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Volunteer Campground Hosting – Is it Right for Me?

Life as a volunteer campground host –


This article is about volunteer campground hosting.  In the film Nomadland, Fern, Dave, and Linda May were paid employees of Badlands National Park.  Those jobs usually differ from volunteer positions.

There are many kinds of volunteer work for RVers at local, state, and national parks!

Some non-profits and private businesses also have volunteer opportunities for RVers.

Many volunteer positions include a free campsite with full hookup.

Campground host sites are usually larger and nicer than the regular campsites.

This article is about volunteer campground hosting.  My husband Steve and I have done it off and on over the last six years.

Our volunteer campground hosting jobs have also included working in visitor centers, fee booths, helping with events, doing emergency maintenance, hosting fair booths – lots of different things.

It’s a great way for retired RVers to get lots of exercise!

Steve manning Lake Kaweah booth at the Tulare County Fair, 2018

It’s important to know why you want to volunteer – and knowing what is right for you.  Everybody is different.

Some RVers volunteer to socialize with other volunteers.  To feel the comradery of being part of a group.

Some volunteers want to keep their private time private.  They seek the quiet and solitude of living in nature.

Some want to volunteer in their home state.  Others want to see new sights and blaze new trails.

Some want a variety of activities.  Others are more comfortable with a routine.

If you are a solo nomad – it’s up to you what will work.

If you are half of a couple or live with your family or friends – you need to spend some serious time talking about what would make each of you happy – and what would make each of you unhappy.


Campground hosting –


The first thing to know is that every campground is different.

Your duties will vary by campground.  And often, they will vary by season.


Photo by PNW Production


And even though you aren’t getting paid – treat it like a real job.  Because it is.

If your volunteer job wasn’t necessary, they wouldn’t be giving you a free campsite.  They wouldn’t be taking the time to train you and trust you with real responsibilities.

Most volunteer positions are advertised online.  They give general descriptions of your duties and hours.

It’s best to treat those advertised duties and hours as a wish list.  Not as a commitment on their part!

You will probably be asked – nicely – to do things that aren’t in your job description.  Because in a public park, lots of things happen.  At all hours.

And during busy seasons, expect your part time camp host job to be closer to full time!  Just with hours that are spread out.

But the point is, you are living out in nature.   In a great camp site.

Living the life that you probably fantasized about, back in the “real world.”

And no commute!


Different kinds of campgrounds –


As far as being the campground host – there are two main types of hosts.  Steve and I have done both.

The first type of host has duties which are mostly done outside your campsite.  Your RV is your private abode.

The second type of host has duties which include campers regularly coming to your camp site.  If you are inside your RV – they will be coming to your door.


Photo by Matteus Bertelli


Those are usually campgrounds where the camp host sells firewood, makes change, checks in late arrivals – things like that.  Those are usually more primitive campgrounds.

Most campgrounds let you stipulate reasonable hours for coming to your RV – but expect to be on call during normal waking hours.

And for emergencies – during all hours.  But, hey.  That’s what you’re there for.

On one hand – yeah, you are cooking or watching a movie or napping or something, when someone knocks.


Photo by Kampus Productions


On the other hand – in more primitive campgrounds, you are usually surrounded by wilder surroundings.  More nature.

You choose what is right for you.

Do be aware – just like in the real world, you will have a volunteer resume.  With references.

Each future campground will get recommendations from your past jobs.

Background checks are generally required.  Some places require fingerprints.


Where do I want to host?


So, you have thought carefully and decided what kind of campground host position is right for you.

Next, you need to decide – how far do I want to travel to get there?

And when you get there – will there be services nearby?

Will you be near civilization – or out in the wilderness?

It may be the most beautiful place on the planet.

But if you have medical issues and other needs – are there resources available in the area?


Photo by Matheus Bertelli


If you have pets – are there resources available for them, too?

How far will you need to drive for groceries?

Will there be internet access?

And in these days of high fuel prices – can you even afford to drive there?

Are you driving through states with really expensive fuel?

Photo by Esma Atak

Can you afford a flat tire?  Other vehicle and travel maintenance? Do you have roadside assistance?

What about RV appliance problems along the way?  Food costs – heating and cooling – and other expenses on the road?

Do you need to travel through high-cost camping areas?  With few alternatives for boondocking?

And on your way there – will you need to travel through areas of potential extreme weather?

Will you need to cross mountains?  Drive through tornado alley?  Hurricane season?

Always check the climate data for your trip – as well as for your destination.  Always.

Always check for campsite availability along the way.  Make reservations as soon as you know your destination.

Then you need to figure out how long it will take you to get there.  Allowing for breakdowns, road closures, storms, and other normal catastrophes of RV life.

Allow wiggle room in your schedule and in your budget.

And if you are applying somewhere with less than “Chasing 70” weather – once you get there, can your vehicle and your rig handle weather challenges?

Have a plan.

Then –

have a backup plan!


The Application Process –


So you have figured out the general area where you want to volunteer.

Photo by Kampus Production

Have multiple choices.

Rule Number One – apply early!

Check websites daily.  Most parks advertise their open positions six months in advance.

Most positions are between three to six months.

Most federal campgrounds advertise on

States and counties have their own volunteer websites and applications.

Take your time with your applications.  Show your enthusiasm and share your skills!

Pay close attention to difficulty levels for each position.  Don’t overstate your physical abilities – especially when it comes to things like how much you can lift.

Many volunteer positions don’t require you to clean bathrooms.  But some do.  Make sure the job’s requirements are something you don’t mind doing.

Steve and I have enjoyed our time as volunteer campground hosts.

You meet a lot of interesting people along the way!  And make a lot of memories.

Our best advice?  Be flexible.  Be generous with your time.  

Be cheerful and smile a lot!


Photo by Andrea Placquadio


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