Turnkey Camping Guidelines

Peter Doty’s “Christmas Camp”, Burning Man’s first theme camp, 1993. Photo by Gerry Gropp.

[Please note we’ve changed the nomenclature for these types of camps from “Plug & Play” to “Turnkey” to better reflect the way they function.]

Groups of people who set up a camp at Burning Man – or hire help to set up a camp – with the explicit intention of having things ready to go in advance of the arrival of others, are engaging in what we’ve termed “Turnkey camping” (see previous posts on this topic here and here).

In recent years, we’ve seen a rise in Turnkey camping services, and the Burning Man organization has decided to address the issue by providing guidelines for these camps and their organizers. We thought you’d like to see them.

We welcome your feedback on this topic in the comments section below.

Guidelines For Turnkey Camping

If you are a group of people who set up a camp – or hire help to set up a camp – with the explicit intention of having things ready to go in advance of the arrival of others, you are probably producing what we’ve termed “Turnkey camping”. In recent years, we’ve seen a rise in Turnkey camping services, and the Burning Man organization has decided to address the issue by providing guidelines for these camps and their organizers.

Turnkey camps generally utilize outside service providers (better known as “vendors” outside our decommodified event). These services include deliveries, camp operations crews, and the organization of resources at campsites. Although camps have coordinated and pooled resources throughout Burning Man’s history, those resources and services are now more sophisticated and extensive than ever. It is now necessary that Turnkey camps be made aware of the impact they can have on Black Rock City.

We have established Ten Principles (below) that describe the ethos of our culture, and we have enacted certain rules that regulate civic life.

These new guidelines for Turnkey camps are an extension of this regulation. They are especially intended as advice concerning the customs and mores of our city that will help your camp to better contribute to our community.

We appreciate your participation in Burning Man!

Turnkey Camping Guidelines

As the camp organizer, you are the ultimate responsible party that must ensure that the Ten Principles are honored and these Turnkey Camping Guidelines are followed by your camp and your service providers. Each person is expected to adhere to these as responsible citizens of Black Rock City. Please review these with each of your providers and/or operations teams.

Camp Planning

  1. Anybody requesting reserved placement as an interactive theme camp is responsible for reading and understanding the Theme Camp Resource Guide (this information is valuable for any camp, whether placed or not).
  2. In planning your camp’s layout, avoid creating large, blank and anonymous walls of RVs that immediately front public thoroughfares. Instead, endeavour to provide passersby with some form of public ammenity, especially at intersections, which are traditionally highly interactive gathering places. Everyone desires privacy, but providing others with attractive public space is considered good etiquette in Black Rock City.

Managing Outside Service Providers

  1. If you hire or make an agreement with outside service providers, you are responsible for their activities, behavior, work conditions, and job performance within our event. If there is more than one Theme Camp utilizing a vendor, the responsibility will rest with each Theme Camp.
  2. Experience counts. If your providers are experienced with the event, please heed their advice. Allow them to educate you and explain best practices that the event and its participants follow. For example, using a large central water supply from a certified source with reusable bottles is much more aligned with Leave No Trace practices than purchasing palettes of plastic water bottles.
  3. You are responsible for ensuring proper management of the Early Arrivals for your providers, operations team, and their equipment.
  4. You are responsible for ensuring proper delivery credentials for your providers. If the provider is servicing more than one camp, they are responsible for securing their own delivery credentials.
  5. You are responsible for making sure that no money is exchanged for private services in Black Rock City. Only pre-arranged plans and off-site pre-purchasing of goods and services are allowed at Burning Man.
  6. You are responsible for knowing your providers and that they are in good standing with our event. Ask for references, and please report any problems to outsideservices@burningman.com in order to ensure that others are well served.
  7. You are responsible for timely work being done after the event. If you have post-event crew, they are expected to complete the work as quickly and efficiently as possible.
  8. You are responsible for the proper use of your rental equipment. Insist that service providers walk you through proper equipment use. For example, improper equipment use can result in illegal dumping of gray- or black-water (sewage) on the playa, leading to citations for violations of Bureau of Land Management stipulations.
  9. You are expected to work with the Placement team, DPW and the Burning Man organization to provide feedback about your camp experience and the effectiveness of your providers and operations teams, as this information helps ensure a consistency of quality over time.

Burning Man Culture

  1. No branding is allowed. Theme Camps many not promote a business as part of their camp name, or in the course of interacting with fellow participants.
  2. You (not your providers) are ultimately responsible for creating and executing a Leave No Trace clean-up plan. Leave No Trace applies to all parties involved, including service providers. Review the information from the Playa Restoration Team here.
  3. If your camp includes a Mutant Vehicle, the registrant and owner are responsible for the vehicle and its actions whether they are driving or not. All vehicle registrants must understand and abide by the driving rules of Black Rock City.
  4. Read and understand Burning Man’s Ten Principles, below, as these are the underpinnings of Burning Man’s culture. Make sure your campmates and service providers do as well.

Burning Man’s Ten Principles

Radical Inclusion — Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.

Gifting— Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving. The value of a gift is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value.

Decommodification— In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.

Radical Self-reliance — Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.

Radical Self-expression — Radical self-expression arises from the unique gifts of the individual. No one other than the individual or a collaborating group can determine its content. It is offered as a gift to others. In this spirit, the giver should respect the rights and liberties of the recipient.

Communal Effort — Our community values creative cooperation and collaboration. We strive to produce, promote and protect social networks, public spaces, works of art, and methods of communication that support such interaction.

