To Burn Or Not To Burn: Your Burning Man Scorecard

To Burn Or Not To Burn: Your Burning Man Scorecard

Burning Man 2015 is officially less than two weeks away!  If you haven't gotten tickets yet, you’re probably out of luck.  But what about next year or the year after?  Are you the type of person that would like to go to Burning Man some day?
There are basically two kinds of people in this world - those who have gone (or will go) to Burning Man and those who have never gone (and will never go) to Burning Man.  For the former group, attending Burning Man is a badge of honor, a rite of passage, something you have to do at least once in your life.  For the latter group, it’s pointless, privileged, dusty, and/or a waste of time and money.

BM costume

I happen to fall into the first category, even though I have yet to attend Burning Man.  As a former Deadhead and lover of new experiences, I have no doubt that I would relish the opportunity.  A significant subset of my friends are hardcore Burners who make the pilgrimage out to the playa year after year.  After seeing their pictures and hearing their stories, I’m totally down.
My wife Allison, on the other hand, seems to fall into the second category.  While she’s generally a very adventurous person willing to travel anyplace in the world, try any exotic cuisine, and go au naturel on clothing-optional beaches, she’s just not into the idea of going to BM.  One reason is that she’s not a fan of hot temperatures, and the idea of all that heat, plus the dust, grime, and lack of facilities turns her off.  She’s also not really into the New-Agey self-discovery aspect - she already knows who she is and is quite happy, thank you very much.

Monetary & Opportunity Costs:

Tickets for Burning Man aren’t cheap.  You’re looking at about $400 just for the ticket, plus transportation, supplies, food, costumes, accommodations, etc.  All in all, you’re probably in for close to $1000.  While this is still cheaper than the cost of a lot of other vacations, you’ll have to decide where you’d rather spend your money.
Would you rather spend a week on a beach or tripping around Europe?  Since you probably only have so much vacation time, you need to think wisely about how to spend it.

Should You Go?

If you’re wondering whether you should go to Burning Man, here is a scorecard to help you make your decision.
Below are ten different criteria to consider when deciding if attending Burning Man is right for you.  For each item, score it on a 5-point scale with the following scoring methodology:
1 = I would absolutely hate it
2 = I wouldn’t like it but I suppose I could deal with it
3 = I’m pretty neutral about it
4 = I think it would be cool & I would enjoy it
5 = No problem at all - I would absolutely love it

1- Desert

Do you embrace the beauty of the desert landscape with its amazing sunrises and sunsets?  Or will the heat and dry arid climate turn you off?  It’s going to be pretty hot during the day and then cool way down at night.

Burning_Man_aerial (1)

Black Rock City also isn’t exactly the easiest place to get to, seeing that it’s in the middle of a desert in Nevada.  For some, this is part of the appeal - it literally gets you away from the comforts of home and the daily routine of normal life.  It’s hard to do that if you’re just camping out 30 minutes from home.  For others, driving for hours in the desert is just not very appealing.

2- Dust, Dirt & Grime

Since you’re in the desert, you have to be prepared for lots of dust, dirt, and sand.  In fact, the dust storms can be so intense that you’re advised to wear goggles.  If you wear contacts, the dust could be a real problem.
dusty man
You’ll probably also be in a state of dirtiness for the whole week seeing as running water and showers will be scarce.  Are you ok with being caked in dust for a week?
If you’re a germaphobe, then Burning Man could end up being a living nightmare.  For others, like myself, I have no problem getting dirty and dusty.  I have pictures from Tough Mudder to prove that!

3- Costumes

Are you a costume person? Is your favorite time of year Halloween when you get to dress up in something crazy, sexy, or off-the-wall?  Or do you think costumes are lame and not worth the time to create and parade around in?
If you do like costumes, then you’re going to love that aspect of Burning Man.  You can dress up in feathers, glitter, tin-foil, spandex, body paint, or even nothing at all, which leads me to…

4- Nudity

How are you with public nudity?  Are you a “naked person,” feeling comfortable both being naked in front of others and seeing others naked?  Personally, I have no problem with nudity as long as you’re someplace where everyone is on board and are accepting of it (so not at church or in the workplace).
That said, I know a lot of people who just would prefer not to see other people naked and have no desire to be naked in front of strangers.  Burning Man is probably not high on their list of places to go.
There are also some sexual aspects to the festival.  For example, there’s an “Orgy Dome,” where people can go inside (with a partner only) and have sex with and around other people.  While this is obviously an optional activity, you have to be OK with being around some different highly charged sexual activities.

5- Self-Discovery / Self-Exploration

Are you interested in self-discovery and self-exploration?  For some, this is one of the most intriguing aspects of Burning Man - a chance to delve into one’s own psyche, emotions, thoughts, fears, and desires outside of the “Default World.”  People get so busy in their daily lives that they never take the time to focus on their inner world.

