burning man black rock city

A Virgins Guide to Burning Man

Burning Man is an amazing experience, (pause for effect) if you are prepared!  Preparation is essential for BRC (Black Rock City).  This is not an event with loads of vendors waiting to take your dollars.  This is an experiment in community and self reliance.  We showed up not expecting anything, no preconceived notions and to be completely self-sustainable.  We were blown away by the generosity, acceptance and sense of community that we experienced.

Here are a few tips to make you seem like a veteran on your virgin burn!  This doesn’t cover everything so please read over the Burning Man website.

We brought 50 Gallons in our Windy the RV’s fresh water tank (this is for 2 people) for showering and cleaning.  20 gallons of filtered drinking water (again for 2 people) this lasted us for the full 7 days.  Bring more water than you think you need, you can always gift it to other camps.

Pre-Make as many items as possible to reduce dishes: Tuna, Boiled Eggs, Pasta Salad, etc.  Nuts, dried fruit, and bars are great items to keep on you while walking or biking around.  Eat soft fruit in the first days: Plums, Bananas, etc.  Save apples, melons, etc. for the last few days.

Don’t worry about renting a bike if yours is in good condition.  Prepare your bike in the days prior by cleaning and lubricating your chain/parts.  When you leave BRC give your bikes a good washing.  Expect to have your bike serviced after Burning Man at a cost of $50-$125 (if your bike is 2 or more years old and hasn’t been serviced, it should be serviced anyway!)  If you have a small seat you should consider purchasing a fat seat for this event for a more comfortable ride  For the creative types: build a shade structure over your bike, it’ll keep you much cooler on the playa.  Lights are a MUST!  Put enough lights on your bike so you can be seen at night from the front, side and back.  The more lights the better!  Solar lights are your friend!  If you park your bike leave your lights on so people/cars don’t run into it.

Your Body
Cover your body in lights.  As you are walking around or if you happen to pass out in the playa at night & you’re dark you can get run over.  General – BYOC!  Bring your own cup everywhere you go!  Preferably choose an insulated cup with a lid to keep your beverage dust free and cold!  Costumes can be as simple as fun glasses/goggles, crazy hats, the full Monty, or a themed outfit.  Our Where’s Waldo outfit was the hit of our trip, thank you Waldo Camp (did we mention that there is a camp for just about everything).  A fun costume makes it easier to interact with people, exchange gifts, get drinks, and get lots of high fives.  If you’re not a costume kind of person don’t despair, just prepare to be heckled.

Solar is awesome out in the desert!  Solar can keep cell phones and other small electronics going for you.  You are out in the middle of the desert, there are no outlets.  If you want power, you have to bring it yourself.

We suggest arriving in the early AM (first light) so you can see to find your camp and not burn up while waiting.  Once you’re on the dirt road to BRC make sure you follow all traffic laws: 5 MPH, don’t drink & drive, keep your headlights on, seatbelts required, THE BLM POLICE WILL PULL YOU OVER!  Don’t be a jerk in the arrival line, stay in your lane.  Cutting people off because they move slower than you is totally uncool.

If you are joining a theme camp, get the exact location of that camp so you can find it.  If you’re arriving and don’t have a camp your joining, look at the map and decide where you want to park.  Talk to others in line and once you are inside for suggestions.  There is a camp for just about everything.  From music, dancing, film or families, there is a camp for you!  In general the further away from the esplanade the more quiet.  If you want to people watch (or heckle passer byes) park with your door facing the street.  The closer you are to a street the more dust from cars, and the louder your camp will be.

Double check your site for MOOP (matter out of place), and be a good neighbor and pick up any MOOP left over from your neighbors.  If you’re in no rush to leave, BRC could use your help, stop by the information tent to volunteer, also there are a few special events for those who stay to help.  You’re gonna sit in line anyway!  If you have extra water, food, beer, etc. there are a few donation spots in the exodus line where you can hook up the people who have to stay at BRC for breakdown.  We left Monday at 7:45am.  The wait was 7 hours, traffic moves at a snail’s pace.  Same traffic rules apply from arrival.  With traffic ‘pulsing’ you drive a few hundred feet then you park for 1hr.  Apparently it helps keep things “moving” in the exodus line.

BRC has rules!  Make sure you understand and follow these rules otherwise your burn could end sooner than you expected.  No Pets!  Some people decided to bring their pets and the outcome was not pretty.  BRC is serious about this rule, so don’t risk it.  Drugs are illegal in BRC so don’t walk around and show off your personal choices, there are police in BRC that will arrest you.  Don’t drive your car unless it’s a registered art car.  When you get to BRC park your car and leave it there till exodus!  MOOP – Don’t leave your trash anywhere, ever, for any period of time.  It will blow away, get covered in sand, etc.  MOOP is an insult to everyone, so don’t do it!

If you don’t know what Burning Man is or just want to watch an awesome video of our experience check out “The Burning Man Experience“.

If you are planning on having an RV at Burning Man check out our post, Stuff to know BEFORE you take your RV to Burning Man and Keeping Cool at Burning Man.

Famous for my "how-not-to" videos, and typically the man behind the camera, sometimes I’m forced to be here in the “spotlight”. When you see my face you’re probably reading something more technical than adventurous, but either way I do my best to tell it like it is and infuse my opinions into the commentary…after all this is a blog and not MSN.

Comments (25)

  • Livewire

    BTW, there are three medical stations on playa with mobile units and ambulances for emergencies. The main one is air conditioned and they have very competent staff. If you are in need of medical attention find a Ranger or Law Enforcement officer and have them call for help. Help is usually there much faster than in most metropolitan cities.

    Stay Dusty!


