When we bought our first camper over 13 years ago, we thought like many Americans that the only places to camp were at paid campgrounds. We found ourselves for years always stoping at a KOA, Jellystone or other commercial campgrounds. All of this changed last year for us when we joined Harvest Hosts. Now we find ourselves not just camping as we travel but having amazing camping experiences all along the way.
If you are not familiar with Harvest Hosts, it is an organization that you can join for $79 per year (at the time of this post) that gives you access to hundreds of wineries, breweries, farms and museums that allow you to stay in your camper for one night free of charge. There are just a few basic rules to follow like your camping unit must be self contained (you will need your own bathroom facilities), you must call a day or two in advance to make sure the business has space for you, you need to arrive during operating hours so you can introduce yourself and find out where they want you to park and you should if possible solicit the business since they are letting you camp for FREE!
We stayed at two Harvest Host locations last summer out in Oregon and both were amazing. The first one was at Emerson Vineyards near Monmouth, Oregon. We found the location using the Harvest Host app on our smartphones while were were traveling. We called to confirm a couple of days in advance and were told that they would have a space for us. We intentionally chose a Friday night because the listing in the app stated that they hosted live music on Friday nights. When we arrived, we were greeted by the owner who showed us where to park our NuCamp T@B 400. There were three of us that night Harvesting Hosting at the winery but we each got a side of the barn so that we all had privacy. Looking out our door we could see the grapevines in the distance. After settling in, we went inside and had one of the best tasting ever with the owner. He shared the history of the vineyard and his passion for the wines really showed through. We ended up purchasing 3 bottles of wine to add to our collection. In addition to live music that night, he also had a mobile brick oven pizza vendor on site so we ended up enjoying a bottle of wine, fresh baked to order pizza and an amazing local singer who entered us under the stars.
About a week later, we confirmed a stay at another host on our way home, this time a farm. Montavon's Berry's is tucked into the valley near the Hood River with a view of the scenic Mt. Hood in the near distance. Again we were greeted by the owner when we arrived who parked us between a barn and the blueberries. We were able to pick fresh blueberries, red raspberries and Bing & Rainer cherries at their farm all with a view of Mt. Hood in the background. In addition, Montavon's is part of the Hood River Fruit Loop so we went out that afternoon and explored some other local farms including a lavender farm that was recommended by our hosts. We enjoyed a wonderful clear evening watching the sun set behind the mountains to the west while we enjoyed our fresh picked berries and cherries.
There are so many things to love about staying with Harvest Hosts. Most people love the idea of free camping but it's so much more than that. We have found the ones we have stayed at to be super quiet and dark to give you a great night sleep and some awesome stargazing. What we have enjoyed the most though are the hosts themselves. They are have been so welcoming and taking us in like we were family. They have gone above and beyond to share their passions of their businesses and provide personalized service that you just don't get at a campground.
If you are interested in seeing our adventures at these two hosts, check out these videos from last summer's travels:
If you want to join Harvest Hosts yourself, use our link below to save 15% on your membership all while helping to support our YouTube Channel.