OK people. This is Drill Sargent Josh and Cody giving you the safety talk: This is the equipment you NEED to survive away from camp. If you walk to the Porta Potties you need your "Playa belt" and/or CamelBak. No, REALLY! Dust storms happen quickly and can happen with NO WARNING. You could be stuck out in the deep Playa for several hours laying on the ground riding out a dust storm. This can be a "fun Challenge" or a life threat depending on how prepared you are.
Perhaps the act of a stranger can make your life easier and longer on Playa, but ultimately "Self Reliant" also means "Self Responsible"; and have extra for people who are in trouble.
CamelBak/Hydration pack/Water Bottles
Water is Life on the Playa. The humidity is SO LOW that even breathing dehydrates you. You can loose up to a quart an hour from the moisture in your breath! honest. You need to have AT LEAST TWO liters of water available to you at all times. The simplest method is to carry a CamelBak or water bottles. We prefer the CamelBak because you can also store all your other essentials in it. There are runner waist packs that could accomplish the same thing.
There are as many kinds of hydration systems as there are companies to sell you stuff. Josh and Cody prefers the CamelBak brand "military" style hydration tubing because they are insulated and they have dust covers. You can also look for the "snow and Ski" style Camelbaks, because they have a similar system. They cost a little more, but are anti-bacterial, insulated and dust protected.
Here are a few links:
Dust Mask / Goggles / Contact Lense Wearers
Everyone should know that there are these crazy dust storms which toss dust everywhere. I do mean EVERYWHERE. a "White Out" can last a few minutes to several hours. Eventually you "get over" the dust, strap on your goggles and dust mask, and get back to having fun.
The dust is very special. It is an alkaline salt. It is so fine it bypasses all the hairs and protective layers of your lungs and goes right on down, cause mayhem and damage to your lungs. You NEED some kind of respiratory protection.
The BEST is a military gas mask. These are hot and sweaty. You can however go on bike rides and stay out in the worst of the storms working. It's a trade off. Some people get by with a bandanna over their nose and mouth, however if you have ever had any kind of Asthma or allergies, you should have at least a few disposable "N-95" or "HEPA" dust masks. The little paper ones you buy for nothing are worse than useless, they also give you a false sense of safety.
All of these masks need some fit/adjustment. Some need extra length of velcro to be comfy. Others need to be pulled down tight. Play with your mask as soon as you get it to be SURE it is comfortable. You may need to wear it for hours!
Here are a few links with ideas for masks:
Remember to get several clean masks (or replacement filters). We recommend 1 for EACH DAY you will be on Playa just to be safe!
Now about eyeshields. Everyone has their own ideas. Ski Masks, Swim Goggles, Wrap around Sunglasses, military goggles. This is a style and comfort issue. No matter what you cover your eyes with it MUST have UV protection. During the day, you can get burns on your eye the light is so harsh. Of course at nighttime you need a clear lenses. This usually means two different eyeshields. Some eyeshields have changeable lenses; you need to remember handling lenses in a dusty environment causes scratches. There is ALWAYS dust in the air, and some type of eye protection is a good idea.
We are presenting a few different choices, basically what Jody uses.
Sunglasses (if they are the wrap around style that hug your face) can work in a mild dust storm.
But you REALLY need a pair of goggles too for when it gets bad. ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT for contact lens wearers!
Speaking of Contacts! Have extra!
And for eyedrops, these are THE BOMB because they're individual vials that you use once then throw out...no worries about contaminating your solution!
Now your gonna say... But JODY..... this is a bunch of stuff! Yes it is. I got a story to tell you.
Our first Temple night, beautiful, stars out, not a breath of wind. A week into the desert we thought we had a good idea of the situation. So we put on our white temple shirt and headed out on our bikes with just our playa belt. Sure, we had the "basics" but because it was a nice evening, and it was only going to be a couple hours, we left our main camelbaks at the camp.
Little did we anticipate the cold air sweeping off the mountains. So there we were, shivering, huddling together for warmth. Hungry, cold, uncomfortable for several hours while waiting for the wind to stop so the Fire Conclave could safely light the Temple. We hung out with some other random people, alternately sharing a blanket and passing a jug of wine. We had to depend on the kindness of others, and fortunately the Playa provided. You may not be so lucky!
SO, even as prepared as we were, we forgot our basic environmental survival equipment.
Here is a list of the items that you should have in your CamelBak / Playabelt and with you ALL TIME!
[Medical Kits] has a wide assortment of kits, gear and first aid supplies. Some are "all in one" Most of the items you need are probably already in your house. Gather them together in a Zip-Lok bag and put them in your camelbak.
Water Be SURE you always have a liter or two of water WITH YOU when you leave camp.
Energy Bar / snack This is obvious, in case you get stuck on Playa for hours in a storm. We use MRE's because they are sturdy and filling.
Emergency Blanket Silver Foil Blanket which keep you warm, and can shade you from the sun
Pocket Knife Generally Useful.
Eye drops! Keep those Eyes Moist! http://www.amazon.com/Allergan-Refresh-Plus-Lubricant-Single-Use/dp/B000VS1HSA
Cough Drops Soothes a Parched Dry Throat
Bandaids / FirstAID Nothing too fancy. Large Bandaids, medical tape, 4x4 gauze pads, cleaning pad.
Simple Compass Use this with the Map to find your way in a WhiteOut
BRC Map The compass points north. Align the map and you know which way is back to camp. This comes from your BRC Guidebook.
Flashlight Small RED LED headlamp is fine, just in case it gets dark. The red light will not blind people at night.
Tire Repair Kit They happen! You don't want to CARRY your bike back to camp, do you???
Bicycle Pump/Air Kit The little Air Kit can refill a tire and is small. http://www.rei.com/product/776958/planet-bike-micromite-mini-pump
Whistle When your throat is dry, you can't yell for help. This works. Many include a small compass / tube for supplies.