Working While Camping

What is Workamping?

Here’s a good definition from one adventurous couple. ” 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.

The leading source for news, opportunities and information about workamping is Workamping News, founded in the 1980’s by the Arkansas couple Greg and Debbie Robus. If you are new to the idea, whether a prospective employer or workamper, this is the best place to start. Their Facebook group, Workampers, has over 100k members representing campground owners, RV parks and other seasonal venues looking for workers as well as seasoned workampers, newbies and the curious seeking prospective opportunities. It’s a great forum to learn about the lifestyle, exchange ideas and dialogue about the issues. Most of our workampers have initially connected with us via this group.

Each workamping venue/opportunity is unique as are the workampers who seek them out. By and large, most opportunities are seasonal in nature and require workampers to have a late model RV.  Traditionally, workampers are non-paid volunteers who are required to work an average of 20 hours a week in exchange for an RV site and amenities. Typically, duties include cleaning the bathrooms and facilities, picking-up trash and debris, putting out reservation tickets along with general landscaping and site maintenance.  Obviously, larger venues require greater specialization and an expanded workforce. Some offer full-time work and pay accordingly.

In general, workamping is more a life style than it is a job.  As the name implies, it combines working and camping. If you are not a real fan of both working and camping, it really is NOT the life for you. Honestly, you can probably make more money with less effort at a desk job in the city or in a restaurant. So ask yourself: Do you like physically challenging labor, spartan living, being in nature and hanging around other kindred adventurers? Then, maybe it’s something worth considering. Remember, you gotta LOVE working AND camping or you’re bound to get disenchanted and disgruntled very quickly.

It’s good to set your expectations alright before embarking on the workamping lifestyle. It’s important to be honest and clear (with yourself and the prospective venue) about your skills, preferences and limitations. Deciding on the general region you are interested in can help narrow the options. Do you prefer rural or urban? Rustic or refined? Are you adverse to cleaning bathrooms? Do you hate bugs and can’t stand dirt?  The next biggest piece of advice is: Get Completely Debt Free Prior.  If you’re be shackled with expensive monthly RV and Truck payments as well as a host of other financial obligations, you’ll not only severely limit your workamping options but there’s a very good chance the experience will not go well.

Workamping at Greeter Falls Campground

At Greeter Falls Campground, our volunteer Workampers are provided a no-cost site/shelter (usually in the form of a free RV hook-up, utilities and access to amenities) in exchange for part-time responsibilities around the campground such as landscaping, maintenance, cleaning and hospitality.

We have dedicated a three acre section (Area E) for exclusive occupancy by our workampers and long-term guests, with only 8 RV sites and 2 tent sites. We call this designated area, “ABRI”, meaning a shelter or place of refuge. It is has it’s own bathhouse/laundry facility, dog park, study/community center equipped with google fiber WiFi on a newly installed “mesh” network.

Update: we have recently acquired a 2+ acre densely forested lot adjacent to Area E. We plan to develop private park, trails and “serenity spots” for the exclusive use of our workampers & long-term guests. Come help us build it out!

Volunteers are required to work a minimum of 20 hours. On occasion, a workamping couple will work together to cumulatively fulfill their responsibilities. Other times, one member will fulfill the work requirements. Some of our workamping families home school their kids and/or work remotely and thus alternate their workamper responsibilities.  We try to respect the individual needs and preferences of each member within our workamping community. But we also expect everyone to pull their own weight and contribute equitably.

Based upon the occupancy/needs of the campground, size and respective skills of workamper force and seasonal projects undertaken, some of our workampers put in more than 20 hours a week. In such cases, a weekly stipend equivalent to $10 per hour ($100 -$200 per week for 10-20 additional hours) is allotted.

We also provide other opportunities to make additional money.

  • One of our Camp hosts/Workampers cuts, splits, bundles and sells firewood and keeps 1/2 the revenue.  The other 1/2 goes to the campground to cover overhead, taxes, credit card fees, etc.
  • Another Camphosts makes and sells jewelry, rocks/minerals and walking sticks at our Campstore. Again, they get 1/2 the revenue from such sales.
  • One workamper couple has taken over the responsibility of taking campground trash to the local convenience center on a weekly basis in place of the service we were paying, and thereby receives the equivalent compensation.
  • We have recently purchased a food cart (with plans of developing a campground kitchen) to sell to campers and area hikers. Again with the idea of splitting gross revenues after food & supply costs.
  • We’re open to other ideas that benefit the campground and guests while helping to prosper our long-term workampers.

PLEASE NOTE: Paid work beyond the 20 required workampers hours for your site and side opportunities are not guaranteed or a “given” by any means. Further, hours dedicated toward money earning side jobs are NOT part of the 20 required workamper hours and can’t be “counted” toward fulfilling that obligation.

We also have (creating now) a workamper “tip” board (participation is optional not mandatory) posted at a prominent place on our main campus featuring a picture(s) of themselves, why they are workamping and what they do at the campground. Each laminated pic/bio will have a Venmo QR code so as to provide a way for our guests to show their appreciation and generosity to the respective workamper(s).

General Workamper Duties

The most fundamental needs of the campground always include:

  • Making sure the bathhouses and facilities are clean and stocked at all times
  • Ensuring that grounds and campsites are properly landscaped and maintained
  • Trash is picked up and reservation tickets are  delivered/picked-up
  • Serve campers needs and requests – in polite, orderly fashion

Depending upon the season, campground occupancy and workamping resources, additional services will be offered and responsibilities allocated accordingly. A rough organizational schema might look like this:

  • Camp Hosts: Operations Management. Responsible for overall booking and coordination; i.e. the total camper experience. Initiate Campground/Site Improvements. Assess Inventory & Reorder Supplies, Manage Store, Handle Reservations- Phone Calls, E-mails & Drop-ins. Security.
  • Clean-up: Daily Cleaning & Maintenance of Bathhouses (busy weekends need multiple times) and Facilities, Campground/Site Trash, Site Grooming and Upkeep, Post/Pick-up Reservation Tickets
  • Construction & Chopping: Cut & Bundle Firewood, General Campground Maintenance, Construction & Repair of Facilities, Site Improvements, Landscaping, etc.
  • Customer Relations: Answer Phones/Emails/Store for Camp Host on their day(s) off, Social Media (Photography, Copy, Posting), Oversee Activities/Crafts/Movies, Marketing and Outreach
  • Cooking/Catering: Menu Planning and Prep, Shop/Order Groceries, Cook, Serve & Clean-up for Daily/Weekly Community Meals, Order/Restocking of Day-Time Snacks.
  • Community: Service Projects to Altamont/Grundy County Government, Churches, Schools and Non-Profit Organizations as well as nearby State Parks and Natural Areas.
  • Coordination: Scheduling and Supervision of Work Crews – Interfacing with Camp Hosts. Quality Assurance, Mentorship/Leadership, Crew Planning, Coordination & Triage.

If you are interested in becoming a Greeter Falls Campground Volunteer; whether for a week, for a season or for a year please fill out our on-line volunteer application form.