First Time Guide


What is a Theme Camp?

There are many ways to describe theme camps, but in general it starts with a personal interest, something someone, or a group of someones’ desires to share with others. And SHARING is the keyword here, no matter how elaborate or minimalist, expensive or cheap to create, the theme camp is a group of individuals sharing a part of themselves with any and all whom choose to enter their camp and experience their offerings. In a nutshell a theme camp is 2 or more people camping together offering an interactive experience for other people to come participate in. Beyond that, imagination is the only real limit.

Another way is to illustrate with examples: A theme camp may prepare food to share with anyone who chooses to partake of that food, or a theme camp may act as a free bar or pub. A theme camp may provide art supplies and provide a space and opportunity for people to come explore their inner artist, or the theme camp may have a bunch of musical instruments for people to explore their inner musician and experiment with others in making music. A theme camp may offer a quiet space to meditate, rest or cuddle, it may provide DJs and a dance space for people to move to the music. One theme camp may offer a playground to play in, while another may provide a sensual play space, and yet another may be festooned with op-art and all manner of visual mind toys, while another may have unique or familiar games to play. Some theme camp create never before seen or conceived interactive art pieces or music making devices or mind challenges. Still other theme camps provide a space for people of like minds together and share time together, a place to make new friends or discuss life’s deep mysteries or frivolous meanderings. Some theme camps provide entertainment, others give you a chance to BE the entertainment, some educate, and some inspire thought, or simply inspire.

A theme camp does not HAVE to be stationary! Okay, so the home camp is stationary, but elements of the camp can travel. For example bars have been known to traveled about, occasionally stopping for 20 or more minutes at a time to offer their beverages to passersby. Mobile theme camps can be interactive, offer performances, offer food or drink, or whatever else you like. A mobile theme camp is NOT an art car(t)or bike, an art installation, or a solo traveling performer, but they are all cousins!

Ultimately, the burn experience is about radical self expression, and Theme Camps are one of the great ways in which people get together to radically express themselves, and give others a chance to participate too. Be it a tea house or a temple, a jungle gym or a game show, be they serious or pointless, theme camps are the heart of a Burn for they are the unique expressions of sharing and gifting which members of the burner community offer their sibling burners.


Ignite is a Leave No Trace (LNT) event.  This includes Theme Camp areas, who are required to do a final clean up.  Although Leave No Trace events are not exclusive to burns, Burning Man is the larges LNT event in the world.  There is no trash service nor clean up crews to clean up after you.  All Matter Out Of Place (MOOP) must be collect and packed out by the individuals and theme camps. What if you see MOOP that’s not yours? Pick it up! We’re all a community here.

Food Containment and Cooling

When packing food, try to remove as much extra packaging beforehand as possible, this will create less MOOP, and be easier for you to pack out.  If you are packing with dry ice and you do not want all of your food frozen solid, remember to but a towel between your food and the dry ice as an insulation barrier.

Packing Boxes

It is really best to pack everything in and out in labeled plastic Rubber Maid style boxes.  These are easy to stack and carry and do not fall apart in the rain.  Paper bags are equally vulnerable to the rain. Remember to de-MOOP all of your packaging before placing items in bins.

Folding Chairs

Labeling the back of them with a sharpie and tying the bags around the legs can avoid quite a bit of confusion when it is time to pack everything up

Shade / Rain Structures

It can rain.  Plan for it.  Do you really want to be to poor sodden soggy schmuck who has the really cool shindig, but nobody wants to visit it because it is out in the cold rain all weekend?  It is best to plan for the worst, and besides, the blistering sun can get incredibly hot, so some respite in the shade is also a plus.  If you are using free standing structures, make sure to tie them down at all corners, this makes them repel the water better and insures they will stay standing up in a windy storm.  Don’t forget to adorn the any trip lines with bright decorations, and cover the stakes – empty plastic water / Coke bottles can save many a toe.

Tarpology 101

Here is a quick bullet list of tarpology tips:

Plan to hang a tarp above your tent!  Yes, I know it has a fly, but odds are it won’t stand up to heavy prolonged rains.

By natural extension you will want a tarp over your kitchen, hang out, and public spaces.  this will also help shade from the heat during the times of intense sunlight.

For maximum comfort use a tarp that will provide at least 4 feet of overhang on all sides of your tent, kitchen, hang out space, etc.  This gives a transition buffer, and helps counterbalance those sideways rains caused by heavy winds.

2 diagonal corners high / 2 diagonal corners low is a great way to beat winds and provide wind block, while also giving a “breezeway.”   You can go way low to the ground with your low corners for maximum protection.  Or you can go as high as head height with your low corners – if  you are going higher with your high corners.  The total difference in height between the high and low can be as little as 2 feet.  The goal is to have a horizontal ridge between the high points.

An alternate approach is to form a shed roof with 2 corners on one side of the tarp high and the other 2 corners low to form one single ”panel” slope with the low side to the wind.

A third approach is to build a structure under your tarp with a central ridge line and all 4 corners lower than the ridge.

With each of these plans you can attach a rock or other weight to a low point on the tarp; place a 5 gallon bucket under that low point and harvest rain water for cleaning dishes, clothes, bodies, etc.

For greater strength, bring harvested poles, or reclaimed conduit (pvc is preferable to metal) and tie or zip tie the tarp’s grommets to the poles or pipes, then tie your tie lines to the poles rather than directly to the tarp.  This technique will help prevent the grommets from pulling out by dispersing the tension along the pipe and thus among all the grommets.

Remember if you tie off to trees, you must put a protective layer between your tie line and the tree, and you must remove all traces when you pack up to leave.   Also make no stake of post hole bigger than can be repaired by stepping on the sides of the hole and thus ‘refilling’ it with the soil that was there, again, leaving no trace.

To prevent mid camp waterfalls when overlapping multiple tarps to create large covered areas, overlap the lower tarp with a higher tarp so the rain sheds all the way down to the outside edge of your camp (and into collection buckets.)

Adorn your guy lines (the tie lines that go from tent/tarp to the ground) with colorful, glow in the dark / or ‘illuminate at night’ decorations to make them easily visible both day and night.  This courtesy will help prevent twisted ankles and falls, as well as knocked down tarps and tents.  Brightly colored ropes and tie lines are great for the daytime, but do need some form of augmentation to be visible in the dark.

Lastly, be sure to find out if your location is a low lying one so that you can “terra form” by building platforms to keep you up out of rain puddles.  Pallets with plywood thrown on top is a quick way to do this, but will require shims for leveling.  Building formal platforms in advance and then cutting legs to the proper height on site is another approach.  Remember to build stable as the legs must rest on top of the ground.  Bring 1 foot x 1 foot squares of 3/4 inch plywood to place on the ground under the legs, both to protect the land and make for more stable footing.

Want to help lead?

Did you know: Our organization is entirely volunteer-run, from the Board of Directors, planning committees, right down to our Traffic and Parking Volunteers.

Be the weird you want to see in the world. Volunteer.

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