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Camping at Death Valley questions

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#1
jlmoped

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My wife and I are planning a trip to Death Valley for 3 nights, being newbie rooftop tent campers, we are not sure how to deal with these things:

1. Food: we don't have a frig, just a cheap cooler, a Coleman stove.  Beside bread, Spam, dehydrated food, what other food is good for car camping?

2. Doing #1 and #2: if we are in the middle of nowhere, can we just dig a hole?  If there are other people around, should we get a privacy tent?  Any recommendation on which brand?  Use a bucket?  Where to dump it?

3: Fuel:  we will spend the first 2 nights in remote area near Lone Pine and Race Track Playa and the last night near Stovepipe Wells or Furnace Creek, should have gas station there.  I have 3 5-gallon jerry cans, do I need all 15 gallons of extra fuel?

4. Water: I have a 7 gallon container plus 2.5 gallon drinking water jug.  What is the recommended # of gallon per person per day?

 

Is Thanksgiving the high season for Death Valley?  Will there be a lot of people in remote area like Race Track Playa, and in the more tourist areas like Badwater Basin?

 

Thanks.


Julian

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#2
DHappel

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I'm not sure on the route you're planning to take but I doubt you'll need all 15 gallons of extra fuel.  You can estimate the mileage with Google to get an idea.  Most of DV isn't really 'trail' driving so much as 'bad road' driving, so your mileage shouldn't be much worse than your normal.

 

Many people bring a privacy tent for a little toilet and wag-bags to hold contain the mess.  There are other options as well from digging a hole to a bucket as you mentioned.  Some popular ares don't allow the cat hole strategy.

https://www.amazon.c...la-306581012858

 

There are lots of variations of these things (I don't even remember what brand mine is) - be warned there is a definite technique to getting them folded back up so practice at home!

https://www.amazon.c...er pop up&psc=1

 

For water there is an 'official' amount that is recommended by most people but for my use I find it's always far more than I need.  For 2 people for 3 days I'd be fine with 5 gallons.  Of course I don't drink water, I drink sodas or beer.  I only use the water for cooking and cleaning.  I'd say your 7 gallon should be plenty but if you haven't gotten a handle on how much you use go ahead and bring both and see how much you have left. 

 

On food...I'm hopeless.  That's the hardest part of packing for me every time!  I'm not much of a foodie so I usually end up bringing things like apples and beef jerky for lunch and snacks, bratwurst or freeze-dried meals like Mountain House for dinner, and oatmeal for breakfast.  I'm always asking myself 'what else can I bring instead?' and never really coming up with much of an answer.  Then again, I don't cook even when I'm home so I'm not likely to start when I'm camping.  Some people get very elaborate, and what you pack will depend on how much space you're willing to dedicate to your stove and cooking gear, how much effort you want to put into cooking and cleaning-up, pre-planning / pre-preparing your meals, and just how much you enjoy eating.


Don
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#3
Elherbinator

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My wife and I are planning a trip to Death Valley for 3 nights, being newbie rooftop tent campers, we are not sure how to deal with these things:
1. Food: we don't have a frig, just a cheap cooler, a Coleman stove. Beside bread, Spam, dehydrated food, what other food is good for car camping?
2. Doing #1 and #2: if we are in the middle of nowhere, can we just dig a hole? If there are other people around, should we get a privacy tent? Any recommendation on which brand? Use a bucket? Where to dump it?
3: Fuel: we will spend the first 2 nights in remote area near Lone Pine and Race Track Playa and the last night near Stovepipe Wells or Furnace Creek, should have gas station there. I have 3 5-gallon jerry cans, do I need all 15 gallons of extra fuel?
4. Water: I have a 7 gallon container plus 2.5 gallon drinking water jug. What is the recommended # of gallon per person per day?

Is Thanksgiving the high season for Death Valley? Will there be a lot of people in remote area like Race Track Playa, and in the more tourist areas like Badwater Basin?

Thanks.

They have plenty of amenities inside or near the park. The gas is crazy expensive, but relatively convenient to the racetrack. There are places to grab a meal in the park if you want to simplify a couple meals and also showers and a pool at the motel on the west side by stovetop. If you are doing ice in the cooler, I'd recommend throwing in an ice block along with some cubes. The block will last much longer than the cubes. I found it's the only way to maintain an ice cooler for more than a couple days.
Also, Alabama Hills is right there in Lone Pine. Worth a drive through or a night camping if you can swing it. Camp toward the north end just out of the actual park. It's isolated over there and there are plenty of excellent camp spots where you won't have to deal with people or traffic. Bring some wood, there may not be much to collect.


