First Timers Guide - sincerely

topic posted Fri, February 26, 2010 - 11:05 AM by  fko
Burningman Virgins Guide

(SUGGESTED INSTRUCTIONS~ Place near toilet, several months before Burningman and used as Bathroom Reader or Ass Paper.)

Section 1~ Welcome to this Island Burningman.
Section 11~ What to Expect and Preparations for Black Rock City
Section 111~ Radio Culture Clash
Section 1V~ Probability, Possibility, and Potentiality

bWelcome to this Burningman.
For those people who have been to the Burningman dessert festival before, they are often asked to provide information and advice to those who haven’t. This is, for the most part, very difficult at best and futile at worst. You may often hear the phrase” You’ll just have to see for yourself”. Still, most of us want to try and share our experiences and thus help a new burner have a better time than if they just showed up.

In many respects, this might just be what Burningman is all about. One idea being transformed by another. It is, at the very least, an example of what we can do together, that can never happen alone.

Veteran Burners can always be found sharing information, experience and efforts in a way that paints pictures, conveys ideas and ultimately makes us all more interacting. After much consideration and discussion with others, I have the following insights, advice and recommendations for anyone who is preparing for a trip at Burningman.

Question~ “I’ve read all the official “” web page stuff and seen all the pictures but... what is a few days in the desert really like? What is it really about and what is really going on? Is it a concert? A flea market? What?”

Answer~ Technically, A few days in the desert or BURNING MAN is a festival held in the dessert, where now about 45,000 people, live and camp together with nothing specific to celebrate or be festive about except witnessing what happens to you from the time you get there till the time you leave.
In other words, a really big, free-form campout. You have to bring everything including water, food and shelter as there is nothing provided for you expect, Port-o-potties, a Medical Tent, a cafe that sells coffee and tea beverages only and a place to buy ice. There is no vending, commercial opportunities or provided entertainment for you at Burningman. Everything that exist there, is there because someone like you, brought it for their own reasons, for themselves or to share with others.

In reality, Burningman has outgrown it’s technical definition. In other words, the point of the campout may be far more important than the camping itself. This “point” however, changes from person to person. For some, it is an art festival. For others it is about “radical self expression“ otherwise known as “Art“, “an experiment in temporary community” otherwise known as “ Group Camping“, personal exploration, spontaneous relationship experience, survival, cool gadget usage, body worship, sex, drugs, music, dancing, spirituality, humanity, scenery, entertainment or profound chaos and a whole lot of braving the elements. A painting of the dessert canvass with human creative expression , to wax poetic.

It is a an camping event that people feel inspired to bring a piece of furniture that has been turned into a car. It is a place where people bring artowrks made from recycled materials and light them on fire. It is a place where people put flame throwers on their bikes. It is a place where you can where a mascot costume and perform stupid pranks. It is a place where people ride bicycles decorated to look like flying saucers, animals and Elvis. It is a place where someone may perform spontaneous sock puppet shows or give cold carrots to perfect strangers or simply walk into the dessert air and sing their true song. It is a place where you can be yourself, or the person you have always wanted to be.
It is a weird place, mostly on purpose. It is a place of nudity in all manner of speaking. It is a place of costumes both bright and dark. It is a place of party and profound. It is a place where you can probably get away with being , or doing, or trying that desire within you. The one you know is out of place, in the larger world or finds itself emerging in the dessert. It is a place where each person goes individually inspired to experience collectively. This person to person shift of personal motivations, reasons, intentions, expectations help create the weather patterns that become the atmosphere known as Burningman. A genuine playground.

Because our host (Burningman LLC) have designed things in a way where all of these things are a possible, there isn’t a lot of arguing about what is and what is not Burningman. So ultimately, there is no way to answer the question of “What is Burningman” without experiencing it yourself.
Not only do you decide what Burningman is, you decide what it is for you. Essentially, each event is made up as we go along. We bring exactly to the experience what our individual gifts allow us to and the over all character of the event reflects over 35,000 different personalities who are actively camping, living, playing, celebrating, learning, dancing, painting, listening, talking, yelling, loving, lusting, looking, touching, eating, smelling, tasting and trying to do it in some vague spirit of happiness, healthy community and togetherness despite unfamiliarity.

“Wherever you go, there you are.”
You may decide you want to go to experience the large dancing parties that spring up (there is lots of people who bring DJ set ups). You may decide you want to go to witness the amazing variety of large scale dessert art. (there are no art police at Burningman). You may decide you want to feel the lick of the fire culture ( flame throwers, burning art, fire spinning ahh..... the allure). You may decide to feel the sun across your bare flash as you roam without destination, schedule or any attention to particular (The act of an aimless wander is a magic few dare.) Any of these things may be yours to soak in, yet.... Burningman comes with price.

A community of this scale needs you contribute for it‘s survival. You become responsible not only for your experience. You are charged with the experience of others. The ripples you make effect others. So if you are looking to dance the night away, instead of just expecting other people to provide sound for you, you might think about bringing your own sound system so that others can enjoy too.
Burningman is a “Doacracy“. If you are aware of something that needs/wants/would be great to be done, you are charged to “do” it. No spectators. Everyone is participant. In this way, people are encouraged to do more than attend Burningman for consumption and be entertained. You share equal role in the show. You must bring your skills, your talents and your self into the fray. If you are a person who likes to watch from the sidelines, you’ve picked the wrong event. If you are ready to take a leap into the unknown and build something, you are home.

Indeed some of the first words you may hear at Burningman is “Welcome Home!”.


What would the world be like if it were free form the many assumptions about social order? Would it spiral out of control into selfishness and destruction, or would it finally give peace a chance?
If you can imagine all the things that happen when 35, 000 campers come to live together in the dessert under a philosophical umbrella that encourages radical self expression, discourages commercial vending, and has few formal guidelines for behavior, you’re getting close to the mark. But lets try to paint a mental picture.
You buy your ticket. You get the email. You visit and read through all the literature you can stand and browse the pictures of years past. You start your preparations list:
Sleeping bag
You sign up for the Jack Rabbit Speaks News letter and you attend a few Burner events locally. They are really fun parties but in your preparations, you start to become aware that your list needs a few more items. You start packing the week before, get directions and make the haul into the dessert with hope and health in your heart. You see other vehicles with glittery bikes attached to them and wonder if they are for children, or are they heading to Black Rock City.
You arrive in in Gerlach and make a last pit stop at the small grocery store. The signs of Burningman are now evident as the people swarming the store are both friendly and excited. You continue on after making those last purchases and follow the road to the dessert.
You arrive at the turn off (dirt road) that leads you to the front gate of a very dusty flat dry lake bed tent city. You make it through the Greeters (People who greet you and hand you a Playa Guide. Read it.) and continue on to find a place to park and camp. There are roads and designated camping areas. Once you find a spot you like, and isn’t obviously already taken, park your vehicle. Have a drink. Enjoy your time at Burningman.

You may notice that the majority of people you see are either dust covered nude, dust covered partial nude or dust covered costume. By week’s end you’ll be aware that the majority of the population remains permanently costumed in dust, nudity, glitter and all manner of leather and furs. The majority of camps are artfully decorated and the camps range from one to hundreds. Many of those camps will welcome you in to view their art, their science project, their music, their community experiment and all manner of interaction. Artcars, art bikes and art mobiles roam the streets and open areas of the dessert.
Away from the camps, these areas of open dessert are sprinkled with random works of artwork both giant and small. This open dessert area is for exploration and wander, wonder and “your” experience. In fact, most everyplace you go is generally designed for you to be welcomed and visit. You are informally expected to be a constant participant rather than a spectator by not simply finding these things at the festival, but you in turn are found by others. This experience perpetuates a honest friendly nature that seeds smiles and hugs between strangers. It gives life to artistic inspiration and expresses itself in way that range from outright silly to thoughtful profound. It is a land that takes advantage of as much freedom as time, resource and condition permit. It is as free as it gets, in this day and age.

F Temporary Autonomous Zone
Author Haikem Bey describes a similar situation where a group of people decide to liberate an area of land to be a “Temporary Autonomous Zone”. A space that is dedicated for unspecified use, adventure and experience. You do not know what will happen, only that you are there to do what you will, and have what other people do, affect you in like. An empty playground that fills with people and their ideas and things and actions to whatever ends. This is not a production of passive entertainment. Anyone who shows up expecting to be catered to is in for a big disappointment. It is a experience you help create by what you interact with. If 45,000 boring people showed up, the event would be very boring. As it happens, the majority of people who show up, tend to be very creative, very expressive and incredibly interactive. They hope you will be too.

