How big is BurningMan?

If you’ve never been to Burning Man, the sheer scale of it all is hard to wrap your head around. Heck, if you have been to Burning Man, its still hard to grasp. I’ve been looking for concrete numbers to help wrap my head around.

  • Area: just over 5 5.5 square miles (up from 4 sq. miles last year.  San Francisco is 7 46.7 sq. miles)
  • Population: 49,600 (San Francisco is 800,000)

…but I find those numbers still too big to grasp.

  • Number of porta potties: 1000

One thousand – thats a lot of porta potties?!! Still too many to easily visualize, but it got me thinking. I’ve seen what a line of 20 porta potties looks like – but what would a line of 1000 porta potties look like?

A standard porta pottie is 44″ wide. Standing them all immediately beside each other makes a line of porta potties 44000″ long or 0.6944 miles long. Huh. By comparison, look at Charleston Road – the main street nearest the Mozilla office here in Mountain View. If you placed the first porta potty at the corner of Charleston Road and Rengstorff, the continuous unbroken line of blue porta potties would stretch all the way to the corner of Charleston Road and Shoreline…blocking all side streets and office entrances along the way. See details in this map. It would take you approx 14 minutes to just walk from the start to the end of that long line of blue porta potties with white roofs… The Great Blue PortaPotty Wall of Mountain View?

Taking this thought one step further.

Imagine if someone asked you to organize renting 1000 porta potties. Now to add to the logistics, consider how to deliver those 1000 porta potties to a remote desert location multiple hours drive from the nearest town in Nevada. Oh, and hire a large group of people who will work literally around the clock keeping them all continuously cleaned and restocked for weeks on end. Oh, and they’ll need food and lodging and large equipment too. Then bring the people and the porta potties all out there, and then bring it all back.

If all that doesn’t sound daunting to you, well… have you ever considered volunteering at Burning Man? The logistics and coordination that goes to make Burning Man possible is really quite something, and more help is always welcome! Oh, and dont worry, its not all about porta potties. 🙂 There are many other volunteer roles for medics, firefighters, counselors, airplane-specialists for the airport, large-scale construction workers, solar power technicans, ice sales-folks, greaters, etc, etc, etc… see the full list at:


[UPDATE: fixed error in size of San Francisco city area, caused by error over “square miles vs miles squared”; thanks to skierpage for spotting the error. Also calculated area of Burning Man more precisely. John 24oct2008]

One thought on “How big is BurningMan?

  1. “San Francisco is 7 sq. miles”.

    Nope, San Francisco is a roughly 7 miles SQUARE, thus its land area is nearly 49 sq. miles. Wikipedia says 46.7 sq mi (121 km²).