DIY Your Burn: Shelter, Shade & Cool Cool Comfort

I recently met a Reno local who is preparing for her first burn. “Do I really need to get an RV?” she asked me. “My friend told me you can’t do Burning Man without an RV. I just want to bring a tent.”

This hurts me on the inside. I haven’t been around that long — my first burn was 2003 — but I’ve spent many burns in a tent, and a couple of two-month work seasons besides. One of the things I hate to see is the rapidly increasing number of rental RVs on playa. They have their place, sure. If you’ve got small kids or a physical need for top-notch shelter, you might want to spend thousands renting an RV, plus hundreds in gas to drive it to Black Rock City and keep the A/C running. But that is a LOT of money (and a fair amount of pollution), and it’s not necessary to spend that much. You can be smarter about it, and I’m about to tell you how.

It is completely possible, and pretty easy, to build your own shelter and cooling system. You can have an airtight, windproof, shaded and cool place to sleep away the day, and you can build it yourself for a fraction of the cost of an RV rental.


Holy wow! In 2007, Treehugger and Current TV hosted a contest for the best “eco-ideas” for Burning Man. The winner was a DIY shelter that costs under $300 to build, packs up flat into your truck, and can be reused year after year. Vinay Gupta’s Hexayurt is now being tested as disaster relief and refugee shelter. Why? Because it WORKS. This is far and away the best shelter idea I’ve heard of.

Learn to build a hexayurt at Appropedia, and check out the new designs if you want a challenge.


FIGJAM stopped by my last post to tell me about his homemade swamp cooler. It costs $6, runs off a battery and will cool your shelter for hours. If you have access to a generator, you can use a bigger fan. For most people’s tents and yurts, though, this basic setup will take care of your hot hot blood. Genius!

A few years ago, I visited a friend who’d built a hexayurt-like structure and set up a swamp cooler inside. It was dark in there, so cool you practically needed a sweater, and I just wanted to go to sleep for ever.


Crash spaces are all well and good, but any good camp needs a communal area for the kitchen, the dance floor, the “we just got home and it’s 8am” bacon-and-bloody-mary fest…

For that, you need to make yourself a shade structure.

now you see it... you don't!

Rule Nº 1: No pop-up shade tents from the store! These things break. The fabric, the poles, the teeny weeny stakes, the guy lines… they’re not made for the epic windstorms of Black Rock City. I can’t tell you how many of these I’ve taken down (or chased across the playa) in a storm. Do. Not. Bring.

No, what you want is some shade cloth (tarps are okay, but they tend to tear), sturdy poles, rebar stakes and strong rope. I like Jon Starbuck’s shade design: four 4×4 posts, a center pole and rachet straps for guylines. You can tarp off the sides to make it bigger, and it’s reusable. Bonus if you have a big vehicle in camp: park it with its side to the dominant wind direction (Southwest, amen hallelujah) and it’ll make a handy windbreak that you can connect a tarp to.

If you’re super crafty, go track down the Department of Public Works Shade Crew and tell them how amazing they are in as many ways as you can think of. They may or may not let you in on the amazing shade structure design that protects Black Rock City’s staff and volunteers during those 115-degree August afternoons.

More Ideas

The ideas above are my favorites, but we are a creative people and we have been doing this a while, no?


Mylar is thin but powerful silver material that blocks heat transfer. Duct-tape it over your car windows (and roof), your tent, your water jugs, everything you can think of. Thanks Luvbugg for the suggestion!

PRO TIP: Bring a Mylar survival blanket when you go out at night. They’re great for keeping warm at sunrise when your bunny ears and fishnet tights just aren’t cutting it any more.

Clif Cox’s Desert Quonnie

These tube-shaped PVC structures work well and you can use ’em to cover cars, tents, etc. Make sure you set them up so the wind passes through them, instead of coming from the side. If they get bashed by a big wind, they will implode and you’ll have PVC and rebar flying around all over the place.

Geodesic Dome

These are the ultimate in lasting shelter. If you make yours from metal, you can use it every year with little to no additional cost. Domes can shelter huge numbers of people, and they withstand the wind. They’re costly up-front, labor-intensive and potentially heavy to transport, but if you’ve got a big camp you probably already know that this is the way to go.

Check out MAKE’s guide to building a bamboo dome. If you’ve got a better resource for building metal domes, leave a comment and I’ll post it here.

Commercial Playa Domes

Do a search for “Burning Man shelter” and you’ll come up with sites selling massive white geodesic domes. I’ve used one of these before and do not recommend it. It’s incredibly difficult to set up and take down, requiring lots of strength and sledgehammers and cursing. The long exposed poles are PVC and the cloth is plastic, and it’s all under a lot of tension. This means it’ll break after only a couple of years. Once it breaks, you’re in the unfortunate position of having to dismantle a very unsafe structure in the middle of a huge storm. For example. Not worth the hefty price tag.

Cargo trailer extraordinaire

I did this in 2008 and it was awesome. Pack all your stuff in a 5×8′ cargo trailer. When you get to Burning Dude, unpack everything and throw a futon inside the trailer. Hang a carpet over the door. Voila! Windproof shelter. It gets hot in the daytime, but it’s perfect for a good night’s sleep.

