Workcamping vs Camping

Thursday March 18th 2021

So this is the time of the year that so many campgrounds and workcampers are looking for people and jobs for the upcoming camping season. For example the campground we are working at this year has advertised for another couple to work with us, and as much as we do need the help, the end desire is that hopefully the new couple will return next year to fill the position that we will have held for three years. We had not intended on a three year stay when we excepted this position in March of 2018.

In fact work camping was never anything that we had ever thought we would do. After spending most of our working lives in the service industry, I for one didn’t have any real great desire to jump back into day to day grind of dealing with people. And when we first started to discuss this opportunity we were thinking more along the “Camp Host” type of a position, you know the people that guide you to your site, check you into the campsite, ensure the site is clean and ready … just the fluffy kind of stuff. These positions are real common in the States, as a couple you put in approximately 24 hours a week total per couple and for that you receive a full hook up site at the park and are usually part of a four couple rotation so you work three days and have four off to enjoy the park amenities or to go sight seeing, and while these placements are normally three months long in the States here in Canada they seem to be more seasonal, so a considerably longer commitment, like in Ontario they run around six months.

Now the first thing you must remember these should not really be looked at as jobs, they are supplementary income, in our case it is to just help make ends meet, fill in the gaps left by pension short comings, so the reduction of the site expense for a season is like a $4000 to $8000 value over a camping season, certainly not a living wage but still a nice little supplement, especially if it includes a few extra perks like Wi-Fi, laundry, and electricity as is usually an extra on sites with stays longer than a weekly rate. But a three month “Camp Host” position in a Florida campground can have a value of over $1000 US /per month for those 24 hours / week, that is a substantial amount of cost savings. And positions such as ours as “Camp Managers” that while have extra rewards, but they also have considerably higher demands. Our work week is five days on and two off and while the hours per day may vary, most exceed the 8 hour work day, don’t get us wrong we are not complaining, but our day does not start and stop like most people. We are on call most of the time, and we have many time sensitive jobs that need to be accomplished, such as chemical checks in the pool, night security rounds at 11 pm, and when you open the pool at 9 am and do security at 11 pm, it not your normal 8 hour work day.

Many work camping jobs are posted on dedicated websites that try to match workers with available positions, and they very widely around the country or are a couple of Canadian sites but there are more than a dozen in Canada alone depending on region and there are so many more for the States, even some of the large campground chains offer their own such as which is just Koa camp grounds or the larger sites like So there are lots of web sites to find work positions.

Not all work camping jobs are at campgrounds, here are a few of the more popular positions in the States. Sugar beet harvest, yes every fall hundreds of people are hired to work twelve hour days for the six to eight weeks during the beet harvest, good paying jobs that include a free campsite during the harvest, these jobs vary in pay by your ability and knowledge, and many work campers return year after year. Another big one is Amazon, many of their fulfillment locations hire extra people to pick and package orders before the holiday season, again long hard days, involves shift work but pays well and these positions fill within hours of being posted, especially at the more southern sites again great pay with a campsite provided, not everyone’s cup of tea but many campers make enough in those few months to get them through the year. And of course some of the most popular are the “national parks service”, these are opportunities to camp in some of the most amazing spots in the States, even many of the State park jobs offer amazing jobs. One that comes to mind is Lovers Key national park in Florida, they provide a campsite with some of the most beautiful beaches, manatee watching located on the gulf coast just south of Fort Meyers, it is strictly a day use park so during the winter months the park opens at 9 am and closes at 5 pm with lots of days to enjoy the wildlife and the sunsets and the positions are parking, shuttling, or gate keeping in a park, and with no public camping there … the opportunities are endless in both countries.

