If you are anything like me, you’ve been alternately excited and confused by Burning Man, the festival-sanctuary-Thunderdome that’s been luring over 50,000 people deep into Nevada to build a temporary city in the scorching hot desert. Usually those who continuously return to the desert view Burning Man as a hidden treasure island they are excited to share with civilization. After all, if one finds a place that holds enlightenment, madness, friendliness, art, nakedness, family and community it would be selfish to keep it to oneself.
For most of us, making that pilgrimage isn’t in the cards, but if you are among those lucky enough to become “Burners,” there are a few things you’ll want to know. And to find out, I tracked down the Dirty Beetles, a relatively new group of campers that got their start five years ago as a ghetto-looking camp of 14 and has evolved into a cozy, week-long home that provides comfort and shelter for over 100 Burners.
Black Rock City, an isolated part of the Nevada desert where Burning Man takes place, is nothing but dust the week before most of the visitors arrive. Camp leaders and coordinators arrive a week early and build their sometimes elaborate shelters from scratch. For the Beetles this means transporting three containers filled with 275 gallons of water, full-size refrigerators, large metal structures and more offering Burners full-time access to electricity — which means they are able to have portable air conditioners in their tents. High luxury in the high desert.
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges camp leaders Ian Stone and Brian Crain face each year is making sure their 1980 Harvester International short-bus-turned-art-car is in good enough shape to make the 600-mile trip north from Los Angeles to Black Rock City. According to Brian, they’ve invested over $60,000 in “The Boogaloo,” which they bought three years ago, and every year “The Boogaloo” is kind of a pain in the ass — they had to replace the gas tank on the road one year and this year it needs a new motor; but they won’t give up on it. “Burning Man takes incredible amounts of patience and faith,” Crain tells me, a day before their planned departure. His beloved “Boogaloo” was still in need of some work.
When I caught up with them In the midst of their camp preparation for a big week in the desert, one thing became clear: They are really good at keeping their cool. Stone had been running around all day — he was exhausted, but his energy never flagged. According to Stone: PLAN HARD, DON’T STRESS, PLAY HARD, RELAX.
While there’s no way to foresee what will go wrong when heading to Burning Man, one thing you can do to prepare is pay attention to some tips from the pros. With a full bowl of ganja and a bottle of whiskey getting passed around, the Beetles gave up some sage advice for all the adorable Burning Man newbies:
1. “Brand new socks every day.”
2. “Pedialyte in a flask and whiskey in a jug; you’ll find alcohol easier than you’ll find Pedialyte.“
3. “Bring wipes for your butt, 200 baby wipes at least.”
4. “They tell all the newbies to bring goggles out there… You don’t need to wear goggles until [a sandstorm] actually hits… if it’s perfectly sunny you don’t need your ski goggles. That is pretty much a dead newbie giveaway.”
5. “It’s rude NOT to point at naked people.”
6. “Don’t be a shirt cocker… shirt cockers are usually guys that wear a shirt and nothing else. Shirt cocking is a real thing not advised by 99 percent of us.”
7. “Don’t smoke weed outside! Weed is the thing that gets the most people in trouble because you can smell it from far away and it can bring people into your camp, and then they come and smoke your bud. AND you can also get a huge fine.”
8. “Pick up MOOP (Matter Out Of Place).”
9. “Go to the temple, the energy in there is insane.”
10. “Make sure to take some time for yourself; don’t be afraid to get lost.”
11. “Don’t stress about it! Everything always gets fixed and it always works out.”
12.“ Find the Boogaloo”.
Diana Vergara is a free-spirit and web producer for Playboy.com. Follow her on Twitter.