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#4
lithium1330

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Coolers will work OK. I'd get a few bottled water (typical 16oz), freeze them and use them as ice. That way, ice melt (water) stays in the bottle and not soak your food. You can re-freeze the bottles as ice for next trips (save the environment!), or drink them in case of emergency. Ice sitting in water melts faster... so, the frozen bottle solves this problem. 

 

As for food... i'm a fan of pre-cooked trail food at home. I love bacon on camping trips, but hate cooking & cleaning them on trail. So, cook the bacons at home and put them in tupperware or ziplock bag.  Same with eggs... scramble them at home, store them in tupperware. Same with ramen (or pasta) - pre-cook them at home, then just put in boiling water on the trail. Fast & easy. For breakfast, you just heat bacon & egg when you want to eat them. 

A loaf of bread + deli meat is a good option for lunch sandwiches, pair with some fruits. 

Of course, none of this happens if I go without Marie... bc I'm too lazy to pre-cook everything (she does that). :) 

I've also done chicken wings on the grill... I marinade them in gallon size zip locks, freeze them (doubles as ice in cooler) and by time they are defrosted, I cook them on a grill. 

 

 

Safety is prob important, esp. if you're planning solo trek.

Solid chance you'll not have cell signal and HAM may not cover you in certain areas without repeaters. 

If you have a PLB (personal location beacon), like spot-SOS or inReach, bring that and know how and when to use it. 

Important to plan out your route, stick to it and SHARE route with someone else/family before you go. So, they know where you'll be and when you'll be. Death Valley is yuuuge.... so, if something happens, others know how & where to find you.

Work out a schedule to make contact with family. E.g., you expect to call from this location on this day. Check cell carrier for coverage map. But most small towns around DV has cell coverage. 

Have a first aid kit handy. 

 

Have a good trip! 


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Chris

#5
jlmoped

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Thanks for everyone's input.  I have one more question about tools.  I have a shovel and pocket knives.  I want to get a bigger knife or ax for chopping firewood or whatever.  During the Oceano trip, Don introduced me to Woodman's Pal.  I have never heard of it before, but it looked like a useful tool.  Since I don't have a big cutting tool, would the Woodman's Pal be a good choice.  I see on Amazon, there are some with the D hand guard, is that good or get in the way if I want to use the other edge of the blade?  Some have saw tooth and some have non-cutting edge on the opposite side of the sharpened edge.  Which is more useful.

 

Don, which exact model do you have and why did you pick that one?

 

Thanks.


Julian

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#6
Elherbinator

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Thanks for everyone's input. I have one more question about tools. I have a shovel and pocket knives. I want to get a bigger knife or ax for chopping firewood or whatever. During the Oceano trip, Don introduced me to Woodman's Pal. I have never heard of it before, but it looked like a useful tool. Since I don't have a big cutting tool, would the Woodman's Pal be a good choice. I see on Amazon, there are some with the D hand guard, is that good or get in the way if I want to use the other edge of the blade? Some have saw tooth and some have non-cutting edge on the opposite side of the sharpened edge. Which is more useful.

Don, which exact model do you have and why did you pick that one?

Thanks.

I prefer a hatchet myself, but I'm really only using it for splitting. It splits wood better because of the shape and weight. I have a buddy who brings a woodsman pal along, it's a good tool if you're looking for a jack of all trades, but rarely does it ever get used over the hatchet on trips. The hatchet is generally less cumbersome to wield than the woodsman pal for most tasks. I would consider what exactly your looking to use it for. I pretty much never find myself trying cut down anything or do any unusual things with a blade that the hatchet won't take of easily. Also, the hatchet has a large hitting surface on the back which makes stubborn splits much easier and safer to take on. Avoids having to come down with a home run swing with the blade. Just stick the blade in and hammer it through with another log or something


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#7
lithium1330

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Ditto on the hatchet. I have the Fiskars X7; compact, easy to handle and use - split off wood pieces for fire starter, and The blunt end of the hatchet doubles as a hammer to pound down stakes. I also carry a bow saw in case I need to cut up 3-5” thick branches for clearance or downed trees for firewood. A saw is best for tasks like these. Trying to whack off a tree branch with an axe/hatchet or woodsman pal, when you’re standing on the truck/bumper is pretty much trying your luck for injuries.

Btw, you can also ready some kindling at home, so you don’t have to chop them on the trail.

