In Marine speak a hike is known as a “hump,” and to carry a soldier’s load on your back while hiking is known as “humping” whatever gear it is. At OCS and also TBS, conditioning hikes are used as PT and boy do can they get rough! The longest will be in the neighborhood of 12-15 miles. Your packs could be 60-80 pounds and the total load can easily exceed 100 pounds in “the real Marine Corps,” so training humps are not just for hazing.
Here are some tips to help you succeed on those grueling conditioning hikes!
- Wear some silky dress socks under your boot socks as sock liners. They help wick moisture away from the foot and definitely reduce friction by creating another layer
If you can, get some moleskin to cut big ovals out of and put on your hips and the back of your heel and the ball of your feet. That extra layer of “skin” can save you from getting blistered or even cut up and bloody skin from all the friction. Candidates at every OCS class get so punished by the friction that their hips get cut open from the pack waistband. Believe it.
- Go to OCS with a stick of Bodyglide. It is much quicker to apply than moleskin, and won’t accidentally get rubbed off if you get wet or something. You can apply it to your entire foot, and the entire ring around your hips that the waistband sits on. Bodyglideis a cheap, excellent solution for candidates. I highly recommend you take at least one stick to OCS. What you don’t use there, you’ll need at TBS.
- Winter OCS: Periodically blow air into your camelbak. If you don’t keep warm air circulating in there, the water can freeze and you will be stuck with nothing to drink.
- Pack heavier items more towards your center of gravity. You can be very awkward if your pack leans left, right, or back away from you. Heavy pieces of gear should be packed close to the spine
- Buy a big, legit backpacking backpack and go on your own conditioning hikes, sprinting every 100 meters for short bursts. The Sergeant Instructors love making candidates tighten up the formation and making them run to exhaust them.
- If they will let you get away with it, put baby powder inside your sock liners (dress socks) before you start out. That will really help until you sweat too much for the powder to absorb it
- Stretch and loosen up on breaks. Usually you get 50 minutes humping/10 minutes break.
- Change your socks often–bring multiple pairs, preprepped with foot powder inside and unrolled so that they can be quickly put on your feet.
- EAT! Try to down an MRE before falling asleep the night before a big hump, and pace out peanut butter, cheese, and snack items from MREs every half hour or so throughout the hike. It will give you a steady supply of energy so you don’t crash during or directly after.
Stay motivated. Realize that thousands of officers have made it through before you. You will feel pain, but you won’t fail because of it. You might think you’re going to die at some point–but you won’t.
You’ll become a Marine. Get some.