Scribe's Guide to Playa Prep - Page 2

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.



Dear Mr. Jones,

Would you be willing to put your sneaking recommendation to the test yourself? I believe that would be an insightful article to read. If you do this please document all pertinent information like time frames and bathroom breaks.

Thank you,


Posted by Guest on Aug. 04, 2011 @ 11:45 am

No, as I wrote, I don't condone sneaking in and if I didn't have a ticket this year, I would sit it out. But as a journalist, I do find it an interesting topic and I'd love to hear the stories from people who do try.

Posted by steven on Aug. 04, 2011 @ 4:16 pm

Steven, maybe Gayte will figure out who you are and make you sit in D lot for a few hours upon entry into BRC for 'not condoning' sneaking in.... as a thank you for your thoughtful article. I mean, as a black shirt I do find it interesting to make trouble makers like you sit for hours, almost all day, in D lot. I don't condone you sitting there, but rather, merely find it interesting.

Writing about it and featuring it obviously isn't condoning it, right? If giving advice on how to do it isn't condoning it...I don't know what is.

Posted by black shirt on Aug. 06, 2011 @ 10:55 am

Steven, maybe Gayte will figure out who you are and make you sit in D lot for a few hours upon entry into BRC for 'not condoning' sneaking in.... as a thank you for your thoughtful article. I mean, as a black shirt I do find it interesting to make trouble makers like you sit for hours, almost all day, in D lot. I don't condone you sitting there, but rather, merely find it interesting.

Writing about it and featuring it obviously isn't condoning it, right? If giving advice on how to do it isn't condoning it...I don't know what is.

Posted by black shirt on Aug. 06, 2011 @ 10:56 am

I completely agree. I'm writing a similarly thoughtful article on how to steal Steven's car and smash his windows - not condoning it, but hopefully he will read it and bolster his security.

Posted by Another Black Shirt on Aug. 15, 2011 @ 4:50 pm

Based on the high number of comments on the topic of sneaking in, I think it's fair to say that the author's point about it being an interesting topic is spot on. Don't hate the player...

Posted by Guest on Aug. 23, 2011 @ 2:33 pm

As an old timer/former Burner, here's a couple of other tips:

1) remember where you put your car keys- yes Burning Man is a car-free haven once you park your vehicle, but you'll still need them if you want to drive home. Put them in a safe place (not a good idea to carry them around) and tell others in your camp where you put them as back up in case your mind is not as sharp as it was when you arrived.

2) be wary of thieves; Steve is kind to consider most bikes 'lost' or 'borrowed' vs. stolen, but sad fact is that Burning Man is a sub set of our culture and there are all kinds out there, including people who take advantage of the situation. Be especially careful on the night of the burn- put valuables in a safe place (er, maybe don't bring them?) and lock your bikes up, put easy to take items of value out of sight if everyone is leaving camp.

3) bring extra bacon.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 04, 2011 @ 6:44 pm

Great additions, Guest, particularly number three. Mmmmm...bacon.

Posted by steven on Aug. 05, 2011 @ 10:10 am

In your sneaking in section, you fail to mention that Burningman is encircled by a temporary federal closure area as part of the event permit. This area is patrolled by BLM rangers, and federal citations are issued to those found inside the closure area. The BLM rangers have drug dogs, run your records, and will happily take you to jail or write up federal drug citations. While someone might have managed to slip by them at some point, most get caught, and the repercussions are very negative. So remember your not just dealing with the friendly gate and perimeter staff here.

-Someone who knows

Posted by Guest on Aug. 05, 2011 @ 2:25 pm

Chances of finding a member of Gate Crew willing to take a bribe are about nil, so you can take that out of your advisement.

