Monday, December 4, 2023


Around the Campfire: RVers discuss some downsides to workamping

Like many RVers, my husband and I frequently talk about workamping. It seems like a great “fit” for us. We both enjoy helping others. We share a strong work ethic. Having RVed for several years, we know our way around a campground, and we’re outgoing and friendly. Staying in one RV spot with free or reduced site fees sounds inviting, too. Well, it did. Until a recent campfire discussion. That’s where we learned about some downsides to workamping.

The truth behind the “glamour”

A recent work camper named AJ joined our campfire a few nights ago. AJ and his wife came to our RV campground after their six-month stint working as campground hosts. AJ explained that in addition to welcoming new campers to the park, they were also charged with the day-to-day campground maintenance chores. They kept the grass mowed and picked up trash. AJ guided RVers to their assigned sites and his wife made sure the laundry room was clean and welcoming. Both shared bathroom and shower cleaning duties, making sure everything was sanitized and working properly.

AJ and his wife loved the campground. The setting was breathtaking. They enjoyed hiking and biking on their day off. These work campers would love to go back to the area sometime. They loved it! They just didn’t love some of the RVers that stayed at the camp…

Wait. What?

What’s not to like about RVers? Most of the folks we meet are considerate and friendly. They’re glad to be outdoors enjoying the sunshine and fresh air. Well, according to AJ when you’re the one “in charge,” people aren’t always so happy and considerate. More like the opposite!

The downside to workamping

Talking with AJ and his wife gave me a more realistic picture of what it takes to be a work camper. It also may help all of us—RVers and campers—be more considerate as we camp.

Here are some downsides to workamping that AJ mentioned:


“We don’t make the rules. We just have to enforce them.” Not all pet owners are alike. Evidently, there are still folks who refuse to pick up their dog’s “doo” and dispose of it. Who cleans up after them? You guessed it! The work campers.

Note to campers: If you have a pet, take care of it. Follow the rules.


“We have nothing to do with reservations.” Most work campers will happily see you to your assigned RV site. They cannot, however, arbitrarily take you to a spot you like better. AJ recalls heated discussions about why an RVer could not “simply move over into a shaded site.”

Note to campers: If you want to change sites, it’s best to talk to the campground reservationist or owner.


“We have jobs to do.” Many work campers like AJ are in charge of mowing, controlling pests (wasps, ants, etc.), and keeping the ground around the RVs looking nice. “No matter when I mowed grass, someone would complain about the noise,” AJ commented. “If the grass got too long, those very same people complained that the grass needing to be cut.”

Note to campers: The camp hosts are working to make your stay as enjoyable as possible. Keep your kids’ toys, pool noodles, coolers, and other things picked up and off the grass—especially on mowing days.

“Treat the campground facilities like your own.” AJ’s wife still shudders when she thinks about the campground restrooms. They can definitely be a downside to workamping. Many days she spent the better part of her morning cleaning and disinfecting these areas.

Note to campers: If you make a mess, clean it up. Please. And remember to flush! Tell your kids to flush, too!


“Watch your children.” The work camper has plenty to do without monitoring your kids, too. AJ recalls several families that just “turned the kids loose.” The little hooligans rode their bikes over hoses for fun. Of course, AJ received heated calls from affected campers.

Note to campers: Use the camping experience to spend time with your children. Teach them to respect the space and property of others.

Have you ever been a work camper? Did you experience some of AJ’s frustrations? What advice do you have for folks who are considering workamping? Share your thoughts in the comments or on my forum.



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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Neal Davis (@guest_242808)
5 months ago

Thank you, Gail! No, have never been a workcamper. Have thought about it a few times, but never seriously. AJ’s comments will prevent me from seriously considering this for quite some time, perhaps forever. 🙂 😎

Tom H. (@guest_242688)
5 months ago

As a workkamper this article and opinions are on point. I will add that many workkampers feel under valued and or appreciated by guests. Often they are looked down on, more as servants than service providers. My suggestion treat your workkampers well and they will treat you well. Most workkampers are retired and working as a way to stay busy and healthy. They come from all walks of life. They were company executives or in the military. They deserve your respect and gratitude. Last season I worked alongside a workkamper who was a retired Air Force colonel and fighter pilot. That’s an 06 and a very high rank in the service. My point, that guy or girl scrubbing away in the bathroom was very likely leading a company or leading troops into battle in a former life.