Civic Responsibility — We value civil society. Community members who organize events should assume responsibility for public welfare and endeavor to communicate civic responsibilities to participants. They must also assume responsibility for conducting events in accordance with local, state and federal laws.

Leaving No Trace — Our community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.

Participation— Our community is committed to a radically participatory ethic. We believe that transformative change, whether in the individual or in society, can occur only through the medium of deeply personal participation. We achieve being through doing. Everyone is invited to work. Everyone is invited to play. We make the world real through actions that open the heart.

Immediacy— Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important touchstone of value in our culture. We seek to overcome barriers that stand between us and a recognition of our inner selves, the reality of those around us, participation in society, and contact with a natural world exceeding human powers. No idea can substitute for this experience.


About the author: Burning Man Project

Burning Man Project

The official voice of the Burning Man organization, managed by Burning Man Project's Communications Team.

44 Comments on “Turnkey Camping Guidelines

  • D Dawg says:

    Hmm.. glad this is being addressed, and it looks like you guys are doing that to the best of your abilities. A pretty sticky situation – this form of camping pretty much directly opposes the ‘Radical Self-reliance’ principle and I think is bad for BM in the end, but it would be near impossible to police/disallow entirely. There’s something to be said for the ‘challenge’ of surviving and thriving at BM, and if that aspect is removed and it’s as easy as paying a hotel bill, we will see an influx of individuals who do not embody the BM principles.

    The increased ‘commercialized’ growth is no fault of BM staff or anyone else for that matter – it’s just the natural progression as popularity grows. Nevertheless I fear it will interfere with what we love most about BM. Sure there’s been a ton of money in BM for years now, but now more than ever it seems there’s a greatening gap between the contributors and the spectators, and the haves vs. have nots.

    It’s going to be an interesting road from here on out – you BM planners have your work cut out for you! I think the key will lie in the ticketing. A greater amount of tickets given out via application process (however exhausting that might be) to preserve the creative and names on tickets + ID required to foil the scalpers, with re-sale only possible by selling it back to the BM site, might help.

    Thanks for all the hard work and efforts to keep Burning Man, Burning Man.

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  • G says:

    Quoting D Dawg . . . There’s something to be said for the ‘challenge’ of surviving and thriving at BM, and if that aspect is removed and it’s as easy as paying a hotel bill, we will see an influx of individuals who do not embody the BM principles.

    Hear Hear!!!

    IMHO much of the essential Burning Man experience is embracing, engaging, and struggling with the hardships of camping there. Those able bodied people who go there and expect to live in total ease and comfort, are in fact missing out.

    I for one am looking forward to something that was missing in 2011, a good half to full day long strong winded white out. Bring it!

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  • G says:

    Is this new policy in part, the BMORG’s response to a certain champaign company’s camp?

    Sorry to be a bit off topic in my previous post.

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  • all sounds like great reminders but also one big DUH. it should also be specified that virgins especially, oh most especially, in Turnkey Camps read the Survival Guide and abide by the principals.

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  • Located in a turnkey rental desirable neighborhood, this property features huge open floor plan, finished basement, large back deck and wetbar in basement.

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  • My wife and I are staying in a turnkey camp this year. We attend regional burns and participate in our local burner community. Even though we are staying in a turnkey camp, we actively gift and are tightly bonded and active with two other camps as well as an art car project. We are in our mid 50’s and we always camp in out tent at regional burns, but this year, like last, we chose to spend a small fortune and go turnkey. Our fellow residents in the turnkey camp last year included parents of a couple who decided to get married at BM and several international attendees who could not have attended at all if not for the turnkey service. They all gifted and shared and actively participated in honoring BM principals. While our service was not the $10k a day rocks star tour busses with Segway’s for transportation and private dining cars. I did encounter some of the people in that group and they also seemed to understand the need to integrate and contribute to the community. Many in that luxury camp were in the entertainment industry, I met some who were performers providing entertainment or services for some of the major BM events. Yes, they were wealthy and pampered, but they had come to give back, not just to take. It may seem unfair after sweating in a tent for a week to see burners dining in an air conditioned tour bus, but it hinges are not always as bad as they seem. I’ve hitchhiked across the country and at time in my life was so poor my power was shut off. If I choose to drive my old car for a few more years and spend the money to stay in an RV at BM is that really such a bad thing?

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  • No Ticket says:

    Maybe these campers should still go through the lottery like the rest of us…regardless the cost of their Burning Man package.

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  • Pink says:

    Lots of international burners make it without ‘turnkey’ service. Lots of people in their 50’s & 60’s also make it without ‘turnkey’ service; myself included.

    I don’t think the article made a good distinction between paying for everything to be there for you (which is the defining factor of turnkey, or pay-to-play, etc) and simply having a camp to go to. For example, those of us with EAP will be building our theme camp. Those without are going to come in to a pretty decent camp setup on Monday; they’ll just have to set up their tents, add to our camp kitchen, and get situated. But they aren’t paying for the privledge with anything more than the camp duties we ALL perform to be a part of our theme camp. And I mean duties, not dues.

    So I say, find a camp you like or form one yourself. Rent your own damn RV or build a hexayurt (pretty damn comfy those are). Bring up your own food and cook it yourself. Be self reliant. And please don’t hide behind your age-it’s not all 20-something sparkleponies out there, and a lot of us over 50’s are creating the city, not just living in it.

