I used to know some guys that go every year, build some crazy contraption and take it out there, like the "roaster coaster" Check out Lenny's website at Speedcult.com. I have some metal art from him and have launched potatoes with him off Oxy-Acetelene. lol. He fabricated a sweet aluminum gas tank for my buddy for a case of Pabst, has a roller coaster in his back yard and sometimes breaks out the derby cars too. Full machine shop in the garage, built his motorhome from scratch. Working on an old helicopter, and has a full on jet dragster he built in his garage. Just might be one of the coolest people ever. Seems like it would be fun to run into a bunch of guys like him there.
I've been thinking of going for a while, but it just doesn't seem worth it yet. There are always some really interesting things going on in an art/design perspective. I don't know if I want some cracked out hippie trying to trade me his pants for my sandwich or something all day. Looks pretty fun nonetheless.
"cool" is subjective. Depends on what you're into & how you do it. Some people bring RV's with AC, fresh water, a fridge & hook them up to a generator. Some people bring a tent and some water. Some people bring a giant sound system and bum food/water off other people.
As expected, it's very free-spirited. Clothes are optional, people are very open, most are friendly, lots are inebriated. There are many soap dodgers. you'll probably become one while you're there as water is scarce. Every time the water truck drives by, sprinkling the road to keep the dust down, it's trailed by 10-15 buck-naked people trying to wash off.
One thing I didn't expect - it's HARD. That is to say, it's not a typical relaxing vacation. It's 120 degrees during the day & 50 at night. The unavoidable wind storms can blow sand at 60mph (one guy in my group brings ski goggles for those occasions). Money is not really used - most things are bartered for. It really put things into perspective for me... made me feel very materialistic when I got back to L.A. simply because while I was at burning man, I was more interested in survival than luxuries like TV or fancy cars. Granted, I went the tent route rather than the RV route, but I kinda feel that's the better way to do it.
My suggestions if you go:
- Don't wait til Friday, go early so you can chose a campsite & get settled.
- look around for camp sites... don't pick the first nice one you see.. Listen for music being played because it won't stop - ever... it's no fun to be camped next to a rave.
- Go with a group. You'll meet people there, but it's easier when you're there with others.
- To "participate" you'll want a costume of some sort. this could be anything. I brought a life-size cutout of a douche bag who sent a picture of himself in a speedo to a girl he barely knew (who happened to be a friend of mine). that did the trick.
- Whatever vehicle you bring will be FILLED with the finest sand in the world. "Fine" as in granual (sp?) size, not quality. This is to say it will get into your sealed up vehicle & will take weeks to vacuum all out.
- Bring LOTS of water. I think I budgeted 3 gallons a day.
- Water is heavy. if you drive, wait til Reno to buy the water.
- Stay for the Sunday burn too.
- if you go the tent route, get a tent with a cover, then get a tarp to cover that... leave about 6" between the tarp and the tent cover. The sun is murder out there.
- BRING A BIKE or some other form of non-gas-powered transportation. The center area (void of campsites) is 1 mile across, then the campsites go on for another 1/2 mile on either side... that's 2 straight miles across (if memory serves me - it may be 3 miles) & then you have to turn around & go back. walking sucks. (you can have gas powered transport if you register it as an "art car" - you can dress up a motorcycle to look like a chicken & you're set)
I have a friend who goes every year and loves it. She's invited me, but I have yet to take her up on the offer.
Couple of things I recall from her: dust and dirt gets *everywhere*. Don't take an expensive camera, for example, because it'll likely get ruined. Nothing is for sale, so take everything you need for the entire amount of time you'll be staying. Most people also take stuff to give away to random folks. Make wild costumes, especially which correspond to whatever theme they're celebrating in the particular year. Lots of nudity, including an event in which thousands (10,000+ maybe) topless women ride bikes around the desert. Lots of sex (which she also does). Lots of drugs (which she doesn't do). It's best if you can get into an organized camp with lots of folks, or so she says.
She's done a lot of incredible stuff around the world and this clearly ranks up there as among her favorite events. I'm open minded, but am not sure I could deal with that many hippie folk for an extended period of time, even if she is a hippie-folk who loves driving my lotus at speed (which I gladly let her do).