A Turning Point for Placement

The Camp Placement Questionnaire closed on April 25 and the Placement Team saw the most questionnaires in Burning Man history: 1914 submissions, which is a 24% increase from 2018! For the first time, there’s not enough room for everyone wishing to be placed. It’s a moment we’ve anticipated for a while, but has arrived sooner than we expected. 

How Did We All Get Here?

A majority of people used to arrive to Burning Man, find a spot in open camping, negotiate boundaries with their neighbors, build their temporary homes, and provide engagement and interactivity to the community. Perhaps that’s how your camp started.

As the city grew, so did camps. People got more organized and logistics got more complex, so reserving space and early access became more highly desired. When tickets sold out for the first time in 2011, Directed Group Sales tickets were created to maintain cohesive communities for theme camps and to provide them with reliable access to the event. Placement has evolved over time to mean much more than just getting a home address on playa.

Today, the Placement Team dedicates thousands of volunteer hours each year to assess Camp Placement Questionnaires and help camps understand the placement criteria. We’ve found historically that most camps are trying their best to do it right, address issues that arise, and that between 90-95% of camps qualify for Placement under our current criteria. In 2018, 1,541 camps requested placement, 1,471 camps were placed, and 70 camps did not receive placement. In 2017, 1,524 camps requested placement, 1,395 camps placed, and 129 camps did not receive placement. 

What Placement is Doing This Year

This year there are 232 more theme camps and 17 more villages seeking placement than there were in 2018. Most of these new camps are small and medium sized with populations less than 40 people. Combined, we estimate that they represent approximately 10,000 Black Rock Citizens. These numbers show that much of the growth is being driven by open campers who wish to become placed camps.

When we looked at the total number of people represented across all camp questionnaires this year, the combined population ranges from 76,000 to 98,000. That figure is more people than the event’s population cap allows, and leaves no room for people who plan to be in open camping or walk-in camping. It’s reasonable to conclude that camps are hedging their bets with unrealistic camp sizes.

In past years, Placement had the space to move placed camps out further toward L street, while still maintaining reasonable amounts of open camping. You’ve probably noticed this trend with more blue flags on the back blocks of our city each year.

This year, Placement cannot expand the amount of available space, DGS tickets, and Work Access Passes to meet the full demand without toppling the entire system. We considered several options for addressing the issue:

  • Add more streets, which may be cost prohibitive and would not solve the underlying problem given the total population of BRC remains capped at 70,000 paid participants. Also, the 2019 city plan already adds an additional 50’ radially across the entire city to accommodate density.
  • Hold the proportion of placed vs. open camping square footage at 2018 levels (approximately 22% of the city), which would mean over 300 camps not receiving placement. We do not have additional established criteria to use to make those decisions and do not feel it’s right to suddenly not place camps who meet our existing criteria. 
  • Continue to place all camps that meet Placement’s existing criteria with the understanding that, in order to maintain open camping as a viable option, we will need to overhaul the system for 2020.

We think the best approach, in order to be the least disruptive to camps planning to attend Black Rock City this year, is to go with the third option. The Placement Team is holding camps to the same expectations we always have, and will continue to build vibrant and interesting neighborhoods in even more parts of the city. We’ll do this while preserving open camping in 2019, though the amount of space left for open camping will be reduced from 2018 levels.

Open campers may feel pinched from losing space; camps expecting placement may feel slighted if they’re not placed. We’re asking you to help make this year’s approach work, and more importantly, need your support to map the long term solutions to this new reality. Together, we all will have to make some hard changes necessary to make this system sustainable.

Placement’s Future

This turning point will require the best and most creative thinking from our community, and we hope you’ll give some thought to this challenge, and will share your ideas when the time comes to design a new system. Some of the things we’ll be considering as we design a new process include:  

  • The Black Rock City Cultural Direction Setting process: Many of you have engaged in this process over the past nine months through surveys, community conversations, and the Theme Camp Symposium. We appreciate how much our community has stepped up to think about how placement and open camping impact our culture, how much of residential BRC is pre-planned, and the role of the Placement Team. Any changes to the placement process will be grounded in the collective vision created through this collaborative process. 
  • How Placement distributes DGS tickets: The Directed Group Sale was designed to help theme camps and critical projects get access to a limited number of tickets for their core teams, to ensure their projects and plans were feasible. With the steady increase of the number of camps and projects, we no longer have enough DGS tickets to maintain a reliable core for all placed theme camps, and know that one motivation for a camp to get placement is to receive ticket access through a directed rather than an open sale process. 

We understand the core need for camps to receive blocks of tickets in order to plan for and participate in Burning Man, and we want to continuing meeting that need.. That being said, 2019 placed theme camps are not guaranteed 2020 DGS tickets based on the existing system’s rules. We will announce our approach for 2020 tickets for camps as soon as we can in the fall of 2019.  

  • How our community holds camps accountable: The Placement Team is limited in size so we rely on the community and neighbors to tell us about your experiences with each other’s camps. More than ever, we need to know what’s actually happening on the ground and for neighbors to hold each other to the standards of interactivity we all expect and to uphold the Ten Principles. We don’t want to just know about who’s doing it wrong, but who’s really doing it right.
  • Our Placement criteria: While our existing criteria has been a great foundation to assess camps and teach new camps how to come into the fold, we will be considering additional criteria to better differentiate camps. These criteria and metrics could include uniqueness, innovation, environmental sustainability, diversity,  self-sufficiency, capacity, quality, history, and size. 

This year’s theme of Metamorphoses is quite fitting for the turning point for Placement. As a community, we have the chance to pause, reflect, and re-conceive this critical piece of how people experience Black Rock City for many years to come.

