A compilation of what we have learned after 8+ Years Work Camping
Ben and I have been work camping for over seven years now. And, we have had a variety of experiences. While it is not always financially lucrative it has afforded us many experience that we may not have otherwise had. It has been extremely rewarding for us which is why we have done it so many years. Let’s get into the details of our experiences with work camping and working seasonally.
Types of Work Camping Jobs
Typically work camping jobs are in the hospitality industry but not always. We have found work camping jobs in a variety of industries with a variety of work requirements as well as on the job training or entry level positions. Below is a list of jobs we have come across:
- Registration Agent (hotel check-in, campground check-in)
- Concierge, Activities Desk Coordinator
- Activities Coordinator
- Food and Beverage (cook, waitress/ waiter, barista, bar tender, dishwasher, busser)
- Tour Bus Driver/ Tour Guide
- Retail Clerk (gift shops, camp stores, gas stations)
- Marina Workers (boat mechanic, welder, boat instructor, fuel dock attendant, rental office staff)
- Grounds Crew (campgrounds, national parks, hotels)
- Maintenance (campgrounds, national parks, hotels)
- Raft Guide
- Amusement Park Worker (various operation jobs)
- Warehouse Associate
- Beet Harvest Laborer
- Housekeeper (campgrounds, hotels)
- Bathroom Cleaner (campgrounds, national parks)
The nice thing about having this many choices is that we have been able to choose jobs based on our strengths, physical ability, or the desire to learn a new skill. We have also been fortunate enough to have the ability to move and choose jobs based on the state of global health and economy to put ourselves in a situation we will be comfortable with rather than leaving our fate up to our employer. One of the best things about work camping has been the flexibility and options that has led to an addiction to the freedom of this lifestyle.
Types of Pay
Pay for work Camping jobs can vary and is not standard across all employers, jobs, or industries. One thing to remember is that minimum wage, average household income and labor laws vary from state to state. So, even though you may be working for the same parent company but move to a different location your compensation may change.
Compensation (This is NOT an all inclusive list)
- All Hours Paid + Free FHU Site
- Some Hours Paid, Some Hours in Exchange for FHU Site
- All Hours Paid + Minimal Fee for FHU Site (sometimes this is deducted pre tax from paycheck)
- All Hours Worked in Exchange for FHU Site
- All Hours Paid + Stipend toward FHU Site
Methods of pay vary dependent on employer however, we have had the following options, paper check, direct deposit, or paycard (this is like a debit card opened for you by the employer and then pay is direct deposited to the balance on the card).
If you want to hear about how working the Holiday rush in a warehouse paid off, check out the video below.
Perks of Work Camping
The pay may not always be overwhelming at these work camping jobs but the perks and benefits of working at a location rather than vacationing at a place can add significant monetary value. That is if you take advantage of those perks. The perks are not only of the monetary variety however. The experience gained from being in a new place, meeting new people, experiencing different cultures, landscapes, history, or learning a new skill are invaluable.
Perks could include:
- Free or Discounted Entrance into Area Attractions
- Retail Discounts
- Dining Discounts
- Free Meals
- Free Housing/ RV Space
- Free or Discounted Propane
- On the Job Training
- Live Like a Local
- Meeting Other Nomads/ Like Minded People
Types of Employers/ Jobs
There are two main types of employers; corporate and mom and pop (private). We have worked for both but tend to gravitate more toward small privately owned businesses. There are pros and cons to both options and there is not a single perfect employer for everyone. And, because they have different resources and business models each can offer different employment experiences. The reason we will work for corporate or private is based on what is going to best suit our needs at the time. And, there are several things we consider prior to selecting a job for the season. They include but are not limited to pay, hours, site costs, location, employment perks and bonuses, as well as employer ideals and workplace culture. The last two mentioned are a little tougher to get a feel for during the interview process but we do our best to ask the manager/ hiring manager questions that will help us understand if this is an employer and team that we would enjoy/ succeed in working with. That being said, determining your work camping style as described below can help pinpoint which type of employer will suit your needs best.
Work Camping Style
There are all kinds of people who participate in work camping and it isn’t one size fits all. Knowing yourself and your needs can help determine your work camping style and lead to a better fit when selecting jobs as well as a more positive and enjoyable experience. Because, if you’re not having fun, why do it?
Some things to consider when determining your work camping style:
- Full Time, Part Time, or Volunteer
- Free or Reduced Rent RV Site
- Fast Paced or Slow Paced Work Environment
- Employer Type: Corporate or Mom and Pop
- Indoors or Outdoors Job
- Time Commitment (length of contract)
- Venue (campgrounds, national parks, amusement parks)
- Front of House (guest facing) or Back of House Job (kitchen, maintenance, housekeeping)
The short answer is no skills required. Many of these jobs are entry level and the employer is willing to train you on the job. This has been one of the most rewarding parts of this lifestyle and making a career of work camping. While we do not claim to have mastered all of the different jobs we have done we have gotten a taste of many different jobs and it has led to some cool experiences we may not have otherwise had. Ben was able to drive an antique 1936 tour bus through a national park for two summers. And, I got to transport a house boat over 90 miles up lake on a two day trip. These are experiences we will remember the rest of our lives.
