Camp Resource Guide

This guide will support your efforts to organize amazing camps. Although some of this information is specific to theme camps and villages, most will also be relevant to camps of all types and sizes. If you prefer to watch rather than read, we’ve included relevant Theme Camp Symposium videos and additional resources. This info is maintained by the Camp Support Team

Before you dive in, note that there is no one way to camp at Burning Man. Each of the 1,500 Black Rock City camps has its own way of doing things! These resources and advice are here to support you on your journey.

Acculturation of Camp Members

Acculturation of Camp Members

Camps play a critical role in acculturating their members for Burning Man, including:

  1. acculturating newbies to Burning Man culture, Black Rock City, and to your camp
  2. acculturating returning Burners who are new to your camp or your camp’s culture
  3. sometimes re-acculturating veteran Burners and reminding them how Burning Man and your camp are different from the default world.

At the most basic level, acculturation is easier or more challenging depending on ratios. For example, if 5-10% of your camp are newbies or new Burners to your camp, it’s fairly easy for the camp leadership and other campmates to support their acculturation journey. If over 50% of your camp are newbies and/or Burners who are new to your camp, acculturation will be much more challenging. Newbie sponsorship by a veteran campmate to guide the newbie through acculturation both pre-Playa and on Playa ensures that the information is shared and the newbie is supported in the experience. (Here is a 2019 Theme Camp Symposium video: Acculturation Panel)

Burning Man Culture: How do we introduce those who are on playa for the first time to our city and community? The 10 Principles were created as guidance to help all of us navigate Black Rock City and Burning Man culture around the world. They are a great place to start when bringing new friends to Black Rock City, but it’s important to note the 10 Principles are intentionally descriptive instead of prescriptive. It’s up to each of us to interpret the 10 Principles, so the more you can encourage your campmates to genuinely think about, engage with, and apply them in their own way, the more helpful it will be than telling them how they “should” interpret them. 

Black Rock City Culture: Acculturating your campmates to the unique ways we are together in Black Rock City intersects with the 10 Principles. Introduce newbies to the Survival Guide, which includes tips for how to be a good citizen of BRC, dos and don’ts, and the community resources that they won’t find in the default world. As their camp, you have a huge opportunity to affect individual behavior through the education you do up front, the expectations you set around behavior, and how you respond when something happens that isn’t in line with our culture. Consider covering topics like how to take care of your well-being, Leave No Trace, consent (including consent to be photographed), logos and branding, porta-potty etiquette, encouraging participation, and how to be a good neighbor. 

Your Camp’s Culture: Every camp is unique! How are you different from other camps? What do newbies or Burners who are new to your camp need to know to align with your camp’s culture? What expectations do you have of each other when it comes to participation with visitors to your camp and also ensuring your camp will run smoothly? What happens if those expectations aren’t met? 

An Acculturation Checklist:

  • Burning Man culture 
    • Make sure your campers understand the 10 Principles.
    • Watch this video and look for others that explain the culture and ethos of Burning Man:

    • Discuss some of the more nuanced Principles that may be  more difficult for new people to “get” about Burning Man’s culture like Decommodification and how seriously we take Leave No Trace. Paint a picture of what the Principles look like in action and why they matter to you. 
  •  Black Rock City culture
    • Check that they’ve read the Survival Guide.
    • Encourage them to explore information about the event.
    • Establish how they can get support and who can help them when they are figuring out how to go to Black Rock City and/or be part of your camp for the first time.
  • Your camp’s culture 
    • Get clear on your own camp’s culture, how you operate together, and how you communicate with new campers.
    • Set clear and specific expectations with campers for participation before and during the event, and for strike.  
    • Make these expectations easily available via a written document. 

Additional Resources

Bikes

Bikes 

Black Rock City is a pedestrian-friendly environment that lends itself to walking and biking. Bikes are the most popular mode of transportation on the playa and that means there are a lot of them! Bikes are super useful but, on occasion, they become problematic.

  • Parking: Every camp should plan for bike parking. Even you’re a small camp with a few personal bikes, you’ll want a place to park and lock your bikes when you aren’t using them. 
  • Crowds: Camps that attract many visitors should provide adequate bike parking space to prevent a pile of metal and rubber from appearing out of nowhere. It’s super important to keep the city streets clear for pedestrians, water trucks and emergency vehicles, especially at night! Rangers will ask you to clear bikes if they are spilling out into the street. 
  • Repairs: As with any situation on the playa, you should be prepared to deal with common bike repairs. Be sure to pack multiple replacement tubes that fit any bike you bring with you. A small tool set that works with your bike will also come in handy. If you’re lucky, there’s a camp nearby who is gifting bike repair services, but you can’t count on that. 
  • E-Bikes, scooters and more: Make sure you’ve read the DMV’s rules on personal transport vehicles. If it’s not on their list, it’s not allowed in Black Rock City. Ensure your campers are aware of these rules so they don’t haul something they can’t use.
  • Decor: Personalize your ride. Let it represent you in all possible ways! Personalized decorations it will help you quickly find and identify your bike when you park it with hundreds of others. Here are more tips on personal bikes.

Camp Layout and Logistics

Camp Layout and Logistics

Living in the desert for a week or two takes some planning. Not only do you have to get all of your stuff there, but you need to know where it goes once you arrive. You should know roughly how much space you need, how best to arrange things, and how to light it up so nobody trips/rides over your stuff in the dark of night.

Layout Essentials

  • Think about how your camp is contributing to make the frontage of your street a cool place. What does it say when you look down a street and see a full street of vibrant and exciting structures and signage? What does it say when half the camps have cars parked right up on the street and you can’t see the next camp over past the cars? And how does that affect the overall feel of your city block.
  • In designing the layout of your frontage, you should be aware of not only how it affects your own camp, but also how it affects the vibe/culture/feel of your neighboring camps, city block, and sector.
  • All camps requesting placement are required to submit a camp layout with their questionnaire. Placement uses this to determine how much physical space you will need. 
  • If you camp in open camping or don’t receive placement, you should still create a layout so you know how much space you need once you get to the playa. Depending on your arrival time to open camping, you may not find all the space you need, but with your plan in hand, you’ll know how you can flex to fit the available space.
  • There are multiple tools for creating a camp plan/layout. Use something that you’re familiar with (perhaps it’s a pencil and graph paper or maybe it’s a software program). If submitting to Placement, it should be as clear and concise as possible. 

