> I want to know the average life of tents that people really use
> at Burning Man.
I'll be surprised to find that there's a consensus on what that life is, on average. People have mentioned the variables: wind, dust, wind, windbreaks, dust storms, wind, sun, alkali playa powder.
Louise and I have been going for 15 years now, and we've had four tents. A smaller 2 or 3 person tent that just wasn't big enough. A Sierra Designs Mondo 5 dome tent that was big enough but not sturdy enough - it used to slap us in the face when dust storms came up at night. A Moss Armadillo tent that was excellent, but after many years of use succumbed to fabric and zipper rot. An REI tent that leaked too much dust. An MSR Wind 4 Expedition Tent which didn't give enough headroom. Our current tent is a Springbar, but it's only been out there twice.
So with two of the tents, we stopped using them not because they failed structurally but because they weren't big enough or sturdy enough.
Moss bought Armadillo and Walrus, but they went out of business about 10 years ago. MSR bought the Moss inventory, but MSR was bought out by Cascade Designs. There are no replacement parts for our Armadillo, but we still keep it as a back up tent for less strenuous camping than BM.
WARNING: this gets long.
I have two theories on stuff for Burning Man: One is to buy cheap crap and replace it as it gets worn out. Two is to buy very good stuff that lasts a long time. I apply number two to tents, as I find it very aggravating to have a tent fail. It's even more aggravating to have it fail about four in the morning in a dust storm and then have it start raining (2000). So we buy very good tents that we expect to have last through the entire event. Then we bring them home, hand wash them, and lubricate the zippers. The sun and the playa powder are very destructive to fabrics, and the playa powder really jams zippers.
Other people go with number one and buy cheap tents, finding they last for years. I have no explanation for this; I have photos of many tents that not only suffered broken poles but consequent puncture of the tent by the broken end. Shrug - there's no accounting for luck at Burning Man.
I understand the interest in finding out this information, but my experience is that there is no substitute for your own experience. You'll need to go out there and see what works for you in terms of a tent. I'm unwilling to have a 3-person tent because I have flexibility problems. I really need full standing headroom, and the Mondo 5 dome tent gave it, and the Springbar gives it. I'm unwilling to have a less sturdy tent - the Mondo 5 is a five-person dome, but it had only three poles, and that wasn't enough at BM.
My suggestion for you is to buy two different cheap tents. Use one and see how it works for you. If it lasts all week, great. Next year, use the other tent and see if it works better. But have both tents there in case one fails. If they don't work, buy a third different cheap one or pay more for a better one and see how that fits your needs. Among the variables are what you really need for camping at Burning Man, and my needs are certain to be different from yours.
Everybody tells you what works for you and expects it to work just as well for you as it does for them. This is often not the case.