By Sam Suva
Work camping involves multi-faceted tasks, a “many hats” affair with office, maintenance, grounds and technical abilities all blurring together. Campground owners, in our experience, are seldom involved in the day-to-day of the business of campgrounds so the staff are its “partners” and the results can be chaotic at first.
The campgrounds we work at are 150-plus sites with a water feature and some other amenities. At anything smaller it’s difficult to find paid work. After all, the majority of campgrounds have seasons in the United States, where the grass grows and the summer season picks up a flurry of weekend business. No worries, very quickly the staff begin to meld and to work together: The mature assist the new ones and the new ones trust their guidance.
Office staff have had to clean bathrooms, rentals, laundry and recreation halls, as well as troubleshoot WiFi and entry gate issues. Office staff need to understand campers enough to determine if a 10-year-old unit is acceptable for the campground or if it has too much damage to allow it access. Sometimes outside staff have to answer phones and fill in while the office staff take care of an issue, fill out paperwork or handle problems in the campground with the campers.
Understanding the ins and outs of a campground will help to be able to have the right tools for the job. While most tools apply to outside work, some “tools” are the knowledge and experience that office staff bring with them.
What we mostly use:
Working as outside staff:
1. Portable air compressor with hose and attachments. It is surprising how many campgrounds do not have a portable air compressor.
2. Ratchet and socket set, in metric and standard, in 1/4″, 3/8″ and 1/2″. And 3/4″ is a bonus but we don’t use them often.
3. Wrenches, metric and standard, from 10 mm or 3/8″ to 1 1/4″, at least.
4. Hammers of various kinds: framing, sledge, dead blow, rubber – these can come in very handy.
6. Nut drivers
7. Multi meter, digital meter that reads AC and DC volts, and an amp meter comes in handy.
8. Ratchet straps
9. Multi-tool. I can’t begin to overstate how handy a Gerber or Leatherman multi-tool is. Don’t go cheap on this!
10. Tool box, bucket, carry-all. Something that totes the stuff so as not to get it confused with any others’ stuff.
That list could go on for awhile, but that is a good start.
Working as inside staff:
1. Proficient with PCs, Macs and Android. Able to navigate programs, open and use them proficiently, save and close programs, and operate social media on those devices.
2. A good understanding of word processors like MS Word, Word Perfect, Pages, Android Office or Open Office. By having a working knowledge of one or two of these you can “fake it till you make it” in the others.
3. Working knowledge of Excel or similar spreadsheet programs.
4. The desire to learn reservation software. We have not been to a campground that did not have a computer software reservation program. The days of handwritten receipts and cash payments are all but gone.
5. Managing people. This means motivating, comforting and directing both staff and campers. This is not the most important item, but it’s right up there.
6. Collecting money. Not just taking money at the beginning of a lease, but also collecting when the “sad stories” start. There are ways to handle these situations correctly, along with ways that will get us and the campground in trouble. Keeping up with these practices will ensure the best results, most profit and least amount of headaches.
After awhile, we had the feel for the full-time work camping life and settled in for the long haul. Settling in to a work environment and only staying for a few months is fresh and invigorating; It keeps things moving. It can be long and arduous and it can be a breeze with everyone pulling for us. Mostly, it is up to us to make the environment the best it can be, and as far as that is our responsibility, we accept it, with apologies for the learning moments and with victorious fanfare for the truly golden moments when the team comes together in harmonious splendor.
Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments below or contact me at samsuvarv(at)gmail.com .
See you down the road,
Sam Suva and his wife are work campers. They began work camping more than 10 years ago and have spent a lot of time working as they traveled. In this new weekly feature, they will share their experiences with you, with an emphasis on how to incorporate work camping into a full time RV lifestyle.