THE GUARDIAN GUIDE TO BURNING MAN: Tips and resources to get the most out of Burning Man
Speaking of which: wear good, comfy shoes. Most costumes should stop at the ankle at Burning Man, particularly if you're prowling the playa
In honor of the mad scramble for tickets after Burning Man sold out more than a month before the event for the first time in its 25-year history, I'm offering some thoughts on sneaking into the event. Given how many people could find themselves stuck with counterfeit tickets or otherwise unable to get in this year, it seems like something that any thorough guide should cover.
Now, before everyone jumps all over me, telling me that I'm endangering lives and undermining the spirit and the stability of the event, let me make clear the spirit in which I'm offering this advice. Just think of it like a hacker publicizing the security vulnerabilities of a beloved institution — hopefully the Borg will read this too and do what it can to either plug the holes or somehow take pity on the desperate souls stuck outside the city's gates.
First of all, you gotta know what you're getting yourself into. Gate crew takes this shit very seriously, thoroughly searching every car and trailer, and looking into hiding spots that you probably haven't even thought of. Many of them take real pride in this, some thoroughly stomping on rolls of carpet that might contain a stowaway, potentially adding injury to your insult.
Here's the worst part: It is official Burning Man policy that when stowaways are found, everyone in that vehicle gets his or her tickets torn up. And burner brass says it will beef up security this year, including more people at the gate and more people scanning the open playa with night-vision goggles and fast interceptor cars.
Every year, they catch about 30 people trying to sneak it. "We're very confident that we catch all the stowaways," Borg member Marian Goodell tells us. But we all know that can't possibly be true, right? There are playa legends of a contortionist who puts herself in a packing bin and gets in every year, and I've met people who claim to have snuck in both at the gate and over the open playa.
So, if you gotta do it, my best advice is to find a confederate on the inside, such as someone on Gate crew who owes you or will take pity on you or a bribe from you. That's how many coyotes do it at the US-Mexico border, and it could work here too. There aren't any wristbands at Burning Man, so once you can weasel your way in amid the confusion at the gate, you're in.
Skydivers also have a pretty good shot at getting in, even though they're likely to be greeted on the ground by someone asking for their tickets. But, it's a big city, and if you've got some skydiving expertise and you're able to rapidly change directions during the final phase of your descent, you might just make it.
There are also ways to take advantage of human oversights, particularly during the early arrival period before the event begins. There are often openings in the gate briefly left unguarded in the early days, as we discovered last year after a trip to the reservoir. Or sometimes, after thoroughly searching the car, the person at the gate will forget to tear your ticket. And believe it or not, sometimes people on the inside end up with spare tickets for friends who couldn't make it. Any untorn tickets can be spirited out by people making runs into nearby Gerlach for supplies.
But in closing, let me just reiterate that buying a ticket is part of the "radical self-reliance" principle that is central to the burner ethos, so do yourself and your community a favor and find a ticket, or accept that you may just have to sit this year out. Don't worry, we'll make more.