RV Tips

A Note From the SWB STAPH

After you arrive and check-in, you will be placed by one of the camp placer/greeters, except if your RV has already been situated prior to your arrival. Many factors go into the placement of RVs in the village when our camp cartographers create the camp map, such as wind barriers, boundary creations, access for pumping/filling, power requirements, arrival/departure maneuvering and sequencing, etc. DO NOT PLACE YOURSELF, even if you see your name on the map and think you know where you are supposed to park. Your location may have changed as our Village was being built. Park in the check-in parking or on one of our roads (see map), and check in first. Your placer will then take you to your assigned location.

Need a RV Roommate or Ride Share?

We can assist you in finding an RV roommate, a ride-share to/from the playa, or an RV Spot. Please email Amethyst at amethyst@spankys.org

Sharing an RV

Sharing an RV can be cost effective and can build friendships, but it can also create stress if expectations are not clearly communicated. As with most everything else in life, courtesy and consideration will go a long way toward a successful RV roommate experience. Sharing an RV sounds convenient and fun, and can save a lot of money, but there’s also work that has to be shared to ensure that you leave as happy with each other as you arrived. Think about everything you ever wanted in a roommate and BE that person!


What does your share include? Define it. Expect it to include rental, clean up fees, gas to and from the playa, fresh water, pump outs, perhaps agree ahead of time on what else it might include such as coffee, liquor, basic breakfast food, munchies?

Sleeping Arrangements

In many RVs, one of the beds may be intended for adults, while the other(s) are for kids and are smaller. If this is the case in your RV, figure out who will get the nicer bed in advance, and how they will compensate the others. Maybe paying more, or taking care of final clean up? Maybe for being the one who rented the RV? Perhaps there is a rotation through the week? Also, the second bed may take away the dining table, getting in the way of daytime naps, or breakfast. Don’t let the sleeping arrangements turn into a big problem. Work them out in advance.

Fresh water

Talk about the size of the tank.  For example, imagine a 60 gallon tank and six people for eight to nine days. If each person uses one-and-half to two gallons each per day, it’s best to count on 18 gallons per person for the week, or 108 total gallons needed for the week. In this example, the organizer should plan to come in with a full tank and replenish fresh water once to ensure close to an adequate supply, or better yet, twice to be on the safe side. Plus plan on bringing a few five gallon cubes that can also be used in the camp showers and for emergencies if a storm prevents the water truck from making a refill on time. Keep in mind this means you yourself will have no more than two gallons/day for everything. So if you’ re a must-shower-and-shampoo-every-day person, you’d better factor that in. If you shower in your RV, it will be hard to judge how much water you are using. Never leave the water running when you wash dishes or yourself. If you turn on a hot water faucet, don’t let the cold water go down the drain while waiting for the hot water to arrive. Try catching the cold water to use for drinking or flushing your toilet.

Group Responsibilities

Decide who meets the water and pumping guys when they come through. Expect to share that task as well as initial set up and final clean up. Have a quick run through to show everyone involved where the ports are for fresh water and for pump outs. Consider setting up a fund to which everyone contributes for a daily ice run.

Dust Control

Work out a plan where people must leave their shoes outside the RV. Have a broom so you can sweep out the RV if needed. Wipe things down and dust off as well as possible before coming into the RV.

Quiet Time

Sanctuary vs. Party Central. An RV is a combination of living and sleeping space. At least once someone will want some downtime and will be in conflict with a gathering either already taking place or that forms after they have gotten settled. No one wants to get snappy, but lack of sleep can bring out the animal in any of us and someone’s afternoon nap time may just be at odds with an impromptu pre-happy hour mai tai party. It’s a good idea to talk it through before, and come to an agreement as a team and it’s good to have a couple alternate chill spots.