A gosh-darn tent

Really, tents are not so bad. In fact, tents work just great and you probably already have one. So use it! Put a tarp over it for shade, make sure you have somewhere else to crash out during the daytime, and you will be FINE. Trust me.

What works for you?

There are a million more great ideas out there, so please share your experience in the comments.

Also, I’m planning to tackle the following topics in upcoming posts: transportation, hygiene & safety, costumery and PARTICIPATION! If you’ve got suggestions, leave me a comment. I can’t wait to hear your ideas.

About the author: The Hun

The Hun

The Hun, also known as J.H. Fearless, has been blogging for Burning Man (and many other outlets) since 2005, which is also the year she joined the BRC DPW on a whim that turned out to be a ten-year commitment. Since then she's won some awards for blogging, built her own creative business, and produced some of the Burning Blog's most popular stories and series. She co-created a grant-funded art piece, "Refoliation," in 2007, and stood next to it watching the Man burn on Monday night during a full lunar eclipse. She considers that, in many ways, to have been the symbolic end of Burning Man that was. The Hun lives in Reno with DPW Shade King, Quiet Earp. You may address her as "The Hun" or "Hun". If you call her "Honey" she reserves the right to cut you.

68 Comments on “DIY Your Burn: Shelter, Shade & Cool Cool Comfort

  • The best tents are from Springbar or Kodiak Canvas. I brought one last year and was able to sleep in until noon.

    Cotton canvas kicks the crap out of nylon.

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  • The Hun says:

    Yes! Totally agree. I have an old canvas Kelty I think? From the 80s. It is amazing, as long as I can keep the zipper functioning.

    Thanks for mentioning that, Jonah.

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  • Vinay Gupta says:

    Hi guys, I’m Vinay, the inventor of the hexayurt. If you’ve got any questions about the little hut that could, ask away! I’ll check the thread for the next few days.

    Glad you’re liking it, I’ve always had *great* times at Burning Man, and it’s been really good to give something back.



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  • FIGJAM says:

    Useing thr bucket cooler for something the size of a yurt was moderatly sucsessful.

    For awsome check Q&A (how to cool your tent or van pg16)

    The “unicooler” is just as easy to build and will cool up to 3000 cubic feet of space without duct work.

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  • Beano says:

    I’ve made many things out of broken carbon fiber hockey sticks I collected from my local arena’s trash. They’re almost as strong as steel, but light as plastic. I’d love to collect enough to make a dome, it’d probably be light enough to qualify as airline baggage! Someone else please beat me to this idea!

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  • Jim says:

    I’m a fan of the monkeyhut, which is a less complicated version of the clif cox’s design above.

    I replaced the tarp with some aluminet and it works pretty well. I’ve used it a few years, and it holds up well to winds.

    I kind of like the idea of spreading out the aluminet in Jon Starbuck’s design, so I might have to consider trying that one this year since I have a few more people going with me.

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  • Jim says:

    Oh, and I should add that, while I’m in the market for a new tent and was considering a springbar, I’m now giving some serious thought to the hexayurt just because it looks awesome and a fun playa project.

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  • Jim says:

    Hi Vinay,

    You mention NOT using plywood as a building material, but what about just for the outside walls? Seems like it would be safe enough to use for that (still heavy though) and then you could use the lighter materials for the roof. Just wondering if there was some reason for staying away from it completely.

    On that note, I guess my other question is: just how strong is the insulation material you recommend? Is it something you’ll easily be able to reuse year after year, or will it break easily? I haven’t had a chance to go check it out yet at Home Depot.

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  • Vinay Gupta says:

    We’ve just – this year, really – cracked the plywood hexayurt design – see the web site for the video we made with Engineers Without Borders Sheffield. I don’t think these would be great on the playa, however, because the insulation value of plywood is about 0.2 vs. the 6.5 for the polyiso boards. And I’d want more screws and blocks than the designs on the web, because it’s the *playa*. Just the wall is a good idea if you want to use plywood for some particular reason, though. I like it.

    My recommended board is and has always been Thermax HD – 1″ of foam between two layers of metal about as thick as a coke can, about $25 a sheet. Strong and fire rated, which is a very important feature. But Dow only seems to sell it in 30 sheet quantities, and nobody’s ever succeeded in doing a bulk buy.

    So people are using R-MAX and similar boards, which aren’t *nearly* as tough, and are probably good for three or five years on the playa. I’d really like to see a Thermax HD bulk buy happen this year – there are enough Burners in San Francisco who’ll be building units that if somebody was willing to buy them and just sell what they don’t need on Craigslist I’m sure they’d be fine.

    I think there’s a ton of room for other materials, too. Honeycomb polyproplene, or those very nice bubble wrap insulations like reflextix (maybe over ply?) and so on. It’s a huge space to explore because everything imaginable comes in 4×8 sheets, so you can just pick a material, pick a geometry and pick a fastener, and make a new kind of hexayurt, something that’s never been done before.

    Enjoy! V.

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  • Kitty Dingo says:

    Anyone tried one tent pitched inside another tent to minimize dust? I’ve heard this works.

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  • The Hun says:

    Hi Vinay! So glad to see you here. Thanks for all your excellent work.

    Beano – I don’t know if I have a local hockey arena, but that sounds like a great idea! How would you connect the sticks together?

