There's A Camp For That: 12 Truly Useful Burning Man Camps

Photo by: Galen Oakes
by Graham Berry | @Festival_Writer Sun August 21, 2016 | 12:00 AM

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 cold 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

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Photo by: Alex Cave

Location: 9 o’clock plaza

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 Showers: Something Freaky This Way Foams at Camp Abraxas

Location: 4 o'clock & G-ish

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.

To Learn: Red Lightning and PlayaSkool

Location: 8:15 & Esplanade and 10 & Guild (Respectively)

When your hunger subsides you may still find a lingering appetite for intellectual delicacies. To that end, Red Lightning Camp or the Playa School cook up knowledge all day. From workshops to TedxTalks there are huge opportunities here to feed the unquenchable curiosity within.

For Ice: Arctica and the Ice Caps

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Photo by: Keith Pomakis

Located at 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 445 & Effigare (Man-side)

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: Bacon Oasis

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Location: Unmapped, you'll just have to get lucky!

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 the Bacon Oasis (among many other bacon-themed camps at the Burn). If you need protein on the playa, this is the place to be.

For Conflict Resolution: Death Guild with Thunderdome

Location: 415 and Esplanade

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 especially 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: 530 & Effigare

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 at Camp Soft Landing

Location: Near the 9:00 and 3:00 keyholes (on D between 3:00 and 3:15, and on D between 9:00 and 9:15)

Having a rough time? Perhaps a friend is feeling a little over stimulated 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: Sacred Spaces Village

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Photo by: Duncan Rawlinson

Location: 4 o’clock & Freakshow

If you’re like me you may be traveling to the Burn in search of answers, or at least a little spiritual healing. At Sacred Spaces, 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 find your own key to happiness? Start with a satisfying saunter into Sacred Spaces.

For Communications: Post Office

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Photo by: Curtis Simmons

Location: 9 o’clock plaza

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

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Photo by: Galen Oakes

Location: 7:00 and 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.

Are there any useful camps we missed? Check the 2016 Unofficial Map of Black Rock City and tell us in the comments below!

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