Running a theme camp? Interested in forming one down the road?

We’ve put together a guide of the important details- as well as some tips and tricks to make the process a lot easier!

What’s the benefit to registering as a theme camp?

What is a theme camp?

Our big brother in the desert describes theme camps as something that “should create a visually stimulating presence and provide a communal space or other opportunity for interaction.”

A theme camp can be pretty much anything you dream of that would add to the event. Is it interactive and publicly-accessible?  It’s probably a theme camp..

Sound camps, tea houses, costume closets, bars, chill spaces, and movie theaters are just a few examples of what participants have brought to past events. Theme camps are the place you go to learn, eat, participate, entertain yourself, and interact with other participants.  

You can share an open space designed to be accessible 24-7, or offer more guided activities on a set schedule.

What does being an official theme camp mean? Can’t I just camp with my friends in open camping?

Sure, you can always set up in open camping!  But registration will put you on the map- literally.  You’ll be listed on the map and field guide given to attendees, as well as on our website.  If you want to make sure people know who you are and what you’re offering, registration is the easiest and best way to do that.

But there’s more reason than that.  It is the only way to ensure you have the space you need to provide the activities you’re interested in sharing.  Plus, it allows you access to the power grid where available, to keep those lights shining and the sound pumping.  You and your fellow campmates can can also park as many camping vehicles as needed in your allotted space for free, without the need for additional RV passes.

Theme camps are also given a limited number of early entry passes on Sunday before gate officially opens to make sure you have plenty of time to set up and get everything just right.

What happens after we're approved as a theme camp?

There’s a lot of moving pieces when you’re trying to build a city in the woods.  Registration makes sure you get connected to the people who can help!

  • Communications– Our communications team will make sure your theme camp is listed on the Critical NW field guide once approved, so people know why they want to find you.  And hey, if you have some cool photos of what people can look forward to seeing, they might even share them around for you in advance.
  • Spacement – The Spacement crew works hard to place your camp in the best place possible at the event. Your placement will be assigned as closely to your requests as we can manage. While being in the forest is awesome, it limits how big and how flat everywhere can be – though we are lucky to have mostly flat space! Spacement gets you on the map.
    • Your placement will be reserved until Wednesday of event at 5pm. By that time you MUST have one person present and the majority of infrastructure in place. If you are unable to make that deadline, your space will be opened up to the general public.
  • Powerwheels – 85% of theme camp spaces were guaranteed access to the grid last year.  And this year we’re going even bigger! Powerwheels is already hard at work on making sure even more assigned theme camp spaces have electricity in 2018!  Keep your fingers crossed!
  • RV/Camping Cars – Does your camp have any wheeled infrastructure? All trailers, RVs, vans being slept in, busses, etc. need to be registered.   However, they will NOT need a seperate RV camping pass. You can register vehicles on the ‘Logistics’ portion of your application, and you can update the form if things change by emailing spacement@criticalnw.org.
    • The first arrivals of your camp will be given all vehicle camping passes associated with your camp during placement. With the exception of special requests granted by space/production, vehicles can not be part of your frontage.
  • Early Access – If needed, your camp can come set-up on the Sunday before gate opens, starting at 12pm. Please remember that early entry is a privilege granted to you to work on your infrastructure.

Are there any rules or policies I need to know?

You need a camp lead

Every camp needs a leader. You may want to run as a collective- but at least one person needs to be the designated person in charge.  Production will be communicating back and forth with you about your space and your needs.  One human needs to take charge of managing that information pipeline, and they need to keep everyone else informed.  If anyone else in the camp reaches out with a question, they will be told to work with their camp lead.

Set-Up & Strike

If you need or are interested in extra time to set up your camp, submit your request along with your application. 

Once you have started to set up, no matter what time of the week, you are required to have one person on site who is accountable for your camp at all times.

Because we want you to be able to enjoy your Saturday and offer up your camp’s full experience to other participants, your camp will be given until 5pm on Sunday to pack up camp and de-MOOP. Please remember to pack up your personal belongings before bringing individual cars into your camp! You can bring in trucks/trailers for camp infrastructure at any time.

Sound Policy

If you are a sound camp — aka a theme camp that will have loud music running more than 50% of the event — you must be registered as one!

Your Production Team places sound camps intentionally to ensure you aren’t battling one another for sound. If you are running loud sound, and are not listed as a sound camp,  you will be asked to turn off your system.

All theme camps, whether they are sound camps or not, are required to follow these guidelines:

  • Amplified music hours are from 8am – 12am on Monday – Thursday, and 8am – 2am Friday & Saturday. This is to ensure we limit the sounds carrying to our neighboring communities.
  • During all hours the sound must maintain no more than a 90 decibel (c) rated reading from 20 feet from source. Critical is implementing a Sound Department of volunteers who will have decibel readers to help you find and maintain the right sound levels for your camp.
  • During quiet hours — 12am – 8am weekdays, and 2am -8am weekends — the venue prohibits amplified sound. If you would like to listen to music quietly in your camp, please be respectful of your neighbors, and follow these guidelines.
    • Use a battery powered, single speaker (no subs).
    • Make sure the sound is inaudible 30 ft from source OR 10 ft from camp boundaries.
    • One speaker per camp only.

If there are any complaints, you will be required to turn off the sound for the remainder of the night. So keep it courteous.

