So, you want to be a Camp Host?

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January 25, 2009

From the desk of Firedude

Well it can sure be an interesting position. I was a volunteer camp host on the central coast of California for California State Parks for nearly 6 years. During which time I hosted about 9-10 months of the year and traveled the rest. I thought I had seen it all in my 33 year career as a firefighter, but couldn’t have been more wrong! The position was great and I was allowed to set the schedules. We worked a 3 day on 3 day off (firefighter style) shift. That meant you worked 3 straight days and off 3 straight days leaving you time to go places, see things and even take short trips if you desired. This didn’t mean you had to be in the campground 24/7 by any means.

My position consisted of a morning and noon camp check and be available to sell firewood at hours you designate (within reason) and available to answer questions etc. In reality it could have been done in a matter of 2-3 hours per day. You can put forth more effort if you wish and of course I did because I enjoyed it. I decided even though I was retired I wanted to stay active and not sit on my duff.

In exchange you received your full hookup campsite and other perks such a free tours of Hearst Castle for you and friends, an annual swim party at the pool at Hearst Castle, a free day use pass for all Ca. state parks, free firewood and some others. Staff also put on a few BBQ’s per year as well and very enjoyable. In our sector there was NO maintenance or cleaning of restrooms by the hosts. Positions duties will vary from locale to locale.

Without a doubt you will meet the most interesting people you can imagine as my book will definitely show. All my stories are true and told of course with the Firedude’s humor. Neither Jim Carey nor Jim (Ernest) Varney held a candle to me! The movie “RV” should have been written around my book and experiences. They were twice as hilarious and real. Some say they’ve hosted and never encounter anything like it, but let me tell you the central coast of Ca. can attract a wide range of characters!

To be a good camp host you need to be a people person. You have to be able and want to communicate with others and interact. I made so many friends and some turned out to be long lasting memorable friendships. It’s all what you want to make it. As well you must be able to maintain a professional low keyed even temperament since you are representing whatever entity you are working for. Never engage in an argument or become involved in a confrontation and let the ranger or local law enforcement handle those. They are far and few in between, but not for the host to be involved in. It’s not your job.

Now it can be VERY entertaining as well. During this tour is where my infamous “splinter removal kit” was born which is described in my book. The blog is not long enough to tell the stories, they are contained in my book, but trust me I saw and heard some of the craziest things AND RV’s you could ever imagine. Here’s an excerpt of just one of many zany and crazy stories in my book, a tame one at that……

A family came in to tent camp. Set up their site and went to the beach for the day. The other part of the family came in later and got their site and as a joke got another one then completely moved the others site to the other location and when they returned they came to the office (before their family could catch them) to report all their stuff and tent stolen. We knew nothing of it so a Ranger was summoned to take a report of the theft. As the Ranger arrived so did the other family members. All in all it was pretty funny to most, except the Ranger! He kindly told them he was not amused and refused to refund the extra site they had paid for and that if he came back for any reason at all he would eject them!

You have to keep in mind that 99% of campers are great people, but that 1% can sure provide some absolute hilarious entertainment as indicated in my book. My book of course also outlines some personal obstacles you may encounter along with my own personal life. After telling a few of my stories on the forum I kept getting encouragement to write a book of my adventures which I finally over time accomplished. It takes you inside the life of a full-timing camp host, its ups and downs, personal life as well as the adventures. It was one of the most memorable and rewarding times of my life. So you say you want to be a camp host? Grab a copy of my book and see if you’re up to it!

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  3. Dennis,
    You got it buddy as if you don’t have the support of the rangers it can be the pits. Our rangers supported the hosts well and made it enjoyable. You aren’t supposed to do their job. Hopefully that will be a one time encounter for you!


  4. dennis

    My wife and I hosted for two years in northern Idaho, we had a great bunch of campers and made many friends. Our second year we had a new ranger and she made the campers life h…. seemed like every day we had campers and church groups comming to us and wanting us to be a arbitrator for them, this was not fun. We would love to go back and host again but we do not want to put up with all the griping. We are hosting else where and doing great . Just to let people know that it is not always your fellow campers that cause problems

  5. Hi Bud!
    It’s available only as a download or on CD. The link is below and scroll to the bottom. Thanks for the interest!

    glad to hear your good experience. i too have made lasting friendships with most all the rangers I worked with. they are a great bunch and very supportive of their hosts. That’s a big plus and sure makes the position enjoyable for sure!


