This post is brought to you by our guest blogger LANDFILL, a 10+ year veteran of attending Wasteland Weekend!
Wasteland Weekend, an annual post-apocalyptic event set in the unforgiving Mojave Desert of California, is a unique experience unlike any other – a celebration of all things post-apocalyptic, where attendees immerse themselves in a world of chaos, creativity, and tribal camaraderie. To fully enjoy this extreme event, you’ll need to be prepared for the desert conditions and embrace the theme wholeheartedly. In this guide, we’ll provide you with essential tips based on over a decade of Wasteland Weekend experience – to help you make the most of your adventure. Remember to review the official rules and guidelines on the Wasteland Weekend website (https://www.wastelandweekend.com) before you go.
- Test Your Equipment: Ensure all your gear is in working order before arriving at Wasteland.
- Stay Hydrated and Guard Against Heatstroke: Combat the scorching desert sun by staying hydrated, wearing a hat, and maintaining basic hygiene.
- Embrace the Theme: Adhere to event rules and dress in a Post-Apocalyptic (PA) costume.
Wasteland Weekend is held on private property outside California City, CA. While it may appear close to civilization on Google Maps, in reality, it’s a remote, undeveloped desert site. Access involves driving a few miles on an unpaved road, so ensure your vehicle has sufficient clearance (no lowered cars required). Dust can be an issue, so consider wearing a respirator as part of your costume and carry functional goggles for windy conditions.
Water – Stay Hydrated
Wasteland lacks on-site water, so you must bring enough for drinking and washing. Given the arid climate, stay hydrated at all times, even during the night. Windy conditions can accelerate dehydration, so carry water with you everywhere, and consider incorporating canteens or hydration bladders into your costume. The general rule from this article is “one gallon of water per person per day”. Know the symptoms of heat-stroke for yourself and those around you.
Drink water constantly. Always carry water around with you, even at night – the desert is very dry and or windy. The wind will strip the sweat away as quickly as the dryness. Incorporate canteens or hidden Camelbacks/hydration bladders into costumes – our shop here stocks a modified Belgian gas mask bag with a bladder that you can fill with water or your favorite beverage – look great and carry a LOT of water. Make sure your face is protected from the sun with a wide brimmed hat or a shemagh – sun umbrellas and parasols are highly recommended (suitably distressed).
If you have never camped before then Wasteland is not the place to find out if you are prepared or not – take a weekend trip somewhere close to ensure that you have all the right stuff, and you are comfortable and ready. Test every piece of equipment you plan to use at Wasteland Weekend.
Any tents or structure will become an oven during the day (as heat is retained), so always use a shelter over your tent to cut down the heat – this will make a HUGE difference. Try to create enough space for a sitting area in the shade – a 16’ square reflective structure covered by a camo net and an RV mat to keep the dust under control works out well. Sandbag each of the canopy corners as the dirt is quite soft, or use lag bolts and an impact driver – you should plan for strong wind right from the start. Use a few USB/battery fans to move the air around in your tent – this makes a big difference, just having the air moving.
Joining a tribe is highly recommended so you can share a communal space and the shade. If you join a camp then you’ll be able to have a communal area so only worry about your own tent. There are many tribes who will take new members – this will make your wasteland experience a lot more social and fun. Our camp, the C-Rats, is in the non-theme zone which means we don’t have to be “fully themed” at all times and can park our vehicles next to the tents – we still make an effort to be in theme and get better every year.
Bring a fire extinguisher and fire blanket to keep near your stove – there have been fires at Wasteland in previous years.
Earplugs and an eye mask are essential for a peaceful night’s sleep, as Wasteland can be noisy. Familiarize yourself with the event’s sound system and amplified instrument policy to avoid any issues.
Bring a solar-powered charger for your electronics. Test it beforehand. Running generators in tent areas can disturb others, so be mindful of their usage. Cellular signal availability varies by provider, so don’t rely on constant connectivity.
I use a Yeti 1000 solar battery with a 100W Solar panel to power everything, including our Engel camping refrigerator/freezer and Nespresso coffee machine (yes, it’s possible to have coffee in the apocalypse). If you don’t have a fridge, ice can be bought daily at the Dinki-Dive.
