We’ve been providing high-quality forest fire equipment since 1991. We’ve seen innovations in the industry that have increased safety and efficiency, and we’ve seen trends that have come and gone. While there have been big changes to wildland firefighting over the last 25 years or so, the essentials have largely stayed the same. A lot of the most popular items in a wildland firefighter pack are the same today as what you might have found in there 20 or even 50 years ago. These items are tried and true and consider must-haves when it comes to packing up to go to the next fire.
We’ve compiled a list of the 10 most popular pack items, based on our experience, talking to some local wildland firefighters, and sales in our store. What’s in your pack? We’re guessing if we took a peek, we’d find a lot of these items inside.
12 Popular Items in a Wildland Firefighter’s Pack
A lot of the fires wildland firefighters are dealing with happen deep in the backcountry, where trails are few and far between and signage is almost unheard of. That’s why it’s important for firefighters to keep a compass in their pack at all times. Used in conjunction with maps and GPS systems, a good compass can get a firefighter out of a sticky situation and back to safety as well as help them plot out their next moves to combat the fire.
These shelters are a last-ditch effort to get out of a fire safely. The shelter is like a small tent that is deployed when a firefighter is caught in a blaze. The shelter is made from fire-resistant materials that will keep the person inside safe from the blaze. It also deflects up to 90% of the heat, cooling down the temperatures so they are survivable. And finally, it provides the shelterer with breathable air for a period of time. That’s a whole lot of life-saving power in a small package, so it’s no wonder so many firefighters keep these on hand.
It might seem basic, but it’s a must. Every firefighter should keep a well-stocked first aid kit on hand in their forest fire equipment. That’s because a good kit can make the difference between being able to continue the work safely and having to turn back for treatment. A first aid kit can make your time fighting the fire more comfortable, too, such as providing pain relief for headaches or blisters.
Flares are useful in a variety of situations. Firefighters can use them to signal for help, set safety boundaries, or even to communicate with planes that are flying overhead. They might even be used to light backfires, which are made in an effort to stop the original inferno from moving forward. A wildland firefighters flares are all-weather and made to hold up under hazardous conditions, unlike the kind you’ll find in most roadside kits.
You might not think you’d find a lot of reading material in a pack, and you’d mostly be correct. But many firefighters choose to keep reference and guide books in their pack to give them fast access to information when they might need it the most. These books could provide information on the local topography, give details on safety regulations, or guides on how to deal with certain situations. It’s handy to have this offline information where internet access could be hard to come by.
Along with their compass, a good map or GPS system is must for a wildland firefighter. Maps not only provide information about how to get into and out of a certain area, but they can also give information about where to light backfires or take other firefighting measures in the area. Maps are usually detailed and you might find more than one in the pack for the same area, giving the firefighter different information depending on what they need at the time.
We’d be willing to bet that every firefighter carries a good pocket knife on them at all times. They are usually more than just a knife, too; multi-purpose tools can get you out of a scary situation when you have nothing else on hand. You might use them to open a bottle, saw down some limbs, or cut open a tent. No one wants to go out into the fire without one of these in their pack.
It might seem like a little thing, but snacks can make a big difference to a firefighter! That’s because most wildland firefighters are working 12 or 16-hour shifts; that’s a long time to go when you might not know when your next meal is coming. Having a protein-rich snack in your pack can help keep you fueled for several more hours and increase your endurance reserves.
Space blankets are another one of those multi-purpose items that firefighters quickly grow to love once they start using them. A space blanket is waterproof, providing shelter from wind and rain. If you have to bed down for the night in the great outdoor, it can give you a little shelter until help arrives.
It might surprise you to learn that there aren’t a lot of flushing toilets in the backcountry and even fewer rolls of toilet paper. Carrying a little toilet paper in a plastic bag can provide a little bit of luxury and a whole lot of comfort when you need it the most. Toilet paper has a lot of other uses out there, too, including as a napkin, towel, or even as a makeshift bandage if your first aid kit runs out.
Water is a primary concern when you are out fighting fires. The temperatures can be extreme and leach the moisture from your body quickly. Replacing those fluids is a necessity. That’s why you’ll find a water bottle in every pack you see. Staying hydrated helps stave off fatigue, keeps muscles from cramping, and helps your mind stay fresh even at the end of a 16 hour shift. Your water bottle can be your best friend out in the backcountry.
Fighting fires involves knowing a lot about what’s happening with the weather in the area. That includes the humidity levels, where the wind is blowing, and when the rain is coming. A weather meter can help wildland firefighters monitor the weather, predict what’s going to happen with the fire and then make plans accordingly. Weather meters provide instant feedback when you need it the most.
Looking for Items to Go in Your Pack?
We have them! Whether you need the pack itself, field instruments, first aid kits, or anything else, we’ll make sure you have everything you need before you head out. It’s not just the stuff in your pack, either. Our team can hook you up with all of the forest fire equipment you need, from your helmets to your boots. We work with our suppliers to bring the best equipment at the best prices to our customers. That means you’ll be able to get the gear that you need without overspending your budget. Browse our online store or stop in our Fort Collins location and see us in person. We’ll fill up your pack and get you the gear you need to go get the job done.