How You Can Help Immediately:

  1. If your camp requested placement this year mainly to receive access to 2020 DGS tickets, and you really don’t have a developed theme camp or team, please consider withdrawing your questionnaire in order to make space for others. We want all placed camps to make genuine contributions and provide interactivity to the community, not just camps doing the minimum in order to receive future tickets.
  2. Know that bigger is not necessarily better, and that our culture is also about celebrating the small. Maybe you overestimated your camp size in your questionnaire or thought it would look impressive to be as big as you can. Maybe you had a big dream that you’re realizing you can’t pull off without the right amount of people in your camp. Now’s the time to update us and correct the size of your camp by emailing the Placement Team at placement@burningman.org.
  3. Remind people seeking camps that open camping is still an option. Theme camps should also consider forming in open camping without reserved placement. Some of the most serendipitous meetings, interesting interactions, and strongest communities occur in open camping. 

Change can feel unnerving, but I’m confident we’ll land in a better place. This is our chance to build an even better Black Rock City. The Placement Team remains committed to co-creating a vibrant city for all of us, and to uphold the Ten Principles in all of our decision-making. We’re here to help Black Rock City camps and neighborhoods continue to be the heartbeat of the Burn.

Placement Manager, Burning Man Project

With support from:
Marian Goodell, CEO of Burning Man Project

Charlie Dolman, Black Rock City Event Director
Harley K. Dubois, Chief Transition Officer and Founder of Placement
Trippi Longstocking, Associate Director and former Placement Manager

The Placement Team

Top photo by Will Roger Peterson

About the author: Burning Man

Burning Man

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

79 Comments on “A Turning Point for Placement

  • Rodeo Boy says:

    My friends and I really like getting the early arrival passes. So we always fake our Questionnaire and application. We come up with some crazy stuff every year – like how we’re going to have yoga healing sessions every hour. It’s all about holding ‘classes’ and having TED style talks. Don’t forget to have a stage, Placement loves when you have a stage.

    So we get our passes and just camp anywhere. It’s like adding a whole week to BM. But don’t go to your designated placement spot because Placement will come out and wonder what the fuck happened to the rest of your camp. “They broke down in Reno.” works for a little while, but they’ll catch on eventually.

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    • Pierre says:

      Are you for real Rodeo Boy?…
      I had a good laugh with your joke but careful, because you are giving ideas to the weirdos, man…

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      • My, oh my, it's a tom-tom beat says:

        Pierre, you don’t think this guy is serious? He may be pulling our leg but the idea(s) he’s mentioned are nothing new and have been going on for years with people using similar ideas to buff up on their camp footprint.

        Of course not everyone does it but I’ll bet at least 20% of camps do to one degree (i.e ‘fudging a bit’) or another ( full on Klondike Gold Rush). It’s just another example of how the cracks in the dam are getting bigger as the weakening and diluted social contract aligns itself up with the Tragedy of the Commons. No good will come of this as more and more ‘spectacle and bling’ encroaches on the more traditional areas of BRC (walk-in and open camping).

        In some ways it’s an appropriate metaphor for what many of us are witnessing in our default world communities where gentrification and huge monetary investment results in the slow incremental displacement of smaller enclaves of the community.

        I have no expectation that this will change any more than I expect the genie to be placed back in the bottle.

        “Nothing left here but a raging blaze…”

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    • Swiss Miss says:

      A free society slowly gives away its control by abusing those freedoms and demanding regulation.

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  • SinglePly says:

    How about provide big piles of scaffolding parts so we open camping ghetto dwellers can “build-up” and look down at and heckle placed camp elites?

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  • SK says:

    Can you elaborate on the incremental costs for adding additional streets?

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  • ThusspokeZaya says:

    Wasn’t it about strangers from places getting together and build up a bond forming a temporary neighborhood and community, aka ‘camp’, on the playa?
    Seems that open campers are not the majority anymore.

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    • Wayne-bo says:

      Camps also seem to have a negative impact on an open and fair opportunity for not just tickets but also early entry availability.

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      • My, oh my, it's a tom-tom beat... says:

        Not to mention the encroachment by huge RV’s and 5th wheel trailers (with only two people) gobbling up what remains of the ever shrinking open camping or the fence edges of walk-in camp parking.

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  • Bradley says:

    Bad, bad, bad BM.
    Excuse me… “Inclusion”, one of your very own “10 Principals”, does not exist under your new Placement Policy. We’ve only ever come in on our own (5 burns), self-sustained, excited to not know exactly where we were going to camp, and have chosen different sites around the “clock” every year. We’ve encountered more and more “blue tape” and unwelcoming attitudes from Camps securing much more area than they need — –all their peeps never show up.
    We’re all one big “Camp”, so please don’t restrict “open camping” any more than you and the “Camps” already have.
    If that little piece of diplomacy doesn’t go anywhere…I’m just going to park in whichever “Camp-ground” I want.

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    • Gilad - Fellow Open Camper (this will be my 5th time) says:

      Yup. We’re feeling the squeeze…

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      • Kim Stuart says:

        Bradley, I love you!!!! Thank you so much for your comments. True Burner Spirit.
        My husband and I ( both in our mid 60’s) have been to 10 previous Burns. This will be our 11 th th/ or 12 th?????. Always came in self sustainable and open camped. Every year, it has been fabulous to meet and camp wth new people from all over the world.
        However, the WORST part of our Burn, especially over the last 2-3 years, has been getting a camp spot.
        You all know what the issues are. But what does put a pickle up my behind is that people do not seem to be demonstrating our Beloved BM Principles, when they say ‘there is no room at the inn. Go somewhere else’
        Ok. We’re those people that respect, and consequently follow, all BM rules. We have an idea of the hours and hours of work that our people have put into trying to make everyone happy. So when there are people trying to take advantage of the system ( as in taping off their own overly large spaces ‘in case’ people show up) , that is just not the intended spirit of Black Rock City.
        We also know that people may have been in line for hours/travelled for days to get there. They are overly tired, hot, grouchy, fueled on junk food, already dehydrated,but that’s when we need to get some healthy food out, water and a bottle of tequila.
        We are all here together. YEA!!!!!! Let’s toast to that

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    • Pre-excluded says:

      I totally agree. Open camping has been crushed. You can’t just go to Burningman anymore without being part of a larger placed camp. Bmorg has created a self perpetuating problem. This is the reason myself and my partner (23 yrs of combined Bman participation) no longer go. The mystery is gone.

