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Camp SPF User's Guide to Happy Camping

 

Practical advice on camping in the middle of a dry lake


Welcome to Camp SPF!  This guide is a collection of information that will be useful to Camp SPF members.  Although primarily for new campers, experienced campers might also learn something about our camp and how we maintain our family traditions.  A new Burner will get some comfort from knowing a little bit about how their new camp works and perhaps won’t be quite as anxious about the huge experience they’re about to encounter.

The information in this guide is by no means a comprehensive guide to Burning Man (read your Survival Guide!).  There are dozens of sources that address life in Black Rock City.  This guide simply supplements all that information with some items specific to Camp SPF and how we maintain our tiny part of the Burning Man community.

 

What is Camp SPF? 

We are a Burning Man Theme Camp.  Our interactivity and contribution to Black Rock City is providing healthy SPF 30 sunscreen to all citizens — and we throw in a few parties just to meet neighbors and people passing by on the street.  We make our neighborhood awesome wherever we’re placed in the city.  Camp SPF is part of the Lakes on the Playa Village, which is also home to Syncytium and Secret Gentlemen's Club.

How can I be a part of the family that is Camp SPF?

Being a good camper with Camp SPF is easy if you observe some basic courtesies:

- Don't create or perpetuate drama!  This is probably the single most important attribute needed to maintain the love and respect granted to you by your fellow camp members.

- Participate in running the camp by volunteering to help every year

- Respect others:  Ask before borrowing, discuss before doing, get consent before acting

- Include others in your Burn Experience.  Adopt a Burgin.

- Leave as much MOOP as possible at home

- Own your MOOP and pack it all out (plus a little bit extra)

- Consider your actions and activities and how they impact your playa family

Camp SPF has evolved over time to be a great place to stay during Burning Man.  We are an eclectic and talented group with two things in common:  our love of Burning Man and our love for our camp family.  Camp SPF has become a big part of our Burn experience and adds to everyone’s love of the Playa. 

Camp SPF has grown quickly over the last few years.  To sustain our camp in the future, it’s time to codify some of the best practices we’ve developed in order to pass on our customs, traditions, and family love to both new Burners and experienced Burners camping with us for the first time.



How to learn about us  

Camp SPF has a dedicated web site at https://campspf.org where official information is posted and you can read about how we do business and what our camp policies have to say.  You can find a Camp Calendar on the website that lists camp events, Burning Man milestones, and camp meals contributed by members.  The camp also has a 'secret' (private) Facebook group page (Camp SPF 20xx) where we socialize a bit and provide support to each other.  As any useful information scrolls off the Facebook page quite quickly, it is not typically used for posting official camp business.


Camp Membership
  

The size of Camp SPF is limited to approximately 45 people.  Our feeling is that a group larger than 45 people begins to fragment and the intimacy of a family is more difficult to achieve.  Our membership policy is explained here.  To find out if you're a confirmed camper, look on the Camp Bulletin Board.  Your name will show up there after you've been accepted for the current year and have paid your dues.


Camp dues

Note: Paying your camp dues does not guarantee or “purchase” services of any kind.

Camp dues are simply your share in the cost of running the camp.  Dues are announced by the Mayor each year and may vary as costs change.  Camp dues are used to purchase and maintain infrastructure items such as shade structures, kitchen items, decorations, and consumable items such as propane, fresh water, gray water disposal, etc.  Dues also pay for container storage and transportation to the playa.  All members of Camp SPF pay dues, without exception. Our financial model is "pooled resources", meaning that the camp does not provide any detailed accounting of expenses.  Our dues are among the lowest of any camp on the Playa because we follow the "keep it simple" rule.  For the cost of one night in a budget hotel, you can spend an entire week chilling out in the shade with your playa homies and participating in the most awesome social experiment on Earth.  Camp SPF is a communal effort and it is what we make of it by our participation, spirit, and love for our playa family.  Dues can be paid via a link on the Camp SPF website or sent directly to the Mayor if you prefer.  Dues are payable by 1 June of each year.  Camp dues are spent early and are therefore not refundable.  If for some reason you can't make it to the burn, dues may be transferred to another camper or applied to your next year's dues.  Contact the Mayor if you have any issues regarding how or when to pay your dues.