Sizing

  • Think about how much space you need for interactivity within your camp that will be open to the public. Then think about the infrastructure and residences and how much space that will need. The overall flow between the public and internal spaces for your camp will impact people’s experiences in your camp.

Ingress/egress

  • Think about the complete experience of someone visiting your camp, starting from when they see it from a distance and decide to check it out. How will visitors enter and exit your camp? How large or obvious is the opening to enter your camp? 
  • If your camp will have crowds, keep in mind the flow of people from and back to the street, as well as locations for bike parking. 
  • If there are parts of your camp that you’d prefer not to have visitors cutting though, think about how to signal that with your layout.

Your Sides and RV Walls

  • What do the sides of your camp say about you? Are they closed off? An unwelcoming line of RVs or cars? The Placement Team will follow up with you and ask you to change your layout if you submit a layout with RV walls with only an opening for your frontage. 
  • Can you get creative in how you lay out any RVs and vehicles in your camp? Think about what you’d appreciate as a participant if you were walking on the street by your camp. Walls of cars/RVs should be used to frame entrances and pathways. Careless placement can screen off aspects of your frontage that deserve to be highlighted, or can convey an imposing, unwelcoming, or boring feeling. Also be aware of how your car/RV walls are affecting your neighbors and overall vibe of the street or avenue.
  • Can you do anything visual or creative with the sides of your camp so they look and feel more appealing or interesting?

Emergency Access 

  • Emergency Services (ESD) and Rangers need to be able to get into your camp efficiently. If things are too tightly blocked together, this could be a problem at a time when someone needs immediate help. Make sure there are clear pathways throughout your layout.

Fire, Fire Lanes, and Fire Safety

Managing Parking (or, creative vehicle placement)

  • Oh, the ins and outs of vehicles. Who’s arriving first? Who’s arriving last? Who will leave first? Who will leave last? It’s helpful to have a list of arrival and departure dates for each vehicle. Consider if your layout is flexible enough to accommodate a group of cars arrives while you’re asleep or away and parks in an order or spot that wasn’t planned.
  • Parking of cars must happen within your camp’s layout — there is no parking lot in Black Rock City. Do not use open camping as a parking lot! Open camping is needed for folks who do not have the privilege of arriving early with Work Access Passes. Please ensure the space you request on your Camp Placement Questionnaire includes fitting all your vehicles inside your camp’s boundaries.
  • Don’t want those pesky vehicles in your camp? Encourage your campmates to carpool or use the Burner Express. The fewer cars at Burning Man, the better! 

Accessibility

Preparing for Extreme Weather

The Black Rock Desert is wild and unpredictable. High winds, rain, lightning, hail, extreme heat, and near freezing cold are all possibilities during the event. Your camp should have plans in place for all weather conditions.

  • Secure your structures. Bring more rebar, lag bolts, ratchet straps, rope, etc. Be aware of where the winds are coming from once you get on playa and secure your structure. Utilize large vehicles like box trucks to protect tents from prevailing.
  • Keep your camp organized and loose objects from flying away. If there’s a dust storm coming, and all your camp’s bikes are in one spot, you can more easily manage them rather than if they’re all over the place.
  • Prolonged rain means no driving on the playa. No driving on the playa means no porta potty or RV servicing. Make sure you have five-gallon buckets and extra garbage bags should you need to fashion an emergency toilet (which you will then seal and take with you when leaving the desert). Gross but true. You can even pack your five-gallon bucket as a weather emergency kit with some toilet paper!

Additional Resources

  • 2018 Theme Camp Symposium Video of Panel on “How to Get L.A.I.D. at Burning Man — Best Practices for Handling Logistics, Assets, Infrastructure, and Delegation” with Christopher of Swing City, Doug of Reverbia, Heather of Red Nose District, Jeremy of OKNOTOK, Marisa of Death Guild, and moderator Little Jack of Hushville.

Deliveries to Black Rock City

Deliveries to Black Rock City

Sometimes you make really big plans and will need to rely on Outside Services to deliver infrastructure into Black Rock City. Options available for arranging deliveries to the playa are explained on the Arranging Deliveries page.

Camp Finance

Camp Finance

Small camps (e.g, less than 10 members) may not have a shared budget. In a small camp, each member may simply bring whatever resources they have to share. However, most larger camps require members to pay dues, which might be as little as $50 per person, up to $500 per person or more. Examples of major expenses for a large camp include: purchase of shade structures, equipment rental, communal kitchen supplies, materials for art projects, storage costs, and the cost of producing high-quality swag.

Experience has shown that it is best to have a designated camp treasurer who collects the dues and manages the camp budget. It is the treasurer’s responsibility to collect dues from everyone before getting to the playa, and to maintain an up to date report on camp expenditures.

Fundraising and Burning Man's Intellectual Property

Fundraising and Burning Man’s Intellectual Property

What happens when your ideas grow so big you need to find additional capital to make that idea a reality? Fortunately our community likes to support big ideas, but how do you ask for donations without stepping into any weird legal issues or Decommodifcation quagmires? Read on to find out more about Burning Man’s IP (intellectual property) and how to decommodify your camp’s fundraising efforts. 

This summary includes:

  1. An overview of Burning Man’s IP and image-use policies and why we care!
  2. Gifting items with Burning Man’s IP or images from BRC
  3. Hosting a fundraising event
  4. Other tips for keeping your fundraising decommodified.

