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Camp Assistants: Job Description, Hiring & Training Process

About Backroads and Our Camp Assistant Program

Backroads is an innovative active travel company that offers more biking, walking, and multi-sport trips in more locations worldwide than any other company in the industry. Since 1979, we have been sending our guests on exciting, luxurious, and rewarding vacations, and we do so with an exceptional crew of Trip Leaders supported by Camp Assistants on our camping trips.

The foundation of our extraordinary guest experience is legendary service—and we go so far as to guarantee the quality of our trips. We're looking for Camp Assistants who can do a world-class job with style and professionalism.

How do we hire Camp Assistants? A few years ago at our Leader Hiring Events we recognized that the role of Camp Assistant was a good stepping stone position for people who showed us great Leader potential but maybe still felt a bit young or came to Backroads from a backcountry focused background. Since then we’ve seen many Camp Assistants become Trip Leaders, and each year these Camp Assistants turned Leaders are some of the strongest new leaders in the company! So, in a nutshell, we hire Camp Assistants from our Trip Leader applicant pool.

Please read through the following for more general information about the Camp Assistant job at Backroads.

Meet One of Our Camp Assistants

McKynlee Westman
McKynlee Westman

I completed my Backroads Leader application in March 2012. It had never felt so easy to explain why I was a good fit for a job, and I felt confident with my chances of getting the position. However, at the end of my hiring event I wasn’t so sure; I had just met 40 fascinating people and I didn't know where I stood among them. I was offered a position, but it wasn't the one I expected: the Camp Assistant position.


Camp Assistant Job Description

Position Overview
Backroads hires those authorized to work in US and Canada as Camp Assistants. As we do not run camping trips in Europe, we do not have European Camp Assistants. Each Backroads Camping trip is staffed with Trip leaders and 'Camp Crew', a 2-person team comprised of a Camp Assistant and Camp Chef. This crew works together to set up camp and make the Backroads camping experience the world-class experience we promise to guests. From a clean tent with luggage delivered to each 'door' to hot meals served on time, Backroads guests are continuously overwhelmed and impressed with the level of detail and organization our crew brings to an outdoor setting. Creating comfort in the outdoors is not always an easy task, but for those up for the challenge, the rewards are great. And living and working in National Park settings during the summer is a lifestyle beyond compare.

The following list of qualifications serves as our guide for exceptional Camp Assistant candidates. You'll see that we have very high expectations of our Camp Assistants—so do our guests! Do your skills, experiences, and aptitudes enable you to answer "yes" to most of the questions below?

  • Are you committed to delivering the highest level of quality and service to our guests and leaders?
  • Are you good at anticipating and solving challenging problems independently and as part of a team?
  • Are you comfortable working long hours and doing very physically challenging work?
  • Are you happy working in the outdoors and camping?
  • Can you maintain a neat and presentable personal appearance even within a camping environment?

Basic Skills
Although the customer service you provide to support our Trip Leaders and guests is the core of being a successful Camp Assistant, you must also possess the basic skills to do the job well. For example, you will need to be able to set up as many as 10-15 tents on your own. You are expected to assist in loading and unloading large pieces of luggage on a daily basis. You'll haul water and firewood, and help with other general tasks as assigned. You'll be responsible for assisting the Camp Chef, doing dishes and helping to maintain a clean camp at all times. You'll maintain Backroads' inventory of camping equipment in excellent condition. You will be expected to maintain a tidy personal appearance, even while working hard. You may have free time when you will be on your own; you will be expected to entertain yourself when not working. You'll work with different Trip Leaders every week and will need to be flexible as you adapt to each leader's working style as an integral support team member.

Schedules/Quantity of Work
The Camp Assistant schedules available in the U.S. are: Denali, Glacier, Yellowstone/Tetons and Bryce/Zion/Grand Canyon National Parks, and the San Juan Islands. In Canada, we offer trip schedules in Banff and Jasper National Parks.

We expect first year Camp Assistants this year to work an average of 40-60 field days during the season, depending on the date of hire. We generally give Camp Assistants 60-90 days notice regarding which trips they will be working. However, due to the complexities of scheduling trips and potential trip cancellations, trip assignments may change during the season. The first schedule that a Camp Assistant receives may be with as little as 5-30 days notice.

Although Backroads runs trips all over the world during the entire year, the majority of our camping trips take place during July-September. You must be able to work trips during this peak summer season. We can accommodate some time-off requests, but will need full availability over September 10-23, our peak period.

