Five Tips for Burning Man

Okay, Burning Man is going on this week. A few years ago I went to Burning Man, and I thought I’d share some advice to keep you out of trouble and make it more fun if you decide to go.

1. Don’t take your own car. Burning Man is a temporary camp on a desert playa. That means dust. When I took my 1994 Ford Escort a few years ago, I never did get the dust completely cleaned from the car, right up until the day the car died. Save yourself the stress: rent a car or a van.

2. Don’t agree to drive someone who buys gallons of yellow body paint. I’m looking at you, N. I never did get those traces of yellow body paint completely cleaned out of my car either. This advice also applies for red body paint, blue body paint, and green body paint. Really, any type of body paint.

3. Take a digital camera and a normal camera. Taking pictures of naked people? Use the digital camera. Taking pictures of art installations or the scenery? The normal camera is fine.

4. If it’s your first time, don’t go on a Monday. I know that you want to get the “full Burning Man experience.” But the fact is that you’ll be out in the desert for days, and that can get old if you don’t know many people. Go on Wednesday or Thursday and you’ll still have plenty of time to see the art cars and watch the Man burn.

5. Keep your eyes open and try new things. For example, when I was there, I kept seeing trucks driving around every few hours, but didn’t pay much attention to them. On the last day, I realized that the trucks were spraying water as they went. Smart people keep their eyes open and spot opportunities, whether it be free water showers or a chance to talk to someone new.

35 Responses to Five Tips for Burning Man (Leave a comment)

  1. A 94 escort? wait, an escort of any type?

    Matt, it’s time to ask for a raise.

  2. Might want to show people the disclaimer about taking pictures:

    Commercial use of images taken at Burning Man without permission is subject to cunning legal action and punishable by death. This includes amateurs and professionals who capture images.

    Burning Man FAQ

    I also liked the line (from here):

    There are no rules about how one must behave or express oneself at this event (save the rules that serve to protect the health, safety, and experience of the community at large).

  3. this sounds like a lot of fun but I dont know if I could stand more then 1 day….

  4. Ryan, my wife and I drove out from North Carolina in January 2000 in a 1997 Chevy Cavalier, and we wanted another car to get around Silicon Valley, so we picked up a Ford Escort. Remember that back then Google was <100 people, and many of our North Carolina friends thought that we were a little crazy to go work for this unknown start-up called Google. 🙂

    A few years later the Escort committed suicide by throwing a piston into its engine or something. After a great deal of comparison shopping, we got a Honda Civic. It felt so fancy, with the power locks and power windows! We still have it. 🙂

  5. Burning man! Hah! My buddy went to that a few years ago and came back with burnt skin, a burning crotch, and a wife!

  6. Sorry for the last post, I know that you don’t like URLs and I don’t need links.


    Burning man! Hah! My buddy went to that a few years ago and came back with burnt skin, a burning crotch, and a wife!

  7. Eh, I guess I shouldn’t complain..

    In addition to my awesome wrangler, I’m still holding on to the 1992 grand am I got when I was 16 (i did not turn 16 in 1992..)

    I guess I can see the point.. I drive 30 miles each way to work ever morning.. and that’s just too much to put on my Jeep.

    You stay true to the Geek stereotype though. Given your positing I’m assuming you make considerably more than me… and if that were the case for me, I’d be driving some really hott sports car. (but i’m not married either.. no minivans for me)

    on a burning man related note, I just got a reply from a programmer whose company I’m trying to integrate with saying “I’ll be gone for a week, going to burning man.” So even though I’m in Detroit, burning man is even killing MY productivity.

  8. My daughters name, “Xoe” is on the Burning Man remembrance board, she died in 2005.

    If you remember, go say hi, she would have liked that.

  9. Part of the fun of burning man is not having to take a shower for days on end… While there, you can always rely on the fact that there are at least 10 other people who are dirtier and smellier than you.

  10. Wow Matt! I’m impressed that you went.
    Do you have any advice for Rainbow Gatherings? 😉


  11. Are all you search guys a bunch of ex-hippies?

  12. Hawaii SEO, I only went the once. lots0, I’m really sorry to hear about Xoe. The balsa wood temple where people wrote down people’s names and things that they regreted was the most moving thing I saw there. Imagine a structure like this:

    with people writing all manner of heartfelt regrets, people they missed, and thoughts on it. It was amazing.

  13. Wow I know so many people who are going, I really wish I could have gone this year!

  14. … came back with burnt skin, a burning crotch, and a wife!
    If that’s how he introduces the Mrs. at parties I predict … it won’t last.

  15. Always Behind Dave

    100 degrees…rain=mudpuddle…wind can be brutal…balsa wood memorial very moving I agree and almost worth the trip.

