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So You Want to be a Work Camper

What is a Work Camper and what is Work camping?  RVers  across the United States typically work camp as a way to see the country, these RVers are called work campers.  They work full or part time for either their space, or their space and pay at campgrounds and other facilities.   There are usually other perks the RVer gets for work camping, like free propane, laundry, discount at the campground store, and usage of the campground facilities.    I am saying campground, but work campers work at Amazon, different amusement parks, farms, fairs and festivals to name a few. However most people think of campgrounds when they hear the words work camper. Many RVers are work camping as a way to stay in areas that they would like to spend some time in, and if you are in a tourist area in the summer this can save you a lot of money.

Get a Contract In Writing

One of the things you will learn work camping is not all people have the same ethics.  Some work campers have not been compensated as agreed during the hiring process, and others were required to work more hours than agreed upon.  It’s in everyone’s best interests to have everything in writing so there are no misunderstandings.  

Work camping is like a real job, even though many RVers have the attitude “you don’t like it, pack up and move on.”  This attitude doesn’t take into account that the Manager or owner has probably filled this job months earlier, and it’s hard to get a replacement at the last minute.  Work camping is a 2 way street; both parties get something in return. 

What to Expect from Work Camping

The reason  we are work campers is we want to see the country, so we choose a job in the area we want to be.  There are usually summer positions in the mountains and the shore, then winter ones in a warmer climate.  Some campgrounds, and work camping jobs are only seasonal and open and close the same time every year.  Here’s a resource for Seasonal Jobs.

 

Camp Hosts

 

There will most likely be a honeymoon period where you are in love with your new surroundings and probably not too busy.  Most campgrounds want experience in Campground Master or Campground Manager, but don’t fret as you can find one that will train you. 

 

 

The honeymoon period changes as the season gets underway, and it’s important to distance yourself from your work camping job, to keep a balance in your life.  Work Camping can be tiring, maybe stressful, so taking care of yourself is important.  Take time to explore the area, or visit a Farmers Market.  Anything that gets you away from the campground for awhile.

Here are a few comments from work campers across the United States about Work camping.

Just like any other job, there are good and bad days.

Personally I think at first it’s exciting to go to a new place, meet new people, but I know there have been days that I come home hot,tired, and hungry, so it might not seem so fun during those times. I also have to remind myself that we have to take time to enjoy our lifestyle sitting outside, going to the pool, exploring.”

“We are so excited to get our first work camping job.”

Top Tips For New Work Campers

Blessed are those that don’t take anything for granted!  Find a job that fits with the lifestyle and travel desires you have.  There are as many different kinds of jobs as there are work campers so don’t just settle for something you know you won’t like.

  • If you want a job in a certain state, or area, look online, FB, or with the National or State Parks for available jobs.  Don’t be discouraged if you don’t find something right away especially if you are a solo RVer.  There are jobs out there.  Here is just one of many places to start your search for work camping jobs 
  • Go to the big RV shows, especially the one in Quartsite, Arizona.  Many different companies are there to interview and hire work campers, especially camp hosts.  Don’t worry if you don’t have experience.  I got my first Camp Host job without any experience from one of the companies at the show. 
  • Ask questions.  It’s always best to ask in the beginning to see if the fit is for you.
  • Skills- Many new work campers think they need a lot of skills, but basically you don’t.  People skills is probably the #1 skill you will need.  The rest can be learned.  Maintenance jobs are another thing altogether as sometimes the job requires specific skills and other times it’s keeping the outside areas neat and tidy. 
  • Every work camping job is different.  If you don’t like cleaning bathrooms, then find one where you don’t have to.   Or, find a job where you only clean them once a week, rotating with other work campers.  This is how my first job was, so even if I didn’t like cleaning bathrooms it was only once a week.

When you accept a work camping job in order to get there on time you might have to travel in bad weather  Driving across country in April, I experienced hot weather in the Southwest and was surprised by a snowstorm in both Ohio and New York.  There were tornadoes in Tulsa, Oklahoma and wind advisories in Missouri.  Leave enough time in your plans for unexpected weather conditions, or all the summer construction you will come across.  

