Halcyon’s Unofficial Tips & Tricks #1

So you’ve devoured BurningMan.com and memorized the Survival Guide?

Now that you know how to avoid death, dehydration and dismemberment, are there any other tips for making Burning Man even more amazing?

Youbetcha! Several years ago I started recording collections of things I’ve learned over many years of participation. (This will be my 14th Burn.)


(NOTE: I’m told that water trucks contain non-potable water and should not be used in the way described in the video. And ALL of these tips are solely the views of Halcyon and do not represent the The Burning Man Organization or Major League Baseball. Also, “Gifting It” is no longer available at that URL, but can be found in the Burning Man marketplace.)

Stay tuned for more tips! Have some tips? Share in the comments!

Black Rock City, Population: 1

If you’ve never been to the Playa in the winter, you’re missing out on quite a powerful experience. Benjamin “Jets” Wilner was out there this winter, and he recorded his thoughts, and took some striking pictures. While he sent us this back in February, we thought you’d enjoy it … even in the springtime. He writes:

“I’m sitting in the Reno airport, and thanks to the free wifi I have something to do besides waste the money I barely have in the slot machines they have here.

Playa in Winter, Photo by Benjamin Wilner

I came up here to this cold city in the dead of winter for one reason: I just wanted to see the Playa in the opposite state of how I’m used to seeing it. For no particular reason, really, other than just being there. It’s something I’ve wanted to do ever since my first Burn, in 2008. The Black Rock Desert is barren enough even during Burn week each year, but I couldn’t imagine what it was like in the winter when it’s completely empty, so I wanted to see it for myself that way. (more…)

DIY Your Burn: Shelter, Shade & Cool Cool Comfort

I recently met a Reno local who is preparing for her first burn. “Do I really need to get an RV?” she asked me. “My friend told me you can’t do Burning Man without an RV. I just want to bring a tent.”

This hurts me on the inside. I haven’t been around that long — my first burn was 2003 — but I’ve spent many burns in a tent, and a couple of two-month work seasons besides. One of the things I hate to see is the rapidly increasing number of rental RVs on playa. They have their place, sure. If you’ve got small kids or a physical need for top-notch shelter, you might want to spend thousands renting an RV, plus hundreds in gas to drive it to Black Rock City and keep the A/C running. But that is a LOT of money (and a fair amount of pollution), and it’s not necessary to spend that much. You can be smarter about it, and I’m about to tell you how.

It is completely possible, and pretty easy, to build your own shelter and cooling system. You can have an airtight, windproof, shaded and cool place to sleep away the day, and you can build it yourself for a fraction of the cost of an RV rental.


Holy wow! In 2007, Treehugger and Current TV hosted a contest for the best “eco-ideas” for Burning Man. The winner was a DIY shelter that costs under $300 to build, packs up flat into your truck, and can be reused year after year. Vinay Gupta’s Hexayurt is now being tested as disaster relief and refugee shelter. Why? Because it WORKS. This is far and away the best shelter idea I’ve heard of. (more…)

Book Review: The Man Burns Tonight

[Matt is a professional writer and editor, former journalist, and a proud member of the Death Guild (see: Thunderdome) since 2000. We’ve invited him to write a series of book reviews for the Burning Blog … this is his first installment. Please note that Matt’s opinions don’t necessarily reflect those of the Burning Man Organization.]

It’s not easy to write about Burning Man.

By its very nature Burning Man is difficult to describe accurately. Most news articles end up labeling the Burn as some sort of “dance party with art in the desert,” with the possible descriptive word like “rave” or “hippy” thrown in for effect. But as any Burner knows, that’s nowhere near close to what really encompasses a proper description of all that Burning Man is.

The same problem applies to fictional stories set at Burning Man… it’s all well and good to try and set a story at the Burn, but usually they come off a bit like trying to describe a dream you had the night before. No matter how you try and explain it, it won’t come across quite right. The unattainable nature of what makes Burning Man… well, Burning Man, just doesn’t live very well on the page. It’s extremely difficult to accurately get across all the little details of the dust, and the heat, and the body paint and the technobeats long into the morning and everything else that’s a large part of why Burning Man continues year to year.

It was this literary challenge that I had foremost in my mind when I read “The Man Burns Tonight,” by Donn Cortez. Touted as “A Novel of Murder, Madness… and the Burning Man Festival” it follows a Virgin Burner’s arrival at the Gate, and a subsequent murder he’s witness to. That main character, Dexter Edden, escapes the killer by rushing out onto the Playa. He soon fears he’ll be held complicit in the crime, and is therefore forced to interact with a strange cast of Burner characters around him as he tries to prove his innocence, by catching the killer of course.

