OK, I'm going to try to help out here as this topic seems to come up all over the board. There are two types of basic hunts: DIY and outfitted. I will deal with the outfitted side.First, let me say that all outfitters vary slightly.
Outfitters offer two main hunts: Pack in and lodge hunts.
Lodge hunts are simply hunts that are based out of a lodge, they can be guided, semi-guided, or hunt on your own. The advantage of a lodge hunt is that you have a bed to sleep in every night, tiolet etc. Lodge hunts are probably the lesser of the two types in terms of seeing game, as often the general public will be competing with you unless it is on private land. Another disadvatage of a lodge hunt is in order to get back to where the elk are, you either hike all day, or ride horses every day, and that can get old.
A pack in hunt means you are packed into a remote camp in the heart of elk country. There are two kinds of camps for most outfitters: Base camp, and Drop camps. Base camp typically has all the ammentities of a classic western camp, livestock, wood cut, latrine, heated shower tent, cook on staff, guides, heated client tents etc. This is typically where the guided and semi-guided hunts are done. Drop camp is a little more primitive in there is no heated shower tent, no livestock, and you cook your own food. When checking rates, make sure to see if outfitter supplys food for drop camp. My outfit does have the cook pre-make and freeze meals, where the hunters warm them up in the drop camp. However, most outfitters have you bring your own food.
Guided: Best chance of seeing animals and highest success rates, also the most physical, which is why it has the best success rates. Guides will motivate you and push you to near your limits, and you will feel great by the time you are out of camp. The hunt is best for beginners.
Semi-guided: Another reasonable hunt at a reduced cost as compared to full guided. Usually, semi-guided hunters have some expirence. You should really be up to speed on map reading and gps use to maximize the info you will get from outfitter and guides. We send a guide out with the semi-guided hunters for at least one day, and maybe more if a guide is available, however, other outfitters policy may very. For the money, this kind of hunt is great.
Drop camp hunt: Your on your own here. We send a packer down to our drop camps ever other day to check on you, all hunting is done on your own. Outfitters pack you and your gear in and drop you off, pack out whatever you get down. This hunt is for folks who have some good elk hunting foundations, and typically has the lowest success percentage.
Final note: It is said all over the internet that drop camps are where outfitters put folks who don't pay the guide fees, and thus, the area isn't as good as the base camp area. Generally, this is patently false. First, any outfitter worth his salt wants his clients to put elk on the ground. Secondly, base camps are put in where the is room for livestock, water, available firewood, and room for all the gear, tents etc. Finally, this is the age of the internet, if an outfitter puts his clients where there is no elk, the whole cyber-world is going to know. Always check references.
Hope this helps. I thought of you Jim when I wrote it:)