Frequently Asked Questions
[Adopted from Camp Above the Limit]
What’s the bigger picture?
Participation: The event is not for spectators or tourists. It is a celebration of participants. Anyone camping with Entheos is expected to participate. We are all about working together to contribute to a great camp member experience and to offer amazing things to the playa.
Even though Burning Man can be truly overwhelming to the first-time visitor, participation is an essential part of getting the most out of your experience at Burning Man. Think of ways each of you can contribute to everyone’s experience at the event. This could range from intense sharing of ideas, the handing out of small and thoughtful gifts for people (this can range from crafted glass trinkets through fresh ice cream cones), helping people assemble or repair their camp, volunteering (we have a great relationship with the Volunteer Resources Team to provide camp members with the opportunity of working with other projects), giving a ride to a bicyclist with a flat tire (there’s a repair camp), and/or just making sure that every member and visitor at Entheos is cordially welcomed as you would a guest in your own home. Be kind, contribute, and participate!
What "is" Burning Man?
An Introduction in Videos and Photos
How unbelievably staggering is it? Playa Time: Dust to Dust
How fun is it? Oh the Places You'll Go (At Burning Man)!
How otherworldly is it? Need Your Burning Heart by James Cole Photography
An outstanding 2013 photo album by Duncan Rawlinson
What do I need to know as a First Time Burner?
2016 Black Rock City Map (don't get more lost than necessary or desired)
Survival Guide: Required reading each year!
Playa Living Understanding life on the playa
An Emotional Survival Guide: Highly recommended
A Playa Home Companion Garrison Keillor Meets Burning Man: Brian Rosen's brilliant tribute
Tickets: If you have not already purchased, begged, bribed, pilfered, wheedled, or otherwise secured your tickets to the event, please do so soonest. If possible, get paper tickets; any tickets ordered for delivery at will-call are subject to delays, which can add hours to your arrival experience at Gate (unless you're arriving by air, in which case you have a short and amazing experience going through Customs and Immigration at the Black Rock City airport).
Travel between Reno and the Event: For those of you driving, travel time from Reno is approximately two and a half hours + waiting time to go through Gate--which can be anywhere from 30 minutes up to eight hours. When leaving the Burn on Sunday or Exodus Monday, you may experience up to ten hours of delays leaving the city by vehicle. For those of you flying into Reno, you may be able to rent a car, arrange space in advance on an airport bus (if they're running), or for the fastest, no-waiting arrival and departure, you may be able to book passage on Burner Express Air, which also wings its way to Burning Man fron all over the West. Note that rental car agencies may charge up to $250 in cleaning fees on the return of your vehicle unless it has been completely de-playafied! Allow at least two hours at a car wash to accomplish this.
Arriving at the Event by Vehicle: Once you pass through Gerlach, you've got a few more miles to go before you reach the well-marked turn-off to Gate Road. You'll travel across the desert, most likely in the company of several hundred or thousand other cars, until you reach Gate. Your wait at this point can vary from short to six+ hours. This is where you'll need to hand over your tickets. If you have tickets at will call, follow the line to the will call lot, and follow the signs for processing. Once you've exchanged your will call confirmation for tickets and your car's vehicle pass, you'll get back into another line to have your tickets collected. Your vehicle will be searched completely before you will be allowed to proceed. Once you are cleared, THE SPEED LIMIT FOR THE REST OF YOUR TIME IN BLACK ROCK CITY IS 5 MILES PER HOUR. DO NOT EXCEED THE SPEED LIMIT, as radar-equipped law enforcement is waiting for you. You'll drive to the Greeters Station for a unique ceremony, then drive to where you camp. If a dust storm blows up and visibility goes to near-zero, stop until you can see again and traffic is moving.
Arriving at the Event by Aircraft: On landing, you'll be escorted to the Box Office, where you can exchange your will call confirmation for a ticket, then hand over your ticket. (If you've landed without a valid ticket or will call confirmation, you will be put on a plane heading back by unsmiling Airport and/or BLM officers. Don't do this.) You'll walk through Customs & Immigration, and you're onto the playa within minutes of landing! Getting from Black Rock City Airport to camp: the BRC Airport Terminal is located a half mile (just under a kilometer) from the edge of the arc of the City, off of the 5:00 Avenue. It has its own residential community and is adjacent to the walk-in camping zone. To get between BRC Airport and the City proper, there are shuttle buses and mutant vehicles (also known as “art cars”) that call at the airport throughout the day. There are around 700 mutant vehicles, and they can carry anywhere from one to over 100 people. As part of their permit to operate in the City, mutant vehicles are required to carry anyone who wants a ride provided that it’s safe and there’s space. Depending on where you’re camping, the trip can be anywhere from a few minutes to quite some time; the speed limit within the City is 5 mph and is strictly enforced.
