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12 Tips for Taking an RV to Burning Man

We have an updated version of this article with even more hints and tips for taking an RV to Burning Man – 16 Tips for taking an RV to Burning Man.

An often asked piece of advice we give is tips on taking an RV to Burning Man. With a harsh environment, lots of alkaline dust, extreme temperature ranges, high gusty winds – it’s a good question to ask!

So, here are some quick tips we offer up with this being (hopefully) our forth year on the playa with our home on wheels:

1. Embrace the dust! No matter how many preps you make, plan to do some extensive cleaning afterwards. Hiring a full on detailing is a worthwhile investment to get your RV back to a somewhat pre-playa condition. But do be prepared that you will always find traces of your playa experience on your RV for years to come. That dust just doesn’t seem to go away (cleaning with a vinegar solution is the best method it seems tho) – we’ve learned to embrace it and the fond memories it brings back.

2. Cover all vent openings. Get some cheap cut-up AC filters and tape (a sticky kind – the low adhesive painter style tape just falls off) and place them over all external vents. Pay particular attention to behind your fridge and any openings to circuitry. This will save you a lot of fine detailed cleaning and perhaps even electronic failures. Caution: If you put a covering over your hot water heater – make sure it is turned off, or stuff will melt!! Take the vent covering off BEFORE turning on your hot water heater.

3. Tape over switches &  seams! Put some tape over any external switches and seams with potential openings (windows, poor sealings, etc).  This will help electronics from filing with dust and locking up (it would be awful to not be able to retract your awning or leveling jacks!), and reduce one more entry point of dust during storms.  We even tape over any switches we won’t regularly be needing near doors and windows.

4. Wax On, Dust Off! As our RV is fiberglass, we always do a good cleaning and waxing of all our gel coat before heading to the playa. This helps tremendously in allowing the dust to just blow over, and allows us to quickly tidy up inside with a quick wipe down once a day. Consider this for any waxable surfaces on your RV.

5. Protect the Soft Bits. We always cover all our upholstery with sheets or spare fabric, so that the our coverings stay as dust free as possible.  This also allows us to have something to shake out (when the dust is still) to quickly give us a fresher feeling inside.

6. Minimizing Openings. Minimize the amount of time your door is open, and number of entry and exits. Some folks construct a sort of ‘dust room’ at their entrance for taking off dusty clothing and shoes, and keeping baby wipes near the door. This can help minimize tracking dust further inside.

7. Close it up! If you’re leaving your camp, close up all windows and vent fans, and RETRACT YOUR AWNING. Wind and dust storms can kick up unexpectedly, and getting back to camp in a hurry is not usually possible. Most awning can not withstand the gusty winds that can kick up.. and will rip right off!

8. Air Flow. When there’s no dust blowing, keeping the interior of your rig ventilated is no more difficult than in any other boondocking situation (crack a window and turn on your vent fan to ‘out’ to create a flow where you want it).  However, this is bad bad BAD during dust storms.  If you plan to ride out a dust storm inside – come prepared with a small fan. We keep a small clip on oscillating 12v fan (can pick one up in most automobile departments) for just such occasions.

9. Poor Man’s Evaporative Cooling. Evaporative cooling works wonderful in the dry environment of the playa. We found a way to attached a small wet towel over our ceiling vent fan and then turn the fan to ‘In’ mode.  This makes for a great makeshift cooling system, and has gotten us through many a hot afternoon without resorting to firing up the generator for air conditioning. We also use a Misty Mate handheld water mister that does wonders.

10. Minimize Electrical Usage. Use your best boondocking practices to minimize needing to run your generator as much. LED lights are great, reduce reliance on other types of lights.  Turn off any parasitic loads (a friend recently reported that he gained an extra hour PER DAY of battery capacity by simply unplugging his microwave when not in use). Anything with status lights that isn’t being actively used is drawing a load on your batteries.  Obviously, solar power is an awesome route to go!

11. Pee in a Bottle. To maximize your black water tanks (if yours aren’t large enough to get your crew through the entire burn), handle those night time (and dust storm) nature call moments by peeing into a bottle. (Boondocker’s hint for women: one of those empty plastic Folger’s coffee cans works great for us!).  You can dump the bottles out later in the porta potties.

12. Minimize Water Usage & Evaporate. Obviously, water is a limited resource on the playa – you have only what you can bring out. Use our steps for minimizing water usage. Also, collecting dish washing water into a pan allows you to set it out in the sun to evaporate (never ever dump grey water on the playa!!).

Any other tips for taking an RV to Burning Man? Post them in the comments – we’d love to hear more!

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20 Comments - Still Plenty of Room for Yours!

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  1. Hello guys! I just wanted to say thank you for all the great RV information. This will be my 5th year going to BM but my 1st year sleeping in anything other than a tent. We r taking a 5th wheel this year! I am also part of your Camp Nomadia mailing list as a couple years prior, I was planning on doing a solo adventure until I was invited to camp with the rangers. You have always welcomed everyone with open arms and exude such a warm, awesome vibe. Just thought you should know. Have a fantastic night!!!
    ~Chels (aka: Cheeks)

  2. We used a Rv Detailing company in Reno called High Desert Mobile Auto Detailing and they did an amazing job they are a little pricey but worth it if you want your deposit back..There web address is http://www.highdesertautodetailing.com hope that help they have mobile units that come to you its very easy…..