General clean up

If there are six of you, you have one-sixth of the space, so be thoughtful of where you leave your stuff, and once or twice a day, take a second to consolidate your belongings into your area. Coming back to a reasonably orderly RV is far preferable and keeps people in a better mood than coming back to somebody else’s clutter, trash, dishes, etc. Which leads to the next ever-popular topic

Getting Laid

Your chances of getting laid in an RV are far greater when you can find the bed and the RV is somewhat picked up. Also work out a signal such as a sock on the door handle so people don’t barge in unexpectedly and know to knock or otherwise give you a signal. You might also set up a satellite bedroom in a tent for privacy.

Sharing The Bathroom

You will all be sharing the same bathroom. At some point you have to pump out the grey (shower and sink) and black (toilet) water. The point when you need to empty those tanks comes sooner with more people using the facilities. Discuss using the porta potties and camp showers at least some of the time to conserve tank space. Discuss whether to allow guests to use the facilities. In general, you will need the same number of pump outs as fresh-water fills. If guests are using the facilities, you may need more water deliveries and pump-outs. To keep things from getting awkward, make sure your guests know how to operate the toilet before they close the door, and that they don’t need to keep the water flowing after their “stuff” is gone. Use only single ply toilet paper marked for RV use in your potty.


Storing bins of extra stuff, suitcases full of clothes or other essentials can take up a lot of space. Consider bringing a tent or two that can be used for privacy and for storage. Also, most RVs have external storage compartments you can use to store items that aren’t needed daily.

Sharing the Kitchen

Everyone will bring food and expect to use the refrigerator for some of their items so decide how that will work and what people will need to store in coolers. RV refrigerators are different from normal home refrigerators, and the time the door is open must be kept to an absolute minimum. Know what you want before you open the door. Also, there is no circulation fan in an RV refrigerator, so there must be some space for natural convection. It’s the back wall of the refrigerator that gets cold, so packing a freezer solid with ice cream will result in melted ice cream near the door. Plan on needing an ice run each day, and bring a cooler to store it. Someone from the camp will be designated to take ice orders in the morning and they’ll be delivered to the bar a couple of hours later. Decide who does this and how this process will work for your group. Figure out a kitchen clean-up plan – everyone cleans up their own messes, and maybe each resident has a given day to be responsible for other housekeeping chores (dusting, floor cleaning, etc)


If the cooks in the group want to each plan a night to do dinner, it can be easier on everyone, but each group needs to decide whether that makes sense given people’s diets and preferences.