1. Burning Man’s Policies

  • IP and image-use policies are guided by the Ten Principles and aimed at protecting the event, our participants, and the core words and symbols of Burner culture from commercial exploitation.
  • The core trademarks that Burning Man protects are: the Burning Man symbol (logo), “Burning Man,” “Black Rock City,” and “Decompression.”
  • Burning Man protects the copyrights for the design of the Man, the design of the Black Rock City map, and the Ten Principles.
  • We also restrict the commercial use of Burning Man images to protect the event and the privacy of our participants, in service to Decommodification, Radical Self-Expression, Immediacy, Participation… Non-personal use of images taken at the event must be approved by Burning Man (typically the Communications team press@burningman.org).

2. Gifting Items With Burning Man’s IP or Images from BRC

The Burner community is encouraged to incorporate Burning Man IP or images into their BRC artwork and gifts according to these guidelines:

Totally OK: GIFTING

  • Theme camps, mutant vehicles and art installations are gifts to all of Black Rock City. Burning Man participants are welcome to GIFT items that incorporate Burning Man’s trademarks or copyrights as tokens of appreciation to people who support these playa-bound projects, including as “rewards” or “perks” in crowdfunding campaigns.
  • Example: Incorporating the Man symbol or “Burning Man 2018” into your camp or art project logo, and printing it on gifts for people who support your fundraiser OK!
  • If you’re going to use the Man symbol on a pledge gift, be radically self-expressive and create a custom variation that suits your project!

Not OK: SELLING

  • You can’t SELL items with Burning Man trademarks, copyrights, or images in any forum, including on peer-to-peer websites like eBay, Etsy, Cafe Press, etc. 
  • Example: Setting up an online shop for your camp with merchandise that incorporates the Man symbol, “Burning Man” or “Black Rock City” NOT OK!
  • If you create gifts that incorporate a Burning Man trademark, copyright or image and you have some left after the event, you can’t sell those leftovers. Likewise, please don’t fundraise for the costs of producing your gifts that’s like selling them for the amount of the donation.
  • Example: Setting up a crowdfunding campaign for the Man symbol jewelry you want to gift at Burning Man this year — NOT OK!

3. Hosting a Fundraising Event

  • If you’re having a fundraising event for your camp or other BRC-bound project, feel free to use “Burning Man” or “Black Rock City” in the event description. Just don’t use these names in ways that suggest the Burning Man organization is hosting or sponsoring your event. 
  • “Decompression” should not be used in connection with your fundraisers. This name is reserved for events produced by Burning Man or the Burning Man Regional Network. 
  • Examples: Saying your fundraiser is for your camp “at Burning Man” or your art project “in Black Rock City” OK!
  • Calling your event a “Burning Man Fundraiser” or “Decompression Party” NOT OK!

4. Other Tips for Keeping Your Fundraising Decommodified

Avoid commodifying the Burning Man experience:

  • Steer clear of offering “VIP” access in exchange for donations a private tour on your Mutant Vehicle, a private party at your camp, etc.
  • REMINDER: Burning Man tickets and vehicle passes can’t be used for fundraising purposes (including as crowdfunding rewards, in auctions, etc.)

Avoid commodifying camp space:

  • Pooling resources and sharing costs with your friends OK!
  • Selling space in your camp to raise money NOT OK!

You can read more on Burning Man’s approach to intellectual property, trademarks and copyrights here, as well as proper use of images and media rights here.

If you see any questionable uses of Burning Man’s IP or imagery, please let us know ip@burningman.org. We appreciate your help!

Additional Resources:

Generators and Power

Generators and Power

There is an entire page devoted to generators! Check out the Generators page for tips on using a genny in your camp. The most important aspect for camps to consider (beyond the power itself) is how your generator will impact your neighbors. Where are you placing the generator in the context of your camp? 

Rule of thumb for things that are unpleasant (generators, toilets, light towers, etc) — if your camp is going to enjoy the benefits, then your camp should also deal with the downsides of them (smell, noise, light, etc). Don’t place these things on your camp border so your neighbors have to deal with the downsides while you enjoy the conveniences. Try and put them as deep into your camp’s layout as possible. 

Additional Resources:

Interactivity and Frontage

Interactivity and Frontage

Theme camps and villages form the heart of Black Rock City. Big, small, loud, quiet, these are the places created to entertain, entice and inform the citizenry. Interactivity is a key component to a successful theme camp and its definition is, thankfully, broad. Frontage (or visual stimulation, or curb appeal) is also an important aspect of being a theme camp. 

Note: Interactivity and frontage are not criteria for other camp categories. This only applies to theme camps and villages requesting placement. While it may not be required for your camp category, it sure is lovely to provide interactive experiences for your neighbors regardless! And there are many theme camps in open camping who prefer not to be placed. 

  • Interactivity is defined in the Camp Placement Criteria for theme camps and villages. It’s the primary “thing” theme camps and villages do. It’s the reason why your camp hopefully receives placement in Black Rock City. You’re not placed because of your delicious camper meal plan or your badass power grid; you’re placed because of the interactivity, frontage and overall offering your camp provides to all citizens of Black Rock City.

Designing your camp’s interactivity

  • Ask yourself and your campmates — How do we want to participate in Black Rock City? What gifts do we have for the community (both literal gifts and gifts like your skills, abilities, talents, etc)? What experiences do we want people to have when they come to our camp and interact with us? What can our camp community do in Black Rock City that we may not be able to do in the default world?

Make a plan, stick to it

  • On your placement questionnaire, you’ll describe your plans for interactivity. As the event gets closer, it’s time to get more specific. What exactly will your camp be doing? Who will be doing what? When will it be happening? What materials or preparations do you need in order for it to happen? How are you ensuring it will actually happen?