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    • Baconis says:

      Yes, this attitude is the first thing we encountered last year after going through the gates. We were unsure where to find the open camping area and set up somewhere we thought would be fine, and were aggressively run off because apparently they needed ALL of that space for building their art car. Our yurt was 3ft by 4ft. Really started off our week on a sour note.

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    • Pemblehead says:

      Totally agree! There has to be a way for the big camps to “prove” how many ticket holders they have. We won’t be back until we are able to self-camp with our small group. They really are straying from their roots it seems.

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    • Rjg says:

      Tons of wasted space through out the city.
      No camps should be expanding or allowed more space than their 2015 allotment. The larger numbers are faked to acquire more DGS…
      Meanwhile placement keeps giving larger spaces to camps that aren’t really expanding… just looking for extra and early entry tickets.

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    • Guzzle says:

      Well said!!!! Thank you!

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  • Blue Coyote says:

    As part of the 22% of open campers last year, we got to be part of an amazing ad hoc “camp” with folks from New Zealand, Amsterdam, Nebraska, California, and New Jersey. We had such a great time together we’re all hoping to meet up
    again this year. I sure hope we don’t get squeezed out by the blue-flagged psudo-camps that game the system. Placement says it relies on the community to help them to know what’s going on with camps, well I think you’re hearing it. The question is, when will you, as you say, establish the addition criteria to actually deal with these issues?

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  • John says:

    What about international virgin Burners? We don’t have a ‘camp’ as we have never attended yet, so not only do we not have the full understanding of how the camps work from an in-person experience perspective (always very different from just reading an FAQ) but we also are coming from another country so may not even have any local BM community to draw from. Our only real choice is the ‘open camping’ area. TBH, we are also older (50) live in a camper van (Vanlifer minimalists) and have some anxiety around our age and lifestyle for this event and in meeting people in general. So though we look forward to the idea of radical inclusion, we like the idea of open camping giving us a wee bit of autonomy that us older, introverted extroverts crave.

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    • Gilad - Fellow Open Camper (this will be my 5th time) says:

      Just go in with an open mind (and all the supplies you need to survive) and you’ll have an amazing experience! Burning Man is not only what you see in the well-produced techno videos online ;-)

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    • Jay says:

      Don’t stress. The age discrimination isn’t a problem. I think you will be fine. Bring earplugs tho.

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    • Zarafa says:

      You guys will be fine. This will be my 14th Burn. I was 47 for my first Burn, and was also worried I might be “too old”. Nothing could prepare me for finding out how little your age matters. It’s all about attitude and openness. So come join in!!

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    • MicheleLeBelle says:

      Please consider camping with us! We are Just Jeff and Michele LeBelle. We usually camp ariund 530-545 and J.

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  • Mobius Knots says:

    this has gotten beyond the first idea of Burning Man .no longer a bonfire with new friends camping , music .now a huge commercial mess .what happened ? Frisco , New York , Orleans, Key West , Paris …. where is this going ???

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  • tony says:

    KNOCK IT OFF!!! Add more street and suck up the cost…

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  • point says:

    I stayed a few years with theme camps all the perks etc and enjoyed the company, that was three years. This is my 9th year and I love camping on L, 5:30 or 5:45 and every year I meet new folk from around the world and by the end of twelve to fourteen days ( WAP ) I feel in touch or grounded with being. The only other place I met more folk from abroad is the Camino. Yea flags, them blue meanies from Yellow Submarine….

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    • CeLe says:

      I volunteer with Earth Guardians, but I like to camp out on the edge, meet new people and other old drifters coming in from the dust. In the default world, I’m on call as a caregiver. I love my fellow Burners, but want no schedule except my LNT patrols, please keep that option open for those of us who recharge on solitude.

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  • Aaron says:

    In the real world the solution to density is to build up. Perhaps this is the future of Burning Man as well. Why ignore the 3rd dimension?

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  • If MBORG acknowledges that one of the reasons people exaggerate their camp size is to get directed sale tickets, maybe you should finally fix the ticketing process. Fortunately our camp received a sufficient amount of DGS tickets this year so that most of us will be able to attend and provide our jewelry making to the Burning Man participants (“At The Oasis” – stop by to make cool jewelry!). But those members in our camp who did not get DGS tickets were unable to get any tickets in the general sale. In fact, I don’t know of a single person (in our camp or not) who was successful in getting a general sale ticket. The ticketing process was (once again) a huge debacle this year. Perhaps you should turn your attention to this process and come up with ways that the system won’t crash or reward bots that are scalping the system. That should remove the pressure of expected DGS tickets from people who only organize camps to guarantee tickets.

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  • Nir says:

    We all know that the playa become real estate and to put your Rv or tent in a camp that got placement can cost $1200-$1500.. it’s all bullshit :-(

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  • gta v apk says:

    Very good article :) I will return for more

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  • Share-ee says:

    Hmmm much has changed since the burns of the early 90’s and I have to ask, is this what Larry would want? It reminds me of how Coachella started as a protest to high ticket prices and now only the 1% can go. I’ve wanted to attend again as a camper for a few years now but not at $1000/ ticket per person. We started at $75 a head and now the only way to ensure to go is through dishonesty and/or exaggeration. It’s time to rip the band aid off and start anew. One ticket per person in open fair market with campers given equal opportunities as the installation crews. I understand you need to arrive early to set up but there has to be room for all? Maybe it’s time to relocate? Maybe it’s time to limit installations and open up more free camping? I’m not 100% but the same concerns have been heard for years. Can we hold an open forum to discuss solutions and start voting on them as a whole group? I hate to think my now college age kids don’t to experience the magic I witnessed! But they can’t afford to go! I’m nostalgic for Baker Beach, Mr Floppy’s Flop house and the wild days when all were welcome. How can I help?!?

