Africa Travel
What to pack for a festival in the desert
April 15, 2016
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By now you must know that I LOVE FESTIVALS!!  I’m going to my first Afrika Burn festival in two weeks!! I can’t contain my excitement!! (hence the over use of exclamation marks!)

AfrikaBurn has been on my festival bucket list for years, but I haven’t been able to attend due to work commitments. This year I bit the bullet and bought my tickets 2 months ago, and now it’s almost time! 2016 marks the 10th AfrikaBurn and the theme this year is X. X marks the spot, X = 10, X factor??

MzansiGirl parties

I doubt I’ll be dancing bare foot at the Burn


AfrikaBurn, based on the original Burning Man in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, is a community of people who come together to create art, burning structures, costume, performance, theme camps and music. It takes place in South Africa’s own Tankwa Karoo, a harsh desert environment known for it’s blazing hot days, cold nights, extreme dryness and dust storms! Hardcore.

The site for AfrikaBurn is Tankwa Town, which for 11 months of the year is a stark Karoo plain made up of veldt and indigenous scrubs which gets transformed into an artistic dreamscape for week. Check out the video below, it’s surreal.


What to pack? Where to start?

So I have to pack now now, as I’m leaving for a blog trip to Stellenblog, and I have to take my AfrikaBurn gear with. Since I don’t have the luxury of driving down from Joburg with a big trailer, I’ve got to pack all my gear in one piece of luggage that I can check-in to my flight.

The thing is you have to bring EVERYTHING with you from the basics like water and food to fantastic fun stuff – like costumes, body paint and beer!  Nothing is for sale but ice at the event.

Afrika Burn art2

Lots of NOTHING… and art [Photo: Cassidy Parker]

I must admit, I’m a bit intimated by the idea of camping at The Burn. This would be my most hardcore camping experience yet. Even on the Otter Trail, there was water available. Since I’m an Afrika Burn virgin, I’ve crowdsourced my packing from my experienced Burner friends. Here are their recommendations:-

What you need to survive a festival in the desert

Seeing as you have to be totally self-reliant at the Burn – there’s nothing to buy (except ice) and they nearest town is over 100km away, packing well is going to be crucial to survival. Here  are some essentials that I’m going to survive and to protect me from the elements:

Hydration – and lots of it!

If there’s one thing that’s going to help you survive a festival in the desert, it’s being hydrated. You don’t want to end up with prune skin and a monster headache from lack of water.  If you forget everything else, just REMEMBER TO HYDRATE. We’re taking along the recommended 5l of water per person per day, and a bit more for a few blitz showers.

With all the imbibing under the fiery Karoo sun, I’m also packing some Rehidrat sachets to keep me hydrated and replenish my electrolytes lost from all the sweating and dancing.  Partying in the sun is thirsty work y’all, the last thing I need is to  faint from dehydration. A hydrated body is a healthy body, and with all the partying that’ll be going on I’ll need to stay fit!

I’m packing a reusable water bottle to carry around the festival to top up with water and some some Rehidrat sachets for some extra hydration.

Afrika Burn art 3

Love – AfrikaBurn 2015 [Photo: Cassidy Parker]

Sun and heat protection

Besides the obvious (sunscreen, lip balm, sunglasses and a sun hat) my friends have recommended shade to camp in and an umbrella. At the last festival I went to I packed a tiny portable spray bottle that I filled with water – perfect for a little spritz as a pick-me-up from the blistering heat. I’m also  packing a warm jacket to keep me toasty on the chilly nights.

Dust protection

Think like a biker in the dust is what I’ve been told. Apparently goggles and motorcycle bandanas are essential for protecting your eyes and lungs from the dust and the smoke from the big burn!


Not sure about the goggle look…


Festivals can get loud and sleeping in a bright tent after an all night party can be rough. Besides my tent and sleeping bag, I’m definitely packing an air mattress for a decent night’s sleep. My friend, Lolla recommended I take a sleep mask and some ear plugs. 


Basic ablutions in the form of composting toilets are available, but showers are a luxury!  We’ve packed a basic solar shower to help rinse off the dust. Otherwise hand sanitizer and wet wipes will go a long way!

Afrika Burn art

Can’t wait to see all the installations! [Photo: Cassidy Parker]


Being so far away from civilization, Tankwa Town is one of the darkest places in SA.It gets super dark at night, and I don’t fancy getting lost amongst thousands of tents. My friend Caroline told me that lights are essential to surviving the Burn.  Besides my trusty headlamp, I’ll be taking fairy lights for our campsite, rechargeable LED lamps as well as battery powered EL wire to light myself up at night. Oh and batteries, lots of batteries. You can order EL wire online here, and they deliver.

