You’ve been slamming line through hell’s half-acre all day, and you’re finally shading up for a break. Your back’s sore, your hands are gnarled up in a perma-grip like a GI Joe figure action figure, and there isn’t enough Goldbond this side of the Mississippi to soothe all the chaffing you’ve got going on.
You’re dehydrated. You’re tired. You’re hungry. And all you’ve got is an MRE. It’s time like these when you wish you’d spent a little bit more time at the station thinking about what sort of goodies you could have stashed in your line gear.
We decided to do your homework for you, and put together a quick shopping list of fireline snacks. Keep these stashed in your line gear and you’ll be a much happier hotshot. And you can always barter your surplus for toilet paper if the need arises.
When thinking about what to pack, we decided to write down some criteria, in an attempt to give the recommendations a bit of scientific credibility, and make it seem less like a random run to the grocery store..
And this is what we came up:
Dried fruit & Nuts. I’m a big fan of almonds and dried cranberries (aka craisins). I usually buy a monster bag of almonds and some craisins and mix-up my own trail mix. I usually add one handful of craisins for every two handfuls of almonds. But adjust the ratio to suit your taste. Toss it in your pack and you have some delicious trail mix that will withstand the heat well (unlike trail mix with M&Ms and chocolate chips which turn into a goopy mess).
Jelly Belly Sport Beans. Basically, they’re just jelly beans re-branded as “sports beans” but that doesn’t mean they’re not a perfect addition to your linegear. When you’re exhausted, your taste buds change, but I have never been in a situation where I couldn’t gut a few sport beans.
Clif Blok Shot. Another one of those mysterious gummy concoctions. High marks for calorie-density (200 calories per pack). They’re chewy, delicious and pure sugar. Also, we like the Clif Bar company also because they donate a ton of money to wilderness conservation causes.
GU Energy Gel. A bit like slurping down an oyster lathered in delicious sugar. These packets are great for a much-needed shot of energy and don’t require chewing. Just squeeze, swallow, and get back to swinging your tool.
Beef Jerky. Your body needs more than just sugar and testosterone to keep it going. Feed it protein. Grab some individually-wrapped beef jerky to keep stashed in your gear. It’s already dehydrated, so no need to worry about it drying out. And it can withstand the abuse of living at the bottom of your pack for a few months.
Clif Bar Organic Energy Food. Sometimes, you want something that tastes like food. You can only stomach so much gummy sugar products. Which is why Clif Bar’s new Energy Food is awesome. We highly recommend the Sweet Potato and Salt. But the Banana mango and coconut is killer as well. Packs small, tastes big. Great pick.
Pringles Grab N Go. Salty? Check. Protected case? Check. Delectable? Absolutely. There’s just something about Pringles and smoke that makes for the perfect combination. Some folks don’t like’em because even the grab n go can is a little bulky, but if you have some room, come 3am on an Initial Attack assignment…you’ll be the most popular guy on the line.
Tuna Packets. You either love Tuna or hate it. But you can’t argue that by weight, they pack great nutritional value. Omega-3 fats, anti-oxidants and loads of protein and a low profile make this a good addition to the pack. One word of advice. – keep it wrapped in an Zip-Lock bag….just in case.
Peanut Butter Packets. Protein and sugar – check. There’s something about peanut butter that makes it appetizing in all situations. Which is why they’re a nice addition to your line gear. Warning – make sure you’re doing good on water. Scarfing down a packet of peanut butter sans water is a fate worse than death.
I had just finished my first timed practice pack test on the track at Boulder High School in Boulder, Colorado when, exhausted and out of breath, I had a realization: I walk slow. Not just slow, but really slow. My natural gait is more of a strut – a casual, “I give zero shits” sort of a cadence. And for 21 years, that approach to walking had done me well. But with just two months left until my first day as a wildland firefighter in California…I realized I needed to pick up the pace. Here’s how I did it:
Walking is just something that we do subconsciously. We don’t think about it. We pick a destination, tell our body to advance towards it, and our minds shift to other things. This is fine, but the problem that I had was that when my mind turned on auto-pilot, cruising speed was much slower than it needed to be. So I had to change that setting. Which was hard at first. It was easy to walk faster when I was focused on it, but if my mind shifted to something else, *bam*, I took my foot off the gas, and the engine revved lower. It was incredibly annoying. The only way that I could figure out how to fix it was to just walk faster. Everywhere. I turned it into a game. If I was walking to class, or walking to work, or just climbing up the stairs, I did it fast. Always. With a little bit of time, it just became a habit. I learned to move faster. Suddenly, every time I was walking, I was aware that I was walking with purpose. I wasn’t just walking to the bar to meet up with friends – that walk was a training walk. It had purpose. It was moving me, literally, one step closer to my goal of being a firefighter. And it helped.