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  • August says:

    Giving preferential treatment to larger established camps and minimizing space for open camping feels exclusionary. You have to know someone in a camp to join, and this leaves so many would-be participators out. Large camps can be elitist and this policy only seems to encourage that. Many of the most meaningful interactions are crossing paths with new friends. Please support individuals and smaller groups, we are just as important in the community!!

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    • Tom "Hurricane" says:

      Not all “large established camps” are equal. Some contribute little to the experiences of burners, while others have been providing service to tens of thousands every year (and require large numbers of members to build, operate, and break down.) Large established camps that make only token contributions to BRC are not that difficult to identify, if we’re willing to take the heat from the folks who often reside in them when they are denied the luxury of placement (which will probably be the only luxury they’ll be denied!)

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      • Yes Tom. I’m part of a beloved theme camp (50-60) this is our 10th year on Playa. We have multiple daily events, open Whiskey bar every day nearly all day, and work our asses off. It chaps our hide to see “camps” doing next to nothing. We had one across the street from us last year that didn’t do anything but sit in their chairs under their fancy tent. Sigh. Seems placement should monitor camps for participation/inclusion and act accordingly.

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  • Forced beyond the trash fence? says:

    Have been an open camper for years and what I’ve noticed in recent years in the plotting off of excessively large blocks for camps that don’t even fill it up during the week. Is there any way to streamline free spots for open campers in these camps’ real estate? If they know in July they don’t need the whole footprint, can we have a way for open campers to reserve or opt in to join (not the camp, but the space)? It might be a good way to mix and meet new folks but also to avoid the crushing stress that will undoubtedly be put on open campers this year. Also i hope BMORG will check to make sure that camps who receive placement actually use it all so we don’t perpetuate any manipulation of the system.

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    • Blow MyGod says:

      Good points. Also, I wonder if there’s a way to check on just how much a camp is participating in their community. Case in point: several years ago I camped near a large camp that had a sizable foot print (~30-35 people). It was ostensibly set up as a yoga-style ‘healing camp’ where a semi-enclosed area (appx. 50’x50′) was used to set up couches and massage tables which were used *one* day (Monday) during the event. Afterwards it was all broken down to establish a semi-private communal space for the people camping there. In my mind that space represented what at least (5) fully prepared open campers could have utilized full time during there event experience.

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    • Bebop says:

      I really like this idea of reserving “space” in a camp that has extra. I’m sure it is a common thing for participants to not make it, at the 11th hour, due to work, funds, not finding a ticket. This would be a great way to take the pressure off of those who aren’t in a theme camp.

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    • Kittykatz says:

      One year the camp I am part of shared space we ended up not needing, and it was lovely. However they left and dumped grey water, left behind a ton of moop and a busted tent. We were happy to clean it up to keep our green status, however it was disrespectful to do this. I don’t know what a good solution is, but if we had left before them our camp would have been flagged as extremely moopy. Now we always have someone stay until the very end of the burn to make sure that even if some folks leave Saturday or Friday, that the camp is properly picked up.

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  • Stephanie says:

    Here’s an idea! How about creating another BM organized event…”Burning Man 2″ (but a better name) with 35,000 folks at one, 35,000 folks at another? Still plenty big to make it awesome and who knows, maybe even more fun and less stressful. Says me. Or 50,000 and 20,000 for those who want a BM experience like it was in the ol’ days. Could be at the same location because the infrastructure is already set up, but a month later, or at a different location..or… Yeah, a big undertaking and all kinds of issues that I’m unaware of, but just thought I’d throw that out there.

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    • Badger says:

      It has been brought up before. In my mind the biggest challenge to pulling something like this of starts with a quickly withering base of volunteers to help run the show. Given that many burn up one or two weeks of their vacation just to kick in for out one event the expectation that you could get two event’s worth of volunteers would be a difficult one to put together. Second point is the immense cost of assembling the event infrastructure, taking it down and setting it back up again only to be taken down again in time for the BLM mandated playa cleanup would be a Herculean task.

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  • Zipper says:

    Certainly a history of red and yellow on the Moop Map attributed to a camp could be used as a way to thin the “qualified” camps, or if to be given another chance, reduced in size.

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  • Melville says:

    I am one of a group of three who were virgins in 2018 and returning this year. We got our tickets both years by suffering through the online sales. Last year we set up our camp on L and had a great time meeting all the people from around the world out on the edge of BM. We want to go back this year with the same spirit of open hearts, selfless gifting, and self sufficient camping. I think the spread of “camps” is the exact wrong direction for BM if it comes at the expense of people like us.

    I went to a meetup of a camp last year before BM, but they seemed like a bunch of self important snobs and I decided I would rather just be independent. Sure enough, I rode by their “camp” often and stopped a couple of times during the week to see if any of the people I had met were there. It was a huge plot of land on a great corner, and there was never anybody there. We walked in one night and there were a handful of snobby people playing loud music and being very unfriendly. What exactly is the point of this “camp”?

    I don’t want to be all negative. During the week we visited countless really cool, interesting, welcoming, and fantastic camps. I guess my point is that there needs to be a better system for weeding out the jerks who suck up plots of land and give nothing in return.
    I also think that the size of the group camps can be reduced, especially if the total number is increased.