Individual schedules will be assigned after you have completed the training process. Specific schedules will vary. Most camping trips are for groups of families, and may include biking, walking or multisport activities.

Backroads does not expect Camp Assistants to reside near our home offices in Utah (USA) or Canmore (Alberta, Canada). However, Camp Assistants are responsible for getting themselves to the home office before their schedule begins, and Backroads will then pay for travel to their trip destination.

Pay and Allowances
Camp Assistants receive a competitive hourly rate of pay plus a share in tips from guests. While working trips, all lodging, meals, and transportation to and from trips are provided by Backroads. Many of our regions have "Leader Houses" that are available to Camp Assistants free of charge between trips.

Backroads also offers "pro-deals" to Camp Assistants—generous discounts with brand-name equipment and clothing companies.

The Hiring and Training Process

Following the Hiring Event we will contact you via email or phone to let you know the next steps. We may follow-up with a few questions to learn more about your skills and experiences that relate to the Camp Assistant position. We will then proceed with any additional hiring steps and, if hired, train you in our offices in Utah, Canmore, or directly in the field. More details will be provided in the phone interview.

We hope that the information we have provided gives you an understanding of the Camp Assistant Position and has allowed you to evaluate if it would be the right fit for you. We look forward to addressing any additional questions that you might have during the hiring process

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Why is Jenna wearing a chef hat if she's a Camp Assistant?
Mobile Camp A. Camp Assistants are support team members to the trip leaders and can wear many hats (literally and figuratively) during a camping trip. They help assist the Camp Chef with cooking and kitchen duties, although it's not critical to have cooking experience. All menus are clearly outlined with easy to follow instructions. After setting up camp each day, the kitchen tasks for a Camp Assistant are primarily those of a "sous chef" (or chef's helper) helping the Camp Chef prepare and clean up daily meals.

Q. You mentioned Camp Chefs. Is this a position I can apply for?
A. No. Trip Leaders fulfill many duties while leading trips, in particular camping trips. When not trip leading, a leader may be assigned as a Camp Chef and will be in charge of preparing all meals for guests on a camping trip.

Q. As a Camp Assistant, will I always be "sleeping under the stars"?
A. Only if you want to! During a week-long camping trip, all of the team members may choose to either sleep in private tents, just like our guests, or literally "under the stars." In between trips, Camp Assistants have access to regional "leader houses" (houses rented by Backroads for Trip staff) where they may stay, do laundry and use shower facilities, and get some much needed rest!

Q. How long are Camp Assistants in the field?
A. Trips run six days and five nights and then Camp Assistants go back to their regional hub (with a leader house) for two nights before starting another trip. You'll have a roof over your head and access to laundry, a shower and numerous services available in your hub town. You may also have a full week off between trips, allowing you to explore the region where you're working.

Q. Can I be a Camp Assistant if I'm only available in July and August?
A. Our peak camping season is mid-June through the end of August but also includes a key event in mid-September. Applicants must be available through September 1st and again the week of Sept 10-23. We do have consistent work available through September, but at the minimum, we require all Camp Assistants to be available for our September event.

Q. What is a typical day for a Camp Assistant?
A. Days start early at 6:00a.m. with a list of work to be done. Camp Assistants have daily tasks that need to be done on their own initiative. Camp Assistants are self-motivated and get the job done under little direction. Although they often work autonomously, Camp Assistants are also part of the leader team and work collaboratively toward the common goal of providing a superior guest experience.

Q. How many Camp Assistants are on a trip?
A. There is one Camp Assistant on a trip. There is also a Camp Chef (a trip leader assigned to the Camp Chef role for the week) with whom the Camp Assistant works closely. In addition, camping trips are led by three leaders.

Q. Where are the camps located? Are they remote, backcountry spots?
Backroads Camping A. No. They are fully-serviced campgrounds complete with stores to buy firewood, water spigots and restrooms that usually include hot showers. Backroads camping trips are "luxury camp-style" with access to many convenient services. (Hint: visit our website and check out our trip itineraries to get more details.) We bring in a lot of equipment to make the camping experience comfortable for our guests. Because of this, you can expect to frequently pack and unpack a full trailer of high-end camping equipment including tents, tarps and Thermarests.