Posted by St. Peter on Aug. 05, 2011 @ 3:25 pm

A lot of people don't realize that Gate and Perimeter folks DO NOT have any authority to stop you. If you're walking across the playa and one of the perimeter peeps rolls up on you, just keep walking. They can't stop, touch or impede you in any way. Only thing they can do is try to get someone from law enforcement to help, and it's pretty common for them to be busy.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 05, 2011 @ 4:35 pm

Oh I love people like you, Guest, who are ready to tell others, "Go ahead, stick your neck out - it's okay!"
Suuuuuuure, take that chance BLM is too busy to ticket you... if they are too busy, I KNOW FOR A FACT Washoe and Pershing sheriffs are more than happy to give you a fat trespassing fine for violating a federal closure zone!

Honestly, I have no understanding of how ANYONE thinks it's okay to sneak in. If you are low income, there are only a million ways to get a ticket by helping in either a department, or helping large art installations. You get in for free, you often get many other awesome perks and you make friends with all the 'do-ers' and 'makers' who are arguably the best reason to go to the burn in the first place. I've been burning for ten years and I've never once bought a burning man ticket in my life... why? BECAUSE I EARN IT either by working for the org or by working on big art. There's no excuse for stupid in this situation, since there are so many opportunities to get it handled IF YOU WOULD JUST TRY. Put all that effort you spend trying to take advantage of the community by sneaking in and use it to PARTICIPATE and bring something to share -your time and effort is always appreciated. You can create your own miracle, instead of expecting it to fall from the sky on your head. So when you're sitting in the gayte office, crying your big sob story to them, don't be surprised when the black-shirts don't give a shit.

When you sneak in, you devalue all the hard back-breaking work of others who set up and maintain this event. That's a fuck-load of people, NOT an insignificant part of the population. If you want a free ride, go to Rainbow Festival, where you can freely trash the environment, spange off everyone and expect the 'universe to provide' or 'manifest' your essential needs. The rest of us who WERE RADICALLY SELF RELIANT DON'T WANT YOUR LAZY SMELLY NASTY ASS. We don't. We've talked about it, and we're SO TOTALLY NOT SORRY you didn't buy a ticket for whatever reason. Really, stay home and maybe next year you'll think ahead and be prepared.

Posted by justanotherburner on Aug. 06, 2011 @ 10:21 am

While the volunteer staff of the Gate & Perimeter department are not law enforcement officials and do not have the "authority" as you say to stop you....

(Although don't forget the practice of citizens arrest, which is legal in the state of Nevada )

I'd hazard a guess that you'd rather deal with friendly volunteer participants rather than BLM Rangers or Washoe/Pershing County Law Enforcement agents who are all too happy to write you a ticket and make their departments some money in these lean economic times.

Even outside of community standards (I agree that you devalue the event when you practice the radical self-entitlement of sneaking in for free)

What stowaways REALLY rob the event of is proper ability to provide necessary services to the folks who invested to be there.

Sure, a few people doesn't sound like a lot, but whatever that number is... the event wasn't able to plan for it.

We don't have the roads for you to camp on, the porta potties to dispose of your waste, the extra ice for your perishables, nor the emergency medical staff to adequately tend to the needs of ALL participants when people sneaking in have added their hidden numbers to the masses.

So you're not really sticking it to "the man" (whoever you think that is) when you sneak in, you're giving the finger to the participants (your community) who've invested in the event, planned properly, practiced radical self reliance and played by the rules.

Posted by justanotherblackshirtburner on Aug. 06, 2011 @ 11:59 am

When you put it that way, isn't sneaking in more like stealing from the people around you? Kind of like getting all high on drugs and stealing the first unlocked bike you find? This author must just be dirt from the dirtiest part of the dirtiest white trash trailer park and has never been to Burningman. I can't imagine a veteran burner being a bike thief?

