When I hit the road eight years ago, I stayed at a lot of Mom ‘n Pop campgrounds for about $20 a night—with electric. Those don’t really exist anymore.
Then I joined an RV travel club, Wandering Individuals Network, and was told two things: Get solar. And join the Elks. (As in the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks. Not the herds you see in the Northwest.) When you’re out on the road 365 nights a year you want the cheapest spot you can find.
Joining the Elks, and later the Moose, are two of the smartest things I’ve done in my full-time RV life. Yet, when I Google it, I see so few stories about why RVers should be Elks. And honestly, my friends wish I wouldn’t write this story and keep this under my hat. Loose lips might mean less room for us.
Why should you join? Because you can stay at just about any of the 2,000 Elk and 1,600 Moose lodges across the United States. Some have hookups and dumps. Some are campgrounds where people stay a season. And some just offer a parking spot to stay one night.
Prices are all over the map—from $5 a night donation for dry camping to $50 a night.
Elks and Moose lodges guarantee people (mostly) will welcome you when go into the bar to check in and low-priced alcoholic beverages. Some even serve great dinners.
Some Elks and Moose demand reservations. I usually phone ahead to any lodge I plan to stay at to make sure there is room and that they allow RV parking. They are great when you are speeding across the country. BLM and National Forest Service campgrounds are our favorites, but you can’t find them in every state.
I joined the Naval Elks Lodge at Port Angeles, WA, because it was the easiest. A fellow WIN member signed off on my application—but I still had to be initiated. Later I switched my membership to my local lodge and members there still had to vote me in.
Initiation is mandatory in Elks. So is being a United States citizen (sorry, Canadians) and professing a belief in God. Just so ya know. There are some Moose lodges in four Canadian provinces and in Great Britain, which I didn’t know. You still need to profess a belief.
Also, it’s my personal belief that you have no business joining the Elks or Moose unless you are going to support them and their charities. That might mean sending in an extra $20 with your dues or cleaning up a campground or participating in fundraisers. One saying is “Elks Care, Elks Share”, so don’t be a greedy RVer. If camping is going to continue at these lodges, it must be supported.
To become an Elk or a Moose, just visit your local lodge. You’ll fill out an application, give them some money, and be a member in a month or so—as long as you are approved. Dues depend on location but rarely are more than $100 a year.
If you are on the road, it’s a bit more time-consuming but totally possible.
Here is the process to become an Elk:
- Go to the Elks website. Use the ZIP code lodge locator to find a lodge convenient for you.
- Contact the lodge to see when the next new member ceremony is happening. Find an Elk member to sponsor you.
- The Elk member will then log in to the Elk website. Go to “Invite someone to join” using the applicant’s email address. The Elks organization will send a registration number and pin code to the member.
- The Elks organization will send the candidate an electronic application form to fill out online using the registration number and pin code. Again, this is done online.
- The lodge should contact the candidate with the date they will be initiated. The ceremony involves walking through the stations of the lodge. The event takes about 90 minutes, and the lodges take this ceremony very seriously.
Here is the process to become a Moose:
- Sign into mooseintl.org and at the top is Be A Moose. Hit that, then go down to the bottom and you will see the online application. Hit that. They will ask if you have ever been a member of the Moose. Then the membership application will show up.
- If you know a Moose and you want them to be your sponsor, put in their sponsor ID (membership #), First Name, Last Name.
- On the application, you have a choice of what lodge location. Example: Illinois. Then it brings up the towns in Illinois.
- Once you decide on the lodge, the dues will be stated for that lodge under the payment information.
- After all that and they approve you, you can download your membership card and also pay online when you need to renew.
There are Moose and Elk apps, and most lodges appear in apps like Campendium and Allstays.
My top 5 Moose Lodges
- Eureka, CA
- Homestead, FL
- Ocala, FL
- Winter Haven, FL
- Fanning Springs, FL
My top 5 Elk Lodges
- Provo, UT
- Tillamook, OR
- Puyallup, WA
- Pensacola, FL
- Brandon, FL
Sybil Burke and Bob Moser contributed research to this story.