1st Special Response Group Fitness Policy

This is a generic document. Please refer to the Word document here for the latest revision.

I. Disclaimer

1SRG is not and does not hold itself out as a medical authority. The requirements listed in this document are based upon recommendations by the United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, as appropriate for Wildland Firefighters. 1SRG believes the physical requirements of the Wildland Firefighter closely approximates that of the SAR Operator.

Please do not train for, or take, the test described herein without first having an authorized physician perform a Physical and Medical Examination as presented in the 1SRG document: Medical History and Clearance.

  1. Basis of Requirements
  2. The following was originally prepared by the USDA FS. Where appropriate the term "Wildland Firefighter" has been replaced by the term "SAR Operator".

    SAR operations involves field work demanding a high level of fitness, including above-average endurance and superior conditioning to safely perform physically demanding work in difficult environments.

    SAR Operators and others assigned field duty must be prepared to work in difficult terrain, climate, and weather conditions while maintaining reserve work capacity to meet unforeseen emergencies.

    "Studies of wildland firefighting clearly show the link between fitness and work performance. Fit workers can do more work with less fatigue, and still have a reserve to meet unforeseen emergencies. They perform better in a hot environment, and recover faster from adverse firefighting conditions like long shifts and reduced rest. In short, fitness is the most important factor in work capacity."

    The above is certainly true of SAR as well.

  3. Testing Procedures
  4. 01. Description

Known as the "Pack Test", the test consists of a 3 mile hike with a 45 pound pack over level terrain. A time of 45 minutes, the passing score for the test, approximates a step test score of 45 (ml./kg. min.), the established standard for wildland firefighters. The test is a valid, job-related test of the capacity for arduous work, defined as: "Duties involve field work requiring physical performance calling for above average endurance and superior conditioning. These duties may include an occasional demand for extraordinarily strenuous activities in emergencies under adverse environmental conditions and over extended periods of time. Requirements include running, walking, climbing, jumping, twisting, bending, and lifting more than 50 pounds; the pace of work typically is set by the emergency condition." The energy cost of the test is similar to that demanded on the job. The Pack Test is correlated to measures of aerobic and muscular fitness, as well as performance in field tasks such as working with hand-tools, or carrying loads over rough terrain. The duration of the test insures the capacity to perform prolonged arduous work under adverse conditions, with a reserve to meet emergencies.

Because of its length, the Pack Test is an excellent indicator of sustained work capacity. Scores on a flat course are highly related to performance on a hilly course. And performance on the Pack Test is significantly related to muscular fitness, including measures of upper and lower body strength. The Pack Test is: job-related, safe, inexpensive, and easy to administer. It is a valid, reliable, and objective measure of work capacity that does not adversely impact workers on the basis of gender, ethnicity, age, height, or weight.

02. Course

The course must be essentially level and have a firm, relatively smooth walking surface. Course length (3 miles) must be accurate: double-check measurements. Use a measuring wheel or a calibrated bicycle computer. Vehicle odometers are not sufficiently accurate.

Loop or out-and-back courses are preferable. Avoid one-way courses where unfavorable conditions (wind, grade) are not offset. A moderate grade (2-3%) is acceptable if the course starts and finishes at the same place. Have lap counters available for multi-loop courses. Use course monitors when need

Candidates must be informed of the course layout (use a map or sketch of the course). Use distance markers (e.g., at 1 or 1.5 miles) to aid candidates. Use hazard and traffic markers as needed.

03. Equipment

Pack: Utilize the pack you are most likely to carry in the field. Load the pack to exactly 45 lbs.

Clothing: "T" Shirts are acceptable; long pants are required. Footwear that provides ankle height support (minimum 8"), such as combat, field, or hiking boots are required.

Safety Vests/Route Markers: As needed.

Distance Markers: Use mile and mid-point markers so candidates can maintain proper pace.

Stop watches: Utilize 2 watches to provide back-up timing.

Vehicle: Bicycle or other vehicle to monitor candidates on the course.

Radios: As needed for monitoring and safety.

Scale: An accurate hanging style spring scale is recommended for weighing packs.

Forms: This document and the "clearance" page from the 1SRG document "Medical History and Clearance".

04. Test Administration

Personnel: One person can administer the test when:

The administrator is a trained First Responder or equivalent.
The timer can monitor the course.
Five or fewer people are being tested at one time.
Candidate safety and compliance with test requirements can be assured.

For larger groups or when course monitoring is difficult, a 2 to 3 person team should be used.

Environment: Administer the test in moderate environmental conditions; do not test when the temperature is high or when the temperature and humidity combine to create high heat stress conditions; if necessary, test early in the day to avoid high temperature/ humidity combinations; avoid high winds that may affect performance.

Hydration: If the weather is hot, drink fluids prior to the test, and provide fluid replacement mid way in the course. Carry a water bottle.

Altitude: Use this chart to adjust for tests administered at elevations above 4,000 ft.

Table 1. Altitude Corrections for Work Capacity Tests*
Altitude     Pack Test
8-9,000 ft    90 sec 
7-8,000      73 
6-7,000      60 
5-6,000      45
4-5,000      30
* Add correction to required test time (e.g., Pack 
Test at 6-7,000 ft, add 60 seconds to test standard 
(45 min) for altitude adjusted upward of 46 min.)

The altitude adjustment assumes that the candidate has had an opportunity to acclimate to the altitude of the test site. If a candidate doesn't meet the required standard, even with the adjustment, he or she should be encouraged to train at the altitude and retake the test.

05. Instructions for Evaluator

In advance of test: Have candidates read this document

Safety: Brief candidates on the test, the course, safety considerations, and accommodations. Tell candidates to terminate the test if they experience major physical problems or discomfort, or feel the need to terminate for any reason.

Pace: Demonstrate to candidates how they should hike (power walk) the course as fast as possible without jogging. The heel of one foot must make contact before the opposite toe leaves the ground. Jogging or running will invalidate the test and require a retest.

Accommodations: Candidates may use gloves or other padding to make the pack more comfortable. A candidate-provided walking staff may be used during the test.

Hydration: If weather is hot, tell candidates to drink plenty of fluids prior to the test. Candidates may elect to carry a water bottle, but the extra weight will not be counted as part of the park weight.

06. Essentials of Good Testing

An accurately measured flat course with good surface.

Proper weight packs (45 lbs.) Encourage candidates to adjust them properly.

Duplicate and accurate timing.

Candidates should be rested and well informed about the course and the need to maintain a fast pace.

Favorable environmental conditions. Avoid adverse conditions.

Avoid use of roads and intersections where traffic is a problem or concern. When using roads, use traffic control devices and traffic controllers in hi-visibility vests as needed.

Encourage candidates to stretch and warm up prior the test

Do not test tired or injured individuals, or test during conditions that could compromise health or safety.

    07. Training for the Pack Test

Begin at least 4 to 6 weeks before you report for testing. Train by hiking or power walking, using the ankle height footwear you will use in the test.

Hike a 3 mile flat course without a pack. When you can cover the course in less than 45 minutes;
Add a pack with about 25 pounds to your training hikes; Increase the pack weight until you can hike 3 miles in 45 minutes with a 45 pound pack. Also: hike hills (w/pack) to build leg strength and endurance;
jog the flat course (w/o pack) to build aerobic fitness; hike/jog over distance for stamina; and, engage in cross-training (mountain biking, weight lifting).

Finally, do job-specific tasks and training to become work hardened. Wear work boots on extended -hikes. Work with hand tools to prepare trunk and upper body muscles for prolonged work. Work hardening insures that the hands, feet, muscles, tendons and ligaments used on the job are tough and ready to go.