    Kitty, I’ve tried that. It works but the trick is getting two tents that fit inside one another. An affordable big tent is likely to be one of those box-store deals, which means it’s nylon and flimsy, and liable to blow down. What I ended up doing was buying a sturdy hexagonal shade tent that just barely fit over my dome tent. It worked (with lots of extra bracing) but the tent walls flapped and rubbed against each other all night, making it a bit more challenging to sleep. I recommend a canvas tent with some kind of windbreak (wall, car, other tent); that’s probably more effective and less problematic.

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  • mortisha says:

    hey guys ~
    what a great thread!

    my hubby (Steamdonkey, dpw construction) and i finally perfected our playa home using a large cabin tent inside his homemade geodesic dome. he bought metal tubing, cut it, flattened and pierced the ends after dipping them in liquid rubber, and made a cover out of scavenged coffee bags. The burlap cover is perfectly shady while letting a breeze thru, and the tent inside controls dust AND stays cool! plus there’s extra room for a shady, breezy “porch” in front of the tent but just inside the dome. I found the tent on a discount website (about $150), and all the materials for his dome cost around $100.

    i’ve also toyed with a homemade cooler using copper tubing coiled on both sides of a box fan with ice water from a cooler pumped thru with a fishtank pump. worked ok, but i shoulda sprung for a pump MUCH bigger than the second from the smallest to fight off intense playa heat. google “homebrew air conditioning” for instructions.

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  • Dr. Strangelove says:

    2008 was my first, but not my last. Was only there from Thurs thru Sunday, but what a blow! I was camped in the outer ring in a large Eddie Bauer with my van parked as a windbreak, and one of those flimsy pop-up sunshades pitched as the entrance porch (will. never. bring. again.). A large tarp was shroudline-guyed and rebar-staked over the whole rig. I’m a ME and a sailor, can rig a camp, and had been warned about the Playa – I thought I was pretty well set up. WRONG!

    I spent all day Saturday hunkered against the lee of my tent, essentialy holding it up, with the “now you don’t” picture as my view. Filled a couple of dust masks to choking-full. Two 3/8″ dia. fiberglass poles were digging into my back, and they eventually broke, but the tent didn’t come apart – I credit the tarp for that, it helped shed the wind – but the tent eventually just blew down into some teardrop-looking thing.

    When I struck camp Sunday morning, the tent had so much dust in it it took 2 people to empty it out, and it made a pile about 3 feet high. Saturday evening was calm, and the burn was amazing, and I knew I’d be coming back. Will be trying Vinay’s yurt next time – thanks for the tip!

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  • Spot says:

    Last summer was my first burn and man did we have a great time but boy was our first day rough! It was just me and a friend and we’d decided to do it on our own rather than join a camp, and we didn’t have a car and got dropped by our ride in center camp, then had to carry all our supplies out to H (don’t do this if possible, I don’t think we’d repeat that again as it took hours and carrying 20 gallons of water each is not fun–which, btw, for beginners we also over-estimated how much water needed, especially given that we “showered” using a bucket and a pot, but better safe then sorry I guess). By the time we’d made about two of these runs, the first thunderstorm in god knows how long on the Playa was rolling in, proceeded with our first experience with a dust storm. We were trying to throw the tent together as fast as possible to keep our stuff dry when the wind hit and ended up hiding under it, using it like a tarp to block the sand haha. At one point the girl next to us had her entire tent go airborne and was clinging to it try to keep both feet on the ground and we all had to jump on it to hold it down. Anyway, the storm killed our tent and snapped the polls in two places–however, fortunately I’d brought extra rebar and duct tape! Some VERY nice neighbors ran to our rescue during the middle of the storm and helped us use the rebar and tape to splint the broken tent poles and we threw what we had inside and ran for cover with them. Anyway, our stuff got soaked and our tent was full of sand from day one (and almost completely collapsed by the last day due to further pole breakage), but nobody stole our water that we didn’t make it back to center camp for until hours later, and we became friends with all the variety of neighbors who helped us that first day. So, moral of the story I guess–it never hurts to have duct tape (and extra rebar)!

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  • The Hun says:

    Whoo! Dr. Strangelove and Spot, I feel your pain as if it were my own. Which, at one point, it was.

    I probably should’ve mentioned that if you bring a tent, you should weight it down and maybe collapse it when you’re not using it! That’s been the best strategy for me.

    One year, my friend weighted his tent by putting all the greywater jugs inside it. They did not have lids. The resulting spill (on Saturday morning) was tragic.

    Mortisha, I don’t know Steamdonkey but clearly he is a genius. That setup sounds amazing! So the coffee bags were burlap, or canvas… very ingenious. Maybe I’ll run into y’all this year and you can show me the setup.

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  • There’s always the good ol’ “Costco Tent”, The 10 X 20′ steel carport, they’re around #200 (or were). Get the 2″ dia. pipe size. which is beefy. You can actually put one up alone if need be. Easy to gang up too to make much bigger structures.

