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Workamping, a portmanteau, blending "work" and "camping," is a form of tent or RV (primarily) camping involving singles, couples or families who work part-time or full-time. The people who are Workamping can be called Workampers. The term "Workamper" was coined by and is a registered trademark of Workamper News. A Workamper combines part-time or full-time paid or volunteer work with RV or tent camping. 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 can include working at campgrounds, RV resorts, mobile home communities, Christmas tree or pumpkin sales lots, amusement parks, motels/hotels, national parks, state parks, U.S. Army Corps of Engineer locations, national monuments, lighthouses, retail stores, food service, sales and more. 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.
But some workamper jobs are low-paid, hard work, and some workampers travel around the country because they can't find work any other way.
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 camp hosts generally 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 work-campers to staff many of their campgrounds. Work campers can also volunteer their time at charitable organizations like education facilities, children's homes/camps, animal shelters, etc.
Volunteer camp hosts who work at campgrounds 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 both be described as "people persons" who likes to meet and interact with others.
Paid Workamping Positions
Paid Workamping jobs can demand up to a full 40 hours per week of labor, though most require less, particularly when a couple splits the work. Paid positions can be at amusement parks, campgrounds, RV resorts, motels/hotels, tourist locations that have retail areas, web site sales fulfillment centers, etc. Retail companies recruit Workampers for full and part time sales and management positions, some earning commissions in addition to their base pay. Commissions can also be earned with sales jobs, and working at a Christmas tree/pumpkin sales lot. Most employers of Workampers have RV hookups on site, or they will provide hookups at a close-by rv park or campground.
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).
Most Workampers enjoy traveling to and living in new places. As a result, Workampers may work in one location in the summer and a different location 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. These types of Workampers are often called Fulltimers. While Workampers tend to spread out in the summer time, many congregate in the winter months along the Colorado River in Nevada, Quartzsite, Arizona, California, Slab City and the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. The towns of Lake Havasu City, Quartzsite, and Yuma, Arizona become central gathering points in the winter.
Finding Workamping Jobs
There are numerous resources available online to find workamping jobs. Some sites require registration and payment before you can see the job listings, such as Work at KOA and Workamper News, yet other very popular sites allow you to see job listings completely free, such as WorkampingJobs.com and Workers On Wheels. These sites advertise positions of all types: camp host, maintenance, housekeeping, office help, management, retail, grounds keeping, activities, pool maintenance, gate guard, security, general labor and more. No matter what type of position you are looking for, you can find a great workamping job at any of these sites. For even more options, a quick search on your favorite search engine will do the trick.
- I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave: My brief, backbreaking, rage-inducing, low-paying, dildo-packing time inside the online-shipping machine. By Mac McClelland, Mother Jones, March/April 2012