Transformus First-Time Guide

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What is a Theme Camp?

There are many ways to describe theme camps, but in general it starts with a personal interest… something someone, or a group of someones’ desires to share with others. And SHARING is the keyword here: no matter how elaborate or minimalist, expensive or cheap to create, the theme camp is a group of individuals sharing a part of themselves with any and all who choose to enter their camp and experience their offerings. In a nutshell, a theme camp is two or more people camping together who offer an interactive experience for other people to participate in. Beyond that, imagination is the only real limit.

Another way is to illustrate with examples: 

  • A theme camp may prepare food to share with anyone who chooses to partake of that food, or a theme camp may act as a free bar or pub. 
  • A theme camp may provide art supplies and provide a space and opportunity for people to come explore their inner artist, or the theme camp may have a bunch of musical instruments for people to explore their inner musician and experiment with others in making music.
  • A theme camp may offer a quiet space to meditate, rest or cuddle. It may provide DJs and a dance space for people to move to the music. 
  • One theme camp may offer a playground to play in, while another may provide a sensual play space, and yet another may be festooned with op-art and all manner of visual mind toys, while another may have unique or familiar games to play.
  • Some theme camps create never-before-seen or conceived interactive art pieces or music-making devices or mind challenges. 
  • Still other theme camps provide a space for people of like minds to come together and share time together, a place to make new friends or discuss life’s deep mysteries or frivolous meanderings. 
  • Some theme camps provide entertainment, others give you a chance to BE the entertainment, some educate, and some inspire thought, or simply inspire.

A theme camp does not HAVE to be stationary! Okay, so the home camp is stationary, but elements of the camp can travel around Mysteria. For example the Gypsy Bar traveled about, occasionally stopping for 20 or more minutes at a time to offer their beverages to passing Mysterians. Mobile theme camps can be interactive, offer performances, offer food or drink, or whatever else you like. A mobile theme camp is NOT an art car(t) or bike, an art installation, or a solo traveling performer, but they are all cousins!

Ultimately, the burn experience is about radical self-expression, and Theme Camps are one of the great ways in which people get together to radically express themselves and give others a chance to participate too. Be it a tea house or a temple, a jungle gym or a game show, be they serious or pointless, theme camps are the heart of a Burn -- for they are the unique expressions of sharing and gifting which members of the burner community offer their sibling burners. Plus, you get a longer burn: theme camps can enter Mysteria on Wednesday to start setup, and can leave as late as Monday. 


Transformus is a “Leave No Trace” (LNT) event.  This includes Theme Camp areas, and final clean up.  Although Leave No Trace events are not exclusive to burns, Burning Man is the largest LNT event in the world. There is no trash service nor clean up crews to clean up after you. All “Matter Out Of Place” (MOOP) must be collected and packed out by the individuals and theme camps that said MOOP originates with. 

Food Containment and Cooling

When packing food, try to remove as much extra packaging beforehand as possible; this will create less MOOP, and be easier for you to pack out. If you are packing with dry ice and you do not want all of your food frozen solid, remember to put a towel between your food and the dry ice as an insulation barrier. 

Packing Boxes for Gear

It is really best to pack everything in and out in labeled plastic RubberMaid style boxes. These are easy to stack and carry and do not fall apart in the rain like cardboard boxes or paper bags. 

Camp Chairs

Labeling the back of chairs with a sharpie and tying the chair bags around the legs can avoid quite a bit of confusion when it is time to pack everything up.

Earth, wind, and rain: Your structures and the elements

It can rain. Then again, it usually doesn’t. But do you really want to be a poor sodden soggy schmuck who has the really cool shindig, but nobody wants to visit it because it is out in the cold rain all weekend? It is best to plan for the worst, and besides, the blistering sun can get incredibly hot, so some respite in the shade is also a plus. If you are using free-standing structures, make sure to tie them down at all corners: this makes them repel the water better and insures they will stay standing up in a windy storm. Don’t forget to adorn any trip lines with bright decorations, and cover the stakes – empty plastic water / Coke bottles can save many a toe.

Wind blows! And when it blows it can blow hard. Be sure to stake down all of your structures. Rebar or lag screws are really helpful for making sure your tent doesn’t blow away! Read this article from Burning Man about securing your tents and other structures so your burn doesn’t blow.

