No money is exchanged at Burning Man - but here are the 2 things you can actually buy

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Unlike the world outside the gates of Burning Man, the annual week-long festival operates as a gifting society.

According to one of the The 10 Principles of Burning Man, the festival "is devoted to acts of gift giving. The value of a gift is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value."

While the idea sounds lovely, it also means that festival-goers must come prepared with whatever they need because there's no corner store to pick up a forgotten toothbrush, extra food, or goggles to fight dust storms.

But there are two luxuries that attendees can buy - ice and coffee.

Inside Center Camp Café - a popular, centrally located social hub - people can wait in long lines to get their caffeine fix.

Burning Man 2015Aly Weisman/Business Insider

Once you make your way to the front of the line, you can choose between hot or iced coffee, tea, and lemonade, which will all put you back $3.

If you want an iced chai, however, you better be prepared to shell out $4.

Abuse and advice are free, but baristas are usually so busy they barely have time to make pleasantries.

Burning Man 2015Aly Weisman/Business Insider

A fresh iced coffee is pretty priceless when you're in the middle of the desert and running on little sleep.

Burning Man coffeeAly Weisman/Business Insider

And it's good coffee, too.

BMAly Weisman/Business Insider

Many people grab one of the local Burning Man newspapers and read it as they sip their coffee under the acre of shaded tents of Center Camp.

Burning Man newspaperAly Weisman/Business Insider

When you're done with your coffee, any excess liquid is poured into this bin and cups are stabbed onto poles to make sure there is no garbage floating around.

At Burning Man, everything you bring into the desert festival must also come back out - including any liquids like coffee, tea, and even dirty dish and shower water.

Burning ManAly Weisman/Business Insider

The Center Camp Café also offers a wide open space for people to practice yoga. It's an especially popular place in the mornings.

Burning ManAly Weisman/Business Insider

"The Café is the single largest volunteer community on the playa," according to the Burning Man website. "The construction, coffee shop, performance events, clean up, art, decor and lighting of this amazing space rely on the devoted efforts from hundreds of volunteers."

Other than coffee and tea, ice is the only other luxury available for purchase. A rarity in the desert, ice allows attendees to "keep your food, beverages, and heads cool during the long hot desert days, as well as putting an icy tinkle in your evening cocktails," boasts the site.

Also available at Center Camp, the proceeds from ice sales go "directly to Gerlach-area charities and community groups."

While purchasing a coffee means you also buy a cup, gifting beverages outside of Center Camp works a little differently.

A common gift throughout the playa is alcohol, as long as you show an ID to prove you're 21 years old and can provide your own cup.

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People set up free bars that serve specialty drinks like pickle back shots:

pickleback shotsAly Weisman/Business Insider

Other gifts include things like freshly cut watermelon:

Burning ManBusiness Insider/Aly Weisman

Or fried chicken:

Burning ManBusiness Insider/Aly Weisman

Gifts can also come in the form of an experience. Many camps set up activities for festival-goers to participate in, like human Hungry, Hungry Hippos:

burning man hungry hipposAly Weisman/Business Insider

Or a gym:

burning man gymAly Weisman/Business Insider

"When gifting is the currency, rather than money or bartering, a strong sense of community evolves," one veteran burner explained to Festpop. "Think about how you feel when you receive an unconditional gift. You feel an instant connection to that person, and a sense of gratitude."

In 2014, North American companies reportedly spent $1.23 billion to sponsor music venues, festivals, and tours.

But not Burning Man.

According to the third principle of the festival: "In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience."

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