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  • Twinkletoes says:

    Oh come on, I can’t even believe this is an issue! turnkey camps are completely antithetical to the spirit of Burningman. Period. You can rationalize all you want about how these lookie-loos “participate,” but if you are so lame and so eager to distance yourself from the actual effort of all that self-reliance entails, then you just should not BE at Burningman. I mean seriously – yuck! If I make it out again this year, I think my art project will be to wrap every PnP camp I stumble across with caution tape!! :)

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  • dave says:

    I dont know if you would call us a turnkey camp but I drive the truck and pull the RV along full of every ones needs with a buddy others that dont have good cars to make the trip will fly in or a bunch will rent a van and carpool to it and we all meet up The idea I posted about a rail service to stop there would be great for these non car people and keep down the road users .

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  • Nate says:

    Clearly an issue that can be cast in different light, and is susceptible to multiple points of view. So it is easy to lose focus on the fact that the real problem is a gut feeling for most of us who build our own structures, pound our own rebar, plan our own camps, source our own dry ice, and sew our own nylon meat dresses, that floating around on a rented segue fending off peeled grapes with a sated sigh is a total cop out on self reliance, non commodification and everything else. Now the argument is heard that people rely on others all the time of course, but me relying on you to bring the buns and potato salad to a potluck picnic, or the generator and evaporation pond to Burning Man, when I bring the steaks and stripper pole, or weld the fuck out of an old pontiac, put a wig on it and call it Art Carfunkle is collaborative… and that is a beautiful contrast to radical self reliance. And that contrast is nicely balanced. But while going to a potluck with a side dish or even a bag of pretzels is collaborative, if not entirely self reliant, coming with a $20 bill, eating and splitting is not anything within the ten principles. And running a potluck where you provide everything and the others pay you cash… that’s a restaurant buffet right? And I’m sorry, but you don’t hold a wedding at Burning Man because it’s accessible. C’mon! Radical inclusion does not trump the other principles.
    Now the tricky argument I hear goes something along the lines of “I’ve worked hard in the past and been paid for it, to live easy in the present and pay for it.” Um, ok tie that to a principle. Not sure that you can, since “Timeshifting Effort” is not a principle of Burning Man, and if anything it likely runs counter to the principle of Immediacy—as in what are you doing now for the community and your own enrichment? The happiest I have ever been at Burning Man were in the years I made do with the least. (So what’s that about?)
    Plus, saying that past deeds or experience make up for current lack of contribution reeks of entitlement. 
    When I think of non commodification I think lack of contractual intentions, I think a severing of economic chains… even just temporarily… so we can feel and experience the lightness of being in a society that does not honor money. And if we are to feel the presence of money, let it be conspicuous largess and outpourings of light and art on behemoth scale, not conspicuous consumption in RV ghettos where for-profit Burners agonize over how to get their clients to understand participation (you’ve already absolved them of the onus to have that conversation when you took a deposit). I think of the playa as a space-like vacuum that sucks away almost all of society’s strictures and unquestioned moral codes. The strictures of employer-employee relations should certainly stay sucked away. The only codes that should remain are those that nourish some aspect of our souls. 

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  • Dr. Real says:

    I understand the need for turnkey camps, artiest don’t have time to set up camp and art projects, people fly in from far away and just can’t bring all the stuff they need ect.. My concerns are it is starting to look like a trailer park at the burn in certain areas and not all people have the resources to afford a turnkey camp, pay for a ticket, and pay for transportation. One idea is to charge a fee for turnkey camps more for turnkey RV’s and less for something more unique i.e. yurt, geodesic dome, hippy bus ect.. I am not taking about someone who set up the camp for their buddies I an talking about someone who is profiting off burning man, then use the money to provide low income housing perhaps purchase some yurts and have volunteers help set them up. This plays into the several of the principals of burning man Participation, Communal Effort, Decommodification, Radical Inclusion.

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  • WORD! says:

    I’m disgusted to hear that BMORG set aside tickets for these sorts of camps. For $10000/person you are guaranteed a ticket and a reserved “Theme Camp”. What a joke.

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  • Griz says:

    What is going on? Did you forget the first point of Burning Man Culture BMORG? Free advertisements for your business available, please contact Jack Rabbit speaks for more information….

    > Flying into and out of Burning Man has always been one way to save the drive, avoid the lines at Gate and Exodus, and arrive like a rock star. With the record number of participants this year, it’s also a great way to keep cars off the highways and reduce pollution. Advantage Flight, a Burner-owned and -operated charter air service with over 500 playa flights logged since 2005, teamed up with several other charter operators with a goal of reducing at least 800 cars from this year’s Burn. Advantage now offers many daily non-stop flights between the BRC Airport and Reno, and then to and from the Bay and Northern California, LA and SoCal, the Pacific Northwest, and Utah. In addition to passengers, Advantage can fly in time-critical materials for build crews, such as baggage, fresh food, and other supplies.
    > Check out http://www.advantageflight.com/bman.html for details.

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  • Erin says:

    You know its something antithetical to the Burning Man ethos when you gotta remind folks to “read and understand” the 10 principles.

    Just sayin’

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  • Josh says:

    Guys thank you so much for tackling this very tough issue! There is indeed a fine line that separates a Theme camp from a “Plug and Play” camp – I think the best definition of course is that a Theme camp gives back to the broader community, while Plug & Play may not (likely doesn’t).

    So Plug & Play has it’s good points – it IS a “safety net” for those who would otherwise be horrified to go out in the desert for 8 days not really knowing what they’re getting into. Our theme camp in the first year we went certainly provided that. And I “get it” that all the planning for going out there is really really tough, and maybe in some cases having the issues on-Playa worked out for you enables you to focus on art FOR the Playa – if so, GREAT!

