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What to Pack for KOH

what-to-pack-king-of-the-hammers-koh-first-time-spectator-06 So you've been hearing about the most difficult one-day off-road race in the world, King of The Hammers, for a number of years and have finally decided you'd better head out to Johnson Valley in early February to check it out for yourself. If you've never attended before, there's really no way to know exactly what to expect as the week-long Ultra4 King of The Hammers (KOH) event is like nothing else. For me, there's a love/hate relationship with the Southern California desert where KOH is held. As a veteran attendee, I've jotted down a what to pack for KOH list and a few must-know facts to keep you comfortable and safe out on Means dry lakebed, home of Hammertown, this coming Feb 1-7 for KOH. Weather in the desert is nothing to gamble with. Extreme temperature fluctuations make the desert environment very unpredictable. You may have sunshine on the left, and rain on the right, 80° in the sun, and 20° in the shade. Winds may rage over 70mph sandblasting your entire body, leaving visibility something to be desired. While establishing camp for nearly a week, everyday luxuries are rare to non-existent. So put down your purse Sally, for this is your KOH survival kit!

KOH Packing List

Above and beyond what you'd regularly bring camping and off-roading, here are some key items to have in your bag specific to KOH... Warm Clothing: I find it imperative to layer your swag. Start off with some good long johns such as Under Armour's skin-tight clothing options that retain your own body heat, while wicking away sweat. Perhaps a t-shirt over the top, then a sweatshirt. Next, I would find a thin goose down jacket. I like to stay warm yet not feel like a giant marshmallow. To beat the rain, Frogg Toggs make an incredibly lightweight rain jacket made of a non-woven, waterproof, breathable material - which, by the way, folds up to nothing. Don't forget gloves and a TurtleNeck Neck Warmer to cut those frigid drafts down the neck. Wool Socks: I decided to make this one a key item due to my own experience. I've tried battery-operated socks, if you can believe it, but found the battery pack to be a bit of an annoyance. If you're anything like me, you know there's nothing more miserable than having cold feet. Get yourself a pair of good wool socks. Made with Merino wool, "Darn Tough" makes the ultimate selection for your feet. I prefer the over-the-calf extra cushion sock for extra warmth and comfort. With an Unconditional Lifetime Guarantee, you can't go wrong. what-to-pack-king-of-the-hammers-koh-first-time-spectator-01 Comfortable Walking Shoes: This is KOH, there are no bleachers! A good 80% of your time at KOH, you will spend on your feet. Through the pits, through Hammertown, Vendor Row, and all of the race spectator areas... you'll be walking and standing! Camelback:You may leave your camp area for hours on end and having water at ready is a godsend. With the convenience and versatility of a Camelback, you will wonder how you ever survived without one. Not to mention, several pockets and pouches for additional items, providing you a hands free journey at KOH. Headlamp: Much of the action will carry on beyond sundown. Not only is it important to be able to see your way through the blackened desert, but to "be" seen plays a much needed role as well. Don't forget some extra batteries! what-to-pack-king-of-the-hammers-koh-first-time-spectator-07 Goggles: Deserts are known for their hard-hitting, high winds. You certainly don’t want to be stuck indoors during KOH, afraid of getting sand in your eyes. Goggles don’t have to be fancy, look for a pair that is comfortable and fits securely to the curves of your face. You can typically find them at most sporting goods stores. Hand-held Radio: Don't depend on your cell phone having coverage on the lakebed. A hand-held radio is a great way to stay in touch with friends, family, and keeping up on race status! I have a few pairs myself from Rugged Radios and let me tell ya, they make life a whole lot easier. Now a days, we take them everywhere. When the cell phones fail, it's back to old school. Map: Grab yourself a KOH program when you arrive in Hammertown. It will be wise to review a map to familiarize yourself with the layout of the event. Not to mention, steering clear of the race course itself - as some sections of the course may not appear to look like a "race course" at all.  Always be aware of your surroundings. what-to-pack-king-of-the-hammers-koh-first-time-spectator-08 Camera: It’s all about bragging rights my friends. This is King of The Hammers, and let’s face it... pics, or it didn't happen! Whether it’s a still camera or a video camera, no wait, on second thought bring both! I myself prefer a nice DSLR with a zoom lens. Although a cell phone is quite capable of capturing some intense memories. Sharpie Pen: If you follow the sport of Ultra4 Racing, you'll become familiar with the faces of fame. You never know when one of those faces may be strolling down vendor row or hanging out around the campfire. Don't be shy. Trust me, they appreciate you. So go ahead and grab them for an autograph. Chap Stick: It’s the desert, and it’s dry, dry, dry. Prepare yourself for some lip cracking exposure. You would do well to get the spf kind... and throw in some regular sunscreen as well. Folding Chair: If you end up in camp watching the Jumbo-Tron, you don’t want to be stuck sitting in the dirt or on a chunk of firewood. Cash: You'll want to have plenty on hand. From coffee & breakfast burritos, to Hammerking merchandise, to killer vendor sales. There's no telling what will be calling your name in Hammertown. what-to-pack-king-of-the-hammers-koh-first-time-spectator-02

What NOT to bring

A tent. That’s right! “You’d be better off sleeping in the back seat of a rental car,” laughs one of the event's race directors, Shaun Bootsma. “If you’ve never seen a fully loaded tent with ice chests and sleeping bags roll across the lakebed in 50mph winds, you’re missing out… as long as it’s not yours.”

Don't forget...

Now, this last item expresses more of a “mental” understanding towards the race itself, as Shaun stresses, one should bring a Good Attitude and plenty of Common Sense, "You may wonder what I mean... I'll tell you. After 4-5 days, in the desert, with dust and limited showers, and some long nights partying with a few thousand people, by the end of the week, sometimes people get cranky and tired even though the end of the week is when it starts getting exciting. As for common sense, pay attention to what you are doing and where. Don't get complacent about where you spectate. Think about what could go wrong and make sure you're not in the line of fire." So here’s a simple rule of thumb… if you’re going to need it, you’ll need to bring it. what-to-pack-king-of-the-hammers-koh-first-time-spectator-05 One last thought when for you reach the end of KOH and are driving home. As you leave the Lakebed and head out for the long drive home - while your mind plays reruns of the most amazing race you just witnessed (because I know you will), whatever you do, DO NOT roll down your windows. Wait until you get home, and give your ride a thorough body wash. Desert sand gets everywhere. The last thing you want to do is tuck all of those fine sandy granules, down into your weather stripping, only to roll your windows back up as they screech at you like nails on a chalk board. See you at, King of The Hammers!
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