I would be amiss if I didn’t note that I have been noticing that a lot of these work camping opportunities are marred by some of the comments that are being made by people that have nothing better to do, than just have to set their mouth going or in these cases their fingers to work to leave disparaging comments. This seems to be at an all time high level, whether its because people are locked down because of the coronavirus or whether its just the anti everything group. These jobs are not for everyone that is for sure, but just because your not interested, not qualified, or not available to take the job does not give you the right to comment negatively. We have see comments about discrimination, slave wages, and the like, and by now you probably already know my thoughts on this crap, in my opinion our political correctness is out of control, and everyone is way too easily offended, and know with the anonymity of hiding behind their computer most of the crap that these people are typing they would not have the guts to say to people face to face. So to those employers posting these positions just ignore the stupid comments that the idiots make, I for one will continue to take as many of these fools as possible to task, and I find most as soon as they get a little negative feedback, tuck tail and crawl back into their hole, and to the commenters all I have to say to you is get a life, no one thinks your smart or special, accept possible your parents and if they actually read the crap you write, I wouldn’t bet on their support either … just saying.

So what have we concluded so far?

  • Work camping is not for everyone, for whatever reason
  • There are lots of various jobs, many outside of campgrounds
  • Can be an inexpensive way to see some very special areas
  • They can and will vary from no pay to very high paying
  • Best Suited for a couple to share the work and isolation
  • Sometimes can be very isolated from civilization
  • Sometimes can be very fulfilling sometimes not so much

Let me just relate a little story about our present position.

It’s February 2018 and Miss Laurie suggests we find a work camping job for the upcoming summer, we were in a RV Resort in Florida, and as much felt that we had got bargain for the site it was still beyond what our budget was set at. So I agreed and the search began, we actually applied for three different positions, one in Alberta, one in Saskatchewan, and one in Ontario. Miss Laurie was leaning for the one in Ontario as it was just a short drive to our families, so we sent off resumes and waited to here back. The position in Saskatchewan was working with some other full timers we knew previous from the Niagara area, it was a camp hosting position at a provincial park but the job was only for a ten week during the summer months, the compensation was a camp site with full hookups. So we passed on it hoping for one of the other positions to come available, the position in Ontario was at a campground just north of Hamilton and the one in Alberta was between Calgary and Edmonton but an with a view of the Rockies. The positions were totally different Alberta was a transient park with a store, miniature golf and a driving range, it had around fifty daily sites and besides site cleanup, maintenance of the miniature golf course were the main part of the job, basically four days on three off, May thru October. While the job in Ontario was to be the second couple for a co-managers position five days a week May thru October it was a seasonal park with seventy sites and with lots of work as they were going to be adding new sites.

So of course we stalked their websites to try to get a handle on what each park would or could offer us, both had advantages and both certainly had some disadvantages. But it was a kind of a wait and see thing. It was the Ontario park that we heard from first, they needed more information that what we had provided, we had no experience, so no references, our personal resumes were not campground driven so I put together a more detailed resume and sent it off again.

Next came a call from the Ontario campground to set up a phone interview for the position, but it came with some new twists, the position they wanted us for wasn’t at the park we had been looking at, no it was for another park they had up on Lake Huron. So now we had to do some research on this other park, it was a lot bigger almost two hundred sites, but they were seasonal, it was further from family, small town area so no Costco near by, but the park look beautiful right on the lake, so many things to think through.

So the phone call came through for the over the phone interview, and I think it went reasonably well. It’s kind of a strange process, as one that likes to be face to face with someone for an interview, it was difficult to know if they thought it went well or not. And I guess that was the case from both sides of the conversation, but after the call we knew a lot more of what the job curtailed, and it was obviously it was going to be a job. Two hundred sites is a large park and with any park comes lots of maintenance and repairs and it also involved showing and selling trailers in the park, along with many tasks that would be new to us. But after around an hour of conversation we were offered the job and we accepted the position to be the second couple to be co-managers for the park. It was left that they would get back to us with a start date and more details.

And of course the Alberta park called the very next day and offered us a position at that park as well. Crazy went over a month from submitting resumes and not hearing anything about to having two job offers the same week. So did we make the right choice? As we are preparing for our third year as park managers, I guess both sides must be reasonable happy with the situation, but as we start into our last year we have already started looking at positions that are available in western Canada as we plan to explore the western provinces for the next few years.

Again work camping is not for everyone, but as a retired couple we have found it very fulfilling, we have meet so many wonderful people, we have become good friends with the owners, the work experience should do us well in the future as we continue rolling down the road.

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