3 Pack Tests that Will Toughen You Up for Survival

Maintaining a healthy level of fitness is about more than just keeping your mind and body in good shape. Fitness is also part of being prepared for the unexpected.

When the time comes, you need to be prepared to get places without a vehicle. You’ll likely be carrying your gear over long distances when disaster strikes and you need to get to a safe place.

While cardiovascular exercises, weight lifting and stretching can all help you be ready to move, there are a few simple tests to make sure you can get yourself and your gear to your destination. Wilderness professionals use these tests to gauge their readiness for their jobs.

Wildland Firefighter Pack Tests

The wildland firefighter pack tests are set to make sure Forest Service personnel are prepared for the physical demands of battling wildfires. Search and rescue teams also use these tests for fitness exams. There are three tiers of testing, each carrying an increased level of difficulty. All of these are done on level terrain wearing boots.

Remember to train before doing these tests and also consult your physician before substantially increasing your level of physical activity.

Light: The easiest of the three. The light test is a one-mile hike in 16 minutes. You don’t need to be carrying anything, but feel free to bring a small amount of water and equipment.

Moderate: This is the first test involving a pack. It comprises of a two-mile hike with a 25-pound pack in half an hour. For many of us, this could comprise of a general field kit. If you’re adding weight to your pack, make sure it’s evenly placed. Many people use sand bags to weigh down their rucks.

While this is an easy way to give you the required weight for the test, it can also cause a it of discomfort with how the sand will pull down on the pack. How this works out will depend on the type of pack to use. Remember, you don’t want to go far beyond your body’s tolerance for these exercises. It doesn’t make sense to delay your training with avoidable injuries.

Arduous: This test involves the most weight and the longest hike. Carry a 45-pound pack for three miles in 45 minutes. Lane county Search and Rescue uses this as one testing option for candidates and members. However, because 45 pounds can be a substantial amount of weight for someone who may weigh, say, 120 pounds, EMR adjusts the weight for 45 pounds or one third of the person’s body weight, whichever is less.

Search and Rescue Pack Tests

While Eugene Mountain Rescue and other Lane county SAR teams do use the arduous test for members and candidates, we have other tests that we use to assess physical fitness.

Search and rescue missions will often go off of flat land and into higher elevations on steep slopes over long distances. Our tests have longer distances than the arduous test with more elevation gain, but with more time for members to complete. Here is an example of one our more commonly used tests.

Load a pack with 25 percent of your body weight, up to 40 pounds. Hike a hill that allows you to travel up, down and up again for an uphill elevation gain of 2,000 feet. This test must be completed in less than two hours. Sometimes the downhill leg of the test will vary depending the hill you use.

For instance, a hill that goes up 1,500 feet will only require 500 feet of downhill travel to allow for the 2,000 feet required uphill. The distance may also vary. One slope we use for this test covers a little more than four miles.

These pack tests or “rucks” can give you a good benchmark for your physical fitness outside the weight room or treadmill. Try them out and see what works for you and the kit you plan on carrying.