Frontage — create visually stimulating, open and inviting spaces

  • Frontage is a component of the Placement Team’s Theme Camp Criteria. You should have a plan for what your camp looks like from the outside. 
  • When someone is walking or biking down the street, what will they see? How will people know you’re a theme camp? What about your camp would compel them to get off their bike and come participate? What type of visual experience do you want to create? How does it connect to your interactivity? These are just some of the questions you can ask when planning your frontage.

Night Lighting

  • If your camp wants placement on the Esplanade, Portal, Plaza, or Avenue, your camp needs a plan for night lighting. How can you bring lighting into your frontage plans? What will it look and feel like to those walking down the street at night past your camp? If your camp’s interactivity is primarily after dark, then night lighting should be even more important. Also, consider going solar!

Clarify your camp’s “public” space and “private” space

  • We put those in quotes because technically all of Black Rock City is public! Make sure your public space feels public, open and inviting. People shouldn’t have to seriously question whether they’re “allowed” into a public space. 
  • Clearly define your public space from your ‘back of house’ space, but do not make barriers or signs like, Private Campers Only, for your private space. Create a welcoming space for your visitors, and create a safe space for your campmates.  
  • Plan your camp layout based on the proportions needed for camp interactivity, frontage, and your back of house or living areas.

But I’m not a registered theme camp! Or… I didn’t get placement!

  • Yes! There are many theme camps that prefer to be in open camping and don’t want to deal with the placement process.
  • Interactivity and frontage are components any camp can do whether your camp is placed or not, and no matter what your camp’s category is!

Additional Resources:

Kitchens and Food Safety

Kitchens and Food Safety

Nobody wants to get sick out there and nobody wants to make others sick. To prevent foodborne illness on the playa, the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health (NDPBH) has requirements for camps serving food or beverages, including the need for a health permit. You must apply to the NDPBH and be permitted as a Temporary Food Establishment if:

  • you wish to share, cook, or serve food or non-alcoholic beverages to the general Burning Man population (gifting food), regardless of # served.
  • you will be cooking or serving food to more than 125 fellow campers in your camp.

You can find information about this year’s application and deadlines on the NDPBH website here

If you have a communal kitchen shared by 125 or more campers but meals are prepared individually or in smaller quantities than for 125 persons, a permit is not required. However, we highly recommend you research and review “Burning Man Food Safety Requirements” and the “Burning Man Checklist” found on the NDPBH website’s information page. 

There are many ways to structure a kitchen. Some camps have communal meal plans (some do one meal, two meals, or three meals per day), some camps share groceries but individuals make their own food, and some camps do not collaborate on food. The amount of infrastructure and equipment you’ll need for your kitchen depends on the size of your camp and how extensive or simple your food plans are.

Additional Resources:

Leadership

Leadership

Managing a camp comes with all of the fun and challenges that accompany any project that brings people, infrastructure and creative spirit together. For a bit of inspiration, watch this video of fellow camp leaders at the 2018 Theme Camp Symposium explaining why they do everything they do for their camps.

Communication

  • Leaders communicate expectations, needs, challenges, ideas, plans, requests, opportunities, decisions, and much more. What does the communication loop between your camp’s leadership and the rest of your camp look like? 
  • Many camps have in-person or virtual meetings throughout the year to discuss ideas, make decisions and build community. Find the frequency and method that works best for your camp. 

Managing people

  • Friends
    • There are many different approaches for leading groups of friends. Openly communicating, staying honest and speaking up as early as possible when something isn’t working is probably the best advice. If you wait too long and frustration builds, your camp stuff can taint your friendship.
  • Friends of friends

    • If managing friends is challenging, managing the friends they want to bring with them can be even more so. There’s a common theme when dealing with people, friends or otherwise. Open and honest communication is key.

  • New friends

    • Sometimes you bring in total strangers to your camp. There are various reasons to do so and none of them change how you might lead them. As a general rule, the more communication with new camp members before getting to the playa, the better.

Appreciating campers

  • Feedback is important and it is sometimes easy to forget that positive feedback is a powerful force. It can be easy to focus on the things that are going wrong especially in the midst of camp build or teardown. Remind the people around you that you appreciate them and that their contributions are important. A little praise goes a looooong way. And we hope they’ll appreciate you too!

Cultivating new leaders

  • At some point, for some reason you may not be able to fulfill a leadership role in your camp. Life happens, burn-out happens and if your camp wants to continue, it’s important that you think about who might take over for you should you step aside. Share responsibility so you can identify who is willing and able to be that new leader.

Empowerment

  • Does someone have a great idea? Rather than the established leaders taking it on, why don’t they go make it happen! Even if they don’t have the skills, experience, or track record, what better place than Burning Man for someone to take on a project they’re excited about and figure out how to do it? Provide support and mentorship as needed, but let them run with it.

Burn-out

  • Organizing and managing a Burning Man theme camp or village is hard. There comes a point where everyone needs a break, and that’s OK. To avoid burn-out, spread as much of the responsibility around as possible. By spreading the load, you can hang in there a lot longer.

Support networks

Leaving No Trace

Leaving No Trace

Our event could not exist without vigilant participants packing out their equipment, recyclables, trash and everything else they brought with them.

There’s a ton of information on our Leaving No Trace page that will help you manage your LNT efforts! Note that your camp’s LNT history will be heavily weighted when evaluating future applications for placement.

Additional Resources

Neighbors

Neighbors

Most of the time, we find our neighbors in Black Rock City to be wonderful, supportive, funny and welcoming, but every so often there’s a little friction between camps. Ninety-nine percent of the time, issues are resolved with open and respectful communication.

Introduce yourself and your camp

  • Be proactive. When you first arrive, say hello to your neighbors! Introduce yourselves and your camp. Let them know who to come to if they have a problem. When your neighbors arrive from their long journey, greet them, offer them water and introduce yourselves. Welcome them to the neighborhood! 
  • When an issue arises with your neighbor, it’s easy to get frustrated and build them up in your mind into a Burning Man villain before you even walk over to talk (or yell) about it. Do your best to calmly discuss any issues with your neighbor when those issues come up. Assume your neighbors have positive intent. 

