Giddyup Probies: Getting on the Gear
Photo Courtesy of TonyStl's Flickr Stream
A caveat to this point is that accuracy in gear donning is every bit as important as speed. Your gear is designed to keep you pretty safe, but only if it’s used properly. Your coat collar doesn’t do you any good if it’s left hanging open, the neckflap in your helmet won’t keep embers off of you if it’s rolled or mashed up into the helmet. You won’t do any good to a victim if you become one yourself through negligence.
How can I improve?
So we agree that it’s important to get your gear on fast; now, how do you get your donning time down to the absolute minimum you can manage. I’ll share some tips here that have helped me get my time down to an average of 33 seconds (there are many who are faster than me), but ultimately the most important tip you can follow is the first one on my list:
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You won’t get better by sitting around and wishing you were faster at your gear drill. Go put it on right now. Again. No amount of tips or tricks will help you if you don’t put in the effort yourself.
2) Muscle Memory
Your body can do things amazingly quickly if you don’t let thinking get in the way. Think about touch typing on a computer keyboard (something I’m particularly familiar with) — you don’t sit there thinking “Ok, now I need to type an A, then a C, now where is that E”, you just think the word, and your fingers know where the keys are because they’ve typed that word many times before. You need to make your muscles just KNOW how to do this so that you don’t slow your body down by thinking about getting dressed. How does that happen? Patterns. Don your gear in the same way, everytime, with the same motions, and in the same order. That means when you doff your gear, you put things in the right place: for me, my gloves go in my left pants pocket, facing each other, left glove on the outside, and my hood is in my right pocket, rolled up with the tag facing in towards my body. I don’t have to think about grabbing them next, it’s just where they are, and my hands know what to do. Once you’ve got your pattern, repeat it until you’re sick of it. Revisit tip one.