Useful Info


posted Jul 23, 2008, 10:07 AM by Srinivas Kollipara   [ updated Aug 10, 2011, 11:43 AM ]

LEAVE NO TRACE Planning Tips for Theme Camps

(Courtesy of the Burning Man Earth Guardians)

Black Rock City is like no other. It arises for one week, and then only its utter disappearance permits it to reappear the following year—so we all need to Leave No Trace!  But how do we do that? Here is a summary of the practices that the Earth Guardians have compiled to help you plan your camp so that it Leaves No Trace. Experience is showing that LNT is really a way to camp smarter, not harder, on the playa. And a clean, well organized City makes for good times. (see more tips for artists)

  1. LNT Planning
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly: Rethink Each Year
  4. Be an LNT Member of our Community, Respect Others
  5. Burn Responsibly and
  6. Clean up and Restore the Playa
  • Pick a LNT MOOP Czar . You can start by identifying an LNT leader within your camp. This person will work Leave No Trace into your planning and preparing, help set up the camp so that it doesn’t blow away, help to plan your camp’s cleanup and break-down ahead of time, handle the question of stinky trash, gray water disposal, what to burn and what not to burn and generally keep people feeling good about how well they are treating the playa. In many small, practical ways, these efforts will make your camp easier and more pleasant to live in.
  • Prepare a LNT Plan, not a Clean-up Plan : If you plan and ahead and prepare to LNT, you’ll have less to haul up to the playa, have a happier playa life and have less to clean-up at the end of the week. To learn more about developing a LNT plan for your camp, check out our sample LNT plan.
  •  Camp Structures and Shelters. Stake your tents and structures so they will stay secure in the heavy wind, rain, and dust storms that are sudden and usual on the playa. Consider using materials that can be reused or repurposed at home or at next year's event. You’ll have less cost and less disposal headaches at the end of the event. You’ll also save money when preparing for next year.
  • Plan to avoid digging holes in the playa . Small postholes (6 inches or less in diameter) used for structural support are the sole exception. When digging such a hole it is best to use an auger or a posthole digger, NOT a shovel. Refill the hole by carefully tamping the soil back into place. Repeat this process every few inches while dampening the soil. Larger holes, like ones used in the past to sound-insulate generators or for pools, easily erode within a year’s time, even when carefully backfilled. They leave a visible mark and create a serious safety hazard.
  • No Live Plants Live plants die on the playa.  Ask anyone that has brought them. They always make a mess.  It's very difficult to bring in plants, trees, or palm fronds without creating a M.O.O.P. (Mater Out of Place) disaster.  All previous uses of live plants in signifcant quantites has cost the clean up crew days and days of work post event. Plastic plants work just as well and look better with a quick watering.