Tips for resolving issues on your own

  • There are neighborly ways to address problems. First, it helps to know or ask who in the camp to talk to versus talking to (or yelling at) the first person you see. Do you like to be told what to do in a yelling tone by someone you just met? Most people don’t. Discuss how to solve the problem together versus telling them what they should do [email protected]*%ing-now. Make sure you’ve both had enough water. Sit down together. Take the high road against drama.
  • If you’re in over your head, you can request assistance from the Black Rock Rangers. If you have a neighbor that consistently isn’t collaborating to solve problems, make sure your Placer is also aware of the situation.

Not everyone wants to sleep when you do

  • Remember, Burning Man is loud. There are no quiet hours or official quiet areas in Black Rock City. Be radically self-reliant and make sure your campers are prepared with earplugs, battery-powered white noise machines, whatever they need to sleep. Help acculturate your new campers to this landscape. Familiarize yourself with the sound policy so you know what’s Ok-loud versus not-Ok loud.

Get to know your neighborhood before you get to the playa

Neighborliness issues

  • The most common issues among neighboring camps are sound and generator noise. Guess what, those are both preventable! See the previous section on Generators and Camp Layouts for how to best plan your generator’s placement. Set expectations with your campers who may touch those volume dials and review the Black Rock City Sound Policy.

Online Communities Directory

Online Communities Directory

We know that before the Man goes up in flames you’re already thinking about plans for next year, and fortunately you’re not alone. There are various resources that are active all year long where you can discuss your next big idea or give help to those who are just figuring this theme camp thing out.

Safety

Safety

Here’s a roundup of key safety information:

Videos

Shade and Other Structures

Shade and Other Structures

There’s a lot to consider to make sure the structure you’re building on playa is safe. Read, Building Safe Structures, to make sure you’ve covered all your bases.

Large structures need to be secured properly. All designs are strongly advised to include safety provisions. For more on this, please check out Securing your Structure.

If you would like to discuss your structural plans, please email us at structures@burningman.org.

Additional Resources:

Size

Size

Every year Black Rock City is rebuilt and with that comes many changes. Camps grow, camps shrink, camps sleep, camps wake up. Know what to expect so your camp can navigate inevitable changes in population or enthusiasm.

  • Growth: Sometimes bigger is not better. As a camp lead, it’s super important that you understand your willingness and ability to manage an ever-growing population of campers. It can be challenging when your camp starts as a group of friends, and then the next year everyone wants to invite another friend, and then the year after that they all want to invite their friends, and all of a sudden your camp has doubled or tripled in size. Slow growth is typically the most successful strategy and it helps to have some intention around the maximum size for your camp. 
  • Size thresholds: There are many theories regarding group sizes and the thresholds at which dynamics and complexity changes substantially. If you’re interested, we’d suggest looking up some of the research. One number that’s cited often by camp leaders is Dunbar’s Number, a theory that humans can only comfortably hold up to 150 relationships. There are thresholds at smaller group sizes as well. 
  • Limiting size: The best time to discuss limiting the size of your camp is during the event. Ask the question, is our camp the right size, or should we grow? If the answer to that question is, “we are the right size now”, then start the conversation about how to restrict camp membership next year.
  • Downsizing: Despite our best efforts, life happens in between Burns and your once thriving and robust camp may find itself with campers who are not able to make the trip to the desert. Don’t panic! You can do this. It’s totally acceptable to scale back your interactivity offerings should you find yourself with fewer people to make it happen. Keep the potential of future downsizing or size fluctuations in mind as your camp is growing. Sometimes a temporary solution to accommodate more people for one year makes more sense than permanent infrastructure that you find you don’t need next year.
  • Take a year off: After 15 years of serving grilled carrots and candy bar smoothies you deserve a break! Sometimes a camp just needs to take a breather. If you’re a placed theme camp, you will find Placement happy to work with you and hold your camp in good standing during your break. You have to let Placement know by their deadline each year, which is typically in January (announced in the Placement Newsletter).

Sound

Sound

Sound Policy

  1. Neighbors should talk to one another when sound becomes problem and try to resolve the issue through direct communication.
  2. Large-scale sound installations MUST be located along the ends of our city. They may express themselves unless community complaints persist.
  3. Within the city, a maximum power amplification of 300 watts is permitted, producing sound amplification not to exceed 90 decibels, when measured at 20 feet from the source.
  4. Any complaints about excessive sound will become the concern of the Black Rock Rangers. Concerns about excessive sound may result in:
    A) volume check and mediation between camps
    B) volume check and a final warning on complaints
    C) the disabling of equipment

Sound Recommendations

We also wanted to share the below fantastic sound recommendations from Noah Reson-Brown from the Theme Camp Cult of the Magic Lady. (We’ve shortened it slightly for this format, the original post online is here.)

Hey amplified sound camps with a DJ! Wanna avoid noise complaints? It’s doable… but there’s a method to the madness.

