Preparing the RV for Burning Man
The best thing you can do to make sure your RV doesn’t get damaged at Burning Man or require extensive cleanup is to do the right prep work.
Floors. First, protect the floors. If you have wood floors, use red rosin paper like this. If you have carpet, use disposable carpet protection like this. Bring enough to change the protection a few times during your burn. One roll of the red rosin paper allows us to change the main area three times during the event in our 34' RV.
Windows. Next, cover all rubber molding on the outside of the RV with either high quality painters tape or (better yet) gaffer tape. Cleaning molding is very challenging, and the tape will not only keep it clean, but also keep dust from getting under it. Make sure it’s wide enough to the edges of the molding - at least 2”. The gaffer tape is significantly more expensive, but is easy to remove and won’t leave a film. If you are using painter tape, be sure to test it on a small area before going by affixing it to some molding and then running a hair dryer on it to heat it up. If it passes the test, be sure to also check once or twice during the Burn to ensure it doesn’t leave a sticky residue when you remove it.
An alternative technique is to entirely cover the windows with some type of plastic film and tape it on. People typically use a clear plastic film. We avoid doing this because the high winds can very easily tear the film at the time you need it most.
We do this stage while waiting in line at the entrance gate. Be sure to have a ladder or tough bin you can stand on to reach all the windows.
Outside Vents and Seams. Once on the playa, if your RV expands, tape up any seams around the pop outs after you are fully extended. Here’s where extra wide painters tape (4”) works great.
Finally, cover any vent holes that aren’t used during your Burn, being careful not to obstruct any working vents. A note on roof AC vents. We used to use a hammock filter on our outside AC vents. In normal conditions, these can be used to keep dust out of AC vents, and will permit airflow so can be in place while AC is running. Problem is, we have never gotten them to stay in place long in the high winds in the playa. So we gave up. We’ve seen very few people with these in place so our advice is to skip this step.
Awnings. Never open your awning or similar RV shade feature at the Burn. At best, it gets dirty and is hard to clean, but more likely a strong wind catches it and destroys it. You are far better off buying a stand-alone, Burner friendly, shade solution. It will work better, and be cheaper to replace if damaged.
Inside Windows. You will want to cover all of your windows with insulated bubble wrap like this Reflectix product. Cover every inch of window on the inside, and tape it down. It makes a huge difference. Many people prefer covering the outside of the windows, and this is likely the most efficient method. In recent years we have switched to covering the inside instead, which keeps the Reflectix clean, and alleviates fears of it blowing away. We use gaffers tape to affix it to the RV. Some use stucco tape, and report great results. Painters tape may work well, but risks leaving a residue.
Some people swear by also using Reflectix on the roof of the RV. This will absolutely reduce the temperature of your RV. But you must be sure to affix the wrap so it won’t blow off. And we have seen many examples of well taped materials blowing away. If you are going to go this route, consider supplementing an excellent taping job with some 20 lb weights or the like to ensure that the material stays in place during a dust storm.
Finally, cover all the chairs and couches. We use a combination of fitted bed sheets taped or clipped in place and Press n’ Seal cling film. A little experimentation will tell you which works best where. Press n’ Seal will work on the dash board and other surfaces you won’t be using and want to keep clean.
Keeping Your RV Clean
Get an old stained rug….. people will sell these for next to nothing or give them away. 6x6 feet is big enough, but larger works too. Put this in front of your RV, and either weigh it down or use lag bolts to screw it to the playa. Place a non-shedding door mat on the carpet right when you walk in to the RV, so you can scrape your shoes. (Don’t use a mat with small fibers - they will shed, and leave you a heck of a cleanup job…hard learned life lesson). Have a bucket at the door so you can immediately remove your shoes on the steps of the RV, and place them in the bucket. Consider also hanging a sheet from the ceiling over the inside of your RV door creating an “air lock” entrance which will reduce dust blowing into the RV. We’ve moved away from doing this, as we haven’t found it necessary if you just open and close the RV door quickly (in all conditions!). But if you are more casual about getting in and out, this approach will help reduce dust blowing in.
This setup significantly reduces any dust you will track in on your feet. But your clothes may also be covered in dust, so consider having clean clothes available to change into. Our RV also has a chair right when you walk in, which we cover in a sheet that is changed several times during the Burn - it’s the place we sit when we are dusty but don’t want to change our clothes immediately.
