Burning Man 2017: Radical Ritual

Backfire returned to the playa for its second year in 2017. We were placed at Awe and 6:45 by the fine folks in Placement!

The camp leadership wanted to take a more laid-back approach witha smaller group after the previous year’s “start big!”


  • 25 burners from the USA, mostly CA natives.
  • 20x36 shade structure (from Black Rock Hardware)
  • Two carports
  • Kitchen space


Vietnamese Coffee and ASL

On Tuesday and Thursday morning during the week of the burn, the camp came together to provide delicious freshly-brewed vietnamese coffee to anyone who passed by. In addition, due to our camp being largely ASL-signers, we offered improtu lessons to anyone who stopped in and wanted to learn a few signs while enjoying their coffee.


This being our down year, we didn’t bring much in terms of art. Whoops!

Dry Technical Boring Details on Camp Infrastructure

If you’ve read down this far and really are interested in details on the camp infrastructure and what we learned, we’re sharing those details below.

Lag Screws

This was our second year of using lag screws. Read our notes from last year if you haven’t.

We had a box of 50 from our first year. We purchased 50 more in ancipitation of increased usage, now that we did not require our campers to bring their own stakes for their tents. We wanted them to use the lag screws.

This barely was enough, and we had to ration out some screw usage, so 150 count would be a better amount for 25 campers.

We also found out that in certain places where the playa surface had fragmented enough, the 14” lag screws did not have very much holding power. It becomes more important to pay attention to where you’re driving and make necessary test-pulls and adjustments to ensure good anchorage.

Lag Screw Hardware

The camp had the Harbor Freight from last year, but with our experience during 2016, we discovered that the requirement of a running generator and managing extension cords to utilize the impact wrench made it very inconvenient for spot application during the week.

So we decided to add a cordless impact wrench to our inventory. We settled on the DeWalt XR Impact wrench, which we affectionately nicknamed “The Beast”. It easily drove the 14” lag screws with no trouble at all.

This impact wrench paired with a set of 3.0 Ah batteries was more than adequate for setup during EA and made it very easy for campers arriving mid-week to quickly set up without needing to pull in the services of the generator and find extension cords.

The Harbor Freight was brought along as a backup, but it was not used at all the entire event.

Shade Structures

Chill Space

We purchased a 36’x 20’ shade structure from Black Rock Hardware. This would be our second year of using it. (Please view last year’s notes if you haven’t yet.)

We started out with four ratcheting straps for the corners, similiar to what we had for 2016, but however mid-week a strong storm blew through with winds strong enough to lift up the entire middle section of the shade structure several feet. Several of the 10’ pole sections were bent slightly due to this.

The structure stayed on the ground (whew!) but the damage should have been, and was entirely avoidable. We applied ratchet straps to ALL 12 legs. This will be the recommendation going forward.


The kitchen was built from two carports joined together.

Playa Flooring

Due to the extreme weight and space the super-thick vinyl we used in 2016, it was discarded after the event.

The camp purchased a 56’x20’ vinyl billboard from one of the many sites online selling used billboard advertising. The billboard itself was not expensive but the shipping (nearly 100 pounds) was almost as much as the billboard itself! We cut the billboard at the 36’ mark so that we ended up with a 20’x20’ piece and a 36’x20’ piece. We used the 20’ piece for the kitchen and the 36’ piece for the chill space.

The vinyl used this year was thinner and lighter than the one used during 2016, and easier to manage. Durability did not suffer and no rips or tears were observed.


The camp brought 5 20# propane canisters. We ended up only using two. Cooking stove was the large three-burner camping stove type which offered excellent cooking speeds.

One of our campers brought a large griddle. This turned out to be pretty amazing for several reasons.

  • Could use it to cook meat, hot sandwiches and grill pretty much anything that you could fry in a pan
  • Easy to clean up, just scrape the surface w/ the metal blade at end.


We elected to go completely green. Campers were responsible for providing their own power, and the chill space lighting was run off an single 100Ah deep-cycle battery, and hooked up to a 35W solar panel that recharged it during the day. The battery was also used to recharge the DeWalt packs when necessary.