Dr4Film (@guest_242651)
5 months ago

Workamping in many campgrounds and RV parks is basically having to deal with inconsiderate, obnoxious, rude and sometimes verbally abusive campers who think the rules are for thee not for me. I prefer Workamping at a resort where each site is owned by the resident. There, you don’t have to deal with any transient campers who could care less about rules while making your life as miserable as possible.

Steve H (@guest_242608)
5 months ago

I worked jobs with long hours and too much travel for 42 years so I wouldn’t have to work after retiring. But I love to teach, especially kids, which I do as a volunteer while at home. So, the only type of workcamping job I would take in exchange for a free site would be a park naturalist job. Then I could teach others about the geology, hydrology, and effects of climate change on the park. Then it would be fun, not work!

brendagail (@guest_239641)
5 months ago

We loved workcamping! Of course, we learned some valuable lessons as newbies but they still became good memories. Met some great folks…and some not-so-great ones, but that is life. We traveled the US (almost every state — still have 4 or 5 we missed) and saw some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. We experienced different traditions and cultural foods to which we likely would never otherwise been exposed.

It saved us money, to be sure — and the past few years that is particularly true. But that was not our primary reason. After the first year or two, we missed contributing to something (other than our own enjoyment). Work camping satisfied that need and fulfilled what little socialization we need (we are both usually home bodies).

The biggest we have seen is that there is more to do because of more people and what seems like more irresponsible campers than when we first started. We have slowed down, but we still enjoy the occasional few months to reconnect.

Carol (@guest_239530)
5 months ago

Here’s a current take, for anyone interested.
We have been camp hosts year round for the last four years. We have only worked in state and federal campgrounds, and have learned NOT to work in a park with no ranger backup. After a few bad gigs, we have learned to ask the following questions (based on our own preferences):

  1. is there ranger support to enforce rules, or are we expected to do that
  2. what is the water quality? After a summer with super hard, sulfur water, we always ask that one!
  3. is the host site next to busy bathrooms, or other high-traffic areas?
  4. and strictly personal here, we do NOT like parks that cater to water skiing and such. That tends to bring in rowdy, heavy drinking groups who don’t think they need to follow the rules.

But the best part of what we do is that we get to move around and stay in gorgeous places that our teacher retirement just couldn’t afford otherwise.

Rob (@guest_239524)
5 months ago

We are full timers and have been work campers for 3 seasons now plus I grew up at a summer resort back in the 70’s. The majority of campers we have found are great. There are those that just make you shake your head though.
<rant> The absolute worst are the ‘entitled’ weekend warriors or week or 2 summer vacation types who feel they can leave all their manners at home. Absolute slobs in the bathrooms/showers, ignore the rule sheet they are handed and ‘told’ to read when they check in, ignore posted speed limits and not by just a little bit, scatter their crap all over their site and frequently the neighboring site as well, and, and, and! I’ll stop now. </rant>
We do this for the extra money which helps down south in the winter and it gives us a free place to stay in the summer. Generally speaking we enjoy it but there are times I wonder why.

Jim Johnson (@guest_235277)
6 months ago

We are seasonally stationary RVers (winter) and tourist RVers coming forth and back to a house (summer). Our winter location is a small community of RVers that regathers annually. We count several work campers among our friends. They are sort of retired and all have one trait – they want to get up in the morning and do something hands-on in the campground. It doesn’t mean they want a full-time job, but take great pride in keeping their community looking nice and/or operating smoothly.

They often get their site and maybe some minor salary. But truth be known, they are rarely in it for the money. They would be financially better off working for a local retailer stocking shelves.

Nothing is more irritating to work campers than treating them like servants simply there to clean up your messes. Treat them like partners and you will both have a better experience. Nor do they want to be campground police handling your disputes with other campers.