    But my fear, my very real fear, is that Plug & Play encourages an event of viewers (voyers, if you will) rather than an event of PARTICIPANTS. Without active participation much of the allure of the event is lost. While I know it’s near-impossible to completely eliminate the possibility that someone comes in as a business venture and sets up plug and play, it strikes at the very heart of decommodification and should be discouraged. An event with 45,000 dedicated people preferable to an event with 60,000 people where 25% are spectators-only.

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  • Pink says:

    The thing is, Burning Man isn’t for those who cannot camp for 8 days in the desert without support. We’ve got an international (European) Burner in our camp. Yes, he’ll likely bring less stuff than our founder, who drives the box truck. For that matter, everyone brings less than the guy with the box truck. But he was reliant enough to find a camp to which he could contribute. The first camp I was with for my first burn hosted a group of Japanese who made it every year without paying for a camp space-although they did prepare an authentic Japanese dinner for the camp.

    Self reliance and community do go hand in hand. But paying for accommodations and special treatment has NO PLACE at the burn.

    But to refute Word! the BORG doesn’t set aside tix for the commodified camps. One hurriedly changed their website to “must secure your own ticket” after the lottery was announced.

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  • G says:

    So much grey area!
    In my mind, it is similar to a famous quote from a judge concerning pornography, “I can’t define a plug & play or a turn key camp, but I know one when I see it”
    Along with what the BMORG is already doing, they could add extra emphasis on the participation angle in all of their PR and handbooks.
    IMHO the best that can be done is to use all manner of encouragement, and only get heavy handed with the blatant examples.

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  • Bill says:

    Note to readers: “Plug & Play” is not the Gray Rabbit buses, serving folks who would not otherwise be there. It’s the situations where folks are paying $1,000, $3,000 or more PER PERSON to be catered to, while they PRETEND to be at BM.

    Last year I biked by the areas walled-off by $400,000 RVs, parked end to end. Ridiculous! But they’ve got the cash, so will BMORG do anything to return the inner streets to the people… I bet not.

    Be angry when you see these exclusive little villas at BM. That’s not what it’s supposed to be. Especially with all the preaching the rest of us get about how it’s a non-cash environment…

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  • Mr Mullen says:

    If you can not get your shit together to camp/RV and participle out in the desert for 5 – 8 days, Burning Man is not for you. It does not matter what you have read in Rolling Stone/Sunset/AAA Guide magazine, this event is simply not for you. Sorry, but someone had to say it. We can say we are as Radically Inclusive as we want, but if the Burning Man culture starts to tolerate the bending of some of its most important rules (Radical Self-Reliance), then the event is doomed, not because no one goes, but because too many people want to go. This year’s ticket fiasco is a clear reflection that Burning Man should be a little tougher on some of the participants who are just going because “it is a big party in the desert.”

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  • G says:

    Since the demand for tickets is exceeding supply inherently requires “culling the herd” so to speak, then this is a opportunity to manage, encourage, discourage the makeup of the participants, it that is the road that is to be taken. The lottery may well be BMORG’s way of washing its hands of being judgmental and discriminating.

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  • Pete Lee says:

    There was an article in last year’s BRC Weekly (http://brcweekly.com/BRCWeekly2011_int.pdf) that touches on the “turnkey camping” issue; I don’t agree with the assertions or the conclusions made by “Mr. Redundant” but do believe he makes some points worth considering.

    That said, I think the most useful principle to consider here comes from SCOTUS Judge Stewart, who basically noted that he couldn’t define what porn was–but knew it when he saw it (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_know_it_when_I_see_it).

    While there are practical aspects of attending Burning Man that come up against certain principles (for example, the cost of attending is not trivial–and butts up against the notion of “radical inclusion”), it’s my belief that turnkey camping seems to fail a “gut feeling taste test” when it comes to Burning Man.

    For one thing, it seems to be at odds with “radical self-reliance”. Paying money to someone (not even a vague barter) to make meals or set up camp structures wouldn’t pass the “Participation” taste test. Theme camps, on the other hand, generally have systems where everyday participation happens with simple things: some folks joyfully make meals; others focus on more conventional “gifts” of art, music, performance. And where would we be without the hard work (frequently unseen and underappreciated, IMHO) of organizations like DPW and Playa Restoration?

    Turnkey camps seem like the wrong way to start off a Burning Man experience. Pre-Playa preparation for my first Burn was, for me, a spiritual and community-building experience. It wasn’t just about buying camping gear: it was reaching out to veterans and finding out what would work on the Playa–and hearing all sorts of wonderful and enriching stories (some even related to the gear in question) about life in BRC. Heck, I was even gifted various things along the way: the ethos and experience of Burning Man doesn’t have to begin or end on the Playa. When we turn these things over to others, we chip away at our own experience.

    Additionally, a focus of being involved with elemental living activities is very grounding (ostensibly, another frequently valued experience of being at Burning Man). I, for one, find cooking for myself and others a joy (due to work schedule and travel, I cook around 10 meals a year for myself). There’s something to be said for de-commodifying something I typically do in the Default World (i.e., eating a restaurants)–and in the process, reconnect with myself and others.