Someone once said that Burningman is a place where you go to be the person you can not be the rest of the year. This may or may not be true for you.. of course. But if it were true, then history will show that so far, most people lack radical kindness, art and celebration in their lives. Cause there has been a whole lot of that, at Burningman. It’s a funny thing to think that a lawless society will automatically become barbaric. It expresses a genuine lack of knowledge about how many different people we are. If set free from stsem and order, you might find, as many do, that given the opportunity to be really free, you might find yourselfer a very insecure, lonely, suspicious person. Then again you might discover yourself inclined to acts of great generosity, kindness and empathy. Some say that Burning man has to do with burning away the act of being a person, and reveal the real person underneath. Other just like lighting things on fire.
“Burningman is a festival. The object is to celebrate! The only question is what to celebrate.”FUCKO

QUESTION~ “Isn’t really just an excuse for a bunch of hippies, new-agers and ravers to party?”
ANSWER~ Well, maybe. And there are certainly a large number of people who do nothing but party at Burningman. But I’ve also seen ravers pick up trash after themselves. I’ve seen new agers not protesting large-scale public intrusions to the natural environment and I’ve never hippies take flame throwers and destroy other people’s artwork in full view of an audience. I’ve never witnessed a grand parade of naked people celebrating by dancing with fire, people yelling obscenities through bull horns at 3 am, and dangerous artwork spring out of the dessert floor without rhyme or reason anywhere else in the world. A temporary city filled with over 20,000 bicycles, 1,000 art cars, 30,000 wandering costumes, 500 free bars, countless spontaneous dance clubs and giant interactive artwork, art shows and artist all for more than a week. So maybe it’s just an excuse to party for some, but definitely not for all.

“There are no rules about how one must behave or express oneself at this event (save all the rules and guidelines and suggestions that serve to protect the health, safety, and experience of the community at large); rather, it is up to each participant to decide how they will contribute and what they will give to this community.”

Free from rules? Doesn’t that spell anarchy, chaos and danger? The short answer is, yes. And it is with great pride do many burners revel in this fact. However, the anarchy, chaos and danger we are talking about does have a few long winded side notes that most burners will have to admit, make Burningman in actually and very kind, caring and safe place. That is to say that many people intestinally practice and explore anarchy, chaos and danger in a way that promotes education, respect and experience with them. Some would say it is the difference between how to be safe with an automobile. Some people try to be safe by avoiding cars altogether, and others try to learn to drive very well. Burners tend to be of the second sort.
The first consideration to all this freedom is, we do all agree to obey all state and federal laws and to make sure we do, their are state and federal authorities in place to ensure public safety, or at least as much as in every other part of the United States. While you may bear witness to many laws being broken (especially illegal drug use and public displays of profanity and sexuality) still an7y of these crimes whom a police authority witnesses will evoke an immediate (an often sever) police intervention. The cops are open minded but will not tolerate lawlessness, infringements to public safety and a disregard of the law enforcement.

Secondly, most veterans of black Rock City have adopted and very active and pronounced self care community. As many people discover, the extreme act of being free brings out different things in people but in the case of Black Rock City, it seems to have brought out a lot of wild ideas about Friendliness, charity and community minded interactivity. It seems that instead of people getting in touch with their most destructive selves, they instead often find their most loving selves. It is a very weird phenomenon for people who are not accustomed to lawlessness breeding kindness, or who fear mankind’s destructive will, but at Burningman, the majority of people help keep each other safe and happy. People actually go to great lengths to care for themselves and each other. This kind of prevalent attitude helps create a general sense of thoughtfulness over selfishness and also a atmosphere of best intentions. In a very immediate way, Black Rock City has become a city where people are quick to find themselves inspired and supported to be friendly, open and charitable.
Of course this is not to say that Burningman is a community where the point is to be nice to others. In fact, one might discover that there is a fairly large portion of the population that is at anytime acting lawlessly, chaotic and dangerously, on purpose. This is generally because the temptation to explore these behaviors is part of unexpectedness that freedom does inspire. Make no mistakes that just like any city, Burningman has it’s shares of trouble, but by any comparison to any city in the world, ours is a community where the good will attitude not only outweighs any other, that even the renegades among us, tend to be really nice people even when they are being rather aggressive, obnoxious and rude. Many of these people are simple exploring and would never actually harm anyone.
The most dangerous parts of our city have more to do with poor judgment than evil nature. Over intoxication, drug abuse, poor driving judgment, bad camp planning, installation mistakes and the ever present Murphy's law are far bigger contributors to problems in our community than the run amuck between us.
In general, the community (in buying a ticket) agrees to observe the following rules as follows:
Ÿ Do not drive cars in camp (except registered art cars.. excuse me.. Mutant Vehicles).
Ÿ Respect public boundaries (Stay out of staff area but within the big trash fence)
Ÿ No commercial vending (except ice, coffee, tea at the center Cafe and T-shirts on the website)
Ÿ LEAVE NO TRACE (pack it in, pack it out, absolutely no trash! Smoke in the air is ok.)
Ÿ Observe fire rules (which are to numerous to keep track of.)
Ÿ No Dogs (only people pretending to be animals allowed)
Ÿ Your camp sound should not serious disrupt other camps (except rave camps)
Ÿ No ticket no entry (unless you officially work for the BORG or sneak in)
Ÿ Local, state, federal laws are still apply and can be enforced (yes, there are some cops)
Ÿ No fire arms (previously.. “don’t shoot firearms at people“ but now “No Firearms“)

There are also several mottos and saying that have been adopted into Burningman culture and are commonly popular among it’s citizens.

Don’t let it touch the ground~ dealing with trash
Don’t infringe on other people’s burn~ dealing with, in your attempts to be free, be aware of the toes you may be stepping on.

But the biggest commonalities are the ones that go unseen by even many that practice them. Ideals such as the “Acceptance of other people’s (and self) personal freedoms“. That is to say one of the biggest things one can expect at Burningman is people acting free. Free from work, free from authority, free from schedule and free from rules.

Soem other unspoken activities that exist can startle a newcomer.
Free hugs~ Random people , especially the older, smelly naked ones, are fond of giving hugs, don’t get offended, they are probably just really high or people without phobias to human touch.
Water spraying~ Often, on hot days, people will go out with water guns and spray people, take it in stride.
Bullhorns~ Many people yell very inappropriate things through bullhorns at inappropriate times, It’s a free speech thing, deal.
Lying~ Burningman is a place built from practical jokers, and as such, everything you read or hear should be considered a potential piece of bullshit. It’s part of the games, enjoy.

“There is no evidence, in the whole of the known universe, that suggest that life is serious. “
Brendan Gill

Section 11~ What to Expect and Preparations for Black Rock City
I suggest, the more you prepare, the less you can worry. The less time you spend worrying, the more time you can spend enjoying. The tricky part is taking your responsibilities to yourself into great account and leaving your expectations of everyone else at home. The extreme weather and intense participation means Playa life can be very harsh on a person physically, mentally and emotionally. It can also be amazing, wonderful and inspiring. Being aware of this can help you minimize your discomfort and maximize your sensitivity to enjoyment. This is a very important aspect of the event. There is no guarantee that you will love Burningman, but if your are to have a “life altering, earth shattering full on community orgasm experience“, I suggest you need to be ready for it, open to it and recognize it once it appears.

In diving into the pool of Burningman advice you may hear the term “No Expectations” Or “ have no Expectations.” This is a bit over simplified. It is a suggestion that is rooted from the attempt to express the notion, that things at Burningman, are not always what they seem, not always understood and not always to your liking.
Many others suggest “Know Expectations“ or “Know YOUR expectations.” Knowing why you want to go to Burningman ahead of time, can help make sure you find it when it manifest, or recognize it’s absence when it does not. It is many people’s opinion that you may not know why you want to go to Burningman, and that may just be the start of a even greater adventure than if you did, but others will warn that not knowing, can lead to great disappointments. It is just something you will have to decide for yourself. Searching for something or open to anything?

Still others suggest “Know what you CAN expect.” Many veteran Burners leave the personal expectations at home but spend great amounts of energy, money and thought on what is likely to encounter. One way to do this, is reading all the many preparations list and reflections on Burningman. This can help you acquaint yourself with what you can expect at Black Rock City. Here’s a small list of a few of the most common things you can expect at Burningman. You can expect :

The wind can be 70 mph.
The dust covers everything.
The sun leaves sunburns.
You will not get in without a ticket.
The cops will bust you if they catch you with drugs.
You can not survive more than few days without water.
The Black Rock dessert can reach below 40 degrees and over 100 in a single day.

Burning man, for all of it’s giantess is still a camping trip in the middle of a harsh dessert environment. It forces each and every person to be very prepared for extreme cold, extreme hot, extreme windy, extreme dusty and extreme culture. Each present there own challenges, when and wherever you may find them.

“I knew of a woman who went to Burningman two different years and both years the weather was fair and very enjoyable. On the third year she packed very little cold clothing and found herself freezing in her tent by the second day. She was very surprised having considered herself a veteran Burner who knew what to expect.”

There are lots of things to expect at Burningman, especially those issues of health and safety. But the “No Expectations” sentiment is usually meant in reference to expectations of Ideas, Philosophies and Behavioral Practices.

The people who attend Burningman come with different view points about all kinds of things. In one camp, we have a person who thinks the path of community is through celebrating on our similarities and in another, one who thinks community comes from celebrating our differences. Some think that friendship is based in companionship and others think it is about honesty. Some people think it is polite to keep your distance and others think it takes a hug. Burningman is a place where these differences meet face to face.