  • Livewire

    I really appreciate that you went to Burning Man and are suggesting it to your readers. As someone who’s been to the burn more than a few times, I’d like to clear up a few things.

    Pets are sometimes a confusing issue at Burning Man. Read the guide carefully and you’ll see that it only says dogs are not allowed. Pets, in the absence of a prohibition against them, are allowed but dogs specifically are not. I brought my cats last year and loved having them there. Of course, I ran my AC most of every day for their comfort. But it is a hostile desert environment not suitable for most outdoor pets and can be quickly disorienting and debilitating just like it can be for humans, so try to keep the pets inside a controlled environment. You and they will be much happier.

    The temperatures do occasionally get into the 100s but it’s more likely to be in the 80s and 90s during the day. Still hot but not quite so brutal as 100. Nights can get chilly so a heater may be useful. RVs are great but dust gets everywhere. Tape off any vents and windows that you don’t want dust to infiltrate and be prepared to thoroughly clean your RV inside and out after the event. Even then you’ll still probably find pockets of dust years later.

    There are porta-potties most everywhere except deep playa. Getting your RV serviced can sometimes be a challenge so try to keep your holding tanks as empty as possible. If your holding tanks leak or are overflowing you will be expected to not only fix it but to clean up the dropped waste and pack it out with you.

    Bring something to gift to other burners. Something as simple as a hand painted bottlecap can be a gift. It can be something you make yourself (cookies, grilled cheese sandwiches, hand-made necklace of a painted bottllecap on a string) or something you have made for you, like stickers or buttons or even patches. It can even be a performance of some kind. One night a couple stopped in front of our camp and danced a tango for us to the music we were playing. It was a beautiful yet intangible gift I will always cherish. Just don’t give alcohol (or any illegal substances) to minors and remember that undercover cops target this event heavily)

    Be prepared to be part of a larger community that may have very different points of view from your own. People tend to be dressed outrageously or maybe not at all. But it’s all about self expression and inclusion so be accepting of people’s differences and you’ll be fine.

    This is just a scratch on the surface of the things you should know or be aware of. For more comprehensive info – and to see pictures, sign up for newsletter updates, and get the real lowdown on the event, go to You’ll find out about getting tickets, what to bring, what to expect, and links to all sorts of information that will help make your burn something you’ll never get over.

    I’ve gone to Burning Man for the last eight years and I intend to go for many more. And I’ll be bringing my cats.

    See you in the dust!


  • Kelli

    OMFG I so wanna go! Thanks for the 101, I know it is gonna help a lot.

  • Erika

    I’ll be pushing 70 for the next Burning Man and wondered how to escape the heat during the day. I’m imagining temps over 110. Do people run their A/C’s in their motor homes all day ( I have no experience with staying in a motor home so this may be a silly question) or is there someplace in the camp that has A/C? Is there a First Aid station with air. Do people stay elsewhere and come to BM just in the evening or early morning to avoid the heat? This obviously is my main concern as I want to have the best experience possible. Also Is there a way to volunteer my services as a nurse while I am there?

  • Mark Frekki

    Hi Jason,
    My darling wife and I have been talking. This is really a young forum. It looks wonderful, enlightening, and very homey. I am a Californian, married to a Hoosier. We farm. We are kinda conservative, I have a BFA, she a BA in Philosophy. Still, we are kinda old farts now. We kinda disappoint ourselves. In any7 case I will be reading much more about burning man. I had a chance to go to the first, and passed it up. dumb me. I thank you, you twohave really helped us. In 1980 I was a desert rat, I remember the dust and heat. I still wanna go.

  • Mark Frekki

    Further reading answered my questions.
    Only sales allowed= Coffee and Ice.

    The whole thing looks wonderful. My wife still thinks I’m crazy.

  • Mark Frekki

    Our last kid is nearly off the farm, so the wife and I are starting to think maybe next year (2015). Well, I’m thinking, she’s laughing. A few questions; Is alcohol allowed? Are battery powered vehicles allowed? Are there guns? The last I ask because I usually carry, and have CCP permits valid almost everywhere. I do not wish to go against the organizers, I would leave it at home if asked. For example, I would never carry into Canada, not only is it illegal, but a slap in the face of our Canadian friends.
    Dust looks like a problem, an electric bike or golf cart would help, but maybe we need to get our old legs in shape.
    We’ve wanted to go to BM since the first. Did the Us festival until it turned sour. But then bought a farm and had a passel of kids. Now that we’re old farts we want to play.

  • ego

    Wow. This is the WASPI’est and most middle class burning man virgin guide ever. However I do think that some of your advice was very good. It reassured the boring bourgeoisie side of me, that I know will rear its ugly head when I reach BM.

  • Oh my goodness! Incredible article dude! Thank you
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  • jason

    Great video! And thank you Sam for that information! I was planning on going there, but I full time with my dog so I guess I will be skipping this stop.

    • we full time with 2 cats and boarded them in Reno for the week while we were there. totally worth it!!! You should still consider going.

  • Sam

    >.No Pets! Some people decided to bring their pets and the outcome was not pretty.

    Don’t you travel with one (or two) cats? Did you take the cats with you, or board them before you left for burning man?

    We travel with a couple of dogs, so I think that burning man might be off the list for us 🙁

  • mary

    On my list! It kind of reminds me of the ’60s

  • I’ve been wanting to go to burning man thanks for your advice.- Have Lots of Fun-

  • “Bring more water then you think you’ll ever need because … why not?” Hahaha, nice logic Jason. I love that video, so cute! You guys are so cute I could just eat you!!!!

  • Cathy Gunther

    Looks like a blast. Sounds like you had fun.

    Looking forward to more videos of your trip.


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