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Work camping: Why now is the time to try it

By Julie Chickery
Work camping, also referred to as workamping, is a great way to earn an income and reduce your expenses as a full-time RV traveler. One of the widely known forms of work camping is “volunteering” at a state or national park campground in exchange for a free campsite. However, the world of work camping is vast and there are many opportunities to earn a full-time income as you travel the country. 

In this weekly column, I’ll highlight work camping opportunities, compensation packages, and other benefits associated with the practice. 

But let’s start with the advantages of work camping and why this might be the best year ever to try it. 

Overcrowded campgrounds

Whether you choose to volunteer at a state or national park in exchange for a site or work for pay at an RV resort, one thing you can be sure of is that you will have a place to park your RV. We’ve all heard how RV sales are through the roof over the last year. Doesn’t that leave you wondering how you’ll ever secure a reservation at campgrounds in the most popular areas? That’s where work camping can come in handy. 

Dreaming of staying in Yellowstone National Park? How about spending the winter in Florida? Work camping can help make that happen. 

Slow travel

One thing I learned over six years of full-time travel is how much more enjoyable it is when you take your time and fully enjoy a destination. I can’t even imagine spending a few mere days or even a week at Yellowstone and checking it off the list. Think about how much exploring you could do if you were there for an entire summer! And as a work camper, you’d learn so much about the area as well. You’d know the hidden gems and be located in a place to seek out the best sunrises or sunsets. 

Reducing expenses

With the demand for campgrounds increasing, we know prices will increase too. Many RV resorts already have seasonal pricing where the “high” season costs more. Work camping can help defray those expenses. Many work camping positions offer a free site. Others provide a reduced price site and additional pay. Still others have discounts on the park’s restaurants or local area attractions. 

Use your skills or develop a new hobby

I’ve heard some folks say they’d never take a work camping job because they don’t want to clean toilets. Well, I don’t blame them. But there are many other positions. Work camping can provide you with an opportunity to use your skills and even develop a new hobby. 

The great thing is that companies who hire work campers are looking for general skills. In other words, you don’t need to have industry experience. Customer service, maintenance, training, and management experience are always in demand. Even more important is a strong work ethic and a willingness to learn.  

Is there something that you’ve always wanted to do when you had more time? You can combine that new hobby with work camping. For example, if you’d like to learn more about bird watching, you could work camp at a national wildlife refuge in southern Texas or the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Love making people smile? Then try your hand as an Activity Director at a snowbird RV resort. The possibilities are endless. 

Getting started

The first thing you’ll want to do if you are interested in work camping is to start looking at job postings and see if anything tickles your fancy. Next, develop a resume that addresses the requirements of the job. Workamper® News is an organization that can help you with both. You can also read reviews from other work campers or watch videos like the one below that are packed full of pointers.

And stay tuned here at RV Travel! We’ll be sharing more on this topic.

##RVT999

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Donna
5 months ago

We spent last winter at our first work camping job at a resort in Yuma. We each worked 28 hours, one week a month, in exchange for our site with utilities, cable & wifi. We’ve signed a contract to return this fall. And yes, we cleaned the bathrooms. No big deal!

Gary Broughton
5 months ago

We worked in Jackson Hole for about 16 summers, starting in 97. Got a site and pay and lived on one paycheck all summer. Started out in office, plus some mowing and bathrooms. Our idea was to work somewhere in the mountains and see wildlife. We had a good time driving in Tetons and going up to Yellowstone.
Worked with retired Postmaster, Doctor, factory workers, truck driver, teachers, nurses, most to just slow down in life or to spend summer in a nice place.

Ken S
5 months ago

Always sounded so idyllic. Then I started reading Nomadland, and workamping took on a totally different feel.
Sounds more like slave labor for corporations and sub-contractors that are focused on their bottom line and care nothing about workampers.
Love to hear about the actual experiences of those who have done it.

Steve
5 months ago
Reply to  Ken S

I think every job has good and bad situations. I suggest you join Workampers (Workamper.com) and you can get a much better idea about the prospect of this type of work.

Last edited 5 months ago by Steve
pursuits712
5 months ago
Reply to  Steve

I am not telepathic, but I started working on a short article a few days ago about this topic…even began it with a reference to Nomadland (which I enjoyed immensely, but more from a humanistic viewpoint than a work camping one). Glad to see the topic appearing here.

We have managed a campground, hosted, volunteered, and done almost every campground job imaginable. We have loved some, liked some and a few were not our cup of tea. But the only way to know is to get out there and experience it for yourself.

I hope one thing this topic will explore and explain more is work camping vs. volunteering. Some do it with minimal compensation — to give back and provide a service to the community; some do it because they cannot afford to RV otherwise. The camping experience (not RVing – those are also two different things to me) should be something accessible to everyone. How one achieves that experience is a book unto itself.

Perhaps one of the most important lessons gained from volunteering/work camping is the view from the service provider’s perspective. One Forest Service Manager told us that in his district alone, volunteers provided 15 FTE (full time equivalent) positions — put the $$ to that and see the value you can make to an already-strapped department budget.

Try it — you may like it. If not, your camper has a steering wheel and there are always more destinations ahead!