We had a great time tent camping, getting better and better at it as we gained experience. Waking up in the morning was a delight. And being within the parks made us a part of them in ways that wouldn't be true in a lodge or motel.
We learned that almost all campers are a generous, considerate bunch. They quieted down by 10:00 pm, either got up quietly in the morning or slept in until 8:00 am or later. Didn't intrude on each other's space unless invited.
We blundered into doing some things right:
- Our Coleman tent has a 10'x10' floor and a peak height of 6', meaning we could stand in it and had plenty of room for stuff.
- After the mess-up with the two twin-sized air mattresses at the Grand Canyon, we bought a Coleman queen-sized air mattress and slept well thereafter.
- Probably the highest-quality thing we had was the Kelty Eclipse double sleeping bag, rated for 30 degrees. We had diddled around buying it, but Mel Cotten in San Jose had one in stock when I stopped there on our way to Arizona.
- We got a four-piece teflon coated cookset, just what we needed - and no more - in a compact package.
- Andy taught us about plastic tubs. We used two - one for food, one for cookware, placeware, and clean-up stuff.
- We abandoned using the big ice chest when we went out for the second time in July. The small one worked fine - for us; wouldn't have worked for a larger family.
Yes, we learned we had to live by KISS - after all, you can only get so much stuff into a Prism that, in bear country, must carry everything but the tent, sleeping bag, and camp chairs wherever you drive. We also learned we could do just fine living so simply.
Campsites: Our favorites were the ones we stayed the longest - Signal Mountain in Grand Teton and Wapitit in Jasper.
Our least favorite was Lake Louise - it was just OK - even though the campsite, G11, itself was pretty, private, and very functional. But the facilities were crowded by folks who were not as quiet and easy as those in other campgrounds - the term, "ugly Europeans," came to mind. Going back to Lake Louise, I'd look into one of the other nearby campgrounds.
Mather Campground at the Grand Canyon is extremely well-run by the concessionaire, Xanterra, and would probably rank near the top if we had been more experienced. The facilities - showers, laundry, and restrooms are clean and convenient. Wasn't impressed with the big, cafeteria-style restaurant in Mather Village, but the deli in the General Store was first-rate.
Bryce is run by the National Parks Service and Wapiti at Jasper and Lake Louise are run by Parks Canada. Bryce seems well run, but struggling with deferred maintenance. The Parks Canada folk are pretty impersonal and the campgrounds are not kept up as well as, say, Signal Mountain.
Signal Mountain is run very well by the concessionaire, Forever Lodging - good staff who were are frequent, friendly presence. We did have to go to Colter Bay Village, about six miles north, for laundry, showers, and the General Store and ice cream. Grand Teton Lodging is the concessionaire there - and for the Jenny Lake and Lake Jackson Lodges, too - and they do a first rate job.