 

General tips about camping with Camp SPF


Before you arrive

Read the Burning Man Survival Guide!  It contains almost everything you should know about what to bring, how to prepare yourself, and what to avoid on the playa.  Camp SPF members take care of each other -- but if you’re a Sparkle Pony (someone who brings costumes, but nothing else to survive on the playa), you’ll most likely not have a good time at Camp SPF.  We won’t let you die but that’s about as far as we’re willing to go for someone who ignores the principle of radical self-reliance.

Manage your MOOP:  Remove excess or unnecessary packaging from food, camping gear, and other items you bring with you.  The less MOOP you bring with you, the less you have to pack out.  We work hard for our "GREEN" rating from the BMORG.  Keeping our camp MOOP free requires constant vigilance and a renewed committment every year.

Plan for gray water:  Plan in advance how you’re going to handle any gray water you generate.  The Mayor is usually able to arrange for gray water disposal during the burn week, but gray water disposal is not guaranteed every year and stuff happens.  Check the Mayor's Notes on the website to confirm availability.  Until gray water disposal is confirmed for a specific year, you should plan on packing out your own gray water (nominally, about 2 gallons plus approximately 2 gallons for each shower you take).  Gray water is nasty and it's a health hazard.  Make sure you have a sealable container to hold your left-over coffee, wash water, shower water, etc., that won’t leak and be a mess.  You really don’t want to spend Exodus smelling spilled gray water that has matured for a week in the sun.  Trust me on this.  Gray water should never touch the playa!  Camp SPF has an Evapatron for general use that is relatively efficient when it is working.  Check with the Mayor or that day's Camp Counselor for status of the Evapatron before adding any gray water to it.  Dumping gray water into a dysfunctional Evapatron for someone else to deal with is viewed as a serious MOOPing offense.  Tip:  Buy some of your drinking water in 1 gallon containers and use them for gray water when they're empty.

Leave your valuables at home:  Make sure that you bring only items that you’re willing to have “playified”.  The dust at Burning Man is no joke.  The dust is equivalent to an alkali talcum powder; it has a higher PH than baking soda or a mild ammonia solution.  Don’t bring watches, jewelry, electronics, cameras, etc., that you aren’t willing to lose or have playified and forever marked by your Burning Man experience.  Grandma’s heirloom ring is just MOOP when it falls off your skinny dehydrated finger and gets buried in playa dust.  Also, you're likely to lose stuff because your brain gets playified along with everything else.

Mark your personal belongings:  Put your playa name, camp name, and camp location on your equipment.  For higher value items, mark them with your default world contact info as well.  For cameras, make the first photo in your camera a picture of your contact info (include playa name and camp address) so there is some hope of your camera (and your photos!) finding you again.  Marking your items is also important in camp to prevent your gear from becoming MOOP.

Bring a bicycle if you can:  Bicycles are almost (not not quite) a necessity at Burning Man.  Yes, you can choose to walk everywhere and having adventures on foot is a great way to explore.  That said, there is a lot of awesomeness scattered over the 5+ square miles of playa.  Our camp may be placed toward the back of the city in any given year, which may be quite a ways from Center Camp (1.2 miles in 2015), let alone the Temple.  On your way to Burning Man, make sure that your bicycle rack or your bicycle does not block your vehicle's license plate.  The LEOs on Gate Road have been known to stop you and chat with you about that oversight while their dogs sniff your car (hint:  they're not looking for a place to pee).  On the Playa, always lock your bike and mark it in a way that you can find it both day and night among the 10,000 other dusty bikes.  In camp, keep your bicycle locked and in the racks out of the way.  Tripping over a bike in the dark is not good for you, your playa family, or your bike.  The accompanying loud references to your personal activities, physiology, and family ancestry will likely disturb your harmony. 

Plan to cover your tent stakes:  Be prepared to cover your tent stakes and rebar.  Every year, many people at Burning Man are seriously injured stepping on or tripping over sharp rebar.  Empty plastic soft-drink bottles, tennis balls, or sections of pool noodles are good solutions to covering rebar.  Also, please consider tying markers or lights on tent ropes.  In the crowed area under the shade structure, marking or lighting your ropes and lines may prevent an injury.  Remember, people returning from the playa in the dark are often tired, drunk as pirates, or otherwise not fully alert.  This includes you!  

