Wasteland Weekend is the ultimate post-apocalyptic desert festival. But don’t let its wasteland landscape fool you—this isn’t your average camping trip. With that in mind, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to setting up camp so you can have the best experience possible! Read on for our top tips on tents and structures, wind-proofing and securing your shelter, and decorating it for maximum fun.
Types of Tents & Structures
There are a number of popular camping options you can go with.
A tent can be a cheap & easy option, especially if it’s your first time and/or you’ve flown in to attend the event, or to have a bit of privacy within a larger camp. You can pick up a cheap tent at Walmart and set it up in a few minutes.
The disadvantage of a tent is that it may be difficult to theme (which is only necessary in themed areas of the event), and it is vulnerable to wind gusts. The tiny tent stakes most small camping tents come with might be inadequate. You should also be sure to leave heavy items inside the tent (jugs or cases of drinking water work great for this, but you can also fill up a 5-gallon bucket with local sand).
One solution to secure your tent is also to attach it to your vehicle. There are even special SUV or tailgate tents that are made to work with your vehicle.
RVs & Campers
A recreational vehicle is a great way to bring some “civilized” indoor space to Wasteland Weekend, with little to no set-up. This is an obvious choice for attendees who aren’t so thrilled about camping, or who want to explore the area before or after the event without throwing money away on hotels.
There are clearly a lot of advantages to having an RV (air conditioning, shower, your own toilet, electricity, a kitchen and fridge, just to name a few), but they can be a bit pricey (best to share a rental with a few friends). Cruise America is a popular RV rental company. Be aware that most RV rental company contracts exclude use for Burning Man, so you might want to be discreet about where you’re taking it.
At Wasteland Weekend, there is usually an “RV Blockade” area that is suggested for RV parking, but it’s not mandatory.
Need to camouflage your rental RV? We recommend a 2-layer camo netting approach. First cover with a dark camo netting. This will help break up the black window frames and accents of the RV. Then, add a desert camo netting over the top (jute erosion netting works great, too, if you can find it).
A monkey hut is a popular, makeshift & reusable structure that can be made cheaply, using plastic plumbing pipe, tarps and rebar.
Flea Market Frame
These are those metal pipe structures with the screw-tight joint pieces often seen at flea markets (aka swap meets). They’re made of the same metal material as electric conduit, and can provide a very versatile & modular solution to your shade needs.
You can buy a kit for a gable roof structure. Mesh shade tarps works best with this structure.
Make sure to have shade on the walls of your structure, too, as the sun in late September tends to do a low path across the southern sky. It will never be right over your head.
This is another structure that is growing in popularity at Wasteland Weekend. It’s the sturdiest and easiest way to build a large structure, especially one that looks like a permanent building, or one with a second storey.
It can be bought used, or rented.
Structures and Materials to Avoid
Avoid those cheap collapsible canopies (often called EZ-ups) because the wind will either throw them a mile away, or bend them up like a pretzel. Also, the canopy covers tend to be blue. If you’re going to use a collapsible canopy, make sure it is a professional-grade canopy that is properly secured with guy lines.
Vinyl tarps might be tempting, but again, they tend to be bright blue, catch the wind, and also be quite noisy.
Pallets might seem like a great upcycled material, but they are strongly attracted to bonfires, and that means lots of nails left in the dirt that end up popping tires.
Windproof & Secure Your Shelter
Once you have your shelter set up, wind-proofing is key. New desert campers tend to underestimate the wind.
Make sure all guy lines are taut and that any flying tarps are secured to the ground. Also double-check that all tent poles are secure in their sockets—you don’t want them flying away in a gust of wind!
One popular trick is to ditch your tent pegs and use lag bolts instead! Lag bolts can be very easily screwed in and out of the dirt with an impact driver (a strong type of drill). Tent pegs, on the other hand, require a sledge hammer to drive in, and can be a pain to pull out. You’ll want a minimum of 12″ lag bolts, in a 3/8″ diameter. Hardware stores may carry up to 16″, but if you plan ahead you may be able to source 24″ lag bolts in a 1/2″ diameter.
Buy some washers to keep your guy lines from slipping off the lag bolt heads. Or, buy some large chain and cut it into 2-link sections (one end on the lag bolt, the other on the guy wire). Better yet, you can weld the chain sections to the lag bolt.
While lag bolts have advantages, they also have disadvantages. There may be areas where 12″ or even 16″ lag bolts will not hold very well, due to pockets of loose soil.
In this case, you can try 18″ or 24″ concrete stakes, or 24″ precut rebar stakes. The rebar should be bent at the end, like a candy cane (sometimes you can buy them like this).
For guy lines, you can use ratchet straps as a heavy-duty alternative.
5-gallon buckets, that you can fill with sand on location, can also help weigh down your structure. You can even add water to the sand to make it heavier, but make sure to bring a lid so you don’t attract bugs.
Decorating & Furnishing Your Shelter
Now comes the fun part! Decorate your shelter with whatever items fit your post-apocalyptic aesthetic—think rugs, colorful lights and string lights, pillows and cushions…the possibilities are endless! If you’re feeling really creative (and brave!), why not prop up some fabric around your shelter for extra privacy? Not only will this give you some much needed shade from the sun during daytime hours but also add an extra layer of protection against dirt devils.
With these tips in mind, you should be ready to tackle Wasteland Weekend like a pro! Remember to stay safe while having fun by bringing plenty of water and sunscreen (it gets hot out there!), as well as making sure your shelter is secure before turning in for the night. Most importantly—have fun! There’s nothing quite like experiencing this unique post-apocalyptic desert festival firsthand—so get out there and enjoy yourself!