  1. First and foremost, DJs should never control their own volume. They can’t hear the sound hitting the audience because they’re not in the audience! Your volume control (usually on a sound board) should be handled by someone in a position out in the audience.
  2. You know that 90db at 20 feet limit? That’s too liberal of a limit. 85db is already causing hearing loss. A good sound system REALLY doesn’t have to be that loud to be good. Proper speaker position can make that work.
  3. But the DJ wants it loud! That’s fine… aim a monitor speaker (which just plays back what he’s playing) directly at his head from close range. Preferably two, one from each side. Now he gets to hear his sound nice and loud.
  4. You can also place the speakers behind the DJ, so the DJ hears everything and gets deafened by his own noise. There’s a reason you see those big speaker walls behind some concert shows… it’s to make sure the musicians get to deafen themselves as much as they want. If the speakers are in front of the DJ, they don’t hear it nearly as well.
  5. Speakers (other than the subs) should be elevated above head height. Low speakers will bounce sound along the playa, scattering it to your neighbors… plus much of the noise is dampened by the bodies of the dancers before it hits ears. If your speakers are higher and aimed down, you can aim the sound at the center of your dance floor/party space and use much lower volume to get the same effect on the floor, while heavily reducing sound outside your dance floor. When aiming sound, remember that speakers generally spread about 60 degrees horizontally and 40 degrees vertically in their peak sound area. For most purposes, you want the speakers at just above head height, generally on standard tripods. Bigger camps will want to go higher. None of this applies to subs, whose noise is so low it doesn’t matter. Low pitch sounds scatter heavily, and aren’t dampened much by people. Plus those things are heavy. Leave ’em on the ground.
  6. Elevated speakers must be well secured. Speakers falling on people sucks. Please don’t moop the blood of your attendees. It’s rude. This is especially true if you stack your main speakers on your subs for height… strap that shit down. Subs vibrate, which can dance a speaker right off, even without wind.
  7. Aim the speakers through your own camp, not straight out into the playa (or at neighbors) where possible [Placement Note: EXCEPT if you’re an LSSA Camp with frontage on 10:00 or 2:00 avenues]. The nearest sleeping area to the front of your speakers should be your own sleeping area. If you can’t sleep, that should tell you something. This is especially important for those “running all-night ambient sound” camps with a pair of speakers on stands.
  8. You can put solid padded material (such as plywood with egg crate foam on it) in position to bounce and dampen sound waves away from areas you don’t want it to go. Your neighbors will love this.
  9. If the music’s playing, someone in camp who can operate the sound system should be there at all times. That person should be easily accessible for your neighbors/rangers who get called in because your neighbors are going insane. Be nice to your neighbors!
  10. If you can, two sets of speakers, one set further out than the other, beats the heck out of one speaker set that’s just really loud. If you do this, you’ll need a delay system or your music will be impossible to understand (especially anything vocal).

Remember, you too can avoid noise complaints!

Theme Camp Symposium

Theme Camp Symposium

Once a year, camp leaders get together to support each other and share ideas, challenges and tactics for putting together the best possible camps. 

History

  • The Theme Camp Forum began in 2012 and became the Theme Camp Symposium in 2016. In 2017 the Theme Camp Symposium began inviting Mutant Vehicle Camps and Art Support Camps to the Symposium because in the end, camps are camps are camps! The Theme Camp Symposium has historically taken place in March.

Agendas/Sessions from past TCSs

Info for Upcoming TCS

  • We will post here when available for 2020!

Villages

Villages

Coming together as a village creates a whole new and beautiful dynamic.

  • Planning: A village is more than a collection of camps. The goal is to create something greater than separate camps can create on their own. When planning your village, think about how camps can complement each other and enhance the experience of those visiting your village.
  • Sharing resources: One of the advantages to village life is the opportunity to share resources with other camps. While it may be impractical to share everything, any resources that can be pooled will make planning and logistics far more efficient.
  • Emergency access roads: Large villages (and large theme camps) are required to provide an emergency access road in the event fire or rescue personnel need to get to the interior of your village. This access road should be at least 16’ (4.8m) wide. For specific requirements, take a look at the “Important Camp Safety Features” section of the Camp Layouts page.
  • Village frontage (about those RVs…): The frontage of your village should be the most clearly welcoming area. Frontage, of course, is not limited to the “front” of your village. Should your village be large enough to face multiple streets/avenues, it is encouraged to provide interactivity on all sides. This could be anything from a small piece of art or a full on hosted experience. Some of the best things that happen at Burning Man are those random interactions you have while wandering through the city. If you have a number of campers with RVs in your village, try to place them along your fire access road or at the very least parked perpendicular to the road they are facing. A wall of RVs is impersonal, uninviting and really uninteresting. 
  • Communication within the village: As village mayor, it is super imperative that you keep information flowing to the camps within your village. Use all of the tools at your disposal to organize and disseminate important dates, deadlines and plans. Shared calendars, spreadsheets, group chats, or whatever works for you and your other camp leads are good places to start. No one wants surprises as they arrive in the desert.
  • Communication with Placement: Just as communicating between camps within the village is important, keeping Placement updated with your plans is a must. Placement will only talk to one point of contact — the Village Mayor who filled out the Village questionnaire. Plans change quickly and frequently as we all know, and keeping Placement updated on any major changes in size, interactivity or desired placement location will ensure a smooth arrival and setup on Playa.

Arranging Deliveries

Page 1: Arranging Deliveries
Page 2: Outside Services Program
Page 3: Fuel Transportation, Storage and Distribution Requirements


Potable Water Hauling Policies

Any person who is hauling, delivering, vending, providing, or selling potable water to any individual or organized camp other than their own private or individual camp at Burning Man must be permitted by the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health (NDPBH).

This policy does not apply to RV providers which provide a water already stocked in the RV for individual use.


 

Below are the ONLY ways deliveries can be made on playa:

Option 1: Deliver EVERYTHING Yourself!

This means you or your campmates drive your things in and out on your own, without relying on any third-party assistance, even if you’re bringing in large cargo, trailers, etc. Pat yourself on the back for being radically self-reliant! 

Option 2: Outside Services Program

Burning Man Project’s Outside Services (OSS) program supports projects by facilitating access to the event site by larger-scale service providers. 

Using an OSS provider is recommended for groups that do not have the appropriate equipment to safely transport their infrastructure into Black Rock City and need the support of someone with authorization from BLM and Burning Man Project to deliver directly to their campsite.

OSS providers may not drop any equipment or start any services until a camp has claimed their reserved placement from a member of the Placement team on playa.

Camps must have checked in with Placement, and at least one camp member must be present at the camp in order to receive an OSS delivery. An OSS provider cannot be the first to check in with the Placement Team on behalf of a theme camp or any other camp with reserved placement. Any provider who attempts to do so will jeopardize their future participation in the OSS program.