In many people’s mind, the easiest mistake made with Burningman is to expect Burningman to be what you want it to be. Burningman is not what you want it to be. It is what it is. And like people, the sooner Burningman is appreciated for it’s own uniqueness, the sooner a genuine friendship can ensue.

“Maybe the greatest personal challenge of modern man , has been his relationship to CHANGE.”

Every year, Burningman virgins return from their first burn with a mix of experiences. Some people have reality shattering, eye opening breakthroughs that forever change the way they live their lives. Others tell stories of how boring and frankly, what a wasteful experience it was. So it is helpful for Virgins to know that their is no ONE experience to be had at Black Rock City. And this in itself is easy to say but sometimes harder to realize. For example:

“ I was told that Burningman was a community. On Tuesday I had developed an awful headache that I could not shake, so I retreated to my tent that evening but when I tried to sleep, the camp next to us decided that was the time to start playing really loud music. I tried to tell them my situation but they just ignored me. What kind of a community is that?”

This is a classic case of a person making a careless assumption about the word “community“. In much of the default world, the word “community” is commonly associated with several basic traits. Many of them assigned by behavior guidelines and/or laws. So many people come to rely on these rules that they come to expect them everywhere.
Personal space is a legally protectable item. Yet at Burningman, their are very little rules to how a person must behave at the event. While sexual assault is something that you can report to a police officer and expect them to act immediately to, a uncomfortable sound is not something the police will jump immediately to protect you from. Which is also to say, that the words “ Burningman Community” do not necessarily mimic default world expectations.
In the scenario above the people of that camp were given a chance to tell their side of the story:

“ On Monday this guys drives up and asked us if the space next to us was open and we said yes, but he should understand that we were Dance camp and planned to make a lot of noise, every Evening around till Midnight or so. He said “No problem”. On Tuesday he comes over and starts yelling at us to turn it down. What gives? He could have moved his camp, wore ear plugs, gone to the medical tent or camped in Hushville. But instead he choose to label us a being un-community. We think he should look at his own sense of community before blaming us.”
Here we have two differing view points about “community”. One that is expecting sympathy and the other which is expecting self reliance. Who is right and wrong? At Burningman, nobody. These two differing expectations are going to have to see each others points. Here is what happened next.

“My headache was not going away and those guys were not about to turn their dance music off so I started to pack my things and leave Burningman. I did not have much stuff so my car was packed quickly but my car would not start. It was the dance camp guys who came by and discovered my battery was dead. I had left the door open too much. They helped me get my stuff into another girl’s truck and drove me across town to a quieter neighborhood and helped me set up a new camp. They also had the ability to charge my battery with their generator and by morning, they had brought my battery and installed it back in my car. I stayed at Burningman and we all became close friends by weeks end.”

And that is the why understanding that the expectations made about Burningman are flexible. The rules are not totalitarian commandments. Some rules exist because they are legal concerns. Some rules exist because they are collective safety promoters. But all the other rules about what “should” and “commonly” and “given” simply not set in stone. Knowing this ahead of time can help you expect many things to possibly be more flexible than normal.

After that, you can set about the task of making burningman what you want it to be, by starting with your own example, your art, your projects, your inspires acts and quite simply your participation. Through your experience and the effect you have on others, then Burningman’s history and character begin to reflect each other in small and giant ways.

Many of us spend time adjusting to life on the Playa, as it can be quit different than the world we are used to most of the year. The habits of the world need time to disappear for a while so a new adventure can take place (Like deep-sea divers do before they can travel to very deep places of the earth. In your nervous system, this is called “Repetitive Expectant Neuro-Performance Adjustment“~ meaning it physically takes you nervous system a day or two to re-wire itself for different activities, i.e. sleep patterns, physical activities and responsibility concerns). Many people call it compression. It is essential to comfort, one of our primary instinctual drives. Many believe the shorter the time it takes feel comfortable at the festival, the more time can be spent enjoying it. Being well prepared physically and mentally are the biggest means you have to do this. (Like training for happiness or becoming a self happiness expert!)

“The giving of yourself is the greatest gift you can give to us!“ Relationships are created, neighbors meet one another, and our collective survival is challenged. A city is born and then... poof, it vanishes. Not by giant corporate event trucks and paid staff, but by us. We build it. You may want to become part of this. It is difficult to take role in the community if you here for less than 24 hours or keeping to yourself. This is generally not a spectator event. After taking care of your survival, everything else is up to you. Being outrageously decadent is great fun but it may be more amazing to be a version of awesome self and share it with others. Giving and receiving acceptance of self and other is awesome way alive! Consider Living life as art! Consider being an ultra version of yourself. ~ ULTRA ME!

For maximum enjoyment of the event, there are a few great options before hand, during and after.
Ÿ Volunteer Connection~ You can join practically any volunteer camp just by showing up and saying you want to. There are no “club” requirements. Do as little or as much as you want. Volunteering is a great way to get involved, meet people and become a part of the spontaneous collective of Burningman
Ÿ Positive Self Manifest~ Close your eyes and imagine what kind of time you would have, if when you came home, you had the most amazing stories, awesome memories and incredible experiences. Now set out to create those times and ask people for help in doing so.
Ÿ Blind Open Optimism~ Just show up and see what happens.
Ÿ Revolutionary Driven~ If ever there is another moment, theme it as if it were never to be again. Compose music as if your soul would never hear it again. Create art as if ones eyes could never again thereafter hold its beauty. Express in every moment being who you truly are and what you truly feel. Take everything and send it's every form out into every world. Be publicly inspired without restraint. Be free!

Participation without negative infringement. It is a difficult task to be as much of yourself as you can be without steeping on the toes of others, but apparently this is our task. I suggest becoming familiar with and understand the stated Principles (hypocrisies and all) behind the event beforehand and then try to forget them. They will remain in your sub-conscious and still allow you to be an amazing version of yourself without worrying about it(besides, playa nazis will remind you if you go to far).
Statement of some people’s Principles (referred as the ten commandments):

Ÿ Radical Inclusion ~Anyone may be a part of a few days. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community (except the ticket thing).
Ÿ Gifting~ A few days is devoted to acts of giving. The value of a gift is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value (ex ticket).
Ÿ Decommodification~ In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising (except our own). We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience (even if we fail).
Ÿ Radical Self-reliance~ A few days encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.
Ÿ Radical Self-_expression~ (otherwise known as ART) Radical self-_expression arises from the unique gifts of the individual. No one other than the individual or a collaborating group can determine its content. It is offered as a gift to others. In this spirit, the giver should respect the rights and liberties of the recipient.
Ÿ Communal Effort~ Our community promotes social interaction through collective acts of gifting. We value creative cooperation and collaboration. We strive to produce, promote and protect social networks, public spaces, works of art, and methods of communication that enable such interaction.
Ÿ Civic Responsibility~ We value civil society. Community members who organize events should assume responsibility for public welfare and endeavor to communicate civic responsibilities to participants. They must assume responsibility for conducting events in accordance with local, state and federal laws.
Ÿ Leaving No Trace~ Our 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.
Ÿ Participation~ Our community is committed to a radically participatory ethic. We believe that transformative change, whether in the individual or in society, can occur only through the medium of deeply personal participation. We achieve being through doing. Everyone is invited to work and to play. We make the world real through actions that open the heart.
Ÿ Immediacy~ Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important touchstone of value within our community. We seek to overcome barriers that stand between us and a recognition of our inner selves, the reality of those around us, participation in society, and contact with a natural world exceeding human powers. No idea can substitute for this experience.

ºCOMMUNITY RESPONSIBILITY~ “There are no rules about how one must behave or express oneself at this event (save all the rules and guidelines and suggestions that serve to protect the health, safety, and experience of the community at large); rather, it is up to each participant to decide how they will contribute and what they will give to this community.”.

In general, the community (in buying a ticket) agrees to observe the following rules as follows:
Ÿ Do not drive cars in camp (except registered art cars.. excuse me.. Mutant Vehicles).
Ÿ Respect public boundaries (Stay out of staff area but within the big trash fence)
Ÿ No commercial vending (except ice, coffee, tea at the center Cafe and T-shirts on the website)
Ÿ LEAVE NO TRACE (pack it in, pack it out, absolutely no trash! Smoke in the air is ok.)
Ÿ Observe fire rules (which are to numerous to keep track of.)
Ÿ No Dogs (only people pretending to be animals allowed)
Ÿ Your camp sound should not serious disrupt other camps (except rave camps)
Ÿ No ticket no entry (unless you officially work for the BORG or sneak in)
Ÿ Local, state, federal laws are still apply and can be enforced (yes, there are some cops)
Ÿ No fire arms (previously.. “don’t shoot firearms at people“ but now “No Firearms“)

“Dammit! Stop telling people what to do, and inspire them instead!” Deadmanshoe

Open and Wise Mind ~ (Sounds all mystical don’t it?) I think it is important to approach Burningman as both a naive, curious child and a wise, experienced elder. This involves suspending judgments as you discover the wonderful differences of others while providing good care for yourself as well. This formula is my best suggestion for an approach platform to having healthy (and still wild) life in Black Rock City.

