A Burner Lexicon: Theme Camp

Ambivert's Wild West Saloon, just one of many hundreds of bar camps which have appeared at Burn events. Black Rock City, 2008. Photo by Elaine.

Theme Camp, –noun, Lots of people camp together at Burning Man, but only some of them form theme camps. A theme camp is an organized group which provides food, drink, exciting events, or other services to the temporary community that forms around an event. The idea dates back to the early 1990′s, with the formation of theme camps such as Christmas Camp. The oldest theme camp in continuous operation is probably Deathguild / Thunderdome, which has existed in Black Rock City since 1998.

Theme camps function within the gift economy, meaning that they do not charge money but give away their wares and services (or less often, engage in barter). This means that theme camps depend on the donations of their members and grateful visitors to continue operating. Many camps throw parties or other fund-raising efforts in the default world to enable their actions on the playa. Some camps reinvent themselves constantly, but others return to an event year after year with only the smallest changes.

There are many kinds of theme camps. A few of them are:

  • Bar Camps are like bars in reality camp, except you don’t pay for your drinks. Most Burner bars expect you to bring your own cup, and it’s good form to bring an alcohol donation to your favorite bar to show them your appreciation. Bar camps attract fratboys like fruit attracts fruitflies.
  • Chill Camps are places with cushions, comfortable chairs, hammocks, and relaxing music where participants can unwind from exhausting or overstimulating experiences elsewhere. Full of hippies.
  • A favorite of sparkle ponies, Costume Camps allow Burners to trade their unwanted clothes for new, fabulous ones that have been left behind by others. These are a great stop for anyone but especially for virgins who feel out of place in the clothes they brought.
  • Noise Camps, also known as Dance Camps or Sound Camps, play oontz oontz music at very high volume for Burners. These camps are frequented by ravers but have near universal appeal at night or during rumors of Daft Punk performances.

For clarity, it is important to note that though an event may have a theme, a theme camp does not always have to incorporate it into its offerings or atmosphere.

At Burning Man and some regional events, theme camps have to register ahead of time for a chance to be placed on the official theme camp map. However, there are always many unmapped camps to reward the explorer, including those that form spontaneously around groups of enthusiastic virgins with some camp chairs, a piece of poster board, and a dream.

Other entries in A Burner Lexicon can be found at http://kitoconnell.com/lexicon/

Comments (2)

  1. jill wrote:

    One more entry I’m hoping to get into the lexicon: BOHO stands for “Burner Of the Highest Order.” Doesn’t mean you’re superior or inferior to anyone else. It just means that you’re the one who guides your tripped out, lost friend back to their camp. Or you are the one who forgoes eating the first grilled cheese sandwich you make so you can hand it to your starving neighbor. You get it.

    Monday, March 14, 2011 at 8:35 pm #
  2. Kit wrote:

    @Jill: That is a good one. It sounds similar to “Sherpa” which I defined in my entry on virgins. However I like this term a lot and I will add it to my list. Do you have any stories about where or how you first heard it?

    Tuesday, March 15, 2011 at 4:39 pm #

Trackbacks/Pingbacks (2)

  1. Angels vs. Demons: Burnier-Than-Thou on Thursday, April 28, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    [...] to the community and to burn events. Whether that be art, their time and energy via volunteering, a theme camp, gifting, or contributions that I haven’t thought of yet; for me, being a burner means [...]

  2. Survival Guide for Burner Dogs on Monday, June 13, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    [...] photo to the left shows a very basic incarnation of Chewie Camp, his own theme camp. It now has a small pup tent (pun intended), a ten-panel plastic pen with lights, shade provided [...]