    I’m hopeful that many more Burners will think thoughtfully about what’s been said in this blog entry–and post their views and opinions in an articulate and honest manner. I don’t necessarily know how this policy can be best crafted; yet, I believe most reasonable and prudent Burners can assess circumstances around a Turnkey Camp and say “yeah, that’s pretty much nuking the Ten Principles out of orbit.”

    N.B. I think this blog post makes a very salient point mentioning that it’s hard to enforce aspects of “vending” related to turnkey camping. None of us want BRC to become a police state (a la Gate saying “Hippie, background checks show that you have a foodservice permit–and have probable cause to believe that you’re a famed lentil chef cooking at that turnkey camp”). Perhaps the answer is community involvement on Playa–and some honest and respectful dialogue amongst those who utilize these services and those who don’t.

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  • Foxy says:

    Burning Man HQ, thanks for informing the community about this, trying to manage the situation, and inviting our feedback.

    I’ll be attending my fifth Burn this year, and I have to say that I find the turnkey situation very disturbing. As I see it, allowing turnkey camps supports the principal of radical inclusion but is in direct opposition to the principals of decommodification, radical self-reliance, communal effort, and, more often than not, civic responsibility and participation.

    I don’t have to tell you how precious Burning Man is to our community, and I also fully appreciate and enjoy the fact that the event will continue to change from year to year. That being said, it seems to me that given the now-overwhelming demand for tickets, BM has a unique opportunity to address this situation that pits one of the ten principals against five of the others.

    I sincerely hope that you will consider prohibiting turnkey camps to the best of your ability in future years; I just don’t see how allotting tickets to groups that violate half of the 10 principals is good for anyone.

    I think this could be accomplished quite well via the ticketing process by following some of the suggestions that you are no doubt already considering for future years: attaching a name to each ticket and making it non-transferable other than to be returned to BM to be sold on to another participant, and sorting out the true theme camps from the turnkeys when allocating blocks of directed tickets.

    I’d love to hear from BM’s thoughts about this and what they are thinking for the future.

    That’s all. See you on the playa. :)

    Radical Inclusion —


    Decommodification— .

    Radical Self-reliance — .

    Radical Self-expression —

    Communal Effort —

    Civic Responsibility —

    Leaving No Trace



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  • Famous says:

    thanks for addressing this. As a long time Burner / Ranger some of my biggest difficulties with fellow participants has been with the “Roadie” element. Allowed in to build (add Giant too big to fail super camp here) and then left to rattle around with out a clear understanding of where and why they are on playa. often trashing their employers and other participants, stealing, fighting and other wise not getting it. Please train your “staff” it is better for them and the event. thanks – R. Famous.

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  • J says:

    I’ve got a question for the BMORG around:

    “You are responsible for making sure that no money is exchanged for private services in Black Rock City. Only pre-arranged plans and off-site pre-purchasing of goods and services are allowed at Burning Man.”

    We’re NOT a turn-key camp, and we try to follow these rules to the letter, however…. United Site Services, Burning Man’s sole and “official” grey water contractor, ONLY accepts cash on site. Are they considered a special exception, like Ice and Coffee?

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  • The residents of turnkey camps hardly have a monopoly on failure to fully live up to every BM principle. Plenty of tent dwellers eat all the cookies and wash their hair with the last of the communal drinking water. I’m also not sure how buying an RV (or staying with someone who did) is more noble than renting a space for a few days (or staying with someone who did). Virtually every camp is centered around an RV or structure that someone else bought or built and the fact that these spaces are often shared with friends is something that also happens in turn-key camps. BM is awash with sparkle ponies for whom everything about BM has been largely “turnkey’, and I don’t hear anyone here complaining that BM should only be for dusty old gals who don’t wash or shave. ;-) The fact that some are staying in turnkey camps doesn’t mean that they aren’t actively contributing and participating with camps, art projects and gifting. In many cases, like mine, going turnkey has enabled us to increase our participation. Last year I rented an RV and drove it to BM. This year the RV company no longer rents RVs because of the damage from dust, but offered to rent me a trailer that they will drop off at BM instead. This saves gas since they bring them out stacked on a big truck a day in advance. It also helps by getting a few more big vehicles of the road for both entrance and exodus. I understand the difference between sleeping in an RV and sleeping in a tent. I don’t own an RV, so I’m generally a tent dweller. I’ve hitchhiked across the country and camped all over. So forgive me if I find it difficult to feel bad about this turnkey issue. I think the issue of what is turnkey and what isn’t is largely a matter of semantics. I think it’s also important to note that very few people come to BM without an understanding and appreciation for the principals. And those few who do tend to be transformed by the event and leave with greater appreciation for those principals. Unless your bed mate runs off and leaves you for an RV owner with AC, a shower and a 35 gallon tank of hot water, there are much better things to be concerned about in the world than this issue. Peace.

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  • FYI, As far as I know, no additional tickets were granted by BMORG to any turnkey camps and no turnkey camps were offering tickets as part of their package. If there is shame in spending money to attend BM, then there is loads of shame to go around. Perhaps we should all be ashamed to be spending so much time, energy and money on a hedonistic week in the desert when the world in general is in such need of our help. I suspect that the total value is well over a billion dollars when it’s all added up. It’s only the belief that BM serves to inspire greater efforts in the world that reduces those feelings of guilt. This was exactly the case when I attended and was inspired by the TEDxBlackRockCity talks at BM last year. It was there that I encountered some of the members of the big rockstar turnkey camp that hosted those talks and made them possible. Interesting that the most hedonistic of hedonistic camps would be the ones hosting one of the events with the most redeeming value to the world outside.