  • Turn off the water pump when you are not using it, then use dishwater or ice melt (from a cooler) for flushing the toilet. Every time you leave the RV, look at that panel and make sure the water pump light is off to prevent a small drip from using all of your water and filling your tanks. Be aware, if you put too much external water (water not coming from the RV’s internal water supply) into the grey or black water tanks, they will fill up quickly. Each of the two waste-water tanks is generally smaller than the fresh water tank. This means that you could be taking a shower and the grey water tank will start backing up into the shower… yuk. Or worse yet, your black water tank might fill, and the sewage in your toilet might stay there when you try to flush it, which is really yucky. Your RV probably has some lights to show levels in your three tanks, but the gray and black indicators may show full when that isn’t the case (especially the black level if paper gets stuck to the sensor wires).
  • In general, if you get your tanks pumped when your fill your fresh water tank, and you are generating somewhat comparable amounts of gray and black water, you won’t overflow your black or gray tanks before running out of fresh water.
  • Some RVs come with stabilizer legs. Once parked, use them… or the wind will make you sea-sick.
  • Some people block most of the windows with reflective film (like you use as windshield shades in cars), but leave a couple accessible in case you want to air it out when you’re inside.
  • When you clean your RV after the burn, use a compressor or leaf blower first, especially in the window tracks. Playa turns to concrete when it gets wet then dries….particularly in the window channels.
  • IMPORTANT! Keep windows and doors closed when you leave in case a dust storm comes through.
  • For easier clean up after the burn – Just before hitting the playa lay down and tape plastic painter’s sheeting cut to fit the floors of the RV. Then put down sections of carpet remnant here and there and down the aisle so you’re not slipping on the plastic. Does wonders for after-Burn clean up…especially if it’s a rental. Use old sheets on the furniture.
  • Consider taping closed window vents in the gaskets around the windows… but be aware that if you completely seal out ALL air from the outside world, and then a few people spend a long period of time in the RV (i.e. sleep), you will be using up the oxygen and increasing the CO2 levels, possibly leading to lethargy and headaches. Some fresh air must get in.
  • Cover the CD slot on your radio with tape, or the playa dust WILL kill your CD player.
  • Make sure the dashboard vents and windows are all closed and the A/C is turned off (or switched to recirculate) before getting on the Playa. The playa is very dusty on the way in/out of Burning Man.
  • If you are renting, if possible, allow extra time when at the rental location, to learn how everything works and to have some time if/when something doesn’t. There can often be something wrong and the rental company may or may not even know there’s a problem. Take time to check everything… Look for worn belts, old tires, cracking hoses, oil leaks, generators that won’t run reliably, fridges that don’t get cold (once turned on, it will take several hours for the coils start feeling cold to the touch, so hopefully the rental company turned it on well before you arrived), tank gauges that don’t give accurate read-outs, and especially leaky tanks.
  • Have the rental provider give you a complete run-through of all the systems. Ask questions and take notes. Where are the electrical breaker and fuse panels? Most RVs use circuit breakers for the 117VAC stuff (AC and microwave), and fuses for the battery-operated stuff (lights, heater fans, water pump, refrigerator control, etc.). How do you get the generator to run and how long will it run on a tank of gas with the AC turned on? (Most won’t let you run the tank dry. They cut off at around 1/4 tank so you don’t get stranded. But find out for sure!) Does your RV have an automatic transfer switch to switch from external 117 VAC (shore power) to the internal generator, or will you need to move a cable? How do you shut off the propane if you need to fill the tank or you have an accident? The propane will need to be kept on for your refrigerator to keep working when the power grid gets shut down at night. If you have an inverter to keep your refrigerator running while you are driving, or you know for sure that it can actually stay cold with 12V while the engine is running, turn off the propane while traveling. If you have an older RV, how do you light the pilot for the heater, water heater and refrigerator? (Not something you want to try to figure out when you crawl home freezing at 5am…, but most RVs built in the last 20 years have automatic electronic ignitors.) And regardless of how well they teach you, make sure that you get a copy of the owner’s manual. Trust me, you will have to look at it more than once. Ask how the toilet operates. It is very different from what you have at home.
  • Make sure you have an adapter to be able to plug your RV into a regular residential outlet. If your RV didn’t come with one, you can get them at Walmart. Spanky’s does not provide power outlets compatible with the 30A or 50A power plugs on RVs.
  • If you have your own RV, start checking everything on it now. Carry spare parts: belts, hoses, fuses, bulbs, oil, trans fluid, anti-freeze, etc. Check for leaks… If your rig leaks from anywhere (oil, coolant, etc), and you can’t get it fixed before you go, then bring a leak pan that you can secure to the ground. Or you can put a tarp under your rig. And bring spare fluids.