Pack in and Pack out
Wasteland Weekend operates on a pack-in, pack-out principle, meaning you must take all your trash with you. Minimize packaging when bringing food and supplies. Trash disposal options may be available for a fee upon exit.
Remember that there are no trash cans at Wasteland, so if you bring cans or bottles into the city area, you must take the empties back with you. It’s better to use your PA mug/cup and have it refilled at various camps or the Atomic Cafe.
A battery-powered FM radio tuned to FM 88.3 is your source for event information, agenda changes, and weather updates. Plus, you’ll enjoy vintage Australian radio advertisements between songs.
While staying in nearby hotels is an option, be aware of the distance from the event site and potential queues and wait times for re-entry:
- The event is a few miles from the nearest hotel, with the final mile being an unimproved dirt road.
- Consider joining a camp to have a communal space and keep a cooler with drinks and snacks.
- California City, a small town with limited dining options, is nearby, but exercise caution as it does have some crime.
- Most of the festival activities occur at night and in the early morning hours, so never drink and drive or drive back along a dirt road when tired.
- You’ll need to park each day in a designated parking area.
Costumes (Strictly Post-Apocalyptic)
Embrace the post-apocalyptic theme and adhere to costume rules. Avoid bringing non-theme items like lightsabers or Sci-Fi elements. Respect the effort that participants put into their PA costumes and strive to fit the theme. Consider layering different textures and describing your character’s role in the wasteland. There are great tutorials online and Nuclear Snail Studios are very good (and hilarious).
A small tip – follow the color guidelines on the Wasteland website – you don’t need to stick to only black, nor do you need to dress like an industrial dance party. Try to come up with a character and describe who you are, what is your job in the wastes, why are you dressed that way. I look for costume pieces all year and visit antique markets and stores looking for the right pieces to add. Modifying and improving costumes each year is one of my favorite tasks – how do I add more layers to something existing.
One tip for costumes given the heat, dust and amount of sweating – create a costume that you can wear comfortably, and be careful of chafing – recommend the use of anti-chafing powder such as Anti-monkey butt – from experience this works really well. Integrate a hat into your day time costume to shade your face and don’t forget that there is a lot of walking so have boots that are broken in and comfortable to wear. Don’t forget to bring a repair kit to make costume repairs and modifications!
Depending upon when you arrive, the wait time in line can be many hours – make sure you have a cooler handy with cold drinks. This is a good time to make friends with the people around you, but please do not drink and drive as this is still a public road and can get a DUI. By the time you reach the hallowed Stop Signs at the check in gate make sure to have a your ticket ready, either on your phone or hard copy. It is also a great idea to have a pen of your own and state issued ID (license or passport) ready when you get to the front.
If you need to exit the event and re-enter, typically the far left lane is for re-entry. Just double check that before you leave. Note that RVs and vehicles will be searched upon re-entry to prevent people from sneaking into the event.
All the event staff are just as excited to be there as you are and are doing their best – be polite and helpful and we’ll all get in as quickly as possible. Do not bring Pineapples for check in if you heard that was a thing. The normal recipient has retired. If you are feeling extra awesome, have bottle caps and barter trinkets handy for the check in staff – some of them never really get to go into town.
Always ask for permission before taking someone’s photo, and respect their response. You can bring cameras, and wrap them in burlap or similar materials to maintain the post-apocalyptic look. Ask pro photographers for contact information to obtain copies of your pictures.
Just like any camping trip just bring a combination of fresh/canned/frozen food and a small camping stove & cooler. Ice can be bought at the event at the Dinky Dive to keep everything cold, or you can run a camping refrigerator off a solar battery. Just remember to eat nutritious foods like would at any time – you’re going to need energy to party all night!
There are food vendors at the event (bring your cash) and you can easily supplement with some fresh fruit and food for the first couple of days, or pre-prepare dishes to heat up in camp. If you hit the supermarket you’ll find a bunch of great stuff in pouches that can be heated up in boiling water, or eaten cold, and avoids washing up that canned food can create. Try to buy foods that you will want to actually eat when it’s super hot – I found a bunch of salmon in foil pouches recently that makes a great lunch cold.