Identifying and placing healthy expectations is a big skill that goes real far. Being honest and realistic is a great tool to stay out from drama’s negative trap. Many people practice ‘NO DRAMA” Unless of course you are acting, and then it is very much encouraged and often incited. But people who come with high expectations about being entertained, taken care of, respected, paid attention too and who expect their personal values reflected in others, are bound for disappointment. Expectations are a form of predictability and an attempt of control. A good thing in “every day life” but a disaster to playa potential. A “No Rules” society (in reality) means personal explorations, boundary adventures, unrestricted flights of inspiration and spontaneous whims (my favorite). Many people wait patiently and responsibly all year, for this one time & place they can abandon strict judgments and befriend their outrageous, awesome selves.

Forgiveness, compassion and patience. These are the corner stones of all well-achieved suggestions for starting all problem resolution. Most problems on the playa exist because of the environment. The weather and its effects are harsh. The good news is that you will be surrounded by other people whom (given history) are almost always willing and often capable of lending a helping hand, whether it be fixing a flat tire or finding a great party. But the real big problems come from people problems, which can end better than before or worst that imaginable. Many broken hearts have found open words on the playa and most of these disputes were avoidable in reaction more than in action. Real emergencies and safety issues can always be dealt with as needed but it’s the “expectation” crosses that burn bad. In our camp, we pride ourselves on two simple conflict avoidance skills;
Refuse personal intrusions in other people’s problems and all problems will
be discussed at an appropriate time, in an appropriate place, in a non-blaming manner.

“Taste is the enemy of creativity” Pablo Picasso

You need lots of skills. The biggest of these skills is the basic one. Radical Self Reliance.


Every participant is charge with bringing with them, all the water, food, shelter, fuel, equipment and entertainment they will need for their stay. Radical self reliance, self- containment or radical self-sufficiency is more than just a knowing what to pack. It can also be a state of mind. Preparing a base, a camp, an area for self care can provide a kind of confidence. A trust that allows you to go out and explore. Go out and extend yourself. Some people take so much care for themselves, the isolate themselves off from the rest of the city. To each their own. But everyone is responsible for making sure they are taken care of, even if that means taking care of themselves. This doesn’t mean you are left to fend for yourself out there, quite the opposite. It means the better care you give yourself, the better care you can give care to others. In our camp we agree ahead of time to collectively take care of certain items, and give rise to the ability to bring more stuff instead of doubling up. I’ve included an equipment list at the end of this compilation you can use to ensure you have your basics covered. Many of the items will determine both your safety and your happiness.

EARTH~ The Black Rock Dessert (also known as “the Playa”) is a prehistoric lake bed. It is made of an alkali clay (slightly acidic) and creates a fine duct that sticks to everything. So, it is a dusty place that no plant life grows in. The dessert is at 4000ft elevation so it takes about 24 hrs for us sea level people to acclimatize. It is wide open and hostile. Most think it Beautiful.
WIND~ The range is 0 mph to 70 mph. That means unpredictable white out dust storms that will blow away anything not secure to the ground with 12” to 36” stakes. Be careful of blow away things, trash and delicates. But mostly, the wind is very tolerable. The wind is the biggest reason that most people wear goggles at Burningman. Goggles and dust mask or scarves are highly suggested. Many of us believe that tinted goggles are a mandatory item to bring (any motorcycle shop or army surplus store) for they serve dual purpose.
FIRE~ The sun and heat are a different matter. Temperatures range from 40° f to 110°, in a single day so bring cloths for both hot days and fun cold nights. Your high adventure backpacking gear is great but big furry costumes work just as well and are much more fun, so a range of cold and warm costumes are what most of us try to achieve. But you bring what you want or can, we love you regardless. The sun has more UV up there, so bring as much sun screen, with as much SPF as you can. Staying cool is a big issue up there. Shade structures that can both brave the winds and still provide shade is an art. Think windy, shade and portable and decorative = Shade geeks.
THE SKY IS FALLING~ It can and does rain up there so a camping poncho can be useful and keeping your cloths in big ziplock bags help keep rain and playa dust from getting into your gear until you use it. After that, playa dust is there to stay. This is a good time to mention you might want to consider taking none of your expensive clothes. Playa dust only comes out with vinegar (if at all) so most of us only take gear we are willing to be destroyed or eternally covered with a fine white film of a Few Days dust. The sunsets at are among the most magnificent in the world.

It is suggested that you have at least 1.5 gallons of water per person per day. This idea works pretty good. The motto “PISS CLEAR” means you drink enough water that your urine is mostly excess water. If your pee doesn’t look more like water and less like beer, chances are, you are not well hydrated. Do be careful about making sure you have some salt (a handful of salted nuts or salty soup) every day to allow for water absorption by your body. If you bring this much water with you it will provide you with enough for your drinking, cooking, and bathing. Some suggest flavoring your water as well (It makes for great showers). Do bring a portable water carrier (canteen, water bottle with strap, camelback etc.) Another trick to get your body to absorb more water is to start drinking lots of water now. By the time you get to the playa, your body will be used to producing enough salt on it’s own.
Dehydration can cause headaches, stomach cramps, abdominal pains, constipation, or flu-like symptoms. It exacerbates both heat-related and cold-related conditions (i.e. both sunstroke and hypothermia), and makes it difficult for the body to mend itself. If someone you know complains of these symptoms, or shows signs of either severe overheating or (worse) a case of the chills under the mid-day sun, get them to shade immediately and seek prompt medical help.

Some signs that you may not be drinking enough water:
· You don't carry a water bottle with you at all times.
· You sip instead of drinking deeply.
· You wait to drink until you're thirsty (too late!).
· Your urine is anything but clear and abundant.
· You become cranky.

Oddly enough, many do not eat much up there but that goes against better training so I always plan on at least two meals a day and provisions for extra if needed (soups, pasta etc). If everyone plans on bringing their own food and their own menu for themselves, it works really well. Some people love to cook for others and that is great. Bring enough to share but be careful of waste. Community meals “where everyone eats the same food and take turns doing chores” usually turns out horrible on the playa. Very few people eat at the same time, prepare food in the same way, or feel like doing chores making a scheduled kitchen a “recipe for disaster” (pun). The “take care of your own food” works great. Most would not suggest bringing more than a day or two of perishables. Ice coolers need to be maintain each day. Meats and fresh fruits do not last long in them. Still, it is camping. It is great to have specialty treats, many of which can be canned or dried (fruits, puddings, cakes ummm good!). Snack foods are great and great things to share. Avoid anything with melting mixes (chocolates, gummy candies get really messy, but are sometimes worth it.) Maybe you can invent methods of keeping more of this stuff out there!

“ I hardly know her!” (I know another pun but hey.. my name is Fucko.) Do plan to bring your own additives, favorite libations and relevant mixes, props and do hickies. Also try to bring some extra for donatables to the camp bar and for gifting in other camps (It can be a gift economy). There are cocktail parties. Airline shot bottles work great as gifts but you can obviously be as creative as you like. If you do drink up there, please drink more water. Alcohol dehydrates people. If you can find a nice decorative or favorite cup it makes it easier to know who’s whos as well. Oddly enough there is not a lot of drunkenness despite all the booze. It might be the altitude. But that never stops most of us from trying. More importantly, it doesn’t stop many from acting drunk, whether they are or are not.

It is suggested to get a small first aid kit for yourself filled with your favorite dinosaur band-aids. Some keep a bigger one in camp. It is suggested to bring lots of UVF and SPF lotion for your skin (I mean a very big bottle), aloe gel or other burn cream. Aspirin/Ibuprofen/ Acetaminophen are life savers for altitude headaches and nose & eye drops (saline solution) are highly recommended. The playa dust has a way of drying out the skin and the sun has a way of burning people (Not in the good way, like BAD is GOOD when it’s “I’M BAD“, but like when it sucks.) In case of emergency, get help! There is a medical tent at Burningman with an ambulance.

Your feet will be working overtime so it is suggested treating them well or getting someone else to treat them well for you. Most do not plan on walking around barefoot (even if you are otherwise nude, yea!) even if you are used to it. The Playa is an alkali lakebed and will leave you poor footies dry and burned after only a few hours. Boots are great, soft shoes are fine. It does rain occasionally so pointed hells tend to sink in the mud (although it never stops me from wearing them. I’m just saying don’t plan on using your Stiletto's as your sole footwear.) There are foot soaps and lotions that will help protect your feet. Morning foot lotions & wearing socks as much as possible is very helpful. Try to remember that, just because your wearing shoes doesn’t mean you can’t paint your toenails. You might also consider getting a good tan before you go.