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  • horney says:

    my friend and fellow burner,craig,bought a coleman insta tent 2 room 14 x 10 ft that sleeps 8. we secured it with rebar then made a shade structure from tarps and pv poles that was 12 x 20,secured on the top by 12 in galvanized nails thru the grommets of the tarp and secured it with guideline rope and rebar. it worked great last year! plus we had a shaded front porch. the tent is large enuff for us and all our stuff,food,clothes,bedding,booze,one nite stand or 2,etc…lol

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  • My other desert tip is to buy some mylar faced thin foam or bubble insulation and make a set of window covers for your vehicle, like the windshield shades you see everywhere. I have them for every window and attach them on the inside with velcro squares with stick-on backs. Keeps your vehicle at least 20 degrees cooler plus blocks out light if you want to sleep. Handy for car camping and spending the nite on the street or parking lot. Also I read a great tip and tried it last year– just take a wrap of this material around your ice chest and over the lid and you’ll be amazed how much longer it stays cool.

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  • Cool Daniel says:

    2009 was my first burn and I’ve used the same set-up both years. I sleep in the back of my pickup truck with a camper shell and a 5″ thick foam mattress. I completely stopped using inflatable mattresses several years ago. They pop. I set up a 10′ x 20′ COSTCO type carport over the camper shell, adding a silver blackout tarp before securing the factory carport top. The heat of the sun comes through standard carports, but the silver tarp blocks sunlight from heating up my camper shell. I can sleep in there comfortably any time of the day. I also only put on 2 sides of the carport to get good ventilation. I add double guy-wires to each corner with heavy duty ratcheting straps and 2′ x 1/2″ rebar stakes. The whole structure doesn’t budge even in the strongest winds.

    The bubble wrap/Mylar sunshade on the windshield is a great idea and also makes a low temperature solar oven. The cab of my truck is not under the carport, so gets good sun in the morning and early afternoon. I place ready to eat meals similar to MRE’s between the windshield and the Mylar and in an hour or two it’s piping hot.

    I haven’t decided how I’ll camp this year. The girlfriend wants to bring an RV but I’m trying to convince her otherwise. There are so many great ideas here. One of them will certainly be perfect. See you all on playa! :-)

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  • Sag says:

    PVC/tarp structures similar to “Desert Quonnies” are also known as “Monkey Huts”.

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  • people get so wrapped up in the planning and end up spending WAY too much. thanks for mentioning that you dont HAVE to spend thousands of dollars at BM and yuppie RVs are not a necessity! Hexayurts look fun but small and a pain to build for $300. like people have said above the $200 10X20 carports are playa tested and ubiquitous. just make sure the poles are 1.5 – 2 inch steel and you’re good. Newbies: there’s tons and tons of tips on all this on eplaya so read up! one of the great tips i got from there is to “clamshell” the carport on its side with the back facing the wind:

    BAM, instant easy to build shade area! :) i also learned from a theme camp vet that when guylines fail your carport all you need to do is run a long strong rope over the top and rebar it down on each side. nothing’s blowing away if you strap it down like that.

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  • Jessica says:

    How much water does the swamp cooler go through per day?

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  • Sour Patch says:

    Mylar reminder: Make sure the reflection of your Mylar is not directed at your neighbors tent. You don’t want to transform their temporary house into a human solar oven!

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  • Tall Steve says:

    I’ve camped with the Black Rock Boutique, and we’ve used just about everything discussed here. I’d like to comment on some of them.

    Costco carports: Superb on the Playa. They’re always the first things we put up, partly so we can benefit from their shade immediately, and partly because we stretch shade cloth off them to cover our tents. Strap them the hell down! We use candycane rebar to pin the legs to the ground, and even though the roof is pinned to the legs, we use rope to secure the roof to the rebar too. Add diagonal lines too, to resist shaking. Carports are strongest when you have a cluster of them tied together. We did have a wall blow out once, though.

    (By the way, does anybody know where to get replacement pins for those things?)

    Hexayurts: These are much bulkier to transport than tents, and they require more effort to set up than tents. After that, though, you’re living the good life. They keep out the dust, heat, and even sound. During one morning windstorm in 2008, the hexayurt contingent slept in because they didn’t realize there *was* a storm. Really, they’re that good. Hexayurts do require a lot of maintenance between years though — you should expect to replace most of the tape every year, and that 6″ wide tape is expensive.

    PVC domes: Small ones work, big ones don’t. We used a 12′ dome to sort donations in 2008, and it worked fine. Went up easily, and stayed up during windstorms. We used a 16′ dome for our kitchen and it worked okay. It went up easily, but it caved slightly during strong winds until a neighbor moved a big RV next to it. As a kitchen, it got very hot until we used empty beer cans to open vents between panels of the dome’s skin. We used a 31′ dome as our “store” in 2007 and 2008. It was hard to put up (much thicker poles) and it caved spectacularly whenever the wind exceeded about 35mph. It won’t be going back to the Playa. We joined with Groove Bomb to build a 40′ circus tent in 2009. The cloth used in Shelter Systems domes appears to be Dacron, which will not suffer from exposure to sun… though it can certainly tear in the wind.

    Tents: Okay, I’m getting into theoretical territory here. I’ve always gone with a little hiking tent wrapped in woven aluminized mylar, but now I’m trying to design and build the perfect Playa tent. The three key features: a real door and latch so I don’t need to deal with a dust-encrusted zipper when I need to pee at 4am. A canopy bed with an elevated mattress so I don’t sleep in quite so much dust (similar to the “tent-in-a-tent” idea, but sexier). And a chimney at the top to pull hot air out of the tent. I also plan to put a vestibule on the front so I can leave the dustiest clothing outside the tent completely.

