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There's A Camp For That: 18 Truly Useful Burning Man Camps

Photo by: Susan Becker
by Graham Berry | @Festival_Writer Wed August 01, 2018 | 12:30 PM

So you’ve made it. You’re out on the playa with that dusty wind whipping through your hair. You’re so tired from all the biking that your legs feel like spaghetti, but it doesn’t matter – you’re home and all is right in the world. That is, until it isn’t. Sometimes an urgent need arises, and that’s when experienced burners transform into steampunking spirit guides. Whether you broke a bike, are looking to rest, or just want to send a message to that friend you can't locate, the playa and its theme camps provide.

It's true that, amongst the hundreds of theme camps at Burning Man, many are “sound camps” that offer all night EDM. However, others serve beverages like coffee or cocktails. Many provide fun activities like roller-skating or playa surfing, but every so often we stumble upon a camp that is nothing short of miraculous – not for a mind-bending sculpture or a fire-spitting art car (which are commonplace out here) but for the blessings they bestow upon other burners, with nothing expected in return.

We put together this list of 12 theme camps that offer the most incredibly useful services on the playa, when you need them most.

For Bike Repair: Playa Bike Repair

Burning Man 2015 Camps   5

Photo by: Alex Cave

Location: 9:00 & Bender

Few of us are mechanically inclined, so it’s a saving grace to be around all the gearheads and artists you’ll find on the esplanade when your trusty two-wheeled steed craps out. Perhaps the most useful services at Burning Man are those offered by Playa Bike Repair. With a wrench in hand and a smile in tow, these guys (and gals) make burners everywhere proud each year by fixing upwards of 4,000 bikes in the desert.

For Learning: PlayaSkool

Location: 10:00 & Elektro

When your hunger subsides you may still find a lingering appetite for intellectual delicacies. To that end, the delightful scholars at Playa School are cooking up knowledge all day. This year talks on topics like biodiversity, climate, air, water, food, architecture and technology are just a few of the lessons catered to feed the unquenchable curiosity within.

For Showers: Foam Against the Machine

Location: 2:30 & Gort

In less than 8.3 minutes you’ll probably come to understand the sand of the ancient dry lakebed is unlike anything you’ve encountered. The alkaline-charged dust clings to everything, and in an instant, winds can whip your eyes full of it if you're not paying attention. So, after awhile, a wash is just what the doctor ordered. Dr. Bronner, that is. Get ready, because if sultry cleanliness is next to godliness then you’re about to get a full body baptism.

For Ice: Arctica and the Ice Caps

Arctica Center Camp   Photo By Dan AdamsPhoto by: Dan Adams

Location: 3 o’clock (portal), 9 o’clock (portal) and Center Camp

By Day Three, the ice in your cooler has likely already turned to soup; it’s time to restock so your drinks are cold and your snacks stay fresh. Literally the only paid service on the playa is provided by Arctica and the Ice Caps – the ice merchants – who sling bags of ice for about $3 a bag. It's expensive, but most Burners are chill about it because all the proceeds go directly to local charities in Gerlach, Nevada.

For Rest: The Hammock Hangout Karaoke Lounge

Location: 4:30 & Elektro

When walking loses its luster and your legs heavy, the promise of shade and rest will start whispering your name. Fortunately, the Hammock Hangout Karaoke Lounge has you covered. With an old parachute to provide a respite from the sun and a serene atmosphere in which to chill out, this stop is a dream-inducing recharge station that can be enjoyed alone or with friends.

For Emergency Nourishment: Brûlée

Camp Brulee   Photo By Detour AftermathPhoto by: Detour Aftermath

Location: 8:30 and Esplanade

Do we really need to say more than “bacon”? For those who underestimate the need for this perfect delicacy, fret not: Bacon is a staple at Brûlée (among many other bacon-themed camps at the Burn), where succulent morsels of crispy goodness are served up from 10 am to noon everyday. Need some extra protein on the playa? This is the place to be.

For Conflict Resolution: Death Guild with Thunderdome

Location: 7:45 & Esplanade [Dome is closer to 4 o’clock]

While most sane people don’t condone violence, the sad truth is that sometimes we can’t agree with others and a conflict must be resolved. At Burning Man, there’s a camp specially designed to reach resolution between burners. The Mad Max-inspired Thunderdome pits steampunk challengers against one another in death-defying jousts. Two Burners enter, but in the end, two battle-hardened, warrior friends will emerge.

For Kids: Kidsville

Location: 5:00 & Elektro

More little ones than ever travel to the kid’s camp at Black Rock City. Here the youngsters can meet others their age, frolic in a bouncy house and built art together. There is even a Thunderdome for kids! As if taking your children to Burning Man wasn’t awesome enough, now there’s a play space for some next-level parenting on the playa.

For Harm Reduction: Zendo Project

Location: Esplanade & 5:45 (next to Ranger Station)

Having a rough time? Perhaps a friend is feeling a little overstimulated and a safe, tranquil place would be a welcome change of pace. Zendo Project to the rescue! These folks have pioneered a new approach to helping people in the throes of challenging psychedelic experiences at festivals all over the world. By emphasizing harm reduction Zendo represents a growing movement towards sensible drug policies and compassionate caretaking. The beauty of this approach is that it was developed as a means for the festival community to care for its own.