  • Bring the Right Stuff, Leave The Rest Behind.Everything you bring, you have to take home. Shop smart and pack even smarter to leave behind what you don’t need. You’ll need that extra space when you come home; camping gear tends to expand when covered in playa dust. Plan ahead to have a clean and well organized camp. -Reduce and reuse!
  • Plan simple, low-dishwashing meals . Avoid bringing tons of food, and don’t bring food that spoils. Experience says you won’t want to do a lot of cooking; you probably will never get around to it. Eat finger foods (wraps, sandwiches) that do not need individual plates.
  • Bring reusable cups, mugs, utensils, and dinnerware. Disposable cups tend to blow all over the playa. Ask visitors to your camp to BYOM (bring your own mug). If you use paper plates, save yourself a headache by scraping off the food, then stack ‘em, let them dry and take ‘em home. BYOM! The Center Café, and many fashionable bars, welcome personal cups, so you can carry one around the City, easily attached with a carabineer or shower hook.
  • Repackage and prepare food in advance . Stock up on sturdy plastic containers and dispose of the cellophane, plastic wrap, excess cardboard and other cruddy packaging. Bring water in big reusable plastic containers and have a personal canteen. f you bring dozens of small plastic bottles, you must take every one of them home with you! Avoid bringing glass bottles. There are many good beers in cans! Check out this web site to find some good beer for this year! Decant your beverage of choice into a flask. Remember that every little shard of accidentally broken glass must be picked up by hand, by someone. Nasty!
  • Plan to separate and sort trash in your kitchen . Bring containers and sturdy signs for separating food waste, recyclables, burnables (paper and wood), and nonburnable trash. Using mesh bags to dry food waste will reduce the smell and amount of trash you generate. Take aluminum cans to Recycle Camp. Use tubs or sinks to wash dishes and collect grey water. Seal the small amount of trash you have left in big plastic bags or in five-gallon buckets with tight lids. Bring tethers, anchors, containers, and covers, to keep light stuff from blowing away. For more tips on keep food waste and kitchen MOOP (matter out of place) to a minimum, check out this web site.
  • If it doesn’t come out of your body it doesn’t go into the Potty. Always use a potty for your body waste - not the playa. Only toilet paper, single ply, and human waste, can go in the potties. Everything must be pumped through narrow pipes before being trucked to the treatment plant.
  • How will you dispose of your grey water? Black Rock City citizens have come up with a variety of other methods to collect, treat and dispose of grey water. The simplest method is to collect and just haul the grey water home. If you’re in a smaller camp, with minimal dish and body-washing water, you might choose to screen and filter your water, disinfect, then disperse it on your street (helps keep dust down). An evaporation pond is another alternative – it keeps solid waste and liquid waste (like soap and fats) off the playa. This web site gives instructions for making a simple evaporation pond. If you want to construct an evaporation pond, remember to keep it shallow (4 inches or less), use black plastic, and be prepared to siphon what doesn’t evaporate.
  • Reduce Reuse & Recycle Water- Simplify. Some camps have also developed technologies to reuse their water.Other camps contract with Johnny on the Spot to remove and dispose of their grey water. And don’t forget to conserve and recycle water where you can. Minimize shower use the last couple days of the event to reduce amount of grey water that you’ll need to collect and haul home.
  • Beware of the Hungry Wind : Bring tethers, anchors, containers, and covers, to keep light stuff from blowing away. When leaving Black Rock City , secure your load, especially your trash. Don’t let your trash fly off your vehicle, and do not dump it on the side of the road or at a rest stop on the way home! Use an approved dumping facility or take or home with you. Plan ahead before you even pack for the playa so you leave with a minimal amount of trash. Starting home, take a rest stop early; at the entrance gate, at a wide pullout, or maybe at the Empire store. Check your load. It is most likely to fail early in the trip. Learn more here.


  • Don’t bring cheap trinkets for gifts or barter . Try giving a smile, a helping hand or a joke. Thousands of ‘gifts’ end up as trash. And feather boas, or ANYTHING that sheds, is a no-no: the trash fence tells us so. You are the best gift.
  • Promote LNT Neighbors . Be proud of your neighborhood, work together with your neighbors to keep your part of the city clean.  Every year some camps get overwhelmed and need help. The seventh and final principle of LNT practice is “be considerate of others,” which in our city includes helping neighbors to leave no trace. We all enjoy the generosity and gifts of our theme camps, artists, and fellow citizens. So look around and pitch in to help keep things clean: offer a tool, an extra hand, a gesture of thanks.
  • Be Prepared. Carry a MOOP bag and water as you walk around your part of the city and out on the playa. Small bits of trash are just as important as large piece as they are easily buried in the dust and mud, only to reemerge in the spring. Our community works together to improve our life on the playa, rather than rely upon rules and regulations enforced by outsiders to keep us in line. Talk to others and help them to better understand how to leave no trace.
  • Don’t Burn on the Unprotected Playa . Burning Man is all about burning; we've become the experts at LNT Burning. Burning directly on the alkaline playa BAKES the surface into a dark, hard brick-like material.
  • Use community burn barrels or a burn platform. Burn only untreated wood or paper and nothing oversized that will spill ash or burning debris onto the playa. Be sure the wood you place in the burn platform is well contained. Don’t overload the burn platforms. Have tools on hand to break down and cut up larger pieces. If a platform is already full, be prepared to wait until there's space to add your wood or try the next platform.
  • Don't burn anything that is toxic. You (or your children) will regret it later! Burning synthetics is a serious health risk. Do not burn PVC (nasty dioxins), carpets, plastic, furniture (couches, futons, etc.) or anything treated, dyed or painted. And please discourage anyone with a glass bottle from throwing it into a fire. Glass doesn't burn. It shatters!
  • Leave No Trace . Plan your burning to include removal of ash and unburned residues after they have cooled. A magnet helps to find metal. Then bag up the rest to haul home. Be sure you clean up anything you burned on the public burn platforms. They’re not dumping stations!
  • Be a Toxic Avenger . Keep an eye on the platforms. Let others know that only wood and paper can be burned here and nothing oversized. Tell them we do this to protect the playa and our lungs. And if you see someone being careless, explain why they need to stop. Email for more information.