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  • TheTruth says:

    Sad the way open camps have been squeezed out. Shame on BM for not setting up blocks specifically for open campers/ small groups in good locations. BM has become a giant frat party and elite RV camp!

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    • Pemblehead says:

      Right on Truth! If group camps can get spots they should also designate areas only for open campers. I can’t remember if there is a question regarding what kind of camp you’ll be in when you buy tickets. We aren’t going this year because last year was so disheartening. Large camps not using all their space, and BM not policing the big camps for noise. We camped by one that played their music non-stop above the decibel level. They were reported but nothing ever happened….

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  • Brad says:

    I say place everybody who wants it. Coming to the event un-placed is an adventure, of course, but not always a happy one. It’s super nice to know where you will be. People want it so much they create a giant crowd at gate opening time, but more often then get somebody who is on early access to unofficially grab out some space for them.

    Do it another way. Allow every ticket holder to declare what camp they are with if they wish. Allocate space to camps based on how many people they have. Allow camps that are well organized and doing something cool and wonderful to ask for better locations and more space per person than average. Let other camps say, “We are just a group of friends” and they will get a location and size to match their size, at the ordinary allocation. Let people declare a camp any time until a few days before the gate opens. For those, let them know where they are camping roughly with a map of their camp and all their neighbours. Leave some slop because people will screw it up. (It will not be flagged, of course, just address and GPS of the corners and dimensions. People will need to work it out, as they do today in unmapped areas.)

    Now, I know there is still a problem, what to do with those who arrive with no allocation, who will fence off or physically grab much more. That problem exists every year.

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  • No Nonsense says:

    What about if Placement designated several streets for Open Camping? E.g.: Something random like 2:30, 5:00, and 8:00 A-L (50′ inward on both sides) is all open camping. Or all of the Esplanade (bold!!!) C, and F, both Man and Mountain side are all Open Camping. Make sure the entire city knows it prior to the event, so it can be monitored by people during build week. And people who camp in the designated Open Camp Area prior to Land Grab can be shamed and spanked.

    Placement is never going to appease everyone, and I do agree with a lot of the comments about how in the ‘old days’ that’s how you made lasting connections and really got to know your neighbors – by not knowing who you were going to camp next to. Hell that’s how my camp got started, a bunch of strangers that clicked. Now every year we ‘know’ our neighbors bc we know their camp name but barely anyone individual to the camp and there is not as much curiosity to get to know them – this is probably bc we are so busy running our camp for the participants that we have no time.

    Next year, I think once Placement approves a camp they should throw a dart and wherever it lands is where their home should be. Really mix it up – have super loud sound camps next to Meditation Station and let Open Camping take 7:00 and E. Most of us are in the same rut of going to the same locations anyway, and we all need more exercise, so eff it – let things get moved around and shaken up and messy. This is an experiment after all.

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  • Vince says:

    For 2019 how about a rule that any space unoccupied by midnight Monday is open to anyone.

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    • Damien says:

      Seems fair to me. I had two women come up to me on TUESDAY wondering if the giant spot behind my setup was ok to claim. I told them if it were up to me, yes, but that they should speak with the (placed) Theme Camp leader. These two women were ultimately turned away which I thought was bullshit.

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  • Prof. Abierto says:

    I prefer theme camp placement is concentrated towards the center of the city (unless they request otherwise). What’s the sense of spreading theme camps out? Doesn’t it make more sense for less organized groups, with less infrastructure, and late-comers populate more of the outskirts of the city? Seems this would make BRC a more cohesive city and community. More attendees would experience more of what theme camps have to offer, if they were placed more centrally. /2¢

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  • Athena says:

    I’m an open camper and I love the randomness of snuggling in amongst other open campers and making new friends. So I’m for keeping adequate space for open campers, and not treating them as less valuable members of the community than placed camps. Here is a practical suggestion: when I arrive and snag my desirable bit of street frontage, I always mark off an entry route with solar lights so later arrivals have a way to access the inside of the block. Otherwise a lot of usable space is wasted because people can’t get to it. Perhaps Public Works should do this?

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    • Nevadaflyboy says:

      Brilliant. I see a lot of unused space that becomes inaccessible because no one leaves access to it. Last year, I marked out an access way to the middle of the block. Some wonderful members of the Piute community moved in and gave a great new dimension to our neighborhood.
      During the last 10 years, I have been in placed camps and outside of placed camps. Both have their positives, but I agree that placed camps need to demonstrate their reason for placement, ie. what they are offering to the community. There needs to be room for the wonderfully random mix of new friends sharing the experience.

      10 yr burner; volunteers 30 hrs of the event in 2 staff roles (and loves every minute)

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  • Bob Thompson says:

    Stephanie had a great idea to have two events. Not having enough volunteers was a concern, but since there would only be half as many show up, use half the volunteers. Keeping the cap on the amount of people each year, would help immensely with the placement issue. And if the org would get their own property, take down and clean up wouldn’t be controlled by BLM. A lot of the problems is just too many participants.

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  • Penguin says:

    Especially since 2011 there have been a number of “mis-steps” in a number of areas that have led us to where we are today. The best solution is never going to keep trying to bend things to fit, it’s going to be re-engineering the system to make it work.

    For 2020 I think no change should be off the table “just because”.

    Even if the rules changed to you where have to pay for tickets using cheese curls and all sleeping must be done standing up, I’m pretty sure 70,000 or so people will show up.

    Some (or even many) people might get upset, but change is often for the best.

    I don’t really care how things get fixed, but things do need to get “adjusted” by more than a tweak or two.

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  • Phillip K says:

    If you open a food court with 20 restaurants/”camps” and only 10 people show up 1 of those restaurants/”camps” will not get any business. 50% or even 75% won’t get business. The solution isn’t to add more restaurants/”camps”. You need customers!

