According to an article in Smithsonian Magazine “Drivers began making camping alterations to cars almost as soon as they were introduced. The first RV was Pierce-Arrow’s Touring Landau, which debuted at Madison Square Garden in 1910.” So camping in a vehicle has a long tradition and led to the evolution of modern-day RVs.
When the first RVers decided to work while camping to support their travels certainly isn’t documented, the decision most likely occurred in the nascent years of RV travel. To support a burning desire to see and experience what awaited the traveler along the growing network of roads would have required finding whatever odd jobs could be had unless one was wealthy in the first place.
Today, work camping is generally understood to be working at seasonal jobs in exchange for your campsite, including utilities, or at varying levels of compensation in addition to your campsite. To a lesser degree, there are also full-time work camping positions available.
Most of the jobs revolve around working at private campgrounds, volunteering at National, Forest Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, State, County, and Municipal campgrounds. In addition, many people work camp by taking jobs as Oil Field Gate Guards, seasonal warehouse jobs with companies such as Amazon.com, harvesting beets, amusement parks, and working at temporary locations selling fireworks, pumpkins, and Christmas trees. There are also many other minor job variations that meet the definition of work camping.
You may also enjoy reading an article by Camping World at this A Quick Guide to Work Camping link.
A work camper is anyone who accepts and works at one of the seasonal or permanent positions as described above. Although many people envision the typical work camper to be a retiree, there is a strong trend for younger people choosing the full-time RVing work camper lifestyle to support their desire to explore and experience the vast wonders found along the highways.
Work campers include retirees, couples, single women, and single men. The ages for people working these types of jobs range from early adulthood all the way up to elderly retirees.
Nearly all work camper jobs will require that you have your own RV. There are a few work camper jobs that include on-site housing.
2.What is a “Workamper”?
A workamper is the same as a work camper, the only difference being that workamper is a portmanteau word where work and camper are blended into one word combining the meaning of both words.
According to Workamper News, a company that sells a subscription service that lists work camper jobs, the company coined and trademarked the word “Workamper”. The KOA campground chain also has a long history of using the term workamper to describe the jobs offered at their campgrounds.
The terms Camp Host and Park host generally have the same meaning. Typically, most of the camp host positions are considered volunteer work and are usually at National, State, County, and Municipal campgrounds. Most of these positions require you to work at least 20 to 25 hours per week and include a free campsite with most or all utilities. On occasion, a stipend will be included.
Tasks expected of the volunteer encompass a wide range including office work, greeting visitors, collecting fees, grounds maintenance, repair work, sales, cleaning various facilities including bathrooms, interacting with and assisting guests, and many other varied duties.
As a general rule, you will need to have your own RV to qualify for a camp host job.
Qualifications needed to be a work camper or camp host will vary greatly, and are often quite lenient in regard to work experience, depending on the specific needs of the employer. A sizable percentage of the jobs offered will be open to on-the-job training.
Whatever prior work skills you’ve accumulated will likely meet the needs of a large number of employers looking for work campers. Even if your work experience doesn’t match the employer’s needs, don’t be afraid to ask if learning on the job will work for them. It isn’t uncommon that the employer can’t find just the right person, so you could become the person they needed.
Obviously, unless the employer explicitly states that on-site housing accommodations are provided, the vast majority of work camper jobs will require that you have your own RV and transportation.
There is an excellent chance that you’ll need to provide a resume and references. Just because you’ve never worked at a campground doesn’t mean that you should be discouraged. Every business is looking for people with a good work ethic and positive outlook and will be willing to train good people.
An email address that you monitor regularly is valuable for quick communication with the employer. Many companies want their first contact with you to be through email. It is best to have a telephone contact number where the prospective employer can contact you for interviews and give you the opportunity to discuss any questions you have and go over any special needs you have that the employer may need to accommodate.
Fortunately, yes, there is an abundance of work camper jobs that compensate you for your hours. The downside is that many of the jobs only pay for a limited number of hours worked; a forty-hour workweek may be difficult to find. With working couples, depending on the number of paid hours and a free campsite and utilities, you can make often enough money to get buy unless you’re crisscrossing the country for jobs. For single people, you may have to have supplemental income to make ends meet.
You’ll be happy to know that there are jobs that do not require you to own an RV, but you’ll usually have to provide your own transportation to the job site. There are employers that provide housing for employees. Read the job descriptions carefully to understand what you’ll be getting and what charges you’ll incur for housing and food. Most of the housing and food are offered to you at a discounted rate.
A sample of destination jobs with housing provided include:
•DNC Parks & Resorts at the Grand Canyon
•DNC Parks & Resorts at Yellowstone – Yellowstone General Stores
•DNC Parks & Resorts West Yellowstone, Montana
•DNC Parks & Resorts in Gardiner, Montana
•DNC Parks & Resorts at Sequoia National Park
•One of the best resources for finding jobs where housing is included is through CoolWorks. You’ll need to dig through the listings to find jobs that include housing.