  • Clean As You Go and Grid Your Camp at the End!   Don’t wait until the end of the week to pick stuff up. Clean as you go. This will help you from getting overwhelmed by the mess and help keep MOOP from blowing out of reach.  Then, at the end of our event, pack-up and load everything (including all trash) into your vehicles, and do a line sweep for every last bit of MOOP. Give everyone a Ziploc bag, line them up along one edge of camp, look down and slowly walk to the other side. Make it fun! Cover your entire area looking for those last bits of MOOP: every twist tie, cigarette butt, food scrap, carpet fiber, match, nut shell, staple, scrap of plastic …everything. Start taking down your camp Sunday , not at the last minute when patience and energy are running low.
  • A Buried Tent Stake Doesn’t Disappear. Instead, its hazard is magnified. Even when pounded below the surface, a stake will slowly, inevitably, emerge from the playa. Then it might be found during the Bureau of Land Management's spring inspection, producing a black mark against permit renewal; or it might not be found until it tears a tire or gashes a foot – maybe during next year’s event, maybe to a windsurfer or another group that, like us, uses the playa. A pair of vise-grips will almost always remove a stuck stake. First clamp on the vise-grips and rotate the stake back and forth, to break the playa’s grip. Then continue rotating and also pull upwards. Ask neighbors for help. As a last resort, make the stake highly visible by fastening something to it. Someone else with heftier tools will be able to get it out. for more information, go to this web site.
  • Devote Two Hours to General Cleanup in Black Rock City ! Each participant is asked to contribute two hours to community cleanup before departure. This means streets, Center Camp, Center Café, all other public spaces, and open playa where stuff may have been left behind. Stop by the Earth Guardian camp during the week and on Sunday and Monday and we’ll direct you to the areas of the City that need the most attention.
  • Join the post-event DPW clean-up crews . Help us get all the MOOP out of here, so that we can all return again. The Bureau of Land Management, the agency that writes our Special Recreation use permit, must agree that we’ve left no trace, that our site is more than just clean in appearance. After the event, random circular plots of our city are inspected. This year, collected debris may not exceed an average of 1.0 square foot per acre, less than 23 parts per million! No pits, bumps, burn scars, or buried materials can be left behind. Burn scars and debris from past seasons have been known to resurface after rains, even from past events!
Got LNT? Free Tickets! Are you a theme camp that already knows how to create a camp that leaves no trace? Please let us know now! We’d like to include you in this year’s Earth Guardian LNT Tour of the City, featuring model camp practices and technologies like grey water systems, trash management, good neighbors, repurposed structures, and LNT camp showers and kitchens. And either in advance, or on the playa, you can nominate your camp for the Camp of the Day Award! Yes, you can win fame and fortune right here in Black Rock City! As one of our winners, your camp will receive two tickets to next year's Burning Man and recognition! If you'd like to be part of this year's LNT Tour of the City or be nominated for Camp of the Day, please contact

Xavier's List of Burning Man Swag

posted Jul 17, 2008, 1:31 AM by Srinivas Kollipara   [ updated Aug 10, 2011, 11:45 AM ]

Was just talking to Chris about what I need to take care of for Burning Man I started going into all the little details so I figured I would just post my list of stuff that I'm planning on bringing.  I've gone 6 years so I've kind of paired things down to what I need and what I usually find useful - I've over-prepared before and I think the lesson learned is that you'll never have exactly what you need so it pays to bring flexible material that can be constructed to whatever you need on the fly - read on and you will see what I mean. If any vets want to chime in on this feel free. Also FORWARD THIS ONE.