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  • Mermaid says:

    If you are part of a camp that supports artists by feeding and housing them, awsome! If you can afford to rent an RV or a tour bus, good for you. But if your activities are exclusive, in that they only include people based on a monitary transaction made before the event, then your camp does not belong any where near the man, because it does not follow the principal of radical inclusion.

    (I am referring to camps where you can buy your meals in advance, ect. Any camp that is NEVER open to the public is a good example of my definition of turnkey. I have come to the burn internationally for over 10 years now. I sleep in a tent and cook for myslef, and open my camp to guests and neibours once a day.)

    Camps that provide EXCLUSIVE services for profit, should be placed on their own street- Z avenue. These are not theme camps, and take up public space that shold go to camps providing inclusive services that inspire participation. I hope that in the future, camps that exist for participation, and individuals setting up their own camps, should get better placement then exclusive camps created for profit … at least at Burning Man.

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  • Twister Lee says:

    I must say I am very disappointed not to see a more restrictive stand where “turnkey camping” is concerned. Decommodification has always been a key aspect of the event for me, so seeing larger and larger amounts of “staff” present really rubs me the wrong way. Services are the new commodification and there must be some way to limit them sensibly. Staff also take up tickets, as do wealthy spectators. At this point I would like to see the bar to attending raised, not lowered. Working to create your space on the playa creates a sense of personal ownership regarding what happens there. Going on a whim and hiring a caterer doesn’t.

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  • Sara says:

    So, how’s this working out for everyone?

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  • Dusty says:

    Yeah, I’d say this one needs a big fat update. There’s nothing discouraging in these guidelines at all. As Twister said two years ago… “Services are the new commodification”. Yep.

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  • LARRY FINLEY says:

    I am a member, I guess, of a turnkey camp, since I pay dues, show up early with just my van, nothing more, and somehow the tents, lumber, speakers, booze, tools, lights, generator, water, showers, fuel magically show up in a different but bigger van, and later on people from all over the world show up in rented cars or carpooling and they offer ME, yes, ME, the most entertaining time with the most generous food, and the greatest of entertainment I can imagine. And if you stumble into our camp and receive some of our hospitality then I guess you are also a member of our wonderful turnkey camp.

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  • James says:

    In the 2 years I’ve come to BM I’ve met movies stars, porn stars, authors, celebrity chefs and IT execs. They all were “present” in the experience, didn’t care if you recognized them. They gifted, shared and often used only playa names.

    I don’t know where they camped half the time and it didn’t matter.

    As for the physical presence of turnkey camps, one night I was walking past a large “gated” one, just past the back of a sound camp. It was so dark with huge trailers and buzzing generators. It didn’t feel like I was at burning man at all for a stretch. It was lonely, isolated and very dark. It felt like I was trespassing. I promised myself I wouldn’t go near that part of the playa again.

    I am torn. Regardless of wealth or status I’ve seen people be radical and be participating. However the camps themselves feel very disruptive in the space we all share.

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  • DrTune says:

    As outlandish as it seemed when my campmate suggested it maybe 5 years ago; BAN RVs is seeming to be both readily enforcible at the gate AND beneficial for the community.

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  • Chris Phoenix says:

    It’s not in the Principles, but for me it’s the underlying spirit of Burning Man: Diversity Is Awesome.

    And if Diversity Is Awesome, then jealousy is pointless.

    I’ve attended in ’08, ’09, ’12, and ’14. The first three years I camped solo; this year I joined a project camp.

    If something doesn’t make the Burning Man experience worse for the average person, then why care? And unless it makes it a _lot_ worse, why even talk about banning it?

    Turnkey camps are way down on my list of things that make the experience worse.

    1) The piece of quasi-human trash who was tagging all the porta-potties by the Temple Thursday night. I ran him off, but I had no way to sic law enforcement on him, and he probably just found another bank of potties and did it again. I’d rather share BRC with 1000 Turnkey people, plus a staff member apiece, than with that one person. No question.

    2) Will Call. Make whatever excuses you like – making people spend 24 hours in line for tickets is just Not OK. And no, I wasn’t in the line. I just think it sucks.

    3) Big art at the expense of medium-sized art; LEDs at the expense of craft. Most of the really cool art I saw on the Playa this year turned out to have wheels and a motor. You don’t have to agree with me; I’m just mentioning this to say it bugs me a lot more than Turnkey.


    5) Not enough tickets for everyone who wants to come and share their awesomeness.


    17) Walls of motorhomes along a few of the streets. Come on – how many streets are there in the City?


    (Not even on the list): Knowing that some people paid a lot of money to get catered to.

    Everyone who came to Burning Man spent probably $1000 or more. If you are eating lukewarm hot dogs while someone else is getting a catered meal – well, for $50 more you could have been eating barbecued Tri-Tip. That’s on you, not on them.

    When I look at the anti-Turnkey opinions, I hear jealousy at least half the time. They spent heaps of money. They arrived by plane. They import supermodels. They eat catered food. They have air conditioning.

    SO WHAT?

    Are they actually making Burning Man worse for the rest of us?

    The only argument I’ve heard that actually holds water is that the staff consumes tickets. By using staff, they’re keeping others out of the City. OK, then – what limits the size of Burning Man? Whatever it is, get the rich camps – the ones with staff – to do whatever is needed (pay off BLM?) to get twice as many extra tickets allowed as the number of staff they import.