Potential new OSS providers wishing to participate in this program must be engaged year-round in their usual occupation and business activities that they plan to offer, have the required proof of insurance and business license, and be able to comply with all other terms of Burning Man Project’s OSS agreement.

NOTE: The OSS application process for the 2021 Burning Man event closes on April 30th, 2021. 

Service providers are required to apply or renew their SRPs with BLM prior to April 30, 2021.

Both Burning Man Project and BLM do not accept late submissions.

 All prospective OSS providers must apply to BLM for a Special Recreation Permit (SRP) and must complete Burning Man Project’s OSS application by the published deadlines.

At the time of the OSS application, providers must submit proof of insurance and a copy of their business license. 

The SRP application is available on BLM’s website here. Providers must call the BLM Winnemucca District Office before submitting or renewing an application: 775-623-1500. Burning Man Project will confirm with BLM that the provider has submitted all necessary paperwork to obtain a BLM SRP for the event. An SRP is mandatory for all providers in the OSS program.  

In order to participate in the OSS program, the provider must also sign a contract with Burning Man Project agreeing to the program’s terms and restrictions. 

Drivers with OSS credentials can make deliveries on playa via the delivery gate from 6 am until 6 pm each day beginning on the date specified in their contract. Any provider delivering potable water or prepared food must furnish a Nevada State Health Certificate. Any provider delivering fuel must comply with the fuel delivery requirements.

If you have any questions about the Outside Services Program, please email outsideservices@burningman.org.

 

Next Page: Outside Services Program

Camp Layouts

Camp and Village Layout Plans

The layout plan is a diagram that serves several key purposes:

  • It will help you design and build your camp
  • It will help the Placement team choose where and how to integrate your camp into a cohesive and harmonious neighborhood
  • It allows safety and logistical concerns to be reviewed early in the process, reducing the risk of having to make big last-minute changes on the playa

Please prepare your camp layout plan prior to starting your Placement Questionnaire and follow the guidelines listed on this page. Layout plans are submitted as file uploads into the questionnaire. The deadline for the Placement Questionnaire is explicitly stated on the BRC participation forms page. You can find more tips about camp layouts in the Camp Resource Guide.

Example Layouts

Take a look at these mock layouts:

Format

  • Accepted formats are Joint Photographic Group (.jpg), Portable Network Graphics (.png), or Portable Document Format (.pdf). 
  • Limit file size to approximately 1 MB. Most printer drivers will allow a document to be saved as a .pdf file. 
  • While we prefer digitally created layouts, you may photograph a drawing or sculpture of your layout with a digital camera, in order to create a .jpg file for submission.

When submitting your plan as a digital file, be sure the file name is your unique camp name. (NOT the generic “camp plan” or “layout plan”)

Creating a Layout

  • Include your camp name and contact info on your camp plan.
  • Layout plans must be an overhead/birds-eye view of your camp.
  • Include parcel dimensions in feet. Frontage (the parts of your camp that are intended for public interaction, including signs and other visual attractions) should be outlined, highlighted, or otherwise distinguished from “backstage” areas.
  • Use 8.5 x 11-inch “landscape” (horizontal) orientation. Color is welcome, so long as the diagram is completely readable when printed in black and white — avoid dark, cluttered backgrounds. (We know they’re cool, but please do not use satellite photos of previous years.)
  • Call out significant features and each project within your camp area:
    • Where is the camp entrance?
    • Where is the main structure or area for the participant interactions?
    • Where are vehicles parked?
    • Where are generators?
    • If you need a fire lane (see requirements below), where is the path of travel for fire and emergency vehicles?
    • If you own a BRC storage container that needs to be delivered and placed, provide the PC# on your plan, indicate the exact placement of the container (with distances from camp perimeters), and indicate where the container doors should open.
    • If you are a village: Where are your access roads? What are the names of the camps within your village? Does your village have a main entrance and frontage? Do your camps in villages have their own frontages within the village or facing the street?
  • A photo or rendering of camp frontage view is requested, but not required.

Want a template to help create a to-scale of your camp? This Adobe Illustrator file can help you get started. You are not required to use this template, and we happily accept other layouts as they include what’s requested above (including hand drawn ones — make sure they’re legible!)

Layout Dos and Don’ts

Fire Lanes

Frontage and Parking


Access and Frontage

Don’t

Do

  • Don’t put your generator on your neighbors border.
  • Don’t put private portos and RVs with generators exhausting on your neighbors.
  • Don’t assume you can split your fire/access lane with your neighbor. Only camps >150×150 require a fire lane.
  • Don’t use an aerial photo of last year as this year’s layout submission. It’s hard to read, especially when printed in black & white.
  • Don’t isolate anything that needs to be serviced: RV’s, graywater tanks, etc. need clear access paths the width of a fire lane.
  • Don’t group your liquid fuels and liquefied propane gas storage together. 
  • Do indicate large immovable objects or any kind of pyro / fire.  This includes items that absolutely must be faced a certain direction, or that would prevent camp rotation.
  • Do clearly mark where interactivity will be & what will be private camp space. (edited) 
  • Do use feet as the standard unit of measurement. 
  • Do include your fire lane. 
  • Do include your fuel storage, your generator(s), and your fire extinguishers.
  • Do place your generator no more than 20’ away from your frontage street or fire/access lane with a straight and unobstructed access for the fuel hose to reach it from the road. 
  • Do include which side you consider your frontage; if you are a village, be sure to include the frontages for the camps in your village.
  • Do show where neighbor camps would optimally be placed to facilitate resource sharing.
  • Do, if you are on the Esplanade or 10 & 2, create a diagram of how you are going to utilize the space across the Avenue/Esplanade including how you are planning to power / light up anything you are putting there.
  • Do include sufficient space for bike parking if the camp will be hosting events that will attract crowds; don’t leave it up to your guests to invent a place to park.
  • If you have an activity for ‘mature audiences only,’ DO clearly mark where that will be taking place.
  • Do include your Burning Man PC container with the number indicated. Include dimensions from the borders of the camp to the PC, also include where the door goes.