Prepare for Exodus in advance:  Gear tends to expand during the week and you may have difficulty re-packing all your gear, MOOP, and gray water back into your tubs and your vehicle.  Leave some room coming in to accommodate growth on the way out as nothing will be as neatly packed as when you arrived.  Do not plan on donating anything whatsoever to the camp without pre-burn approval from the Mayor.  Even useful stuff is useless MOOP if there is no place to store it in the containers.  If you have any questions about this, ask the Mayor in advance. You just don't wanna hear what the Mayor will say when he runs out of room in the trailers.  If you simply leave stuff behind for someone else to deal with, you will not be invited back.  Yep, this is serious.


On Arrival

What to do when you arrive at camp:  Prepare to be hugged on arrival!  We are ‘placed’ by the BORG and you will know our address in advance.  A map of the city will be handed to you by the greeters.  You’ll also find that year’s address in the city posted on the website and discussed in our Facebook group.  When you initially arrive in camp, find the Mayor or a Camp Counselor to determine where you can park or set up your tent.  If you’re camping in an RV or other vehicle, you’ll be placed on the back or side perimeter where your generator noise and exhaust won’t impact other campers (and you'll receive thanks for being a wind break!).  If you’re camping in a tent, you will be located under the shade structure if at all possible.  Try to find a location that doesn’t block ‘alleys’, interfere with the kitchen, or unduly crowd your neighbors. If you place a ground cloth, tarp, or canvas cover under your tent or RV directly on the playa, be aware that it may bleed color that stains the playa or shed material that becomes very serious MOOP.  Avoid plastic matting such as Astro Turf or door mats as those things will shed tiny green pieces that you'll spend hours cleaning up. You will be held responsible for cleaning up MOOP or any playa damage before you depart (including packing out stained playa dirt).  Remember to tuck your ground cloth under the edges of your tent.  You don't want it to catch rain water and channel it under your tent!  If you need help setting up your tent or shelter, just ask around and a fellow camper will be glad to help out.  If you arrive late at night, your first priority should be to get some sort of shelter set up or find someone to bunk with for the remainder of the night.  Weather can change rapidly on the playa so you should get prepared for wind or rain as quickly as possible.  After unloading your gear, you may be asked to park your car or truck in open areas at the back of the camp.  As a measure to protect the playa, plan on placing a weighted or staked piece or cardboard under your vehicle’s engine area to prevent any oil drips or road tar from staining the playa.  

Setting up camp:  Designated camp members will have arrived several days earlier before the gates open to set up most of the common equipment.  Work will still be in progress when the gates open on Sunday.  You should count on pitching in on arrival to finish decorations, set up furniture, string lighting, and other chores that make magic happen on the playa.  Getting our camp fully functional early is a priority for everyone so that we can all turn our full attention to the awesomeness of Black Rock City as it comes alive.

 

During the Week

Be Present:  Burning Man is both a personal and a public experience.  It is, simply stated, whatever you make of it.  Sure, survival is important but you didn't pay a bazillion dollars to camp in a crummy place with no trashcans.  Take the time to meet and get to know your camp mates and fellow citizens and you will have the most amazing experience of your life -- and if you're lucky, you may just find a dust family you never even imagined.  Go wander the Playa both day and night and meet new people.  Sure it's massive and can be overwhelming but that is what you're here for -- new experiences, flirting with the unknown, conquering fears, and getting out of your comfort zone.  Visit the camps, knowing that you will be welcome, and experience their contributions to the culture of Black Rock City.  Nobody lived on the playa last week and nobody will live there next week.  We all came Home together and we're all friends just waiting for a hug.  You will see people on stilts drinking at a bar that is 10 feet in the air.  You will see people in outlandish costumes enjoying playing dress-up and you'll see naked people enjoying being nude.  You will see painted people.  You will see people that you have painted.  You will see people dressed like carrots (and bunnies).  You will see things you can't describe -- in the office anyway.  Admit to yourself that you came here to change your life and then go have fun with it.  Both in camp and out and about, be accepting, respectful to all, and open to adventure.  To paraphrase Zorba the Greek, unzip your squirrel onesie and go look for trouble.  Playa time is notoriously unreliable and is not linear.  One day can last a lifetime.  There is no better place to stretch your boundaries and experience the fruits of your imagination.  You are never responsible for anyone else's burn, just your own.  Extreme heat, dust, exhaustion, and dehydration are all part of it.  Be smart.  Pace yourself.  Stay hydrated to avoid the grumps.  Get around to all the neighborhoods, visit the back streets, get your butt spanked, get painted, get involved, volunteer, do things you can't do at home -- but most importantly, be a full Citizen of Black Rock City.  You will never ever regret it.  Now go outside and play.