    Ban Turnkey camps? Why bother? We don’t ban stoners, rednecks, hippies, sparkle ponies, shirtcockers, or even people who show up unprepared or who get seriously injured through their own incompetence. Why pick on this one group?

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  • Ben Wnuk says:

    I feel the dialog has been going in a poor direction. There’s one principle that I feel is being dismissed here, and that’s the principle of Radical Inclusion. To one degree or another, every one of us is throwing money at improving our experience. It’s all just a matter of scale and perspective. Some pay $100 in camp dues, other’s pay $10000 for a turn key experience. I can tell you which appeals to me more, but it’s not my place to exclude people for how they want to spend their time on the playa.

    Where we really need to focus our attention is on the individuals and companies providing these turnkey experiences. They bring along an 11th principle: Radical Profit. The entrepreneurial spirit can be found throughout the burner community, but most of see the inherent conflict of interest in bringing it to the playa, instead leaving capitalism for the other 51 weeks out of the year. The simple fact of the matter is that you can’t both hold true to the 10 Principles AND hold true to capitalism at the same time.

    Capitalism depends on maximizing profit and minimizing costs. Gifting cuts into profits. How thorough should your moop sweep be when time equals money? Can operators be trusted to simultaneously uphold the best interest of the community AND the best interest of their bank account? And worse, those that are paid to serve others have agreed to put their contractual obligations above their social obligations to the community.

    And perhaps of greatest concern to me: Burning Man tickets are a limited, finite resource. At the very *least*, paid servants / staff / sherpas need to be counted as contractors, not participants, and have some sort of ability to report abuses and get help if needed. Call it the Department of Mutant Labor or something.

    And regulate those damn camps. They have every right to be there, right up until they infringe on the rest of our rights. We’re all VIP’s on the playa, and they can’t forget that. If they can be good neighbors, clean up after themselves, and put forth a good-faith effort to uphold our community values then let them shit all they want in their air-conditioned playa timeshares.

    But if an operator demonstrates an inability to abide by the rules and respect the principles, well then, that’s where Radical Inclusion ends and they need to GTFO.

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  • Maya says:

    Why grant placement to Turnkey camps?
    The BMorg knows who they are. If they have shown in the past to disregard the ethos and profit off the city then they don’t deserve camp placement. Let them find their camping spot like all other unaffiliated participants.

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  • ChairMan says:

    Had it not been for a great friend that invited me to my first burn, told me what to do, how to prepare, then helped me appreciate, contribute and most importantly introduced me to the Camp I am currently with, I would not have returned again.

    By paying camp dues, I essentially pay my way into a mini-turnkey camp, for if it were not for the camp, I would not have had a shower, or a porta-poty 50 feet from my van. On some levels of my psyche I despise the whole PnP-Turnkey concept however I feel that they do in-fact serve a vital function. BM is not today what it was even 5 years ago. As times, and pressures change so must we as a group. I think that the BMORG will come to a resolution that will benefit all, not to the burner that has been going for 20 years, but for the benefit of BM as a whole.

    After taking the census for the last 2 years, I noticed the percentage of virgins is rather high. As the US government did many years ago, might it be possible to require a virgin to find a non-virgin sponsor. That sponsor would be responsible for imparting the 10 principals, teaching bicycle safety, etc. Again for had it not been for my great friend that held me under his wing, taught me how and what to do, I too would have only been a spectator.

    Love you all, see you again

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  • MaxTov says:

    Official part:
    Turnkey camps are clearly “For Profit” setup and there goes the principal of Decommodification.
    Also it goes against Radical self-reliance – relying on a stack of $100 bills is not really it. Haven’t seen anything regarding “Radical Reliance on hired help” in principles either.
    Unofficial part:
    Flying from afar IMO doesn’t justify anything at all – lots of people (myself included) are flying in – airlines rules are the same, actually coming from Europe you get 1st bag free. Anybody can order stuff online from Walmart and pick it up in Reno – that works just fine. Anybody can rent a car/RV, cook his/her own meal, provide for oneself and cleanup afterwards.

    First experiences – no big deal – sign up with some camp ahead of time, there will be plenty of people to advise you how and what to do. It is not a rocket science really – common sense rules.

    People who are too busy to provide for themselves but wouldn’t mind going – well, guess the event can carry on without them – just like it would without folks who didn’t bother to buy tickets, reserve airfare or can’t get their shit together in general. Radical inclusion was not designed provide for those.

    Does paying of camp dues constitute “paying into mini-turnkey camp”? It depends. If you’re not participating in anything else, you’re getting close to it. However you still coming up with your own shelter, food and doing cleanup in the end. BTW, next time you might want to volunteer to build a shower, run couple of bar shifts, join kitchen crew – there are plenty of ways to contribute.

    Ban RVs – RV themselves are not a problem, lack of people’s participation and contribution to a common cause is.

    Why bother? – I think there is a reason. If you start diluting anything (beer is a good example) with any non-active ingredient (water?), you might not notice it at first, but after a while it ain’t gonna be beer, ain’t gonna be water – just some disgusting crap you totally don’t want. I see people in Turnkey camps as this inactive ingredient – coming not one or two at a time, but by busloads turning Burning Man into that ungodly substance. The original principals are there for a reason and proved to work for quite a while. Commodification of BM and accommodating non-self-reliant people will ruin it faster than anything else.

