Playa Dust

Playa Dust. noun.

The Black Rock Desert is made up a not quite infinite amount of ultra nasty dust. It’s finer than talc, sticks to the least amount of moisture, gets into everything, and stays there, forever. Given the chance, it’ll eat your electronics, your feet, and in some cases, your lungs. It’s the most ‘in your face’ element at burning man, and if you are not prepared for it, it can ruin your week. However, it’s very easy to overcome, a simple dust mask and goggles can take you from blinded and immobile in a dust storm to once again being master of your destiny. Just don’t bring anything that you’ll cry over when the playa eats it.

By Shenanigans

An expanse of deep playa in the Black Rock Desert. Photo by Rob.PLAYA, –NOUN, Technically any dry lakebed can be referred to as a playa, but when a Burner says it, it’s almost always theBlack Rock Desert, the modern home of Burning Man. The event takes place within the trash fence in a space that allows for the 1.5 mile-across Black Rock City plus room for theTemple and other large-scale installation art and some open space. This unoccupied area is known as DEEP PLAYA orOPEN PLAYA. It remains empty except for rare artworks and occasional couples seeking open air intimacy.

The playa is not really sandy, but covered with a substance about the consistency of talc known as playa dust.Weather is notoriously harsh, with wide-ranging temperatures, frequent windstorms, and short-lived but heavy rains that can turn the surface to mud.

At regional burns, any focus of activity may be referred to as a playa. This leads to phrases like Burning Flipside‘sGRASSY PLAYA, which refers to the large open expanse of Pyropolis where they build their effigy and largesttheme camps. As a result, the phrase “See you on the playa,” can mean something more general than “see you next Labor Day weekend.”

Burning Man spent a year — 1997 — on another playa when it relocated to private land on the Hualapai Playa.

From Kit O’Connell’s amazing Burner Lexicon!


Here are some dusty videos for you to get a sense of what we’re talking about:

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