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  • mortisha says:

    hey hun ~ sure thang! we’re with P3 Oasis at 8 & C, will be camped nearby.

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  • roissy says:

    I do not use the pins that came with the Cosco Carports, switch over to hex nuts and bolts, much easer to do with gloves on, than those stupid ring clips.

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  • Elaine says:

    Hi all!

    New to burning man, coming over from Ireland wit ha friend of mine! We’re not great at building stuff, if we cover a tent with the mylar stuff would we be grand?
    Eek!! So excited!

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  • FIGJAM says:

    The bucket swamp cooler uses 2 gals. in 5 hours.

    The unicooler uses 1/2 to 3/4 of a gal. per hour.

    Find me on eplaya and PM me, I’ll walk you through it.

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  • ophelia says:

    I use 4 corners of a 6 pole car cover, stake it down with rebar and cover the top and one side with fairly solid tarp fabric and put my tent inside. then I cover the other 3 sides with camo net. It works great, even when we had horribe wind storms where most of my neighbors had their stuff flying around, nothing moved. I even had a plate and spatula sitting on a table in front of the camo net wall and it stayed put. Whereas my neighbor had there shade canop fly off, due to solid walls.

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  • dragnet says:

    A must for keeping ice longer when tenting is an old boogie board (or similar packaging material that won’t compress much). Cut it out the size and shape of the bottom of your cooler. Place this under ice chest to keep it off the ground. 2 Heavy duty metallic reflective dashboard protectors cover it (the heavier the better not the thin ones) in both directions. Then a moving van pad or similar density easy to abuse cover. Set extra water bottles on the pad as anchors in wind, and put tool box or good weight on top. And remember, limit the time it is open! Place it close to tent for a little wind block for your head!

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  • nikOpeaches says:

    Steamdonkey knows his bidness. Worked w/ him the last 2 years constructing CenterCafe. I saw his setup during the event as well. Brilliant and durable.

    Amazing how folks forget how simple and common sense keeping cool can be.

    Wet a bandana/t-shirt/sowrong and wear it till its dry…. then wet it again… Use your drained cooler water or igloo catch bucket.

    Cowboy Carl would always dress in Longsleeved Button up denim shirts, buttoned tight to the wrists. (when he chose to wear clothing) It was less a costume than a means at keeping his moisture in.

    I’ve spent 200+ days on playa since 2005 and have come to recognize the brilliance of covering one’s skin. I drink 1/2 as much water when I’m wearing long-sleeves than a t-shirt (and need significantly less water than when wearing bootie shorts—the least desert friendly gear out there.)

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  • nikOpeaches says:

    Zippers? So many Zipper problems?

    Lubrication Lubrication Lubrication.

    Lip balm has worked for me in the past. Apply regularly. I had a tent survive 2 separate 40+ day stints on playa by keeping the zippers well lubed.

    or try Dry Graphite Lubricant. Can get messy if you don’t keep it solely on the zipper.

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  • Snow says:

    Once we started taking our 1 year old in 2005 we wanted more shade and less dust [ya, right!]. The tent-within-a-tent method is what we thought easiest and most affordable. It was hard to find 2 tents sized just right, tho. What worked for us was our tent within a 10’x20’ carport. Even our larger 9’x9’ tent left plenty of room for tables, chairs, coolers.

    Our advice with these carports: 1. Stake them down! Use rebar on all legs. When the wind really gets going during heavy storms the carport can vibrate, which eventually can loosen a leg/section and weaken the structure as time goes on – esp if not all legs are staked down. 2. Don’t put them up so tightly that the door is hard to zip, because this will only get worse as the week goes on. Make sure to leave some slack on the door side. 3. Get the model that makes more effort to seal up along the edges [I think it cost $200 a few yrs back]. 4. To help keep dust down we used large tarps for the floor.

    Even tho with the ‘tent within a carport’ set up you’ll be a little less dusty, dust will still be everywhere, including inside your tent. This is great, tho, for shade and a cooler place to take shelter.

    I also highly recommend this for parents who take children, because this provides a less distracting space where you can take your child inside to eat, and sit and relax and have some down time. We set up a portable picnic table inside that we used for eating meals, coloring and activity books, etc.

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  • Xig says:

    I had my little bro coming up one year, a few years back and experimented on the tent we would be putting up for him. I found a local fish import company and notices that they toss out tons of bubble wrap foil. With permission from them I did some dumpster diving to recycle the stuff. I just cut out triangle sheets and tapped them together on a dome tent between the outer shade dome itself. It worked so perfect that he could easily sleep till 2-3 in the afternoon.

    The next year I told the import company about it, they then put away good sheets for me to use before they dumped them. I then did this for my 26×10 mega tent. It helped a lot but I think the smaller dome is the best structure for this application.

    Note: make sure you place the tent away from other. All that sunlight just goes straight to them. And yes you do notice it.

    Cost $10 for foil ducting tape.

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  • Tri Tip says:

    Our camp built “octahuts” out of nine sheets of plywood carefully cut into a 3D puzzle. No tools required. Mine was completely tight against rain and dust once I applied duct tape to the joints, and was solid as a cabin in the wind. I used OSB with TechShield, and between the radiant barrier and my hut being eight feet tall (full sheet length) it never got hot inside. Granted, it never got very hot in 2010 (or I don’t remember it being hot anyway), but I expect good performance this coming year.