    How to get rid of PnP/Turnkey camps – limiting “vendors” might be a good start…

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  • Brown Shugga says:

    Hey Chairman,
    I just want to clarify that getting help from your camp and Turnkey camps are not the same thing. I also was takin under someones wing my first year, had a shower I could use and a huge kitchen. I could have used the donated bikes my camp brought and have a General place to hang that I did not need to worry about hailing myself. The difference is i helped set up that General Tent, I gifted food out of the Kitchen I made sure all the bikes were back on the truck at the end and helped de-moop my camp when it was packed. Though my camp provides a lot I would never even consider us the same as a TurnKey and from what you said neither is yours. You just have a awesome camp. I think we need more of them rather than people who are “too busy” to be self relient. Last point and I will leave it I met someone working for a turncamp this year. Not only was her ticket paid for but she was being paid to be at the event. As a low income burner I feel all tickets need to go to people willing to contribute to the culture, not just come to party and take and leave.

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  • Heidi says:

    Turnkey camps *do* hurt the rest of us, because they get special placement, early arrival and take up craptons of space. That makes it harder for the rest (few?) of us who don’t belong to a theme camp to find a decent place to camp.

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  • Campmaster says:

    I think with any placed theme camp the service provided should relate to the size of the camp. A camp of 6 people can provide free oranges, but a camp of 100+ should provide something more significant. A camp near us that I personally liked consisted of 60+ people but their public face was 1 person tending a road side bar for 60 minutes a day. Based on their contribution they should never have been placed!

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  • Dr. Baron von Realz Esq. says:

    To me it is about the amount of effort and giving back e.g. at what point is a theme camp providing too much and at what point a theme camp expecting too much, and what is the camp adding to the community.

    The effort is part of the experience and you should be able to embrace and overcome the journey including the harsh environment without others being financially obligated to serve you. Every burner should serve others and not expect other to serve you this is part of the experiment. Humility art and compassion are the currency of burning man. Hiring someone to come to the playa and serve you undercuts the obligation of humility art and compassion as a currency. This is different than getting together as a group and sharing the cost and obligations or a plug n work camp( people who build the city, art ect..). If you step on to the playa during burning man beholden to a financial obligation to another, on the playa, the magic is gone for both of you and the experiment is over now it is just a festival.

    I have been bitten by the shark (had my ass kicked) numerous times. One example is I had my shelter devoured by the playa and after I am thinking ok I can’t just run out and buy another shelter what the fuck am I going to do. Panic sets in because I am so used to throwing money at my problems but I am forced to deal with it in a different way. I was put at mercy of others, and they will humble you (fuck with you) and rightly so. After the hazing the playa will provide, humility art and compassion are the currency of burning man if you embrace them you are rich.

    My camp plays host to virgin and foreign burner the effort the foreign burners have to make to be at burning man is much more than mine. I just load up my truck with all my crap and if I leave before sun rise I will be in BRC before sun set. Foreign burners have a whole host of logistical and finical issue to overcome that I do not have to deal with. Not the least of which is not being able to bring all their supplies on the plane, traveling several days to arrive, having to depend on others or rent a vehicle to travel, the expenses of travel, the expenses buying all your supplies and then leaving them behind, the anxiety of traveling to a foreign county when English may be your second language. I personally do not believe in turnkey camps but I must admit I have a soft spot and understand our brother and sister who make the journey from distant lands and their desire to have things in place before they arrive. I try to easy their burden of my foreign burners where I can, at the same time I understand this is their experience and they need to make the effort. Virgins whether foreign or not have an expectation that they are about to give themselves over to the playa they are anxious excited and a little scared as we all know the playa is harsh. Some camps take advantage of the inexperienced demanding both high expiations and excessive finical obligation sometime not providing what they promised.

    Then there is the issue of profit should a theme camp turn a profit? This is open to a whole host of legal and moral issues. Should he/she be paid for his/her time? What would be a fair compensation? If it is a for profit venture what is the camp giving back to the community? That said I am always in awe of money that is spent on mutant vehicles, theme camps, and art projects. The question is are we trading away something more valuable than these tangible objects of entertainment. The world I fear is one of stratification, one where the person of a certain perceived status is only a form of control for the person of perceived wealth.

    I see the arguments the for profit camps make and it seems to me what they do not understand is this is not a festival it is an experiment in social construct. If you and your clients want to join us it needs to be on our terms not yours. Hiring others to server you is not cool, giving back to the community is cool, profiting off theme camp not cool, giving profits back to the community is cool, over working your minions not cool, sharing camp chores is cool, paying someone directorate your bike not cool, directorating your own bike is cool.

    The reason many of us are upset is for us this is not a for profit venture. Many of us go into debt every year, myself including, we pour our hearts into our art, in whatever form that takes. I know one artiest in particular who makes large amazing structures. Despite the debt he is a rich man a humble compassionate artiest. If you are giving back to the community that is wonderful I encourage you to enlighten us so we can embrace you. If you are a opportunists taking advantage of the community find away to give back, and no providing for an exclusive group is not giving back.

    Dr. Baron von Realz Esq.

    “Be wary, men of wealth carry illusions of power”
    – Dr. Baron von Realz Esq.

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  • Shimmer~ says:

    I don’t think that they should get any special or help such as assigned tickets, structural help with set up from BRC staff, assigned placements like a theme camp, or other BRC assistance reserved for large theme camps just because they pay.
    I have been only annoyed by people I have meet from these camps that service others. The one behind us was insulting last year and did not benefit our city. We want a city that changes people for the better and encourages everyone to participate in similar ways. These camps do not do this. I don’t like BRC taking money from them and soiling our goals. Simply posting rules just does not fix the issue as they know what they are doing.

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