    If Burning Man is all about radical ideas and solutions, maybe reduce the number of camps 30% (50%) and increase open camping, general ticket sales the same. There is no shortage of people who have expressed their frustrations with not getting a general ticket (despite the botched sale) who are still desperate to attend. The event sells out. BM can sell 30% more general tickets without a problem.

    I was watching the Theme Camp symposium videos and a few of those in camps (leaders) commented they do not always get visitors for their planned events. Is it because the placed camps far outsize open camping? The very pool of people relied upon for an interactive camp?

    I don’t envy the decisions Burning Man Organization will have to make but to make the event more inclusive for all and more interactive for the placed camps, think of radical solutions. Difficult but necessary. Good luck BMORG.

    See you on the playa 2019!

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  • - Dr. Baron von Realz Esq. says:

    My solution is rotate camp and villages out every 5 years.

    Place all camps and villages in one of 5 groups, the first group rotates out the first year the second group rotates out the second year ect.. The year after the camp or village rotates out they are invited back in good standing for the next 5 years. This will reduce the camps and villages by 1/5 every year. Assuming that 1800 camps apply this would reduce the applications by 360 reduce the camp application to 1440 and reduce the villages to 14 per year. This would also free up tickets and land for open camping. Everyone shares the burden of being over popular, camp and villages will know ahead of time when they will take a year off and can plan accordingly.

    If we wanted to be really aggressive we could do a 3 year rotations and remove 600 camps every year.

    Theme camps are a big part of burning man true there is a few bad apples but for the most part they hold true to the spirit of burning man. They do amazing things that blow my mind. Most are doing year round fund raising, building, and planning just so they can freely share their creation with the expiation that they will be adding to the magic that is burning man.

    Dr. Baron von Realz, Esq.
    “Participants become the art and the art is Participation”
    – Dr. Baron von Realz Esq.

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  • Nick says:

    This article is written like a startup trying to convince investors of their decisions.

    We analyzed the data!

    Hedge your bets on this and that!

    Bogus. So many placed camps end up closing their doors to the rest of the city for 80% of the time, and get placed under the pretext of their one/two talks or yogas or breakfasts or whatever. Wandering the neighbourhoods is nothing like it once was.

    “Open campers” bring a hella lot more openness to the city. Pushing them out… kinda synonymous with how the privileged push the core out of every city / neighbourhood. Outta sight, outta mind.

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  • Dr. Fiesta says:

    I have said it before and i’ll say it again. What is burning man doing to foster new camp ideas to flourish organically the Bm way ? You see it takes lots of experience, network and resources, both financial and human to pull off a theme camp, especially with the level of interactivity that burning man requires. My c camp and many others started organically unregistered and it slowly went taking shape through many years. that is practically impossible to happen now cause the access to the tickets is so difficult. I know entire large camps where no one got a ticket. the incentives not to register now are way too high, which is part of the problem cause it doesn’t allow for fresh new camps to develop and also you get the issue that you have with too many camps wanting placement. you say “Some of the most serendipitous meetings, interesting interactions, and strongest communities occur in open camping. ” and this is true but your policy in place , makes the opposite true. if we stifle new ideas an innovation this city becomes more stale and repetitive. furthermore if a camp does get placement they only receive tickets the following year. So it makes it almost impossible for the camp to exist cause they cant deliver on their promise for lack of tickets, unless they are already established. Tickets should be given to placed camps on the same year not the following year , to at least allow new camps to flourish and bring in their contributions. maybe do the placement process earlier in the year, its always a good time after the burn as people are still glowing with ideas and inspired from the after glow. i don’t know the full solution but its importarnt to take into account , and make open camping bigger , unregistered camps are amazing !

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  • Dr. Fiesta says:

    Also going to the burn ads an unregistered camp and risking not having land to build your camp that you worked super hard for is very disheartening

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    • Damien says:

      This is such a sad thought. And the fact that so much land is wasted just makes it that much worse. It is SO possible to cater to theme camps while still affording space for everyone else. Shame on the BORG for not considering “the people” in this way.

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  • GoesBothWays says:

    To all the perennial open campers: how do you get your tickets? Do you get them from someone you know? And were they originally DGS tickets that are not being used by camps (real or fake?)

    I’d love to go back to open, but now that I’m with a camp, it’s just so much easier to get a ticket.

    I agree with others that that ticketing seems to be the bigger issue than space — if it were easier to get a non-DGS ticket, there would be a lot fewer ‘camps’ to place.

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  • Mark McCormack says:

    Here are some ideas. (1) Make it known that 1/4 of the end of the street – both ends are reserved for placed camps, the middle of the street is open camping, no reserving spaces for “friends” if it’s open, it’s open, get in where you can fit in! This to occur on every street, or at least every other street. Or some form of “known open camping” on X streets.

    (2) I have seen big rave camps in the middle of the “neighborhoods” that sit empty except for when the rave is going on. Lots of sparsely used wasted space.

    (2.5) Stop letting plug n play camps park their big rigs end to end. Make em park the rigs side by side.

    (3) We all know the big “active camps” that need whatever space. Certainly you have records of what the average “requesting placement” camp size is. Start using that camp size as the template for camp measurements.

    (4) Move some the active camps out onto the playa.

    (5) I am going to ditto what Tony said – KNOCK IT OFF!!! Add more street and suck up the cost… Get the road grader out and start cutting, grab some plywood and paint, and make some street signs.

