If you’ve been researching and comparing your options for sleeping in the desert, you may have decided upon taking an RV to Burning Man. Using an RV at Burning Man is a great option in terms of comfort and ease. If you are flying in, you don’t need to worry about renting a vehicle or traveling with a bunch of camping gear. You also don’t need to worry about how you’ll store and cook food, and having the generator is definitely a huge plus.
With that said, there are some downsides and other special considerations that need to be kept in mind when taking an RV to Burning Man. We’ve been taking an RV to Burning Man for the past four years. In these years, we’ve learned some tips and tricks along the way that I’ll be passing on to you.
Taking an RV to Burning Man: Where to book from
Unless you own an RV, you will most likely be looking to rent one to take to Burning Man. There are many different options available when considering where to rent, which will vary depending on your location and budget.
Firstly, will you be driving the RV from your home to Nevada, or flying to a closer location? If you live in North America, you could drive to Burning Man in theory. However, some rental companies don’t let their vehicles go across the border. You also need to consider the time commitment to drive to the Black Rock Desert, as well as the fuel costs. It costs around $150USD to fill an RV gas tank each time.
For this reason, most people choose to fly into a city closer to where Burning Man takes place. The closest you can get is Reno, Nevada. There are many rental companies in Reno, all of which are very aware of Burning Man. In fact, most RV rental companies across the states are aware of Burning Man, especially in Nevada, California, Arizona, and Utah. Some of these companies have strict no Burning Man policies. Some will rent for Burning Man, for a much higher fee. And then there are a few who are aware of Burning Man and will still charge a reasonable price. These are the RVs that get booked up the quickest.
It’s pretty safe to assume that the closer the RV’s location to Burning Man, the higher the cost is going to be. Reno will be the most expensive, as will Sacramento, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles.
We normally rent from Salt Lake City, and there’s been a sharp increase in price from there as well. You want to keep the cost of fuel in mind too. You may find a more affordable RV further away, but you can end up paying much more in terms of fuel cost.
Using a Peer to Peer RV Rental Company
Since most of the affordable RVs get booked up quickly, it’s a good idea to start looking for an RV as soon as you know you want to go to Burning Man. There are dozens and dozens of RV rental companies to choose from. Some of the big ones are Cruise America, USA RV, Motor Home Republic, and Apollo, amongst many others. In recent years, peer-to-peer RV rental websites have become popular too.
Peer-to-peer RV rental websites function very similarly to Airbnb. Owners can list their personal RVs to be reserved by renters. The two biggest sites for this currently are RV Share and Outdoorsy. We personally have had a great experience with RV Share for the past three years.
To use these websites, simply enter the location and dates you which to rent. You will then get a list of available RVs in the surrounding area. You can click into the ones that fit your size and budget requirements.
As you read the details, you may notice that some explicitly say “No Burning Man”. Don’t even bother to inquire about these listings. Outdoorsy actually has a great feature where the owner can choose to advertise the RV as “festival-friendly”, so you know they are ok with it going to the desert. On RV Share, some may have set prices listed for Burning Man. If the prices are within your budget, feel free to inquire to the owner. If there is no mention of Burning Man, then send a message to the owner to ask.
My advice is to always be transparent about where you will be taking the RV. Most owners will say no to going to Burning Man. Some will come back with an updated (more expensive) price. However, with enough determination, you’re bound to find something that works for you.
Let the Rental Company or Owner Know Where You Are Going
The desert takes quite a toll on everything out there, including vehicles. The dust is very fine and gets into every nook and cranny imaginable (although there are ways to reduce this, which we will discuss below). For this reason, it’s best to be transparent with whoever you are renting from about where their RV is going.
Back in 2016, we rented from RV Share but didn’t disclose where the RV would be going. After the burn, we cleaned for hours to try to get all of the dust out of the interior. When we returned the RV, the owners instantly knew where it had gone.
Luckily, they could tell we put a lot of effort into cleaning and only charged an extra $300 deep-cleaning fee since they had to clean it further. On the other hand, I’ve heard tales of people losing their $1500+ security deposits by lying about taking the RV to Burning Man.
Trust me when I saw it’s not worth the stress of worrying about the dust in the RV all week. Find someone who is ok with their RV going to Burning Man. They’ll understand that that entails, and you could enjoy your week in the desert knowing you aren’t risking potentially thousands of dollars.
What if I never drove an RV before?
So you have your ticket, you found an RV, your bags are packed, and it’s time to make your way to the desert. There’s just one problem: you’ve never exactly driven a vehicle quite so big. While driving an RV can be intimidating at first, it’s actually not much different from driving a truck.
A lot of the newer models especially have backup cameras which make navigating the RV much easier. The majority of your drive will likely be on highways too, which means long and straight spurts of road. The trickiest part will be pulling in and out of plazas to grab supplies. Use your backup cam if you have one, or don’t be scared to ask someone to get out and guide you into a parking spot.
Depending on how long the drive is, you will probably want to split the drive up and sleep overnight somewhere. The good thing about having an RV is you can pull into a truckstop and sleep there! You will also want to have multiple drivers if possible. Also, don’t forget to factor in the wait time on gate road to enter and exit Burning Man – it can add hours onto your drive time.
