I Work on a Hotshot Crew. This is the Gear We Use.

Words and Photos by Meghann Gunther, MTI Contributor 

Wildland Fire is an exciting and challenging environment. On an Interagency Hotshot crew, you end up on the road most of your season, going from one assignment to the next. Because of the nature of the work and the environment, the gear we use is highly important; it needs to be durable, and lightweight. Here is a brief look at some of the fire gear we use on my crew. Over the years, the crew has fine tuned what it uses to fit our needs, how we travel and work while trying to be as flexible, self-sufficient and efficient as possible with limited weight and space accommodations. 

Nomex Shirts and Pants
The crew gets outfitted with “Propper” brand yellow Nomex fire shirts and green Nomex pants, purchased off GSA. When we are out on project work, we trade our yellows for Wrangler button up shirts to mitigate the wear and tear on our expensive Nomex. My Captain purchased True North brand Women’s Nomex for me this season; previously, few women had come through to work on the crew and the issued greens and yellows were men’s. I am testing two sets out this summer season. So far, at least with my body type, I have not noticed a significant difference in comfort, wear or cut in the pants. They are supposed to have a better cut at the hips for movement and in the waist to avoid irritation with belt stacking of the uniform belt, pack belt and chaps. The only difference with the shirt seems to be the placement of the front pockets on the shirt. One of my concerns is being able to trade them out on campaign fire since women-specific pants and shirt styles are not universally carried by cash. This summer will help me decide if women’s specific Nomex makes a significant difference.

The gloves we are issued are Fire Suppression Supply full leather gloves. While I carry these on my pack and use them most of the summer, since they can be traded out on campaign fires, but when I am running a chainsaw, my preferred gloves are full deerskin leather gloves I purchased at my local Ag and feed store. This is due to the crew issued gloves being difficult to break in and because of their stiffness and seams, not comfortable to run the saw with. The softer leather gloves enable me to have a better, more comfortable grip on the saw. However, when crashing or swamping, in nasty brush, the stiffer and thicker gloves are helpful since they hold up to that wear and tear better. Other sawyers on the crew wear their own gloves while running chainsaws for the same reasons stated above. They are typically a pair from the local hardware or feed store, the requirement being that they are full leather in order to meet fireline safety requirements.


Wildland Fire Initial Attack Pack
Our crew Initial Attack packs are a mix of Nargear “Victim” packs and Mystery Ranch “Hotshot TL” packs.

Historically, the crew used all Nargear but now has been replacing packs going out to service with the Mystery Ranch brand. The latter seems to provide better shoulder and hip support and structure. 

I use a women’s Mystery Ranch “Hotshot TL” pack which allowed me to get a size that better adjusted to my waist, back and hip size. There doesn’t seem to be any other major differences between the Mystery Ranch’s Hotshot men’s and women’s packs other than sizing. The price is the same as well as the pack structure. Mystery Ranch does a good job of supporting the Wildland community and giving back by scholarships which is another benefit of the brand. A couple of our folks run their own packs as well, “Type 1 Wildland Fire Pack” made by Hill People Gear, because they have found them to be more supportive for their backs. 

 A variety of boots are represented on the crew. Folks are using White’s, JK’s, Scarpa’s, Lowes,and Danners among others. I have used Nick’s the past two years. This year I switched to JK’s Bison boot, with a pair of Scarpa’s Fuego as my backup boots. The Bisons were very comfortable to break in but they are stretching out and the Honey heel is wearing down much faster compared to my pair of Nick’s boots. There is a good chance I am going to have to get them resoled before the end of the fire season. For how expensive they are, it’s disappointing. Folks running with White’s and JK’s classic Logger fire boots have found them to last longer as they are a tougher/stiffer leather. They are getting a couple seasons out of them with a resole every year. Lowes, Danner’s and Scarpa’s seem to be easier to break in than the leather logger boots. However the loggers are great to hike in when you are on steep slopes, like the Klamatha or Six Rivers forest, due to the tall heel. The taller leather loggers also offer more shin protection. 

War Bags
Instead of the standard issued “Red Bag”, we are issued Large North Face Base Camp Duffels, which we call “War Bags”. Other Hotshot crews use the same or similar bags for their crews. These bags hold our individual gear, like sleeping bags, extra Nomex, clothes and personal effects needed for a fourteen day to twenty one day assignment. These bags are waterproof, keep the dust and dirt out fairly well and with the backpack style straps, allow us to pack them out of a spike camp if necessary. This allows us to be self contained and self sufficient if we are not able to get air support when breaking down a spike camp and hiking out.  

Gear is important. Our space and weight as a Hotshot crew is limited. We have to be self-sufficient while being prepared for all kinds of weather, environments and situations. Our overhead works hard to issue and maintain quality gear, like our packs, war bags, sleeping bags, ect to take care of us. Quality of gear does matter, we are hard on the gear we use and we don’t want it failing on us while we are out on assignment or out on the fireline serving. We pack light and come prepared to solve whatever problems are thrown our way. We strive to be self-sufficient, able to travel efficiently and bring an organized, professional product where we are called. 

Meghann is a full time Wildland Firefighter in California.


Men’s Nomex:

Women’s Nomex:

Project Shirts:


Men’s IA Packs:

Women’s IA pack


War Bags:

Additional research links:

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