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  • Capt Wade says:

    You know, it was a good run while it lasted, but… Just like ancient Rome, when it got too big, and there was no more room for expansion (Rome was supported by expansion, when the Romans ran out of countries to conquer, they ran out of gas) BM has run out of ticket space due to BLM mandated attendance caps. This makes it impossible to sell a ticket to everyone who wants one, no matter what the asking price is. Obviously, that kinda sucks, because it FORCES Bmorg to do exactly what it hates to do, restrict attendance. People get scared that they cannot get guaranteed tickets for their friends, so that puts camp infrastructure in jeopardy, and what would BM be without all the theme camp’s that contribute so much support and culture? So, to try to fix this, Bmorg allowed camps to have a small allotment of tickets to insure that this crucial camp culture would not disintegrate. The problem was that people took advantage of this, (Aha! I’ll just apply for theme camp status, and my friends and I will be able to always go, using DGS tickets!”) …and now this year we have a 20-plus % increase in the application for a bunch of new “Theme Camp” placement…..yeah, well gee. Who didn’t see that coming?
    But wait, there’s more!
    I came back to the Playa in 2014, after a 21 year absence, and was one of the people caught in the rain on the way in. We spent a day and a half, waiting for the rain to stop and the Playa to dry, passing out about 50 meals of food and drink to Burners who had no access to camp and supplies that had already arrived. That was fun, having our own little party out in the mud. The point is, Burners will always try to make the best of any situation, so for sure, Bmorg is going to try to fix this. But in the end, just like Global warming, you can’t stop problems caused by Human expansion. You can only slow it down, by reallocating resources, streamlining and increasing efficiency, but in the end it catches up with you. In 2014, there was a perfect maximum (IMHO) balance of people to space. Going out on the deep Playa was like being on another planet. It fed your soul. There was enough empty space to make it mystical, magical and aesthetically pleasing. By 2018, there were so many people there, that it was actually crowded. It just wasn’t as much fun. Also, that many more people coming to this place in the desert at the same time is a bigger hammer blow to the local community infrastructure. This seasonal social explosion way out here in a place that’s virtually asleep for the rest of the year, causes a disruption that after awhile has the potential to cause major irritation to locals who do not have the luxury that you and I might, to “just not go this year”. They live here. They can’t avoid this massive disruption in their community, and not all of them welcome the event after decades of having no choice but to deal with it. This problem runs deeper than you might think.
    I had a clandestine talk with a park ranger who’s brother has been employed by the BLM for over 13 years. He said “You know, this area is pretty quiet. My brother says it’s the best job ever, for about 10 months out of the year”
    “Let me guess, except for August and Sept?” I said.
    Yeah, it’s a madhouse. He said they have to import extra guys from all over the place, and not many of them want to make the trip. They get tired of this, year after year, being away from their families, living out of a suitcase for so long…. They start to hate it”
    Of course, they have to suck it up, it’s their job. BLM’s job is to promote and make public lands available for public use, not to prevent it. But, the complaints roll in, each year. Very few actually want to be on staff at the BM event, and they are the ones who live local, and can go home every night.
    So, they really have all kinds of motivation to find a way to cause the event to become untenable, by passing new “safety” or inflated environmental or law enforcement regulations that they know will kill the event, solving their problem.
    So, I’m scared that the writing is already on the wall.
    The Burning Man even has gotten too big to sustain itself. It’s so big, that it’s causing it’s own demise. And, it’s working on getting bigger.
    I can’t see this event reaching the 100,000 attendance mark, and still existing. Very sad to say, but, I just can’t

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  • BRD says:

    If the issue is the hedging of camp sizes as mentioned in the opening of the article it seems logical to change the process a little:

    1) Complete all ticket sales early in the year. All DGS, Open sale and OMG tickets are related to sale confirmation codes by the ticketing vendor.

    2) Camps requesting placement must supply ticket confirmation numbers for 80 – 95% of the camps they claim will be camping with them.

    This means folks will still sell tickets or change camps etc over the course of the year but the number cannot so ridiculously exceed the total maximum population.

    As tickets continue to become harder to acquire, more camps will request, in goid faith, placement for a camp sized for all the people that camped with them the previous year even though they don’t have tickets at the time the placement questionnaires get submitted. The reality is not all those people will manage to acquire a ticket through OMG or STEP.

    This seems like a problem solved by distributing the limited resource before asking for it to be organized.

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  • Roxann says:

    Because it is so hard for individuals to get tickets through General Sales, people are being forced to try to secure tickets by applying as theme camps. If you would just get the general ticket sales debacle solved, you would not have this massive increase in theme camp applications, and you would have the space needed for regular campers.

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  • Fuckerpants says:

    We have a smaller camp – just 50 – but our issue is keeping it at 50 and NO more. We hate saying we are full to peeps – but we just dont wish to get bigger – logistics just gets more difficult. Food- water-waste trash. All harder to deal with. So we will just stay at 50.

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  • Splat says:

    Be nice if the open camping was highlighted rather than just blue-taping the off-limits boundaries of placed camps.
    Talking about the days of yore beauty of random neighbor encounters doesn’t make it any easier to roll in and find a place to land easily. There should be a focus on the preservation of the open camping spirit that The Burn used to exude by highlighting those allotments.

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  • Disgruntled says:

    Of course this is a land grab and dgs ticket grab. Everyone asks for twice as much space as they need . Independent campers are squeezed out. Of course adding more streets is the answer. It’s open desert and you’ve been adding streets for twenty years. Have streets to O!