I don’t think MREs are necessary, but they work for some people – containing different high caloric foods all packaged up – if you go that route get the ones that come with chemical heaters (aka Flameless Ration Heater) – online guide to buying MREs. I like the X-MRE brand, as they use high quality ingredients, and have been consistently good for many years. Note that if you bring Freeze Dried food it can be very expensive and you must bring enough water to reconstitute each meal.
There is a medical tent onsite, but be aware that the nearest Hospital/Medical Center is Tehachapi. If anything serious happens they will call for evacuation via Helicopter. Those coming from outside the USA MAKE SURE YOU HAVE MEDICAL EVACUATION cover.
Bring a first aid kit and all the medication you need for the weekend. You should have on hand all the normal stuff like anti-diarrhea, painkillers, antiseptic, sunscreen, Band-Aids, moisturizers etc. The Med Tent does take donations of over the counter goodies if you have extra. They are not technically permitted to give you aspirin. If you suffer any injuries that require skin being broken, ONLY the local paramedics are permitted to treat you and they are on site set up right next to the Med Tent.
Having a flu shot prior to Wasteland is highly recommended – I caught the flu one year with symptoms hitting the first day of the event. I spent most of Wasteland lying in my tent feeling terrible, after a trip to the ER in Tehachapi who confirmed influenza type B.
There is a Medical Tent at Wasteland if you need assistance – remember that much of this is staffed by volunteers, so be nice. There are always Cal City Fire/ Paramedics/ Sheriffs on site as well, so if it would be breaking the law in the real world, don’t do it at Wasteland either.
CAPs & Bartering
Participate in the trading of bottle caps, a tradition from the Fallout video games. Get custom-made caps and consider bringing other post-apocalyptic items for trade. Place a groundsheet with items for trade in front of your camp and explore what others are offering.
Toilets at Wasteland are exclusively Porta-potties. Remember that these can get extremely hot during the day and can be like walking into an oven. These are designed to have the seat down to help with the smell and airflow, so be kind, put the lid down. Also, because the air is so dry, many people highly recommend flushable/biodegradable toilet wipes, rather than using paper, which can become abrasive in the dry and dusty environment. If you use the wipes, then don’t put them into Porta-potties as they cause clogs – pack them out in a sealed baggie. A better idea is to bring some water and wet the toilet paper a little before use – then it can go in the porta-potty no problems. If you use wipes or feminine hygiene products, biodegradable doggie bags are a great disposal option to take back to your trash bags.
There are banks of Porta-potties all over Wasteland. There is usually a Blue Light high on a pole to indicate the nearest bank! Those with locks on them are paid for by camps in the themed zone. Each morning there is a truck that comes around to hose them out and restock. Generally the system works well if you follow basic etiquette:
- Only thing that goes into the porta is human waste and toilet paper/li>
- Keep the lid closed when not in use
- Keep the porta’s clean and try to leave them cleaner that when you arrived
- DON’T leave your cans, bottles and other trash in the porta’s
- Wash your hands at the stations outside, or use hand sanitizer/wipes
Packing/Shopping List Highlights
- Alcohol (in aluminum cans) and mixers (maintain a 2:1 ratio) for the Atomic Cafe
- Goggles and a respirator (for dust storms)
- Well-fitting boots
- Nutritious food and snacks
- Medications and a first aid kit
- Sunscreen and moisturizer
- Water containers
- A cup/mug for drinks
- Camping gear
- Solar-powered charger
- Anti-Monkey Butt chafing powder
- Cash for vendors
- Trash bags for waste disposal
- Costume repair kit
- Tent/equipment repair supplies
- Caps and barter items
- Battery-powered fan for your tent
To fully immerse yourself in the Wasteland experience, consider watching these post-apocalyptic movies before attending:
- Mad Max series (1, 2, 3, and Fury Road)
- The Blood of Heroes
- A Boy and His Dog
- Book of Eli
- The Road
- The Rover
- Damnation Alley
- The Fallout video game series