Hotshot Hiking Guide

The best way to improve how fast you move up the mountain is to get on a mountain and start walking up. That's not always possible of course. But if you're training for the fire season, you should be wearing a pack 2-3x a week and doing everything you can to get your boots on a trail. There's no question about it - hotshots are professional hikers. So you better train for it.

In the training plan that follows, Tuesdays and Thursdays will always be hiking days, while Saturdays should be spent doing prolonged, all-day athletic activities (Long trail run, epic hike, mountain biking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, orienteering, ultimate frisbee, pickup basketball, etc.). Hunting Elk also counts. Ice fishing...not so much.

Something to consider purchasing is a weight vest. They're comfortable, and a better alternative to stuffing your pack with rocks at the trailhead till you 'reckon you got about 50lbs worth of stones in it.

A better solution to purchasing a weight vest? MAKING YOUR OWN! For all the do-it-yourselfers out there, we've put together a simple plan for creating a training ruck that perfectly fits the requirements of the hiking training system, and can be used to train for the pack test. Check it out.

All hotshot crews use the same type of training hikes: Long and Steep. You will start at the bottom of a mountain and hike for 45-60 minutes straight up it. You might very well do a bunch of push-ups when you get to the top too. If there are any stragglers, you will circle back and hike with them back to the top. More often than not, these hikes were made by previous crews during line-cutting training, so don't expect switchbacks or mild grades. Imagine watching someone roll a boulder off the top of a hill. The boulder's fall-line will be the path that you'll take to the top.

Find Your Training Hill
To best prepare yourself for the upcoming season, scout out your area for a good hill. An ideal training hike will be 2 miles, gain 700-1000 feet of elevation, and have a minimal number of flat or downhill sections that you might be able to recover on. But, if your part of the world doesn't offer such hilly topography, don't despair. Hike the hill that you do have 2 or 3 times in a row to compensate for one long sustained hike, or substitute in some of the exercises below.

The training guide offers a hiking schedule to get you into shape. Remember to hike in your fireboots as well -not only do they add an additional 3-4lbs of weight, but you want your boots well broken-in by the start of the season. Hotshots don't skimp on their socks either. Check out SmartWool's Mountaineer Socks. SmartWool makes the best socks on the market. Your blister-free feet will thank you later. Hotshot Fitness also recommends White's Boots as the best boot on the fireline, bar none. The Smokejumper model is a tried-and-true classic. Worth every penny!