  • ALWAYS hide an extra key on the exterior somewhere safe. If you are renting, make sure you get 2 sets, or if they refuse, have a spare set made. It will cost you $2. If you lock yourself out, or lose your key, it’s going to cost hundreds to get a locksmith out there… and AAA doesn’t service on the playa.
  • Make sure your RV has a spare tire.
  • A separate cooler for frequently accessed items (read: beer) will keep the fridge cooler.
  • Anyone with their own RV should get some towing coverage. AAA RV coverage is the bare minimum, but try to get something with more range (e.g. Good Sam). But FYI…AAA will help you if you are on the roads, but once you are on-playa, they consider that off-road, and don’t do those service calls.
  • Pack carefully. Heavy stuff should go as low as possible. Balance the weight side to side and front to back. Overloading one spot in the RV can be very dangerous. Check the manual for GVW (gross vehicle weight) and make sure you don’t overload. Keep in mind that things can move/shift during transit, and can damage the RV interior if not stowed properly.
  • Travel light! Don’t carry all your food and water all the way. Buy it in Reno or Fernley. 50ish gallons of house water plus drinking water for 2 can weigh more than 500 lbs. Why lug it all up hill? Gerlach also has a place you can purchase water during the day.
  • Similarly, dump your tanks before starting your trip and once off the Playa. There is a dump station in the rest stop one exit down I-80 heading west. It gets full on from time to time. The next stops are in Reno.
  • If it’s hot out – and it often is – keep a close eye on your water and oil temperature, especially going up steep grades and mountain passes. High altitude and hot temps are very tough on your rig. If things start getting hot, use the truck lane, drop a gear, slow down, turn off your AC (ouch) and go slow. If your oil or temp indicator lights go on… stop, and call for help. Better to get there hours later than blow a motor.
  • Use of RV awnings on the Playa: Winds can go from 0 – 60 in just a few seconds. But one thing is for certain; if you are going to use your awning (not recommended), never EVER leave camp without rolling it back up first. If your awning is out and a big storm hits, you can kiss it (and possibly the side of your RV) goodbye. This happens to FAR TOO MANY burners!
  • Make certain you are legal! Make sure your registration, tags, and insurance cards are all current. Check to make sure and all your lights and signals work. Same goes for your trailer. No need to get pulled over and searched because you had a burned out tail light. Do one final check in Empire or Gerlach just before entering the playa. Cops will pull you over for the smallest infraction. Make sure your license plate isn’t partially covered by a bike.
  • The one thing that will get absolutely covered in dust is your air filter. As soon as is practical, once you are off the Playa, get as much dust off of yours as you can. Bang it on the ground and blow it out with some compressed air. Your gas mileage and power will be vastly improved.
  • When securing things to the RV (bikes, poles, tarps, etc.) keep in mind that wind will make ropes/straps move. This can damage the paint/finish on the RV.
  • Make sure your batteries for the cabin are fully charged and functional. (Charging should happen automatically when you are driving or hooked up to the power grid.) Without charged batteries, many things don’t work (like your refrigerator).
  • Don’t forget the deodorizing liquid or powder to put in the toilet. After a few days in the heat, you’ll need a deodorizer.
  • Bring a piece of 4’x4′ plywood to lay on the playa underneath your generator…that’ll help reduce the amount of dust sucked up while it’s running. (Spanky’s has a power grid for most of your 117 VAC requirements, but you may need to use your own generator to run your air conditioner.
  • Bring extra oil and a funnel for the generator. Generators have shutoffs if the oil drops below a certain level. An RV with no generator is no fun.
  • Clean your slide-out tracks before closing (if your RV has slide-outs). In 2009 – a really bad dust year – when it came time to leave, some people couldn’t get their slideouts to close from all the dust in the tracks. Usually this isn’t an issue but not being able to drive your RV home is kind of a big deal so it’s worth expending the effort.
  • NO MASKING TAPE. It leaves a horribly sticky residue – removing it can damage the surface. Also no duct tape or foil tape. Gaffers tape or blue painter’s tape will hold, won’t damage the surface when removed and is easy to clean up but more expensive than the others.
  • Cover the dashboard with a blanket or sheet to keep off the dust. You don’t need it while you’re there and it’s a major pain to clean afterward. Just cover it up and be done with it.
  • Bring a large carpet to place right outside the door. Bigger is better. It keeps the dust down somewhat from being tracked in plus it makes for a cozier place to kick back and enjoy your home in the dust bowl that is Burning Man. If the carpet has cut edges (i.e. remnant), tape the edges to prevent moop. And stake the carpet down.
  • If you placed things on the ground outside your RV during the week (carpet, plywood, etc.) don’t forget to collect them at the end of the event. They may be buried in dust, so be aware of that.
  • At the end of the event, clean-up around your RV. Then move the RV (if possible) and clean-up the space under it, as things have probably blown under there, or there may be leak/drip spots.
  • Your car insurance may not cover your rented RV. Best to double-check with your agent.