Important Fire and Fuel Safety Features for Camps

  • Camps requesting a space 150’ x 150’ or larger OR that store more than 21 gallons of fuel in their camp must have a fire lane. This should be an entrance and into camp at least 20’ wide for access, and the lane must maintain this width for the duration of the event. Avoid one-way-in and one-way-out (dead-end) fire lanes. Camps smaller than 150′ x 150′ do not need a fire lane.
  • Fire/servicing lanes must not include any sharp turns or corners, trucks must be able to pass straight through to the street, and provide a clear and visible path. The fire lane should provide a direct access road to enter and exit your camp from & onto a Lettered/Numbered Street that DO NOT require trucks to turn around or back out. This entrance should be maintained and not blocked by vehicles or bikes at any time. For more information: BRC Fuel Program.
  • Signage and caution tape can be used to designate the fire lane. Participants should keep in mind the fire exposure issue with hard-sided structures lined up side-by-side. We recommend that hard-sided structures have at least 5’ between them to mitigate fire hazards.
  • All camps and villages must be equipped with fire extinguishers in key locations (e.g., kitchens, near burn bins, fuel storage, and other hazards) located on a post, in full view, close enough but not right next to fire hazards, and indicated on the layout diagram.
  • Fuel containers must be stored in secondary containers (e.g., bins, kiddie pools) large enough to hold 110% of the largest container stored within it.  Fuel containers (even little ones) should not be filled more than 80% of capacity to allow for heat expansion.
  • All camps storing or using combustible fuels must educate themselves about and comply with appropriate practices for storing and handling these materials. Not only is this essential for safety, but it is also required as part of our event permit stipulations with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Please refer to the  FUEL AND HAZMAT STORAGE website for compliance information. 
  • This diagram is what BLM will use when evaluating camp sites for fuel storage.

Fire Extinguishers

  • Avoid using ABC extinguishers in kitchens (serious contaminants) – recommend damp towels as 1st use in a kitchen fire.
  • At least one hand-held portable extinguisher with a 40-B rating is required for any fuel storage area. 
  • Laminate a “HOW TO USE” tag on each extinguisher (PASS)

Looking for more tips?

  • Check out the Camp Resource Guide, a helpful guide prepared by other camp leaders, which has a whole section on Camp Layouts.

You’re always welcome to email placement@burningman.org with questions or if you come across problems submitting a layout plan. Remember to include your camp name in the subject line and [Camp Layout] to help our routing.

Camps and Placement

Burning Man is not a festival, it’s an event and a city in the desert. At most festivals you’ll find friends camping together in their cars and tents in what looks like a giant parking lot behind where the main festival activities take place. It’s very different at Burning Man!

Camps are the heart of community in Black Rock City. The majority of people who go to Burning Man are part of planned, registered camps. Open Camping and Walk-In Camping also exists for any individual or group to find a spot for themselves without pre-registering. The main event is everywhere; it’s where people like you contribute interactive, creative, incredible experiences to share with everyone. Camps are organized groups of people doing just that.

For more tips and guides about how to plan at camp, please review the Camp Resource Guide, join or start a thread through E-Playa, or turn to the Camp Support Team by emailing campsupport@burningman.org.

Where can I get advice on how to run a camp?
Here are some things we’ve prepared to help people run great camps on playa. We recommend starting here and turning to other experienced Burners to seek advice on spaces like E-playa, the Burning Man Hive Theme Camp Organizers Group, and our volunteer-run Camp Support Team.

What is a Theme Camp?
Theme Camps are organized groups who come together to provide services, entertainment, art, and other creative interactive experiences for everyone at Burning Man. This interactivity can be truly anything! It’s also the home where camp members sleep, eat, and take care of their needs while living in the desert. Theme Camps began in 1995 and have become the way the majority of people camp and participate in Black Rock City. They are the interactive core of Burning Man. Theme Camps are home to groups of anywhere from three to 400 people. There are also Villages, which are groups of two or more interactive Theme Camps combined together. Please visit the Camp Placement Criteria page for detailed information on how theme camps and villages are selected for Placement.
What other types of camps are there?
There are several other types of camps in Black Rock City. There are Art Support Camps that support registered art installations on the playa and Mutant Vehicle Camps that support registered mutant vehicles. There are also Burning Man Departments, Work Support Camps, and Department Approved Service Camps. Please visit this page to learn more about the various camp types.Participants who are not part of a registered camp have areas where they can find open space to camp within Open Camping and Walk-In Camping.
How do I camp at Burning Man? How do I find a camp to join?
Glad you asked! We have a whole section of information about how to join a camp, where you can camp, and about camping options (such as RVs, yurts, tents, etc.) just for you.
What is Placement?
Placement is how camps receive a reserved camping spot at Burning Man. If your camp would like a reserved Black Rock City address, your camp will need to participate in the placement process. If your camp would like to arrive before the Gate opens to build or set up your camp in a reserved camping spot, you will need to participate in the placement process.Placement is optional but not guaranteed for theme camps and villages. Applying for placement does not automatically gain you a reserved spot in BRC. Camps must meet criteria for their camp category to be eligible for placement. If camps are not selected for placement or do not want reserved placement, they are able to still set up camps in Open Camping or Walk-In Camping after the Gate opens. Learn more about these options here.

The Placement Team are volunteers who facilitate the placement process, work directly with every camp, and make the map of Black Rock City. We get to know your camps, plan the city and meet you in person to place your camp on the playa.

How can my camp get placed?
If you’d like to receive a reserved camping spot for your camp or village at Burning Man, you’ll need to learn the placement process and submit the Camp Placement Questionnaire before the deadline. The Camp Placement Questionnaire can be accessed through your Burner Profile, and all deadlines are updated annually there. There’s a lot of important information! Read all about the placement process here.