THERE IS NO GARBAGE SERVICE AT BURNINGMAN. You must pack out everything you pack in. The motto is “Leave No Trace“. It is one of the conditions that The Bureau of Land Management uses to permit us to be in the Black Rock Dessert.

There are Port O Potties. It is one of the reasons we pay for a ticket. They are cleaned daily and adequate. You may want to bring your own Toilet Paper. If you are squeamish about Port o potties, plan on bringing your own toilet that you can pack out your own waste.

The playa makes people really grimy, really fast. It’s a combination of the alklide dust in the air, sweat and exposure to both. Portable solar camping showers (buy one cheap at any camping goods store, even Target) a have at it. Some people prefer to sponge bath in the privacy of their tent but most wash fully or partial nude out in the open (both very acceptable, yea!). Bring a sponge or wash cloth, a towel and some biodegradable soap (Dr Bronner’s works great.)
WASTE WATER~ Showers mean soapy water. You don’t want to endure the wrath of the Playa Nazis buy dumping it on the ground or trying to bury it in a hole. Some people build elaborate evaporation ponds. Some people use a small kiddy pool as a catch and then put the waste water in containers (milk jugs or other). Some of us have learned to use a spray bottle as a shower on a tarp (very little water that evaporate quickly).

Much of A Few Days is involved with Radical Self Expression. For many, this involves the use of costumes (including lack of). The wilder the wilder! Go postal! Be eclectic, be electric! But mostly just have fun with it. As far as costumes go, anything goes, and I mean anything. Mix and match, little or lots but please do be careful about anything that will fall off of you and become trash (ie. Feather boas are generally considered taboo and will incite trash lectures from the do-gooder playa nazis). There are both day and night time activities and adventures so colors are great both day and night and anything that glows, lights you up or makes you shinny are easy ways of being visually loud (if you can enjoy it). Paint your skin, carry a puppet, light yourself with EL wire, be your favorite fictional character or whatever. Soft furry costumes are great at night and most of us like to have one soft outfit for times of great community. Costumes are not mandatory nor determine how valuable you are. (Stripper and S&M costumes that glow in the dark rock!)

It is suggested to bring lots. Not only can you wear it, but we can borrow it! Make up also helps protect your skin and if your get make up with sun block in it, you are on your way to happiness. Make up helps some of us in and out of the moment and it also makes for great pictures our children will love to laugh at many years from now. Hair colors, henna, body paint, temp tattoos, and costume jewelry, are great cheap ways to decorate oneself. Anyone with long hair may want to prepare for what we call “playa dreads”. This is caused by the enormous amounts of wind, playa dust and sweat. Pony tails, braids and hats are all useful but to be honest, “ playa hair” looks great on anybody and is easily washed away if it isn’t.

Bike, a Bike, my kingdom for a Bike. The only way to get any real distance, in any reasonable amount of time is by Bike. A Few Days is a bicycle city. The city itself is miles long and the multi attractional playa is miles across. Most people bring a decent working junk bike that can get thrashed by the playa (and by decoration). Big tires are best. Make sure you have a very comfortable seat. No matter how much you ride, the soft bumpy playa has a way of creating bruised tailbones in a day’s time. Many of us use a stuffed animal or pillow and some duct tape. Decorate your bike any way you like but again, making sure nothing can fall off of it (ie. feathers, loose ribbons, etc. create trash) will keep you from public scrutiny. Bike Lights are considered a highly necessary item. At night you will be riding with thousands of other bikes in a very dark dessert, in many a sandstorm. It is easy to lose your way, lose you friends and be run over by other bikes and art cars, all of whom have drivers with questionable perception abilities. Lights and reflective tapes are highly recommended and make it easier for you to find (especially if you stop somewhere to bust a move). Also bring a bike lock. A cable with a pad lock is best because you can secure your bike to your friends. Make multiple keys and if you do lose your keys, light cables allow for being cut off. (Kryptonites do not allow for any of these things.). There are thieves on the playa, but mostly we worry about someone who is too high to tell the difference and POOF! A borrowing has left you bike-less. It has happened to us before. A clip on umbrella is an awesome thing.

1 or 400 flashlights is recommended. 5 is best. Do try to have at least 2-3. Headlamps work the best for most. It can be very dark on the playa despite all the amazing lighting efforts there. The truth is that flashlights have poor ability to make it through a drunken, high or even an energetic evening. Lost or broken is a very common experience. Glow sticks, battery lights, EL wire, portable floresants, LED are just fantastic (although glowsticks create trash). Some recommend, for the cheap goer, a trip to the toy store (educationals are best) and pick up a light saber, ray gun, or other lighted toy. Basically anything that lights you up at night and the stuff around you, is great. Bicycle strobes, rave toys, glow necklaces, are all great ways to participate in all the night festivities. You may need lanterns in camp. Some people opt for fire instead of bulb, and you can to.

Do bring a tent, if you have one. If not, do not fret, you can find another I’ll bet. If you plan on buying one, try to get one with fully closable vents (as the playa dust blows in and covers everything even while you are trying to sleep). But make sure it has vents (the heat is unbearable without). Also, 12” stakes or two ’ rebar are pretty much mandatory (those 6 “ones that come with the tents don’t do shit to keep your whole tent flying away in the 40 to 70mph winds). Many recommend bringing an air mattress (and air pump) or sleeping cot (although it’s hard to get busy on a sleeping cot. I know it’s been done, I’m just saying it’s difficult.) and any sleeping bag (for when it gets cold) and sheets and blankets for when it is hot. Since you are technically on vacation, you may feel encouraged to bring you to bring your favorite pillows, stuffed animals and bedtime stories. It may help to keep your sleeping stuff in a plastic trash bag during the day (to keep out the dust, at least for a day or two, till you give up trying to stay dust free). A little decorative fabric goes a long way in creating a not-so camping experience and incense and door mats are awesome ways to spice things up. I even know of a guy who hangs small replicas of famous paintings up in his tent. Earplugs are great! The parties run 24/7 out on the playa so if there happens to be a rave going on next door and it’s 6am and time for you to refresh your physical self, earplugs can save your sanity (If you have any to begin with and plan on keeping it).

Figure out what you want. Love? Sex? Your wildest fantasies? Go for it! Just be respectful. Just because people are walking around naked does not necessarily mean they wish *you* were naked in a small enclosed space with them. Learn to take “no” as to mean “not with you” and don't be afraid to use the "n" word yourself (nooky?).
It is always a great idea to be well stocked with sex toys, protection and lube, because;

1. Many unsuspecting people have been known to make unexpected snap decisions on the subject.
2. You may want to share goodies with a friend in need who is in a nearby decision.
3. Even nuns masturbate at A Few Days.

The moral of the story is “Be Prepared” regardless of your predisposition on the subject.
Most think you deserve to be a sexually happy as you desire, without guilt... period.


It takes about two minutes to become over-stimulated at Burningman. Between the people, the sights and the sounds, you will find yourself in a place where the rules have changed and few things are what they seem. Add in a couple of days of exertion in the heat, sleep deprivation, mild dehydration and decreased appetite, and you may find yourself feeling a bit edgy. Taking it out on those people who are closest to you is an easy thing to do. My best advise is when you feel angry, moody, or mildly unpleasant or find yourself getting ready to pitch a hissy fit....
Ÿ Get out of the sun.
Ÿ Drink some water.
Ÿ Eat some food.
Ÿ Take a nap.
Ÿ Then... say you are sorry.
You will feel better, I promise.

Like dogs, some people just are not comfortable (at all) in the desert. Do yourself a favor, and leave them at home. Pressuring or convincing someone into going, is a sign they probably won’t like it.

This is your home for a few days. As such, it can be as comfortable as possible. This bonding time can be incredibly fun, provided you gel with everyone in your camp. The best way to do this is to get to know them before you go. Campouts, BBQ’s, emails intros are all ways to get to know each other a bit better. Interacting helps convey intentions, values and styles. This helps expectations for going too far off the map. With any organized group, people tend to fall into their natural roles but more importantly, “does everybody in your group has similar goals?” Like Dog People v. Cat People, the People Who Want Party All Night and Eat Food Out of a Can should not camp with the People Who Prepare Elaborate Meals and Do Yoga Every Morning. Not that these people won’t get along, only that surprises in this area tend to be negative and are largely avoidable. Consider thinking ahead and save the headache.

People who operate on strict placement and time schedules, are surrounded by others (the majority) who are not. If people don’t show up when or do what they said they would, you might be better off forgiving them beforehand. The Playa has a beautiful way of being spontaneous and awesomely distracting. Allowing for this in everything you do is a wonderful way to get along with the fluid changes and sidetracks of everything there. Factor in the unpredictable weather, environment and hydration and most problems become very apparent a head of time. I suggest we don't take it personally. We just learn to dance with it.

Open, honest and clearly understanding. The desert is considered a bad place for controlling others, demands of respect, being pushy and making expectations of others. These are recipes for disaster. Reality check and honesty (especially with the self) is a great policy. If you truly love a person, you will want them to be happy, even if that happiness does not reflect your interests. Tolerance, forgiveness and understanding.

