Thursday, June 1, 2023


Around the Campfire: Campgrounds pivot to accommodate the changing needs of campers

A while back our campfire conversation talked about the ways some campgrounds are changing. Today there are more and more homeless folks finding shelter in campgrounds, along with traveling workers and permanent residents. This has prompted some campground owners to pivot in order to accommodate the changing needs of today’s campers.

Good ol’ days are gone

While some folks nostalgically wish for the good ol’ days, it’s safe to say that campers in most campgrounds today are not the weekender family who arrives on Friday after work and leaves Sunday afternoon. Nor are they the traveler who comes in for a quick overnight stay before continuing their journey. Nope. Over the past several years, the typical demographic of campers or RVers has morphed into something different.

Years in the making

Change in campgrounds didn’t happen overnight. Workers who travel to specific job sites began to discover campgrounds at least a decade ago (see this article). People formerly living in trailer parks, tired of habitual increases in rent, went looking for a more affordable solution. Campgrounds fit the bill with all the basic needs addressed for less. The homeless migration into local campgrounds has been on the rise for a while, with some areas of the country experiencing more homelessness than others.

The bottom line? Everyone wants (and needs) a place to live. Campgrounds have traditionally offered its guests clean (and inexpensive) accommodations. It’s natural that atypical camper-folks would discover the affordability with benefits and take up residence.

Campgrounds change

Because the face of campers has been changing, many campgrounds scurry to make changes. Why? To keep its residents happy—for an overnight, a year, or perhaps decades—many campground owners are rethinking their setups. Here are some changes that have gained traction in the past few years.

  • Separation. Some campgrounds have decided to designate certain areas solely for workers. This provides several benefits to workers and typical campers alike. Workers can more easily socialize with friends during non-work times. Typical campers are not awakened by noisy diesel trucks as workers leave the CG early in the morning. It’s a win-win all around.
  • Laundry upgrades. Several campgrounds we’ve visited have upgraded their laundry facilities. Installing larger washers and dryers mean workers no longer struggle to fit heavy and heavily soiled work clothes into standard machines.
  • Better Wi-Fi. Folks who work from their RVs are happy to see more and more CG upgrades in Wi-Fi. The improvements benefit typical campers as well.
  • Partnerships with local community services. Forward-thinking campground owners are also looking to address the influx of homeless folks into their CGs. They’re partnering with local services like law enforcement, health care, religious organizations, employment services, and community food banks to give struggling residents a hand up. (We’ve witnessed the positive results of such partnerships in a Florida campground. People who would otherwise be homeless are given shelter in return for their daily help around the CG. A former addict now cuts grass, performs routine maintenance, and happily welcomes RVers to the CG. He’s thankful for the opportunity to find success.)
  • Parking upgrades. To accommodate workers who often travel with company trucks, some campgrounds are investing in larger and better parking lots. One CG owner we spoke to said he’d planned to update the mini golf area for his guests. Now he has so many full-time workers living in the CG, he’s decided instead to enlarge the area into a parking lot so that all the workers’ trucks can be staged together.

One important change in campgrounds (and elsewhere)

Campgrounds will continue to change as their clientele shifts. Perhaps the most important (and necessary) change is this: a change of heart. Instead of lamenting how campgrounds have changed from “the good ol’ days,” we can look for ways to share and learn from others.

Maybe compassion can replace resentment and frustration as we meet new folks and look for ways to help them when help is needed. Our change of heart may open the chance to meet new friends and recognize opportunities. Change can be good. A change of heart that leans toward love and understanding is, in my view, a change worth making.

What changes have you observed in the campgrounds you frequent? How might these changes benefit both typical and atypical campers alike?

Previously in “Around the Campfire”:

Here are some jobs that come with RV parking: CoolWorks®


Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh is an avid RVer and occasional work camper. Retired from 30+ years in the field of education as an author and educator, she now enjoys sharing tips and tricks that make RVing easier and more enjoyable.


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7 months ago

Gail, I think your article has definitely a West Coast perspective! Although homelessness does exist in every corner of the country, campgrounds being overrun by the homeless is a problem caused simply by the political will of extremely liberal cities, hey Portland, OR.

Gail’s article piggybacks off of the earlier article in this addition to RVT Newsletter regarding overnighting at Walmarts. That article too was taken over by the “homeless problem”. I thought this was supposed to be a newsletter for and about the RV lifestyle and the RV industry in general, Not political muck that is more suited for The View or Deadspin, etc.

