There are several means of accommodation at Burning Man: you can pitch your tent in the camping area, rent a motor home/RV, or join a camp.
The aim of the camps is to join together to pool resources, and rely on collective strength to participate in the event through a piece of art or an animation.
If it’s your first time going to Burning Man, you might believe that joining a camp will make things easier logistically. It is easy to think that sharing resources reduces the individual burden of planning all your equipment, and significantly improves comfort.
But joining a camp is above all committing to a collective project to contribute, at your own level, to building Burning Man. What different kinds of camps are there, and how should you choose yours ?
This article should help you decide :
Theme camps are camps that offer a piece of art or a concept that aims to create interaction with the other participants. There are recognized by the organizing committee, who has usually allocated these camps a spot. The quality of interactivity at Burning Man largely relies on these camps.
Their size varies, from a dozen people to several hundred. Some Theme camps decide to unite to form Villages.
Each camp has its own formula and rules in terms of personal investment required. Membership cost will also depend on the level of comfort provided, as well as the camp’s concept. As the cost of amenities increases (quality of the sound system, size of the infrastructures, number of drinks distributed, etc.), so will the cost of the membership.
A Theme camp is not a hotel: you pay dues to financially contribute to the project and camp expenses. You will also have to actively participate in the construction and functioning of the camp. No one is at the service of others, everyone must take part.
THEME CAMPS COST
Membership cost depends partly on the level of comfort of the accommodations.
The least expensive camps will request a membership of 10 dollars in exchange for access to their spot, if you bring your own equipment. Some will provide access to basic cooking amenities or a shade structure for under 50 dollars.
For dues between 300 and 600 dollars, you can expect a level of comfort high enough to enjoy your stay in good conditions: a shade structure above the tents, showers, a camp kitchen, meals that are prepared in turn, a bicycle, loan of sleeping equipment, electricity.
For one or two thousand dollars, you can expect more comfort: a fully-equipped kitchen, air-conditioned yurts, running water, and sanitary facilities on the camp, for example.
The most extreme example is Plug’n play, who offer an “all-inclusive” stay for approximately 10,000 dollars. Here, everything is provided: your ticket for Burning Man, luxurious bedding, air-conditioned areas, drinks and food prepared by employees who are at your service, and even your costumes and bicycle equipment. You will have nothing to do: you pay and have fun. These camps are divisive within the community because they go against the principle of participation, and misrepresent the event by giving it the image of a festival only open to the well-off elite.
- Your personal logistical organization is lessened as the camp provides part of your equipment (check with each camp for details)
- The principle of participation is applied, and you directly contribute to building Burning Man through your actions within a collaborative project
- You are not by yourself and you get to meet fellow burners
- You get to benefit from the experience of seasoned burners
- The cost: you must pay camp dues. But the equipment for Burning Man will cost you money either way.
- The personal investment required to take part in the camp (assembly and disassembly, participation in the interactive project, etc.). If you believe this to actually be an advantage of the Theme camps, because it will allow you to fully experience Burning Man, then you’ve got it all figured out! Go for it!
How can you find a Theme camp ?
No one is obligated to accept you in their camp. Your application will be accepted provided that your personality and state of mind are aligned with the values and general ambience of the camp. You choose the camp just as much as the camp chooses you.
- The complete list of Theme camps is available on the official website. It is updated every year: https://burningman.org/culture/history/brc-history/event-archives/2019-event-archive/2019-theme-camps/
You can research camps’ recruiting procedures by looking it up on their website or emailing them.
- Keep an eye on the social media burner groups and pages: camps often publish project announcements and launch calls for candidates.
- If you have specific skills that you would like to share, you can sign up to Spark, which is a collaborative platform for Burning Man. Camps use it to publish specific profiles they are searching for for their projects.
- If you have burner friends, ask them for information about the camps they belonged to. This will help you define which type of camp you would like to join. The vibes and theme of the camp are just as important as the cost and equipment provided, so that you feel comfortable.
Many camps operate through cooptation. You can ask your friends to sponsor you, but this doesn’t always work.
When should you start looking for a camp?
As soon as possible, depending on your case :
- You bought a ticket at the Main sale or in the STEP: you can apply as soon as you have purchased your ticket. Don’t wait too long, lots of camps are full by late May/early June.
- You have skills that could be useful to artistic or musical projects, or camp infrastructure building: you can sign up to Spark as early as the beginning of February. At that time, camps are starting to think about their new projects. They can potentially save a DGS ticket for a specific profile.
The free camp is a gathering of burners who do not wish to join a Theme camp, but seek to camp together and pool their resources. Their members do not pay any dues. Each member comes to the event with their own equipment, and shares it as possible to increase the comfort of all.
The organizing committee does not assign them a space – they search by themselves for an area to set up among the unassigned spots, which can be all the more difficult when the camp is large.
They are not recognized by the organizing committee as a Theme camp, which frees them from the obligation of interactivity. Therefore, they do not need to offer an activity to the other burners. However, as a camp, they must follow the safety and waste management rules. They can be subjected to an inspection, either by the organizing committee or the rangers, the same way Theme camps are.
- The cost: it’s free !
- You aren’t by yourself and get to meet fellow burners
- The comfort of the camp depends on the equipment that is shared. Best to communicate clearly before the event to best pool resources.
- It is more difficult to create a camp project and interact with the other burners.
How can you find a Free camp ?
Keep an eye on the social media burner groups and pages: those who wish to join free camps publish their ads searching for burn partners.
You can also go to Burning Man by yourself, without joining a camp, and camp autonomously in the camping zone.
- You are fully autonomous
- It’s free
- Your entire standard of living depends on yourself : don’t forget anything, this is self-reliance! You will have to make do with the bare minimum. You can find shade and other means of comfort in other camps… But relying on others is not the main idea of No camp.
- Location : the free camping zones are usually on the outskirts of the city. But you could also end up in a similar spot depending on the Theme camp you join. However, here, you will not be able to choose: you get to set up wherever there is room left.
- Participation : you will need to find a way to fulfill the participation principle, since you will not be able to offer an activity via a Theme camp. However, BRC is continuously looking for volunteers for different assignments, and you can offer up your skills as yoga teacher, DJ, or massage therapist to other camps. There is an office that keeps a list of everyone who volunteers in different categories, and the camps can take their pick.