One of the worst hypocrisies we have at Burningman is the one where we tell people to aspire for freedom, acceptance and discovery, and then tell them “the rules, the suggestions and the goals”. Most of us wish that there was a way to dump all this bullshit beforehand, and just show up with “TRUST”. Trust that everyone either knows how to take care of themselves or will quickly figure it out. This experience would be priceless. On this level can the items that are vital for enjoying our vast and burgeoning experience at Burningman become personal.
Burningman is trusting you.



Things many people would rather you not bring:
· Feathers of any kind e.g., boas anything that will break up and/or blow away in the wind (trees, twigs, loose paper, etc~ they shed, no matter what you do - try marabou instead). Excess packaging from foods (For example, remove outer box from cereals and just bring the inner bag.) Basically anything that can makes lots of trash that you can take care of before hand.


TICKET Tent (12”stakes)
Transportation Food
Warm clothes for cold nights(jacket, hats, gloves, long shirts) 1.5 gallons of H2O (per person /per day)
Cool clothes for hot days (sarongs, skirts, shorts, nothing..) Utensils /hard plate/bowel
Flashlights / head lamps and spare batteries Drinking Cup (re-useable)
Wash kit (bio-degradable soap/ tooth paste/brush etc.) First-aid kit.
A wide brim hat. 2 big trash bag
Sunglasses Sleeping bag (blankets, pillows)
Goggles Enough food/beverages (? 2 meals a day)
Particle/dust mask/scarf Portable water bottle/canteen with strap / Camelback
Prescription drugs/contact lenses /aspirin etc. Lip balm
Sunscreen/sunblock lotion Towel/wash cloths
Aloe gel (for sunburn) Camping chair
Boots/shoes Bottle /can opener
cute underwear/ socks/ PJ’s Pocket knife


* BICYCLE (rig some kind of basket on your bike ) Shade structures, umbrellas, parasols, sheets
Tire repair kit (small) * Small day pack (for roaming around)
* Bike lock (cable with extra keys) * Air Mattress
* Bike lights (flashers etc..) * Earplugs
* Costumes Small personal radio (shower radios are also good for outside)
* Watertight protective bags ( zip-type for your cloths) Rope and/or string.
Sewing kit. Cooler
Musical instruments * Handy wipes
* Spray bottle (for misting) * Duct tape
Gifts to give to new friends Lantern
* Extra set of car & bike keys Mirror
* Camera/ lots of film Journal
* Sex Preparations Make up
Walkie Talkie * Light sticks/ light toys etc.
Camping stove, fuel Small tool kit
Favorite toys , games, books Favorite liquor/tea/coffee/water flavoring
POCKETS ON EVERYTHING Favorite deserts/food treats
Decorative fabric Sense of adventure


“You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”

“And if you think peace is common goal , that goes to show how little you know.” The Smiths


Without much debate, Burningman was started by Larry Harvey. It’s origin is a much more complex story than the rumors and urban legends tend to be. Trying to understand why Larry built his first Burningman might lead you to more confusion, because at the time, he did not stop to think so much, but act. He was more concerned with what, where and when then why. The what was a wooden man, the where was at the beach and the when was solstice. In many respects he did this for the same reason why a person may go sailing or mountain climbing. The sheer act of involving oneself in these acts needs less explanation than it does opportunity. The journey has the value of experience. Larry is an artist. Building a wooden man to burn on a beach is just something a person like him is driven to do for the sake of it’s own experience. It did not needed to be explained, as much as done.

He once told somebody that he built the Burningman to symbolize the journey/release of the experience of a painful relationship breakup. He has since described a much more detailed view of his act to reflect the more open inclusion of how much the Burningman was in fact, just something he wanted to do. Half in part because he was inspired by the Solstice beach fires put on by friend Mary Grauberger and his wanting to do it again, on his own terms witch included this acknowledgement of the process of change/life/ritual. He and his Jerry James seemed very less concerned with putting on a spectacle, but more about experiencing a process of doing something they were drawn to do without really examining why they wanted to do it. They knew their was a value in action. And that action produced experience.

It was the re-actions of others that prompted them to do it more than once, with a public in mind. When they burned that first man, it attracted other people on the beach around them to stand in a circle and share it’s event. It produced an experience that transformed a bunch of strangers on a beach to form a kind of community on the beach. And that is seemingly why they continued to do it the next year and seemingly every year thereafter. Burningman does not have any specific meaning, but it is produced year after year because of it’s value to produce Transformative Change in the community of people who include themselves to share it.

After a few years of Burning a man on Baker Beach, the cops stopped Larry and crew from Burning the man at the beach since the sculpture itself and the crowds had grown. Hundreds of people swarming the event made the police decide the act of actually Burning anything in that big of a crowd was unsafe. So Larry took the advice from some friends and moved the event to the Black Rock Dessert, where they could burn the sculpture without anyone interfering. Both the sculpture and the population of the event have grown till this day. The event has seen several legal challenges, infrastructure growths and population shifts as twenty years of transformative change have taken their influence on the event evolution.

“We did not set out with a plan, it just landed on us as we were living our lives, to include doing this.”

Even with the official company that runs the event, even with the logistics involved in welcoming law enforcement and other legal authority into the event structure, even with the flavor of the city moving from a San Francisco phenomenon to a world wide community with regional events and global publicity, still some things change slow. Burningman is still a place where radical self expression reigns supreme, is a gathering mostly spread by word of mouth and there is still a gathering of people who help burn a wooden man. This is where you come in.

Each year, hundreds and even thousands of people go to Burningman for the very first time. They will help create and event with people who have been going from the beginning to just a few years and everything in-between. Some of these people live year round very close to the way they live while at Black Rock City, and others only live this way, while at Burningman. This greatest stirring of people is both a opportunity and a challenge. The differences between us help keep the event creative and unexpected. But are creative and unexpected common goals at Burningman? Is this part of the meaning for so many people and if so why?

This is where a lot of knowledge about the event itself comes in handy. As soon as a person starts to think less about the what and more about the why, it is handy to know some deeper history. There is a culture at Burningman that while is not specific, is prevalent. That is to say that there are no rules about how to act at Burningman, excepting those that address public safety, but their are plenty of rituals, common practices and general community goals.

Of course there will always bee people who will subvert these goals, and thus provide ours with the needed catalyst of check and change, that makes it, unpredictable.


First time and veteran burners alike are always going to find something that challenges them. Whether it is the elements vs camping gear, or desires vs their opportunities, this is a culture that has plenty of whether, real and metaphorical. These challenges are some of the vehicles that continue to carry the many stories about Burningman.
One of the biggest rubs that many first timers feel is the experience of being a newcomer. Beyond the common problems of not knowing exactly what to expect, burner culture has several legitimate and imaginary issues that not all people agree upon. Here we will cover a few of the basic ideas that you may encounter as you explore this community.

Motivations. There are as many different reasons to go to Burningman as their are people. Unlike going to a music show or a campout, the point of the gathering is not directed at clear and present objects. Making assumptions that everyone goes to Burningman for the music, or the natural environment is a mistake that may cause you to experience a discourse. It may be a very wise thing to consider that you will encounter different people, trying to do different things.
Very often you may hear the words “Have no expectations “ or “Leave your expectations at Home “. These are both advice sayings meant to prevent people from being cross when they do not encounter what they assume they should or expect they should. The truth is there are several very large and different cultures that attend Burningman regularly and while they all do seem to get along wonderfully, everyone recognizes the differences and on occasion, someone feels left out, or stepped on or insulted when those cultures meet unexpectedly.
Try to remember that none of these motivational groups are intended to paint a picture of separated groups, cliques or even different types of people. It is only a means to explore many different aspects of what is in reality, a very mixed, shared and successfully dynamic ranges of motivations that quite often are found across every participant at one time or another. These motivational spectrum ranges are only the tip of the iceberg considering the actually countless individuals whom make up Black Rock City and the reality of how different and mixed each person is.

“The framework of discourse and unity in a chaotic playground of prehistoric dust, is ours.”

First off, we have the Artist -vs- The Campfire

This, of course is not a black and white, separate camps kind of conflict. It is a ideological difference where the campfire people believe that “Community “ itself is the major goal of the event, and the artist believe that it is the artwork, that makes that community exist.
the community people tend to believe that simply by being in a together mindset, that our community is. The artist believe that the artwork, literally, it takes someone to create a campfire, to draw the community together and without a common creation to gather around, there would be no community at all.

Then we have the Community (artist and campfire) -vs- The Party People

In this war we have the people who believe that Burningman is at it's best when it is participated in, more than entertainment against those people who come just to have a good time by partying. It is an argument over whether or not dancing is a gift to others because others can watch, or simply a self indulgence cause nobody is really watching. In this argument you will hear about frat boys who show up to drop E and hit on women leaving a trail of trash in their wake, and the do-gooder, playa nazis who want to dictate how other people live their lives.
Some others:”

Hippies -vs- Death Guild
Religious -vs- Non Religious
Compassionate -vs- Impassionate
Steam Punks -vs- Glow Ravers

These are but a few of the common mirco cultures that are exposed to each other at Burningman. You will find a few that are completely indigenous to Black Rock City itself:

Santa~ these guys are Santa and have four basic Rules ~ don’t fuck with security, cops, kids and santa.
Cacophonist ~ Uncommon experience hunters, Counter culture prank artist and hoax engineers
Fko’s ~ Unseriousness Activist ~usually involving music, arts and pranks.

