RV-ness: Who Stays in the RVs at Black Rock City?

There’s a lot of talk at the event and in Burning Man internet communities about RVs. They are much-discussed and occasionally maligned. For some Burners, it’s a matter of necessity, for others it’s simply comfort, with probably a big fuzzy line between the two. I was curious what we could learn from our data about those who stay in RVs at the event.

Who stays in RVs? If you’re like me, you might have guessed that there was a stronger correlation between “RV-ness” (the tendency to come to the event in an RV) and certain political affiliations, income, or perhaps having children (and the ensuing need to have a more stable home base) than between other types of lodging at the event and those variables. Well, if you were like me, you’d be partially right. Let’s examine some data:


This chart shows us that the strongest predictor of RV-ness is playa age, specifically having fewer burns under your belt and especially being a virgin!  This surprised me: I would think that virgins might be more likely to try to tough it out for a few years before deciding that Burning Man is a big enough part of their life that they want to invest in a nicer home for the playa.  However, the data suggest that virgins have heard of the dust and wind and prefer to weather the ups and downs of the playa in an RV.  Not shown here is also a greater tendency to listen to BMIR and a greater tendency to be married (at least sometimes) if you camp in an RV.

The Y-axis on this chart is a “weight” variable summed up for all the survey responses. If you divide the weight by total number of survey responses gives you the weighted percentage.

RV-ness is NOT correlated with political affiliation, and though the chart might appear to suggest it, it’s not related strongly to income.  There are more people with RVs who have incomes over $35,000 simply because there are more people across the board (regardless of camping status) with incomes over $35,000. RV campers are also no more likely than others to have 1 or more children in their vehicle at the gate, or to have a larger number of family members at the burn. 

Written by: Steven Crane aka Indiana

Edited by: Tabicat

2012-2013 Comparison: Virgins

Say the word “virgin” in the presence of any preteen and you’ll likely be witness to a round of snickering, but say the same word in a tent full of Burners and you’ll probably hear a lot of snickering.

Alright, not really. While Burners are not immune to behaving as though we were a pack of adolescents, our usage of the term is a bit less sexual in nature than the normally intended meaning, and is usually is not accompanied by giggles.

The definition of the word “virgin” is: a person who has never had sexual intercourse. Burners use the term in a more mild manner; when you are referred to as a Burning Man Virgin (Birgin, to some), it simply means you have never been to Burning Man before.

When comparing 2012 to 2013, we found that the ratio of virgins to non-virgins remained fairly static. In 2012, around 37% of polled attendees were virgins, compared with approximately 40% in 2013.

What do you think this will look like in future years, do you think the ratio will remain somewhat constant or will it veer sharply in one direction or another?

Written by: Wendi Corbin Goulette
Edited by: Tabicat

Comparisons: Country of Origin – USA vs. Foreign

Burners arrive at Black Rock City from near and far, some travelling from as far as Asia and others arriving from neighboring Gerlach, Nevada.

But how many of Black Rock City denizens are residents of other countries?
With the rise in total population in 2013, the number of US residents in the city also rose, with a much smaller increase in those from other countries. In 2013, 82 percent of those surveyed were US residents, up from 76.8 percent in 2012; 18 percent were residents of another country, down from almost a quarter (23.2%) of Black Rock City residents in 2012.
Since the numbers coming from abroad were relatively constant, year over year, the change in the percent of foreign citizens could be from the growing prevalence of international regional events, or due to changes in ticketing policies which may have made the extra late tickets less of an option for international Burners.

Written by: Betzle
Edited by: Tabicat

Identity: LGBT

Black Rock City’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Burners are 15.4% of the overall population, but that data alone cannot paint the wider panorama that is gender and sexual orientation on the Playa. Remember as you review the information that both gender and LGBT status is self identified, and that these questions were asked of all Burners, not just the subsection of those identifying as LGBT.

Of all females, 15.6% identified as LGBT, compared to 14.1% of males.

Of Burners who listed their gender as “fluid or neither,” 61.7% identified as LGBT.

Another Census question asked about sexual orientation, with options wider than just “gay, straight, or bi*.”


*The purple areas of the graph represent what we’ve called “bicurious” for the purposes of our 2013 Census; this group to which we are referring doesn’t necessarily identify as such for purposes other than the survey, so they may be more accurately described as “sexually exploratory.”

The largest percentages for the overall, male, and female samplings represented heterosexual Burners, however, for the group identifying as fluid/neither gender, only 17% of them chose heterosexual as their orientation. The overall data depicts the Playa as a largely hetero, but bicurious environment. The same was true for females Burners. However, the male population was largely hetero with the second-most reported orientation as gay, while the fluid/neither Burners were mostly bisexual and refused labels.

If you compare Black Rock City to these cities in the United States, it is most similar to the urban areas of San Francisco or Seattle, which is representative of where many Burners come from, and where the event was originally birthed.

How does this compare to your (other) hometown or nearest urban area?

