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Temporary Housing in the Bakken
Trailers are used for temporary housing for oil industry workers in the Bakken oil fields.

ND Luxury Man Camps Offer Amenities For Roughnecks

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) Worker accommodations in North Dakota’s oil patch can be rough: men sleep in tiny trailers with boarded windows, parked cars and overcrowded apartments. The barracks-style “man camps” might imply that roughness of life, too.

But for some big oil companies, as the boom matures beyond an insatiable rush for bodies and beds, a number of man camps resemble luxury versions of overseas military bases and function almost like hotels. Some of these high-end camps are self-contained communities with all-you-can-eat buffets, private quarters and housekeeping services that lay down fresh sheets and towels.

“These big oil companies have a lot of money and they just want it all done and taken care of,” said Barry Roman, founder of Reliant Asset Management, a firm involved in crew camp construction.

“Once a client comes in, they don’t have to leave again until it’s time to go to work,” said Nick Nelson, assistantmanager of Target Logistics’ 496-bed Bear Paw Lodge near Williston that offers a gym with workout machines and saunas, a store, pool tables and 24-hour dining hall.

Camps like this offer comfort and convenience for exhausted workers while also giving companies a degree of control over the workforce: security guards man the entrances and no booze or guests are allowed.

Related: ND Man Camps: Green Housing?

A military veteran, Nelson underlined the importance of little luxuries in otherwise harsh environments.

“Speaking as a guy who’s literally lived in a hole in the ground for months on end, people will put up with amazing amounts of discomfort in their jobs if they have good food,” Nelson said.

One recent night, the menu included seafood tortellini, fried pork cutlets and cheeseburger sliders. Or workers could grab hot dogs from a convenience store-style roller, make their own sandwiches from cold cuts or skip straight to homemade cookies or soft-serve ice cream.

Reliant has similar facilities in the oil patch. But Roman said while the level of comfort at traditional man camps has increased, the needs of some oil companies have also changed. As some companies move away from the model of flying in workers for short periods of time, they are also looking to cut out food catering costs and get more permanent housing with added privacy.

In Watford City, Reliant has built a hybrid man camp of sorts comprised of prefab cabins that looks like a small subdivision but still operates like a traditional camp with furnished rooms, housekeeping services and a degree of control over guests.

In many cabins, several bedrooms share a living room, kitchen and gas grill. While it is still primarily shared accommodations, it offers a level of privacy and feels much more like a home than the long metal hallways of a traditional man camp.

“It’s not just shoving people into beds anymore,” said Shawn Duby, who manages the facility. “It’s kind of nice to come home and sit on your own couch, compared to the recreation room with 50 other guys.”



  1. The bear paw food and service has gone to crap! You used to get a full course gourmet meal. Now you get a tacos and a sloppy joe the next day with left over meat. On top of that when there is a dish that you can actually finish without distaste, they will only give you one serving to eat. That’s fine if your just eating dinner and then hitting the sheets to get some sleep. But how bout that lol bit extra to take with you to go on a 20 hour shift of work. I find myself and a lot of others I work with spending a lot of money at gas stations and stores just to get through the work shift with decent food. I mean, our companies are paying great money for our lodging and food. How about a little care in the kitchen. Other than that I’m happy with my room and gym. Get it together!

  2. Yes the quality has gone down. They are just out to make a quick dollar and don’t realize or care about their clients. They have switched from fresh fruit to canned fruit with lots of syrup. To get a to go lunch box is a real pain you have to wait in line and then get the the look from the guy behind the counter. Especially if you as for two boxes, he has no idea that you just woke up and are grabbing breakfast and lunch. The worst is when they measure every portion they give you!

  3. The camps that are leased to companies often provide better amenities than those who are let out to individuals.

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