Section 1V~ Probability, Possibility, and Potentiality
Many a veteran has murmured a desire that all people consider their selves in all categories. That way, we would be, as chemist Bronner turned soap maker declares in his 18 in 1 magic soap Moral ABC’s ~

Self The Artist a A
Some people will say that Burningman is an Art Festival. To these people’s credit, Burningman itself did at one time refer to itself that way. There is a lot of evidence to support such a notion but as any art theorist will tell you, the word art is a very disputed and assumptive word. One person’s art is another person’s trash. Still, one of the treasures found at Burningman is all the art and the artist motivated to make it. Everywhere in the city is a general appreciation for the art culture that takes advantage of the freedom to explore the range of materials and ideas that can be used to make art from very expensive traditional materials like paint, stone and metal to very progressive mediums like computer technology, electricity , performance art, conceptual arts, music, dance, fashion, car transformations, installation artworks, environment production, you name it. As you explore the City throughout the like, you will find yourself surrounded with art of all different types that both decorate and expose the vast creative expressions of the city’s inhabitants.
Why is art so important to black Rock City? Throughout civilization , world leaders are educated in what every black Rock artist can learn. own their own. Art is dangerous and important because art is Communication. regardless of whether you believe art to be product or process, beauty or evoked emotion, there is no arguing that all art is rooted in message. Art has a profound impact on our lives whether we know it or not. Every Idea that spreads from one person to the next owes it’s ability to do that to art because art is the birthplace of all languages. Someone had to create a means of expressing all our means to communicate. From words, to signs to maps, to math to science to pictures to hand signals and music and dance and sculpture and architecture and advertising and propaganda and education and news and history and philosophy, all owe their mass existence to communication. Art is a giant means of communication.
In both skilled and unskilled hands, artist can change the way people think, the way the act and the way they perceive the world. Artist can launch habits and trends and ideas out into the world and forever change history. We can debate the merits of taste and talent till we are blue in the face but nothing will change the fact that every single piece of art has a message and every single person who is audience to it, is in some way affected by it. What is affected is what is at stake in the art. That is why art is so important to Burningman and probably why it always will be.
Some say that the simplest way to get to the spirit of Burningman is to discover what happens when you make art for Burningman. Simple maybe, but easy? Different story. Making art For Burningman has it's unique challenges. Everything from making art that can withstand the extreme elements of wind, sun, heat and cold and the human factor that causes people to touch, climb and leave messages on other people’s art.
If ever there was a way to do what Larry did in the beginning, it is through art because it can be anything you desire it to be and it can be immediate. And this invitation to be immediate lies at the core of the mass opportunity surrounding Black Rock City. You can follow your impulses in art, without much resistance form anybody. In fact you might find yourself encouraged by others.
To be yourself as an artist at Burningman , you need only ask yourself, what do I want to say, and how do I want to say it. Then build it. Artist you are.

The Firebug
In many parts of the community there is an ethos of fire. Making art that is intended to be burned is both an dangerous and exciting endeavor as many people bring items intended to be burned as a sort of release, or ritual passing of whatever that item symbolizes. . Besides the official safety guidelines set forth by the Burningman Project itself, every artist has the opportunity to become acquainted with the both the temperament and character of fire art, which for many, is a life long relationship and often a profound impact on other parts of one’s life. From burning sculptures to fire spinning, the possibilities to explore yourself in fire is limited only by safety and your imagination.
Campfires have a very long traditional history associated with communities providing light, warmth and safety for thousands of years. The science of fire has it’s own mysteries that can be explored and celebrated at black rock City. There have been people who build giant explosions, flaming artworks, dance performances involving fire, fire whirlwinds, smoke projection shows, fire breathing, fire water sculptures, fire hooping. One year a guy put a wire form person on the back of his tandem bicycle and rode around with the wire person on fire.
Some believe that the humankind’s grasp of fire is key to understanding all of civilization and that wielding fire is a journey each person can take in discovering their place in the cosmos. Others value understanding Tetrahedron of Fire (Fuel, oxygen, ignition) and use it as a metaphor for the creative forces in our lives. Still others use fire as a medium by which they interact and celebrate the value of the profound temporary that is our existence. And for others still, fire is simply damn cool. Whatever your relationship is with fire, Burningman is a place where you can get acquainted with burning.


Ours is a civilized world and our habits reflect the schedule and system of things, but some things need immediacy. The lightning of inspiration and the thunder of the moment. here we need no rhyme or reason but the urge to act! That action shakes the world, breaks the bonds of mediocrity and the tamed primal civilized beings that can change the world.

Fire burns a years worth of art in seconds. Whole shade structures come and go with the wind, each mommnet is unpredictable and seldom repeating. No larger truth in the universe exist than that which knows, “EVERYTHING IS TEMPORARY”. This profound truth is exercised in the desert from people who take no pictures to those who keep no attachments to the things they bring. Ownerships are challenged and the miserly are tested. Burningman itself only exist for a week and then is no more.

“When you only have a toothpick, a toothpick becomes more than that.” Because we only have what we take, ours is an opportunity to recycle not only bottles and cans, but everything. Tarps turn into kites, and rope can become art. Burningman forces us to be thrifty and careful with our waste as our needs are only meet by our ability to make the most of what we have, instead of wishing and hoping for more than we need.

Problem solving is one of the skills developed to a great degree in artist. They become resourceful and imaginative. Thus people who engage themselves with the unknown are given the opportunity to invent something, about their actions, their mindset even the way they live. Invention is how we survive. It is part of our adaptability that is exercised at Burningman.

Beyond the safe weekends of tailgate parties with a bunch of sports fanatics, lies the spirit of the curious adventure. The step into the unknown. but as adventurers eventually learn, it is not the place , or the weather or the beast that make an adventure fill the heart, it is the challenge. The challenge to do something different, something dangerous something risky. Something that forces a sacrifice. To this end, Burningman is a place to adventure.

One of the best things about Burning Man is all the amazing unexpected things you encounter at random and the way it changes you. You can become one of those unexpected things for others if you try. The following is a list of some concepts ideas and projects that have been inter inspired with me and mine since our Burningman. Maybe it will inspire you to add to it’s pool.

2000 2004 2007
~ irony exploitation ~ excessive survival ~ mockery art camping
~ furniture cars ~ art car demolition ~ temporary brilliance treking
~ foam parties ~ klownology ~ radical backpacking
~ disorder planning ~ insane spectacle ~ mobile self expression
~ decorated naked people ~ fetish illumination ~ tent gallery
~ dangerous bonfires ~ flash art mob ~ backpack a go go
~ unexpected sights ~ 24 hr art ~ pirate radio rave
~ moment liberation ~ alternative energy ~ canopy camping
~ outdoor canvass ~ interactive performance ~ mystery orienteering
~ purposely blurred vision ~ art rave ~ sex doll rafting / surfing
~ bike chariots ~ extreme chef ~ critical campsite
~ portable expressive living ~ recycle costumes ~ port o party
~ innovative inner dialogue ~ armature designer jewelry ~ micro culture jamming
~ boundary technology ~ billboard liberation ~ irony campout
~ physical indulgence ~ nonsense graffiti ~ nonsense portage and haulage
~ celebration explosion ~ body art ~ cavebration
~ mankind on brainstorm ~ kinetic sound ~ theme camp of one
~ sobriety tripping ~ massive moment sculpture ~ silliness expedition
~ flammable arts ~ collective consciousness ~ DIY rave
~ dance naked ~ unauthority ~ High Adventure Formal Dining
~ extreme decomodification ~disposession ~ backpack disco

Some Burningman experiences often require more a state of mind that a set of rules. Read between the lines and find yourself.