LMH (@guest_185545)
1 year ago

I did a little “workamping” once. The park I lived in was caught short when the people that had been cleaning their bathouses quit and left suddenly. So I worked for a few months (5 days per week). Paid for my full-hookup site ($450/mo including electric).While I was cleaning, Good Sam came thru and gave them a very high rating for their bath houses so I kmust have been doing it right. And then the absentee owner decided to get the daughter of one of his drug suppliers to do the job. So I was immediately fired. A few months later, he decided that my RV was “too old” for the park and I had to leave (a much older and crapped out trailer was allowed to stay). So I left for a better place. I won’t do that again. I would rather get a “regular” job that isn’t tied to my home. My daughter worked thru temp agencies until she landed a fulltime job.

Bob (@guest_177912)
1 year ago

So my wife and I have camp hosted for years. First thing is know what is expected of you. I don’t do bathrooms. So if that’s a requirement we just pass it by. The other thing is know what you’re getting in exchange. Some sites are not FHU. You don’t want to spend months hauling a honey pot to the dump station every time you have a day off or after you have put in a full day. Now people are a whole other story. I have met people who we have become lifelong friend with. Others are just plain stupid. As has been said you just can’t fix terminally stupid. It took me a few years to learn some problems I can fix . Then there are others that require a Ranger. Don’t get yourself into a situation that you can’t get out of. There is a reason rangers carry a big stick and a gun. Let them handle those situations. Know when to just walk away. But as I said most campers are the greatest people around. They more than make up for the few bad ones.

Virginia (@guest_239640)
5 months ago
Reply to  Bob

I’m with you on the cleaning bathrooms – learned the hard way! We also got really tired of dumping burning ashes, soggy ashes, and dog poo left in ashes. One campground wanted the gravel raked every time a camper left — whether they had messed it up or not! Problem was the number of sites and time to do that job…especially with folks leaving late and coming in early. We occasionally accept elec/water sites if they are next to or directly across from a bathhouse; not only for convenience, but then I can watch for the cleaning crew to come and head over to the showers that I know they have just been cleaned!!

travilenman (@guest_175985)
1 year ago

The wife & I did a camp host in a county park just south of Hood River Ore. in 2014.. I can tell some stories about this experience.. It was not all glamour & nicey nice … BUT we learned A LOT about RVer’s & their attitudes towards any thing & everything, EXCEPT THEMSELVES…… Still love to go Camping_____ NOT GLAMPING

Bill (@guest_175940)
1 year ago

My wife and I camp host at a Forest Service CG in Colorado and love it. The 1% of problem campers do not take away from the 99% of great people we meet. I find the ratio of problems in the CG is far less than society in general.

pursuits712 (@guest_175955)
1 year ago
Reply to  Bill

Hubby and I did our first gig at a USFS campground. The Forest Service parks tended to be the most basic in amenities, and where we had the least issues from campers. No real data, but I have my own thoughts on why.

+ We had lots of through-hikers who still understand the “pack in, pack out” mentality and respect nature instead of thinking of it as their personal playground.
+ We had the older, smaller sites — no room for mansions on wheels. Most campers were content with the basics of shelter and a couple of lawn chairs around the campfire.
+ Roads were seldom hard-paved. Harder to ride hover boards and e-scooters on gravel.
+ Basic amenities: hookups, firepits, bathrooms. BYO Frisbee.
= Basic camping, the way it was meant to be.

I have always advocated separate definitions for RVer vs. camper. To me, the above attributes define campers. This ad defines RVers.

SDW (@guest_175927)
1 year ago

That’s why I was patient and didn’t jump the gun and quit my job looking for an easy way out.
If you can’t afford to RV without working to do it. Wait till you can.
As the old saying that’s very true goes: “YOU CAN’T HAVE YOUR CAKE AND EAT IT TOO”

Tim E (@guest_175770)
1 year ago

Every job has it’s downsides. My wife and I are not old enough to retire so work is required. But I’ll take the occasional grumpy camper or a nasty cleanup while living 6 months a year in the Tetons before I’ll ever go back to the miserable dead-end factory job in the miserable dead-end town I grew up in. It sounds like AJ needs to read Nancy Dixon’s article from this week.

