How To Do Burning Man On A Budget

Lindsay Hayden | | Industry NewsIndustry News
Two Burners at Burning Man
Two “Burners” in Black Rock City. Photo courtesy of Anatoli Sviajine/Burning Man.

If you’re looking for a way to end your summer with a bang (or rather a spark!), get online and check out the Burning Man Festival. This nine-day gathering, held in a temporary town located in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, is an environment that allows its citizens to become active participants in the Burning Man experience. The whole desert metropolis is created by participants, and the heartbeat of the festival experience is pumped by the interaction, art, and performance of the gatherers.

The dusty residents of Black Rock City attract just as much attention as the town’s art displays, epitomizing Burning Man’s “Ten Principles”. Trekking to Burning Man is best done by those looking for a unique community dedicated to the arts. The best way to get there is on a budget because buying a ticket to this festival is not cheap, I repeat NOT CHEAP! So if you’re thinking of going to this year’s Burning Man festival, here is how to do it on a budget:

DISTRIKT at sunset
Burning Man’s DISTRIKT at sunset. Photo courtesy of Christopher Morahan/Burning Man.

Fixed Costs:

  • Ticket
    • There is a Low-Income Ticket available at $225, but there are only 5,000 tickets set aside at this price. Acquiring one of these tickets requires some thinking ahead, as the application deadline for these tickets closes around May each year.
  • Airfare
    • People from all over the world make the pilgrimage out to Black Rock City, so for some of you purchasing airfare is inevitable.
  • Playa Transpo
    • Reno (where you’ll be arriving if you fly) is 123 miles from Black Rock City. So keep in mind that transportation to “The Playa” is essential. Whether you’re renting a car, riding the Burner Express, or hitching a lift with a friend, lining up a transport plan is a cost that is unavoidable.
  • Other Essential Buys:
    • Water (You’ll probably want a gallon and a half of drinking water per day, and even more if you want to shower)
    • Dust Mask (Duhhh…You’re going to be living in a desert for a week)
    • Sunglasses (Again duhhh… Blaring desert sun)
    • Flashlights/Lanterns
    • Clothing for the cold nighttime temps. 
    • Food (Plan your meals)

Here’s Where You Can Get Your Budget On:

  • Camp out in a Tent
    • Obviously, you didn’t come to Burning Man for its luxurious allure, so when I say camping out in a tent just go with me here. Make sure you get a sturdy tent that will hold up during high wind and dust storms, and whatever you do stake that baby down with some industrial anchors! Skimping on the quality of your tent (a.k.a. waterproof-ness, size, shade, etc.) is not recommended; you’re already saving money by camping out so just bite the bullet and go the extra mile when purchasing your tent because you DO NOT want to be camping out in the middle of the desert and regret not buying the better tent.
  • Food Tips and Tricks
    • Pre-packaged/pre-made food is definitely the way to go. Whether you’re going the homemade route by freezing stews, pasta salads, hard-boiled eggs, etc. in plastic bags ahead of time, or bulk purchasing freeze-dried meals, you can make almost anything work with a small propane stove, a pot, and water. Also, you’ll need a cooler if you’re planning on taking anything perishable.
    • A neat trick on saving money on ice and drinking water is to pre-fill plastic bags with clean water and then freeze them. Once frozen, put the bags in your cooler, and they’ll keep all the cooler contents cold. As the bagged ice begins to melt you’ll have cold, clean drinking water.
Star gazing under art
“Burners” star gaze under an art display. Photo courtesy of Joe Sale/Burning Man.

This way of budgeting for Burning Man will get you to a relatively inexpensive price point. I (and generally anyone who’s ever been to Burning Man) would not recommend that you skimp anymore than what I’ve outlined above. Showing up unprepared goes against one of the ten Burning Man principles: “Self-Reliance”. Fellow “Burners” will help you in a pinch, but no one likes a moocher! So your best bet for doing Burning Man on a budget is to get creative with the areas in which you feel comfortable roughing it! For more tips check out Burning Man’s First-Timer’s Guide.


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4 thoughts on “How To Do Burning Man On A Budget

  1. Dry ice doesn’t last more than a day when exposed to air. If it’s sealed air tight, it will might last a week or more. Dry ice isn’t going to save you much room and every time you open the cooler, the dry ice is evaporating away.

  2. You can buy dry ice in Reno [and maybe in Fernley too]–and get enough for a week. Regluar ice just takes up too much space. Get your water in those 2.5 Gal containers. Figure a min of 5 gal per person per 5 days.

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