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  • BurninTone says:

    Now here’s an interesting challenge! A friend and I are coming to BM from England. I have a cargo van booked for transport and to sleep in. We want a shade structure for the daytime. The dual challenge is what’s the simplest structure to build given we will have to buy everything on arrival in Reno and, what do we do with it after the event given we can’t take it back home! We want to minimise the environmental impact so we certainly don’t want to dump anything if this can be avoided.
    Creative ideas welcome! Thanks

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  • Dennis Funk says:

    The picture link above is on Facebook.

    We started out with a single shade structure and now have three that we connect, which makes it even stronger. The structure has survived the strongest winds with no issues. We use 1″ electrical conduit (EMT) with corner and base connections from a local outdoor store. The top is 20 x 20. The outside legs (3 on each side) are 7′ and the center posts (3 down the middle) are about 9′ tall. We purchased a 20′ x 20′ tarp which is really 19’6″. Using the ball bungies makes this a very tight fit. Then we purchased three gray UV tarps 12′ x 20′ for the side flaps giving us a 40′ x 20′ area. We tie each corner and outside post using a 1″ ratchet tie downs and then criss-cross over the top with strong rope. Does not move! We are expanding our center area this year to 20′ by 30′ and are creating a flat 10′ x 30′ front porch.

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  • B Rad says:

    On the Hexayurt: I made one of Vinnie’s yurts for the playa last year rather than my van…totally ruined my burn! How? Was it dust proof? Absolutely, we had a dark carpet for the floor over a piece of tarp and the only dust was from hands or items brought in…
    …dark? You bet! I punched 3 1″ holes in the South side and pushed 3 1″ leaded crystals into the holes so the inside of the yurt was filled with prisms of light! Really awesome effect….
    …comfortable? The best! I used the R Max board but reinforced all the edges with 4″ tape which is really going to make it last longer. So how did it ruin my burn? What is MOST needed after partying all night long? GOOD SLEEP DURING THE DAY! This was taken from me by basically sleeping inside of a speaking cone! ANY, and I mean ANY music ANYWHERE near a yurt made from R max board turns into a sound box and due to the design of the yurt, focuses the sound to anyone trying to sleep inside. You can put your hand on the sides of the yurt and FEEL every bump, every techno beat, every thumping bass sound. I was also using the best earplugs available, the wax or silcone balls that you shape and push into your ear. I can’t hear quads and sand rails with open headers on the beach in Mexico but by God, I heard every note of every song while inside that yurt from nearby camps…camps that were across the street!

    I made a tee pee out of hang gliding leading edges, 1.5″ T6 tubing then wrapped it in a reinforced mylar product that I manufacture is the source, and this was WAY more quiet than the yurt which captured sound then re-emitted and focused it to me inside. Perhaps you could move your camp to Hushville or put carpet over it or something but if want a sound sleep during the day the R Max yurt will surely ruin your burn as it did mine last year. After a week of sleep deprivation I could not bring myself to even walk to the Man to watch the burn…I took that time to catch up on some much needed sleep…

    B Rad

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  • paul says:

    absolute best link for instructions on building geodesic domes and dome covers.

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  • Tiggle says:

    Another option for doming it (over the last 4 years I have progressively upgraded from tent to conduit dome to 2×4 dome).

    Works the same as conduit but WAY WAY WAY easier to put up and take down. Can get away with 2×2 (will break under pressure) or 2×3 (might break under pressure), but 2×4 (won’t break unless you make an effort to do so) is what I recommend.

    8′ 2×4’s make it kind of ‘too big’ (hard to get the shade up and over the top) but if you cut them down to 7′ (give or take) still gives plenty of space and easier to get the cover on.

    121 days!


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  • Tim says:

    Because I come from the east coast and have to carry my shelter with me on a plane, I use a lightweight 5-6 person nylon dome tent. I make a fly by taping together two heavy-duty mylar space blankets (approx $7 each). They weigh hardly anything. I tape them together with duct tape pre-playa. I also tape the entire perimeter of the blankets for reinforcement to keep them from ripping. I add grommets to the taped edge and attach the mylar fly over my regular tent fly with ball bungee cords. I also do a little tucking, darting and folding with safety pins (in taped areas only) for a better fit. Seems to keep my tent cool and as a bonus, it makes my tent easy to identify.

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  • Mel says:

    That’s great information. Thanks!
    I am coming from Australia and have been working out how I will create my shade structure over my tent – I think I will now just follow your suggestion.

    The mylar blankets you used – are they the ones with the backing? I priced those here and they are about $35 each – so maybe I am looking at the wrong blanket.

    You wouldn’t happen to have a photo of your construction/ materials would you?


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  • Mel says:

    Hi BurningTone,
    Like you I have a similar issue with not being able to carry “stuff” into the USA and not wanting buy gear for one use and dump it all at the end. It’s my first BM as well and I have distracting myself from work by looking into this issue.

    Tim’s advice (above) about using mylar seems to be one that people have put over their camp vehicles so they can keep them cool.

    From what I’ve read you are going to want “something” as a wind shelter. I saw some fairly simple structures that look ok pictured on the eplaya. Just do a search.