At any given time, there are literally thousands of work camper and camp host jobs open that you can apply for. Naturally, we hope that you will use HappyVagabonds.com as a primary source, but we may not necessarily have a job listing that meets your needs.
Below are a number of resources for you to explore during your job hunt:
•The very best way to locate camp host jobs with the National Park Service, US Fish, and Wildlife Service, US Forest Service, US Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Land Management, and other organizations is to visit the US Volunteer Portal located at www.volunteer.gov. To quickly narrow your search when you arrive at the website, scroll down the webpage until you see “Find Opportunities By State” with a United States map directly beneath the title. Click on the state you’re interested in and you’ll find all the current job openings for that state.
•State Parks – To locate camp host positions at different state parks will require more work on your part. A good starting point is to visit our Volunteer Camp Host Opportunities in State Parks web page and look for the links to the states listed. We’ve found that the links that each State provides is a moving target because they change page locations frequently, so please let us know if one of the links is broken so we can keep the resource up to date and useful for you.
•There are a number of companies and organizations that manage multiple campgrounds spread over a wide range of states, or within a state. Below is a list of the companies we are aware of, but please let us know if you’ve found one we’ve missed so we can make this resource more complete.
- Lower Colorado River Authority in Texas
- Recreation Resource Management has campground host job openings across multiple states. Visit their web page at https://camprrm.com/jobs/ for application information. To see what parks they manage click on the Parks link on their menu at the top of the web page.
- KOA is a well-known campground chain that hires work campers. A note of caution: in order to access their jobs list you will have to purchase a “Work Kamper Membership” currently priced at $35 which has to be renewed each year. Visit their jobs page at https://workatkoa.com.
- American Land & Leisure operates campgrounds over multiple states. Learn more about what their camp host positions offer by visiting their web page at http://www.americanll.com/job-description.
- CLM Services also manages campgrounds in many states. To view their current list of work camping positions visit their web page located at https://www.clm-services.com/employment/job-openings.
- The Cradle of Forestry has work camper positions in multiple states and you can view information about their jobs at https://cfaia.org and click on the Employment link at the top of the web page.
- Hoodoo Recreation operates campgrounds within the Deschutes, Gifford Pinchot, and Wenatchee National Forests. To learn about their campground host jobs visit their employment page at http://hoodoorecreation.com/hoodoo-recreation-employment.
- Rocky Mountain Recreation Company offers positions for campground hosts. You can learn more about their camp host requirements and compensation by visiting their web page located at https://rockymountainrec.com/contact/job-opportunities.
- Recreation Resource Management of America operates campgrounds in Arizona, Colorado, and Idaho. To see what openings are available visit http://www.rrmofa.com/Employment.asp.
- Scenic Canyons Recreational Services manages Forest Service campground facilities throughout the Western United States. Visit their application page at https://www.sceniccanyons.com/apply-here.html.
Additional websites that supply work camper and camp host job listings are below:
•Work Camper News provides a subscription service to see their list of work camping jobs. Their most recent prices range from $19.95 per year up to $67.00 per year.
•Workers on Wheels
When all your efforts fail to locate a work camper job at your preferred destination, all is not lost. Peruse your favorite campground directory, do Internet searches, and find out whether there are any privately owned campgrounds, National Park, State Park, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Corps of Engineers, County or Municipal campgrounds near your desired destination. Except for many US Government facilities, you should be able to call, email, or write to campgrounds on your list and discover whether anyone is accepting applications. If none of those sources yield a job you can always contact local businesses and see if they hire seasonally.
•One of the major attributes sought in candidates for an employer’s work camping or camp host position is a positive attitude and a willingness to be flexible and willing to perform tasks that weren’t in the initial job description. Usually, such requests are short in duration and your employer will remember that you helped them cover the inevitable hotspots that occur in the normal day-to-day running of a business. People who are inflexible and become belligerent in such situations probably aren’t going to be welcomed back for the next season.
•Before you crank the engine and go forth to that distant job, keep in mind that you are not only investing lots of time getting to the campground’s location, you also have a sizable financial investment in the cost to get there including the wear and tear on your motorhome or tow vehicle and RV.
•Be crystal clear about what the employer expects from you and what you expect from them. Documenting expectations in an email about what has been agreed upon by both parties will go a long way toward settling honest lapses in memory by either party. Make sure that expectations on your part such as hours worked, whether the campsite is free and exactly what utilities are included at no cost to you, whether the employer is OK with you working additional hours offsite, campground amenities that you will be allowed to use at no cost and, critically, know exactly what the campground expects of you.
•Again, keep in mind that it isn’t unreasonable for an employer to ask for a temporary departure from the duties you agreed upon. It isn’t uncommon for either, or both, the employee and the employer to villainize each other when the terms of employment are vague at best. Avoiding a volatile meltdown over imagined wrongs is best avoided. On the other hand, some employers are just jerks and there’s little you can do other than biding your time until the gig is complete, or pulling up stakes and moving along immediately.
•We hope that you find the resources available on our website useful. If you have the opportunity, please help other people find us by recommending our website to your friends by mentioning and linking to our website from your online social media accounts, forums, website, and other venues.