Tips for coordinating camps long distance?

Bikes, trikes, personal mobility and getting to/from the event - this is the place to discuss general transportation issues.
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Tips for coordinating camps long distance?

Post by FossaFerox » Wed Jan 07, 2015 11:40 am

This coming burn has me nervous.

Two years ago, 10 of our 13 members were in Los Angeles. One long distance member was a local camper's sister and she was actually there for our meetings despite living in the bay area. The other two were good friends of a camp member, driving in from Utah, and were largely self sufficient. They were bringing the shower infrastructure and a couch, so we really didn't have to worry too hard about integrating their stuff with ours. In short, it made coordinating a breeze. We had near full turn-out on our build days, the camp really came together, and our journey, build, strike, and return home were mostly drama free. We felt like a family.

Last year, my co-lead and his girlfriend moved up to the bay, another camper moved to NYC, we welcomed a friend from up state NY, we welcomed two new members from the bay, and another new camper who had been in LA moved to the bay during prep. It made a huge difference. The bulk of our camp infrastructure was still in Los Angeles and our build days were smaller by necessity. We still ran one truck up the coast so the journey was simple, but things felt different. We had 6 from the bay, 4 from LA, and 2 from NY. To be fair, this was also the first year we were registered as a theme camp so me and three others went in early as alpha team to set up the bulk of our camp, but even so I couldn't help but feel the effects of being more spread out. We didn't feel like the same big family...

This year? It turns out I'm moving to Oregon. Another LA camper is moving to Chicago. Our entire infrastructure is still in Los Angeles despite only two campers coming from that location. We were looking to grow this year (whether by welcoming back some of our three wayward campers who took last year off or recruiting more new friends) but I just don't see any way to make things feel... coherent. Never mind the logistics on build days, or getting my stuff to the playa (since the truck probably isn't coming through Portland). I just don't know how to go about keeping people on the same page feeling like part of one big team. The more I think about it the more I feel that having everyone in my buddy's driveway sweating and building stuff that first year was instrumental in us all coming together and really getting to know each other.

Last year just wasn't the same. Next year? Yeah. I'd love some tips from veteran camp leads.
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Re: Tips for coordinating camps long distance?

Post by Bodmin » Wed Jan 07, 2015 3:11 pm

Welcome to Portland!

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Re: Tips for coordinating camps long distance?

Post by Elliot » Wed Jan 07, 2015 5:11 pm

No suggestion for build days, but some camps and villages set up a phpBB bulletin board (like ePlaya) just for their own group.

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Re: Tips for coordinating camps long distance?

Post by danibel » Wed Jan 07, 2015 6:19 pm

Our camp is not placed, so we don't have the pressure of building a theme camp (yet). Most of our camp comes from Santa Cruz and the Bay area so we have a meeting before and then a decompression. Someone steps up early in the summer and tries to herd the cats. Last year a new thing popped up - Google docs! One of our fearless leaders put together a form that members could log into and add what meals and/or drinks they were planning on bringing, as well as infrastructure (we do set up a kitchen and two large pyramid shade structures).

Last year was the first year that we also lost some of our "heavy hitters" and though they were greatly missed and some things simply didn't happen, camp was put together and we were green on the moop map (I stayed till Tuesday and made sure we did!).

We have camp members from as far away as Tennessee and Seattle. And again, we aren't some big theme camp, but we do have about 30 or so peeps and make dinners during the week. There is some coordinating to do! Google docs helped last year, but I don't know what to say about your build days, unless you all plan a second vacation for a week in a LA and build then. :shock:
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Re: Tips for coordinating camps long distance?

Post by Elderberry » Thu Jan 08, 2015 12:30 am

We have a similar situation. We are primarily divided between LA and SF with others scattered in various other states.

One thing that was the most helpful was getting a storage unit close to the playa for the majority of the camp infrastructure. So, regardless who was coming from where, anyone could be delegated or volunteer to get the truck(s) and pick up the stuff on their way to the playa.

The other thing is having conference calls regularly to get everybody necessary involved with the planning and logistics. Additionally, based on who is volunteering to do what, there are usually smaller meetings held regionally for planning and indoctrinating new members.

This seems to keep everybody on the same page and everything running smoothly.

We also have a website we use for members to sign up for various shifts in the cafe or craft lounge, and a private FB group that most of us check into regularly throughout the year.
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Re: Tips for coordinating camps long distance?