    I’ve priced some cheap(ish) tarps (plus an extra grommit kit), long poles and rebar – you can do it cheaply, but then maybe you could donate the rebar to another camp on your way out (they could give it to an overseas burner the following year) and drop the poles and tarps at a Salvation Army in Reno. At least then someone will get some use out of them – if you buy one of those shade shelters/car port thingys they probably won’t be much use to anyone – but a homeless person might quite like a tarp and some poles.

    For picking up gear in Reno check out -


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  • Ops31337 says:

    Well as a member of Camp Envy; My structure provides, comfort, sleeping quarters, food, air conditioning, etc… it’s my loft here in the Boston area. Hahahaha Camp Envy partakes via uStream and we watch on the internet, envious of all of you having the real fun there in Black Rock. Find us on facebook.

    I am ALMOST committed to this year being my first burn. I feel the playa’s pull, the yearning to be there and take part. I’m actually a bit afraid as I think I’ll love it too much.

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  • billy sharpstick says:

    tent in a tent:
    been doing this since 03.
    latest incarnation was a cheap target cabin tent. the screen ceiling was securely lined with ripstop nylon, tack stitched with spectra cord and the seams gorilla taped. this kept the dust from blowing up under the short fly and dumping into the tent. (don’t ask how i knew). inside that is our old veteran TNF 3 man full fly tent that just barely holds our queen air mattress. at night, this is sealed up to keep us warm. in the day, it’s sealed up to keep out (almost all of) the dust. in the day, it can be opened front and back to allow air through on nice days for an afternoon nap. shade structure overhead. this year i plan to replace the inside tent with a lighter draped ripstop or tyvek canopy similar in shape to those mosquito tents that drape over beds.
    we fly out from florida, so our cargo capacity is limited.

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  • Hiya says:

    We’ve been doing tent-within-tent for several years now. My sister came back from Tibet with this really great heavy canvas tent, appliqued with traditional Buddhist symbols on the roof. It’s almost exactly the size and shape of a carport so my brother-in-law got the standard metal carport frame. We use lots of rebar to stake it down. It does not have a floor and I always worry about a ton of dust coming in but so far it has not been too bad. We put old carpets on the ground, and set up my little 30-yr-old 2-person backpacking tent inside it, and line the inside edges of the Tibetan with our plastic bins full of gear.

    The first year we did this I brought giant storage bags for our sleeping bags, to store them in during the day so they would not get that dusty. But after going through a few dust storms with minimal dusting (or maybe just being habituated to dust by then!), we abandoned them. It IS pretty hot during the day, so if we need to nap we usually crash in a communal dome – our own (which we help put up and take down), or someone else’s!

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  • Indigo says:

    I take a two-horse trailer that I converted to a travel trailer. It works great and cost me next to nothing since it was slated for the junk yard. I replaced all the wood, built a bunk, carpeted the floor, and built a shelf in front that has a small basin that drains into a 5-gallon bucket. If I fill it up, I simply put a lid on it, stick them in the back of my truck, and put another one down. Easy gray-water system! The entire trailer is totally self contained (porta loo bucket for dust storms and solar shower with cement mixing tray to stand in) and has plenty of room for storage. I cover it with cammo netting to keep the direct sunlight off it, and it stays cool enough during the day. After I get back every year, I clean it out, seal everything in Space Bags, and it’s ready to go again. The only thing I have to do to get ready is pack fresh batteries, food, and water.

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  • Klondike says:

    I have to disagree with The Hun’s assessment of the “Commercial Playa Domes”, at least the 18′ “geotensic” one that I bought from Shelter Systems a few years back. Definitely a splurge, but I find it easy to setup and rock-solid in the wind.

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  • Alejandro says:

    I’ve been considering the H13 hexayurt, but B Rad’s story about it basically being a speaker box would definitely ruin my sleep. Except Tall Steve’s story basically contradicts B Rad’s point about hexayurts being really noisy:
    “Hexayurts: These are much bulkier to transport than tents, and they require more effort to set up than tents. After that, though, you’re living the good life. They keep out the dust, heat, and even sound.” So which is it? Are they noisy, or are they quiet? Can someone please give me a definitive answer?

    Additionally, there seems to be another somewhat contradictory point. Most people have mentioned that they put their tents INSIDE one of the costco carports. But again, Tall Steve says “Costco carports: Superb on the Playa. They’re always the first things we put up, partly so we can benefit from their shade immediately, and partly because we stretch shade cloth off them to cover our tents. ” Off them?…I’m a bit confused. Why would you stretch shade cloth OFF of your carport to cover your tents? Aren’t you putting the tents INSIDE the carport itself? I’m a BM virgin so, please forgive my ignorance.

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  • Spot says:

    BurningTone–I went last year with just a friend and a tent. The tent got really freaking hot during the day (and I imagine your van will be worse), but we made friends with our neighbor and tied a tarp from his van to our tent. This only-overhead shade structure was later improved when a passerby gave us some netting he didn’t want, which we used to make a few sides. It’s not wind proof but that’s what the tent (or your car) could be for. It did still get quite hot, but we just sucked it up, drank a lot of water, and lay down for that part of the day (or made friends/found a place to hang out that was cooler). Also, one of our neighbors did have a nice, battery operated fan he used that I think helped him a lot. Then again, we also didn’t shower all week (except for once standing in a bucket while dumping water over ourselves with another bucket) and were pretty eternally dusty so that might be more roughing it (and smelly) then you want to go, haha (plus, they do say the alkaline dust will crack up your skin, but I actually had no problems with it all over me except for my fingers, which I just rubbed Vaseline on, but I think like a lot of things is varies from person to person).

