Recreational Vehicle (RV) is the term generally used for a motor vehicle or trailer equipped with living space and amenities found in a home. RVs at Burning Man are equally loved and abhorred by participants. They can be very useful on the playa and yet are not without complications that could be hazardous. In order to protect the playa and participants from environmental hazards related to RVs, here are a few easy-to-follow guidelines.
What is nice about an RV?
- Protects you during dust storms/rain
- A bed
- You can cook indoors without worrying about dust getting in the food
- A shower and toilet
- They carry a lot of supplies
What is not-so-nice about an RV?
- Expensive to rent (about $2000 for 10 days)
- High gas cost (about $150.00 per trip to the gas station)
- They sell out quickly — if you are going do it, do it now!
- Noisy generators disturb others
- Keep you isolated from others. Why bother coming to Burning Man if you are going to spend all your time in your RV?
What to remember when considering an RV
Pre-Playa: Test Your RV Tanks
It is essential that you check underneath your RV for leakage from your potable, gray, and black water tanks. Also check for oil leaks.
Do this before you leave your RV rental site and before you leave for the playa:
- Fill your water – check for fresh water leaks
- Run your sink – (one minute) check for gray water leaks
- Flush your toilet – (a few times) check for black water leaks
- Check your caps – potable, grey, and black water caps go missing and sometimes RVs are even rented without them. Caps are easily replaceable at RV or hardware store.
- Check for vehicle fluid leaks – If you can, crawl under and inspect the underside of your RV, particularly around the engine compartment and drivetrain to look for wet spots where fluids might be leaking.
As a citizen of Black Rock City, you are responsible for preventing and remediating leaks — not the RV rental site or your camp manager.
On Playa: Tank Leak
Leaking is commonly caused by being overfilled or, worse, a crack in the tank. If you have a leak, here’s what to do:
- Stop using it – First of all, stop. Until you fix it, no more showers, toilets or baths.
- Contain it – Use a bucket to collect the leaking fluids. If the spill is over one gallon, the amount of contaminated playa is five gallons. If you’ve got a spill, mark off the spill area with cones and get help from Rangers or ESD.
- Dig It Up – If all the contaminated playa can fit in a five-gallon bucket, use a shovel to dig up the contaminated playa and dispose of off playa. If the spill affects a playa surface larger than five gallons, call a Ranger or ESD. Leave No Trace.
- Fix it – If your spill is due to a crack or some other malfunction, you may have to stop using your RV tanks entirely. If it’s overfilled, get your tank emptied or pumped by United Site Services.
On Playa: Engine Oil Leak
Engine oil leaks are common, especially in older vehicles, and they are bad for the playa. Check under your vehicle; if your engine oil is leaking on the playa, use a drip pan, tarp, rug, plywood, or anything that can be secured to the ground so it catches the oil.
Always: Have a Five-Gallon Bucket Around
For RVs, a five-gallon bucket is very handy on the playa. If you don’t have a bucket, a tarp or a bin might suffice.
- When your RV is being serviced, a bucket underneath the tank will capture any residual drips or leaks. If the leak or spill occurs while a tank is being pumped, the vendor will remediate the spill. However, any leaks or spills that happen outside of servicing are still your responsibility. More info here.
- If you have a small fuel leak or grey or black water spill and the contaminated playa fits in a five-gallon bucket, you can just dig up the soil and dispose of the bucket off site. If the contaminated playa is greater than what will fit in a five-gallon bucket, you might need help. Call a Black Rock Ranger or ESD’s Hazmat team to help remediate the site. See the guidelines here.
- Use your bucket to contain Matter Out Of Place (MOOP) as you clean up your camp. Before you leave Black Rock City, it’s your job to make sure all MOOP (cigarette butts, wood scraps, plastic bottle caps, etc.) is picked up off the playa. Here’s everything you need to know.
Leave No Trace
The Burning Man community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.
One of the nicest things about your RV is the generator. If you have a more modern RV, chances are the generator is behind the driver’s seat and is one of the quietest ones. An Onan generator is, by far, the top-of-the-line generator for low sound emissions.
- Use your generator on a daily basis for at least one hour. If you don’t run it once a day, you will take the chance that your battery will run out and you won’t be able to start the RV when you have to go home.
- Invest in/borrow a power inverter. During the time you run your generator, attach this power converter to the battery to turn DC to AC. When you turn it off, you can still use the inverter to power the stereo, lights, etc. (The size of the inverter determines how long it gives energy.) In this case, bigger is better.
- Don’t leave your generator on for long periods of time. You don’t want to waste gas unnecessarily. Besides, most RV rental places actually charge you for generator time. Usually they allow up to three hours of free generator time, and charge a minimal fee after that.
The sink, toilet and shower
You have a finite supply of water. You need to be more aware of water usage than you may be at home. Your water mileage will vary with the number of people sharing the RV.
Don’t leave the water running while washing your dishes or yourself. Think frugal. Most RVs have a bigger fresh water tank than gray water tank, and if you let the water run, you will fill the gray water tank.
On the subject of toilets:
Even though you have a toilet, you should still alternate with the porta-potties. Only use one-ply RV toilet paper with your RV toilet. Otherwise you may experience problems.
There is no dumping station on site, and you will not be allowed to dump on the playa. The BLM does issue citations for the dumping of gray or black water. RV servicing will be available for a $50 fee for trailers up to 24′ in length and $60 for one gray and one black tank for RVs that are 25′-35′ in length. Each additional tank is $30.
There is no location for scheduling RV servicing appointments. We’ve tried to have a sign-up booth at Playa Info in the past, and it was horribly inefficient and wasted a lot of people’s time. Keeping that in mind, feel free to stop by Playa Info between the hours of 11 am and 1 pm for more information.
Just flag ’em down!
The trucks that service RVs make their rounds between 9 am and 9 pm, and they have an amber flashing light on the top and a big “RV ONLY” sign on the side. The trucks patrol their “zones” in the city all day, and you can flag them down for service as they roam their quadrants, or stop them while they’re in the broader neighborhood and request a local visit. In case of dire emergency/missed opportunity, you can also pedal out to Fire & Services, where you will find a Help Desk and make an appointment (out past the outer road and 6:30).
Make sure that there is someone at your camp to show the driver where to pump AND to pay for the servicing. Keep in mind that the sanitation vendor only accepts cash so plan accordingly. Also, if they can’t get to your rig, they’re not going to be able to service it. Leave a space for the service truck to get to your RV. Pump hoses cannot reach beyond 30 feet.
We also used an outdoor shower to freshen up. You should use the RV shower only every other day. Use unscented baby wipes to keep fresh between showers.
The RV as part of a campsite
RVs in Black Rock City are not the most welcome site, but they can be used strategically in camp to great effect. During the windstorms, RVs can protect the tents from blowing away. Place your RVs along the boundary of the campsite to protect the common areas from the windstorms. Your campmates in tents will appreciate you for it, as will visitors to your camp.
Decorate your RV
RVs are much more fun when they become art!
- Have fun with the logo (as long as it is reversible)
- Decorate it. One of the best RVs someone long ago who wrote some of this copy ever saw was a RV covered in fur (a FUR-V), and one had huge legs (like when the house landed on the wicked witch of the east in the Wizard of Oz). Said someone used bamboo, PVC piping and a parachute to give shade and add some flair.