In this article, we will talk about the A-B-C’s of theme camps at Burning Man. We will be building on the information we shared in our other article called What Happens at Burning Man. So if you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend you take a moment to catch up on that post.
How do you join the theme camps?
Upon invitation. Camps are made up of groups of friends who have been attending Burning Man together for years. If you have a friend who is part of a camp, that person can ask the camp leader if they have a spot for a newcomer that year. Usually, all camps accept new members, by referrals.
What do the camps offer?
Each camp decides on its own format. Here are some questions you might want to ask your camp:
1. How many shared meals will be served?
Only the dinner was a shared meal at our camp. We would all take turns to cook and wash the dishes. People managed all other meals on their own, but the shared kitchen was available for everyone to use. We would leave it as found.
Our friend’s camp had three meals. But then again, there were camps that did not even set up a kitchen. The camp decides.
Of course, the more meals you have, the more dishes there are to be washed. For us, our camp’s meal program was just perfect. It was ideal for us to come together with the rest of the team and enjoy dinner together and be free for the rest of the day.
If you’d prefer, you could also offer the camp different arrangements: “ I don’t know how to cook, maybe instead I could work at the set-up?” etc…
2. Will the camp set up a shared shower space? If it will, will the wastewater be stored together? If there is no arrangement for wastewater collection and transport, you have to figure out a solution on you own. For ideas you can read our Burning Man Guide.
3. Are we going to bring generators?
Our camp did not have a shared fridge. People had brought their own coolers. We didn’t have other things that require electricity such as a music system or an air-conditioned lounge. So we didn’t have a generator. When you do have a generator, you also have to budget for fuel. Some camps use solar power. Of course, all these things would introduce additional expense items.
4. Will we set up a shared shade space?
Usually all camps have one. Some feature camping chairs, and others corner sofas. It is up to the camp.
5. How will we decorate the camp?
Some camps have elaborate constructions and decorations. Other don’t. Remember that you are expected to work to set up the camp.
6. Will we build an art car?
Art cars are fantastic. They are fun and they are great gifts to the community but it will raise the costs.
7. What will we offer the Burning Man community as gifts?
Camps spend thousands and even hundred thousands of dollars out of their own pockets to build art cars, give out free food, set up air-conditioned dormitories, etc. Those with more modest resources may set up low-cost things like hair-braiding stations.
You will be expected to participate both with your money and time in these preparations.
8. Will the camp set up its own toilets?
These are some of the essential questions a camps has to figure out. But there are also much more sophisticated camps.
Note: Keep in mind that every “yes” to the questions above means time commitment and money. Because you will bring everything, set it up, take it down, store it and maintain it. All of these require time commitment as well.
You don’t pay rent for your camp space. But all the things mentioned above constitute expenses which are equally distributed among members. Everyone pays her share to the camp leader.
The camp gear is stored so that it can be used again in the following years (hence the storage fee). For instance, if the kitchen equipment is bought in the first year, the following year that budget is allocated to something else and the camp is further improved every year. The decorations of some camps are absolutely amazing.
I don’t have any burner friends. Can I go without joining a camp?
There are many people who camp solo. You can definitely go alone, but it would be more challenging. It is very convenient to be able to use the shared spaces.
If you have a tent, storing and taking back your wastewater (taking showers, washing hands, preparing meals) will be your biggest problem. So, if you decide to stay in a tent and don’t have a camp, you should plan very well what to do about the wastewater.
If you have a camper van, most of your problems are solved as you would have all the equipment and facilities you need.
If solo participants need something, they should go ahead and ask the camps for help. Everyone welcomes each other with open arms.
What are the preparations I should make for myself?