Clarity and Consent:  Consent is sexy.  Clarity is important.  Camp SPF in not a sex camp but it is a safe camp where we respect the boundaries of our fellow campers and the relationships they chose.  While we haven't quite figured out how to get consent in advance for all the hugs we share 24/7, we do respect the fact that contact and intimacy are always the choice of both (or all) participants.  If you don't wanna hug somebody, just don't hug somebody.  Fancy somebody?  Tell them so and discuss what that means.  When it comes to intimacy, say what you want to happen and say what you don't want to happen.  In the bubble in reality that is Burning Man, it's easy to find yourself in situations with blurred lines, so keep communication happening and know your limits.  Remember:  "Wherever you Go, However you Dress, No means No, and Yes means Yes!"  


Volunteers:  Camp SPF is run by volunteers and all functions of the camp are performed by fellow Camp SPF family members.  There is no such thing as a Sherpa in Camp SPF.  Each year, a call for volunteers is put out in late June.  You are encouraged to sign up for one or more positions in order to support the camp.  A volunteer sign up form and a description of volunteer positions is posted on the Camp SPF website.  A new camper is, at a minimum, expected to volunteer as a Camp Elf for one day and will be expected to participate in the Sunscreen Station and monitor the cleanliness of the kitchen area.  You will also be expected to assist in keeping the camp MOOP free 24/7 and enthusiastically participate in all MOOP walks.  If you've camped with us before and you have not volunteered for a camp lead position (MOOP Master, Shower Czar, Ice Queen, etc) in the past, it’s time to stand up and do your part!

Emergency contact:  Part of the radical self-reliance of Burning Man is dealing with being out of touch with the world while you’re living for a week on a dry lake bed in a remote region of Nevada.  Prior to departure from the default world, make sure that your family or friends know who you will be camping with (Camp SPF), where the camp is located, and your Playa name.  The Burning Man website has information on getting in touch with someone on the Playa, but they clearly warn you that it is hit-or-miss effort and that it's difficult to reach someone who may have moved, changed names, left early, etc.  Woodstock and Esteban, two venerable hippies who really enjoy hugs, have access to a satellite text system that will allow your family or friends to reach you in emergencies or for you to send an emergency message to them.  Contact them for more details.

Meals:  Camp SPF provides a kitchen area with stoves, utensils, pots and pans, tables, spices, etc. for general use.  The camp itself does not provide organized meals during the Burn week.  Some campers who have food restrictions or eating preferences choose to form "food groups" and band together to cook.  Unless you are a member of a group, you should not expect to share those meals.  You may use the kitchen area, kitchen gear, and spices to cook individual meals for yourself.  You may share what you have with others if you wish, but that is neither required nor expected.  Some Camp SPF members volunteer to cook a meal for the whole camp (and we love them for it!) and you’re most welcome to share in those meals.  Camp meals provided by volunteers are generally announced before the burn on the Camp Calendar so you can plan your packing.  Spontaneous meals where campers combine their resources often happen and lead to some delicious and exotic menus (never underestimate the culinary delight of SPAM after a week on the playa).  Appreciation shown to volunteers who cook a meal for the camp and a little help with cleanup go a long way toward eating well on the playa!