Your Living Space

A decent tent - There is no such thing as a dust proof tent.  If you're afraid of getting dust on something, it should live in a ziploc bag the entire time you're at Burning Man, or don't bring it.  Playa Dust will get on you, your hair, your clothes, your shoes, get up your nose, in your private parts, and it will get anywhere you go.  Your tent will be slightly less dusty than everything else, but to me there is no point in making it "dust proof".  I've found that the smaller 3 man tents work better than the larger ones since they provide less surface area for the wind and won't get blown over. 

A tent cover or shade structure of some kind - I bought reams of white fabric at the fabric store years ago that I use to cover everything - keeps it cool and limits the dust a little.  I've seen other people buy those picnic tents as extra shade so the tent will remain cool when the sun rises..  Personally I find them of dubious value as the first one I ever got blew to the ground, then some dude ran into it with his bike and whoops, I'm out $100.  The most successful structures tend to be made of metal and wood (thus heavy) or low to the ground - in any case for Lovepuddle we'll have some community shade so I'm not stressing it. 

Tie - downs - Any covering or free-standing structure will need some sort of tie-down, even if it's a simple as a cord to a stake that hammers into the ground.

Rebar - Rebar is perhaps the easiest thing to deal with that you've never heard of - just go to Home depot, ask them for some rebar, and buy some 1/2 inch rebar at 2 foot length - takes up no space.  You'll probably want at least 1 stake per tie down, so for a standard tent that four stakes of rebar.  You'll need a hammer to get it into the ground (see later) and a metal pipe that you fit the rebar in, so that you can bend, or "candycane" the rebar so that the stake doesn't poke you in the foot in the middle of the night.   

Two 40 gallon Plastic Tubs, similar to this - can get them at a hardware store or the cheap kind at target - mine are cheap and have functioned since 2003.  one I use to hold food and keep it non-dusty, then other I use for my assortment of dusty Gear - holds all that gear for the rest of the year. 

Sleeping Bag, Blankets, and Pillows - Some people get an air mattress to sleep on - I've never had a problem sleeping on the ground but extra blankets = extra cushion. 

A folding Camping Chair (or two) - they are cheap, don't take up much space, and way preferable to eating, sitting (or sleeping) on the ground.  You'll learn to love your chair.  Bring two, so you can entertain a friend.


Several large plastic tough trash bags - you will be carrying your trash out, as well as some other peoples.  Nothing you own should hit the ground, it should go right into your trashbags - you should have something to carry trash with you at all times, so keep one in your backpack/bike. 

10.5 gallons of water - the general recommendation is 1.5 gallons of water per day but I usually find I have 3-4 gallons of water i never drank.  I'm not a big shower person and I use a lot of water for cooking  and even so I've never run out of water.   Key is thing is to HYDRATE before you leave! Best case scenario I will not be lugging the water across california but buying it in Reno at the Walgreens above the freeway. 

Food to last for a week -   Minimize the amount of trash you need to pack out - if you buy a box of cereal, for example, toss the box and plastic bag and put the cereal in a plastic container.  Cans of soup work, Chef Boyardee in a can is suddenly relevant (the only time I'll eat it)  Tasty Bites (Indian Fare) works great - I usually find a mix of foods that need some cooking prep and then other times I'm just too beat to cook and then having food you don't need to cook is awesome.  I also find myself snacking way more often then I actually sit down and just eat a big meal.  Cereal's good. (especially with the small, lunch-sized soy milk packs - they last all week)  Oatmeal with boiling water is good  Salty food is a must - The desert is wicking moisture and salt right out of you and coming back to some salty pretzels is like Jesus at a rave party.  Trail Mix, beef jerky, dried fruits, raisins.  Pancake mix (just add water!) and some syrup. Bring a small container of Cooking oil.  Coffee or bags of tea.  My advice - don't worry about ice or perishable foods if you don't have to - it's NOT worth the hassle - maybe bring some fruit/meat/cheese for your first day, then just go non-perishables for the rest of week. 