Ben does have a background in commercial driving which has helped in the job search and to transition into a driving job more easily. Having the skill set before hand is not a bad thing. It can help ease the stress of moving to a new place, starting a new job, and meeting new people. However, if you are looking to jump in and have a new experience, each of the places Ben has had a driving job has also had a training class to help new employees get their commercial driving license. And when we worked as boat instructors there were fellow employees who had never driven a boat before and were trained on the job.
If we really had to choose skills that are necessary for work camping, it would be the desire and ability to learn, grow and be flexible. The more willing to learn new things in our experience, the more opportunities have opened up to us.
How to Get Your Mail
This will mostly depend or your employer. Some employers allow you to send you mail to the company address with specific instructions to make sure that your mail gets to you (some will only accept packages). Other companies will not accept any mail on your behalf and you must open a local P.O. BOX. Asking the employer ahead of time what their mail policy is can be very helpful to prepare yourself if you need to retrieve your mail or have packages shipped prior to arriving at your work camping location.
Misconceptions, Cons, and Frustrations
- All Work Camping Jobs are Volunteer Only
- Some jobs are volunteer but not all. Every work camping job Ben and I have had has been paid. Your work camping style can help determine whether full-time, part- time, or volunteer work is right for you.
- You have to be Retired to Work Camp
- Not at all! Ben and I are certainly not retired and we have been able to make a career of work camping.
- The Job will be like a Vacation or it will be Easy
- This is a real job with real responsibilities and your employer is counting on you. They need to run their business and make money and you taking your job seriously is a part of that. We are not saying you can’t have fun but know when it is time to be serious and enjoy the fun moments.
- You Don’t have the Skill Set to do a Work Camping Job
- No Skill Set Required! As mentioned above in the required skill set section many of these jobs are entry level and the employer will offer on the job training.
- You have to be a Couple to Work Camp
- Ben and I were work camping as single individuals before we met. And, now as I am working remotely we had to find a job that would hire Ben as a single work camper. Those jobs are out there so you don’t have to be a couple to work camp.
We have come up with seven potential cons of work camping. Interestingly enough, we do not consider all of these cons and some of them we have either minimized the imposition or actually enjoy about work camping. This list comes from our experience as well as what we have heard from other work campers.
- Living Where You Work
- The downfall here is that you are never really getting away from work.
- This can also be positive though, because you likely will have little or no commute.
- Inconsistent Pay
- Pay rates and rent vary from location to location and employer to employer. So you cannot plan on being paid a certain way or a guaranteed amount from job to job. Nor can you count on your housing (site) agreement to be the same.
- You also will not be getting paid between contracts
- We budget to make sure that we have living expenses in the bank for those times we are between jobs.
- Lack of Health Care
- No health care benefits from employers because you are a temporary employee. Sometimes if you stay employed with the same company but just move locations you could be offered health benefits but we have not been able to make this work for us.
- Learning a New Job and Location Every Three to Six Months
- Ben and I love this part of work camping! But for some it is unappealing, frustrating, and stressful to constantly start over learning something new or learning the particulars of a new place.
- Employee RV Sites
- They are not going to be the premier location. And sometimes they are a little rough. This is not to say that they are all this way though. We have had some pretty awesome employee RV sites along the way. But we are not there for the site ambiance, we are there for the experience.
- Sometimes You Don’t Get Along with your Fellow Work Campers
- This is made harder because you are working together and living in close proximity. It’s going to happen that we find people in this world that rub us the wrong the way. But don’t let that discourage you because we have had seasons where the work camping team is like a big extended family and it makes for quite the memorable season.
- You Don’t have Time for Yourself During Peak Season
- The reason to hire seasonal help is to fill business demand during the busy season. Which means there will be a part of the season where the job is busy and you may be working overtime or extra days and this can lead to not having time for yourself. We deal with this by trying to prepare ourselves leading into the peak season by prepping meals ahead of time, eating well/ healthy, drinking lots of water, and getting sleep when possible. When we have done all of these things the height of the season is easier to get through.
There always seems to be some point in the season that some frustrations will come out at a work camping job. In our past experience this is usually associated with the peak season and after working long hours. Some of the frustrations can be sooner and often times your job may change the time frame. As usually, if you arrive early season to a front of house (guest facing position) the pace is slower and there is typically a slow transition into the busy season. However, if you are in a back of house job, for example maintenance like we were in the summer of 2021 you may hit the ground running. Regardless of the jobs we always seem to experience a honeymoon period of the work camping job. This is the time where everything is new and job/ company expectation are set. There even seems to be a vibe of excitement for both new and returning workers during this time. Once all of the newness and excitement wears off and company swag has been handed out it may be that you could experience some of the following frustrations. We want to acknowledge that we have had some of these frustrations and share what we do to try to counteract and minimize as many of these as possible.