Kitchen Policy:  You are welcome to use the equipment in the kitchen at any time of the day or night.  Whatever the hour, you are expected to clean up after yourself immediately after you finish eating.  Never plan on 'getting to it later' as that is a path to certain failure and public shaming. Your goal should be to leave the kitchen cleaner than when you started.  This is a very important issue to the whole camp and emphasis is placed on “owning” your kitchen MOOP.  Anything left in the kitchen must be authorized by a Camp Counselor or the Mayor and must have your name on it as the owner.  Items authorized to be left in the kitchen will be few and far between as MOOP invariably attracts more MOOP.  In the rare case that you are authorized to leave something in the kitchen for general use, remember that you are still responsible for packing it out!  Any food prepared during meals must be completely removed at the end of the meal (no leftovers in the kitchen!).  If you want to share food, it is usually best to hold on to it while you walk around camp and share it, with anything left over going back to your tent.  If you think that leaving a half-empty bag of chips in the kitchen is helpful because “someone will eat it”, you are fooling yourself into thinking that you’re helping when you’re actually MOOPing.  Food left out in the kitchen becomes dusty, dirty, nasty, and unappealing within minutes.  Not to mention unhealthy after sitting around in the heat.  Your behavior in the kitchen is a big part of how your fellow campers will view your camp participation.  The Camp Counselor and Camp Elves will monitor kitchen use and provide feedback to users and the Mayor.  Never ever piss off a Camp Elf.  Bad things will happen.

Reminder:  After using the camp stoves, always turn off the gas at the propane bottle!  Simple math:  (no gas) + (no coffee) = grumpy people2


Shower:  Camp SPF provides an awesome shower area!  The shower is a 10’X10’ closed and private area that is open to the sky.  There is a tripod to hold your solar shower bag (or the one you borrowed after respectfully asking first) and a small swimming pool to catch all your gray water before it touches the playa.  A bench and mats are provided to dry off and keep your belongings out of the dust.  You are expected to remove your gray water immediately after your shower.  If the camp does not provide for gray water disposal, you should plan on packing it out for proper disposal off the playa.  Towels, clothes, containers, shampoo, etc should be removed immediately after you’ve finished your shower so the next person has a clean area to use.  If you choose to leave your solar shower bag hanging at the back of the enclosure, make sure it is clearly marked with your name/playa name.  A Shower Czar monitors the shower during the week and they are a good source of information and help if needed. 

Note:  A very pleasant shower can be had using about two gallons of water (or even less!).  The trick is to quickly wet down your entire body and then turn off the water.  Soap/scrub your body, using a low-foam body wash or soap, and then quickly rinse off with the remaining water in your solar bag.  When wetting down or rinsing off, start at your head and quickly proceed to your toes to take advantage of run-off.  If you have long hair, give it a quick rinse initially, but come back and finish rinsing your hair with the last of your water.  If you run out of water, some soap in your hair is much easier to remedy than soap in areas... um... not normally exposed to sunshine.  Sponges and friends can add to the pleasure of being clean on the playa.

Parties:  Our parties during the week are put on by camp members and we all volunteer to bring booze, mixers, etc., as needed for the party.  We do this on a relatively small scale, mostly for ourselves and camp neighbors.  Your biggest contribution to our parties is your presence, so try to be there.  Parties are announced on the Camp Calendar in advance and on a copy posted in the kitchen.  Stuff happens and it is easy to get distracted by shiny things at Burning Man.  That said, try to be there for the camp parties to represent the camp, have fun, and swap some tipsy hugs.  Good things invariably come from meeting fellow Burners.

Sunscreen Station:  The Camp SPF Sunscreen Station is open every day Mon-Sun during the peak sun hours of 10 am to 4 pm.  A minimum of 6 camp volunteers are selected as Camp Elves each day and they are expected to keep the Sunscreen Station in operation and arrange shifts among themselves.  At least two Elves should be at the Sunscreen Station at all times.  The Camp Elves also monitor the cleanliness of the kitchen.  More people may join in and help apply sunscreen as they wish and as the crowds demand.  New sunscreeners should look on the website for tips and guidance on how to be successful as a sunscreener.  Camp SPF takes responsibility for keeping the area of the Sunscreen Station MOOP free, wherever it's located. Sunscreeners also monitor bicycle parking and encourage people to use the bike racks and keep their bicycles off the street. 

Note:  Black Rock City is located on a dry lake at an altitude of 4000 ft.  Many Burners, especially first time Burners, are not aware of how quickly the dry conditions and higher elevation can cause sunburn.  Because of the low humidity on the playa, sweat evaporates almost immediately and does not alert people to the intensity of the sun at that altitude. In 2014, 11% of patients at EMS (over 7,000 people!) were treated for heat-related injuries.  Sunscreeners should be familiar with the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke and, if observed, should advise customers to visit EMS.  Symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke are posted on the website and are available for reference at the Sunscreen Station.