Fitbits and stepcounting weren’t all the rage when I was getting into fire, but they’re great tools. As a wildland firefighter, you’re essentially a professional hiker. On any given shift, you can easily expect to walk 10+ miles. That’s about 20,000 steps. Most civilians will celebrate and bombard Facebook with posts about how awesome they are if they hit the 10k threshold for steps. If you want to suffer less during the fire season, you need to harden your body in the off-season. You need to get yourself used to walking. There’s no substitute for this – you just simply need to walk more. So go buy a Fitbit or a Jawbone Up and start challenging yourself. Your goal, leading up to Day 1 of fire season, should be to regularly walk 15,000 steps, minimum, each day. That number doesn’t include the running or hiking you’re doing. 15,000 steps. It’s not easy. But wearing that little piece of rubber around your wrist should serve as a reminder to get up and move.
Play around with different ways to wear your pack. The way your pack is sitting might be prematurely fatiguing you. For me, I liked it tight. And if I was wearing a pack with a waistband, I always made sure that it was cinched snugly around my waist. Snug enough that the majority of the weight was supported by my hips, and not my shoulders. This is the way most wildland fire packs are designed, so it’s good training to get used to carrying weight like this. But experiment. If you fatigue your shoulders early in a hike, your posture is going to slouch, your shoulders will slump – all of which leads to suboptimal breathing conditions. And if you’re not breathing right – you’re not getting enough oxygen, which causes even more exhaustion. Hike tall, breathe better, finish sooner. Simple as that.
It seems a bit counterintuitive, but it works. On training hikes, I would watch people flame out by talking huge steps, usually when trying to close a gap between them and the hiker ahead. This was especially problematic when they would skip an intermediate step on particularly steep sections. Humans can walk vast distances because bipedal motion effectively leverages both our skeletal structure and our muscles. If you start talking longer than normal steps, you’re shifting the balance. You’re relying less on your skeletal system to support the weight, and more on your muscles. Think about it – what’s an easier position to hold – standing upright with your feet together, shoulder width apart, or a lunge position, with one foot forward, one foot back? Add additional weight to the equation, and the forces are increased.
One of the mental tricks I like it employ to speed up my steps is that with every step, I’m actively trying to get my leg out front faster. Usually, most people are casual about bringing the lead foot forward, and focus more on driving the weighted foot backwards to propel them. That’s great – but simultaneously think about advancing your lead foot forward as quickly as you can. I picture myself kicking through a few inches of fresh powdery snow. Honestly, just focusing on the act of walking, being aware of your pace, will allow you to start making dramatic improvements.
Thanks for bearing with us, everybody as we go through the process of migrating the site from a static-HTML site to a WordPress-hosted site. This weekend, I have been focusing a lot of my efforts on chasing down 404 errors and bad links. When the site was migrated over, the existing link structure was not supported, so I have had to spend some tedious hours manually providing redirect link information.
Hopefully, we’ll have the 404 errors wrapped up by Sunday. And then after that – we can focus on debuting some exciting new content!
Anyone who has visited this site regularly over the years can attest to the fact that it was in dire need of an update. So this weekend, I have committed to overhauling the site.
The biggest change will be upgrading the site from a static site, cobbled together in Adobe’s Dreamweaver to a WordPress site. At the risk of geeking out, moving the site to a contest management system like WordPress should dramatically improve the efficiency by which I can update the site, and also improve your user experience as you navigate it.
Caveat – Please bear with me as I drag HF from the land of outdated, 2007-era web technology into the world of Web 3.0 or whatever we’re calling the present state of web development. I’m a novice, and run this site in my free time.
While my goal is to always provide an amazing experience to my visitors, over the next 96 hours, there might be some bugs and down times, and I ask that you please be understanding of that.
Thanks again for your continued support and I am excited by the changes we’re making. I hope you are too!