Q. How should I pack? Do I need to bring camping equipment?
A. If you are hired, we'll send you a complete packing list. Backroads provides high-quality camping equipment including high-end tents, Thermarests and state-of-the-art kitchen equipment. In general, you'll need good cold weather gear and clothing suitable for outdoor work. Since you will only be out in the field for six day trips before coming back to regroup, you'll only really need one week's worth of clothes. You'll have access to laundry facilities each week to prepare for your next trip. No need for any sort of uniform beyond a Backroads t-shirt that we'll provide for you when you are hired.

Q. Will I get any time off during trips? Between trips?
A. When you're working on a trip, time off can be scarce. A lofty goal is to finish your daily tasks early to enjoy a hike or relax in the surrounding area. The reality is that additional work often fills the time between tasks. On the bright side, you'll have full weeks off between trips to rejuvenate and tour a region. You'll have the freedom to explore an incredible locale and you'll have the insider knowledge to explore the best the location has to offer.

What Do Our Camp Assistants Have to Say?

Camp Assistants

Camp Assistant Q & A

Q. What surprised you most about the job?

"I was surprised how fast six days can fly by when you're continuously moving, working hard and laughing." - Marian W.

"The amount of food prep! I figured I was going to be more of a water carrying, tent-setting, wood-chopping outdoor action-hero but when I got the job outline after accepting, I freaked. I grew into that role as the summer went on and by the end was garnishing and chopping like never before. The Camp Chefs and leaders were very patient and helpful with my kitchen development and my current skill level is a testament to their training and experience." - John O.

"I couldn't believe that I got to work in the best "office" in the world and got paid to do it! I got to spend my summer in the great outdoors with a bunch of people who enjoyed it as much me." - Steven G.

Q. What was your favorite part about the job of Camp Assistant?

"Even after a long and exhausting day, when the guests start to go to bed and there is still an hour or two of dishes to be done, hanging out with the other four leaders and basking in the aura of pulling of another epic day gives a feeling of camaraderie and accomplishment that is unmatched." - Joe M.

"Seeing how close the group becomes as the week goes on. It starts with the first day introductions between guests and the leader team and evolves to a genuine enjoyment of each other, and we all become part of each other's memories. I've had guests follow up a trip with thank you notes and photos of the whole group. It's those connections that make the work worthwhile." - Steven G.

"When the guests value you and your work, resulting in more responsibility and job fulfillment." - Marian W.

Q. What was your least favorite part of the job?

"Having to buy all new clothes at the end of the season (or maybe that was the best part!)" - Marian W.

"Carrying dishwater after breakfast and dinner." - John O.

"Move days! There is so much work behind the scenes that the guests never notice. It takes a lot of intrinsic motivation and personal will power to stay sane." - Joe M.

Q. How would you describe your first season as a Camp Assistant?

"Ultimately rewarding. I paid the price physically and mentally at times to get things done when it was dark, when I was exhausted or when my hands were freezing and I had to chop fruit at 6:30 am but the guests and leaders I met, the songs I sang around the campfire and the hikes and rides I did on my hours and days off added up to one of the best summers I've had." - John O.

"Hard work, little sleep and a whole lot of fun!" - Marian W.

"Like living in a fantasy world. There are really intense periods of time on a trip followed by really intense periods of time off trip. The world Backroads staff get paid to live in is not the real world, but it is epic!" - Joe M.

Q. What do you do in your time-off between trips?

"Biking and more biking in the surrounding hills near the Berkeley, California leader house. I spent most of my time riding with fellow leaders and getting the inside scoop on incredible rides in the Bay Area with some great people." - Steven G.

"Another leader and I executed an epic six day trip circumnavigating the entirety of Glacier National Park. We mountain biked, backpacked and kayaked on our own week-long multisport trip." - Joe M.

"A lot! I got to know the locals and got clued in on where to find 200 ft granite water slides, the best hidden hikes and great climbing spots away from crowds. It's worth not showering for a week!" - Marian W.

Q. What do you do in the off-season?

"What's great about working for Backroads is that in the off-season, you have the freedom to travel, learn, explore - whatever your heart desires and bring those experiences back to the job when the season begins again. My most recent off-season adventure was traveling to Chiang Mai, Thailand and the surrounding area, including a stint in a Buddhist Monastery and a stay on a remote island near the border of Cambodia." - Joe M.

"I teach middle school PE, Science and French, I coach Varsity girls' basketball and I ride every day except Monday. In addition, my Backroads boss inspired me to do the Whistler Gran Fondo ride which is 120km from Downtown Vancouver to Whistler."
- John O.

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