For Spiritual Well-Being: Karma Love Camp

Karma Love Camp   Photo Courtesy Of Setia Le CroixPhoto by: Courtesy of Setia LeCroix

Location: 8:15 and Dewey

If you’re like me, you may be traveling to the Burn in search of answers, or at least a little spiritual healing. At Karma Love, yoga, visionary art and meditation workshops are offered in copious amounts and the knowledge one can learn in these places is mystically invigorating. Looking for a spiritual guide? Hoping to learn about topics like self-healing, forgiveness, transformation, receiving love, and soul mates? Start with a satisfying saunter into Karma Love.

For Communications: BRC Post Office

Burning Man 2015 Camps   6

Photo by: Curtis Simmons

Location: 9:00 Civic Plaza at Bender

Whether it’s to send a love letter, extend gratitude or to pass along a parcel, the Black Rock City International Post Office has all your courier needs covered. The sheer tenacity of these workers is admirable and the experience of receiving mail at “Home” helps to affirm friendships even when finding one another may be a challenge. In addition to supplying burners with a way to send messages on the playa, this camp also delivers mail from and to the Default World, which effectively makes it the only accessible communications bridge between Burning Man and the rest of the world.

For Nostalgia: Black Rock Roller Disco

Burning Man 2014 Galen Oaks   07

Photo by: Galen Oakes

Location: 5:00 & Esplanade

When you're in the mood for a walk down memory lane look for the timeless smiles wrapped around the faces of those enjoying the Black Rock Roller Disco. While many will hold that Black Rock is more about looking ahead than to the past the Roller Disco represents a refuge for those who want to remember a time where the funk was pure, the "fi" was "hi" and the dance moves accommodated wheels. Also, if all that biking has your knees cramping up make sure you check out the Black Rock Roller Disco. You'll be surprised how useful the activity is as a natural muscle relaxer after a few days of bike rides and walking in the dust.

For Coffee: Center Camp Café

Location: Center Camp

Whether you need a cup to get the morning started or you’re just looking for a little pick me up throughout the day, there’s nothing like a strong cup of joe. As one the most highly sought after offerings at BRC is coffee, and it's available sporadically at various camps throughout the week, but for anyone who needs their fix in a flash, the Center Camp Café serves this essential go-go juice at a small fee alongside a bevy of other beverages.

For Gas: Hell Station (BRC Fuel Program)

Hell Station   Photo By John MosbaughPhoto by: John Mosbaugh

Location: 10:00 and Leon

It should come as no surprise that the third and final offering in BRC to require payment is gas. If ingress and egress are putting an unexpected hole in your wallet or you just need a little extra gas to keep the generator running in those cold playa nights, the Hell Station is there for a quick fill’er up.

For Warmth at Night: Hellfire Society

Hellfire Society   Photo By Grant PalmerPhoto by: Grant Palmer

Location: 4:30 & Algorithm

Sometimes it's the most scarred folks that know how to bring the warmth. When the generator isn’t enough and you need a bonfire to warm your bones, Camp Hellfire is an easily accessed smorgasbord of cinders. As home to Burning Man’s largest contingent in the Fire Conclave, nights at Camp Hellfire are kept hot with belching flames and fiery flow arts competitions and showcases all night long. While it’s true that you’ll find incendiary sculptures peppered throughout the city, Camp Hellfire stokes experiences that are dicey, devilish and utterly bewitching, so that what starts as a search for a little late-night warmth can eventually turn into experiences burned into memory.

For Community Outreach and Citizenship: Burners Without Borders

Burners Without Borders   Photo By David Schnack
Photo by: David Schnack

Location: 4:45 & Esplanade

If you want to find a way to get involved in Burning Man efforts outside the playa, or you’re the sort who can’t help but wonder how the magic of Burning Man can influence the Default World, then a visit to Burners Without Borders is a must. Hear talks from leaders taking the ethos of Burning Man into places where it’s needed most and learn about Burner-built, crisis-response teams taking action from Puerto Rico to Texas and just about anywhere else disaster strikes.

For Welding: Black Rock City Welding & Repair

Location: 3:00 Portal

When a bike, art car, structure or other essential mechanism breaks the handy folks at Black Rock City Welding & Repair are the steel-bending superheroes who'll save the day. When a situation calls for their help, you’ll be glad to know they’re there. In fact, the truth is that when a need for such repairs comes up they’re the only resource available to get your show back on the road.

For a Memento: Hello, We Love you!

Location: 7:00 & Esplanade

Amidst the wealth of experiences that one can encounter at BRC, the one that is too often absent is a timeless momento to remember it all. Fortunately, the psychedelic wizard from Harmonic Light (aka Festival All-Star Reid Godshaw) is conveniently on Esplanade each night at Camp Hello, We Love You! If you sit still for about 60 seconds, he can take a one-of-a-kind photo that will forever be a reminder of the magnificent moments you shared among friends in BRC. He’ll even send it over via email to eliminate the risk of damaging or misplacing the photo on the way back to the Default World.

For Transport Between SF or Reno and BRC: Burner Express or Burner Express Air

Airport   Photo By RevellrayPhoto by: REVELLRAY

Location: 6:15 & Johnny 5 and Airport Road & Trash Fence (respectively)

When you’ve got no wheels and it’s time to bounce, one need look no further than the Burner Express or the Burner Express Air “Airport” at BRC. Both of these options can make arriving and departing a breeze with round-trip or one-way travel options. While the Burner Express only connects to San Francisco and Reno, the Airport at BRC can facilitate a trip to and from San Francisco, Reno and select destinations in Southern California.

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