Free Camping with Harvest Hosts

Let’s play a little game.  Pretend I’m a millionaire and told you I would give you a $250k motorhome (yes they exist and get more expensive) if you could guess how much it costs to park in a RV park for a night.  Everyone has heard of KOA so let’s say it’s a KOA in Des Moines, Iowa.  What’s your best guess?

Was is $72/night?  You read that right…$72 for a glorified parking spot in Des Moines, Iowa for one night.  Camp grounds aren’t cheap but to be fair, KOAs are almost always the most expensive.  Based on our [very limited] experience, it seems like the average price for a spot at a campground (west of the Mississippi) is about $35/night for 30amp electrical, water, and sewer.  $35 isn’t bad, but when you don’t have full time jobs, every dollar counts.

Enter Harvest Hosts.  Harvest Hosts is a website that pairs RVers looking for a place to stay with wineries, breweries, farms, etc. that have space for a camper to park.  The membership costs $44/year.  Yes, per year.  Basically if you use it once, it paid for itself.  There are two caveats: 1) you’re encouraged to be a patron to the place you are staying (i.e. buy a glass of wine or two) and 2) most places you can stay don’t have hook ups (but some have a 15amp/110v outlet you can plug into).


We stayed at our first Harvest Host site last night called Tongue River Winey in Miles City, Montana.  We didn’t know what to expect but we ended up having an amazing time.  Tongue River happens to be Southeast Montana’s only winery, likely because it’s not exactly easy to grow grapes in Montana.  Bob, Marilyn and Josh were excellent hosts and we thoroughly enjoyed sampling many of their 20+ wines.  We overheard our hosts talking about harvesting grapes in the morning so we asked if we could tag along and help out.  They harvest everything by hand so they didn’t pass up on free labor.

The ole Bounder parked at Tongue River Winery
Earning our stay!

We spent about an hour harvesting though it felt like 15 minutes because we were chatting away with our new friends and having a great time.  We learned a lot about vines, grapes, birds, and fruit wines during our 18 hour stay on their property.  It was a great experience and as we left this morning we felt like we were leaving friends we had known for years.

Kayla & Bob harvesting grapes under the smoky skies from the Montana wild fires

We ended up spending $30 on wine but we would gladly spend $30 on wine and a place to sleep than just a random RV campground.  It is safe to say we definitely got our $44 worth in just this one experience.  We’re thrilled to see how future Harvest Host sites stack up to our friends at Tongue River Winery.

Frontenac Gris – a cold weather grape cultivated by the Univ. of Minnesota, my alma mater.  #NBD

If you’re ever driving through southeastern Montana on I-94, we highly recommend you stop in Miles City and do a free tasting at Tongue River Winery.  Try the Aroniaoak Red.  It’s made with aronias which are super healthy so you can drink as much as you want (in moderation, of course)!  Tell them Dave & Kayla told you to stop by!




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