Posted by Sparkle Pony on Aug. 06, 2011 @ 3:57 pm

While it's true that you're endangering lives and undermining the spirit and the stability of the event by suggesting that individuals attempt to sneak in to burning man, let me make clear the spirit in which I'm taking this advice... I think it sucks. You aren't really thinking about how entitled your advice comes off. 55k People have bought a ticket. Many of these people provide services or arts to the playa, they create theme camps and work in the departments. They earn the ticket they've already paid for... So when you suggest that Anyone sneak in, you are devaluing the entire community that prepared and paid to be there. Those who are provided gift tickets for their work spend almost their entire burn making possible the event you are ready to throw to dirty hippie bastards with no water, food, or shelter (typically), nothing to share besides their entitled shitty attitudes and complete inability to appreciate or earn what they take for granted from the rest of us. Maybe you should re-think your advice; speaking as a black-shirt, I promise the gayte crew is not amused by said antics, and would find more MUCH MORE satisfaction/ecstatic almost sexual pleasure from ripping up your tickets than taking your shitty bribe.
)'( don't bother to show up without your fucking ticket. )'(

Posted by justanotherburner on Aug. 05, 2011 @ 8:10 pm

"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."

- Award-Winning Journalist Steven T. Jones

Because of the scarcity of tickets this year, with resold tickets commonly going from $750 to $1,000 a piece, bribing to get in could reach new levels.

Bribing staff will be the last-chance cash option for those with lots of disposable income. In the best tradition of capitalism, bribing will, of course, be subject to supply (those willing to be bribed) and demand (those hungry to get in at any price).

How much would you recommend for a bribe, Steven? As high, say, as $2,000? Maybe $5,000?

What is your professional recommendation?

Posted by Arthur Evans on Aug. 05, 2011 @ 9:43 pm

wow. Alot of good things here. Over the years many hopeful burners have gone to jail! The law enforcement will take you to Winnemucca, which is an inconvenient (to say the least) place to be in jail.

Because of the population cap, also law enforcement will be out in increased numbers this year. Another funny; law enforcement inside the event and rangers are monitoring gate and perimeter 24 hours a day. The look on the face of the "triumphant" would-be burner when he is stepping over the fence and cops/rangers roll up is priceless! Every time.

Thank you

Posted by Another black shirt on Aug. 06, 2011 @ 12:11 pm

The poster who posits that Gate and Perimeter have no authority to stop you fails to mention that, as members of the burning man community, Gate and Perimeter have no interest in stopping you by means of arrest or physical force.
However, if you simply walk into the event after being asked to stop, you are tresspassing onto a private permitted federal closure and are breaking the law.

What could have been a "Hey sorry, you can't come in without a ticket" conversation now becomes a , "you cant leave here without a different kind of ticket."

While they will not tackle you , what Gate Perimeter and Ranger staff will do is follow you as far as you go into the event while being in constant communication with law enforcement, you know , the people with the guns who do like to tackle people, arrest them and cite them.

The police at this somewhat benign event are usually pretty bored and looking for something exciting to do so they usually show up pretty quickly. So if you want to spend a rockin labor day in a Washoe County Jail or spend a thousand dollars on a citation, by all means, walk on in.

Posted by Guest A guy on Aug. 06, 2011 @ 1:04 pm

mmmm. Bacon!

Posted by Val on Aug. 06, 2011 @ 2:19 pm

I figured that I'd get some condemnation for writing about sneaking in, even with the clear caveats that I wasn't advocating it. But let just say that we gain nothing by ignoring something. People do think about sneaking in, this year more than most, and I think that any objective reader would say that my article discourages it and offers a fairly bleak assessment of your chances of success. Yet my job as a writer is to offer food for thought. I've written about countless controversial subjects over the years (including many in this community, from Borg2 to the role of sound camps to Paul Addis' early burn of the Man to criticisms of the Borg's leadership) and I saw no reason to ignore this one.


Posted by steven on Aug. 07, 2011 @ 11:16 am

In your post above, Steven T. Jones, you describe your role thus:

“Observation vs. advocacy.”

However, in your original article you say this:

“Just think of it like a hacker publicizing the security vulnerabilities of a beloved institution…”

Hackers are not just observers.

You also say:

“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.”

If your “best advice” is to find someone on the inside whom you can bribe, you’re not just observing.