Prepping an RV for Burning Man
As previously mentioned, the dust on the Playa is fine and will end up everywhere. There is no use trying to fight this. I’ve learned that the sooner you embrace the dust, the sooner you will start to enjoy your burn more fully. With that said, there are things you can do to reduce the amount of dust that will get into the RV, and even things you can do to help keep it insulated and cooler.
Dust Reduction + Insulation
Over the past few years, we’ve become quite good at reducing the amount of dust that ends up inside the RV. While you will never truly avoid the dust, it’s nice to have a somewhat clean space to retreat to when need be.
- Use thick painters tape to seal all the windows and crevices from the outside. This helps reduce the amount of dust that gets blown in with the wind.
- Use the silver emergency blankets or Reflectix to cover the windows. These will be held down with the thick painter’s tape from the previous step. This helps reduce the heat from the sun in the RV.
- Bring some plastic drop sheets and cover the dash and two front seats. Secure with masking tape. This helps reduce the amount of dust in the cab area and makes the drive home cleaner.
- Do not wear your boots inside the RV. We have a rubber bin that we keep outside, and everyone’s boots stay in the bin when they aren’t being used.
- Bring your own bedding. We bring old sheets and buy a new pillow at Walmart for the week. This helps keep the RV’s mattresses and cushions dust-free, and won’t ruin the pillows and sheets that already exist.
Insider RV Tips
Besides getting your RV prepared for the desert, there are things you can do and rules to follow to help maximize the space in the RV, and help ensure everyone in the RV gets along. I’ve also included some tips we’ve learned along the way that have been extremely useful when taking an RV to Burning Man:
- Buy a magnetic key lockbox to store the main door key in. Keep the lockbox underneath the RV. This way, you don’t need to worry about losing the key or trying to find the person who’s holding it. You will want to make sure you lock your RV whenever you leave.
- If possible, use a separate tent to keep everyone’s luggage in. We started doing this last year and it made space in the RV so much more accessible.
- Buy a couple of bags of ice before you get on the Playa. The lines for ice are always very long. Also, if your fridge stops working, the ice will act as insulation.
- Buy paper plates and disposable cutlery. Your freshwater is extremely limited in the RV, so you don’t want to be wasting it doing dishes.
- Use your water very sparingly! You’d be surprised how quickly you can go through your entire freshwater tank. Don’t ever let the water run when washing your face or brushing your teeth.
- Don’t leave your things – dust mask, coat, food, backpack, etc. thrown anywhere. Have designated places for things. This will help keep your space clean and organized.
- Don’t use the shower unless you will be ok with running out of water. Baby wipes will become your new best friend.
- Don’t go number 2 in the RV toilet. Just trust me on this.
Other Things to Consider:
- The water tank in the RV is not potable, AKA don’t drink it. But you’re being radically self-reliant and bringing all the water you’ll need, right?
- Don’t let strangers into the RV. It’s an invasion of the other people’s personal space and seriously not cool.
- While RVs have generators and propane to power things, they are not perfect. Expect things to go wrong in the RV and have a backup plan if they do (AC may not work, the fridge may stop running, etc).
- Consider dumping your tanks before heading onto the Playa. One year we rented an RV that showed the tank was half full. The owner assured us it was likely a piece of toilet paper over the sensor but otherwise the tank was empty. This was not the case and our grey water tank was full by the third day. Now we always make sure it’s actually empty.
Cleaning the RV after Burning Man
So your amazing week in the desert has come to an end. Now the only thing standing between you and that magical first shower is cleaning your RV before you return it. If you’ve rented from a company that includes the cleaning as part of the rental fee – awesome! However keep in mind that most companies will expect the RV to be returned in the condition it left in, which means you’ll have to do some cleaning.
If everyone works together, it’s actually not so bad. We stop at a self-serve car wash halfway between Black Rock City and Salt Lake City. Here, we dump some trash in the dumpsters they provide and do a deep cleaning.
We split up the tasks so someone takes the cushions to the vacuum, someone power washes the outside, and the remaining people start cleaning all the interior surfaces. We’ve found that Armor All wipes do a great job of picking up the dust and leaving a clean surface. White vinegar and
You should also find out if you are responsible for dumping the water tanks. If so, your RV host should give you a walkthrough of how to do so. It will involve using a thick hose and attaching it to a pipe under the RV, and releasing a valve to empty the tanks. Most truck stops along the highway have RV dumping stations. It’s not the most pleasant job, but it’s not the worst either. Make sure you wash your hands after dumping. It’s best to dump your tanks as soon as you can. If the greywater is especially full, it can start to back up into the shower and sinks as you drive, which is not a good thing to smell. Dumping your tanks will also make the RV lighter and easier on gas.
Now Go Enjoy Your RV at Burning Man
Hopefully, by now you have a bit better of an understanding in what goes into taking an RV to Burning Man. It’s unlike any other camping trip, so you’ll need to prepare for a week in the desert.
Remember, there are ways to reduce the amount of dust in the RV, but you’ll never escape it fully. Keep in mind that things are likely to go wrong with the RV as well, so have backup options in place for things like food storage and water disposal.
With that said, taking an RV to Burning Man is a great way to enjoy your burn, with some of the comforts of home too (just make sure you go out and socialize as often as you can!).