BMflower girl

For others, like Allison, they did their self-exploration years ago and don’t have a deep need to work on it anymore.
Personally I do spend a lot of my normal life doing things like meditation, yoga, and writing, which I think help me explore my inner self.  I would be interested to see if a week of self-exploration in the desert would invigorate and inspire me or if it would bore me after a few days.

6- Partying & Drugs

Some Burners get their self-exploration chemically rather than naturally.  While not everyone is at BM for the party scene, there is the opportunity to partake in drugs like Ecstasy and enjoy a rave-like experience.  Does this appeal to you?  It could either be an opportunity to do something like this that you would never do in your normal life, or perhaps it just holds no appeal to you whatsoever.

BM partiers

And if you like staying up really late partying and listening to music, then you’ll love this aspect of BM.  There are plenty of opportunities to dance and party the entire night away.

7- The People

Just like the art, costumes, and events at BM, there are a wide range of different types of people.  You’ll find hipsters, techies, yogis, yuppies, hippies, and nerds.


The question is do you find these kinds of people interesting and exotic or smug and annoying?  Some look at them as visionaries, creatives, and explorers, while others see self-indulgence and hypocrisy.
For many people who live in San Francisco, the week of Burning Man is like a holiday where they get the city to themselves for a week.  To illustrate, just take a look at the “Wall” piece that went viral over the past week: Build a 300-foot Wall Around SF During Burning Man.

8- The Sharing Economy

One of the main tenets of BM is to share what you have with the larger group, as opposed to a hoarder or all-for-one mentality.  This harkens back to the hippie era of communal living and is very opposite what we normally live with in our capitalistic society.
Are you totally cool with sharing what you have with total strangers for a week, or would you prefer that everyone have and keep their own stuff?

9- Mind & Body Workshops

Are you into yoga, meditation, breath work, and other similar mind / body pursuits?  If so, then you’ll find plenty of workshops, demos, and events to enjoy.  There are workshops on knife throwing, improv, polyamory, spirit animal readings, body painting, you name it!
Far as I could tell many of these folks holding each other up in amazing ways had never met before.
Far as I could tell many of these folks holding each other up in amazing ways had never met before.


Do you look at these as opportunities to have fun, learn, and explore your boundaries?  Or do you find these activities silly and too New Agey for your liking?

10- Wild & Crazy Art

Burning Man is known for amazing massive artistic structures.  You’ll see giant statues, domes, temples, cars, and vehicles all decked out in neon lights, fire throwing cannons, medieval sculptures, and any other material you can think of.  And it all culminates with the actual burning man statue.
BM art
For many, this is the greatest appeal of BM.  However, you may prefer to see your art on a canvas in a museum rather than in the middle of the desert.

How to Assess

Add up your scores for all 10 criteria, so your total should be somewhere between 10 - 50.  Here’s how to assess the score:
10 - 20: I don’t understand the appeal and have no idea why anyone would ever want to go to BM!
21 - 30: I understand why some people might be into BM, but it’s just not for me
31 - 40: I’m totally down for trying it and going to BM at least once in my life
41 - 50: I pretty much love everything about BM!

In Conclusion

After Allison and I took this little assessment, we found somewhat surprising results.  My score was a 43, which wasn’t really shocking.  I scored a 4 or 5 on everything except #2- Dirt / Dust (scored a 3) and #6- Partying / Drugs (scored a 3).
Allison’s score was the surpriser.  She came in at a 31, just barely in the “I’m down for trying it once in my life.”  As expected, she scored low on #1- Desert (scored a 2) and #2- Dirt / Dust (scored a 1), but she made up for it by scoring 4 points on #4- Nudity, #6- Partying, #8- Sharing economy, and #10- Art.
This was all I needed to convince her that we’re going to Burning Man together next year!  We’ll just invest in a great pair of goggles and big bottle of hand sanitizer.
Whether you love the idea of getting dirty with thousands of costumed creative people in the desert for the sake of art and humanity, or you have no interest in being dirty 24/7 and hanging out with weird people who are way too into themselves, you likely feel strongly one way or the other.
If you do think you might want to attend Burning Man some time, check out our Burning Man page for details. Who knows, it may lead to more self-discovery, connections with new and interesting people, and inspiration to lead a more exciting life.  Or maybe you’ll decide to just spend your vacation days in Europe or the Caribbean!

2 Responses

  1. Knot-O
    | Reply

    So how did it go in 2016? Did you both enjoy it? Did Allison have a good time? I was there in 2016. We may have bumped elbows at the Naked Pub Crawl. Who knows. 🙂

    Just a couple of friendly corrections to your nice article. It’s not a “festival”, and there is no (natural) “sand”.

    • Dylin Redling
      | Reply

      Unfortunately, neither of us have it made it there YET. We definitely will someday for sure. In the meantime, we’ve been busy traveling around the world.

      Thanks for the corrections on the article 🙂

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