Drop the pretense. You’re not just observing. You’re encouraging.

Which is fine. But don’t call yourself a journalist in the process.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Aug. 07, 2011 @ 1:22 pm

If your article was objective, and not slanted toward sneaking in it would include such information as
-the cost of federal trespass tickets
-possible reality of jail time and lasting legal repercussions
-exactly how sneaking in robs the event of is proper ability to provide necessary services to the folks who invested to be there
-why it is undermining to the spirit of the event
- how slowing down the lanes by taking valuable gayte crew time for bribes is dangerous to drivers on gate road and can cause pile ups (and means it takes longer to get you into the city)

And last but not least, you suggested that people do bad things to good volunteers. Most of the gayte crew is a VOLUNTEER work force, they're there because they love burning man and want to give their time so YOU CAN ALL HAVE A BURNING MAN TO BEGIN WITH... and encouraging individuals to show up without a ticket to bribe them or otherwise make their jobs difficult is downright disrespectful of the sacrifice of time they make and the job they do.
"once you can weasel your way in amid the confusion at the gate, you're in."
"So, if you gotta do it, my best advice is,,,"
"take advantage of human oversights"
"you might just make it."
this is condoning it. If you gotta, well here's how... You make it very appealing, and show none of the consequence!

"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"
-->It's terrible that we enforce our policies, we're the bad guys, right Steven?

You plan on attending, you sport yourself as an advice giving expert on the burn, yet you encourage individuals to ABUSE the event... What kind of burner are you anyways? the useless kind, the kind who would exploit the desire of others to get in to a sold out event by featuring advice that is not only illegal, but dangerous and downright rude and then call it objective? As far as I'm concerned, you are a menace to burning man...

Posted by justanotherburner on Aug. 07, 2011 @ 2:06 pm

This is the same Steven T. Jones who urged Dennis Kucinich to carpet-bag to SF to run for Congress against Nancy Pelosi - and in the name of progressive politics.

Also the same Steven T. Jones who denies that the U.S. has a grave debt problem.

Also the same Steven T. Jones who remained at the top of pecking order after The Guardian fired its capable news reporters.

So what do you expect?

Posted by Arthur Evans on Aug. 07, 2011 @ 4:49 pm

Let's step back. A certain being on this site is seemingly possessed and tormented with Steven T. Jones. It's fascinating. Maybe said person would like a full nude picture of Steven T. Jones, so said person can fulfill his fantasies and dreams about Steven T. Jones.

I've not seen this kind of behavior on any forum I've ever been on and I've been on a lot of forums. This behavior is not sensible, civil, reasonable, logical, rational, intellectual, intelligent or adult. In fact, it's crazy. Literally.

Let's step back and be rational. It sounds like said person is relentlessly in love or deeply infatuated with Steven T. Jones. It would seem that said person can't stop thinking about Steven T. Jones.

Maybe said person and Steven T. Jones (with the consent of Steven T. Jones) need to get together in private to satisfy said person's strong needs of desire, although I would suspect that Steven T. Jones has far higher standards.

Let's be adult.

Posted by Artor Evons on Aug. 07, 2011 @ 7:31 pm

Super great words of wisdom. Lets Be An Adult.

Because only very self centered juvenile people would make a profit off the suffering of others. People are so sad they aren't going to burning man, and Steven knows this. He's playing on their hurt feelings to sell THIS article. It would've been a piece of useless crap information, stuff anyone could learn from an hour in the 'first timers guide' on the official site for burning man or asking questions on eplaya... and I'm sure his editors knew that. That whole 'break into the burn' part of the article is the big SELLING POINT for it. Just like the 'Dj's don't have tickets' article! Steven blew that whole thing waaaaaay out of proportion, and had false info in it, he didn't even bother to check his facts!... and it was pretty dumb. Steven Jones is totally someone who finds emotional distress and exploits it by blowing it out of proportion in the media. Yuck, go to Fox News already.

