Good tie-downs are essential
The only certain thing about the winds on Black Rock Desert is they are unpredictable. It is not uncommon to have 20-30 knot winds with gusts to 40-50 knots during the day. Thunderstorms can bring horrendous winds, rain, and blowing dust. Or it might be very calm and pleasant. Dust devils are common even when the winds are mild.
You need to prepare for strong winds, because they can arrive unexpectedly. Do not leave your aircraft unattended without using your tie-downs.
Aircraft not tied down must park well away from other aircraft.
What follows is a handful of tie-down suggestions. Thanks go to the many pilots from the Cardinal mailing list and the Burning Man Aviators list who contributed their solutions and ideas.
Whatever you use for a stake should be at least two feet long. You can get away with shorter lengths in less challenging situations.
You can make a canvas carrying bag for your tie-downs. Or use a large diameter piece of PVC pipe, cut to the right length, and cap the ends for a handy and sturdy carrying case.
Rebar is a fairly inexpensive solution. Use two or three pieces of rebar for each tie-down point. They can be 2 feet, 3 feet, or 4 feet long depending on the size of your plane, your comfort level, and whether you use two or three pieces per tie-down. Many hardware stores carry various lengths of rebar, so you don't have to cut it yourself.
When using two pieces per tie-down, pound them in so that an "x" is formed a little above ground level. With three pieces, make a cone. Tie your rope around the "x" or small part of the cone.
Cover the end of rebar with something to prevent cuts. Use old tennis balls, plastic drink bottles, or soda cans.
Grind one end to a point to make it easier to insert in hard soil. This isn't necessary in the Black Rock, but can be handy in rocky, hard soil.
A sledgehammer will be available at the Phoenix Bar & Lounge so you don't have to bring your own.
You can find tiedown kits ready to go, just add rope. One product that many pilots like is called "FlyTies". Easy to install, and easy to remove. For more information see the company website at www.flyties.com.
Buy two steel rings, 2" in diameter. Buy two 4' lengths of steel angle, about 1/4" thick by 3/4" wide. Cut each piece of angle iron into three equal lengths, so that you have six stakes. Sharpen one end of each stake.
Lay the ring on the ground at your desired tie-down point and drive three stakes into the ground within the ring even spaced around the ring. Each stake should be angled about 45 degrees. Leave four to five inches sticking up and the ring is held securely. Tie your rope from the ring to the plane. This solution weighs less than five pounds and costs less than $15.
Your aircraft works as a lever, so you don't want to put the tie-down point directly below your tie-down rings or they pull out too easily. Try to get four feet horizontal for every foot vertical on the rope. This is easier to do on low-wing aircraft.
Airports always attach the tie-downs inboard of the rings, to maximize parking space and keep people from tripping over the ropes as they walk between planes. We have more room in the desert and high-wing planes are a valuable source of shade for campers. High-wing pilots may prefer to place their tie-down points outside the wing tips to increase useable shade area. If you do this, make sure your ropes are flagged to prevent tripping.