Preparing for Blazing Swan and not sure if you’ve got everything? Maybe this list will help. Hopefully you’ve already started collecting the fun stuff like MOOP-free expressive dress-ups (no cheap feather boas they drop feathers and face paint (no glitter unless it’s biodegradable) and cameras (remember you need to interact with and ask permission from your subjects). Pack stuff for your entertainment and self expression such as games, art materials, instruments, notepads/diaries, iPods and any other items that might bring amusement. I’ve made this checklist of essential stuff that might help you get prepared. It is not everything you’ll ever need out there, but it’s a start. I recommend starting to pack early so you don’t forget something crucial.
Take a photo of your ticket and/or early entry pass and bring a printed copy ticket too, just in case you lose your phone or your phone battery dies. Don’t rely on internet access for your ticket!
Map & Cruise-Mode Attitude
Plenty of people have become lost on their way out to Blazing Swan and on the way home. Familiarise yourself with the journey to Kulin as big gaps in internet coverage will make google maps unreliable. Don’t rush out there, just focus on staying safe, as we don’t want anyone to get hurt arriving or departing. For first timers, plan to arrive in time to put up your shelter before dark. It is definitely possible to find your spot and put tents up in the dark but it’s not a great start. Allow time for the greeting at the gate – this takes time, but is an important part of your Blaze.
Get all of your camping gear and other essential parts of your camp together as soon as possible. If you can, I recommend a practise run at putting up your tent or setting up your camp trailer while you are still at home. Modifying or creating makeshift camps can often mean time consuming daily maintenance or readjustments so being fully prepared is the go. Heavy-duty tent pegs and/or star pickets are recommended to keep your camp in place. High winds can remove your flimsy pegs in two seconds particularly if the ground is wet.
Take food that is easy to prepare when you are tired or too busy to cook something. Pre-preparing some food is a great idea too. The first year at Blazing Swan we barely ate because we were too distracted and excited to cook. Tinned food and things that don’t require much effort are going to make your blaze life easy and are great to take as a backup to your more elaborate dining plans. Even if your home camp includes communal food take some substantial late night snacks because at some point you might be very happy you did. Do not rely on gifts of food to survive as you might get very hungry taking this approach. Think easy stuff such as cheese and crackers, chips and dip, olives and pickles, spreads and bread, protein bars, muffins, fruit, tinned foods, pre-made meals and packet soup. If you need to heat things up you will have to be prepared for that or team up with others who have that facility before you head out there. Self-sufficiency is the name of the game here. Avoid bringing food or drink in glass.
There is limited ice available on site, so try to pack foods that don’t need to be in an esky. If you are lucky enough to get ice, only take the minimum you need. Don’t take 6 bags -Ice hogs aren’t cool.
Kitchen stuff, cups, plates, cutlery, esky and washing up equipment.
We all need to provide our own drinking vessel, mug, utensils, bowls and plates. Bring more than you think you might need as these are commonly misplaced items and write your name in permanent marker on everything. When you go out on to the playa with your drinking vessel its easy to forget where you put it down. Paper towel is very useful for removing food solids and there is a rule that you are not allowed to put food scraps on the ground so think about a set up and plan to filter your washing up water. You need to take your grey water home – read up on this article on how to do so.
You need quite a lot of drinking water at blazing swan. Avoid buying a case of those ridiculous little plastic bottles. Army surplus and hardware stores have 20L water storage containers for around 20 bucks. Get at least one per person if you’re camping for the week. You can reuse the container to take your grey water home.
Basic first aid kit
A band aid or two, a few painkillers and some antiseptic cream might be really handy when you wake up the morning after, unsure of how you carved up your leg. Medics are on site but plan to deal with small things yourself.
Rubbish bags and small collection tins
Everything we take into blazing swan we will need to take out of blazing swan.
Prepare for that or you might have to pack your dripping baked bean tins in with your mattress. Bring bags to wrap your rubbish. Take an empty mint container, spice jar or similar container to carry as you walk around. You can put cigarette butts in these if you are a smoker or just keep your eye out for MOOP – ‘matter out of place’ so you can help keep our playground clean. Take a bag that you and your crew can put your empty cans in while you are out and about. Theme camps shouldn’t have to take away our rubbish as a price for entertaining us.
Warm blankets and a comfy bed
It occasionally gets very cold at night time. One year I had to tip my suitcase of costumes on top of my doona to try and warm up. Having a nice warm comfortable bed is going to make all the difference to your blaze experience.
Clothes for all weather conditions
We haven’t had snow out there but we’ve had everything else. Be prepared and think about extreme weather events. Pack sunscreen, sun hats, sarongs, sunglasses, thermal underwear, boots, thongs, beanies, gumboots, extra socks, gloves, raincoats, windcheaters and everything in between. If you are prepared for it, the weather will just be part of the fun. If not, it might mean you could be stuck in your tent, wishing you were at home.
