. (Don’t leave ANYTHING in the desert!)
2) If you don’t bring it, you won’t have it. (This includes water and food- to an extent)
Let me say that again: bring a metric fucktonne of water!!! Desert temperatures can soar and 2015 brought an insufferable heatwave people still can’t mention without wincing. You need to bring about 2.5 litres per day and then allow a bit more for extreme conditions. The Rain Dogs tribe does provide water to those in need but it’s best to try not to be in need, right? 😉
Actually, I could just about have survived- the Dinki-Dive and Atomic Cafe serve food, and there were pancakes offered most mornings as well as a coffee tent. BUT… you want to be able to take care of yourself- especially if you have special dietary needs, are veggie or vegan or straight-up hate chilli.
I spent about $80 on food and water and needed about half of it but I could potentially have needed more if the weather conditions had been different. It’s a very hard one to call but here’s a list of the stuff I had:
– CANS. If you have no cooler or RV, these will save your neck. Chilli (but I recommend the Dinki-Dive’s chilli), fruit (yay, vitamins!!!), veg etc.
– Noodle pots. All you need is hot water.
– Jerky. Easy protein. I had to learn to like it as I consumed a LOT of it but now I can’t get enough.
– Salted rice cakes or crackers. If you’re drinking loads of water, you need to eat a little bit of salt as well for electrolytes.
– Gatorade. Yuck. It is disgusting BUT it’s great for dehydration and those electrolytes. If you have some left, you can barter it later.
– Energy drinks. In the very likely event that you are up all night.
– Something sugary in case of an energy crash.
Bear in mind that if you do not have a cooler, the food you bring will heat and chill with the desert temperatures. You do NOT want to bring something that will sit out and be affected. I made that mistake with my bagels. No more bagels.
I shared food with my tribemates, bartered canned fruit for the use of a stove with some nearby RV-owners, shared some fresh veg with the tribe next door (I was slightly tearful with wonder at the sight of fresh veg by that point!) and every person I stopped to chat with offered me water. If you have any to spare, it’s a nice gesture and this slightly-overwhelmed person really appreciated it.
Your crash pad.
If you aren’t sleeping in an RV or vehicle, you need a tent and extra-long tent pegs so the wind doesn’t blow you away. It shouldn’t if, like me, you brought all your water and tins into the tent leaving you with about three square feet to sleep in but better safe than sorry.
The weather is boiling, freezing, and windy all at different times. Pack accordingly. You will need blankets!!! I slept on the ground in a sleeping bag but suffered for it- waking up shivering uncontrollably several times a night. You have a better chance of staying warm if you sleep slightly off the ground on an air mattress or platform. I also brought little hand warmers with me- the gel kind that heat up when you click a disc inside.
– Sunblock. Oh my god. Bring more than you could ever use and if you’re like me and don’t want to tan, slap more on every couple of hours. You’ll be sweaty, sticky and disgusting but it’s only a few days.
– Medical stuff- your usual supply. Painkillers, plasters etc. If you are taken ill (or paranoid about getting sick), do not worry- there is a fantastic medical team there to take care of you. We had a few injuries (mostly sand-meets-eye situations) and knowing these guys were on hand really helps. Just don’t be a drunken, drug-addled douchebag.
– Your washbag. Toothbrush, toothpaste, baby wipes, anti-perspirant deodorant- the stuff that keeps you as clean as it is possible to be when you are gross, sweaty, sandy and showerless. 😉 Oh, and condoms. No it isn’t a naked desert orgy. It isn’t the other party in the desert… 😛 but you know the rule of packing for anything, ever- if you don’t bring it, you will wish you had!
– Charger. If you simply can’t do without your phone, bring a portable battery charger. I made do as I only wanted my phone for the camera but do pre-warn everyone you may be off-radar so nobody back home panics.
WHAT TO WEAR
This is a total immersion event. If you are not in costume, you will not be allowed in and that would suck. Before asking in the forums, check these guidelines which tell you fairly clearly what the basic rules are. If it looks as though a Mad Max character would wear it, you should be fine. I don’t think it is possible to go too overboard! One of the things Wastelanders often shout is “NEEDS MORE DIRT”. If you think your outfit is suitably dirtied up, add more, just in case.
Bring layers- especially if you aren’t used to heat. You don’t want to be in head-to-toe metal, leather and fur and wake up in the medical tent because you fainted! You can generally be as nude as you need* but bring a big coat, cape or long sleeved thing if you’re used to a warm climate. Lots of people bring fans and parasols which look amazing when they’ve been truly destroyed and customised. 😉 Also, goggles. “The great dust storm of 2016” took a few of us out!
We’re all about equality here and happily embrace ‘free the nipple’. Yes there are a few boobs and skimpies but if your outfit is simply your bare butt, you will not be very welcome. Your ass isn’t that special- make an effort!!
I’ve seen people concerned about safety issues- especially regarding women. While there is occasionally a little creepery on the forums, the admins are on that like a tonne of bricks and take a dim view of douchebaggery. While there may always be bad apples, the event itself is one of the safest places I have ever been and I speak as a very experienced solo traveller. If you’re coming alone and worried about being on your own, say so in the forum- there will be a whole crew of people ready to adopt you and make sure you’re okay, myself included.
How immersive is the event? As immersive as you like- I know there are some people who intend to stay ‘in character’ for the whole event and others who are simply themselves in costume. Most people are somewhere in the middle with a character and name that they can tell you about but still happy to talk about ‘real-world’ life.
It is postapocalyptic in its lack of showers, but there are toilets. On that note…
Don’t eat chicken in the portaloo.
Any more questions? Ask and I’ll answer! 😀