Here’s one way to find out whether you qualify for work as a wildland firefighter. Stuff enough food and gear for a week into a backpack, and add rocks until your pack weighs at least 50 pounds. Start hiking cross-country, and make sure you’re going at a good clip for at least 10 hours per day on steep slopes — and make sure you’re awake for at least 20 hours per day. If you see big movable stuff, such as rocks and logs, pick them up and move them. Fall down a lot, bang yourself up on rocks and roots as often as possible. Thrash around in the brush and go without enough food and water.


Practice sleeping while standing up. This is critical. Practice it enough to where you sort of get to like it. Try to attract as many mosquitoes and bees and flies as possible, and get bit by as many as you can in as many places as possible. Get wet and muddy; then get as hot and dusty and generally filthy as you possibly can. Keep this up for a week, and whatever you do, DON’T BATHE. Wildland firefighters work in some of the most extreme conditions and locations imaginable. The job isn’t for everyone, but if you give yourself this test and genuinely enjoy it, we just might want to hire you.