Not all of our overnights have been spent in conventional campgrounds. We’ve boondocked a bit, and we’ve taken advantage of our membership in Harvest Hosts. According to the program’s website, Harvest Hosts is…
“…a network of wineries, breweries, distilleries, farms, and attractions that invite RVers to stay in 2521+ stunning camping sites. The $99 yearly membership gives members unlimited access to stay overnight at any one of our Hosts’ locations. We kindly ask our members to support their Host by purchasing one of their products during their stay.”
There’s no charge for a stay, which must be reserved in advance and is limited to one night. The annual membership, thanks to never-ending coupon codes, can be had for $80. (The current code is HOLIDAY20.) If you do the math, at the going rate for commercial campgrounds a membership can pay for itself after a few nights — technically, anyway.
Deb and I, like most members, have found that a night at a Harvest Host can cost as much as 50% more than if we’d stayed in a typical campground and cooked our own dinner in the bus. We’ll drink good beer, we’ll eat good food and often we’ll buy t-shirts and souvenirs.
So for us it’s not exactly “free camping.” Ultimately, however, that’s not the point — it’s more about planting in unusual places, trying new things and supporting small businesses. There are ways to make it less expensive but there’s no way to make it “free.”
These have been our favorite Harvest Hosts:
- Point Labaddie Brewery (Labadie, Missouri): On our way to this rural stop, Garmin took us down roads not suited to a 40-foot diesel pusher — narrow and twisting, steep and tight. The payoff was worth it when we came to rest at the edge of a grassy field, off by ourselves, on a level spot down the hill from this brewery. We walked up to the tasting room and enjoyed a half-dozen different beers, all brewed on-site, all spectacular. On the recommendation of the brewery staff, we ordered dinner from a local family restaurant run by second-generation Italian-Americans.
- Krootz Brewing Company (Gainesville, Texas): Coming off of an insane 500-mile day we rolled across the Red River, crossed into Texas and exited at the quaint old town of Gainesville. This brewery, then new to the Harvest Hosts program, wasn’t yet ready for prime-time — Ernie snagged an overhead cable on the way into our designated parking spot (a former used-car lot). No harm was done, so we splashed a little water on our faces, walked over to the brewery and had great beers and killer burgers.
- Arcadian Moon Winery & Brewery (Higginsville, Missouri): This was the first day of our run to Glacier, ending in central Missouri on 75 pastoral acres accented by four small lakes. The setting and our parking arrangements were perfect, the beers were wonderful and the food was absolutely amazing. We dined and drank at a shaded lakeside table, lingering to watch the sun set over the bean fields. The next morning’s sunrise (see today’s header image) was even better.
- Big Sky Brewing Company (Missoula, Montana): Our drive over the Continental Divide brought us to this large independent brewery on the west side of town. We parked in gravel lot behind the plant, level and solid but unremarkable. The company’s founder joined us at our table in the tasting room while we enjoyed his signature beers. (I had Moose Drool Brown Ale and Big Sky IPA.) We picked up dinner at a nearby food truck and retired to the bus. Just a super experience — warm, welcoming and tasty.
Participating in Harvest Hosts (as a member) requires a self-contained RV equipped for indoor cooking, with its own toilet and onboard fresh-water supply. (No tents.) Hosts don’t provide electric hookups, so guests work off of battery power, solar or, like us, a generator.
When boondocking in very hot or chilly weather, we use Ernie’s generator to power the AC/heat pump units. Otherwise, we run it for a couple of hours to charge the house batteries — and we learned the hard way how necessary that is, the 40°F morning we awoke at a Harvest Host to a powerless bus.
We’ve genuinely enjoyed our Harvest Hosts stays. Each one has been different, each intriguing in its own way. If you’re a long-haul RVer, or even a weekender looking to change things up a bit, we recommend giving it a try.
Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.