The business of work camping. Getting started

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By Sam Suva

Hi, my name is Sam and I’m a work camper. My wife and I began work camping more than 10 years ago and we want to share our experiences with you, especially how to manage work camping in your full time RV lifestyle.

At first there are mostly questions. How much money will you need? How will you find the campground in the right location with work that suits you?

We needed to be realistic about our work experience versus the time and energy required for a particular job. And there were a slew of other questions, most of which we did not know before leaving.

When we decided to live in an RV full time, we had a long checklist of how to prepare. For example, we had the camping unit and the stuff we would bring with us. We needed to deal with our possessions we’d leave behind and, of course, where we’d find our work.


We packed the motorhome, pointed it toward Florida and hit the road. How did we know where to go? We didn’t, but we had some savings and a timetable to be out of the frozen North before winter. We accomplished the “get out of the North,” now we needed to find work.

Work Camp or Commute?
Commuter camping is driving the RV to an area you wish to work in, setting up at a campground then finding work outside of the campground. RVers who choose these jobs include oil and natural gas pipeline workers, nurses, law enforcement, construction workers and seasonal workers, like those who work the holiday season at Amazon warehouses.

A work camper tends to a pool at a KOA.

Work camping is working in a campground in a capacity that we were willing to learn or that we had some experience in already, such as office work, taking reservations, planning activities, decorating, working in the camp store, mowing lawns, operating light machinery, fixing plumbing and electrical and so on.

Without a tow vehicle, only having the motorhome, was a deciding factor for us to work camp. When we eventually did purchase a vehicle, we had already secured work as work campers, so we stuck with it. With my carpentry background and my wife’s hospitality and bookkeeping background, we fit in nicely.

In our upcoming articles here on RVtravel.com, we will share some of the first steps we took on our work camping journey — a condensed version of many years on the road.

The places we’ve stayed are beautiful: the sun glistening through the Spanish Moss in Florida, the rolling green hills in Ohio, the lake views in Alabama and the Rez in Mississippi to name a few. Being able to support ourselves while taking in this amazing scenery is a bonus. I hope our experiences can help you.

Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments below or contact me at samsuvarv(at)gmail.com.

See you down the road.


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Traveling Man
Traveling Man

Greetings Sam, I look forward to your perspective on work camping… What are your thoughts and experiences on how work campers “work” is exchanged for the site? In other words, your carpenter experience (if outside of work camping) is worth considerably more than say an office worker or retail seller in the campground store. (This would also apply to electricians, plumbers, painters, welders, etc). Have you been successful negotiating a shorter number of hours worked per week based on these skill sets? Its been suggested that determine a fair exchange, one would calculate the campground monthly rate against the hourly… Read more »

Sam
Sam

Hello Traveling Man, thanks! If one is applying to maintain the campground, there may be any type of utility repair or construction going on, how much time would be spent in “skilled” labor would need to be considered in the negotiation. If, for example, a campground were installing multiple new sites and needed an electrician or plumber, they would most likely hire that outside of the work campers. If the campground is specifically hiring for the trade I have experience in and I would be spending the majority of my time in that trade, then I would expect to be… Read more »

Dave
Dave

Looking forward to your information on work camping. Make sure you explain the difference between work campers and employees. Some major RV park companies now issue W-2 forms and you have to pay taxes on your work time. Real work campers never have to give out their Social Security numbers.

Sam
Sam

There is a difference, thanks!

Ronald Payne
Ronald Payne

Welcome Mr Sam Suva,looking forward to your experience and insight on work camping,both good and the not so good point.
Ron

Sam
Sam

Thanks for the welcome, I look forward to sharing our experiences with the RV travel community.

Edi
Edi

Are you always working? Shifts? Days?

Suzi
Suzi

In work camping each gig is different, we work 16 hours (Combined) for the site.

Sam
Sam

Hi, thanks for asking, these are excellent questions! Campground work is usually a small commitment, 15 hours a week or more depending on the popularity of the area or the amenities of the campground. It’s usually first or rarely second shift and it’s usually working some during the week with emphasis on the weekends.

Tom Gutzke
Tom Gutzke

My wife is disabled and must use a wheelchair. Besides the wheelchair greatly limiting her mobility, “work” is almost impossible because of arthritis in her hands. Do campgrounds just hire one person or must it be a “team” of two people?

Sam
Sam

Hello Tom, I am humbled by your enthusiasm and bravery. CGs will hire “singles” whether they have a partner or not. Look for ads asking for either one or a couple for a position and let them know your situation. Sometimes they want a couple for social reasons, not work.