- The person who hires you will not always be your direct manager
- This can be tough because an interview is a good way to get to know your boss and make a determination if you will be able to work with that person. If you do not get this opportunity it is important to communicate with your manager early on and figure out the best way to communicate and work with each other to alleviate frustrations.
- You don’t really know anything about the location you are going to
- Ben and I like the surprise of getting to a new place and discovering the area and the job without a lot of research ahead of time. We enjoy that excitement. On the other hand we have friends who love to do the research ahead of time and know everything there is to know about a place prior to getting there. There is not a single correct way to do this.
- Even if you do the research ahead of time though, there are still going to be employee areas and procedures that you will have no way of knowing prior to arriving at the job and not everything is always included in training. This can quickly cause frustration. Ben and I work really hard at being open to learning new things and asking questions when we don’t know something. We try to be patient with ourselves and our peers and be okay with not knowing everything by the end of day one or sometimes even by the end of the season.
- Not knowing the lingo
- Some companies can have long lists of acronyms, nicknames and abbreviations for locations and procedures.
- Speaking with someone and feeling like they are speaking a different language or only understanding half of what they are saying can make your head spin.
- Like the frustration above Ben and I have accepted that we wont know everything right away or even long into the season and have become more and more comfortable with asking when we don’t know something rather than being frustrated by it.
- No longer on RV time
- We have found that the level of difficulty in transitioning back into work and out of RV time can be more or less difficult depending on the amount of time between contracts.
- Travelling with little to no schedule and responsibility it can be tough to make the transition back into the work environment with schedules, expectations, and responsibilities.
- Ben and I find that if we can at least start setting the alarm in the morning and get up and in a routine at least a week prior to starting the next contract it can help with the transition.
- Job expectations
- It can be hard to get a good idea of what the job is from the job descriptions and duties described in the interview. And, they do not always align with reality.
- Having expectations for a job and then being let down when you find out the job is not what you thought it was going to be is very difficult to get over. For this reason Ben and I try to probe during an interview, thoroughly read job descriptions and even talk to multiple people when possible. We try to get as much information as we can so that we fully understand our job and there are little or no surprises when we get there. However, in many job descriptions or duties there is often one line that means you could be asked to do something way outside of your normal duties; “other duties as assigned.” Going in with the expectation that you may be asked to do tasks outside of your normal duties is also helpful in alleviating frustration.
- Some additional tips on how to minimize frustrations
- eat well
- pace yourself and get rest
- take care of your chores and your personal needs
- and go in with a good attitude
Where to find Work Camping Jobs
We have found work camping jobs in a variety of locales and industries from National Parks, State Parks, private campgrounds, warehouses and many more. But where have we found all of these jobs. Primarily it has been through two free resources. CoolWorks.com a job advertisement website for jobs in the seasonal industry including full time year round and seasonal contracted employment.
The other main resource we have used is workampingjobs.com. This resource has been great because it is all jobs with RV sites and they offer the option to filter jobs by job type, pay (including type of site compensation), and location (State).
The final and semi unexpected place to find work camping jobs is at an RV show. We were at the Quartzsite RV show in Arizona in January 2022 and there were many different employers there. Advertising their destinations but also advertising their work camping opportunities. We found many different opportunities and a few we had never heard of before.
6 Work Camping Tips
- In an interview gather as much information as possible – take the opportunity to interview the employer.
- Be prepared for the work camping site
- try to gather information about the location you are living in (distance to grocery store, emergency services, etc.)
- aAlso try to get an idea of what the site will be like. Will you have FHU (Full Hook UPs) and are the hookups located all the way to the back of the site or shared with another site? That way you will know if you need additional hoses or extension cord.
- Be on your “A” Game for peak season (the busy part of the season)
- eat well and prepare meals ahead of time
- sleep well
- don’t count on a regular schedule or getting home on time – make accommodations
- know your limitations and communicate those needs with your employer
- THIS is a JOB not a Vacation
- If you go in with the mentality that this is a job it will make it easier. However, you can still have fun while getting the job done.
- Not all work camping compensation is monetary and this can be awesome! Some examples of non-monetary compensation are:
- use of equipment
- just the convenience and cool factor of being in an awesome location
- excursions (horse back riding, whitewater rafting, boating)
- group discounts on activities
- VIP passes (dependent on the program it can get you into museums and other local attractions for free)
- Free or discounted RV site – having little or no housing expense can be huge compensation when your hourly wage is minimal as most of the jobs are entry level.
- Where do you want to be?
- The adventure and possibilities are endless
- set yourself up to meet your goals and get to the places you want to see
- Figure out what your work camping and travel styles are and use that information to pick your work camping jobs and locations.
- Make sure it is fun! Whatever your definition of fun is.