Camp Information What you need to know
Theme Camps and Burning Man
Burning Man hopes that as a future citizen, you will learn about and embrace the culture. The process of learning is known as acculturation, and its important to know certain things as you ponder joining a theme camp.
In Burning Man’s early years, there were almost no rules. Absolute freedom was a wonderful idea that could have been preserved if attendees always behaved responsibly. Though most participated with good intentions, over the years there have been many who harmed to the event or the land. Every rule and policy in place now is a direct reaction to misdeeds, which have been embedded in the culture.
Burning Man culture is a reflection of the attitudes most responsible for a successful event. It guides attendees toward being better human beings in an alternative society. Self-reliance and radical expression are just two of the guiding principles, but are particularly important to understanding the role of theme camps and their members.
There’s nothing easy about being a theme camp. There are only 700 theme camps in the temporary town of 70,000 known as Black Rock City and twice as many are rejected placement. Those selected are chosen for their wow factor and contribution to the entertainment and gifting ethos of Burning Man. This is an event where far more entertainment and interactivity is provided through volunteer participants than by the Burning Man organization itself.
The objective of a theme camp is to unify the collective efforts of members to produce art and interactivity. When there is full participation, all good things that are given circle back as gifts. This, we call Burner Karma. Attendees who fail to contribute through gifting and active participation are more like tourists, draining without replenishing the system. Burning Man ultimately wants everyone to be a participant and experience the fulfillment and wonder of Burner Karma. Our aim as a camp is to enhance this as much as we can and have a great time in the process. Every effort and accomplishment by our camp is part of the journey.
Put another way, purpose of a theme camp is not to provide comfort and services to members. Burning Man flatly rejects any theme camp that acts this way. However, they understand that being fabulous should be rewarded, so they allow camps to offer some amenities that make life little more pleasant for camp members. Basically, they don’t care that we do extra things for our members as long our members give back to the event through our projects.
Don’t join a camp expecting services. Anything a camp can offer you beyond nothing is an incredible gift to cherish.
Before reading this, be sure to absorb everything in the Theme Camps and Burning Man post.
Now that you understand the intent and purpose of theme camps, behold the luxuries we share with our camp-mates that help us bring amazing things and super-karma to the Burning Man community.
- Kitchen: a place to prepare food and wash dishes. We dedicate a large tent to our kitchen, outfitted with propane stoves, wash basins, water pumps, cooking utensils, and lighting. You bring your own food and drink (including drinking water). The Burning Man principle of Leave No Trace applies here: you take away everything you bring in. Any extra garbage is divided among camp members to remove on their trip out.
- Shower: Burning Man doesn’t really think you need a shower during the event. While you can survive without one, your stay will be so much more pleasant if you can bathe. This year we’re renting a 300 gallon flat gray water tank and building a shower over the top of it. A generator will power an electric pump for running shower water. We’re also paying for the tank to be pumped out every other day.
- Wash water: most of the dues are consumed in paying for water, storage, and water disposal. Each liter of water weighs one kilogram. We’re planning for 1,000 gallons (8,000 pounds or 3,785 liters/kilograms) of water. This is not suitable for drinking, but is safe for washing bodies and dishes. Deducting 100 gallons for kitchen use, this averages to an allocation of 11 gallons of water per person during the event, 5 showers per person. It is frugal, but rather efficient with our shower system.
- Chill spaces: tents and shade areas to hang out and relax, chat with new friends, or just chill.
- Evening heat: camp offers a propane fire pit for members only.
- Security: by virtue of being part of a camp, all your camp members are looking out for you and helping to guard your few, but critical possessions.
- Guidance: the culture is mesmerizing and overwhelming. Just about everything about existence at Burning Man is different than anywhere you have been, so our veteran members are available to introduce you to the highlights of Burning Man and help you navigate it safely. There are dangers to be aware of, but if you keep your wits about you and buddy up with other camp members when you venture forth, you’ll have a great time without risking a bad accident or worse.
- Creativity: camp members bask in the glory of our streetscape and camp, knowing that they all participated in making it so. There is freedom to do as much art as you want, perform as you wish, or become involved in our event offerings from yoga to DJ dances. We have a lot of resident artists to observe creating art and discussing their masterpieces.
Burning Man works in magical ways. It is one of the most popular events in the world because of its transformative power. Driven by a desire for discovery, nearly everyone who attends with willingness to contribute and without expectations will find something that forever alters their life. These things you find without looking can be experienced anywhere, even within our camp. We do our best to make it so. We ALL do, for the origin of our success lies not in a few people, but within us all.
Your Burner Karma begins long before the event; be keenly aware of how your interactions impact it. Our camp has an unwaivering core of wonderful people who joined us because they support our vision, projects and activities. Good Burners make a commitment and stick with it, expecting nothing and savoring everything they experience and receive as the wonderful extras they are.
