Handy tips for 4×4 camping in Death Valley

Here is my short list of important tips to help make your trip more of a fun adventure than an unpleasant ordeal.

  • Carry TWO spare tires. Expect to have a flat tire when exploring 4×4 roads in canyons with old mining equipment and debris. Having a 2nd spare insures that you can get out of the back country. There is no towing service nearby.
  • There is NO cell phone service in most of Death Valley. Pay phones are available at Stove Pipe Wells and Furnace Creek. 2 way radios work well most places and help when you are separated to stay connected with each other.
  • Don’t rely on Google maps or online maps that rely on cell or WiFi reception – bring a real life map. Our favorite maps are: Death Valley National Park Recreation Map by Tom Harrison and Death Valley National Park by National Geographic Trails Illustrated Maps.
  • Weather – our favorite time to camp is from November through April. Be prepared for snow, high winds and temperature extremes. The beauty of camping in Death Valley is that if you are too hot, simply drive to a higher elevation – or too cold, drive to a lower elevation. Death Valley boasts to have the most difference in elevation in the U.S.; Telescope peak is at 11,049 and Bad Water is 282 ft. below sea level!
  • Bring a well equipped 1st aid kit. There are no medical services nearby.
  • Places to restock or get a hot meal are few and far between. There are 6 main “settlements” in the Death Valley area to find limited groceries, ice and gasoline. We have enjoyed taking a break at these places: Panamint Springs Resort , Stovepipe Wells , Furnace Creek , Shoshone , Beatty  and Amargosa .
  • Roads are constantly changed by the harsh environment. Guide books and maps cannot stay current so be prepared for rock slides and changes to your route.
  • It’s a good idea to travel with a driver that is capable to drive out of where you drive in. I don’t do much of the driving but “practice” on the back roads so I know what to do if I must.
  • File a “flight plan.” This is pilot jargon to make an itinerary and let someone know when and where you plan to travel and explore in case a search rescue is needed.
  • WATER! This seems obvious but don’t under estimate carrying plenty of water. At least 1 gallon per person per day for drinking and minimal washing. Don’t forget that your vehicle may need water too.

The difference between an adventure or an ordeal is attitude.” – Bob Bitchin

Resources:
Here is a great link with more detailed info from the National Park service for safe travel and exploring tips while visiting Death Valley.

Never been to Death Valley and wonder where to start your visit? Check out the Death Valley Bucket List put together by the readers of Truck Camper Magazine (including yours truly).

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