Post by LionsNzebras » Thu Jan 08, 2015 10:12 am

All of these guys have great suggestions.

Elliot used to belong to the group that we now belong to so he knows said group.

We are from all over, texas, Canada, cali etc. We have our own board that we chat on back and forth, we have shared our phone numbers and what not to text back and forth too.
Everyone as usual should be as self sufficient as possible just encase.
Lots of groups also rent a cargo container\storage out there as well.

The key is lots of coordinated communication.

The biggest issue is if you rely on a person to say bring a structure, and they get stuck on the highway with a flat tire for say a may be in a tiny lurch.
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Re: Tips for coordinating camps long distance?

Post by torrey.smith » Thu Jan 08, 2015 11:25 am

I've developed a rule that you never give someone responsibility for a project that they are not actually touching with their hands.

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Re: Tips for coordinating camps long distance?

Post by forrest Gump » Thu Jan 08, 2015 12:19 pm

I have been the lead in a theme camp for several years “Dr. Baron von Realz Esq. most spectacular Steampunk Sideshow of altered reality and debauchery”. We specifically reach out to burners coming from overseas. Our team is spread all over the globe. I have a small core group of core people here in the San Francisco area that build and transport the larger projects for the camp. I will get several visits a year from camp mates passing through but we really only see each other once a year. When we do get together at the burn it is truly like coming home. I think I have a slight advantage most because I am naturally good with logistics e.g. that is a fancy way of saying I have O.C.D. (obsessive compulsive disorder). My first burn I joined a camp that was all from San Francisco it was fun but a totally different kind of energy very orginized. It is a leap of faith to entrust people half way around the world and I am always amazed at how we pull it off.

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Re: Tips for coordinating camps long distance?

Post by Token » Thu Jan 08, 2015 3:08 pm

Sounds to me like you store all your infrastructure in SF instead of LA and your back to normal, no?

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Re: Tips for coordinating camps long distance?

Post by LionsNzebras » Fri Jan 09, 2015 10:43 am

I was looking at a map, and you could rent a small uhaul and tow it out yourself, drive from Portland to LA, pickup some peeps then drive out to TTITD, Unfortunately it adds some cost to your side.
You could meet in LA a day early, to load the truck and what not, just like you used to.
Building new stuff is a much more complicated process now.

As for feeling like a family, you could schedule weekly or monthly skype meetings, or some type of conference calls, you have a few time zones to deal with now. They would be long, specially if you have to talk about structure and building.

One of your issues is now you have structure and building materials coming from all over, the people in Chicago\NYC cant or wont drive out with stuff (i guess its possible but logistically a nightmare)
It makes more sense for them to fly out, and meet some people in the group and take a road trip or pick them up in Reno.

There will need to be much more trust inside your group, to do what you say you will do, and to make it happen no matter what.
If "sally" says shes bringing the shade structure, and does not show up (car trouble, family, logistics whatever), you also need to have a backup plan. A way to communicate once your in the gate line etc etc etc. This is where a bulletin board of your own\website type thing comes in handy too. Cobra radios or CB radios.

Hope that helps, will add if I think of anything more.
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Re: Tips for coordinating camps long distance?

Post by A-RockLeFrench » Fri Jan 09, 2015 2:16 pm

We had something like 30 people in our camp last year. A bunch of us (maybe a dozen?) are in the same area, so it made pre-burn work parties do-able and a great team building exercise.

Last year we had 10 early entry passes, of those ten only 3 of us were from Southern Oregon, the other seven (which are considered core campers, most are leads of some department) from other areas, Los Angeles, Eastern Sierras and Portland. Having the EA crew made up of campers from different areas gave us 3 days before the Burn began to bond and begin building our 'container' with campers who never could make it to a pre-burn work party.

Having leads from all over helps the team feel a little more cohesive, but as said before have back-up plans. Example: Our 'DPW' guy who is in charge of generators and grey water comes from L.A. He builds 3 flat ponds and an evapotron, but in the event that his truck breaks down or gets a flat tire we also have materials for evap ponds in the 'main' caravan and another in the EA crew brings a back-up generator so we're covered if he's late or never shows.