    Shoe you can always take daily $5 shuttle to Empire or Gerlach.

    Hey Matt. Go Wolfpack!

  16. No no Always Behind Dave, go Tarheels. 😉

  17. If you don’t mind.. IMO..

    1. Water. Water. Water. Bring it. You’ll be in the desert.

    6. If you’ve never been, Flickr “Burning Man” to get a feel of what you may see there.

  18. lots0:

    If you don’t mind me asking, how was your daughters name pronounced and what does it mean?

  19. That’s right… wreck the rental company’s car, not your own. Just be sure to read the fine print about not driving on unpaved roads when you sign the contract.

  20. OK OK I just skimmed the post but it appears last year you went to Burning man with a digital camera and a naked man painted yellow?

    Im not sure I approve….

  21. >>>lots0:
    If you don’t mind me asking, how was your daughters name pronounced and what does it mean?

    I don’t mind.
    Xoe’s name was pronouced, “Zoe” the X actually sounds like a Z.

    The name is Greek and it means, “Full of Life”.

  22. Always Behind Dave

    Yeha I know being a Wolfpack fan will get me far with you, I’ve dealt with it most of my life. A whole family of heels fans has surrounded me since birth.

    You’ll have to come out and catch the football game this year it should be a good one finally. We’re the red and white of state and we know we are the best………………….. GTHC.

    Let me know if you wanna come out, the right coast is still here ya know.

  23. Yellow body paint and pictures of naked people? You’re showing a whole new side here, Matt! 😉 Just back from a festival in the UK this week (Solfest – – was awesome, but pretty cold at times. Chicken on the barbie, beer and live music till 4am! Can’t get better than that! 🙂


  24. I would love to take a trip to burning man sometime, but I would hate to leave my beautiful cats behind. Do you know the policies on bringing pets?

    Matt, you mention trying new things in tip number 5, did you experiment with any body paint yourself? Would love to see some photos.

    What other recreational activities expanded your mind?

  25. Sounds like fun. Are burning man ever going to come to Canada?

  26. The upside here is I just learned by car will outrun Matt easily if he’s ever chasing me up 101 like those scenes in the movies where the bad corporate dudes go after someone in a high speed pursuit.

    Unfortunately he could catch my wife’s Taurus, but she’s had a good run, what the heck.

  27. The free showers you mention are from water trucks with the words posted on the side: Non-potable water/avoid contact. It might be more sanitary to just bring a cheap camping shower bag and befriend someone who has a shower set up in their camp so you have some place to hang the camping shower and wash yourself. Chances are they wont mind letting you shower as long as you have some water to share.

    Dust in the vehicle is not a big deal, really, it’s not.


  28. Sounds very interesting… 🙂 would love to be there once and experience the heat…

  29. This was my first year for Burning Man. First felt the pull to go 9 years ago and finally worked it out to make it there. I would actually challenge tip #4. We went in Sunday night and left the following sunday after the Temple and “Waffle” burns. For me it turned out to be just the right amount of time. I went really only knowing 5 or 6 people in 2 camps. I ended up meeting a couple dozen great people over the week and had an incredible time. And I didn’t even get a chance to see half of the stuff I wanted!

  30. Burning man! :DDD Its really funny 😀

  31. no offense but i think the author missed the whole point of burning man…. it only works if you sweat and work to make it run… its a torn….bums just drain it…. so give and take in equal porportions and all will be well…

  32. “Taking pictures of naked people? Use the digital camera.” Um…well, any event where there are naked people must be interesting! I’ve never heard of Burning Man before, but I’m definitely going to check out the website. It sounds really interesting, although I’m not so sure about being stuck out in the desert for days. Perhaps I’ll do as you suggest and start on Wednesday or Thursday. I’m just very intrigued…pictures of naked people, gallons of body paint, lots of dust, no contact with the outside world…trucks that spray water…this has got to be one of the most interesting events I’ve ever heard of! It is always in the fall? Yikes, I just read the comment about taking pictures. And someone came back with a wife? OK, this is now on my official list of places and events to go to! Too bad I missed the 2007 event…now I have to wait another year.

  33. Are you serious about taking pictures of naked people? Is that an added bonus? I guess I understand why you have to do it using a camera phone – it’s quick and you won’t get noticed.

    I haven’t experienced seeing Burning Man myself although I’ve heard a lot about it from friends. I don’t think I can bear to witness this. Minus the hassle in going there, I don’t think I can bear to watch those rituals which are similar from those I’ve seen done in cults.

  34. I like the idea of it, but I would only go if I could go by foot, camel, donkey or horse. Dont like the thought of all that self indulent gas guzzling, possibly soon to be obselete, arrogance.

  35. What a great idea. I guess I missed this year festival, but would really try to be there next time