Having the opportunity to camp at various Harvest Hosts is truly unique among the RV community. We’ve been full-time RVing since 2018 and have been using our membership from coast to coast from the day we set out.
Whether you are interested in camping at wineries and distilleries, animal or vegetable farms and co-ops, or simply enjoy the feeling of searching for a host whenever you arrive to a new area, there are some best practices that we have learned over the years of staying at dozens of Harvest Hosts across the US.
Our goal is to promote the wonderful experiences that Harvest Hosts has provided us by reminding you that in order to make the camping experience great for everyone there are certain things that you should keep in mind so that the hosts remember you as fondly as you remember them.
You also may find yourself camping with 2 or 3 other members and having decency and respect toward other campers will go a long way toward everyone having a great experience.
And while we know that you are excited about having the opportunity to camp at places such as an alpaca farm in Montana, a vineyard in upstate New York, or a lavender farm in Washington, we would encourage you to remember these tips as you set out on the road.
Many Harvest Hosts let you enjoy the property as if it is your own.
Pick the places you know you will support.
One of the best things about your Harvest Hosts membership is that it connects you with truly wonderful small business owners who are willing to allow you to camp for free on their property.
But one of the tenants of being a Harvest Hosts member is to support these small businesses as often as you can in the places you stay. We travel on a pretty tight budget. So we have learned to pick and choose which Harvest Hosts are best for us.
And as we plan our routes, we have learned to “shop” for different hosts that we know we can and will support. We don’t drink alcohol, so that limits some pretty amazing places but doesn’t lessen our experience with the program.
We look for places like a dairy farm outside Gettysburg, Pennsylvania where you didn’t have to twist our arm to convince us to stock up on fresh milk, cheese, eggs, and other delicious dairy products!
And it also didn’t take much convincing for us to stay over at a horse ranch in New York where we were able to help buy feed to support the rescued horses on the property (we are “horse people”).
But one of the challenges we faced as full-time RVers was trying to find hosts that were available where we didn’t feel forced to support them financially.
We have stayed at vineyards where we purchased bottles of wine to gift to our family and friends. And we’ve also “paid it forward” in several places where we didn’t consume the products offered but knew that someone staying after us would.
We always try to find some way to support the hosts, even if they have no products or services to offer.
The Purple Haze Lavender Farm in Sequim, WA allows you to pay to collect your own lavender during your stay!
Do your dry camping preparations prior to arrival.
You should be well aware by now that as a member you are permitted to camp at hosts’ properties under the standard practices of dry camping.
Depending on how long you’ve been camping, you may already be familiar with some dry camping best practices.
But here are a few tips we’d recommend to ensure that you are prepared for your stay, even though it is only one night.
- Empty your tanks. As a member of Harvest Hosts, you are required to be self-contained. So ensuring that you have enough tank capacity for your stay is important. We’ve learned in time how to know when it’s time to visit the dump station (we’ve never had trustworthy gauges!). So we always make sure to empty the tanks before we camp.
- Fill up with fresh water. Typically you can replenish your freshwater tank at the same place you empty your tanks. But we’ve had to go out of our way before to ensure we are topped off on water. Sure, it’s only one night of dry camping. But we’ve found ourselves staying at one Harvest Hosts property after the next through the course of a week and knowing our tank capacity was incredibly helpful during our stay. We’ve also had too much fun playing with alpacas and had to take an unplanned shower afterward with too little water in the tank!
- Toss your trash. It is a very bad assumption to make to think that any host would be willing and able to allow you to discard your waste during your stay. We can say that we have met lots of wonderful hosts who have gone above and beyond in offering things such as a dumpster for our waste, a hose for our drinking water, and even a power cord to plug in for the night. But don’t assume you will have these opportunities. Empty your trash before you arrive, or plan to pack out everything you collect during your stay.
Having all the dry camping necessities makes camping at Harvest Hosts properties better for everyone.
Plan your meals in advance.
One of the last things you want to do when dry camping is to have to wash a ton of dishes. Sure, if you’ve emptied your black and grey tanks prior to your arrival and have topped off on freshwater you likely have the capacity to wash a few extra pots and pans. But we have found that meal planning has made our stays at Harvest Hosts properties more enjoyable.
- Prep meals that are easy to cook and require little dishware. Not only will this allow you to spend more time enjoying the sunset, hiking nearby trails, or strolling through the vineyard it will cut down on the amount of waste and wastewater you use during your stay.
