King of the Hammers is right around the corner. Will 2017 be the year that you make it to the most amazing off-road event in America? It's one heck of a challenge for the drivers, but just attending the event to watch it requires its own set of skills and advanced preparation. Here are a few tips to help you along...
Driving In and Out - The last 4 miles of road from the highway to Hammertown is completely unpaved. It's not hard core off-roading, but leave your low-riding sports car at home. There tends to be a traffic jam on that stretch since less capable cars are edging along as very slow speeds. If you are arriving or departing in an off-road rig then consider leaving the main path. You will see a few vehicle passing you about a hundred yards out where other dirt paths can shave 20 minutes off of your travel time if you have the skills and the right rig.
Lodging – You have a few choices here. If you plan on staying in Hammertown, tent camping may seem like a good idea but it isn't. The desert floor does not accept tent stakes very well, which are essential when considering the extreme desert winds that could show up, not to mention the intense cold that comes with them, or the flooding if it rains. If you can't get your hands on a camper or an RV then it is time to look into other options outside of Hammertown. The remote location makes hotels hard to find on www.hotels.com without needing to drive an hour in and out every day, so we recommend you check out www.VRBO.com or www.airbnb.com for a short-term home rental. There are plenty of 1-3 bedroom options.
Stock Up – The remote location also means there are no stores anywhere near Hammertown. There are a few food vendors and that is about it. Gather up all your essentials you need to stay in Hammertown, which includes food, water, clothes, sunglasses/goggles, wipes, jumper cables, flashlights, batteries, and a toothbrush, or create a day pack if you are trekking in for the day from a hotel or vacation rental.
Have it On You – The RV/Camper zone and parking areas span into the desert away from central Hammertown, so you will likely be on foot all day away from your rig camp or vehicle and may not return until after dark. Therefore you should plan to set out in the morning with everything you will need on your back. This will save you finding yourself short of something essential and blowing an hour trekking back to get it. This includes extra layers to keep warm, water, snacks, and a flashlight.
Footwear – Off roading in a Jeep is one thing. Doing it on foot is whole other thing. Since you will be hoofing it all day you had better be wearing shoes (or better, boots) and socks that are up for the terrain and temperature challenges you will likely face while still providing a degree of comfort
That Weather – Last year's event week started with freezing temperatures and seemingly gale-force winds. By KOH race day it was extremely sunny and warm. Some days started and ended with inclement weather but was quite pleasant during mid-day. Fortunately it never rained but that is always a possibility. Layering is the secret. .Be prepared with sunscreen, hats, thermals, rain gear, lip balm, scarves – whatever it takes to battle back against the elements.
Cell Phones – There are a few spots outside of Hammertown where you may get a mobile phone signal depending on your provider. Once you find one, remember where it is because they are typically few and far between. In general, you should plan on being out of touch during your time in the desert. Keep that in mind if you decide to go wheeling deep in to the desert, as there may be no way to call for help if you break down. Consider carrying walkie-talkies so you can communicate with your buddies within Hammertown or the very least have a set meeting place in case you lose track of each other.
Money – No cell service means most vendors in Hammertown can't accept credit cards and there are no ATMs to be found. Make sure to roll into Johnson Valley with enough cash to last your trip plus a little extra for emergencies.
Safety – Johnson Valley is a big, wide-open area. Make absolutely sure you don't accidentally wander onto an active race course. Stakes will be places to help ward you off but you can miss them if you are not paying attention. While there will be some medical personal at Hammertown, the nearest real care is an hour away. Don't do anything stupid or risky that could result in injuries to you or others.
Take these tips to heart and you will have the best chance of having the most fun at this incredible event. See you there!
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GenRight Off Road is an official King of the Hammers sponsor. Visit www.GenRight.com for all your Jeep Wrangler and Ultra4 off road needs