  • Traveling to your site- try to get there a few days early so you can set-up, get groceries, and learn a little bit about the work environment before you start.
  • If you are by a State Park you might want to consider getting an annual pass to save money on multiple trips.  In Maine I was by Popham Beach, and went there several times a week.  The $35 annual pass saved me tons of money as the entrance fee was $8 a day if you weren’t a Maine resident.  The pass also gets you into all the State Parks.
  • This probably should be #1…..Don’t get involved with gossip, or campground drama.  Remember you are only a temporary worker and the owner or manager has their own way of doing things.  Just as all campgrounds and jobs aren’t the same, nor are work campers.  Do your job, and let the boss worry about managing his/her workers.  This is probably one of the main reasons for dis-satisfaction in work campers…too much drama.  Leave the gossiping to the seasonal campers!

Work Camping as a Camp Host

Do you want to be a Camp Host?  This is actually a pretty good job, and if you are a couple it’s even easier.  Camp Host jobs are all over the United States and include Forest Service, National Parks,  and many other places.  I worked as a camp host in a Forest Service campground for one summer.  The campground was in an Aspen grove up in the Colorado Rockies,  a beautiful area to spend the summer.  This was a paid job, plus site with hookups, laundry facilities, and hot showers.

The job consisted of cleaning vault toilets and fire pits, dumping trash, signing people in and collecting fees.  There were a couple different loops and each one had a camp host.  The camp hosts had water and electricity but not sewer.  We had to blue boy the waste to a dump station, but it was very close.  The regular campsites had no hookups. 

 

If you think you would be interested in a Camp Hosting job here are a few things to think about.

  1.  Cell phone service may or may not work in many of the areas where Camp Hosts work.  I had no cell service as the campground was too high up in the mountains.
  2. If you have any physical limitations be honest and make sure you will be able to handle the physical aspects of the job.
  3.  Balance is key.  Make sure you get away from the campground frequently and hopefully have some fun that isn’t work related.
  4. If you need internet, even a phone’s hot spot won’t work if there’s no connection to the internet.
  5. Keep some poison oak wash on hand as you never know when you might need it.  Also in many areas that had a lot of snow melt might be a mosquito magnet.  Be prepared for these things and it will make your life so much easier.
  6. Watch your gas!  Up in the mountains, or in remote areas, running out of gas is no fun.  Keep a gas can for emergencies and make sure you keep enough gas to get to town in an emergency.
  7. Very remote areas might not have any TV reception, but Dish and other satellite companies actually work as long as you can get a signal.  The thing about these satellite services is they might go out in bad weather, wind, rain, snow, etc.

These are just a few things to think about.  If you are a creative problem solver, have good people skills, and don’t mind being alone then being a Camp Host can be a good job.  Just do your homework and make sure you know what you are agreeing to.

Read about some of the problems with work camping here

 

 

 

 

6 replies
  1. Martha
    Martha says:

    Awesome information. I have often wondered what it was like to work and travel the US as a work camper. Curious, do you find it is attractive to a certain age group, type of camper or difficult to find work?

    Reply
    • Vagabond2
      Vagabond2 says:

      Hi Martha,
      Most people think that work camping is only for the retired, but that’s not true. There are more and more young people, some in their 20’s and 30’s that have taken to full time RVing and work camping. There are jobs in every state and many are contracted a year, or a season before the job actually starts. There are several places to look for these jobs.

      Most work campers have a Travel Trailer or Mobilehome, but there are a few that have work camped in a tent. In some places like Yellowstone and areas in Alaska they provide housing. Today’s work campers also include families, and depending on the area and the job one spot might be more attractive than another. Hope this answered your question.

      Reply
    • Vagabond2
      Vagabond2 says:

      Hi Ruth=
      It’s amazing the info is really pretty simple, but until you’ve work camped a few times it all seems so overwhelming.

      Reply

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