At the end of August, the wide open playa of Nevada’s Black Rock Desert becomes one of the state’s largest cities—for just eight days. Burning Man is held every year the week before Labor Day. A large city and community is built and over 70,000 people attend. Many of them bring a variety of RVs (both conventional and homemade), or build their own unusual structures to live in.
After a decade of going the annual event, I’ve learned a few things about how to camp in the middle of an inhospitable desert with dust storms, 100 degree temperatures, and freezing cold nights. Whether you are in a homemade boat on wheels, a restored fire engine, or a simple canned ham, these four tips will make your camping experience at Burning Man a lot more enjoyable.
1. Where you camp matters.
Black Rock City is where the majority of Burning Man participants “live” for the week of the event. Some parts of the city are reserved for specific theme camps or groups while the rest of the city is open to regular ticket holders. Since the city is so large, it pays to have a good idea where you want to camp, because once you are there you are not allowed to drive your vehicle around.
Black Rock City has its specific neighborhoods—each with their own style and vibe. The city is laid out like a clock and anything near the 9:00 area tends to be more crowded, party-heavy, and can get the brunt of dust from the entry road. The 3:00 area tends to attract older participants and stays a little more quiet (relatively), but there is less coverage from the sun and wind. The back edges of the city tend to attract RVers who want a little more privacy.
2. Circle the wagons, but don’t keep people out.
If you are camping with other RVers (VW Bus Camp is one example), it helps to place your RV either in a circle or a square to create both private and public areas. This also creates a windbreak or shade areas for both camp visitors and residents.
If you do have a group campsite, be sure to include a public area where you share your camp with people not in your group. Burning Man is all about sharing (there is no commerce at the event except for ice and coffee at Center Camp). The public area can be anything from a bar, a massage parlor, a stage, or an art studio.
3. Porta Potties are your new friend.
Take a cue from your non-RV Black Rock City neighbors. Use the Porta Potties. While there are sanitation trucks that serve the potties, getting your RV tanks serviced is a rare occurrence. If you are able to flag down a service truck (using a sign helps), you can end up paying a lot more than you anticipated.
The potties have a reputation at Burning Man, but if you consider how many people use them, they are not that bad. These ubiquitous structures are located on nearly street corner as well as near some major art pieces. So there is no reason not to take advantage of them.
4. Light up your RV, your camp and yourself
Even with all the flashing, buzzing, spinning and fiery lights, every year people will lose their camps in the deep dark desert. It’s so easy to get turned around on the maze of streets, so make sure you either mark or light up your camp and RV in some way.
A lot of Burners use solar powered LED lights, disco balls, large flags or kites to mark their camp. At the same time, light up yourself at night. No one at Burning Man likes a darkwad. Use blinkies, EL wire, or other fun lights so you don’t get run over by a random mutant vehicle.
You may also want to check out these Burning Man RV Camping Tips To Save Your Rig And Your Sanity