    Indigo, your horse trailer idea sounds fantastic!

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  • Max says:

    Coming from East Coast – so usual limitations apply.
    Past 3 burns show that sleeping in a regular tent is possible, provided you pitch it in a shade of your vehicle (or, even better, your neighbors RV). However you will be awake by 8:30 – 9 no matter what time you went to sleep. Consuming certain substances night before helps to extend that by couple of hours, but that is kinda OT.
    Shade structures (Coleman and such) bought in big box stores hold up pretty well if you put ’em up right (can be done by 1 person easily), use rebars instead of included pins. 14’x14′ cost is $120-$150 or so, which fits grand picture more or less.
    Mylar blankets taped to the rope around shade side nets help a lot, but make noise in the wind and don’t last too long, but, again, cost is minimal.
    Another idea is to put all your stuff in the tent and sleep in your minivan with windows taped with mylar – works well for cold nights.

    All in all, using common sense will get you through, so do not concentrate too much on this survivalist crap – think about costumes, arts and other ways to contribute to the main cause – making the burn memorable and beautiful event.
    See ya in the dust

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  • pauli lama says:

    My wife and I have been using an 18′ shelter systems dome for the last 3 years. As stated above, it’s rock solid and welcome relief from the wind. Stays cool with the shade cloth. (we got a great deal on a used one from craigslist) The 2 of us can set it up in about 30 minutes, more if we’re dehydrated and grumpy.
    We also take a 10×10 popup shade. we use 2 come-alongs at each corner attached to rebar stakes. We’ve had one 10×10 for the last 3 burns and no issues with it getting knocked around. The key on the 10×10? buy one that has cross bracing and that sucker won’t twist in the wind.

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  • Moonshine says:

    Tent in a tent. I’ve been doing for several years now. I don’t have the greatest set up but it’s been working for me nonetheless. I put this configuration together from separate pieces I already had in the garage. I didn’t buy anything special.
    I have a standard 3man coleman tent. I glued the rainfly to the top of the tent to permanently seal the mesh ceiling. It stays nearly completely dust free. I place the tent inside a 10×10 EZ-UP canopy with zippered side panels. I use standard blue plastic tarps to cover the floor. Easy to sweep out. Inside the EZup I’m able to set up a 4′ table for gear and store a half dozen large storage bins with supplies, clothes, etc. Tons of room. Key to the structure of course, is making sure it’s staked and tied down securely, but then we all know that by now, right? Whenever possible, I also like to secure the EZup to other structures for added strength.

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  • Tall Steve says:

    To Alejandro:

    Regarding the noise-proofness of hexayurts, location might be a factor. The Black Rock Boutique is located on the Center Camp ring, so it gets a lot constant noise but not much of it is the boomy-thumpy kind. Maybe hexayurts don’t work so well near 2:00 and 10:00? Also, my campmates were careful to bevel the edges of their hexayurt panels and maybe that made theirs more rigid, I don’t know.

    Regarding attaching shade cloth to Costco carports, we just didn’t have enough carports to put every tent inside them. You can fit maybe 2 tents in 1 carport. We had to accommodate about 12 tents using 3 carports so stretching shade cloth between carports was an adequate solution, though not the ideal one. Those carports are 10’x20′, and we set three of them up in a row with 12′ gaps to give us a 54’x20′ shaded area for tents. (Gaps larger than 12′ cause problems in the wind.)

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  • Megan says:

    People coming from afar – tents work. I slept in one for my first ten years on the playa. Bring extra stakes and rope to really tie that thing down. Also great is if you: pitch it in the shade/wind protection of one vehicle; pitch it between two vehicles; stretch a tarp over the tent between two vehicles; pitch next to an RV and drape a tarp from the top of the RV over the tent (lean-to style). By “tarp” I mean preferably canvas – try the painting drop cloths from Home Depot, I sewed a few together. About the dust – i suggest closing off any open mesh windows with canvas/gorilla tape (super duct tape that doesn’t melt in the heat). Bring an extra large sheet and cover your bed during the day, ensuring a dust-free zone to lay your head. Shake the sheet out in the morning, cover and repeat. I started with a real hiking tent and ended a decade later with one of those huge multiroom deals. With proper staking, it was always fine. I liked the extra room for clothing, costume changes and food storage – less stuff blows away under cover. Now I sleep in a cargo vancovered in mylar, on an air mattress. But I love comfort :-).

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  • wirevintage says:

    There’s definately a great deal to know about this issue.
    I like all the points you’ve made.

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  • Skylo says:

    Having the coolest possible tent can only be achieved by the sum of a few methods.Start by using a cotton tent, they dont heat-up as easily as some modern day tents. Cover the top with an emergency blanket and the use your DIY swamp cooler.Might not be as cold as ice but you will be able to sleep comfortably in it.For some more ides here is a link worth some worthwhile methods:

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