Tarpology 101

(written by Sunshine, I think)

For TCOs both new and returning here is a quick bullet list of tarpology tips:

  • Plan to hang a tarp above your tent!!! Yes, I know it has a fly, but it might not stand up to the rains of Mysteria. Our city can have surprising weather so be prepared!
  • You will want a tarp over your kitchen, hang out, and public spaces. This will also help shade from the heat during times of intense sunlight.
  • For maximum comfort use a tarp that will provide at least 4 feet of overhang on all sides of your tent, kitchen, hang out space, etc. This gives a transition buffer, and helps counterbalance those sideways rains caused by heavy winds.
  • Two diagonal corners high / 2 diagonal corners low is a great way to beat winds and provide wind block, while also giving a “breezeway.”  You can go way low to the ground with your low corners for maximum protection. Or you can go as high as head height with your low corners – if  you are going higher with your high corners. The total difference in height between the high and low can be as little as 2 feet. The goal is to have a horizontal ridge between the high points.
  • An alternate approach is to form a shed roof with 2 corners on one side of the tarp high and the other 2 corners low to form one single ”panel” slope with the low side to the wind.
  • A third approach is to build a structure under your tarp with a central ridge line and all 4 corners lower than the ridge.
  • With each of these plans you can attach a rock or other weight to a low point on the tarp; place a 5 gallon bucket under that low point and harvest rain water for cleaning dishes, clothes, bodies, etc.
  • For greater strength, bring harvested poles, or reclaimed conduit (pvc is preferable to metal) and tie or zip tie the tarp’s grommets to the poles or pipes, then tie your tie lines to the poles rather than directly to the tarp.  This technique will help prevent the grommets from pulling out by dispersing the tension along the pipe and thus among all the grommets.
  • Remember if you tie off to trees, you must put a protective layer between your tie line and the tree, and you must remove all traces when you pack up to leave.   Also make no stake or post hole bigger than can be repaired by stepping on the sides of the hole and thus ‘refilling’ it with the soil that was there, again, leaving no trace.
  • To prevent mid camp waterfalls when overlapping multiple tarps to create large covered areas, overlap the lower tarp with a higher tarp so the rain sheds all the way down to the outside edge of your camp (and into collection buckets.)
  • Adorn your guy lines (the tie lines that go from tent/tarp to the ground) with colorful, glow in the dark / or ‘illuminate at night’ decorations to make them easily visible, both day and night. This courtesy will help prevent twisted ankles and falls, as well as knocked-down tarps and tents. Brightly colored ropes and tie lines are great for the daytime, but do need some form of augmentation to be visible in the dark.
  • Lastly, be sure to find out if your location is a low-lying one so that you can “terraform” by building platforms to keep you up out of rain puddles. Pallets with plywood thrown on top is a quick way to do this, but will require shims for leveling. Building formal platforms in advance and then cutting legs to the proper height on site is another approach. Remember to build stable as the legs must rest on top of the ground. Bring 1 foot x 1 foot squares of 3/4 inch plywood to place on the ground under the legs, both to protect the land and make for more stable footing.


Alcohol Policy

It is illegal in the state of West Virginia to serve alcohol to minors, and we expect anyone serving alcohol to comply. Greeters will be checking IDs and dyeing the finger of anyone underage with UV-reactive dye. It is expected that any open drinking spots will have a black light (even a small battery powered one can be cheap) to make sure they conform to any and all laws. 

Generator Policy

Transformus is an exciting and often loud experience. Still, while the THUMP THUMP THUMP of untold numbers of DJ’s spinning in the night is something we look forward to (or expect to deal with), the unending brrrrraaaaaaaaappp of a noisy generator is another thing altogether. The exhaust can often be just as bad or worse — ever think about that! — for your neighbors it can be like sleeping beside a diesel bus.

If you do choose to bring a generator, please be considerate of others by following these guidelines:

  • Bring the quietest generator you can afford, and the smallest that will meet your actual needs. Larger generators are more difficult to transport, use more fuel and create more pollution.
  • Better yet, see if you can contribute gas to your neighbor’s generator, run an extension cord, and don’t bring your own at al.l
  • Be mindful of which direction the exhaust is going.
  • Don’t run your generator late at night or early in the morning (unless of course, you are the THUMP, THUMP, THUMP).
  • Place the generator as far from other camps as possible – even hiking it up into the woods. You might need to consider bringing extra extension cables for this.
  • Cover your generator with a sound shield or baffle, or outfit it with a motorcycle muffler.
  • NEVER bury a generator to shield the noise. This can cause a fire! (And not the fun kind.)
  • Make sure people can’t trip over any power cords. Be sure your cords aren’t submerged in water or creating a shock hazard.
  • Don’t forget to bring the oil, and to check its levels regularly. A seized generator is a sad generator.


Vehicle Policy

All vehicles will be parked off-site, and even theme camps must comply. In general there are three exceptions to this rule, and those are only granted by application:

  1. If the vehicle is an Art Car (that would have to be approved by the Department of Mutant Vehicles) or an explicit part of the camp, like a bar.
  2. We do often grant permission for major and / or expensive camps (like sound camps or camps w/ expensive equipment they do not want to get wet) to keep ONE vehicle on site to lock their gear in and keep their equipment dry.
  3. We also usually grant permission to keep a vehicle on site is if it is being requested for accessibility reasons or for someone who has specific physical needs where having their own vehicle on the premises or nearby would be vital.

In all cases, we ask that the vehicle is either painted or otherwise decorated to match the the camps decor, or hidden with tarps by other skillful means.  This is especially true if it is a rented U-haul or something; please take all measures to hide the logos and whatnot.​​​