A few times during the Burn we will do a good cleaning of the RV, dusting surfaces, and removing the paper from the floor, cleaning the floor and putting down new paper.
We use a high quality broom to sweep out the RV, which we have found to be more effective than using a portable vacuum. We also have an electric leaf blower and small air compressor, which with practice can be used to move dust around… it takes some skill to move it where you want to move it, so proceed with caution and avoid just creating a huge dust cloud. The leaf blower is really reserved for blowing out external storage areas, and blowing dust out of the engine compartment of the RV before driving home.
We keep a sheet over our bed when we aren’t sleeping in it, and carefully fold it up before getting into bed to catch any dust that has settled during the day. We usually change the bed twice at the burn.
We keep our dirty clothing in clear plastic trash bags, to contain the dust, and often remove and put on really dusty clothing outside the RV in our external storage compartments.
All these efforts combine to our RV being quite clean upon our return home.
Cleaning Up After
Before driving home, take a look at the engine compartment. We bring a leaf blower, and blow out the engine area quickly to get out the worst of the dust.
Once we leave the playa we pull over and remove all the external tape, so it doesn’t blow off on the drive home. We stop at the guy with the pressure sprayer in Cedarville. Gerlach has a wash as well that benefits the community. In Cedarville, we like to just do it ourselves rather than risk him damaging the glass or molding, and he’s more than happy to take a break while we do it. It’s cheap….something like $15. It’s not a perfect cleaning, just getting enough dust off the RV so when we get home we can wash it well without leaving a layer of mud on the street.
Many recommend bringing a new air filter to install once off the playa. Most rental companies will advise you not to do this — they do it when you get home, but if you own an RV, this step is a highly recommended. Don’t put on the new one until you are off playa.
Once home we slowly and carefully remove all the sheets and cling film covering the furniture in the RV, as well as stripping the bed. We then carefully roll up the paper off the floor and dispose of it. This effectively removes almost all the dust in the RV.
We then use our air compressor to blow dust out of all the crevices.
Next, we wipe all surfaces down. If they are fairly dusty, we start with wiping everything down with a dry huck towel (the brand in the link is our favorite by far). Next we wipe with a dry microfiber cloth. By getting almost all of the dust off before any water is used, you make the final sponge cleaning very simple…no muddy smears.
We use a 50-50 mix of water and white vinegar to wipe down all the other surfaces and to do a final cleaning of the floor, cleaning our sponges regularly. The entire cleaning process typically takes around two hours on the interior. We pressure wash the outside, which adds another hour to do it well. Three hours of cleaning and the RV looks close to perfect.
Note: Renting, borrowing or buying a large air compressor is a great way to clean all of your burner gear. Our bikes look almost new every year after spending an hour with the air compressor and an oil bath for the chain. Be careful not to blow dust into bearings, etc., just work the non-lubricated areas. A leaf blower is great for a first pass, and between the two you will be shocked how clean you can get all your gear.
Some people recommend going to a laundromat to clean clothing, but we have never had a problem washing in our own machine. Your mileage may vary! We generally do small loads of all machine washable stuff, and then re-wash a second time with standard size loads. Wiping down the machine and re-washing my white socks using white vinegar leaves the washing machine spotless and the socks surprisingly white.
Law Enforcement and RVs. On a semi-related note. If you are bringing bikes, be sure that the RV has a rear bike mount, and that you can mount your bikes without obscuring the license plate. Many RV’s don’t allow this, because the license plate is centered right above the tow hitch.
One might think there is an easy work around - to simply remove the plate and mount it outside the bikes with zip ties. And then add a bike light or something to light it at night. Unfortunately this does not comply with Nevada law.
The only way to be in compliance with NV law is to have your license plate affixed to your car with a light.... and the light must be wired to be lighted whenever the headlights are on. See NRS 484.551 • Passenger vehicles, bus and trucks under 80 inches in overall width must be equipped with a white lamp mounted to illuminate the rear license plate. Must be visible from a distance of at least 50 feet to the rear of the vehicle wired to be lighted whenever the vehicle head lamps or auxiliary driving lamps are lighted.