By Randy Yagi
In a matter of weeks, an estimated 70,000 people will gather in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert to co-create a temporary city dedicated to art and its eclectic community. Burning Man is described as a global cultural movement and typified by radical self-expression, self-reliance and communal effort among its many valued principles. Although this guide borrows heavily from the official Burning Man site, it isn’t intended to replace official information provided by the organization, including the event’s First-Timer’s Guide and Survival Guide. Instead, it can hopefully serve as an additional independent resource to help prepare for one of the most inventive and most extraordinary annual events on the planet.
About Burning Man
First held on San Francisco’s Baker Beach in 1986, Burning Man was originally intended to be a bonfire celebration of the Summer Solstice by a group of free spirits known as the Cacophony Society, which included two of Burning Man’s co-founders, Larry Harvey and John Law. The first event was highlighted by the burning of a wooden 9-foot tall man on the beach and attended by 35 people. As the Burning Man camp grew larger each year, it was eventually moved to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada and now draws an estimated 70,000 people to the temporary, 7-square-mile metropolis known as Black Rock City. Burning Man is held on the last Sunday of August until the first Monday in September (Labor Day) and is managed by the non-profit Burning Man Project, headquartered in San Francisco.
Burning Man observes the 10 Principles of Burning Man, which includes Communal Effort, Civic Responsibility, Radical Inclusion and Leave No Trace. This year’s art theme is Radical Ritual. The event’s FAQ section covers all the most frequently asked questions.
Date: Sunday, August 27 – Monday, September 4, 2017
Location: Black Rock City, Black Rock Desert, Nevada
Gates Open: Early August for pre-event traffic and 12:01 a.m. Sunday, August 27 for all participants (Burners). Gates are open 24 hours a day during the event.
The last remaining tickets will be available for $425 through the OMG Sale on Wednesday, August 2 at 12 p.m. PDT. Registration for the OMG Sale begins Wednesday, July 26 at 12 p.m. PDT. Tickets and vehicle passes may also be available through Burning Man’s Secure Ticket Exchange Program (STEP). However, tickets are available on a first-come, first-serve basis and dependent upon the number of tickets participants release into this program. Interested parties must make a request to be added to the STEP queue through a Burner Profile before any tickets can be purchased. If any member receives an email with a link to purchase, that member has 72 hours to make the purchase for tickets with an option to purchase a vehicle pass as well. Additionally, tickets and vehicle passes may also be found through social media like Facebook’s Burning Man 2017 Tickets page and secondary markets like StubHub.
All children under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. Children 12 and under are admitted free but must have a Kid’s Ticket. Children 13 and over must have a ticket. The Family Survival Guide and Kids at Burning Man provide additional information.
All vehicle passes and tickets must be purchased prior to arrival. No tickets will be available at the Box Office. The will call window will close at noon on Saturday, August 30. In and Out passes are available for $20 at the gate although the Empire-Gerlach Shuttle will not be operating.
All ticket holders are legally bound to the terms on the back of their official tickets. Anyone caught harboring stowaways or aiding in closure order violations are subject to ejection from the event, having tickets voided and/or being cited.
How To Get There
Traffic Information/Tips: Getting There & Back
Hourly Traffic Reports Beginning Sunday, August 27: Burning Man Information Radio (BMIR) 94.5, iHeart Radio for mobile devices. While Burning Man Information Radio will be available 24 hours a day, iHeart Radio will be provided traffic info at the top of the hour for entry and departing (Exodus).
Real Time Information via Twitter – @BManTraffic
Up To Date Information/Gate Radio Station: 95.1 FM
Wait Time: Wait times in traffic getting into Black Rock City can be five or more hours during the first 36 hours.
By Private Vehicle
Black Rock City is located in the Black Rock Desert, approximately 120 miles north of Reno, Nevada. There are two routes in which participants can take from Reno and they are listed in Burning Man’s Getting There and Back section. This section also provides directions for travelers coming from the East, the Pacific Northwest, the North and the South.
Burning Man maintains a ride share link for those offering or needing a ride to and from Black Rock City. Visitors can search or create a listing through this link. Participants can also visit ePlaya for information on rideshare and resource sharing.
