Introduction: Foolproof Burning Man

I've been to the burn (aka Burning Man) a couple more times than I can count. It is a really, really fun time, but camping on the playa (which is to say, on a dry lake bed in the desert) can be a challenge for the uninitiated.

This Instructable is my attempt to compile a bunch of the tips and tricks I've picked up. Many of these steps could be documented as complete projects on their own, but I wanted to give people reading this the sense of about how many moving parts there really are when you go on the Big Camping Trip.

For inspiration, here is a photo of the elephantine sound system attached to the Robot Heart bus. Moving right along... This Instructable will cover my tips for:

  1. Shade & shelter
  2. Tents go inside
  3. Seating!
  4. Amenities
  5. Moving truck kitchen
  6. Gray water filter

Step 1: Shade & Shelter

The first priority is shade. Second is protection from the wind. What you want to do is set things up so you get a lot of shade all day. So block the south side. if you dislike bright light in the morning, block the east side too.

For our camp we blocked the east side with our moving truck. The moving truck also contains the kitchen. This is so you can throw the rolling door down if there is a dust storm. This keeps all that beef jerky from getting lightly dusted with strange alkaline lake minerals.

We set up collapsible carports for the rest of the shade. We closed the sides of one and left the other mostly open to allow air to flow. Blocking the wind was nice, but the enclosed-on-three-sides area got muggy sometimes. The carports were guyed down, a lot.

Pitch your tents inside the shade and wind screen! Your tent will stay somewhat cleaner and much darker.

Step 2: Tents Go Inside

Buy a bunch of used carpets. These are better than plastic ground pads. They keep your feet warm and mostly clean. They add a touch of class and civilization to the Big Camping Trip.

I like these stackable transparent plastic crates. I always bring a bunch of random crap to the burn. It's also nice to not have to store every bit of clothing or gear in your tent. The crates keep me more organized because they stack. Plus they keep some of the dust out and off my clothes.

Step 3: Seating!

You will want places to sit.

Consider a hanging chair or a hammock!

Plastic stacking chairs are nice but a little cold at night.

Padded fold-up chairs are a little cozier but not so great in the heat.

Step 4: Amenities

Beater boombox. Pick something cheap so you don't feel bad leaving it in storage until next time. Make sure it has "line in"! Otherwise DJ iPod won't be able to spin at your camp.

Get lamps that clip or hook to your structures. A little ambient light goes a long way when it comes to feeling at home and cozy while hanging out in your camp at night. What do you mean you didn't bring a generator?

Self-closing trash can will make you wonder why you never brought a self-closing trash can before. No more trash blowing around, no more getting your hands filthy just trying to toss a wrapper in the trash.

Step 5: Moving Truck Kitchen

Set up a sink with one of your water jugs and a plastic tub. A couple extra tubs and you can wash, rinse, even bleach your dishes.

Eggs keep well in the desert. So does hard cheese. Bread does fine if you keep it in a plastic bag. Resist the urge to cool everything off with a bunch of ice. You won't want to go on many ice runs, I assure you. Icing food risks getting it wet. Just buy things that don't need to stay cold.

We used the vodka to wipe off knives when we were too lazy to wash them with soap and water. I probably should have died.

Hang up your towels to keep them clean and dry.

Step 6: Gray Water Filter

On the playa you have to manage your own gray water. It can't go in the porta-johns, and you can't dig a hole to pour it down, and you wouldn't do that anyway because it's got food bits and fibers in it. Gray water has to be filtered and then dispersed onto the playa.

Buy some panty hose. We recommend "control top"! Seems to hold better.

Cut the bottom off a water jug to make a funnel. Put one leg of the hose inside the other so you have a double layer. Put the toes into the spout of the funnel and secure them around the top of the funnel. You might need rubber bands but we got away with using the waistband.

When one of your dishwashing tubs is full of gray water, pour it through your filter into a big storage jug. When this jug is full, carefully filter it AGAIN into a bucket. The bucket should have a big mouth to make dispersing the gray water easier.

When your twice-filtered bucket of gray water is full, march on out to an uncrowded part of the playa and disperse it. I found that the bottom we cut off the funnel-jug made a good scoop for throwing a few cups of water at a time a good distance away from myself. You can disperse a few gallons of gray water in a couple minutes.

If the filter gets totally clogged, dry it in the sun, deposit the cruft into your garbage, and start over.