Yes, yes, we agree – Burning Man is the mystical hotbed where liberated like-minded free-thinkers come together with hippie-esque abandon. But when things go wrong, they really, really do. 

Over the last few weeks leading to Burning Man’s epic 2015 adventure which begins the 30th day of August, we’ve been constantly inundating you with Burning Man’s awesomeness. That Burning Man is the place where radical artists express themselves most creatively is known. That people go there in search of radical lifestyles, otherwise frowned upon by society is known too. And that these people come back with the most exclusive experiences is well spoken about. 

But in the midst of soaking in the surreal nature of Burning Man, all the things that can seemingly go wrong at the desert festival are often avoided. But The Sherp is here with a bunch of premonitions. No, we aren’t trying to bug you down, but a little care hurt no one ever.

1. Let’s talk of dehydration, for a second. 

Black Rock City is a legitimate desert expanse. If that doesn’t worry you for the water levels in your body, we don’t know what will. Additionally, the rampant drug-use at Burning Man calls for balanced water intake, which many revelers fail to do. Dehydration is a genuine Burning Man problem, leading to several instances of having to rush people to the medical unit.

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2. You’re in a desert, so..

The sand storms at Burning Man are legendary. People usually shut shop in those situations, but if unprepared, prepare for them to wreck havoc in your mini homes, and establishments.

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3. Getting to Burning Man, itself

Burning Man, as mentioned, is held at Black Rock City in Nevada, a huge expanse of Desert space. Getting to Burning Man itself can be quite the effort. Not only is it a long drive inside the state of Nevada, but Black Rock City assumes a shut down mode if it reaches its capacity of 68,00 people. Fortunately, or not, due to the festival’s growing popularity, this can be quite the common occurrence!

Alejandra Loera wrote about experiencing this for OC Weekly –


4. The tricky no-holds-barred approach

Burning Man’s central policy is to allow its attendees an experience that normative society finds too bold to allow. Therefore, as you may have assumed correctly, everything goes at Burning Man. And by that we mean orgies, orgies involving drugs, spiritual orgies, naked hugs, to name a few.

While, participation in Burning Man is no way an indication of agreeing to everything and anything, people can sometimes perceive you as standoff-ish. Many attendees have, over the many year, complained about not feeling welcome, only because of resisting some under-the-table action.

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5. The drifting friends

Friends at Burning Man, while fresh and inspiring, can also be immensely drifty. You must not be surprised that your new found best friend for the afternoon, has walked away from your planned soiree for greener, uh, more interesting pastures. Drug-induced people can exaggerate their emotions sometimes, so if you find yourself dependent on a co-attendee, things may not go so well as planned.

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Credit: Soren Bowie’s Burning Man experience on is a classic for the many things that can go wrong at the playa!

6. How clean is it?

Burning Man is presumably clean. The festival has a serious ‘pick your own trash’ policy, and it follows its ‘leave no trace’ behind gloriously well. Except, that is not a sentiment echoed by some newly included BM members. You will find the portaloos, and the porta-potties messed up by some overtly eager, wanting to be a fest of the festival enthusiasts. So, lower your expectations about Burning Man cleanliess, and make sure you clean up after yourself.

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7. The bad LSD experience

Acid has been and continues to be one of Burning Man’s biggest lures. While not a commodity readily available at a store, acid or LSD is a part of several Burning Man stories. Many loyalists consider it essential to be able to accept the festival’s radical lifestyle. Except, LSD can cause people to have terrible passing-out experiences, which in a desert, doesn’t sound fancy.

If you’re a novice to consuming the drug, you’d rather want to do it around people you trust, who’ll have you side, for the remainder of the festival.

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8. Getting Roofied.

Many people head to Burning Man to have a taste of the underground culture that they’ve been obsessed with, but have little idea of. Enthusiastic first-timers might want to indulge in eveything that’s made it to the Burning Man books, with often, very little insight, which can lead to troubling adventures. The danger of being roofied is often left for assumption, but from being stolen from, and landing in compromising situations, to real, life-threatening worry, anything can come up.

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One of the more serious outtakes to getting roofied is the increase in crime against women. While sexual assault at The Playa is not very widely spoken about, the issue did turn serious in 2012 when the website chose to speak out about it.

This year, however, in addition to all the posts about how 2012 was the best burn ever, there was also a very different post entitled “Serial Rapist on the Playa.” It details the story of a 19-year-old girl who was strangled, drugged, and raped one night. According to the blog, which was written by the victim’s mother, who was also at Burning Man, she was found face down behind Emerald City. The people who found her assumed she had overdosed and took her to the medical tent. After being attached to an IV all night, they released her. Upon returning to her tent, the bruises that appeared made it clear she had been strangled and raped.

Crime is rarely mentioned in conjunction with Burning Man, and neither is rape or assault. When the victim reported the assault on the playa, she was informed that Burning Man is not equipped with rape kits. If you are assaulted while at Burning Man and you want a rape kit, you have to travel to Reno. Joseph Pred, Burning Man’s Emergency Services Operations Chief confirmed, “Rape kits do not exist in Black Rock City. Forensic exams are incredibly complex issues that have to do with the court system and are not something that is really easily taken on. In Northern Nevada, there is only one facility that does that type of exam.”

I found this curious, so I contacted a hospital in Northern Nevada and asked if rape kits were only done in specific facilities. A charge nurse in the ER said that when a person is brought in for rape, they are instructed by law enforcement to conduct a special exam and it can be done in any hospital in Northern Nevada.

This is not the first, nor will this be the last sexual assault that occurs on the playa. Burning Man is a city, and in keeping with that belief, it has a responsibility to provide rape kits for its attendees, as well as a better way of handling a situation like this.

9. Is the community worth trusting?

The Burning Man festival functions on community generosity. People don’t purchase things within the festival, but are given them for free, in return of a gesture. But that doesn’t take away the fact that things get stolen at the festival left, right and centre.

As Brad Bynum writes in

My brother had his bike stolen this year. Admittedly, this was partly his fault because he left it unlocked. But it was 11 a.m. at a crowded Porta-Potty station, and he had more pressing matters that required a hurried entry into a royal-blue throne room. And, seriously, what kind of vulture would steal from a man whose pants are down and is trapped in a sauna of filth? (OK, maybe a smart vulture.)

The official policy of Black Rock City, LLC—that’s the company that provides the infrastructure and hosts the event—is that a bike is not considered stolen unless the lock has been cut and is not considered missing unless it hasn’t reappeared by Monday. This is a bunch of bullshit and stinks to me like an effort to avoid liability for all the bikes that get stolen. If somebody takes something of yours without your permission, that is called theft. I don’t care what day of the week it is.

10. The let-it-all-be policy

Burning Man, to be honest, can feel like a lot of pressure for a newcomer. The need to fit into that all-left-to-abandon lifestyle can be crucial, and not everyone can put up with it. Similarly, people at the festival can expect you to forgive every bad experience you might have, for that’s what a free-thinker would do.

This, in cases of serious misconduct, can cause people much discomfort.

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