A Burner Express will be providing transportation from San Francisco and Reno to/from Black Rock City. Tickets first went on sale June 14 and may still be available through the Burner Express link via the Getting There and Back information page.
The Green Tortoise may still be selling tour packages from San Francisco to Black Rock City. The tour package includes bus transportation, campsite, food and water.
Many Burning Man participants will be flying into Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RTIA). Upon arrival, participants can then take a rental car, the Burner Express or rideshare, or take a connecting flight to Black Rock City Airport. An Air Playa information table will be set up near the baggage claim area to provide information and resources for travelers headed to Black Rock City. Air charters may still be available between Reno-Tahoe International Airport and Black Rock City Municipal Airport. Additionally, the Burner Express Air will be providing transport to Black Rock City Airport from Reno, the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California.
What Weather Conditions To Expect
Burning Man provides plenty of important information through its Survival Guide, including the valuable Survival Checklist and a full page on the Elements. Because the event is located in the Black Rock Desert, it’s important to know that temperatures can routinely exceed 100 degrees, with low humidity and is situated at an elevation of nearly 4,000 feet above sea level. At night, the temperature can be in the low 40s, therefore travelers should bring a suitable sleeping bag and enough warm clothes if camping out. Moreover, event organizers say it takes about a day to adjust to the desert climate. First time participants to Burning Man are strongly urged to review the First-Timer’s Guide, which includes the Survival Guide, in advance.
The Black Rock Desert is also susceptible to unpredictable weather conditions, such as high wind, lightning and rain. The playa is also known to have dust storms and all attendees must know what to do in the event of a “white out”. This information is also covered in the Elements section.
What To Bring
The Survival Checklist provides comprehensive information on items that must be brought to Black Rock City. This includes a minimum of 1.5 gallons of water per person, per day, a reusable water bottle, enough food and beverages to last the entire stay, plenty of trash bags to Leave No Trace when departing and for Matter Out of Place (MOOP), plastic buckets for composting, goggles, dust masks, a first aid kit and a battery with fresh batteries. Event organizers also recommend a number of items that probably should be brought, such as a cooking stove, extra set of car keys, a bicycle such as a mountain bike or cruiser, camera and shade structures like umbrellas or parasols. Participants using tents must also bring items like tent or rebar stakes and rope to safely secure the camp tent. Participants should also consider bringing a power generator or preferably solar panels for DIY camp lighting, battery packs and/or a solar-powered charging device(s) for smart devices and/or laptops.
Because Burning Man is a commerce-free event, the only items that will be sold in Black Rock City are coffee and ice, and will be available at the Center Camp Cafe. Goods may also be obtained through Burning Man’s Gifting Economy, covered in the 10 Principles of Burning Man.
What Not To Bring
Among the prohibited items are pets, live plants, handheld lasers, ATVs or scooters, motorcycles that are not a participant’s transportation to Burning Man and firearms of any kind including BB guns, paintball guns and air rifles. While service dogs cannot be legally excluded from the event, the organization does not recommend bringing any dogs due to health, safety and other concerns. For additional information on pets, participants can visit Burning Man’s Pets section or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rules, Regulations & Etiquette
The Survival Guide provides a set of Rules and Regulations that must be observed in Black Rock City. As stated in the Law Enforcement section, the Survival Guide is intended to be legal information rather than legal advice. Participants must be aware that law enforcement agencies will be present to issue required permits and enforce federal, state and local laws. Among the laws to be aware of are possession of illegal drugs, driving with an open container and driving under the influence (DUI). Additionally, there are laws specific to Black Rock City, such as possession or discharge of rearms or weapons and violating posted speed limits. Both amateur and professional photographers must also review information on photography for personal or professional use. All participants (Burners) must follow the 10 Principles of Burning Man.
Black Rock City Layout
Black Rock City is laid out in a two-thirds of a circle, with street’s names changed annually and registered theme camps and villages with assigned spaces planned in advance. Registered art installations are also assigned spaces on the open playa but registration has closed. Each participant was required to fill out a camp placement questionnaire and registration is closed. Still, not all theme camps and villages are required to fill out a questionnaire and there still may be time to join a group. Walk-in camping areas are located near the eastern perimeter of Black Rock City. Due to the emerging presence of turnkey campsites, a separate set of guidelines was established in 2012.