Ice:  A volunteer Ice Queen will make a daily ice run to Arctica for the camp.  If you need ice for your cooler, listen for the Ice Queen’s call for a run and provide exact change for the amount of ice you request (bring dollar bills!).  This service is for small orders.  If you have a large ice need, borrow the camp’s cart and make a dedicated run (or just volunteer to help the Ice Queen!).  Be sure you (or your agent) are there to take custody of your ice when the Ice Queen returns from Artica or you will have a bag of water waiting for you when you return to camp.  The Ice Queen has no obligation (or place) to store your ice for you.

Camp Meetings:  Camp meetings are held as needed and are announced in advance.  Meetings are kept to a minimum and you are expected to attend them.  Meetings are generally held after breakfast.  Camp meetings are conducted in the round-robin forum style and are used to put out information from the BMORG and to discuss camp issues.  You are welcome to stand up and say your piece at camp meetings if you have something to say that is important to you or you think would be of interest to the group.  If you're late getting home from the playa and miss a meeting, you are responsible for finding out what was said at the meeting.  If you miss a meeting, you are still responsible for knowing what was announced and complying with any decisions made by the group in your absence.  



On Exodus

Camp Breakdown:   Everyone will be packing up to leave on the last Saturday and Sunday before Exodus.  Everyone is expected to assist in every way possible in packing up the camp.  The camp kitchen will close on the final Sunday at noon.  All cooking and food preparation after noon on Sunday must be done at your tents or vehicles.  Many campers have individual stoves, etc and are willing to share cooking gear with campers who travel by air or Burner Bus.  Plan your final meals accordingly.  The Kitchen Breakdown Crew will pack all equipment into the trailers under the direction of the Mayor.  As much equipment as possible will be packed and loaded into the trailers before the Temple Burn on Sunday night.  Volunteer camp members will be part of the Camp Breakdown Crew and will begin breaking down the camp starting Saturday and will continue into Monday (Exodus) with the goal of having everything packed into the trailers by Monday night.  On Exodus +1, the Camp Breakdown Crew will perform a final MOOP sweep and depart for the trailer storage area in Empire.  Every camper should anticipate that everything must be off the playa by Monday evening and act accordingly.  If you plan to have anyone pick up your gear after you depart, explain your arrangement to the Mayor in advance and what you plan to do if your arrangements fail to happen.  If your stuff is still on the playa when the Camp Breakdown Crew is finished, they will be very unhappy and and the very air about them will turn green with invictive.  If you pack it in, you are responsible for packing it out and there are no exceptions.  Camp SPF has no ‘sherpas’ to clean up after we depart.  Nobody is getting paid to do cleanup.  We are a family, and anything you don’t do yourself becomes an additional burden on other family members.  Show your love and do your part plus a little bit more.  We care about our camp's BMORG MOOP Sweep rating and take pride in the fact that we've been "GREEN" every year. 

Departure from camp:  Let people know when you plan to depart camp for Exodus.  There may be something you can haul out that will earn you a big hug and serious brownie points with the Mayor. The MOOP Master will want to go over your area with you to assist you in leaving no trace. You will also be responsible for checking for playa damage under your vehicle before you depart.  When you’re ready to depart, contact a Camp Counselor, the Mayor, or the MOOP Master to have them check your area for last-minute MOOP issues.  If you have an empty seat in your vehicle and can provide transportation for someone, announce that in advance at a camp meeting.  Before departing, don’t forget to collect enough hugs to keep your spirit warm until you return Home again. 


After the Burn

Staying Green:  Camp SPF has a history of being green in the BMORG’s final MOOP Sweep.  We all watch the results closely and take pride in seeing our area marked as green on the annual MOOP Map published on burningman.com.  Pay close attention to playa damage as well as loose MOOP and we’ll stay GREEN!

Staying in Touch:  Stay in touch with your Homies during the year by posting on the Camp SPF website or saying a quick hello on the Facebook page.  We come from all areas of the country and we stay in touch throughout the year.  Gatherings have been known to happen!