Burning Man Theme Camp Basics


Just in case you are one of those people who hasn’t heard about Burning Man, I hesitate to describe it because the experience of Burning Man is so dependent on the person who is attending.

Basically, however, it is an arts and music festival held ever year for over 20 years out in the Black Rock Desert northeast of Reno NV. When I first started attending Burning Man back in 1992, there were about 600 people camping there over Labor Day weekend. This year there will be about 60,000 people. Some people come for the art, some for the music, some for the friendships, some for the naked people, some for the drugs,  but usually it is a combination of some of the above with a lot of freedom and creativity thrown in.

At Burning Man, many people join “theme camps”  and in many ways, theme camps are the heart and soul of Burning Man because this is where, more than any other place at Burning Man, that people band together to gift and share experiences in their neighborhood.

Sure there’s a few big burns that every one counts on–like the Man, the Temple–and sure Peter Hudson may have a zoetrope or two, and there may are some big art works funded by Black Rock Arts Foundation, etc.

But it’s theme camps, these wacky places where people offer an Elvis Wedding Chapel and people can get married or play on a giant swingset or skate at the roller disco or or or or! And well yes, there are a lot of bars, but a theme camp is more than a bar and a party.

People can just turn up on the playa and set up a theme camp. But the more major ones, like ours, go through a placement process, requiring a demanding application. Not all applications are accepted which means they aren’t placed in advance. Some placements come with perks like electrical supply which can make creating and maintaining a theme camp much easier.

In order to be considered, camps must be visually stimulating and interactive with activities, events or service; offering a dome with music and relaxation is not enough.

That’s why our camp application has a dome with hand made chess pieces, two mutant vehicles, and a mural by Rosel and more.  Learn more about our camp’s intereactivity here.


Many people camp with a particular theme camp, and they help with the camp’s activities. Usually, camps ask for dues to cover communal camp expenses. Really big theme camps become Villages, sometimes with many camps within the village.

For example, “Kidsville is THE place for children of all ages, with a group of diverse families creating a unique space for play and other activities. Families with children 0-17 years of age are welcome to camp with us if they are pre-registered. Registration begins in March and ends when full. Note: Kidsville is NOT a babysitting service. Parents must attend their children at all times.” URL: http://www.kidsville.org

This is where we’ve camped in 2007, 2009, 2011, and 2013. Within Kidsville, there are a number of different camps, including mine, “Art Predator’s Playground” where we’ve done wine tasting and other activities and given away stickers and necklaces.

Another theme camp that has been around for years and years like Kidsville is Kostume Kult from NYC which in 2013  featured a large, multi-story cityscape playspace with music, interactive art, and costume giveaway experience. Participants could dance,  walk the runway, and and in the crafting dome make booty shorts, tutus and other projects. URL: http://www.kostumekult.com/




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