Participants can drive to their camping spot and park alongside it. However, a personal vehicle cannot be used as transportation on the playa during the entire stay. The exemptions for participants are Disabled Persons Vehicles and art cars, also known as mutant vehicles, but registration through the Black Rock City DMV (Department of Mutant Vehicles) closed in April.
Black Rock City Services
To meet the needs of approximately 70,000 people in Black Rock City, Burning Man will provide a number of volunteer community services, including helpful Greeters, Lamplighters, Temple Guardians and Oracles, Earth Guardians, the Burning Man Center Camp Cafe, the ARTery, Department of Public Works, Black Rock Rangers, Department of Mutant Vehicles (DMV), law enforcement agencies, BRC Fuel Program, Lost and Found, Recycle Camp and Emergency Services Department, which includes a 911 dispatch center, fire fighting, medical evaluations and hazardous materials. At least five Emergency Services medical stations will be positioned around Black Rock City and will be staffed by emergency health care providers like doctors, nurses and medics. Because there is limited cell service in Black Rock City, emergency messages should be sent to email@example.com. More than 1,000 Port-a-Potties, including some that are wheelchair accessible will be available. The Empire-Gerlach bus service has been discontinued. Complementing the Black Rock City services is Mobility Camp, an independent group whose mission is to improve access and inclusion at Burning Man for people with disabilities.
Although Burning Man is partially intended as an event to disconnect from everyday life, there will be some limited cellular service in Black Rock City. However, cell service is often spotty and will very likely degrade over the last few days of the event when attendance reaches its peak when the Man Burns on the Saturday before Labor Day. The closet fixed cell phone tower is in Gerlach. All participants are advised to protect their smart devices from possible dust exposure. According to event organizers, satellite phones will work at Black Rock City but are not affordable for either purchase or rental for every attendee.
Wi-Fi service may be available at camps and villages but participants may also wish to bring a mobile hotspot device such as Verizon’s Jetpack, AT&T’s Unite Explore and T-Mobile’s Mobile Hotspot, or if applicable, have a mobile hotspot enabled on a smart device. Other options include a wireless extender or router purchased in advance from reputable vendors like B&H Photo and Other World Computing, provided there is an external power source, preferably a sustainable source. Additional information may be obtained through message boards like Burning Man’s ePlaya and Reddit.
Participants can also use iOS or Android mobile apps that don’t require Wi-Fi, such as Time to Burn, iBurn and FireChat. Information on additional mobile apps can be found through Burning Man’s Innovate page.
Participants can also connect with others and obtain more information through other notable online sources like Burning Man Regional Network, Spark, Burning Man Facebook Page, Burning Man’s Twitter account, ePlaya, Burning Man Journal RSS Feed and the Voices of Burning Man.
How To Get Around
The easiest and most efficient way to get around Black Rock City is by bike. No motorized vehicles are allowed for transportation during Burning Man except for public agency vehicles, BRC department service vehicles, disabled person’s vehicle and mutant vehicles licensed by the Department of Mutant Vehicles (DMV). Anyone caught driving a vehicle without a permit during Burning Man is subject to a fine and the vehicle may be impounded or disabled by Black Rock Rangers or law enforcement. Small, single person motorized scooters are allowed but are subject to the same rules and regulations as other motorized vehicles. While some larger vehicles do not qualify as a Disabled Person’s Vehicle, the following do not require licensing: electric wheelchairs, mobility scooters, electric bicycles, Segways and Go-ped style stand up powered skateboarders with not seat. Registration for all other Disabled Person Vehicles must be registered by 12 p.m. PST on August 3 through the Department of Mutant Vehicles.
What To See
There is simply everything to see at this year’s Burning Man. Dominating the event will be the enormous, elaborate and often dazzling art installations inspired by this year’s theme Radical Ritual. Among this year’s Black Rock City Honoria are The Temple, Temple of Gravity, Flaming Lotus Girls and Mr. and Mrs. Ferguson Art. Complementing the art installations and mutant vehicles is the Black Rock City Observatory along with a large number of live performances all around the city, most notably at Center Camp Cafe, including fire dancers, magicians, musical groups and jugglers. Of course, the biggest event at Burning Man will be when the Man Burns on the Saturday evening before Labor Day.