Equipment: Burning Man is a Radical Self-Reliance event. Here is a guide on what to bring: Please note that Entheos’ Minimum Equipment List emphatically recommends that you bring goggles, Chap Stick/lip balm, and headlamps. Lightweight motorcycle goggles are strongly recommended; just be sure that your eyes can be completely shielded in the event of a dust storm. Bandanas make great dust masks! Also highly recommended: a Camelback or equivalent liquid container that you can take with you as you wander about, loaded with protein bars, snacks, and Emergen-C.
Weather and Temperatures: Temperatures on the playa are generally hot by day, cool by night; daytime highs can often be over 100F (38C). On a bad year, lows can be below freezing (32F, 0C), and once we saw snow fall lightly. DUSTSTORMS are common and must be planned for at all times; they can come up with almost no notice. Winds can often reach 50mph (80kph) and can gust to 70mph (110kph). Always carry eye protection! Rain is very rare, but not unknown. Each year we pray that we will never see sustained rainfall at the event, but a violent storm on opening Monday in 2014 turned the entire city to mud. (Fortunately, all was fine by late that afternoon.)
Water: Burning Man takes place in a desert so plan accordingly. The formula for how much water you need for drinking, cleaning, and showering is roughly 1.5 gallons per person per day. Simple math:
1 person + 3 days on playa = about 4.5 gal
1 person + 4 days on playa = about 6 gal
1 person + 5 days on playa = about 7.5 gal
1 person + 6 days on playa = about 9 gal
1 person + 7 days on playa = about 10.5 gal
Water is both valuable and heavy, you do not want to haul water you don’t need to camp. Do NOT bring water in small (under a gallon size) disposable plastic bottles. They are expensive and generate excess trash that will need to be hauled off-playa once the event is over (not to mention they would probably sit in a landfill for the next 1,000+ years). Instead get larger capacity jugs for transport and storage, and refillable bottles (like Nalgene bottles) to drink from.
Money: YOU CAN ONLY BUY TWO THINGS ON THE PLAYA: ICE AND COFFEE. THAT'S IT. Ice is available for purchase at three locations during the day every day of the event. Other than that, you can only use money at Center Camp to buy coffee--but many camps offer wonderful coffee for free.
Cell phones: There is no cell phone service on the playa! The nearest cell service is in Gerlach, and the nearest pay phone is in the town of Empire 20 miles away. Getting there requires a bus ride (available daily) and a $20 exit/return fee.
Internet and Wi-Fi: Don't count on it at all. Burning Man is a great place to escape internet addiction. Yes, there are a few camps that build satellite towers and create wi-fi hotspots, but don't expect to have access at any time.
Bikes at Burning Man: Bikes are the most common mode mode of transport on the playa, and all participants are strongly encouraged to bring one. However, the playa does tend to destroy most mechanical/metal things, so a "nice" bike is not recommended. (Nice bikes are also far more likely to be stolen; sadly, this happens.) What ever you bring should: a) be in good working order, b) have a comfy seat (being saddle sore in the desert is not a good time), and c) have wide tires (road bikes are generally not recommended). Since this is a "Radical Self Reliance" event, anyone who brings a bike should also bring or otherwise arrange in advance to have some spare tubes, a pump, and the knowledge of how to change a bike tire. Your camp members may be able to help with repairs, but don't rely the kindness of others to keep your bike running. Find out more here.
Bike Rentals for Burning Man: The great folks at Playa Bike Repair Theme Camp pre-arrange bike rentals. Their camp contributes to our community by repairing bikes at the event--over 4,000 (!) last year. They partially fund their camp by pre-arranging bike rentals. Pick up your bike at their camp, or arrange for them to have your bike waiting at the airport. NOTE: Nobody rents bikes AT Burning Man; they all have to be pre-arranged.
Night Illumination: YOU MUST LIGHT YOUR BIKE AND YOUR BODY AT NIGHT! When you walk or ride around at night, don’t be a Darktard! You run serious risk of injury if you don’t have lights front and back. Countless accidents have taken place because people weren’t wearing lights and someone rode/drove/ran into (or over) them. It costs over $20,000 to be airlifted off the playa to the nearest hospitals (Reno), and injured parties usually miss the rest of the event. Be safe—be seen!
Theme Camps: Here’s the 2017 Theme Camp Directory. Yes, there are a lot. A few words about Theme Camps in general. Before leaving for the playa, many Burners often print out the list of the theme camps they'd like to visit.
