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17 Facts About Burning Man That Will Make You Want to Go Next Year

Okay, so you’ve missed Burning Man this year. (Unless you’re jumping on a plane to catch the final burn as you read this.)

Well, you’re not alone. There are tons of millennials who say they want to go some day, but never actually try to make it happen, pushing it off for another year because they don’t actually understand what it is, they’re intimidated, or they’re just not positive it’s for them.

If you’re one of those people, we’re here to help.

Here’s a list of 17 burning facts about Burning Man that will answer some of the question marks that continue to make you think you want to go, but keep you from actually following through.

See you in 2016, newbies.


1. It’s Definitely Not Just a Party
Burning Man is an explosion of random and beautiful ideas come alive, and you will be shocked by the diversity of awesome ideas and experiences. Sure, some people go just to party and there’s no shortage of them, but the trek to get there filters out most of the people who wouldn’t value it for other reasons and understand that there’s so much more to it.

2. It Doesn’t Have to Be That Expensive
If you wanted to get there on the cheap, you can just show up with food, water, your ticket, and try to catch a ride on Craigslist. And although the price for Burning Man tickets might seem expensive ($390 each plus fees, vehicle passes $50 each), for 7-days it’s pretty reasonable when compared with other big festivals. There’s also the option of joining a camp that organizes water, one meal, and sometimes showers or bikes for around $100, as well as providing advice and community. (Check the Burning Man website for ways to find camps.)

3. Everyone’s Experience is Different
You can’t buy everything people say about it. It can be a very challenging experience for some (years when it’s really hot, or really dusty, or you don’t have a bike) while others have the time of their lives and are forever changed for the better. One thing is for sure, if you’re curious and interested, there’s something there for you and it will be worth the trek for this once in a lifetime kind of experience.

4. Whatever You’re Looking For, You’ll Find It
Art, music, a circus, spiritual practices, people, workshops, bondage, drugs, parties, beauty – whatever it is you’re looking for, it’s there. Because of the variety of walks of life and sheer size of the festival, you can’t help but find things that mean something to you.  It’s the kind of place where beautiful and interesting things are just waiting to be found, so as long as you’re up for the journey, it’ll be there.

5. It’s Not a Free-For-All, Consent is Still Very Important
When it comes to photos, gifting, touching, or playing, consent is very important at Burning Man. Many people don’t want their photo taken because they’re there to be open and free and don’t want a photo of them dancing topless on an art-car to show up on the Internet. People at the festival understand this and know the rule is to ‘Ask First’. If you don’t, someone will tell you very quickly.

6. There’s No ‘Typical’ Person Who Goes
We all have ideas about ‘Burners’ – boa-wearing, acid-eating, kinda-crazy people, but it’s really not like that. You’ll find every time of person there – young, old, wild, relaxed, people wearing khakis – and that’s the point. It’s inclusive. Everyone is welcome and should be welcomed. It doesn’t mean that you have to like everyone or hang out with them, but being there together means there’s a common thread.

7. Go There Expecting to Open Up
With the great diversity of experiences, some things are still common. Expect to see things you’ve never expected, do things you would probably never otherwise do, receive gifts from strangers, and who knows what else. If you go there with a closed mind, you won’t have very much fun, so open up and try new things, push your boundaries, and even if you don’t, expect that others may do it for you.

8. Embrace the Dust
It gets everywhere, and you’ll have a hard time getting it off. It’s not regular sand, but the alkaline remnants of an old lakebed; it’s light and will sneak into the crevices of your tent, car, pillow, and even eyelashes. It’s everywhere. Bring baby wipes for cleaning or vinegar to actually get the white off your skin and belongings. Again, the more you embrace it, the more fun you’ll have.

9. You Can’t Buy Anything
Other than coffee and ice at centre camp, things are given and exchanged based on what they call a gift economy, so you’ll hear a lot of talk about “gifting.” Individuals and camps will be giving away food, alcohol, clothing, jewellery, or create elaborate spaces like lounges, jungle gyms, stages, etc. Everyone is invited to bring something to give, but it’s not necessarily expected if it’s your first year.

10. It’s Really Hot AND Really Cold
It’s a desert, everyone knows that, but it’s also on an elevated plateau that rests at 4,000 feet, so it gets cold at night as well. Depending on the year, it can go from pretty hot in the day to so cold at night that you’ll need a hat and gloves, to practically unbearable in the day to nights where you won’t need a jacket at all. So you may want to check the weather, but definitely come prepared for the cold as well.  

11. There Aren’t THAT Many Naked People
Some people like to be naked to feel free or, because it’s hot, many people go topless, but many wear costumes or clothes that protect them from the sun as well. You certainly don’t have to go naked and won’t have it in your face all the time either. There are topless bike rides for those who might want to try. And expect to see more naked men than women.

12. Camps Have Themes
If you have a camp with a larger space at Burning Man, you have to have a theme. Either you’re running a tiki bar or have a pirate-ship party bus, some people run workshops or a letter-writing booth or a MASH-themed theatre, or even bounce around in banana-suits and that’s their thing. The theme camps are what make up the events at Burning Man – they are 100% participant-run.

13. You’ll Find Lots to Eat and Drink Around
Looking around, you’ll find camps where their theme is midnight poutine, grilled cheese, morning cereal, or coffee. You’ll also find plenty of bars – tiki bars, winter-themed bars, bars on buses, bars on boat-buses – so don’t over-prepare in this category. With the heat as well, and drugs (if you do them), people don’t end up eating as much as they think they will at the festival.

14. There are Lots of Calm Spaces
If you need to relax, you don’t have to go back to you camp. You can plop down anywhere, or find one of the many spaces provided for lounging. Maybe it’ll be a movie theatre in the middle of the desert, or a camp with a huge set-up of couches and low-lit lamps, plounges (pillow-lounges), chill-out tents where people are laying around, or napping, or giving each other massages, and camps with hammocks to enjoy at any time of day or night.

15. There are Tons of Shows
If you ask at Camp Registration, they’ll give you a list of where DJs are playing and when, and as you walk around, you’ll see stages randomly here and there where you can find out the times when there is live music or theatre happening. There’s lots of big and small live music venues, burlesque shows, and circuses of all types to see.

16. It’s REALLY Big
To get from one end to the other would probably take around 45 minutes on a bike – this is part of what makes it so much better than other festivals of similar size, everyone (all 65,000+ of them) is spread out. Once you get off the main drags, you’ll find it can get really quiet.

17. Give Yourself Two Hours to Get Somewhere if You Actually Want to Make It
Between the actual time it takes to get somewhere on a bike or walking, and the heat, and all the things you’ll want to stop to see and do along the way, if you actually want to make a workshop, talk, or show (and you definitely do), you’ll need to give yourself an extremely wide buffer time to get there on time…or make it at all. The people and things along the way will all be worth the time.


Soula Gountouvas

Soula has been to Burning Man three times in the past five years, as well as many other festivals around the world. She currently lives in Toronto and works in the non-profit sector educating youth.