Workamping, a contraction of "work camping" and also known as camp hosting, is a form of camping in the United States involving campers both working and living at a campground. Workampers generally receive compensation in the form of a free campsite, usually with free utilities (electricity, water, and sewer hookups) and additional wages. Workamping positions typically appeal to people who enjoy the outdoors and plan to be staying at a campground for an extended period of time. Many workamping positions are filled by couples who can share the labor, though having a partner is not a requirement. Workamping is particularly popular among retirees.
While year round workamping jobs do exist, the majority of workamping positions are seasonal—from March/April/May to September/October in northern states or at high altitudes, and during the winter for southern climates, including Florida, Texas and the Southwest.
Volunteer workamping positions
Volunteer camp hosts trade their labor for a free campsite, without any additional compensation. Because of minimum wage restrictions set by the Fair Labor Standards Act, volunteer camp host positions are generally limited to government-run campgrounds. The National Park Service, National Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Corps of Engineers all use workampers to staff many of their campgrounds.
Volunteer camp hosts are typically expected to work 10 to 20 hours per week. Their responsibilities can vary by location, but typically these camp hosts collect fees from campers, help campers find available sites, answer questions, and watch for problems. Camp hosts often are given a well-marked and highly visible site near the front of a campground, so visitors can find them easily. Though camp hosts may only have to work a few hours total during the day, this work can be spread out in short increments from early in the morning to late at night. Camp hosts must be comfortable having strangers knocking at their door at odd hours. The average workamper would describe himself or herself as a "people person" who likes to meet and interact with others.
Paid workamping positions
Most paid camp host positions are with private campground operators, who either own the campground or operate the campground under contract with a government entity. Paid camp hosts are responsible for all the duties expected of volunteer hosts, but also are generally expected to clean bathrooms, remove trash from the public areas, and perform light maintenance (such as painting, raking and mowing). Paid workamping jobs can demand up to a full forty hours per week of labor, though most require less, particularly when a host couple splits the work.
Most workampers enjoy traveling to and living in new places. As a result, workampers may work in one campground in the summer and a different campground in the winter. Some workampers return to their home for part of the year, while others have sold their homes and live on the road all year long. While workampers tend to spread out in the summer time, many congregate in the winter months along the Colorado River in Nevada, Arizona, and California. The towns of Lake Havasu City, Quartzsite, and Yuma, Arizona become central gathering points in the winter.
Finding a camp host position
Campers can find camp host positions one of three ways
- Most often, campers will ask camp hosts in campgrounds that they enjoy visiting for information on camp hosting
- Prospective workampers can look for classified ads in camping-related newspapers or by searching online for terms like "workamping" or "camp host jobs".
- Many large employers of camp hosts participate in job fairs in the winter months in large winter camping areas such as Quartzite.