Hikes (known as humps) at OCS are one of the more difficult training evolutions that candidates will face on Brown Field.
There are a few ways that candidates can help themselves prepare for humps. Most humps will occur before a major evaluation such as the Leadership Reaction Course or Small Unit Leadership Evaluation. You will spend the night in the field before the training evolution and chow is continuous in the field. Eat a Meal Ready to Eat (MRE) before you go to sleep. It takes three hours for your body to digest anything, so having an MRE before you sleep will ensure you don’t lose excess calories but have time to digest. Ideally, you would start carb loading two days before a hump. However, this isn’t always the case at OCS. Consume the salt packet and electrolyte powder the night before to ensure you have enough sodium. You’re going to lose a lot of salt and water on a hump. Water is easy enough to replenish as you will have a Camelbak. But, having an improper water/salt balance will lead to hyponatremia (low blood sodium). This happens when you don’t consume enough salt. The symptoms are similar to a heat case. The platoon staff will let you eat on humps so keep MRE snacks like peanut butter, trail mix, jalapeño cheese, etc in readily accessible areas. Eat something every 30 minutes. Drinking water really helps. There’s a reason corpsman are famous for saying, “Drink water and change your socks.” It also makes your pack lighter. A full Camelbak weighs 6 lbs. Candidates will be evaluated on a 3, 4, 6 and 9-mile hike. Additionally, hikes will be used as an administrative move to get the training company to a new location.
Weapon, Gear, Body
In the Marine Corps, you will learn to care for things in this order: Weapon, gear, body. Maintain and clean your weapon first, then your gear, and then yourself. Your weapon is for the defense of the platoon, your gear defends you, and your body (food, warmth, sleep) is a comfort based decision. It goes back to the Spartan adage of, “Come back with your shield or on it.”
Weapon: Rifles will be carried on a sling on either your right or left side. Before a hike, adjust your rifle sling. I keep mine tight enough that it can hang without holding it. But loose enough that it doesn’t cut off circulation.
Gear: Organize your pack so the heaviest items are in the center, close to your spine. Pack lighter items such as extra cammies and sleeping systems around it. Load bearing vests, Kevlar (helmet) and notebooks should be placed near the top as these are going to be used first. Keep your pack high and centered and the waist belt tight.
Body: Bodyglide works wonders on your feet and lower body in general. Put it on the inside of your thighs and any points of friction. Put moleskin on your hips where you know your pack belt will sit and then body glide around everything else. And I mean everything. A candidate in my platoon got really bad chafing in a very personal place and was uncomfortable for a few days. Even cut the liner out of his PT shorts to get more room. You’ll barely have time to change socks on hikes. So have new socks prepared with foot powder already inside. Regarding blisters, I really like the Bandaid Blister Gel Guard for treating blisters. It works better than moleskin and is precut so you can directly apply it.
Note: You will be issued bodyglide and moleskin. If you want extra, buy it here:
Candidates will hike in columns of two on the side of the road. Candidates in column will maintain one arms distance from the candidate in front of them during the hump. The middle of the road will be reserved for OCS platoon staff, candidate platoon staff and those who fall out of formation. The formation is organized at staff discretion, commonly by height or alphabetically. Humps are conducted at 15 min/mi with a ten-minute break every 3 miles. Candidates who complete the hump in formation will receive a grade of 100% on the hike. Candidates who fall out (lose their place in formation) but do not fall behind the Company Executive Officer (XO) (at the back of the column) will receive a grade of 80%. Candidates who fall behind the Company XO will receive a failing grade. Keep a cadence in your head. Left, right, lo right. That will keep you consistent and prevent you from gaining more distance from the candidate in front of you. Swing your arms. It will help your body find a natural rhythm and momentum. Quantico is a long series of short, shallow hills. As you go uphill, cinch your pack straps tighter, so the weight sits high on your shoulders. This will push you forward and gravity will help you. Lean forward slightly and lift your knees high as you go uphill. As you go down a steep hill, do the opposite. Loosen your straps and waist belt so that the pack sits right on your rear. This will shift your center of gravity and help you from face planting on the downhill. Make sure your pack straps stay even. A little trick I use is to measure my pack strap length by grabbing the strap and making sure I can fit two fists between top and bottom. This ensures my straps are about the same. Your measurement will be different, depending on torso length.
Being good at humps is more experience than physical fitness or general mental toughness. If you can go out and practice, even if not at pace, it will help you. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Humps are more miserable than they are hard. A lot of candidates borrowed books from me the days before a hump. Reading and having something to think about was very helpful as you’re stumbling around the woods in Quantico.
Danners vs Bates Lites vs Bellevilles
There’s a lot of debate as to what boot is best for hikes. I wore my Bates Lites on all but one admin move. They were my go to boots at OCS. Ultimately it’s a personal decision, but the consensus seems to be that Danners are better for humps and Bates are better for PT. Bellevilles seem to be solid middle-of-the-road, generic USMC boots. If the boot fits you well, that’s the most important thing. If you don’t have hills where you live, go practice on a stair master or in an old parking garage.
Hike Preparation workout
- Half mile of burpees
- 3 x 12 squats at 75% of max.
The burpees are untimed/uncounted. If you have a heart rate monitor you should aim for a heart rate in the 155-160 range. That will put most candidates in an aerobic heart rate training zone and help them build endurance muscle while still utilizing fast twitch muscles.
Read More Tips on USMC Humps
See our previous post and video here!