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55 Things I Learned At Burning Man

A front porch can also be a bus. Charlie Brown is a burner. Bronies and steampunks galore. Absolutely everything shoots fire.

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6. Tons of folks hitchhike to get to the festival.

Getting a ride can be competitive. To groom yourself to look like good road trip company, you start posting things like "I'm an excellent conversationalist!" or "I've lived in France!" or "I have never murdered anyone, promise!" (Sorry, Mackenzie, I was such a shitty hitchhiker.)


7. Every year. Black Rock City (the festival's temporary town) becomes Nevada's third biggest city.

Jim Urquhart / Reuters

68,000 people attended this year. Also, there's a rudimentary map system, so you can find your friends in other camps.


10. "Super Street Fire" is the most insanely wonderful game.

Kevin Tang

Two players stand on opposite stages. Motion sensors detect your hand gestures. Fire shoots towards the other player when you act out a hadouken.


26. Dust will cling to everything.

The Playa's dust is as fine as chalk. Your hair will gray. Not showering all week feel surprisingly okay — whenever you sweat, the dust rubs it off with a baby-powder smoothness.

27. If you don't mind being spongebathed by naked strangers, the Human Carcass Wash will get you clean.

Located at a polyamorist camp. You have to spongebathe a dozen strangers before they let you get bathed too. Short story writer Wells Towers went through that with his dad.


29. P. Diddy went to Burning Man this year?

Also, Major Lazer played a set. And a ton of Silicon Valley moguls go often, including Google's Eric Schmidt and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg. You're not supposed to care about famous people there, though.


31. There's a surprising age range there.

Not uncommon to see aging hippie parents bring their children, or going hard with their friends. In Reno, we met an old man who couldn't get his wife's permission to go. He packed his tent in secret and wrote "there are things in life you just gotta try" in a note on the breakfast table. Then he snuck off to the festival at night. He was very happy to tell us this.


41. If you can't survive hearing this on full-blast while you sleep, you will die there.

View this video on YouTube

42. "Ice is worth more than Google stocks out there."

Kevin Tang

(Thank you, Rembert Browne, for the quote). Actually, it's $3 a bag — that's one of very few things you can actually buy there — but the lines for ice are usually hecka long.

44. Littering or leaving garbage ('MOOP') behind is Burner sacrilege.

Hundreds of volunteers spend the month after Burning Man meticulously combing the sand for MOOP (Matter Out Of Place). You must drive out your own trash. Also, MOOP is a funny word. One night, some grumpy old dude called us all MOOP. Then we began to call each other MOOP.

47. Expect to put in a dozen hours of manual labor there (at least). Even if you're not making an artwork or running a themed camp.

Flickr: jlaux42

Besides setting up your own tent, someone in your camp's bound to need help. First day there was a hell of hammering metal stakes into the dry earth.

53. Burning Man is the opposite of Coachella or Pitchfork fest. It's wonderfully agnostic about Coolness as a currency.

Kevin Tang

Imagine a steampunk rave, hippie commune, yoga studio, tech-bro frat house, polyamorist workshop rolled into one. If you police your dignity on a regular basis, Burning Man will give you an aneurysm. But out there, you realize just how much time and energy you normally waste on talking shit and trying to appear knowing. It's far better to actually make things.

(Also: Hi, Bart, I love you and you are always cool in my heart, rainbow muumuu or no.)

Previously: how to spend 24 hours at Burning Man.