Porta potty and toilet tips at Burning Man
The porta-potties and toilets at Burning Man are incredible! They’re plentiful. They’re placed systematically, so you can always find them. They’re cleaned twice a day. And the culture of fellow burners is one of great respect for the porta-potties. For example, the civilized residents of Black Rock City–
- Sit on the toilet seat, rather than hover (hovering creates messes),
- Wipe up spills,
- Close the lid (especially during the heat of the day), and
- Never, ever, ever, ever, ever put trash in the portos.
Sometimes, groups of people will even adopt porta-potties and take extra care of them. One year I was at BRC, a small group had taken to scenting the nearby portos with essential oils. Each porto was labeled, so you could pick the scent you liked. There was lavender, cedar, orange and other lovely scents. How awesome is that?
You can’t avoid them
You can’t not pee. You can’t not poop. And if you’re in an RV and think you’ll just use your RV facilities all the time, well, let’s see how long the “poop in the RV toilet” strategy works for your gang of four. Right.
Your preparation for porta-potty use will help you be more comfortable in the portos. So read up, plan and provision accordingly so you can be prepared to pee and poop with greater comfort.
Bring travel size hand sanitizers
People have different attitudes about hand sanitizers, especially those with anti-bacterial properties. I do recommend bringing a travel-size hand sanitizer or two for use with the porta-potties. Get one with a little loop or hole in it so you can attach it to your festival belt or backpack. Putting the hand sanitizer on a retractable reel is even more efficient.
Pack an extra roll of toilet paper
A general word to the wise (especially for women): always carry some toilet paper (TP) with you. Some portos seem to have the TP replenished throughout the night; others don’t. It’s often the times right before the portos are cleaned where the TP seems to run out most frequently, e.g. early, early in the morning or around sunset. The request from the Burning Man organization (sometimes called BMorg) is that you only use one-ply TP.
Get some small ziplock bags for clean (and then used) wipes
You can’t drop your used baby wipes in the portos. (I know you already know this because you’ve read the Burning Man Survival Guide several times.) Many people carry small ziplock baggies in their backpacks or festival belts in which to put used wipes. I’m one of them, and I recommend getting small colored plastic ziplock bags for used wipes.
Create ready-to-go porto kits
One thing you can do is create ready-to-go porto kits, consisting of–
- a small resealable plastic bag,
- some toilet paper, and
- a baby wipe.
Here’s what I recommend: Put the baby wipe in a small colored ziplock bag both to keep it moist and so that its moisture doesn’t make the TP wet. If you do need to use a baby wipe, put the used wipe back in the ziplock bag it was first in. You won’t necessarily need these kits all the time, though they’re super-convenient to have on hand when you do.
Make up a bunch of these packs right before heading out to the playa, and keep a couple in your backpack. These small inexpensive kits can make much appreciated gifts late into the night, especially near portos located out by the more popular and crowded sound camps.
Baby wipes: they’re not all created equal
Baby wipes are not all created equal. Some have alcohol in them; some don’t. The quality of the wipes varies quite a bit with some having a more luxurious and comforting feel and others being more perfunctory. They come in various sizes too. And various scents. (Personally, I don’t care for the smell of most baby wipes, so I get not-baby-wipes scented ones, such as cucumber-scented wipes.)
If you plan on relying heavily on wipes (also for bodily cleansing), I encourage you to check out different brands, do some research, test them ahead of time and purchase better quality wipes.
And, remember, “If it didn’t come from your body, don’t put it in the potty.”
Seriously! Porto culture at Burning Man is a thing! We all participate in making sure the portos are clean and free of debris that could potentially clog the cleaning hoses. Think about it: Burning Man would shut down without portos and good service. Do your part, every single time you use the portos, to make sure that you leave them as clean as you found them or better. Never throw trash in the portos. Not a single item, including your used wipes.
Official info about human waste, sanitation and portos from Burning Man.
Fun antics with the porta potties….
Tips for going to the toilet at Burning Man (ladies edition)
And some philosophy on porto use