Ÿ Some Burningman DJ's use a...... Bullhorn
Ÿ Some Burningman Artist take their trash home and Burn their art.
Ÿ Some Burningman Participants don't make REAL BURNINGMAN LIST (beat ya too it hahahaha)
Ÿ Some Burningman Organizers pay for their own ticket
Ÿ Some Burningman DPW build things that make no sense in an area of no usefulness.
Ÿ Some Burningman Reporters are too high to report actual news.
Ÿ Some Burningman Radio is an assault to one's comformity. (comfort / conform)
Ÿ Some Burningman Sports is trying to sleep in that fucking heat.
Ÿ Some Burningman Advice is never mentioning
Ÿ Some Burningman Love is coping a feel off everyone you hug.
Ÿ Some Burningman Is painting your ass red and having your friend chase you around with two rubber horns duct taped to their bike.
Ÿ Some Burningman Means trying to see how much you can feel, set free.
Ÿ Some Burningman Makes no Clear sence!
Ÿ Some Burningman Wants you trying not to be affected by anything around you for as long as possible and being grateful when you fail.
Ÿ Some Burningman Clothing designers use fire retardant materials to make G string undies.
Ÿ Some Burningman Chefs Cook better on the Playa than they do at home.
Ÿ Some Burningman Has a soundtrack...whether music is playing or not.
Ÿ Some Burningman Faith is knowing the point is to interfere.
Ÿ Some Burningman People not only maintain a sense of humor and irony, they can hear the terms of endearment in an insult.
Ÿ Some Burningman Consumers know it's ok to SHOP for "BURNER" shit, it's just lame to SELL or MARKET.... "BURNER" shit.
Ÿ Some Burningman Advocates know to DO more and CRITICIZE less... unless it's funny to do more criticizing or the criticizing is funny.
Ÿ Some Burningman Students are audible dyslexic, vision repaired and especially misabled.
Ÿ There is no such thing as Burningman.

“Creative minds have always been known to survive any kind of bad training.” Anna Freud

“ Fix and decorate a bicycle that needs some love and head yourself to a place called Black Rock City. A city that we build together for only a week and then poof, we make it disappear without trace. Take your hat and your condoms and some finger paints cause your gonna need them. You’re goanna want them. For the citizens of the Playa are Dressed to Express! Bring some pineapple and canteen and drink water deep so that you remain hearty enough to brave the wind and the dust and the challenge of living outloud! Be not still, be not timid, be not but brave and lunge and leap and throw your heart into the swirl of human cacophony that is ours in fur and glow and fire and footprint and hips and eyelashes and screams of happiness. Make a man of wood and burn him. Burn him to the ground for he loves you and loves us all and we share his dreams and hopes and fears and temporaryness. We all burn. We all Burn.
We all burn in our own way together.”
posted by:
offline fko
SF Bay Area
  • Re: First Timers Guide - sincerely

    Fri, February 26, 2010 - 11:17 AM

    I love this and sent it to a friend last year...and gonna send it again this year (she couldn't make it last time)....but, at least on my machine the font encoding is a little messed up...and I couldn't resolve it. Do you have it in some other format?
    • Re: First Timers Guide - sincerely

      Fri, February 26, 2010 - 12:07 PM
      Thanks Reverend.

      Yes I have it in a less colorful form. (to be honest, I kinda like how tribe encodes many of the symbols, for asthetic sake but I also know it can be really distracting and turn offish, that is beside how long it is :)

      Anyone who would like a strait (non symbol interpreted) copy,
      Shoot me a regular email address and I will send it as an attachment instead. (I promis not to use the adress foor any other purpose)

      • Re: First Timers Guide - sincerely

        Fri, February 26, 2010 - 4:47 PM
        PM sent!
        • Re: First Timers Guide - sincerely

          Sun, February 28, 2010 - 8:42 AM
          For what it is worth, last year I sent this document to over forty people for use. All fo whom responded positively that they were able to pass it in to newbies they either new or were bringing themselves.

          This years version is updaed a bit. about twenty people have responded so far and I hope that number increases.

          I am obviously a big fan of public documents and think it;s use is something that is sorely underutilized in our community.

          So I just wanted to take a momment to suggest, for consideration, that all of you have imformation that the rest of use could benefit from , if you would simply share it.

          Creating public document work is a wonderful way to stay engaged with our needs as a public and utilize our public forums in a greater capacity than just entertainment and media hype.

          I never might never have bought Hykem Bey"s writtings, but thankfully, I never had to.
          Thank you Hykem and everyone who is open to public access documentation.

          Not eevrything needs a price tag to be of great value.

          • Re: First Timers Guide - sincerely

            Sun, February 28, 2010 - 10:34 AM
            Admendum to First Timers guide~

            Love? Sex? Your wildest fantasies? Go for it! Know yourself and enjoy yourself, but be careful about imagining that Burningman is a giant orgy. It’s not. It’s a city just like any other place where social contracts, courtesies and legality still apply. Burningman expects you to be respectful and understand that “Consent” is the start of all sexual respect. That is. Some people do not know that “consent” the bare minimum of respect and legality combined, but will be reminded harshly if they step off this particular line. Just because people are walking around naked does not necessarily mean they wish *you* were naked in a small enclosed space with them. Learn to take “no” as to mean “not with you” and don't be afraid to use the "n" word yourself (nooky?). You better believe that people will file sexual assault charges on you if they think you have overstepped your welcome.

            While I think that few Burner veterans would ever want to paint a picture of “Sexual predators just waiting to get you alone!” I think it is safe to say that Burningman is a real city. And with it comes all the dangers of any city, including sexual assault. And while you may be smart enough to keep in good company, stay in well lit areas, learn to use your volume to thwart away people to high or drunk to understand a softly spoken “NO”, it might be a really good idea to keep an eye out on your friends. Nobody wants to be told who they want to fuck or not, but all of us could use a little bit of “keeping an eye on”, especially when we are too high to make really healthy judgments. It might be obvious but essential to repeat, it is always a great idea to be well stocked with sex toys, protection (condoms, oral shields) and lube. Some people practice abstinence at Burningman, and I never heard any of them regret it.

            The moral of the story is “Be Vigilant. Be Smart. Be Prepared.” regardless of your predisposition on the subject.
            Most think you deserve to be a sexually happy as you desire, without guilt or harm... period.
            You help all of us stay sexually healthy and happy at Burningman.

            It might also be worth mentioning that playa dust is not considered a good sexual lubricant and often avoided, if possible from most sexual orifices. Playa dust is also very good at completely covering most rubber and leather (especially suede) things to the extent it can ruin them. For you leather freaks out there who plan on bringing all your expensive BDSM gear, especially your favorite rubber flogger and your suede leather thigh high boots, you might think of substituting them with things you don’t mind getting destroyed. PVC seems to be a greater alternative for many. Then again, you might decide what is the point of having it if you can’t destroy it in fun. Your choice.

            There is a wonderful group of burners that operate the Bureau of Erotic Discourse (BED) that specializes in sex safety and happiness education. Becoming familiar with their wisdoms is something that has helped our community become as healthy and as happy as it is.

            • Re: First Timers Guide - sincerely

              Sun, August 15, 2010 - 8:38 AM
              " Thats what all those people are doing out there, finding that happiness. Building a way to let it rush thruogh your veins and show it to the world, man what a kick! Or at least, if they're not, It's their own fault, but , they'll learn. There are so many great examples of creative expressive happiness at burningman. teh hard part is getting involved, making the change, powering the new self movement. Habits, yeah that's the only thing really sacrificed at burningman, and fuck them. We are born perfect and at Burningman, more of that shows than most of the other places of our lives. I dig it man."

              Note I found in my camp in 2002 after a blacklight Puppet show we did.
  • Unsu...

    Re: First Timers Guide - sincerely

    Sun, August 15, 2010 - 3:54 PM
    there are quite a few typos in this.

    i think that typos might reduce the effectiveness of this guide.
    • Re: First Timers Guide - sincerely

      Sun, August 15, 2010 - 4:53 PM
      "there are quite a few typos in this.

      i think that typos might reduce the effectiveness of this guide."

      And you are some sort of grammer olympian? i think? I think not.

      The official "Burningman First Timers Guide" is always typed and written very well, but it leaves out all kinds of important honesty.
      rather than criticize them , I just made my own. Now in it;s 9th year I believe.

      Doacracy is a great thing. :)
  • Thank you Fucko- sincerely!

    Thu, August 19, 2010 - 10:33 AM

    Incites invariably
    YES! Thank you fko - sincerely!
    My plan... is to be in BRC this year. YES! My first time.
    Only this week have I truly let the reality set in, ~ I am going to BurningMan. ~
    and I have begun to say it out loud...telling family, friends, strangers... "I am going to BurningMan" ...invariably, the question has come back "What is BurningMan?"
    It seems incredible to me, but there are a lot of people that are actually unaware that it even exists!! Let alone have ANY idea as to WHAT it IS... and then, how can I possibly even BEGIN to tell them...having never been myself...and so my hunt began...a hunt for words.
    ===> Thank you for your words !! <===
    I have really enjoyed reading your guide and have also passed it along to other first timers - strangers to me, but for thier names...but my brethren in our similar status of "burn virgins"

    What a long strange trip it continues to still be... over 15 years.... the dream... an idea... a wish.

    I dreamed of going in '93...when I was encouraged to "build a theme camp" by a veteran burner who called himself Joe Blough(sp?)
    Logistics, time and circumstance default life continued on - serendipitously and festively.

    ...almost went (stilts and camping gear gathered in the living room) in '99...but heavily discouraged by then husband...missed my ride... BUT, I landed a wonderful job with the USFS that summer... played with fire in the woods for many years....
    Now seperated from the green machine; my summers are once again mine.
    And this year - to the playa I shall go.
    Thank you for your impressions, your incites, your words, your guide. Truly inspirational. Cheers!!

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