Another tip for family bonding and container building on playa is to all eat a meal (dinner is easy) together. We had communal dinners this year, which worked out great. Everyone in camp knew dinner as around sunset. Not everyone made it all the time, but for all of us who did it made a great time for checking in with each other and feeling like a family, also it made making announcements and getting important camp info to all campers a lot easier. Early in the week, on Sunday and Monday nights we actually planned dinner as a meeting, had everyone sit in a circle and go around with everyone checking in, how they felt, what they wanted/needed and what they liked about camp. Sounds kind of hokey, but it works. Department leads also had an opportunity to let everyone know what they needed/expected of campers and how everything worked ie: the grey water system, recycling, if you wanted power from the gennerator, food/kitchen etc.

Shifts. We ask each of our campers to sign up for one kitchen/recycling shift and one 'interaction' shift. The interaction shifts gets each of our campers out interacting with the public in some way; tending the bar, megaphone duty, flaming tether-ball tender, hang out in the museum and entertain patrons and more. This encourages everyone in camp to be 'part of camp'. The kitchen/recycling shifts are setup so there's at least two campers per day responsible for keeping the kitchen clean and figuring out how to deal with getting recycling either to recycle camp or bagged up and stashed on the trailer. This encourages everyone in camp to keep a clean kitchen and be more responsible for recyclables and garbage. In the end, if everyone in camp (regardless of where they came from) is part of the fun stuff and helping in doing the work it creates a much more cohesive team environment.

We usually plan our big camp party blow-out thing on Tuesday night and ask that all campers be there for it, so as to help with throwing the party and also having the whole camp there to mingle and socialize helps build the team.

We also have a big dry-erase board up in the kitchen that we can put things on that need to be communicated across camp. Ultimately, communication is one of the biggest building blocks in creating a team and building bonds. Find ways to facilitate as much communication as you can and it will bring your camp together. Facebook groups, private message boards, listservs, skype conferences and such all work to get your campers to talk to eachother.

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Re: Tips for coordinating camps long distance?

Post by Hope-a-Lope » Sat Jan 10, 2015 8:10 pm

Having never been a camp lead, I don't have any suggestions besides what's already been said... but it seems all camps change and evolve, and it's definitely not easy, and never the same year to year. I wish you luck Fossa, and in the end I'm sure you'll have a great burn.

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Re: Tips for coordinating camps long distance?

Post by AntiM » Wed Jan 14, 2015 7:17 am

Hushville has a group on Yahoo. While we are all individual little camps, that is where the overall public planning happens, and the off season social chatter.

I had a FB page for my camp, but we're down to four core members, so it fell apart.

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Re: Tips for coordinating camps long distance?

Post by mudpuppy000 » Thu Jan 15, 2015 7:21 am

Our camp originally met on eplaya so we were from all over the place. Over the years we started collecting infrastructure and adding more people from various places, but we're still pretty scattered. We found that it was good to have our infrastructure relatively close to the playa so we could all meet up at the storage unit a day or two ahead of the burn, load it into a rental truck then head out.

As far as keeping in contact we use bookface a lot and for serious planning we use basecamp. Also monthly video chats with the core members have been great, and setting up camps at regional events wherever we have a cluster of members. (LA, Sacramento, Denver, UK, Spain)

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Re: Tips for coordinating camps long distance?

Post by trilobyte » Sun Jan 18, 2015 10:12 am

I'm nudging this over to the Transportation board, since that's a better fit for a discussion about coordinating and transportation logistics (though it could probably go in the general Q&A discussion as well).

Congrats on the upcoming moves, and good luck in sorting out the logistical details that many other camps face. In some cases, the camps grow as the group in each state makes a couple friends that join in the fun of building and making and being a part of the operation. In others, campmates may move on and either start a new camp or join an existing one in the city they're living in. Do what feels right for your friendships.

When I moved from southern California to northern California, I was still with my old camp (where I was one of the primary coordinators) and organized a 'bay area contingent' that had its own shade structure, but we shared other resources (generator, shower, evap, etc). It sort of worked, but there was a lot of extra hassle and stress and the occasional bit of playa drama.. so after going through that I figured that it would be better to do our own camps and be friends who visited each other on playa rather than dealing with frustration and miscommunications. In the camp I'm at now I'm leading the charge (and my gf and I own much of the infrastructure), but between a third and a half of the campmates don't live locally. They still help work on different aspects of the camp - either with their art projects that are a part of our operations, coming into SF early to help finish up our final pre-event work, or in being awesome rockstars on-playa (helping with setup, teardown, and doing stuff throughout the week).

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