We receive a lot of questions that suggest a certain idealistic entitlement exists. Last year we had 32 new people signed up for camp and then changed their mind without informing us, greatly strains our resources. As soon as we accept someone to camp, we adjust the camp plan and resources to accommodate them. Wasted communication robs time from activities necessary to bring camp to fruition and diverts attention from someone who will actually show up. Being demanding and inconsistent is a sad way to initiate the Burning Man experience. Simply put, it is very BAD burner karma. We shouldn’t have to say this: don’t keep shopping for a different camp after you’ve been accepted to one.
To avoid misunderstandings, all virgins and 1 or 2-time Burners should read on.
The camp and the Burn belong to all of us. It is a challenge for everyone to get there. Every physical item hauled to the desert arrives at great cost.
Understand where this place is: smack in the middle of nowhere in a hostile environment. If you think it is a challenge to get yourself and your basic necessities there, ponder deeply how anything else arrives. There’s no government handout, no mysterious organization that magically provides for all your needs. There is no electrical infrastructure at the event. Electricity can be generated onsite only by participants who buy generators, which requires expensive fuel that must be hauled there. Power is precious and earnestly applied to illuminate artwork, not to run appliances. There are no grocery stores in the nearby towns; the only supplies are in Reno, several hours away. Burning Man is focused on dealing with government and creating temporary city infrastructure, establishing a foundation for everything to happen, relying on volunteers and the participants themselves to do everything else.
Burning Man pays for and coordinates emergency services and only supplies septic service in the form of portable outhouses, the contents of which are constantly emptied and hauled to Reno for disposal. There are no wells or running water. No garbage service. Everything you bring in must be taken out.
Camp is your clan and everyone in the clan is responsible for themselves, pooling a few meager resources to exist. Camps always run a deficit that rests on the shoulders of a few. If you think dues are excessive, you aren’t thinking about the situation deeply enough. Nobody is making money here. If you were to purchase and bring just the pieces of wood and hardware to anchor one of the tents used in our commons, that alone would more than consume anyone’s dues. There is so much more going on. A camp’s main purpose is to deliver art and interactivity to the event. Creature comforts are a bonus, and we offer more than most. There’s no surplus.
Everyone has a long journey. If closer, their journey is saddled with hauling gear, material costs and building things to expand our collective experience. Be grateful for anything a camp can do to make your stay more tolerable. Anything beyond what you are able to do for yourself is a precious gift brought to you by others who understand the Burning Man ethos and make many personal sacrifices to make it happen.
The Burning Man event has a huge bike problem: last year there were over 4,000 bikes abandoned there. Apparently there are lot of people who buy cheap bikes on the way in and assume they are doing someone a favor by “donating” it to the event, or expecting to find a charitable group there who wants a bike. As a result, Borg ends up with a huge mess to clean up because it is very difficult to dispose of the extra bikes.
Karma Love Camp is trying to help alleviate the bike problem. Each year we take bike donations and invest a LOT of work to make it possible to reuse a bike the next year. To this end, we offer a special service for some of our camp members. We’ll sell you one of these reconditioned bikes and have it waiting for you in camp. At the end of the event, you can donate it back, or take it away (bikes are usually too trashed to recycle after their second burn). If you are going to be purchasing a bike anyway, why not help camp with fundraising and help Burning Man by participating in bike recycling.
If interested in helping even more, hang around after Burning Man is over to assist with cleaning up the camp gear, taking inventory, repacking and servicing the bikes for next time. Each bike has to be inspected, have decorations removed, pressure washed, repaired, lubed, inventoried, and stacked for storage. It takes 4-6 days after the event to get everything done, but the good news is: starting the Wednesday after the event the service road is open to everyone, which has a 20 mph speed limit, smooth as pavement, and no lines. When that road opens, it is only a 35 minute drive between camp and Gerlach, where we have land to work on our projects.
NOTE: Most of our bikes are girls bikes and bikes are only available to those arriving by Burner Bus or internationals.
We appreciate our distance members so much, we offer a special option to offset the burden of traveling so far to join us.
We construct several dormatory tents that are partitioned with fabric into four rooms each. They are anchored in such a way to be stable in the high wind bursts that hit the desert. Floors are tarp with area rugs, air mattress bed included. Adornments by camp members make it cozier. These tents are set up and ready for you when you arrive. All you need to bring is your own bedding.
– Must be traveling from extreme distance, especially internationally.
– Must arrive by Burner Express Bus or carpooling.
– Participating in, or leading camp events.
– Dorms are for women only.
– Preference for occupants arriving Saturday by Burner Express Bus.
You also need to know…
This program serves two additional purposes: recycle and reuse, and reduction of vehicle traffic.
Usually, you’d be buying a tent anyway, and then throwing it away after the event. The tents in the low price range are quite flimsy, known to collapse in the high winds or leak water and won’t have much room to move around.
You can stand up in our tents and we have engineers involved in the anchoring systems.
Theme camps are granted space based on the number of people being hosted and the scale of interactivity, NOT how many vehicles are parked. In fact, with more vehicles we lose credibility and too many make it impossible to fulfill camp functions. Nobody journeys to Burning Man to visit a parking lot. We have to hide vehicles from street view as much as possible.
This is another reason we offer dorm rooms. To offset the hardship and inflexibility from giving up driving a vehicle, we reduce the burden of mass in what must be brought.