Infrastructure vehicles

Your infrastructure vehicles (trucks/trailers used for transportation of Theme Camp structures, not personal tents) still need a parking pass, but it will be free of charge. Production needs to know what you’re bringing so we can allocate space appropriately, so be sure to list all vehicles in your application.

Fire/Fire Marshal Requirements

Fire code in Snohomish County is much stricter than you may be accustomed to. Here are some guidelines to keep you well informed and able to plan your camp accordingly.

  • Each public space is required to have one 5lb ABC rated fire extinguisher in plain sight and accessible to all. If you have two public facing tents, you will need two fire extinguishers – one for each tent.
  • Communal kitchens must have one 5lb ABC rated extinguisher. If you plan on using a deep fryer, you must have a K rated extinguisher.
  • Your cooking stoves cannot be under a canopy or contained within a tent.
  • Your fires meant for warmth (ember or gas)  also cannot be inside/under canopy/tents.
  • Public tents and enclosed structures over 400 sqft, and canopies over 700 sqft must be NFPA 701 rated, and you must have proof specific to that structure – usually sewn into the seam, but certificate is acceptable if an identification number exists on both structure and certificate.
    • If there is less than a 12ft space between two public structures, their square footage is combined, and the rule above applies.
  • Public facing enclosed communal areas must have a plugin exit sign with battery backup hung over the exit.
  • Generators must be placed 20 feet from any structure or vehicle.

If you have any questions or would like clarifications on any of these guidelines, please do not hesitate to reach out to spacement@criticalnw.org . We are happy to work with you or help with any concerns.

Anything else I should know?

Most of what you’ll need to know as participants will be in the Critical Northwest Survival Guide, but here are a couple of theme camp specific things to keep in mind- including some tips and tricks from seasoned camp leads to make your job easier!

Measure twice. And then again! Don't go in without a layout plan

Our sites vary in geography due to the wooded nature of the environment.  However, you should always go in with details on exactly what your camp is bringing, and how big all the pieces are.  If you have the chance to see your site during a work weekend, do it. Plan your layout in advance and use the site visit to firm up your ideas.  Setup will go a lot easier if you go in already knowing about that one giant tree right where you hoped to put the speakers.

Communication is key!

Have camp meetings.  Make sure everyone knows who is responsible for what, and when.  Don’t assume people will know what needs to get done just because they’re seasoned burners.  Theme camps are their own animal, and have their own unique challenges.

Everything is 100% easier when you talk about it in advance.  Everything is about 75% easier when you forgot to talk about it in advance but are willing to talk about what’s wrong now instead of silently fuming.

Volunteer

Traditionally theme camps volunteer to work a group shift together, usually with greeters, gate, or parking. Be sure to sign your group!

Workshops

Consider offering your space to a workshop. Many workshop hosts need or want a different environment for their workshop then the HUB.  If you would like to allow others to host events in your camp please contact our workshop lead!

Infrastructure tips

  • Invest in waterproof extension cords and power outlets – it can get moist.
  • Know what amperage is, and how to figure it out and locate it on a label.
  • Meet up in advance to make sure everything works as it should, fits together as it should, and all camp members know how to work things.  You don’t want to find out during build that a mouse chewed through a power cable while the amp was in winter storage, or learn on the drive home that someone packing the truck didn’t actually know how a ratchet strap worked.

Plan for stress

You will get stressed.  You will stand there in the middle of trying to put something together in the dark wondering why you did this.  You will get annoyed during teardown because someone, maybe even you, had a bit too much fun the night before.

Plan for stress.  And plan for how to deal with it.  Talk it out with your campmates in advance, and always remember to assume best intentions when all else fails.

Money money money

Running a bar?  Awesome.  Who buys the ice?

Communal kitchen?  Cool.  Who gets propane tanks on the way in?

It’s no secret that theme camps cost money.  Sure, we offer grants to offset the cost, but you’ll still need to have some kind of budget.  Figure out how much you need- not just for the frontage, the art, the camp gift, but also the communal kitchen or shared beer cooler.

Camps manage money in different ways.  Some have a flat fee everyone pays.  Others may balance it out depending on individual circumstances.  Meet up, talk, and decide what will work best for you.  A lot of resentment can simmer of people think they’re doing more than their fair share of the physical or financial heavy lifting- go in with a plan and prevent this from happening.

And really… nothing is worse than getting on site and realizing no one has cash for ice.

Be good neighbors

Make sure everyone is aware of the event rules and code of conduct in advance.  Acculturate any new people with the ten principles of burning man.  Remember your behavior will reflect back on your entire camp.

Be ready for teardown

As a theme camp lead said: “Making a theme camp with mostly sober friends in a couple of days is easy and fun… however, taking one down with tired, cranky hungover friends on a strict deadline is hard, very hard.”

Plan.  Be prepared.  Pack as much of your personal belongings in advance as you can.  Moop sweep throughout the week so the final sweep goes quickly.  In a perfect world everyone would go to bed early on the last night knowing they have to pack up… but in the real world you’re going to be up late, and tired.  Have a strategy.  Make sure everyone knows in advance.

Still have questions?

As always, your Production Team is happy as hell to help you with any questions, confusion, comments, or assistance in planning your theme camp!  Have your lead reach out to the appropriate department and we’ll get you the info you need.