The kickass tradition we have come to know as Burning Man began in June 1986 by Larry Harvey, his friend Jerry James, and some 20 friends that joined them on Baker Beach, San Francisco, California. Larry and Jerry made the decision to build and burn an 8 foot tall wooden human figure to celebrate summer solstice. The first burn was a spontaneous creation of close knit, super amazing people. There was music, and people flocked from all over the beach to watch the man burn.
This tradition carried on for several years on Baker Beach, with more and more people gathering each year. The Man grew taller and taller, with each burn more, and more beautiful. By 1990 the event had grabbed the attention of the media and of course the damn police. The June burn was stopped due to fire hazards, so plans began to find a new location. John Law, Kevin Evans, and P Segal, all members of the San Francisco Cacophony Society, are credited for proposing the Black Rock Desert as their new home. And with that, the ritual was once again held in September 1990 with the Man standing at 40 feet tall! At present, the Burning Man event draws in close to 70,000 beautiful souls!
Fun Fact: The height of the actual man has stayed about 40 feet but the now incredible interactive bases, that hold him up have brought him to heights of 105 feet.
One of the coolest additions that has dramatically grown from inception, is the art culture. By 1992 art becomes a huge part of the experience and continues to expand each year. In the early 2000s the Black Rock Arts Foundation was created to raise funds and support the talented artists. Today the foundation raises $1 million plus (can I get a hell ya!). Theme camps also developed as another form of artistic expression. Today there are around 900 different theme camps around Black Rock City.
Fun Fact: The first theme camp was Christmas Camp and appeared in 1993, however that following year, Tiki Camp is considered the first to provide the real “theme camp” experience.
The Burning Man Organization, aka The Burning Man Project is a non-profit organization born from our creators. Their mission is to bring Burning Man culture to the world, which they do through regional networks, giving back to local communities, creating a unique home for us each year, and much more. They established the 10 principles of Burning Man, which you should definitely know by now, our principles to live by! Radical Inclusion, Gifting, Decommodification, Radical Self-Reliance, Radical Self-Expression, Communal Effort, Civic Responsibility, Leave No Trace, Participation, and Immediacy.
Fun Fact: Camp Lip Bomb has an 11th principle, Don’t Be a Dick.
Alright so you wanna go to Burning Man for the first time or even if you have been before, well you better prepare yourself, starting as early as January, if not sooner. The Burning Man website is your go-to for all information. Read the Survival Guide, be prepared for an amazing life changing experience, and try to see as much as you can. Make a decision on how you will participate!
Fun Fact: A low income ticket program is available. Applications are accepted from February 15th to April 17th. (See BM’s ticket page for more info) If you want to be part of our bad ass camp follow the directions on how to apply.
The most important thing you should remember is to embody the 11 principles, especially Radical Self-Reliance and Leave No Trace. If you pack it in you pack it out, no MOOP (Matter Out Of Place). Bring what you need to survive in the fucking desert. Be prepared for any weather, remember that wind = dust (goggles and dust masks are essential) and rain = mud. You will bike everywhere, bring a damn bike! Or learn how you can get one when you get to BRC. Many camps like ourselves provide rental bikes for a nominal donation.
For more history, see the BMorg’s 1986 to 2006 Afterburn Report.
Important dates related to the Burning Man community can be found here.
Here are some veteran tips to get you on your way:
- Don’t be a Darkwad, light yourself up at night or you will get run over by another biker or mutant car.
- Have a headlamp or flashlight with you at night. Lights need batteries to work, bring lots of batteries.
- Carry your Driver’s license. Photo copies are OK. Bars will ask for it.
- Don’t be an idiot, drink tons of water. Collapse from dehydration and expect a hefty bill when you’re airlifted off the playa.
- Have a good way to carry things while riding your bike. Have ways to attach things to you such as using zip ties and/or carabiners.
- Safety Third. This is a popular saying at Burning Man. First, have fun. Second, consists of all other factors i.e. looking good, contributing, etc. Simply put, don’t let safety and fear hold you back from having fun and being adventurous, but ALWAYS have safety on your mind when doing said 1 and 2.
- Everyone loves you and your bad ass self, you are free to be exactly who you are, but be aware that wearing feathers or anything that has small pieces that may fall off and create MOOP (i.e. loose sequins, etc.) is frowned upon.
- Playa Bike Repair Camp is available but bring your own repair kit, they are not a bike store.
- The Temple is a place to mourn lost loved ones, and to release sadness, visit it if you can, watch it burn the evening after the Man burns.
- A lot of stuff gets ruined due to the crazy natural state of the playa, be prepared for items to not return home the same way they arrived.
- The porta potties get nasty, be prepared and courteous of others. Nothing but toilet paper and human feces should go in the toilets. Not even wet wipes.
- Bring snacks and water with you when going away from camp, you never know how long you might be gone.
- Carry a notepad or Burning Man event book, as a way to keep track of people you meet, etc.
- There are those that Participate and those that Observe (also known as Tourists). If you want to really have an in-depth, memorable experience, don’t be the later. As a Birgin or inexperienced Burner, you can still find ways to contribute, may it be picking up MOOP whenever you see it, helping out at your camp, or making genuine conversation with a stranger. As one Burner put it, “The most crucial and basic contribution is to respect and honor all that is around you.”
- Consent is everything. Understand what this does mean. Understand what this doesn’t mean. As Burners say, “Consent is like tea.”
- Subscribe to Jack Rabbit Speaks; BM’s official newsletter.
- Last but definitely not least, experience as much as you can, but realize your limits. You won’t be able to explore every corner of the playa. There’s just too much. Don’t overexert yourself from the very get-go. You’ll end up burning yourself out, running out of steam and wasting away the rest of the week. Boo!
For more detailed info, see the First-Timer’s Guide to Burning Man.