I bought regular white t-shirts from a drug store for like $10 for a pack. You don’t need anything better than that. You want at least 8 shirts at Kokoro…change your shirt every single chance you get so you’re dry. Having a dry shirt also gives you a little morale boost.
For pants, I rocked ripstop TDU pants from 5.11 Tactical. These pants are frigging awesome and I highly recommend them if you can afford it. They’re comfortable, durable, and performed decently despite not being the ideal pant for working out. They’re chock full of features like having cool pockets-within-pockets and a snug-fitting but flexible waistband that is critical for the amount of movement you’re doing. I only brought two pairs, which worked okay, but I recommend having three pairs.
Note the price tag of $47.99 each. If you buy the recommended three pairs, that’s over $150 with shipping. Ouch. I’ll talk about total costs for gear later, but you’re gonna spend some serious cheddar getting geared up for this event.
I bought these coolmax boxer-briefs ($20 each) from Adidas that I thought would be ideal because they wick away moisture. That component was fine, but these are not the ideal underwear for Kokoro. Chaffing on your thighs and nether regions is a huge HUGE problem and I think the ideal underwear is a tight fitting spandex or thigh-length compression short. The tighter the better. You want to form a shield that will absolutely keep away sand from your thighs. I did not have this shield and my thighs got so chaffed it took two weeks to heal afterwards. It was absolutely brutal. Every step by Sunday of Kokoro was a step into exquisite suffering. I literally had to bandage my thighs for days afterwards. Junior wore compression shorts and did not have this problem. He picked the right piece of equipment.
Bring a hoodie or sweatshirt for the stretches you have an extended break. There are a couple of these. Assume you’re going to be freezing your ass of from hours of surf PT so wearing a sweatshirt during down time helps. Also bring a towel so you can towel off and knock off sand.
Bring a jacket for the Palomar hike. It’s cold on the top of the mountain. It can also serve another critical purpose. A decent jacket or sweatshirt will provide some padding for your shoulders from the shitty ruck sack. This helps a lot because your shoulders and back will get brutalized. If it’s warm out, I would even try rolling the jacket up and using it as pad for your shoulders. On the Palomar descent I was sweating my ass off but I didn’t want to remove my jacket because the padding was so helpful.
One last thing. Everyone, and I mean everyone, had nasty chaffing on their knees from the interior of their pants, which gets filled with sand. You’re doing tons of squats which compounds the problem. You can avoid this completely by wearing cheap knee supports underneath your pants, which also has the effect of preserving your knees on the descent of Palomar. I wore these for like 15 hours straight and it was a huge win. Very little rawness on my knees. I bought cheap knee supports at Sports Authority and they worked great.
Boots and Socks
Dealing with feet may be the most important part of your entire gear strategy. You want boots that drain well, are relatively lightweight, and super comfortable. There were a bunch of guys that had fucked up feet from boots that were poorly chosen or not broken in enough. That’s a huge mistake. I recommend breaking in your boots at least 6 months out from the event date. Even if the boot is advertised as usable right out of the box, forget that, put in serious miles and get those puppies broken in. They should be creased and feeling practically like a running shoe. You will be constantly running and hiking in boots and your feet will be constantly wet. Do everything in your power to prepare for this.
I wore the Nike Special Field Boot, which was a good choice for Kokoro. Very comfortable and decent to run in. I did not break them in enough, but despite that I still had minimal problems with my feet. I tested the 8″ Taclite boot from 5.11 and they were very comfortable for hiking, but had a deleterious affect on my legs when running. I got severe pains in my achilles and calves when running as little as 3 miles. I had to go with another boot.
Get good boot socks. I wore the Taclite 9″ socks by 5.11, which are absolutely phenomenal socks. They are comfortable, stay in place, handle moisture, and go with boots perfectly. I also wore a thin athletic sock underneath (Under Armor) and I believe the double socking contributed to me not getting any blisters or raw spots on my feet. A huge win.
In addition to my sock strategy, I also coated my toes in anti-chafe and put moleskin patches on my heels. No raw spots. Bring 2-3 sticks of anti-chafe. You’ll end up sharing. Make sure you have a stick and apply everywhere at every break.
Change into dry socks every chance you get. You’ll need many pairs of socks, perhaps 6-8 pairs.
One issue I had and still have is a mild case of trench foot. I had constant tingling in my toes after Kokoro was over and I still have intense tingling in both big toes that is annoying and affects my coordination on things like Olympic lifts. I think this is some kind of nerve damage from all the compression and moisture. Other guys have complained about the same thing. I may have been able to prevent this by getting a boot that’s a half size larger. Who knows, but it’s weird. Junior has numbness in several toes.
A bunch of the guys had torn hands from doing pullups and grinder PT (like bear crawls). I didn’t have any issues with this but it’s something to be aware of. You’ll want to bring athletic tape and wrap up your hands if it happens.
Hydration and Nutrition
Hydration, electrolytes, and nutrition is something you need to have a major strategy for. It was hot during Kokoro 25 and I couldn’t get in enough electrolytes and water. On the first afternoon I got de-hydrated and experienced electrolyte loss after just 3 hours. It contributed to severe calf cramps in both legs that screwed up my running for the rest of the camp. The cramp was so bad in my right leg that it actually resulted in a muscle pull.
There is a team room where you stow all your gear and a table with some basic supplies. Among those supplies were several canisters of electrolyte powder for anyone to use. Do not rely on these. Bring your own kickass electrolyte and have a system for quick replacement. I think the ideal system is a ziplock bag full of tablets you can stow in your cargo pocket and pop during any quick break. Pop these constantly.
On the first afternoon I was so dehydrated I experienced kidney soreness and had dark urine. I never experienced anything like it and I knew it was bad. I pulled out of it by drinking a ton of chia seeds ($12 at GNC) mixed with water. These are an absolutely amazing natural electrolyte replacement and I think they saved my ass in a big way. Without these I would not have made it through the camp. I mixed them in my canteen every single chance I got. I can’t say enough about chia seeds.
You can stash anything you want in the team room and there are a few stretches where you can get access to it. I recommend bringing bananas, gallons of Gatorade, gallons of water, protein powder, and other snacks (Oh Yeah! bars and the like). Bring athletic tape, duct tape, a knife, and a pair of scissors. Share with the team. It helps everyone. We didn’t do enough of this but you can certainly do it. I think being prepared is as important as any other component of Kokoro.
I also recommend ingesting caffeine, either caffeine gels or caffeine gum. It helps big time in the middle of night, especially on Palomar. Your mental state is going to be crazy throughout the camp and the caffeine gave me a few hours of clarity here and there.
I haven’t tallied the bill for my gear acquisitions, but I know it’s well over $400. Factor the gear cost into your budget if you’re planning on attending. Combined with the cost of camp itself, it’s a serious budgetary obligation.
I hope all this info helps. If you need more tips, shoot me an email.