  3. Girls can use the bottle too – just cut a funnel from a small to medium water or pop bottle, nicely contoured front to back, and make sure the big bottle has an opening larger than the funnel opening. The advantage over a coffee can is that the pee goes through the funnel right into the larger bottle which can then be closed with its top, avoiding open containers of pee. And the smaller bottle nests between your legs easier than a larger coffee can would.

  4. Great tips! We’ve taken an old RV before but never our “home”, this year Bebe is going to BM and want to take all of the precautions we can. You guys going to have a NuRVers camp this year? While in Quartzsite the Zennomads were ordering tickets too, want to make sure we connect with you on playa. We camp with Leopard Martini Lounge and have a party Monday night – come and wear your leopard!

    Any recommendations for RV cleaning in Reno??

    • Hi Debby… we currently don’t have plans for Burning Man this year. If we go, it’ll be last minute and we’ll be taking a year off of hosting a camp.

      No clue about RV cleaning, never had it done. We just use a paper towel and glass cleaner on our fiberglass. Takes us about 30 minutes to clean up after the burn 🙂

  5. Great tips! We’ve taken an old RV before but never our “home”, this year Bebe is going to BM and want to take all of the precautions we can. You guys going to have a NuRVers camp this year? While in Quartzsite the Zennomads were ordering tickets too, want to make sure we connect with you on playa. We camp with Leopard Martini Lounge and have a party Monday night – come and wear your leopard!

  6. I probably never would go to it because I am not a party person but I do really like to use Turtle Zipwash or Rainx wash and wax. I have used it on my cars and RVs for years. Puts an excellent coat of turtle or rainx wax on them. Protects them through harsh Alaska winters because you cannot put Rv covers on your vehicles here during winter. Weather so brutal it tears the finish right off and gets stuck to lining of the cover

  7. Last night wifey and I wrapped the cushions in plastic wrap.. others we covered with a light weight shower curtain (type that doesn’t crinkle much at all) covered with a blanket. That’ll work well..

    Side Note. Kitty Kong, our big black cat was trapped in the brand new RV overnight.. lets just say we didn’t really need to use those screens on the playa anyway. Add it to the list of return-trip items to re-visit.. 🙂

    • Hah.. yeah, Kiki has destroyed one of our screens too. We’re working on de-training that behavior before re-screening. Good thing screens don’t stop dust anyway, eh? 🙂

  8. I googled your cathedral, it was really beautiful. I can’t imagine all the work that goes into creating and transporting something so big. I went to burningman.com. It is everything my mother ever warned me about. Everything my Sunday school teacher preached about. Everything my pastor every railed against from the pulpit. Man it looks like fun! I wish I could go, but I will sit back and read it all hear. Have fun guys!

  9. I don’t have a graywater tank in my older fiberglass trailer. Here’s what to do:

    Use Technomadia’s water-reduction tips! (I’m using a hand-held garden sprayer for showering, dishwashing, etcetera. For hot water, wrap a black plastic bag around the water jar and set out in the sunshine!)

    Line a large washtub or kiddie pool with black contractor garbage bags…for those of you with no gray water tanks or outdoor showers, you can empty your water (watch it! Don’t overflow!) into these “evap pools”. TIP: A low-wattage submersible water pump, like the kind found in small decorative fountains (cheap at harbor freight) will agitate the water, creating a larger evaporative surface area. Bring along a spare jerry can (appropriately marked) and funnel to store/take home any non-evaporated graywater when you leave.

    It’s a good idea to put a solar accent light or battery-operated blinkie on your hitch to keep people from smashing their shins. Wrap your hitch securely in white plastic garbage bag, or white towel, to protect connections/increase visibility!

  10. Handy tips guys.
    I hope to make it out to Burning Man some year (so wishing I was there). This year though I’m going to have to be content with looking forward to a fun regional burn here in Georgia next month.

  11. Probably best to read up on it on BurningMan.com since there is so much to try and relate.. and then ask specific questions where you have them. 🙂 I hit the road Friday after work for the 30 hour drive there from the St. Louis area..

    • What sort of art projects?!??

      During this one week of every year, there is more creative energy concentrated at Burning Man than anywhere else on earth. The amount of art and creativity on display is awe inspiring.

      The projects are bigger, wilder, more ambitious, and more flammable than you could ever begin to imagine.

      For a taste, check out http://www.burningman.com

      As an example, in 2006 I was part of building a 100′ x 200′ x 50′ tall gothic wireframe structure called the Conexus Cathedral. It was stunningly beautiful. (Google it for photos…)

      And one of the best parts – there is no distinction between the artists and the audience. Everyone is a participant, and everyone is expected to share and create. There is nothing sponsored, nothing branded, nothing for sale. Just creativity for the sake of creation and sharing.

      I can’t wait to get back out there this year!

      We had a week to build it, a week to enjoy it, and just a few days to remove absolutely every trace of it from the desert. And there were other even larger projects out there that year.

    • Great advice on the Goo Gone and carpet film!

      As our RV is all gel coat fiberglass, we just use a marine grade fiberglass wax/polish and gel coat protector (and follow the directions). Don’t know enough about waxes in general to make any further recommendations.

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