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  • Naked Dave says:

    First off I’d like to thank you for putting out this question to the community. I think there’s a lot of good discourse that can come from a discussion that’s rooted in the future plan of BRC. With that said though, I would like to take a moment to be real with everyone at the risk of sounding negative, but a discussion like this has to grounded in truth.
    Bmorg has let down the community. Period. The 10 principles work great in a small community, but BM is now a world recognized brand. I know that this was not a brand building exercise by design, but due to the magic felt at every event, a reputation has developed so that people the world over want to be there. At this point at least two principals are at risk by the event planners themselves: inclusion and commodification
    We are so quick to blame money for the worlds evils, but commodification is the act of placing value on any limited resource, and the two big limited resources now in BRC are tix and real estate. This truth cannot be escaped. A natural side effect of limited resources is that people use various methods to gather these resources outside of the normal means. We are humans first and capitalistic means are the only ways we have found to manage this issue long term. This can be debated for eternity, but the truth is that we humans will try to get away with what we can to give ourselves the advantage.
    The problem of limited space is not new. It became apparent back at least to 2010 as open camping took a backseat to theme camps. An elitist group was formed. Those who had a camp were now privileged and open campers got the scraps.
    Then the sellout happened, and limited resources had to be recognized. At this point saying you wanted to go was no longer enough, and hoops had to be jumped through just to get a ticket. Now a reward system is in place for elitists.
    Now I have no intention of berating the .org, but truth has to be told. They are as out of touch with what has happened in BRC over the years as career politicians in the default world. They’ve hidden themselves behind ideals that they are no longer able to abide by, and continually deny very apparent problems that could be addressed if they were willing to see them.
    For at least the last 5 years there has been an obvious division between the theme camp areas and open areas. Open areas packed in like sardines (comparatively) have a camaraderie that is not in the theme camps, and too often theme camps thumb their noses at those who are obviously not with the group. As well as, how many huge open areas within theme camps are void of campers, void of people, void of art?
    So the question becomes WHO IS MONITORING SPACE. Apparently no one!
    This is why cities have planning commissions. BRC is a major city now! Where’s the planning commission? If the population is in charge, then consider the event a failure here on out. In a perfect world theme camp X is going to try to plan for the best event they can, but in this system the org is actually rewarding bad behavior.
    Camps that are planning one event for an hour or two for one day of the week don’t get placed. This does raise the minimum requirements to multiple days and at the very least raises the bar to what “will earn a spot”. But this is just the basics. Theme camps can and must do a much better job at planning and allocating needed space. But most of all the system that rewards camps that take advantage of that system needs to stop.
    If Burningman wants to continue it needs to manage the event and stop hiding behind excuses of an event planned out by volunteers.
    Maybe the org needs some honest self examination of the 10 principals to see if they are, or even can, fulfill those expectations. Cause I see them failing bad. When is the last time you spoke to someone on playa that had high regards of the org? Never.
    In the interim, this nearly 20 year open camp veteran of BM will not be participating, cause the magic is gone.

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  • Wovoka says:

    Am a (healthy & in great shape, btw) 78-year-old who lost his wife 106 days ago, at this writing, and simply want to “give back” for the gift of having had a fabulous relationship with a great lady. I have never attended Burning Man but am in the STEP program for a ticket resale. Since it’s all new to me, looks like I’ll be in Open Camping, which is fine with me; I’m easy to get along with and am sure I will fit right in. One big question is, How shall I combat the heat? I have backpacking tents, but am wondering what else I could bring for shade?

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    • Discobug says:

      It’s tough to create much shade as an individual in open camping. My suggestion: 1) Don’t miss a sunrise. Assume you’ll sleep during the hottest part of each day ‘somewhere’ that’s shaded. Lots of hammocks and domes and various places will be available for you to crash in and if you’ve been up all evening/night/morning you’ll fall asleep just about anywhere and most folks will help to keep you from cooking as the sun moves and you don’t. 2) Engage your neighbors, pull together what you have, exist communally, share shade, share food, share all that you can and you’ll find that if you share what you can, everything that you need will come to you. If your “camp” is minimal, just spend all of your time visiting others. I have been 19 consecutive years. One year I spent several days straight riding around passing out snow cones from a day-glow slug with a Native American named “Red”, a cute Belgian boy who liked to have is ass spanked and a woman from LA (I think). We’d never met before or since but they were my family for a few days and I consider them the same to this day though I’ve not seen them since. Point is, your wife will be there in spirit and she’ll work magic to make your time there beautiful and you sound like the kind of human that’s going to be a terrific addition to the city. If someone or someplace sucks, it’s a big city, just go somewhere else and talk to someone else and let yourself be easily distracted. But for real, don’t miss a sunrise….!!

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      • Alan Johanson says:

        Thanks very much for your advice, Discoburg! Did my 2nd Camino de Santiago de Compostela this spring (1st was 2 yrs ago with Desiree) carrying Desi’s ashes, this time with Daughter Corri. She has done BRC a few times, and she “talked” me into applying thru STEP for tickets to attend. Will bring a mountain bike plus all necessities, but am wondering what other stuff I can pack for donations, f.i. have 6 medium size backpacks I’d prefer not to donate to Goodwill merely to increase the CEO’s largesse!
        (Oh, and btw – everyone walking the Camino says “Buen Camino” – is there a common greeting at Burning Man? If not, perhaps I can suggest “Good B.M.” ;-)

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  • Chuckie says:

    We all see from the comments “camp placement” has been a sham and Bmorg can no longer support it. I think as the man burns every year so will garanteed camp placement. From the dust comes completely unrestricted camping except for selected Bmorg essential camps that the event can not do with out. With unrestricted camping locations comes equipment size and space restrictions. Most villages probably already follow personal space restrictions and vehicle size limits. Why has Bmorg not done this for everyone at the event? Because we are intelligent being and are able to make room with out restrictions. Why is this an issue now? Because the event is going to get bigger and they are preparing us for….. tent only camping covering space not covered by rv only camping. This leaves strict theme camp space and size limits and placement. BUT allows for 30,000 plus more people to attend the event. With out strict space allotments more attendees will never fit. RV passes restricted to a certain number will solve a lot of problems. RV’s take huge amounts of space. Length restrictions could fix that. Trailer passes could add to the misery as well. Theres no other way. Large vehicle damages playa so BLM may love that idea. Besides, its one week in the desert. You are not there permanently. 9 days thats it. Take your food trash back to your default residence in oring sealed buckets. Do not take trash producing things and please don’t piss on the playa.

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