On the Lost Coast trip, we used the bow saw to cut down a branch so gurka RTT can clear it.
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Chris

#8
DHappel

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Julian,

The Woodman's Pal I have is more of a 'commemorative item' that I bought at Cabela's during this year's Sierra Trek.  A few of us bushwacked our way there from White Rock lake and it turned into quite the ordeal so by the time we made it there I felt like I *had* to buy something and I'd seen the Woodman's Pal recommended in the past.  So when I saw one in the store I bought it as an impulse.  It's honestly pretty expensive at $89 but I like the fact it's made in the USA and has been around since the 1940's...sort of an American Icon.  It is far superior to the cheap $15 machete I have; it's heavy enough to split small wood and can baton through heavier stuff and holds an edge fairly well, but it's not the first thing I would recommend buying.

Here's the one I have:

http://www.cabelas.c...71.uts?slotId=1

 

Normally I carry a small "boy's axe" on my LR3.  It's about half way between a hatchet and a full size axe.  I don't carry it in the D1 as I don't have a lot of extra room in that truck.  Most of the time I use the axe to split kindling and occasionally I use the back of it to drive tent stakes.  I like this size as it's big enough to do some chopping if you need to and small enough to use one handed to split kindling.  I forget what brand I have - nothing special.  You can spend big money on some high-end Swedish axes like Gansfors Bruks and they are VERY nice, but since mine just lives on the roof rack 24/7 I'd feel bad about having something that expensive and not taking better care of it. 

http://www.acehardwa...QcaAlEwEALw_wcB

 

For actually cutting things you don't want an axe or Woodman's Pal - you want a saw.  Now this is an item I would recommend - a Silky BigBoy:

https://www.amazon.c...lky+bigboy&th=1

There are plenty of other similar saws on the market but this one is excellent.  It's a made-in-japan (hence the goofy name) pull-saw that folds.  I prefer it to a bow saw as the blade is much sharper than any I've used and it stores more easily - I keep mine in the seat back pocket of the driver's seat on the LR3 where it's easy to get to if I need to trim a low hanging branch or even take down a small tree.  I've used it to cut down trees up to around 8" diameter but more commonly I'm cutting stuff a few inches.  It makes fast work of just about any cutting.  They have bigger and smaller versions, but this seems the ideal size for our application.  

 

Of course if I expect to be doing serious cutting, I break out the Stihl chainsaw, but that doesn't travel with me on normal trips.  :)

 

Regarding knives, I always carry my Leatherman Wave whether I'm at work or home or on the trail. 

https://www.amazon.c...n+the+wave&th=1

It gets used for everything except food (the places that blade has been....I don't want it anywhere near food!)  I also have an assortment of extra bits that fit in the sheath and used to carry a small flashlight in the sheath as well though I don't these days.  I'm so used to having that thing on my belt I'm lost when it's not there (like when I fly somewhere).  There are lots of multi-tools on the market but I find this is the best fit for my needs.

 

I have one 'nice' knife that I carry when camping primarily used for food and for some general cutting, a Spyderco folder that I clip to a side pocket on my pants.

https://www.spyderco...tails/C10FG/233

 

It's an easy one-hand opening locking folder with half normal/half serrated blade.  It's sort of an 'entry level' high-end knife - serious knife guys will spend a fortune on specialized or custom knives and there is no end in variations but I'm not a 'knife guy', I just wanted a good quality folder with a decent sized blade.

 

I've thought of getting a small fixed blade knife to carry instead of this as it would be more robust, but it would also be more difficult to carry since I already have my Leatherman on my belt.

 

I am not a fan of the huge survival knives.  Most of them are junk sold to make 16 year old kids feel like Rambo.  There are some genuinely good large knives and they have their uses, but it's not something I have a need for.

 

Of all that stuff, the Leatherman gets used the most BY FAR (I literally use mine every day) even if it's just to open a box.  It's just so fast and easy to get to and it's always with me.  Plus the tools, while never the 'right' tool for the job, are again always at hand and often more convenient than having to go dig out the correct screwdriver or wire cutter or whatever I need for just a quick job.   After that it would be a toss up whether I get more use out of my Silky or the axe around camp.


Edited by DHappel, 16 November 2017 - 10:00 PM.

Don
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#9
Jethro

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Agree with nthe leatherman and hatch. Walmart is your best place to go for camping gear! Affordable prices and quality isn't terrible. I'd make a pass through and grab some items. Decent first aid kits which I use often with kids.

Definitely recommend sharing your planned route and also read the previous trip threads for recent trips.

Expedition portal trips section is good too to get updates on current conditions.

Have fun!


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