There's really no other way to put it- camping in Death Valley kind of sucks.The ground is harder than concrete (almost), it's hotter than Hades (I mean, I guess… I hear Hades is quite warm), and it's generally not a particularly relaxing experience (I suppose it might be better in the winter… so go in the winter).
That being said, the NPS has done a fairly decent job making this campground reasonably comfortable. There are water stations throughout, clean bathrooms, and as much shade as can reasonably be expected - though personally I'd love to see an implementation of the covering they used in the parking lot in the campground. We've stayed in many campgrounds throughout the west with covered areas and I think it would have a huge impact on the campgrounds at Death Valley.
Personally, I would say that if you plan on camping in Death Valley, you should either plan on visiting in the winter, or bringing an RV. The RV sites at Furnace Creek are excellent, with nice pull-throughs and a good amount of space. That, or bring along a homemade swamp cooler or air conditioner of some type, because otherwise you're likely to be quite miserable. (Just being honest! And I do recognize we're pretty crazy for camping there in the first place.)
As Rangers for The Dyrt, we get products to test from time to time, and while in Death Valley we tested out Boost Oxygen. We specifically tried out the peppermint flavor, as it boasted a "cooling" sensation. I'll admit I went into this demo a little skeptical- but I was pleasantly surprised. It may have been my mind playing tricks on me, but I felt much more awake and energized after inhaling the oxygen. This was extremely helpful on the long drive home to Utah when the sun went down and I was TIRED.
We tried the larger bottle and the smaller bottle, and I think the larger bottle is easier to inhale from, but the smaller bottle fits more easily in a backpack or camera bag. I think this is a great addition to a hiking pack, especially for those who live at higher altitudes like we do! You never know when a hike might hit you, and it never hurts to carry a little bonus oxygen, especially when it's INSANELY light.
My friends and I had a great time at the Furnace Creek Campground over this past long weekend in Death Valley. Fortunately my friend chose the perfect site (134), because some of them are very exposed and crowded together. There are some trees scattered around the campground, but some sites are far more shaded than others. Ours was a "walk-in" site, meaning that the parking was some distance from the site (maybe ~100 yards, not significant). Our site was in complete shade, while others were very very exposed, and the trees offered great privacy and even a spot to hang my hammock. The restrooms were a short walk away and the dumpsters were a bit further. For the walk-in sites, each site has one dedicate parking spot, but there is an overflow parking area for additional cars. They did not seem to closely track how many cars each site had, but people seemed to do a good job of self-regulating. As for the campground itself, it was pretty centrally located and we got to the main sites pretty easily from there. It is right next to the visitor center and close to the Furnace Creek Ranch, where you can find a grocery store, saloon, and even a pool with showers that non-guests can use for a $5 fee. We were a short drive away from Golden Canyon, Badwater Basin, and the Devil's Golfcourse. Stovepipe Wells and the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes weren't terribly far either. The Racetrack was quite a long drive away, however, about 3 hours (much of that on a rough, unpaved road).
Death Valley is spectacular. This campsite is only a short drive from Badwater Basin (the lowest point in North America!) and Artist's Drive, where volcanic deposits pain the hills with many colors. The campground itself is nice, and there are even trees for shade at most sites. The facilities are nice and well maintained, however you will need to go elsewhere to shower. The resort nearby offers day passes to their pool, a great place to relax and cool off!!
The two sites I've had there have both had decent shade. I will caution though, prepare for severe wind. Gusts and steady wind strong enough to carry anything that isn't heavy or is aerodynamic.
Restrooms are nice, as are sinks outside. The visitor's center next door has frequent lectures and films. If you miss civilization, the resort has stores that are about a mile walk.
Don't camp in the late spring, summer or autumn unless you know what you are doing and are familiar with desert camping and extreme heat.
Probably not the best place to camp in July as it is extremely hot. Found a nice tent spot (site 100) and set up our tent behind some trees. Some of the campground feels like a giant parking lot but the sites near 100 are nice.
This is definitely the most popular of the campgrounds in Death Valley. Especially because you can reserve spots ahead of time. It's right by the visitors center. Has a variety of spots for RV'ers and nice spots for tents with trees.