- Consider Instapot meals when you have confirmed in advance that a host will permit you to run your generator for a short period of time. If you have permission to run your generator, then in addition to topping off your batteries and perhaps running your air conditioning for a few minutes, go ahead and cook a delicious meal while you’re at it. Most Instapot meals are ready within half an hour so you don’t have to run your generator for long periods of time.
- Use as few containers as possible. Hardly anyone enjoys washing dishes. But washing a whole sink load of dishes under the water and tank capacity constraints when
dry camping can be nervewracking in addition to being a nuisance. Consider chopping all your veggies in advance and storing them in one ziplock bag.
Have a good vent fan and/or USB battery-powered fans.
Since you know that you won’t be plugged into shore power and that you can’t expect to be able to run your generator to power your air conditioner, consider installing a high-quality rooftop vent fan (or two) to increase the airflow in your camper.
If you already have a good vent fan, consider carrying a few USB-charged fans that will allow you to move air in the direction you would like it.
Of course, with both of these, you will want to make sure that you have a decent-sized battery bank and/or solar panels to ensure you can count on these devices to keep you cool.
Consider upgrading/adding additional battery bank capacity and solar panels.
Power and water are essential to dry camping. But you cannot assume that you will be permitted to run your generator. And even if the host does give permission, it is bad form to assume that you can run it through the night.
We recommend instead that you consider preparing in advance for all of the power needs you will face when dry camping.
As full-time RVers that work from our motorhome, we have invested in a large enough battery bank and inverter with enough solar panels to keep us topped up anytime the sun is shining.
And while we’ve had some cold nights where our furnace has run virtually nonstop through the night, we’ve always had enough power to see us through the night.
Investing in a hardy battery bank and solar system is not cheap. But in the long term, it will make all of your camping more enjoyable and worry-free.
Be mindful of other campers.
There is a good chance that regardless of where you camp, you won’t be the only RV on the property. And while it is important to follow the policies and procedures outlined in your Harvest Hosts membership, these apply as much to respecting other campers as to the host.
We love meeting new people and making friends as we travel. So we have never minded much in sharing the host property with other RVers. Sometimes we’ve given up the best spot to someone who needed it more. Other times we’ve been the recipient of kindness from other campers.
At no time have we felt like we didn’t get along with others as we camped. But it is important to keep in mind that you may not be alone. So, for example, if the host does permit you to run your generator it would be a good idea to check with other campers on whether/when it would be a good time to crank it on.
We love RVing so much because it is an incredibly welcoming and supportive community of like-minded people who enjoy the road. So it’s incredibly unlikely you’ll encounter a negative experience from other campers along the way. But we just want to mention this so that you don’t end up being someone else’s horror story from that time they camped at a Harvest Hosts location!
Wadel’s Dairy in Shippensburg, PA was so popular we returned twice and were always welcomed by other Harvest Hosts members.
Get to know the hosts.
While we listed this last, it really is the first thing you can do to ensure that both you and the host have a great experience. While you will likely only spend one night at each property, making friends and building relationships is one of the best things about being a Harvest Hosts member.
Not only have we returned on several occasions to hosts we knew were fantastic, but also we have recommended specific places to everyone we meet based on the hospitality of the hosts.
As we also try to find ways to help people as we travel we have had several unique experiences in helping hosts in simple ways because we took the time to connect with them on a deeper
level. You may find that just asking the host if there is anything you can do to help out will build a new level of trust and appreciation between you both.
While camping with a host in Washington we had the opportunity to help harvest cherries!
Joining Harvest Hosts is the single best thing you have done to make your camping experience memorable. But arriving at the host property prepared is essential to having an amazing time – both for you and for the host.
We hope that these tips have helped you prepare to enjoy the benefits of your membership and we look forward to running into you somewhere down the road at a Harvest Hosts property!
About Chris and Lindsay at Called To Wander
Chris and Lindsay, along with their two cattle dogs Everest and Huckleberry, have been traveling mostly full-time in their RV since 2018. Having started their journey in an attempt to drive from Alaska to Argentina, they quickly fell in love with life on the road and have chosen to spend their time touring the North American continent. Harvest Hosts members since 2018, they run a website and YouTube channel where they document their experiences and help others pursue adventure on the road.
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