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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:

Rules

“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.

Reservations

“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.

Jobs

“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!

Kiddos

“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.

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Bob
24 days 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.

travilenman
1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month 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

Admin
RV Staff(@rvstaff)
1 month ago
Reply to  kevinmusland

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

RStephens
1 month 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.
1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month ago

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

Joe Allen
1 month 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.

Bill Walker
1 month ago

We worked a summer season in Montana and thoroughly enjoyed it. Cannot think of one negative aspect. Days off were real bonus to see the spectacular scenery.

Laurie
1 month ago

My husband and I were Workkampers for a short time. We decided the work involved was not worth a free campsite. I did the math, it equaled to $5 / hour for our skilled labor. I worked the office, basically easy, but my husband did maintenance and plumbing and electrical and landscaping. They expected quite a lot for $5/ hr. It wasn’t for us!

pursuits712
1 month ago
Reply to  Laurie

Many of us are volunteers who work for site only because we are service oriented, outgoing folk who simply like to give back and travel. Serving as hosts allows us to do both.

The idea of expecting to be paid the same as a “real world” job is a recent issue. The best way to accomplish that is to rent a site, and work outside the park for “real money.”

Of course, you may not be able to wear your old clothes, and you have to drive your car and pay for gas, as well as site rent. The manner in which you do your job, the order of tasks and the time you have to do them will likely not be your choice. You may have to stay at your post for 2-3 hours straight and break times will be scheduled by your boss, not you. Lunch will be in the break room, not your recliner where you can grab that quick nap or take a walk along the lake. If you finish early, do not even think of clocking out; you are here for the duration.

But, the paycheck is coming (taxes and deductions included).

Lisa Adcox
1 month ago

What I find sad is that one persons experience can sour someone on Workamping.
Yes there is that occasional Camper that is not happy with their spot or when you are mowing but all and all I find most campers have been wonderful when we workamp at parks. Really is any job ever 100% perfect?
If I had let a couple of bad experiences sour me, I would not of seen some great places,met people who became lifetime friends. We no longer are on the road fulltiming. Health issues for my husband. I cherish every place we camped and workamped at. I would hate to not experienced them all.

Stephen Malochleb
1 month ago

Lets face it, there is just a complete lack of manners and respect these days. It’s a (me me world).

Bob p
1 month ago

Once again parental responsibility is a lost feat. Todays parents were raised by parents who read and believed Dr Spock. He was single handedly responsible for most of the problems in our society today regarding proper raising of our children. Parents wanting to be “friends” with their children instead of parents, you’ll have plenty of time to be friends after they’re no longer children needing guidance about right from wrong. After I was grown and had children of my own my parents were my best friends, but when I was still a child even in my teen years, they were still parents. In the animal kingdom how long do you think youngsters would last if their parents just let them grow up being friends with them, not long before some predator took them home for lunch. It’s the parent’s responsibility to teach their offspring right from wrong!

Cat
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob p

I can’t attest to the Dr Spock link but I do agree with the rest of Bob’s thought. Unfortunately, the kids can’t be taught good behavior if the parents don’t know what good behavior is. And now we have a few generations in this country that don’t respect nor tolerate people different from themselves or have a clue about the “Golden Rule”. Most teachers out there will likely say that teaching adults is more difficult than teaching children. If there are enough of us of any age that know right from wrong and provide an example to those that don’t, maybe some positive learning will take place and maybe that will be passed on to younger generations and paid forward. Maybe…

Michael Galvin, PhD
1 month ago
Reply to  Cat

Every generation the elders despair about the youth. Remember when rock and roll was going to ruin everything? This syndrome goes back a long time. Socrates said “The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”

pursuits712
1 month ago

Yes, but those children grew up to be responsible adults. I think the difference now is that just don’t grow up — our out of the childhood behaviors.