Workamping 101

Everything RVers Need To Know About Work Camping
Ben McMillan sitting at a picnic table at their workcamping site

Most RVers have probably heard of "workamping," but what exactly does it mean? Workamping or work camping is broadly defined as a combination of working and camping at the same location for a short-term or seasonal period. Workampers usually receive more than one type of compensation, ranging from a free or discounted campsite to free utilities to fully paid wages. Work camping is usually offered at established campgrounds and RV parks, but some state and national parks will offer volunteer exchanges. This means that RVers can do simple, unpaid volunteer work (trash pick-up, trail maintenance, monitoring live camera, etc.) in exchange for things like free propane, utilities, firewood, or unlimited access to the park.

Here we explain who can workamp and why RVers might want to consider it. We’ll also share a variety of workamp jobs and opportunities, and how you can discover ways to make some extra money on the road.

Who Can Workamp?

The short answer is that anyone can workamp. If you have an RV and want to travel or camp for an extended period of time, then workamping is a great option to help cover your stay and provide some extra income. And with the wide variety of workamping jobs available, there is likely an opportunity that can fit your needs and be something that you enjoy doing. There are even some workamping opportunities—like at Yellowstone National Park—that will provide housing and meal plans for a nominal fee.

How Do Workampers Get Paid?

Workamping can suit a number of different RV lifestyles, and is a great way to travel the country without draining your finances. Much like a normal job, workampers can receive a regularly-scheduled paycheck throughout the duration of their work contract. Some workamp jobs are paid hourly, while others offer a set salary. You can think of workamping like a standard job, except you live and work on the same premises (or very close to it).

What Are Some Of The Benefits Of Workamping?

Workamping is offered all across the country, so if you really want to stay in a particular area or region of the country, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find a workamp job. As a workamper, you can experience the vibrant fall colors in the Northeast, the cool summers in the Pacific Northwest or the mild winters in the South. And you can make money while doing it! Another thing to keep in mind is that most workamp jobs are short-term. So, if you love the job, you can consider returning next season. But if the job wasn’t for you, it’s only temporary and, at the very least, you’ve gained some good experience.

What Are Some Examples Of Workamp Jobs?

As we mentioned, most workamp opportunities are short-term and typically last about six weeks or less. Some campgrounds and RV parks do offer more permanent working situations but these are less common. Some popular short-term opportunities include gate guarding, warehouse work, seasonal rentals (boats, fishing gear, skis, etc.), and camp hosting. Camp hosting is one of the most prevalent workamp jobs but often requires a longer commitment depending on the campground’s operating season. For example, parks and campgrounds in Florida can stay open all year, while places in Maine may only be open from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Here are some examples of workamp jobs and what they offer:

Camp Hosting

Camp hosting, or being a campground host, means living and working at a campground and doing a variety of different things. Camp host responsibilities can include maintenance work around the property, clerical or front desk operations, checking guests in and guiding them to their sites, planning activities, acting as a lifeguard or security guard, and general management. Most camp host positions are seasonal but may become permanent depending on the location and if the campground is open year-round.

Gate Guarding

Another popular workamp option is being a gate guard at a large facility, factory or oil field. This means monitoring everyone who passes in and out of the gate and ensuring they are allowed to enter and at what times. In our experience, being a gate guard is typically a six week commitment and is paid as a contractor rather than an employee. Average daily rates can range from $150 to $175, but two people are required to work around the clock for seven days straight. Some companies pay more depending on how remote the location is and how busy the gate gets. While working at a gate guard, you won’t have to pay to stay on-site in your RV. And while you likely won’t have full hook-ups, most companies will provide you with a generator, fuel, propane, a water tank, and a honey pot to empty your tanks.

Sugar Beet Harvest

A very popular job among RVers is working the Sugar Beet Harvest in Montana, Minnesota and North Dakota. This harvest happens every year and typically lasts between two weeks and one month, depending on the weather. Some RVers can make $2,500 in two weeks, including overtime. On top of wages, workers also get a free campsite. However, the days can be long and the work can be tiresome. Harvesting shifts can last multiple hours and require significant time out in the fields doing manual work. If you can’t make it to the Sugar Beet Harvest, there are plenty of similar, seasonal farming jobs, including fruit picking and livestock work. Websites like Picking Jobs are a great resource to find other harvest season opportunities.

Other Workamp Jobs

Have you ever noticed that a firework stand, pumpkin patch or Christmas tree lot can seemingly show up overnight? The folks that set up and help run these seasonal stands are often workampers that stay on the property in an RV. Jobs can include set up and tear down, security, payment and sales, and general assistance (like placing the Christmas tree on top of your car). These jobs typically last between one and four weeks and offer a set amount of pay. Some amusement parks even have seasonal workamping opportunities!

Tips For Finding The Right Workamp Job

  1. Know your individual capabilities and only accept jobs that you feel qualified for.

  2. Get a full understanding of working conditions and expectations from the location prior to accepting the position.

  3. Agree upon the hours paid and any site allowances prior to arrival. Sometimes bonuses are negotiable upon completing your contract (especially if a campground or RV park had a really busy season).

  4. Remember that even if your hourly or salaried pay is lower than expected, additional perks and site allowances should be factored in for the full monetary benefit of the job.

  5. If your workamping job offers a free campsite or site allowance, make sure you check if this is for a single person, couple or family. Some campgrounds only need to fill a single position and, therefore, will only offer a campsite for a single RVer. If just one person in your party is working, make sure the rest of the party can stay at the same campsite for free as well.

Travel Trailers

Travel trailers are the most popular type of non-motorized RV. No doubt you’ve seen one pulled down the highway hitched to a car or pickup. Travel trailers come in all sizes including tiny jellybean-shaped models with a chuckwagon kitchen in the rear to the massive house-on-wheels with picture windows and a sliding glass patio door.

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