7 months ago

All this is not true of a lot of campgrounds, and there are plenty of people to support the traditional form of campground. These long-term folks deserve a place to stay, but it should be in separate facilities instead of knocking traditional “campers” out of a place to stay. The industry is leading campground owners in the wrong direction, which is why most of our stays are in state parks.

Lori koss
7 months ago

Absolutely love this article. I too wish for more compassion.

Ron Seidl P.E.
7 months ago

I think we need to change the term “Campground”. What you are describing is an RV Park or Trailer Park. To me, a Campground is in the forest and has no services.

Jack B.
7 months ago
Reply to  Ron Seidl P.E.

Thanks Ron, couldn’t agree more. FHU at KOA is not “camping” . Terminology needs to be defined.

7 months ago
Reply to  Jack B.

But… KOA’s allow tents! So they’re not just a trailer park!

Tommy Molnar
7 months ago
Reply to  Ron Seidl P.E.

I agree, Ron.

7 months ago

We travel non stop for 7 months each year, usually visiting 10 or more states. While this article may apply to some campgrounds, based on our experience the number of family campers increase more than ten fold during the weekends. We can most always find a spot Sunday thru Thursday night, but finding one on the weekends can be a challenge.
I am not sure where the author is getting her facts.

7 months ago
Reply to  Dave

Dave, this is exactly what we continue to experience being out a lot 9 months a year. We have found zero issues during the week and sometimes being the only ones or one of only a handful of campers in the campground during the week. Weekends are completely different.

That said, we are currently in a pretty full RV park south of Ft Worth that is, by my guess, 99% long term residents. I could care less. I have my site for the week and they have theirs for however long they are staying. It’s quiet, reasonably priced, and relatively clean (unfortunately some residents don’t know what a doggie poop bag is!)

I don’t think “non-residents” feel hate or resentment as much as frustration. A person can have frustration at not being able to more easily find a site without hating or resenting those that do (and are actually occupying the site.)

Bob p
7 months ago

I have no problem with campground owners catering to workers. I have a brother in law that several years ago when the EPA was requiring power plants to change there smoke stacks to be cleaner worked in that industry. He had to live in motels for months at a time. Only on a few locations for a few months at a time was he able to take his family with him. Had these options be available back then it would’ve been more favorable. The campground owner also has the ability to keep their income steady other than most of their lots being empty except on weekends. They are not required to be available for the traveler who may be moving from home to their winter vacation spot. In todays world would you expect your employer to keep you on the hook just in case he had some work for you to do tomorrow? No you’d find a different job with more regular hours, that’s what the campground owner is doing by bringing in more steady income.

7 months ago
Reply to  Bob p

Good point! Workers in RVs are often essential for big projects, seasonal work, and disaster mitigation after natural disasters. In Paradise, CA (home of the “Camp Fire” disaster) when I drove through last year, RVs are everywhere–they seemed to be housing the workers rebuilding that beautiful town. Where else can you live while you’re building a house to live in?

Another example: My uncle was a traveling insurance adjuster. When hurricanes, tornados and hail storms destroyed people’s property or cars, he’d travel to work the area for weeks or months so that victims could make progress on their claims. Customers would thank him with tears streaming down their face; so thankful they could start to rebuild their lives. He was able to do this by taking his motorhome. The only hitch was when all the RV parks in the area were full.

7 months ago

Bless your heart, Gail, for trying to find positive news here. We haven’t seen the cooperation of the different types of “campers” yet, but now know it’s out there and possible.

7 months ago

If the business which received the largest tax giveaway ever in 2016 would pay a liveable wage with benefits, we would not be discussing.

7 months ago
Reply to  Ron

:-))))))))) I knew we weren’t done hearing that line!!!

Jim Johnson
7 months ago

The biggest downside with more and more campgrounds catering to long term stay? It has gotten harder to migrate from one part of the country to another to use those long term sites. There is now a shortage of decent short time stay options while travelling. To arrange our 1600 mile semi-annual migration between the northern side of CONUS and the southern side, I typically have to plan all stops and make reservations upwards of 3 months in advance. Flexibility and weather be damned! My life schedule as a retiree is more fixed than when I worked a job that required travel to be on-site for client projects.

Mike Cowen
7 months ago

Re: Campground evolution topic: Campground owners need to specialize to fit their desired customer type. Mixing customer types is not a desirable option for most campground users.

7 months ago
Reply to  Mike Cowen

I agree.

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