A Quick Guide To Bakken Housing Types


After reading reports from recent events in the Bakken oilfield it became apparent to me that there is something of a misunderstanding about housing there. It seems that the media tends to label everything as a man camp, whether it is or not.  I suppose it’s easier and more sensationalistic to portray the Bakken oilfield as being populated entirely by man camps consisting of pre-fab mobile homes and raucous men. However, the truth, as the wives and families of oilfield workers who live in the Bakken know, is far more complicated and diverse. There are of course advantages and disadvantages to each type of housing arrangement and sometimes as an oilfield worker or oilfield family you may not have a choice as to what type of housing they choose since the worker’s company may choose for them. However, hopefully this quick rundown will clear up some of the confusion and illustrate that there is more to Bakken housing than just man camps.

Private RV Lots– These are RV lots that offer rental slips to anyone that wishes to stay in them. Some companies will provide a living stipend for these lots and some won’t and while not the most expensive option, they can still be costly. The worker will also want to carefully read the rental contract before they sign it as there may be some strange clauses in it. These are often the most family friendly Bakken housing choices next to apartment or house rental. In this situation, the worker will be living in close proximity with people from several different companies who all have varied job descriptions. This can be good and this can be bad, depending on how well you get along with your neighbors. Private lots are one option that allow the worker some flexibility with who they choose to work for since they are, in many cases, rented by the worker themselves as opposed to arranged through the company.

Company RV Lots-Some companies in the Bakken have taken it upon themselves to set up RV lots for their employees which they offer at a free or reduced rate. As long as the company provides the proper amenities such as running water and electricity these can be a great set up. Since the worker is surrounded by folks they work with on a daily basis they tend to get along better with their neighbors and their neighbors tend to look out for each other. These lots are also relatively family friendly as well. However, as I said before, make sure the company is providing water, sewer and electricity. I’ve seen this set up work out very well and I’ve seen it go very bad!

Hotels-Hotels are another option that some Bakken companies choose to use to house their workers. This can be a great set up for workers who work on/off shifts. However, it can be frustrating for those who are trying to make a semi-permanent residence out of them, unless the hotel they are staying in is an extended stay hotel with kitchen amenities and the like. Hotels rooms are typically arranged and paid for through the worker’s company.

Apartments & House Rentals– This is undoubtedly the most expensive option for housing in the Bakken. An apartment in one of the larger oilfield hub cities can be several thousand dollars a month for a one bedroom apartment. If the worker’s company is not providing a living stipend or the worker doesn’t have folks to share the rent with then renting a house or apartment can be rather cost prohibitive. On the other hand if the worker is renting on their own then they don’t have to worry about where they are going to live in case they change jobs. Apartment or housing rental is also a far more family friendly option and gives the worker the opportunity to have a place to call their own where they can feel more like a full fledged community member.

Man Camps– Since these seem to be the most publicized form of housing in the Bakken I’ve saved them for last. Man camps typically consist of several pre-fab buildings or possibly a dormitory-structure. They are generally men only establishments, although I have heard of exceptions to these rules for visiting family members or female workers. Despite being the type of housing the media seems to enjoy portraying when reporting on the Bakken, I personally have very little experience in this arena and can’t speak too much to the pros and cons. Obviously, if you are single or work an on/off schedule and go home regularly they are the perfect set up. However, if you are looking for family housing they can present a problem.

To be fair, there are less sustainable options for living in the Bakken that my husband insisted I at least mention in the interest of full disclosure. So, yes, some brave souls do in fact sleep in their cars or pitch a tent somewhere, if only for a short period of time, but I don’t advise it. If you are looking for a viable housing option in the Bakken the five options I’ve listed above will be your best bet.

I’ve tried to cover all housing options in the Bakken, but please leave me a comment if I’ve left any out. I’d also love to hear your opinions and experiences with each type of housing. Please leave me a comment and let m know about your Bakken housing situation.


About chelsea

Chelsea is mama to 4 year old Will and partner to her oilfield man and best friend of 16 years, Jacob. She splits her time between the family’s camper in the North Dakota Oil Patch and a small urban homestead in Kentucky. Chelsea writes about the family’s camper adventures at www.talesofanoilfieldgypsy.blogspot.com. She is a batik artist and loves teaching others about the art of batik at www.beautyofbatik.com. She can also be found working on her other sites www.chelseaniehaus.com and www.urbanagricultureinfo.com. In her moments of spare time she enjoys knitting, sewing and gardening.


  1. Chelsea, what more can you tell me about housing stipends? My OFM works for Nabors and I was wondering is there any way to find out if they offer a stipend and if so who would you call? Do the companies have a division that addresses this need?

    Thanks, Gabbai

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