Produced in partnership with G-SHOCK.
For decades, G-SHOCK watches have won praise for their exceptional durability, but the G-SHOCK GGB100 Mudmaster takes the brand’s rugged legacy to a new level. From top to bottom, it’s designed for absolute toughness to withstand hard work in the most extreme environments. And for Southern California-based Hotshot firefighter Brian Anderson, hard work and extreme environments are just part of the job. For most of the year, he and his crew head to the front lines to contain fires in wilderness areas all around the country. It’s challenging work—and exactly what the GGB100 was built for.
Among wildland firefighters, Hotshots like Anderson are the best of the best—“the Navy SEALs of the wildland community,” as he puts it—and it’s a reputation they earn by working in some of the most brutal conditions imaginable. Hotshots face unrelenting heat, smoke, and steep terrain, all while carrying heavy equipment and hustling to contain one of nature’s most powerful and unpredictable forces: wildfire. Even with two decades of experience under his belt, the very real danger of these fires keeps Anderson on his toes every time he and his crew answer a call.
“It’s nothing but an adrenaline rush,” he tells Men’s Journal, “just really intense.”
We recently caught up with Anderson as he and his crew began training for this year’s fire season. It was the perfect opportunity to learn more about the incredible work they do, and also a great way to put the GGB100 to the test.
Hotshot training begins in May and lasts several weeks. During that time, Anderson leads his 20-person crew through classes to brush up on firefighting skills and drills to build their fitness and familiarity with equipment. A typical day might involve suiting up in full firefighting gear and going on a long hike through the mountains, clearing brush to make fire breaks, or simulating a response to a medical emergency.
“It’s kind of the equivalent of what football players would call hell week,” says Anderson. “The physical demand is pretty strenuous.”
But it’s a cakewalk compared to battling an actual wildfire. First, Hotshots have to traverse remote, mountainous terrain while carrying everything they need for a 16-hour shift—protective equipment, food, water, tools—on their backs.
Once they arrive on the scene, they position themselves right at the edge of the flames. Temps regularly hit triple digits, thick smoke makes breathing almost impossible, and they work to halt the fire by clearing brush and trees with nothing more than hand tools and chainsaws. It’s intense, backbreaking labor.
“You don’t quite have to be a bodybuilder, but you have to have the same mentality, and it has to be coupled with a marathon runner’s endurance,” explains Anderson. “It’s an extreme demand on the body in a multitude of ways.”
It also puts an extreme demand on the Hotshots’ gear, including what’s on their wrists. For Anderson, G-SHOCK is the only brand of watch that makes the grade. He bought his first G-SHOCK shortly after becoming a firefighter, and he was amazed by its performance on the job.
“It didn’t matter how bad I beat it up, it never stopped working,” he says. “Not even for a second.”
The GGB100 is the latest evolution of G-SHOCK’s commitment to ultra-durable timepieces. Put simply, everything about this watch is tough. The case is made from a high-rigidity carbon material that won’t deform even when exposed to bumps and scrapes, and thanks to innovations like protective metal pipes around the buttons and an airtight internal seal, the watch can go through dust, mud, and water without missing a beat.
In addition, the GGB100 comes loaded with tech to help you keep your bearings in the wild. Its quad sensor allows it to display real time compass headings, temperature, altitude, step count, and barometric pressure (especially useful for staying abreast of sudden weather changes). The G-SHOCK Connected app unlocks even more functionality. There, you can customize the watch’s settings and use the Mission Log function to combine its altimeter data with your phone’s GPS for a detailed look at your route.
For Anderson, all of these features combine to make a watch that’s incredibly useful when fighting wildfires. The digital and analog faces make it easy to read, even in a haze of smoke. He especially likes the altitude readout, which is ideal for coordinating with helicopters and air tankers in hilly terrain, and having temperature data right on his wrist helps him monitor weather conditions that influence a fire’s behavior. After all, staying one step ahead of the blaze is essential for completing the mission.
Of course, durability is key, too: Even while digging through brush or laying hose lines, the GGB100 can handle the heat, smoke, dirt, and mud that come with the job.
“Almost everything it has to offer, we can put into practical application where we are,” Anderson says.
In order to do their job successfully, Hotshots like Anderson have to have total confidence in their gear, in each other, and in themselves. If you’re not prepared for it, says Anderson, wildland firefighting can quickly overwhelm you.
“We’re swinging tools all day long in some of the most extreme environments where the terrain is rugged, it’s steep, footing is uneven, and fire behavior is at its most extreme,” he says. “If you don’t have the ability mentally to push yourself further than you think you can go, then you won’t last.”
While Anderson receives many qualified applicants each year, not everyone makes the cut. Wildfires have a way of weeding out the less dedicated.
“Some of them have had to stand up and say, ‘I’m sorry but this is not for me. I can’t do this,’” he says.
By drilling, hiking through the backcountry, and learning the ins and outs of effective firefighting, Anderson helps his crew build the physical and mental strength they need to face the full force of a wildfire without breaking down. In his view, there’s no substitute for real-world wildfire experience, but the training has another important benefit: It helps the crew work better as a team. That’s where their greatest strength lies.
“Little by little we become one really efficient and cohesive unit,” he says.
It’s hard to imagine a better embodiment of absolute toughness than Anderson and his crew. Most people wouldn’t last five minutes in their boots, but their grit and experience make them elite pros at one of the most challenging jobs on earth.
The GGB100 was designed to similarly high standards. Other watches might settle for good enough, but this one’s built for people who put themselves and their gear to the test—every day.
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