If Steven-the-great would revise the information he's put out there, make the good volunteers of gayte crew less of the bad guy and be more clear about the danger and consequence of what he's suggesting people do AND STOP GLAMORIZING IT, that would be a good start. Next would be if HE TOOK ALL THE MONEY HE MADE FROM EXPLOITING THE SADNESS OF OTHERS TO SELL THIS ARTICLE AND GAVE IT TO CHARITY. Most burners love art charities, so I would suggest either big art, or Burners Without Boarders.

Artor Evons, your point is totally dumb. Steven loves attention, no matter what form it comes in, otherwise he wouldn't have made himself a public figure. All the attention he gets feeds his resolution that whatever he writes is good and right, regardless of if it's illegal, dangerous to others, or negative for the community he 'claims' to love. This is his pure joy... to be biased unto his own opinion and not do the work of finding out FIRST if his advice is dangerous or not, OR if his facts are accurate before publishing it is probably a normal part of what he calls 'journalism'.

Posted by justanotherburner on Aug. 08, 2011 @ 7:20 am

I'm on staff at the Guardian, so I don't get paid by the article. I honestly just call it like I see it and I'm sorry that you're so offended by my discussion of sneaking in, but I really think you're misreading and/or misrepresenting it. I didn't make Gate crew out to be bad guys or exploit anyone's sadness.

Posted by steven on Aug. 08, 2011 @ 7:32 pm

"Lets be adult" posted by justanotherburner sums it up!

Lets stop feeding the Guardian's interest. Steve proved to be just-another-yahoo, be sure to give him a well deserved welcome at the Gate and on-playa.

Posted by Guest H8RLiv on Aug. 08, 2011 @ 8:58 am

I can't wait! It's the best time to be in San Francisco - the weekend all the bougie flakes, egoists, superficial spiritualists, and doucheburners are away from the Mission.

The Guardian really should investigate the rise in illegal drug trade that occurs right before BM. Especially, all the cocaine and methamphetamines coming in from Mexico.

Posted by Yodlay Rock on Aug. 08, 2011 @ 10:04 am

This tired ass joke is made every year before burning man. Write your own zingers. Quit hating on someone else's enjoyable weekend and go find something you enjoy doing as much. I dunno like an internet troll convention , a hater-a-thon or a jealousy think tank.

Its just a bunch of people having a fun week in the desert not a personal attack on your values, lighten up and stop hating.

Posted by Guest A guy on Aug. 08, 2011 @ 2:55 pm

Wow. As someone who has never participated in the Burning Man event and consider the prospect of attending next years gather, I have lost all interest thanks to those people who cannot see the relationship between "annual event and temporary community based on radical self expression and self-reliance in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada." (a quote from the Burning Man website) and those people who use radical self-expression to part-take the events by neglecting to pay the funds needed for entering and are self-reliant enough to do such feats.
I can think of a lot worse things attending a festival like Burning Man than people who don't pay the prices asked to attend... how about the drug distribution as an example (oh man, the science involved is staggering, someone pass me a joint).

So get over yourselves and try actually having fun instead of behaving like your world will collapse... because a few free loaders are far better than a bunch of rowdy assholes willing to spend money to ruin your day.

Posted by Would have gone, but would rather see happy people on Aug. 09, 2011 @ 11:34 pm

Doing some quick math at $250 per head and 55k people you are looking at over $13million... not sure how much they pay for ice, security, permits, etc, but just seems to me like someone's making a profit. am i wrong? Just seems like the whole BM thing has come (or gone) so far from its origins and now who really cares if a few cheapskates or poor people try and sneak in... sounds like for most its probably not worth the hassle. Some of the comments bashing the article's author reek of hipster self-righteousness - something tells me you all are not so perfect yourselves, and your comments certainly dont match the original spirit of the festival.

Posted by Stoked Dude in San Fran on Jan. 27, 2012 @ 1:41 am

anybody thinking?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 11, 2012 @ 1:29 am

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