Butterfly burning. [Photo: Cassidy Parker]

Butterfly burning. [Photo: Cassidy Parker]

Getting around

Comfortable sturdy shoes are a must – there’s lots of walking. I’ve also been told that I need a bicycle (or a mutant vehicle). Since I’m flying from Joburg, this might not be possible. But I’ll see if I can borrow one from a friend.

No it's not a scene from Mad Max it's a mutant vehicle :) [Photo: Cassidy Parker]

No it’s not a scene from Mad Max, it’s a mutant vehicle 🙂 [Photo: Cassidy Parker]


Of course we’ll be packing tons of food and snacks! We’re taking a camp fridge and some huge cooler boxes packed with beers, gin, and other important food groups 🙂 No really, we’re taking braai meat, nuts, fruit (watermelon & apples pack well), and lots of non-perishables.

First Aid

A basic first aid kid is a must. I’ve had my share of cuts and bruises tripping over tent pegs and rocks stumbling through dark campsites.  My first aid kit is also well stocked with painkillers for those inevitable hangovers and some ibuprofen for any muscle ache. I’m also packing some Vitamin B & C to prevent any nasty colds. A friend recommended that eye drops are going to be life savers in the dry dusty conditions, so they’ve been packed too!

Temple artwork at AfrikaBurn 2015 [Photo: Cassidy Parker]

Temple artwork at AfrikaBurn 2015 [Photo: Cassidy Parker]

The fun stuff: Gifts and Costumes!

My friend Kimberly and I went shopping yesterday, and came up with some ideas for costumes – lets just say they involve tutus, masks, cowboy hats and nipple caps (not mine!).  AfrikaBurn is also a gifting community, so my tribe and I have to also come up with some cool gifts to share – we’re planning on taking beer, temporary tattoos, a bicycle repair kit and hangover packs to gift to our fellow Burners.

afrika Burn 3

What do I wear?? [Photo: Cassidy Parker]

Have I forgotten anything essential? Experienced festival-goers, please comment below with your tips.


For more of my travels, find me on Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. This post was sponsored by Rehidrat, but all opinions are my own.

About author

Meruschka Govender

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There are 14 comments

  • Gaynor says:

    AfrikaBurn has always been on my bucket list and the video looks amazing but I didn’t know that nothing is sold at the event! To be honest, that scares me a little but your survival kit seems well thought out. Enjoy the fest!

    • Meruschka Govender says:

      Hi Gaynor! I can’t say I’m not intimidated, though with the whole gifting vibe, I’m sure it won’t be a train smash if I forget anything. Can’t wait for the fest!

  • Tash says:

    Thanks for the list! I’m going to AfrikaBurn for the first time too. So many great tips!

  • Inger says:

    I’ve been to burn twice. It’s awesome. Don’t forget things to put your rubbish in as u have to take it home. If u rinse, dry and pack your waste as you go, it makes for a much easier cleanup. Also, take a basic first aid kits and maybe throw in one of those giant burn bandages (u get them at Dischem). I never used mine but it was good to know if someone at our camp got burnt, we could wash and dress the burn immediately. Also, long sleeve cotton shirts are great. They keep the sun off your arms and keep u warm at night. Hope u have a rad time!

    • Meruschka Govender says:

      Hey Inger. Yeah, we’ve got heavy duty bin bags on the shopping list. Burn bandages are a good idea, as are long sleeve cotton shirts. Thanks for the tips!

  • Jenna says:

    I’ve been 3 years in a row and I can honestly tell you that you need not have a bike, we took one the first 2 years and used it maybe twice. It’s a schlep riding it around and then worrying where you’ve put it etc. Bikes have been known to go missing as well…. so don’t worry too much 🙂 It’s not the size of Burning Man where a bike is necessary to get around.

    A gift to give is very important as that is what the ethos of the Burn is all about, Saturday is the main gifting day and it’s amazing 🙂 I’ll be missing it this year for the first time 🙁 You’re about to have an unforgettable experience so just enjoy every day.

    • Meruschka Govender says:

      Hi Jenna. Good to know that, I’d prefer not to worry about a bike. It’s one less thing to worry about! Got our gifting planned. Super excited for my first Burn!

  • Dee Blum says:

    Take a steel mallet and very strong tent pegs. The Tankwa ground is as hard as can be.

    • Meruschka Govender says:

      Thanks for the tip Dee!! I’ve been recommended Rebar for tent pegs, which I plan to take along.

  • Oh my word – loved this post. I am heading to Afrikaburn this week too and its also my first time. The excitement I have right now is just too much! Love the blog – check mine out too, Im also a jozi girl.

    Maybe see you there?


    • Meruschka Govender says:

      Hi Joy! Glad you enjoyed the post – I’ve recieved some great tips from people on my Facebook page too! Love the design of your blog. Looks like you’ve done some cool travels too! Super stoked to be going to my first Burn. Hopefully we bump into each other!

  • oops, my coffee this morning isn’t storing enough – its

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