SDW (@guest_175931)
1 year ago
Reply to  Tim E

Will you also take the fact that inflation is going to put you in poverty when you are old enough to retire but quit earning a decent salary so you’ll qualify for SS.
and built your 401 to an amount you could have retired on and not have to work to RV.
Best enjoy it while you can because that low paying work camping job is not going to be enough when you need repairs on your vehicles and you won’t be able to afford what the new or used ones cost.
Not to mention food, clothes, gas, Insurance, medical, etc.
Question: what do you do the other six month?

kevinmusland (@guest_175743)
1 year ago

I’m pretty sure a child riding a bicycle across a water hose is not going to harm it in any way I’ve drove across them in a dump truck on job sites,don’t drive across the the joints an you’ll be fine…..old people complaining

RV Staff
1 year ago
Reply to  kevinmusland

I think they may have been referring to sewer hoses, kevin. Have a good night. 🙂 –Diane

RStephens (@guest_175787)
1 year ago
Reply to  kevinmusland

You obviously have no campground etiquette, or know nothing about campgrounds. The persons waterhose is right next to the camper, between the big and the camper. You’re implying that a kid riding a bicycle right next to someone’s camper is okay. You’re exactly the kind of ******* these hosts are talking about.

Donna B. (@guest_175676)
1 year ago

We just completed our second season as work campers in a 55+ community in Arizona. Our job is cleaning the common areas, bathrooms/showers, laundry, recreation hall, etc. we have found some amazingly disgusting things in the toilet and shower stalls. Hint: if you don’t make it in time or miss for whatever reason, please let someone know. A smelly mess that’s waited for hours to be cleaned up is harder to clean, besides exposing other guests to the mess, which in many cases qualifies as a biohazard. We’re required to complete our job in 4 hours or less between 9:00 pm and 7:00 a.m. Otherwise, we’re treated the same as paying guests in the resort with access to all amenities and activities.

Dolan Brown (@guest_175659)
1 year ago

The wife and I will be doing our 7th year as volunteer campground hosts at a state park in North Carolina in May. We host for one month each year. We have been lucky since we have never had a bad experience with any campers, other than the occasional dog poo to be cleaned up. The park has great rangers that enforce any serious rule violations. And we don’t have to clean the restrooms. We have been thanked numerous times by the campers for how clean we keep the campground. The campground has 88 sites that we take care of. We are provided all the equipment we need plus a golf cart. For us one month fits our schedule nicely. We don’t think a 6 month host job would be fun.

Virginia (@guest_175959)
1 year ago
Reply to  Dolan Brown

Sound like NC state parks. One month is their limit (at least it used to be). The state parks where we have worked have all had paid staff for restroom cleaning. We still had to clean cabins and sites plus the other sundry duties.

However, the cleaning process during Covid drastically increased the time it took to do the job. We noticed a huge increase in early arrivals and late departures (most without permission); added to the overall increased occupancy rates, it became a real challenge to get the job done right in the limited time allowed.

We still volunteer; we just don’t camp host.

rvgrandma (@guest_175632)
1 year ago

The worst experiences we had workamping were bad managers that like to berate their employees with screaming and foul language – that lasted 3 weeks. The other was office politics. There was the locals who were friends with the owner and workampers who they saw as a threat and thought they had power to make your life miserable.

Rosalie Magistro (@guest_175597)
1 year ago

Workamping is very over rated. If I wanted to work that hard I wouldn’t of retired,just stayed at my job..
Camphosting or volunteering is the way to go,never worked over 20 hours a week and felt a lot more appreciated . Free site FHU and big site to call home for 6 months.

pursuits712 (@guest_175960)
1 year ago

Amen. Only paid job we had was also the worst experience we ever had.

Mary (@guest_235472)
6 months ago
Reply to  pursuits712

Ditto. We much prefer state parks. Usually easy part-time work. The campers seem more respectful of nature.

Joe Allen (@guest_175492)
1 year ago

We have worked several types of workcamping positions and find the National Parks the best bang for the buck. We worked in Yellowstone NP for two years and really enjoyed the work and some of the people that visited. Yes, there were times you wanted to tell them exactly what you thought of their sorry attitudes, but then there were the good times that made the bad go away! Our bosses were always understanding and we never felt like we were second class citizens. I just wish that those who visit any area consider just where their trash goes after they toss it out. Wake Up and smell the roses, not the garbage.

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