Black Rock Rangers. The Black Rock Rangers are a volunteer organization dedicated to the safety of the citizens of Black Rock City and its environs. As non-confrontational mediators, they serve to help. Unofficially, they are the "thin khaki line" between participants and law enforcement, and they earn the respect of both. You can recognize Black Rock Rangers by their white(ish) hats and colorful khaki uniforms. They are participants who help other participants; they are NOT BLM Rangers or law enforcement. You can find them walking the city around the clock. If you need help, ask a Ranger. More about Black Rock Rangers
Pacing Yourself. For thousands of years, people have gone to the desert in search of personal discovery. Burning Man is a place of such a magnitude of inspiration, creativity, and human kindness that it can be overwhelming. It's why so many people report coming back with a life-changing experience.
When you get there, pacing yourself is essential. Dehydration, undernourishment, overstimulation, and sleep deprivation are all part of the experience for most people, and the resulting electrolyte imbalances happen to be leading causes of mental/emotional instability. And that’s even before considering any other event or life stress people bring with them. Always stay hydrated, keep nourished, get lots of salts, and try to sleep regularly. Crashing and burning on the third day out there happens to many people, and that's not a good way to spend your Burn.
Early Arrivals: Please do not try to get into the event before official opening time. Yes, if you volunteer for a theme camp, art project, mutant vehicle, or event operations, you MAY possibly be granted an Early Arrivals pass allowing you to arrive before the official opening. Anyone on the Early Arrivals list must have a ticket or staff credential AND a bar-coded Early Arrivals document before leaving for the playa, or you will not be allowed entrance before the gates officially open.
Playa Names. Sometimes they are chosen for us (not always with results we appreciate), sometimes we choose them for ourselves (generally preferable), but having playa names promotes the general spirit of wild anonymous abandon on the desert.
Costumes and Attire: Black Rock fashion ranges from the simplest (Sneakers and a Smile) to the most elaborate and outrageous imaginable. Participants may wish to attire themselves according to any theme they desire. Plush, fur, Goth, disco, Steampunk, Bedouin, and desert rat grungy are all common. Do keep in mind that the sun is very, very hot, and SPF 30+ sunscreen only lasts so long. At night, anything goes. A variety of outfits and different hats is recommended. Comfortable walking shoes are STRONGLY recommended at all times; sandals aren’t, and bare feet are right out! Remember, anything you take out there will get very, very dusty. Eyewear protection is a MUST!
ELWire, ELTape, Blinkies and Illumination: Some of the most amazing personal art effects are achieved through the use of battery-powered electro-luminescent wire or tape. You don’t have to spend a fortune on this, but it is quite possible to do so. Lots of participants will also have Blinkies (often re-usable) of all colors and sizes; they’re very important for being seen at night, not to mention a general fashion statement of their own. It’s very cool to adorn bikes with EL wire, blinkies, and/or LEDs for maximum visibility. Here's a link to a cool place for lighting supplies.
2017 Playa Calendar: Once it's opened each year, this list features a day-by-day, hour-by-hour list of the thousands of events going on around the clock. Events are constantly being added up to the event. Before leaving for the playa, many Burners often print out the list of events and highlight the ones of special interest.
Vehicle protocols Once you arrive at your camp, unless you have a pre-approved (and inspected, and licensed, and decaled) Mutant Vehicle, you cannot drive on the playa until you depart. (It's around a $150 citation if you get caught, as many unhappy attempts do.)
Securing your structure This includes sections on tents and rebar.
Playa Living (very important comfort tips here)
Art Theme: This year’s Burning Man art theme is: I, Robot.
Serving Alcohol to Minors: Just as anywhere else in the USA, it is illegal to serve alcohol to minors. Big Brother--as in law enforcement, both in uniform and undercover--is watching.
Personal Responsibility: You are personally and individually responsible for everything you do while you are at Burning Man. You are responsible for yourself at all times, in every regard, as you approach, once you enter, and as you leave Black Rock City. Violation of these terms can result in ejection from the community.
Illegal Drugs: While on the playa, ALL STATE AND FEDERAL LAWS APPLY. Big Brother--as in law enforcement, both in uniform and undercover--is watching and will cite participants for illegal possession and consumption.
Sneaking In Without a Ticket: Don't even try. Burning Man has both more will and far more sophisticated means of intercepting and turning back undocumented participants than the US Border Patrol. Seriously. All arriving vehicles will be searched. If you have an undocumented passenger, your entire vehicle gets turned back, and all your tickets can be confiscated.
BUT I HAVE ANOTHER QUESTION!!! Great! You're doing your best to prepare. Go to ePlaya.burningman.com to look for answers and/or ask questions. Please look before you post--there are thousands of answers already out there.