The right gear is essential for the safety of wildland firefighters and the effectiveness of their firefighting efforts. Finding yourself fighting a blazing fire in the middle of a forest without a necessary piece of gear is a precarious situation, to say the least. As such, wildland firefighters must carefully pack their bags with all the gear they may require while fighting wildfires.
A wildland firefighter will typically carry two bags: a fire line backpack and a travel bag (also known as a red bag). Generally, a fire line backpack shouldn’t exceed 20 pounds, while a travel bag shouldn’t weigh more than 45 pounds. Because firefighters have to carry their packs throughout the day, they must also avoid overpacking—too many items can take up limited space or make their bags harder to carry due to the extra weight. Below we list some of the most essential pieces of gear a wildland firefighter should pack in their bags.
A properly stocked fire line backpack will generally provide all the gear a firefighter needs for the first couple days of firefighting. In addition to any personal items you may want to bring along, such as snacks or a book, a fire line backpack is largely composed of essential line gear. The following gear should find its way into your fire line backpack:
An essential piece of equipment in any wildland firefighter’s pack is a fire shelter. When firefighters get trapped by wildfires, fire shelters provide them with protection from indirect heat. They are used as last resorts and have saved the lives of hundreds of firefighters.
Fire gloves protect the hands and wrists of wildland firefighters from burns, abrasions, and cuts when they’re handling sharp or hot objects. Ideally, gloves should have long, non-burn cuffs for enhanced protection.
Canteens with holders
When firefighters must battle fires for long periods of time out in the hot sun, dehydration poses a serious health risk. As such, it’s important for them to carry ample amounts of water. Typically, wildland firefighters should carry at least four quarts of water with them in canteens.
First aid kit
A first aid kit provides wildland firefighters with the essential equipment they need to tend to common injuries they may incur on the job, such as sprains, blisters, burns, and cuts. The first aid kit should include bandage materials, antiseptic wipes, alcohol swabs, antibiotic ointment, duct tape, and other supplies that can address any severe or minor injuries sustained in a wildland firefighting environment.
GPS and compass
Getting lost while battling a raging fire or not knowing how to get to your post can mean the difference between life and death. As such, a GPS and a compass are of utmost importance, and you should always keep them in your pack. A GPS will help you easily navigate to where you need to go in an emergency, while a compass will provide necessary backup in case of a technical issue with the GPS.
Headlamp and flashlight
When firefighting efforts carry into the night, low visibility can make accomplishing your essential tasks far more challenging. To ensure you have the visibility you need, you must pack a headlamp and a flashlight. In addition, you should also pack spare AA batteries in case they die.
Various high-visibility flagging
Rolls of bright, high-visibility flagging has several uses for wildland firefighters. It can help them mark trails into a fire, quickly find their ways out of a site, mark equipment and gear left along the fire line, and identify hazards. Ideally, flagging should be a bright, eye-catching color and highly resistant to cold-cracking.
Wildland firefighters use red bags, or travel bags, to carry additional equipment necessary for longer assignments. Providing extra room, red bags can fit overnight supplies and other gear firefighters need to stay safe and comfortable for several days and nights on the fire line. A red bag typically contains the following equipment:
Sleeping Bag and compression sack
For assignments where wildland firefighters have to spend the night out on the fire line, a sleeping bag will keep them warm and comfortable. To prevent the sleeping bag from taking up too much room in the pack, a compression sack can make it more compact.
Inflatable sleeping pad
An inflatable sleeping pad makes sleeping in the engine or out in the elements more comfortable. Inflatable sleeping pads provide additional support, and they’re light and portable, so they can easily fit inside a red bag without taking up much room.
When an assignment lasts for multiple days, you’ll need to pack some additional clothing. Include in your red bag at least five pairs of wool socks as well as five pairs of liner socks to prevent blistering; underwear; four or five T-shirts; and comfortable shorts. In cooler environments, it’s also advisable to pack a hooded sweatshirt, a small fleece jacket that compresses easily, and long underwear to keep you warm.
Your travel bag should also include an array of toiletries to help you keep up with your personal hygiene on overnight assignments. Examples of items to put in your personal toiletry bag include a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, a comb, shaving cream, razors, and other hygiene items. To protect your gear from any toiletry items that may leak and cause a mess, we suggest storing your toiletries in a small waterproof bag.
For high-quality wildland firefighting gear and equipment, shop The Supply Cache. Since 1991, we have provided exceptional gear to the brave firefighters risking their lives to protect us. Our wide range of top-of-the-line products includes every type of gear on this list and many other types of necessary equipment, such as handmade boots, hoses, tanks, pumps, FR brush gear, and fire line tools. In addition, we’re consistently expanding our existing product lines to satisfy customer requests and to better suit your unique needs. For more information regarding our unbeatable products, contact us today.