Yeah, yeah, we all know that Burning Man’s about doing exactly what you want, disrespecting the man, worshipping The Man and flicking the finger at authority. However if you don’t want your sorry dismembered ass to be found by the DPW in a shallow grave on the outskirts of Gerlach, with nothing but a puzzled look on your face and a camping shower wound Japanese-bondage-stylee round your neck, you’ll respect the following:

Safety third…

Dangerous (spot the falling knife)

The desert is dangerous. Power tools are dangerous. Huge long wooden poles, scaffolding bars, generators, petrol, electrical wiring, kitchen equipment, sledge hammers, post drivers, knives, saws and 100-kilo barrels of water are dangerous. And we’ve got loads of them. Taken as a whole, Burning Man is really fucking dangerous. 

Whenever you’re in the camp, take a minute to assess what you’re doing. If you don’t know how something works, don’t be afraid to get help or advice. You’re a long way from medical attention out here and small injuries can be seriously inconvenient.

Look out for things that might cause problems.

Always clean and tidy up after yourself. Don’t think ‘I’ll do it later’ - the desert is distracting, and you won’t. Tarpaulins are laid out for tools and equipment. Always replace all tools on the tarpaulins as soon as you’ve finished with them!

At night, we use solar lamps to light paths and storage areas, but you still need to be really careful as you move around camp. It’s really, really dark if there’s no moon, and it’s remarkably easy to fall over misplaced items. You really need a head torch if you’re working and at the very least you need a handheld torch for moving about. 


Leave no trace…

No, hang on, that really wasn’t big enough…


The desert might look like a harsh environment composed of nothing but thousands of years-worth of dried prehistoric fish shit, but that there’s fragile fish shit and it needs to be looked after! You need to make sure that nothing hits the desert floor.

And when we say nothing, we really do mean nothing. If you smoke, carry a tin. Don’t just put the butts in it, but make sure your ash goes in there, too.

Cutting wood? Do it on a dampened tarpaulin with something to act as a windbreak, and afterwards put all your sawdust into a bag in the trash.

Don’t drop any liquid but clean water on the playa – coffee dregs, cooking water, shower water, toothpaste – all of these go in a grey water barrel to be carted off the playa.

Pack it in – pack it out!

If you bring it to the playa, be prepared to take it out again. Bring as little as possible in terms of packaging. We will have rubbish and recycling collections as part of the camp, and will separate glass, cardboard and plastic. Please help the Rubbish Fairy by picking up ANYTHING you see lying around at any time, however small.

Before you leave you should commit a couple of hours to cleaning the desert floor in the area of our camp – if we leave any mess we won’t be allowed back. We will grid the space out, and you need to clean to a GRANULAR level. The tiniest particles need collecting.

De-MOOPing camp

DO NOT BRING glitter, feather boas, plants and greenery, party poppers, silly string, fabric that sheds, anything with sequins, pistachio nuts in shells, bark, straw and fabric flowers that fall apart. Check all your costumes for shedding potential and if in any doubt don’t bring them – think about un-hemmed edges of fur fabric, Astroturf, tinsel and more.  If you drop anything – from food crumbs to nails – pick it up immediately. Carry a ziplock bag with you whenever you go out and pick up anything you see blowing around.

And don’t put anything in the porta potties that didn’t come from your body…

We fought the law…

You will have heard a lot about Burning Man; its reputation certainly precedes it. Be very aware that whatever you have heard, drug use and various acts that fall into the realms of public indecency remain extremely illegal in the USA. Nevada is not a liberal kind of a place – get caught here and the best you could hope for is to have any future right to enter the USA cancelled. You will definitely be looking at fines and could easily wind up in criminal proceedings that lead to a prison term. 

In 2009, we were the target of a sting operation by local law enforcement, and one of our camp members was arrested for supplying alcohol to a minor.  The fact that this "boy" was 20 years and 11 months old, and looked older than half of our camp members, was neither here nor there.

Make sure you read all the advice about how to deal with the law on We are not legal experts, so are not going to give you chapter and verse here. Suffice to say, your rights are very different to those you may be used to in Europe. The law enforcement agencies on the playa have very different powers regarding grounds for search of the person, your property and your abode, and your activities could be viewed as placing the whole camp under suspicion.

There are a lot more police at Burning Man than you will be used to at European festivals, both uniformed and plain clothes. Please be very careful, however you chose to proceed.

Beep beep!

When driving to and from the playa be very careful to observe all speed limits and road signs. Local police are conscientious when it comes to prosecuting road traffic misdemeanors. Make sure you are named as a driver on your rental car and that all your license paperwork is in order. Do not drive home if you think you may still be under the influence of any substance – wait.

When on the road to the playa, be aware that there are limited passing places – be patient. Don’t risk going off the paved road – you will get yourself stuck and you risk rolling your vehicle if it happens at speed.

Keep a change of respectable clothes handy for driving to and from the playa – you’ll be passing through some pretty conservative communities.

Make sure your vehicle is full of fuel when you leave Reno, and fill up again if you need to. Don’t rely on being able to get petrol on the way home. You’re a long way from a major city. You and 40,000 other people. Keep water in your vehicle for the inevitable queue as you leave on Monday, and be prepared to wait. For hours.


(For more tips on entering and leaving Black Rock City, see the Gate, Perimeter & Exodus team's FAQ)

Next: The environment