The Man 2014. Courtesy of Charla Gabert
Charla Gabert The Man 2014. Courtesy of Charla Gabert
The Man Aflame 2014. Courtesy of Charla Gabert
Charla Gabert The Man Aflame 2014. Courtesy of Charla Gabert
Burning Man survival section at a Home Depot in Northern Nevada.
Home Depot Burning Man survival section at a Home Depot in Northern Nevada.

You’ve got to hand it to the big box stores for knowing the markets in which they operate. If you go to a Lowe’s or Home Depot in the west you’ll see more wormdrives than sidewinders. Go to one in the east and it will be the other way around. Nowhere is this local knowledge more evident than at the temporary Burning Man sections that pop up in the weeks before Labor Day at Home Depot branches in northern Nevada. Burning man is hard to describe; in the words of the organization that puts on the event:

Once a year, tens of thousands of people gather in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert (also known as “the playa”) to create Black Rock City, a temporary metropolis dedicated to community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance. They depart one week later, having left no trace whatsoever.

The art consists of mutant vehicles, strange temporary buildings, and a giant man-like statue that is burned on the final night of the multi-day event. Self-expression could be anything, including outlandish clothing (the norm) or maybe no clothing at all. Attendees (known as burners) come from all over the world; last year’s included everyone from Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook) to my wife, who told me I was an idiot for staying home to write about tools when I could have been in Black Rock City having fun with 65,000 other people. Well, maybe next year…

So what is the connection to Home Depot? Well, they sell some of the things burners need to be self-reliant. Burning Man (video below) takes place in a dried up lake bed in the middle of a desert—no trees, no water, no food, no electricity. Nothing you don’t bring for yourself. Black Rock Desert is north of Reno, Nevada and the Home Depot stores in that area noticed that in the weeks before the event certain items sold big, so they now set up special sections containing coolers, generators, batteries, water, propane, and the like. They also sell a lot of rebar (for tent stakes) and dust masks (for the inevitable dust storms). And then there is duct tape, because only a fool goes into the desert without at least one roll of the stuff.

[The chart above was revised on 8/19/15 because Ball Bungees/Tarp ties were incorrectly described as "rubber bands"]

For more on the big box stores see:Home Depot v. Lowes 2015
Lowe’s and Hitachi Freeze out Home Depot
How Big are the Biggest Big Box Stores?
John Oliver’s Take on Robots, Lowe’s, and Home Depot
Depot vs. Lowes

The video below was shot from a drone at the 2014 event. It has nothing to do with tools but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun to watch.