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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.

SMOKEJUMPER

Job description Risk your life to fight wildfires in the most extreme conditions and locations imaginable. Smokejumpers up the danger by parachuting into remote backcountry hotspots. After leaping from the plane, you retrieve your gear (up to 110 pounds of supplies per person), dig fire lines or fell trees from dawn to dusk, and often hike out 10 miles after the job is done. Tip: Don’t get your chute caught in a 150-foot-tall ponderosa on the way down. Expect to take the following test on the first day of training.

Entrance exam
­­+ 1.5-mile run in 10:35 or less
­+ Minimum of 7 pull-ups
­+ 45 sit-ups in 1 minute
­+ 25 push-ups in 1 minute
­­+ Dig 99 feet of 3-foot-wide fire line in light grass within an hour.
­+ Pack 110 pounds on level terrain for 3 miles in 90 minutes or less.
­+ Prerequisite: To qualify for smokejumper school, you need at least one year of employment with an established wildland firefighting unit (see below).


Wildland Firefighter

Job description Wage war at the front lines of wilderness fire patrol. Hand crews,
helitack (chopper) crews, airtankers, rappellers, and smokejumpers all contribute. And don’t be deceived by the relatively painless formal test. According to Murry Taylor, who fought fires for 27 seasons and once worked 14-hour days for 56 days straight, “It is a very physically demanding job where you learn how to live with pain.”

Entrance exam
­+ Pack test: Hike 3 miles over level terrain carrying a 45-pound pack. It must be completed within 45 minutes.

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