Head lamps are annoying when you look people in the eye but they’re pretty handy when you’re off to the toilet at night time. LED or EL wire personal lighting is a great hands free option that’s not too in people’s face and you can turn them off when you get into well lit areas. It’s good to be lit up so you can see where you are going but its also handy if other people can see you too, especially mutant vehicles moving at night. Avoid the one off glow stick things – they’re okay, but not great for the environment, so not that cool. At the very least, bring a torch.
The site at Kulin has tonnes of double gee prickles. If you’ve never had one of these stuck deep into your foot you can just believe me that it might hurt for days. These will still get you through your thongs but at least the first half an inch will be taken by your thong. You need thongs for midnight runs to the bathroom, showers if you fear tinea etc and just generally for getting around camp easily. Thongs are an essential part of surviving in my opinion but I have seen a few brave barefoot people out there on the playa. Slip on shoes with good soles are probably a better bet.
Spare toilet paper
I found the toilet paper almost always disappears overnight and its always good to BYO if you visit the bathrooms before mid morning. I take one for each day and leave it there for the next person who might not be ready for that.
If you are not part of a theme camp that is a gifting mechanism, and even if you are, think about what you could bring that you can give to other people. It is not necessary that you gift something to every person. You do not need to bring 3000 candy apples. Just bring what is easy and comfortable for you to gift. Blazing Swan is a gifting economy and all kinds of gifts are humbly offered and gratefully accepted. Your gift may be your skill, something you have made by hand or a talent that entertains people so think outside the box here and dig deep. This is a very generous community and the gifting economy only works long term when everyone participates. Try not to bring gifts that create waste or MOOP like anything with a wrapper.
For your personal or camp lighting items
Duct tape and cable ties
Just take them.
Get reusable ones, rather than creating MOOP!
A hammer for getting your tent pegs in, a shovel for redirecting flood water away from your tent, extra rope, a rake for preparing your site so you don’t have to sleep on rocks and sticks, a broom or dustpan and handbroom and a leatherman or all-purpose tool for helping you with all the stuff you can’t plan for.
Extra things I take that you don’t really need to take but you might be happy you did
These are great for blocking the wind as you can point them into the direction of the prevailing wind to keep you warmer. I often use a brolley at night for this reason. Obviously they protect you from rain, but it’s also nice to walk around in the midday sun with some full shade protection too.
There may come a time when you are tired and wired at the same time. Music and general noise may be making a racket close to your tent. Ear plugs or headphones with an ipod are going to be your best friend if this happens so you can fall asleep.
Baby wipes, wet flannels or dampened paper towel in a sealed container
This removes dust, dirt, facepaint and makeup from your face, hands and feet as you flop into bed. It’s not as good as a shower but you’ll be happy for it when you wake up. I take all three of these things but that’s just me.
Pegs, thin rope and sturdy safety pins
For hanging out your wet clothes, temporarily fixing things and pinning up your ripped outfits.
I take a large plastic bag with a zip that I can hang in the showers. It has two sides to it so I can put my dirty clothes in one side and keep my clean ones dry in the other. The showers are small so it can be hard to keep your dry stuff dry. The water in the showers is cold so bring your solar shower bag and take it over to the bathrooms if the idea of that cold shower is too much for you. Please don’t use your solar shower bag anywhere that you can’t collect your grey water. In terms of toiletries, apart from the obvious ones like soap, shampoo and toothpaste, I like to include heaps of moisturiser, eye drops, paw paw cream, repellent, essential oils and anything else that helps combat sunburn, dryness, insects and dust. I take at least three towels and have never regretted that.
Solar lighting, camping lanterns or battery operated led lights are all great to help you and others see around your home in the dark. Just a word of warning – don’t leave turned on battery packs unattended, as I was luckily there when mine spontaneously caught on fire last year.
If you’ve got access to one, bring it.
Non-valuables where possible
Personally, I don’t like taking valuables to Blazing Swan because things can get lost. I feel like its better to just relax and not be worried about misplacing or breaking precious items. If I do take special things out there I plan to lock them in my car or put them in a safe spot before I get inebriated. Things do tend to come back to us when we lose them on the playa but it’s not always the case. Also, if you are planning to lend out any of your equipment to fellow blazing swanners you might want to think about labelling them so that people remember where to return them (or take a photo of the person holding the item before they take it away). Things often get jumbled up and we don’t know where they went/came from or how to return/retrieve them. Take your cheap sunnies not your designer ones unless you can fully trust yourself to protect them.
Finally download the Survival Guide for even more information
There’s only a few days to go now so get crackalacking – start packing!