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Tough Outdoor Jobs

Every backpacker dreams of a glory job in the outdoors. Here's what it takes to make the grade for 8 of the toughest ones out there.


Job description Simply put, get paid to be a backpacker. OK, that’s too simple. Rangers do explore sprawling wilderness areas on foot, but it’s not all peakbagging and meadow naps. On patrol, you’ll check on visitors’ safety and lawfulness, perform trail maintenance, join search-and-rescue efforts, and more. (Get an insider’s take on the job at According to Patti Schwind, who worked six seasons as a wilderness ranger in Idaho, “You need superior strength and stamina for all hiking conditions. Rangers typically go on a 10-day hitch, alone, and hike up to 15 miles daily.”
Entrance exam A backcountry ranger carries a 65-pound pack full of heavy tools, such as an axe, shovel, pulaski, saw, and wrench. The following test is designed to gauge your ability to carry that pack and perform routine tasks. You can take a one-minute rest between exercises, but to pass, you must finish it all within three hours.

­+ Walk 5 miles at a 5% incline on a treadmill with a 50-pound pack, in 90 minutes or less.
­­+ Dig a 10-foot-long trench that is 2 feet wide and 2 feet deep.
­+ Push/roll a 30-pound boulder for 50 feet.

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