  6. Bud Vashaw

    Hi Firedude,
    Like Jim I would like a hard copy of your book “adventures of the firedude”.
    I used the link you gave to Jim but cann’ot find it. Please help.


  7. santa skip

    my wife and I were hosts @ folsom lake peninsala CG last year,it was a great adventure .I’ve yet to read your book,but I will. We truly enjoyed our time there and plan to do it again soon. We became good friends with our Ranger and are still in regular contact with him.

  8. Don Eyre

    Would love to be a camp host or a workamper as we come to southern US in the winter but most places seem to have a problem letting Canadians have these jobs even though we would not be on payroll and take pay in kind. Just a free site etc. Oh well.

  9. Hi Irv!
    Great post and thanks. I am going north this summer so I just might slip in and chat with a fellow host! Bet we could swap some real doozie stories around a camp fire eh? Get the keyboard out buddy and start writing! Glad I’m not alone out here, I was beginning to worry lol! Keep it safe and thanks for the reply!


  10. Irv Stark

    Good to hear of others experiences as camp hosts. My wife and I have spent two full seasons -2006 & 2007- and three weeks in 2008 as camp hosts at Lassen Volcanic National Park, CA. It has been one of the greatest experiences that I have truly enjoyed and would encourage anyone who is a ‘people person’ to volunteer. It has been an opportunity to meet campers and Rv’ers from all over the US, not to mention the wonderful visitors that are from other parts of the globe.

    At Lassen it seems that, as a volunteer, the duties are a bit more demanding than in other parks, both national and state. I worked with another camp host in the 2008 season (I filled in for a camp host who had to depart unexpectedly) who had also serves in a California State Park and I learned that what he was expected to do at the state park was more of general labor classification. At Lassen We had responsibilities for making sure the campers had paid the proper fees, that fires were kept at a reasonable level, and that the “quiet hours” were respected. Not that we were “park police” but when a violation was noted, a word to the camper was usually all that was required to get cooperation. As noted by ‘Firedude’ , 99% of the campers are great. But, as in all walks of life, there is that 1%. For those, there is the radio and contact with a Park Ranger usually takes care of the problem. All maintenance, including restroom clean up, is handled by the maintenance staff. I do know that camp host duties at other National Parks vary from those at Lassen, having worked with a couple who had served as camp hosts in Olympic NP. But again, I repeat… volunteer! You will be glad that you did. I have yet to meet a camp host that did not love the ‘job’.

    We will be returning to Lassen for the 2009 season. Here is an invitation to those that read this blog to stop in at Manzanita Lake Campground and say Hi! Lassen is a gem that seems to be missed by a lot of RV’ers and campers. Come see what you are missing!

    Perhaps if I spend enough time there I can also write a book on the experience. As it is, with just 2 plus years, I have got a good start on it!

  11. Hi Jim!
    Good to hear from another firefighter! I was with CDF (TUU) as well!;-)

    As far as the book, Yes I have a few. Just follow the links on my main page…..

    Nice hearing from one of the “Cove” guys! If I can ever be of any assistance just contact me through the contact link at the top of my site. Keep it safe and happy trails!


  12. Jim Wright

    Howdy Firedude !

    I truly enjoy every tip and the things you write on this site ! Is there really a book I can buy , or is it only available on CD or online ? I would love to read it . Guess I’ll just have to prit it out if not in book form .

    I was a fireman in the mountains above Palm Desert for 12 years . I was only a volunteer , but worked my way up to engineer and EMT-iA . Ihad many experiences , like you , that were interesting , and some with sad endings . But I wouldn’t trade my experiences and memories for anything . Especially the times the cat would be asleep on my call box in my house and the alarm would go off . Many times I ad to scrape the cat off the ceiling ! I worked for CDF .

    Thanks again for all the very useful info . I am planning to go fulltime somtime this year , and have been looking into campground hosting or something at a campground to save money for travel later on .

    Best Wishes !