Dexter Edden is almost the stereotypical newbie Burner in that he’s a nerdish programmer who doesn’t want to be there so much you can almost see the pastiness of his skin. Forced to attend by his overbearing boss who insists he needs to experience something different, Edden’s first such interaction getting spanked by Greeters in drag and running screaming back into his RV, refusing to come out again. Having decided that he’ll begrudgingly spend the rest of the week hiding in the RV with his boss, it’s only witnessing the murder that forces him out to interact with others on the Playa. Which is, of course, where the story begins. (more…)

A Warm Welcome

Photo: Chance

Certainly, Burning Man is a society that deviates from The Norm. But it would be silly to suggest that Burning Man is a place without norms. One of the truest conceits of Burner culture, in my opinion, is the distinction between “home,” the playa, and the “default world,” which gives our annual gathering a sense of deviation, but also one of return. We leave behind our default values and behaviors, and we return to something more natural and fundamental to us.


But clearly, “home” is not an arrangement without order, tradition, or hierarchy. I doubt humans can help themselves. We may not like to think of Burning Man as a stratified place, but it is.

Nothing wrong with that, though. Not inherently. The fact is, some people have been burning for 20 years, some for 10, some one, some none. Those are remarkable differences in experience of something so extreme and dynamic as Burning Man. It’s only natural that those who’ve been before will set the tone for those still bewildered by the blinky lights. (more…)

Feed the Artists – Moving Out Into the World!

The folks at Feed the Artists are taking their good works initiative — born in Black Rock City — out into the real world. Learn how you can help. They write:

Feed the Artists (aka FtA) is a communal art grant that enriches Burner community ties through food gifting. The program has literally fed thousands of artists since 2007, and inspired radical collaboration amongst diverse groups of Burners. FtA has grown quickly at Burning Man, as many have come to embrace the program’s four primary goals:

  1. To support artists in the Burning Man community
  2. To create healthy and meaningful interactions between artists, theme camps, and their peers through bonding, collaborating, and sharing resources for the benefit of the entire community: Radical Collaboration.
  3. To elevate the role of food on the playa to an art form.
  4. To allow the power of these shared values to generate a self-sustaining tradition at Burning Man, then the Regional Burns, and then to the world beyond. (more…)

Black Rock Solar’s Education and Outreach Program

This was just too good not to share. In case you didn’t know, Black Rock Solar doesn’t just gift low- and no-cost solar power to Northern Nevada institutions who can’t otherwise afford it, they are also spearheading an ambitious education and outreach program as part of their mission to promote alternative energy solutions. BRS’s Marnee Benson writes:

“It’s been a busy and rewarding week for Black Rock Solar education and outreach. On Monday March 21st, we teamed up with Burning Man Government Relations & Legal Affairs to meet with community members in Lovelock, Nevada and discuss economic development. Next up we visited Rainshadow Charter School in Reno to talk about energy efficiency and solar power. In 2010 Black Rock Solar installed a 30 kW array for the school, and this year the students are participating in GREENevada’s Sustainability Plan Competition.

On Wednesday we took part in the Nevada Inter-Tribal Renewable Energy Consortium meeting in Carson City, providing information about our work with Native American tribes across the region. Thursday saw Black Rock Solar twice at the University of Nevada Reno. The first was a presentation for the Davidson Academy, a free school for profoundly gifted learners, and the second was a lecture for UNR’s Energy Policy class, where topics discussed included state and federal policy, economic models in renewable energy, and internship opportunities.”

Phew! For more information, visit the Black Rock Solar website.

Why America Slept

Rites of Passage being our new theme on the playa this year – I’m left to ponder how all rites of passage would become one single passing, if the Earth’s physical systems’ deterioration continues to accelerate. Here’s a musing on the ultimate passing (for us, anyway) and the USA’s role in it.

There were hundreds of millions of Kindles and Nooks frozen in death, stuck on one page – “Why America Slept.” You can say one thing about us, we were a species that scribbled, texted, hologrammed and burst a blood vessel of pixels in the final years. Every last atrocity was broadcast virally. By 2015, every consumer could make a major feature film with a gadget fitted to the hand. We could dial in our imaginary laughing audience for the sound track. If the revolution wasn’t televised, the end of the world was. Millions of movies would be found on mounds of corpses, still flickering in fingers and suitcases. Of the five known mass extinctions in the history of the earth, this was the only one where the dying species seemed to know what it was doing. (more…)