Want to camp in Bryce/Zion area this summer. Need logistical help??
January 13, 2015 10:46 AM   Subscribe

We (me, mrs. sexy, three kids ages 15, 19, 22) are flying into Vegas this July and want to explore nature to the east of there -- Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion as we've heard those places are amazing. We would like to camp there for a couple of nights, and we've done the car camping thing a lot as a family, but how do you do that when you've flown in and all you have are suitcases of clothes?

Are there outfitters that will rent you stuff (obviously you'd buy the consumables) and you just grab it and go? Or do you need to go on a guided trip? Those seem expensive.

If you've camped in these areas please also share your tips/suggested locations? We'll probably be around that area for 3-4 days but two nights camping would be the max. We want to hike and maybe do some rafting or fishing.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders to Travel & Transportation around Saint George, UT (17 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
No advice re: camping, but, if you have time, Monument Valley is a MUST see as well in my opinion.

Although Bryce and Zion are unbelievable too!
posted by JenThePro at 11:06 AM on January 13, 2015

REI rents out gear. You'd have to call ahead to check on availability and whatnot, but it looks like you could find some gear at the Las Vegas location. It doesn't look like they have tents, though. You could always go rustic in that regard and fashion a tent out of a tarp.
posted by GrapeApiary at 11:09 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you are okay going minimalist you'd be able to pack and check a fair amount of what you need...my husband and I have done this for backpacking trips with fairly lightweight items, but still. That means you're not bringing along big camp chairs, the double-burner stove, etc, but you could still get a tent and sleeping bags plus basic items to eat off of and cook with. For cooking pick up a jetboil or something similar and stick with rehydrated hot meals plus whatever dry goods you want to buy when you get there. Or rent a cooking stove at REI. From where you're going I don't think you'd need to worry about wildlife break-ins while car camping, but if you do national parks usually have bear boxes in the campgrounds.
posted by handful of rain at 11:20 AM on January 13, 2015

No need for a guided trip around there. I lead those guided trips. You can totally handle it on your own.
Here's what you can do:
The REI in Vegas rents gear, but not tents. Zion Adventure Company rents tents if you want to do a tent night at that park. I don't know of anyone else in the area that does. You can look around a bit or buy some cheapies at WalMart. Or, you can rent cabins! I know they're available at Ruby's near Bryce, and at a few spots around Zion. You can get a cabin in Grand Canyon National Park, but you need a tent or RV at the campground just outside of town. You may prefer a hotel in Tusayan, which is just outside the park. I do recommend staying at the Canyon so you can get up early enough to hike in comfort because hiking in July can be a doozy there.
posted by piedmont at 11:21 AM on January 13, 2015

If you want a night of not-really-camping, check out the cabins/cottages at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab.

We've also stayed at several KOA cabins when on a road trip (that started and ended with flying). For the KOA cabins, you have to bring your own linens, so we just picked up the cheapest sheet, blanket, and pillows we could find at Target (way less than the cost of decent camping gear). We stayed in one without a bathroom (you use the communal one), but some campgrounds have cabins with a bathroom as well.
posted by melissasaurus at 11:23 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't know where your family is on the minimalism-luxury scale when you car camp, but if you're comfortable down towards the minimalist end, you know what I'd do? I'd pack a duffel bag with Thermarests, sleeping bags, a tarp, and a few things like flashlights and water bottles, and plan to camp out with no tent, using the tarp as a ground cloth (after checking the weather forecast and determining it was likely to be dry, which is probably what you can expect given where you're going.) Or you could bring a second tarp and a rope and string it up for rain protection. Actually, you might want to buy the tarps when you get there instead of packing them. (I'm guessing your regular tent is too big to pack easily, but if it's not, you could bring it instead.)
posted by Redstart at 11:29 AM on January 13, 2015

I did something similar with my two teenage boys two years ago. After flying into Seattle from Detroit, we went on a two-week car-camping adventure that took us from The Olympic Peninsula all the way to Yosemite and back.

Basically, we packed nearly all of our clothes into our carry-on bags and checked one suitcase which held 3 sleeping bags, one small camp stove [no fuel], 3 sleeping pads, eating utensils, a small tarp, and a tent. It cost $25 each way to check the suitcase. I bought the suitcase at Salvation army for less than $10 and IT WAS HUGE!

When we arrived in Seattle we went straight to the second hand store and bought some pots and pans and one of those little Moka coffee pots. We also bought some decorative pillows for camping. After the second hand store we went to a grocery store and loaded up on camping food and a cooler.

We didn't camp every night, but it was nice having the option. I don't recall going without anything. We did move around quite a bit though so it was simple to just pop into a store and get supplies or provisions as needed.

At the end of the trip we put all the neat things we found or collected into the cooler, taped it up and mailed it home. It cost about $40 to mail and was a nice surprise when we received it.

I also looked into renting camping gear, but the cost was prohibitive.
posted by bricksNmortar at 11:35 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

We do this every year, flying with our gear from Alaska to somewhere in the Lower 48. We usually check one bag of camping gear for the two of us; a big duffel will fit tent plus two sleeping bags plus sleeping pads and stove and basic cook kit and assorted gear easily and be well under 50 lbs. If you pare down your stuff I'd bet you can do two big duffels for the whole family's gear, really, if you're willing to do without some creature comforts. Buy fuel, a cooler and food when you get there and voila.
posted by charmedimsure at 11:46 AM on January 13, 2015

I would definitely consider not cooking at all while you're camping, since your logistics are already trickier than on a typical camping trip. It simplifies things immensely if you can forget about stove, fuel, and pots/pans. Depending on what type of food you take, you might not even need plates or utensils or anything to wash up with.
posted by Redstart at 12:15 PM on January 13, 2015

There is no need to pack a stove for just two nights of camping even if you want hot food. A burger basket+campfire can handle breakfast sausages (or heat up precooked bacon), grilled cheese for lunch and burgers for dinner. You can heat foil packets of precooked meat and potato hash in them. Maybe you get two since you have 5 people. They are light and cheap enough to buy when you land and then leave at a thrift store if you don't want to bring them home.
posted by soelo at 12:30 PM on January 13, 2015

soelo - campfire bans are often in effect in national parks during summer months. Definitely can't plan on cooking over an open fire being a sure thing!
posted by handful of rain at 12:43 PM on January 13, 2015

If you rent a car to get there, how about renting a small pop-up to tow behind it? That covers all the food prep and shelter contingencies.
posted by resurrexit at 1:19 PM on January 13, 2015

I've met the couple who run Tonto Trails, and you can get a fully equipped 4x4 Sportsmobile or Crewcab Pickup and 4Wheel Camper to rent for your trip. More pics on their FB page. You'll probably want an additional ground tent, but they will otherwise have pretty much everything you need to head out. They are in Durango, CO, but I'm sure arrangements can be made.

With that, you can get to one of my favorite Grand Canyon camp sites - Point Sublime. A high clearance vehicle (any stock 4x4 will do) and a permit is required to camp there, but trust me - it is totally worth it. You camp just yards from the 2000+ foot drop into the canyon and the views are indescribably awesome.

Even if that is too much, the campground at Jacob Lake is nice, and there are many campgrounds along Hwy 67 down to the North Rim visitors center. If all of that is full, dispersed camping is allowed in the Kaibab National Forest that surrounds it. The visitor center there at Jacob Lake can give you more up to date info when you are there. For my money, the North rim is far superior to the South rim.

Soelo - open fire bans are usually in effect May-Oct, so a stove may be the only way to cook. If you call ahead to the ranger stations a week or so before the trip, you can get better info on fire bans.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:35 PM on January 13, 2015

You could ship your gear via USPS/Fedex/UPS in advance to your hotel in Las Vegas if you don't want to rent it.
posted by ShooBoo at 1:59 PM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

We've coed at Zion with just a tarp - big enough to lie on with extra to pull over ourselves if it rains. Be aware that you can't ship fuel if you ship a stove but it's easy to buy fuel and burn it off especially if you buy or ship a small backpacking stove.

For the short amount of time you mention I would just go to Zion- hike the Narrows, Angel's Landing, spend se time in the Kolob section of the park and some time on the slick rock at Checkerboard Mesa. All of the sites within the main part of the park are reachable by bus and in fact you aren't allowed to drive there. Probably wise to look into reserving a campsite sooner than later.
posted by leslies at 7:23 PM on January 13, 2015

I know people who packed a few things but once off the plane just shopped at walmart - tent, sleeping bags, etc - for the minimum needed. Much cheaper than a hotel. At the end of the trip, they dropped off what they wouldn't need or couldn't transport at the goodwill. I think they had some extra duffels to take a couple of the sleeping bags home as they could use them. I thought this was genius and minimalist.
posted by RoadScholar at 1:07 PM on January 14, 2015

Just thought I'd mention as someone who lives in Vegas, July is really hot. Grand canyon also really hot. Zion is better.
posted by yodelingisfun at 4:10 PM on January 14, 2015

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