To drink - a lot of people bring vita-water or gatorade and I would recommend it, but it's not necessary.   If you do, then remember that's water and you might need a few less gallon jugs. 

Alcohol - I usually grab at least one container of my favorite beverage (Rum/Vodka/SoCo) and bring it out - if I don't finish it I'll donate it to a bar.   If you bring out cans of beer CRUSH AND PICK UP YOUR CANS. 

To cook - a standard camping cookware assortment of pots/pans should be fine, and a propane gas stove. 
Bring two sets of silverware, some plates, a bowl, and a camp cup. 

YOUR TRAVEL CUP - This is the equivalent to a TOWEL in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Absolutely necessity - It should have a handle, so that you can tie/clip it to yourself.  Bars generally have loaner cups but its just better for everyone if you have your own cup - they can just fill it up for you - if you have a large cup even better - Bartenders tend to fill your cup to the brim!  

A Water Bottle - separate from your cup - I usually go with the Camelbak now since you just wear it on your back.  You will carry this with you everywhere, so it's also a plus if you have a clip, carrying handle, and sealable lid.  Should be be decently large, something you can carry with you all night and not have to go back to the camp to refill. 

What to Wear

Generally whatever you would normally wear - but be creative -  costumes, mask, outrageous party wear, paint, etc. are all in vogue - again - IT"S GOING TO GET DUSTY.  Probably won't get destroyed, but there's no guarantee.  If you would cry if you lost it at Burning Man, Don't. Bring. iI.

A Coat + Scarf - the temp can drop to below freezing at night, so it doesn't hurt to have your coat. I usually bring a coat for extremes, and a vest/scarf for the night.

Socks - do not go barefoot if you can help it - If you must wear sandals then wear socks.  Bring extra pairs. If your feet get dust on them make sure to wash them asap. 

Sun Hat - A hat makes all the difference in your experience.  You need something to cover your head, even if it's a scarf.  You generally want to minimize direct sun exposure to your body to keep your temp down. 

Dust Cloth/ Handkerchief
  - To wear over your mouth, when the dust kicks up, or wear on your head.  Breathing Dust SUCKS. 

An Extra Pair of Shoes, and a complete set of clean clothing, Wrapped in a Bag.  - Xavier's Secret Sauce - after you've loaded everything else into the van on the way home, you can open your secret treasure stash of CLEAN CLOTHING and leave Black Rock clean!  Helps when dealing with annoyed cops, and you won't track dirt into Denny's on the way home. 

Your Backpack

 Always bring a backpack (now the Camelbak),  and I usually have an assortment of stuff in there so let's get through it really quick.
- Lip Balm - Because it's so dry, you'll often find your lips will dry out really fast - lip balm helps.
- Goggles - Safe in my bag - I usually carry two since they pack together well.  They come out when the dust kicks up.
- Dust Mask - Breathing dust sucks. 
- Baby Wipes - For washing your hands, face, feet, nose, etc.. you won't have ready access to water to clean yourself. 
- Sunblock - Trust me.  You don't want blistered, raw skin at Burning Man.  
- Small notebook and several pens -  You'll meet people, you'll want addresses, they'll want to meet you etc.. self explanatory.  - On the notebook write your name, your camp info, contact info etc in case you lose the bag or something else happens.  Just in case. 
- Headlamp or flashlight - A simple camping headlamp will work just fine. You'll look like a dork, but you won't get hit by a car at night and you'll find yourself using it all the goddamn time at night.  
- Blinkies/Glowsticks - turning yourself into a lightshow isn't just cool, it's safety - you can see people, they can see you at night. 
- Camera - this is more want than need, I keep it in a ziploc bag
- Extra Ziplock bags
- Folded up plastic Trash Bag
- Cigarette tin - a mint tin will work fine, for holding butts or roaches, whatever.  DON"T THROW ANYTHING ON THE PLAYA.


