Is it dangerous to drive through Death Valley?

  • I planned to drive through Death Valley with a rental car during end of May or beginning of June. Now a friend of mine told me that this is a little bit dangerous, and that a lot of rental companies as well as other organization advise against driving through the Death Valley.

    Furthermore, he said that it is dangerous because you can't use the air condition in your car because it is too hot and if your car breaks down, you could get into real problem.

    So my question is: How dangerous is it really to drive trough the Death Valley, and what precautions should I take as a tourist (who has no clue about cars)?

    Could you please provide a link to make it clear where death valley is? It is too localized and vague!

    @PersianCat Sorry, I thought that Death Valley is widely known and world famous. I added a link.

    There are many world famous national parks and deserts but maybe there are also users who are not familiar with each other countries' world famous national parks! For example do you know where "Khojir Naional Park" is without Googling? Thanks for the link. ;)

    The most important thing I can tell you after touring some VERY remote places like the Namib and Taklamakan desert is: Never, Ever, leave your car in case it breaks down. Always stay with it. It provides shadow and makes you much easier to find.

    I do remember reading several times of people dying in death valley. The common factors seem to be not taking enough water and leaving the car.

    In 1996, a group of german tourists driving through Death Valley had to leave their car, got lost and disappeared until their remains were found a couple of years ago. Take from that what you will.

    Worth noting, NPR reported on the unreliability of GPS in Death Valley. It would be good to bring a map.

    @BrianNickel I guess it's not the GPS that is unreliable, but the digital maps in the navigational system.

  • Thorsten S.

    Thorsten S. Correct answer

    8 years ago

    I think Death Valley is not more dangerous than other landscapes with some precautions, so some advices with addition from the offical link

    • Drive carefully. The monotonous landscape can easily lull you into being unresponsive and the lack of visual cues means that you are in danger to drive much too fast without recognizing it. This leads to sudden crashes or collisions (!) because you (or the other driver) did not anticipate it.

    • Plenty of water. This may seem exaggerated, but on desert tours I store 50 liters (12 gallons) in my car if I am alone and if there are more persons 20 liters per person. People constantly underestimate the amount of water they will use in the desert. Drink in sips (a cup every half an hour), not plenty, because the last one one causes you to sweat more. In the best case (under shadows, not working) people will still use 2 liters per day. In the worst case (working under the sun) you will lose more than 20 (!) liters per day.

    • Buy a tarp. Your car will heat up to incredible temperatures during the sun without air condition. So if your car breaks down, you can build up your tarp next to your car to protect you from sunlight and give you some shadow. Do not forget your sunglasses and sun lotion.

    • DO NOT LEAVE THE VICINITY OF YOUR CAR ASIDE FROM THE STREET. A car is widely visible from above and will attract attention while a human body is nearly completely invisible.

    • Be aware that cell phones may not function. So take a map with you and perhaps a GPS device to know where you are and what your next station is. Book your accommodation before and tell them when you expect to arrive so people know if you are missing.

    Enjoy your drive !

    Should one consider salt as well? Sweating and drinking water can lead to too low salt levels. Should I bring salty food?

    Not necessary. Food, especially bread, has enough salt in it, in fact the problem is that for "more" taste most food contains already too much of it. Lack of salt is caused by people exercising or working hard because they lose water fast and need to drink fast. The kidney is not able to balance such amounts of liquid and therefore the low salt levels occur. So do not move much and if you need to move, move slow and cautious (which you should do anyway, agitation is your enemy in the desert). In that case healthy people should have no trouble to maintain a healthy sodium/potassium balance.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM