In advance of the Outdoor Club Grand Teton National Park trip

We recommend some things to do in advance
(some of them should be done well in advance)
of our between-summer-and-fall-quarter trip to Grand Teton National Park.

It can be difficult to coordinate timing of activities if we don’t all stay in the same area,
so we’ve all stayed at the same area / campground / cabins for at least part of the time.

Even if you have not made a complete decision to go on the trip,
deciding if your budget can afford a cabin or a campsite is important.

Take a look at Colter Bay Cabins:

and campground

and Colter Bay tent cabins

Having campsites near to or next to each other in the same campground loop is more fun.
(Especially when we can get some of the best campsites by having people make reservations as early as possible.)

Six months before the 2023 trip, three people who are sure they are going
got 3 campsites they intend to share
in the best loop (tents only, no generator noise) in the Colter Bay campground
reserved for Thursday Aug. 10 – depart Thursday Aug. 24, 2023. Other people could make reservations for other days.

Campsites go on sale 6 months in advance, so plans are best made that far in advance.

The “Outdoor Club” does not get campsites (or any overnight accommodations),
students on the trip get them and share them as they want to. How many campsites will be needed?

Getting a free account at, learning the system for getting campsites, and taking a look at pictures of the sites is at getting a campsite.

At least the day before you need to make a campsite reservation, confirm your login and password information for your free account and look around at the website to be sure it looks the same as you remember it. Set more than one alarm clock to get yourself up and at your computer before 7 a.m. Pacific time. Confirm that your clocks really are set for the official U.S. Pacific Standard time.

mountain range

The last time you used your camera, and took out the memory card / chip
to look at your photos on a laptop, did you remember to put the memory chip back in?
Where is the charger for your digital camera?
Mend things before the trip,
that tiny tear in the rain pants
will be easier to fix at home than it will be in the campsite when it becomes a big rip
and it is raining heavily.
Your hiking boots do still have tread left on them, correct?
Are your boot laces about worn out?

Have you been washing / rinsing / drying clothes with a favorite scented product?
Scented attracts mosquitos and other unpleasant insects,
so for the wash just before the trip you might want to switch to unscented.

If you have your own water purifying pump, it will be much easier to back-wash it and/or take it apart and clean the exterior of the filter cartridge at home before the trip, than waiting until the trip when it starts to not work well. (Follow the manufacturers instructions, which you kept a copy of when you bought the pump, yes?)


cell phone screen showing elevation

Find a compass, altitude, latitude and longitude on your cell phone. The photo above was taken of a cell phone near Lake Solitude in Cascade Canyon.


During any long hike or backpack,
To truly be able to leave no trace and follow backcountry rules about camping the proper distance from a lake or digging your personal latrine hole the proper distance from water, etc.,
you will need to know how far 100 or 200 feet is.

Lay out a tape measure at home and walk it and count your paces.

How to poop in the woods.

Decide on your driving route in advance. See the trip transportation webpage.

simple map of western states


stones in a row on a wall
Are you sure the tent you are borrowing has all its parts? Was it put away after the most recent trip without fully drying it, and now it has mold? (Yup, you might guess that happened on a previous weekend trip and the guy did not discover it until he was on the trip. – They slept in the car.)

We advise people to bring tents to a pre-trip meeting and pitch them, as some turn out to not be adequate for use in rain, but might be with an additional huge tarp over them.

There are crucial things wrong with each of these tents.

Don’t buy a cheap tent has reasons why and more examples of tents to NOT bring.
row of rocks carved into brick shapes

Consult with your doctor, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Kaiser Permanente,
to see if you are up to date on your Tetanus vaccination.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a Tetanus vaccination every ten years for adults.
One of these:
• Tetanus and diphtheria (Td) vaccine
• Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine

Is it time to see the dentist about that tiny ache?

You should plan to bring an adequate supply of your prescriptions for a longer-than-you-anticipated road trip, so checking in advance if you have enough or need to do refills is wise.

Also check over-the-counter remedies (and check their expiration dates) for any ailment you get that could spoil your trip, possibly including: aspirin, Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, Naproxen Sodium, athlete’s foot, anti-itch hydrocortisone, cold and cough syrups and lozenges, allergy tablets / eye relief / sinus relief, stomach ache, Breathe Right, Imodium, calamine lotion.

Over-the-counter medications can be ineffective if not used as directed on the label, or can even cause potentially long-lasting or even life-threatening consequences. “Oooops, was I supposed to take one of this tablet every six hours or two every four hours?” Don’t expect that you will remember, even if it is something you take regularly. If you re-pack them into small containers be sure to copy and pack the instructions (and expiration date) with them.

The faculty advisor and spouse are not allowed to share any over-the-counter remedies, yes, even just aspirin, with students. The small store at Colter Bay has only a few items. The big groceries/ pharmacies in town have just about anything you could want, but the town of Jackson is over 40 miles from where we stay overnight so bringing what you might need could keep you much happier.

pine tree branch ends
When you are at home you can usually quickly get issues with your vehicle resolved at a nearby mechanic or dealer of your make/model, so many people don’t regularly check their vehicle’s fluid levels, tire pressure, brake wear, etc.

People on a budget often put up with not-essential-for-safe-driving problems with their cars.

But deferred repairs and maintenance can spoil a road trip

and be much more expensive and/or difficult to fix when you are on the road.

The Road trip vehicle prep and recommended service webpage includes things people can do without paying a mechanic and a checklist.

If you intend to drive a convertible and it has an electric power top, be sure you know how to put the top up manually in case the push-button function stops working. Rain storms can come in quickly and heavily.

Where did you store the snow chains? If you do not have them, in the rare instance that there is snow, the Rangers can refuse to let you in the park.
Besides the chains, do you also need new wiper blades, deicing fluid for the windshield washer tank, a windshield scraper or deicer? Pack something to kneel on when you are putting the chains on. Is it time for new antifreeze or a brake job? Do the defroster and heater actually function? Do you know how to use your jack and is it still in the car?

Make spare vehicle keys to have in different places, give to others in your carpool. It is worth investing in a spare vehicle key or two or three, in the pockets / daypacks of various people, since your cell phone does not function everywhere in the park and you could need to take a bit of a hike to get to a hotel front desk to try to use their phone to get an Auto Club locksmith to unlock your car when you lock the keys in it. And getting that help to your vehicle can take quite awhile! If you rent a vehicle for the trip, talk to me about where you might be able to find a spare key in that rental.

CSAA or other Auto Association memberships usually give you (or maybe your parent?) free maps.
Paper maps can be easier to use for planning. Yes, you can download maps on your phone, but paper maps can be essential for driving through areas without phone service.
You will want at least the state maps of California, Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. You might also want, for the drive home through more National Parks, Washington and Oregon or Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona.

This advice above is from the trip equipment page, which is important reading for the Grand Teton National Park trip.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
five national park entrance pass cards
Plan in advance how you will split the park entrance fee.

Each carload will pay their own park vehicle entrance fee. Effective June 1, 2018 (and we expect it to be the same in 2022) the park entrance fee for Grand Teton National park will be $35 per vehicle, $30 per motorcycle or $20 per person, and an annual (Grand Teton park only) park pass will cost $70. $35 is for for seven days (only one week and most people go on this trip for more than one week and want to see adjacent Yellowstone National Park as well, which has it’s own weekly fee).

If you stay for more than one week and visit Yellowstone, this would come to $105 if you buy 3 separate $35 passes, so you save money by investing in a $80 National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands annual pass. Then you will get in free to see other national parks on the way to and from Grand Teton and free if you go on a Yosemite adventure with the club.

OR better yet, find someone to carpool with who already has a National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands annual pass

OR find someone who is an active duty U.S. military member or dependent and has their ID Card (CAC card or form 1173) and can get a free national parks pass

OR find someone who is 62 or over to get a lifetime seniors pass for $80.

(The passes can’t be transferred/shared so the person who gets the pass needs to be in the vehicle and show a photo ID.)

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
If it is necessary for you to attend religious services during the trip you need to plan ahead
by researching where you can attend, and let people in your carpool know of your needs and the dates / times / locations.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
pink topped mountains reflected in very blue lake

You’ll be bringing a lot of gear, so
4 people should be the limit in a 5-passenger SUV,
3 people should ride in a sedan that seats four,
and some cars really should only have 2 people.

If everyone brought a large container of full-sized toiletries, as in the left of the photo below, they would take up too much space. By bringing travel/sample sized containers of shampoo, lotion, etc. in a smaller bag, as in the example on the right in the photo below, there is room for even a full sized can of spray insect repellent.

NO!→ toiletries for bear box.jpg: ← Yes!!

Tear off the appropriate size and number of sheets of foil you will need, fold and pack them with a few plastic sandwich bags as needed instead of bringing whole packages.

Yes! → foil and plastic bags: ← No

If you think you can fit five people in a vehicle that seats five AND ALL THEIR GEAR, you need to plan early for how everything will fit (it likely can’t unless you have a large cartop carrier – see advice at Carpool Faqs).
You might even want to get together a few days in advance of the trip, with the bags people want to bring, and try packing.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

If there is any chance you will want to make a side trip into Canada, you will need a passport

U.S. passport cover

and a Canadian Non-Resident Interprovincial Motor Vehicle Liability Card,
sometimes called a “Canadian ID card”
(FREE from your insurance carrier).
See: logistics for a side trip to Canada from Grand Teton National Park.
row of peaks

Start looking around for downloads and links to info
to put on your smart-enough-phone to be able to access info more easily, including webpages about the trip AND

Planets Visible in the Night Sky in Grand Teton National Park

Jackson Hole weather

Weather map: “GeoColor is a multispectral product composed of True Color (using a simulated green component) during the daytime, and an Infrared product that uses bands 7 and 13 at night. During the day, the imagery looks approximately as it would appear when viewed with human eyes from space. At night, the blue colors represent liquid water clouds such as fog and stratus, while gray to white indicate higher ice clouds, and the city lights come from a static database that was derived from the VIIRS Day Night Band.”

For the drive: Tetons area road conditions (Wyoming Department of Transportation)

A drawing of the peaks with the names of the peaks, from various locations:

Yellowstone bear safety webpages:

Old Faithful erupts on the average every 60 to 110 minutes, for 1 1/2 to 5 minutes, with an average height of 130 feet. See for the next eruption prediction. “The famous geyser currently erupts around 17 times a day and can be predicted with a 90 percent confidence rate within a 10 minute variation.” Our favorite memory of an Old Faithful eruption was at night with light from a full moon and lightning from a thunderstorm in the background.


cell phone with app showing

An app for Grand Teton National Park info
(best downloaded before you get there when you can find reliable internet),
with info about visitor centers, historic places, natural features, and services throughout the park.

“Even without cellular service, the app will be able to share your location on the map and bring up all site content.”
and you should get the Yellowstone app as well:


You can download a free copy of these Red Cross first books to your smart-enough-phone to bring with you (perhaps especially useful on the looooong hike many people do, and/or if you decide to backpack), the Red Cross Wilderness and Remote First Aid Emergency Reference Guide and Red Cross Wilderness and Remote First Aid Pocket Guide


NPS lightning 1: NPS lightning 2: NPS lightning 3:

Lightning strikes in the last 24 hours are recorded at:;x=-108.2102;z=7;t=1;m=oss;r=0;s=0;o=0;b=27.83;n=0;d=2;dl=2;dc=0;ts=0;

Using the lightning strikes links above
you can check out where the storm lightning hits are moving
and it can help you decide

if you are going to the swimming pool, taking a shower now or later,
and when you actually hear thunder you can check out where it hit (closer to Yellowstone, or nearby at north Jackson Lake, or . . . YIPES, that really was nearby!).


Yellowstone National park has a live weather display

brief weather descriptions


Download these instead of buying them at a visitor center, (well worth looking at for info about animals and much more):

Yellowstone Grizzly Bears: Ecology and Conservation of an Icon of Wildness
” . . . Bears can see in color, can hear in the ultrasonic range, and possess an incredible sense of smell.. . Heaviest Known Body Mass in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem: Adult male 715 pounds (324 kilograms); Adult female 436 pounds (198 kilograms)
Speed: 35 to 40 miles per hour (56 to 64 kilometers per hour)
Strength: 2.5 to 5 times greater than humans

$39.95 or a free download

and get a free download of
Yellowstone Bison: Conserving an American Icon in Modern Society

“This book examines the history of bison conservation and management in the United States, compiles the latest scientific information about Yellowstone bison, and discusses both the opportunities for and challenges to plains bison conservation within the Greater Yellowstone Area and across their historic range. . . ”



Grand Teton National Park birds has photos and details about the most common ones we can hope to see
including Bald Eagle, Canada Goose, Golden Eagle, Great Blue Heron, Great Gray Owl, Harlequin Duck, Loon, Magpie, Northern Flicker (woodpecker), Osprey, Pelican, Ouzel, Peregrine Falcon, Raven, Sandhill Crane, Steller’s Jay and Trumpeter Swan, with links to calls / songs from most of them to listen to.

and you can Download photos of over a hundred birds of Grand Teton National Park

hawk flying



You should read the sample trip agreement before you come to sign up.

The answer to the question WHY ARE THERE SO MANY RULES? is here.