Camp Lamp  - Did I mention there's no electricity at Burning Man?  And there's no light in your tent at 4am in the morning?  Good to have a backup lamp to your headlamp. 

First Aid Kit  - it's on the survival guide, and you generally need one anyway, so bring it.

Duct Tape - You will always find a use for this stuff..  Just bring a roll.

Zip Ties - Thick plastic ones - Super useful. 

Rope - See Zip Ties.

Tarp -  usually have a large plastic one - doesn't always get taken out, but if needed it can act as shade, or serve as a floor, etc..

Lighter - Bring Several.  For cooking, if nothing else.

Clips - last year I got several sizes of Carabiners and they proved incredibly useful - whether it was holding my water bottle, or holding my tent down, or just keeping my gear attached to the car!

Toilet Paper - There are porta-potties at BM, but they don't always have TP in them all the time - and you can't use your babywipes (they clog)

A Mallet  - Bought a 5 pounder a few years ago and I always use every year - everyone should have a big old hammer. 

"Emergency" Blanket -  Chances are the same place selling the First Aid Kit will have one of those Metal Reflective Emergency Blankets - I've never used it to keep warm, but I have used it twice - once for a makeshift costume and once I cut it up and duct-taped it to the inside windows of my car to keep the interior slightly less hot. 


Bring something personal, from you to the people you interact with.   Take some time to think about what you want to bring.  Depending on the circumstances I was not always able to afford/transport gifts to burning man, but here are some thing I have given/received at Black Rock to give you an idea of the sheer variety.

- Suckers, mints, assorted candy
- Instant print-out photographs (of me, friends, etc)
- Pornographic playing cards with your future on them.
- Blinkies/glowsticks
- Jewelery (Bonus points if it glows or has lights)
- Drugs & Alchohol
- Tea
- Personalized Buttons, Stickers, temporary tattoos
- Personalized T-Shirts
- A small bottle of bee's honey
- A small bottle of Playa dust
- A Leather bag with Magic Stones in them.
- A faux check in the amount of $40 in exchange for my sins.
- A song.
- A poem.
- A postcard mailed through the Black Rock Post Office
- Pancakes and Bacon.
- Personalized Shotglasses
- A Laminated "Genital Portrait"
- A Laminated "Black Rock City Citizen ID"
- A personalized gambling token
- Blinky Dice
- A Sno Cone
- A Sno Cone made from tequila and juice. 
- Hugs 

Your Bike.
Just read the Burning Man guide -

Bikes are not merely a convenience; they are part of our culture. Our city was designed for pedestrians and bikes, but there is no bike repair available, so be sure your bike is in good working order BEFORE the event, and bring tools, a wire brush, chain lube, and extra tire tubes.

LOCK YOUR BIKE! - It is recommended you lock your bike at all times when not in use. NEVER ever lock your bike to guy wires on the Café or any other structures. This can pose a safety hazard. Also, do not lock your bike to artwork as this may hamper performances and scheduled burns. No bike is considered stolen unless the lock was cut, and no bike is considered lost until the event is over on Monday.

DECORATE YOUR BIKE - It is much less likely your bike will be borrowed without permission if it looks unique.

MARK YOUR BIKE - and ALL of your significant processions (backpack, camera, etc) with your name, home address and camp location.

LIGHT UP YOUR BIKE - All participants are asked to light their bike to avoid injury and damage.


Table  - if no one has one, you'll often find yourself cooking on the ground. 
Metal Pipe -  For rebar bending - it's sort of a one use item, and I'll have one... so..
Sunglasses - if you would wear sunglasses normally, then bring them - but not expensive ones.

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