Everything I keep in my red bag and my small personal backpack. Don’t bring a lot of extra stuff or your crew members will be annoyed at you for taking up extra space in the truck. Everything I have in my fireline pack is listed under the What I Carry section on this page.
In no particular order of importance:
Charging cable and wall and cigarette lighter plug ins for phone
Aux cable for music and podcast listening capabilities
Extra snacks and beverage packets to add to my line gear if we are spiking out
Reading material (I don’t get sick reading in vehicles so I go through a lot of books and magazines when I’m not taking my turn driving. Some people bring tablets, but I like books or magazines I can easily bring, share with others, and not worry about.)
Hoody and/or puffy jacket (I get cold easily and like to have it handy. You will usually buy crew shirts, hats, and hoodies at the beginning of the year. They are not provided to you.)
Prescription sunglasses (I wear glasses as I’ve found contacts to really irritate my eyes while working in smoke and ash. I just change into my prescription sunglasses anytime it’s sunny and I haven’t had any problems. Mine were $40 from Eyebuydirect.com Get $10 off with code IFQ8CMRDGD, I love them and they hold up really well. No matter what, you will want sunglasses of some kind.)
Insulated coffee mug (I use a 16-oz Klean Kanteen so I can get coffee to go when we are out and about and not need single use cups that I immediately throw away. And it keeps my coffee way hotter throughout the day.)
Giant water bottle (I use a 40-oz HydroFlask to stay hydrated while not working on a fire so I don’t deplete my water in my fire pack or have to use single use plastic water bottles. I also have one in my fire pack. These are so rad. They will keep ice for 2 days if you are careful. There is nothing better than cold water when you are sweating and super hot on a fire.)
Spare pens including a blue ink pen and a Sharpie (I’m always writing things down on the fireline and it’s important to have them. You’ll understand about blue ink when you are on your first big fire.)
Cash and/or credit card (You’ll need money to buy your own food on the road and will get reimbursed up to a certain amount depending on what city you are in, this is called your Per Diem, when you return to your home station and fill out your Travel Voucher. I’ve been in tiny towns that don’t always take debit/credit cards so I like keeping about $50 in my bag in case of emergencies.)
Driver’s license (Everyone takes turns driving and if you get pulled over for speeding or reckless driving or whatever YOU are held responsible and have to pay the ticket, not the government. Accidents are another story unless it’s blatantly your fault, then you may be liable for some damages. Point is: Drive carefully! Everyone else in the vehicle is relying on you to keep them safe. Motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of wildland firefighter deaths.)
Lunch box (I use a $6 one I found who knows where, linked to similar, that zips and is insulated. When we are working normal days, not on a fire, we always bring lunch from home because we are usually out in the field doing project work or could be headed to a fire. So it’s important to have a sturdy container to keep your lunch in while it’s bouncing around in the back of the truck. Some crew members just use grocery store plastic bags, but I like that my beverages and snacks stay cold on hot days in my lunch bag.)
Face sunscreen (I put it on every single day because skin cancer.)
SPF chapstick (Same reason as above and fire is rough on your skin and makes your lips chap real bad.)
For the curious, I use a super basic black backpack with one zippered pocket that’s about 15 liters. Black was important to me because things get dirty quickly in the back of a truck.
If you smoke cigarettes or chew tobacco or have a gum obsession make sure to have plenty to last you 14 days.
Red Bag List
Also in no particular order of importance. Remember that Your home station will issue you a tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, and usually a space blanket to protect your sleeping pad from punctures. I use my own one-man tent, but that’s my personal preference. My list will be different than someone else’s list. A lot of people pack less, but I like my toiletries and clean underthings and staying warm.
Extra socks and underwear. I bring at least 15 pairs of each. Some people get by on much less but this keeps my feet in good shape and I like clean underwear. This way if I have to extend to a 21-day assignment I’m also well covered and not having to wash things in a sink or waterway.
Clean crew shirts or plain cotton or wool t shirts to wear under my yellow. At least five. This gives me about four days of wear for each and a clean one to wear when traveling home (which is a rule on most crews).
Spare Nomex pants. In case I rip or tear a pair and there’s not a fire camp to get them traded for a new pair. Also to wear home since they will most likely be clean. Otherwise I wear one pair of Nomex pants for an entire roll unless it’s crazy hot.
Wool long underwear top and bottom. I get really cold at night sleeping at high elevations or late in the season when temperatures drop at night. Slipping into a clean long sleeve top and pants to sleep in is a nice luxury.
Down jacket, beanie, and thin gloves for cold times at camp
Spare bag to put dirty clothes in.
I bring workout clothes and shoes if I know for certain that we are going somewhere for preparedness (This means that we aren’t going straight to a fire, and instead going as a back up fire resource in case fires start.) Sometimes you sit around a lot waiting to get sent to a fire and being able to go on a run or do some body weight exercises not in your boots and Nomex is a great thing.
Flip flops (It’s nice to take the boots off and have something else to walk around in after work)
An extra headlamp to read with at night so I don’t have to grab it from my fireline pack and forget to put it back. Also serves as a spare. I like this Black Diamond one because it has red light for nighttime and a lock feature).
Alarm clock (You can use a watch or your phone)
Foot care items like duct tape, mole skin, and Gold Bond Powder. If I’m getting hot spots or blisters I put a long strip of duct tape over the area and hike with that on. It works better for me than anything else because it rarely falls off and rolls up in my boot the way moleskin does. I put Gold Bond on my feet and in my boots every night to keep them drier.
Facial wipes (I like Burt’s Bees ones the best because they are natural and not drying)
Toothbrush and toothpaste (travel size isn’t big enough if you brush your teeth twice a day for two weeks, FYI),
Ibuprofen, Benadryl, cold medicine, cough drops, and some daily vitamins. I started taking a collagen supplement in my coffee every morning and it makes my joints feel better in my advancing thirties :) Bring whatever else you need medicine-wise if you take medication.
Small Dr. Bronners soap, tiny loofah (excellent at getting ash and dirt off), mini 2-in-1 shampoo/conditioner, razor, hair brush, and facial scrub for the off chance there’s a shower at fire camp. Otherwise you are usually staying at a hotel during your travel home and you can shower there. For this reason I also pack a swimsuit so I can use the hot tub at the hotel on the way home.
Deodorant. Helps a little.
Hand ointment for cuts and scrapes. I like Burt’s Bees Res Q Ointment because it comes in a small tin.
Tweezers for splinters and nail clippers
Ear plugs. I can’t sleep without them.
Small pillow. I make a pillow out of my down jacket and cover it with a clean t shirt.
I keep all my clean clothes in a medium dry bag so they are dry if my red bag gets wet. I also stuff my sleeping bag in a burly trash bag for the same reason. This way I’m never surprised with wet clothes or a wet sleeping bag. Sometimes red bags get flown into spike camp or are in the back of a pickup truck and they get soaked in the rain.