Written by: Tabicat
Edited by: Wendi Corbin goulette

Playa Life: Playa Name

Originally, Playa Names came about as a unique way to recognize Black Rock City Rangers and other volunteers over their 2-way radios, but over time they have gained broader popularity and for some, Playa Names can signify a rite of passage of deeper significance. Playa names are traditionally given to a person, rather than taken on, but similar to Cos Play at a comic book convention, going to the Burn offers Burners an opportunity to playfully create a new identity.

Some Playa Names are given following a special or funny moment in camp that creates a memorable story. Some Playa Names describe a personal characteristic that can brand a person for life in the minds of others. While others choose a Playa Name to express the excitement of freedom and discovery that comes with being Playaside for the first time. For what ever reason, a Playa Name creates an intimate connection from Burner to Burner like knowing a secret language. It creates a separate identity that allows a person to tap into a part of themselves that is unknown to the default world and where it may even be completely unappreciated.

The collected census data from the 2013 Cargo Cult experience revealed that 53% of the citizens of Black Rock City had a Playa Name. For almost two thirds of them, that name was given. Overall, 34% of Burners had a Playa Name that had been given to them, and 19% of Burners had a Playa Name and had chosen it for themselves. 29% of Burners had no Playa Names but were hoping to get one, and 18% had no Playa Name, period.

Some Playa Names whether they are taken or given take a while to get used to, and some forget to or refuse to use their Playa Names all together and introduce themselves by their default name on the Playa. Last year, 29% of Burners that had a Playa Name used their default world’s name most of the time while 21% used their Playa Names most of the time. And another 40% used their Playa Names sometimes with 37% using their default name. Then again 23% of Burners with a Playa Name chose to only use their Playa Names, while 15% of Burners with a Playa Name stuck with their default names only. And lastly, 16% chose to never to reveal their Playa Name while 19% chose to never reveal their default name.


Once back home in the default world, some people continue to seek opportunities to use their Playa Names while others like to keep it secret.

Of Burners with a Playa Name, 44% never told it to a non-Burner family members, 38% told their Playa Names to some non-Burner family members and 18% chose to tell most of them. While 33% did not reveal their Playa Name to non-Burner friends, 48% chose to tell their Playa Names to some non-Burner friends and 19% told most of them. Most Burners (61%) chose to keep their dusty secret names from non-Burner colleagues, while 28% told some of their non-Burner constituents at work or school with 11% choosing to share their new names with most of them.

Only a minority of Burners with a Playa Name have used their Playa Name once or more in the public space, such as to write in the media or on a website. Only 7% of Burners with a Playa Name reported having used it once, and 21% more than once. 72% never used their Playa Name in the public space.


Whatever the persona you create for yourself at Burning Man, there is always going to be someone who sees it slightly differently and will offer to put a spin on things. Some names are earned, some names given, but the best names are those that provide a sense of empowerment. The conundrum of the Playa Name remains, whether given or self-assigned, whether used, how and when to use it, whether integrated into your default life or Playa-secret. Either way, go out there Burners! Enjoy explore and love.

Written by: Crow
Edited by: Eulophia

Identity: Polyamorous/Kinkster

While Black Rock City attracts many people living “alternative” lifestyles, this post focuses on Burners who identify as polyamorous (having more than one lover) or “kinksters” (often thought of as those who enjoy bondage, domination, and sado-masochism).


Seventy-five percent of the Playa’s population answered “no” to whether they identified with these categories; the other twenty-five percent reported as follows:


Given the radical acceptance at Burning Man, and the general public assumption regarding the nature of sexuality of the attendees, these numbers might surprise some. It’s interesting to note that while Burners accept each other for who we are and how we choose to live our lives, a surprisingly small (in comparison) number among us walk on this more adventurous side of sexuality.

Written by: Tabicat

Edited by: Wendi Corbin Goulette

Main Reasons to Go to Black Rock City

In 2005, after work or class, I indulged in a regular guilty pleasure of mine: watching “Malcolm in the Middle.” While I had heard vaguely of the Playa from a local Burner involved with “Burning Corn,” this episode not only made me laugh, but planted another seed in my mind that eventually led to my pilgrimage to Black Rock City.

Burning Man is more frequently mentioned in mass media each year – Scott London’s photography for Rolling Stone first brought the attention of their readership in 2012. And more recently, Jim Carrey mentioned the Playa in minute eighteen of this commencement address to Maharishi University of Management’s class of 2014.

These readily available portrayals of our home may or may not be accurate or show the individuals’ meanings of the Playa, but they do provide a window through which someone who has never been to Black Rock City can peer to see enough to entice them to find out more.

The Black Rock City Census asked Burners the main reason(s) they come to Burning Man (multiple answers were accepted).


The top five answers included:

  1. To play or party
  2. To meet like-minded people
  3. To grow and/or connect spiritually
  4. To experience radical expression
  5. To escape alienation in the default world

In addition to the reasons above, Burners also cited the gifting economy and their own curiosity (both reported by 21% of the population). Twenty-two percent of Census participants mentioned creating/working on an art project or developing/sharing art and practical skills as their main reason for coming to the Playa!

As might be expected, Virgins’ primary reason for coming was to satisfy their curiosity. If you haven’t yet been to Burning Man, you don’t need a reason – just go! You’ll figure out why you did later.

Written by: Tabicat

Edited by: Scribble