Kilimanjaro has 5 ecological zones, ranging from bushlands, rainforrest and dessert like to snow capped glaciers. The temperature on the mountain can fluctuate from extremely hot to bitter cold. This section covers everything you need to know about preparing and packing for Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Tip: Climb Kilimanjaro with a layering approach.
Tents, food and cooking items are generally provided by the company you book through. However, if you are climbing the mountain solo and not through a company, these items need to be included in your list of packing gear.
Here is our list of essential and optional items for a 6 – 7 day climb:
ESSENTIAL GEAR AND OUTERWEAR
1 Sleeping bag – it is possible to rent sleeping bags and if you are not an avid trekker, this would be the most cost effective option. Otherwise, a sleeping bag that will keep you warm in -18 Cº , is light weight in goose / duck down or synthetic would be a good investment and ensure a goods nights rest all important on the mountain.
1 Blow-up sleeping pillow
1 Thermal sleeping mat – these can also be rented through most companies.
3 Sports bras – for women. Most companies and sites recommend two but there is nothing more comforting than wearing something clean and fresh on the very last day/night. So, go on! It’s only one extra but the comfort is priceless.
4 – 5 Pairs of underwear
1 Base layer – A top and bottom layer is essential. This is a very important layer to your trek. We would recommend two layers if you are climbing more than 8 days. For a 6 – 8 day climb, one layer is enough. We wore our base layers every night from the 3 night onward, including the summit night/morning. We recommend smart-wool base layers because it is lightweight and has a ‘next-to-skin’ feel.
Merino wool is the best OR we recommend Patagonia light weight as an alternative option.
3 Long sleeve tops– moisture-wicking fabric is a bonus. We would not recommend cotton although we wore cotton tops during our trek. Cotton is not breathable and absorbs moisture.
2 Short sleeve tops – same recommendation as above.
2 Fleece jackets
1 pair of fleece trekking pants– such as tracksuit pants
4 Trekking pants – 2 long and 2 short would be perfect or it would be a good idea to choose convertible pants to pack smartly.
1 Waterproof / Rain-jacket that is breathable and has a hood. Like the one here. We prefer a hard-shell jacket and wore The North Face -Gortex Summit Series-Second only to your down jacket outer layer – your wet gear is vital.
1 Down or synthetic jacket – This is another important layer in your duffel bag. The most important layer for warmth. We highly recommend the ones from Rab Their insulated jacket range for men and women is what made the company what it is today and they are leading in insulation technology. we also recommend Berghaus 600 – 800 Grams is perfect to keep the cold at bay on Kilimanjaro.
1 Sunhat for sun protection. Here are some good trekking options.
1 Wool hat for warmth on the summit night. There are some very good options at Amazon.
1 Neck Buff or Balaclava – we did not think we will need this but this was one of the items that got us through the cold on the summit.
1 Headlamp – we used Tikkina headlamps, available at Amazon.
1 Pair of Sunglasses – we used Bivouak, model 383122. They are designed for high altitude mountain climbing, ant-reflective with an anti- fog finish. The the magnetic side shield adds additional sun protection which is a bonus.
1 Pair of trekking poles – 5 to 8 hours of walking a day takes a toll on your knees and joints. Especially coming down the mountain. A good pair of trekking poles should be durable and fully adjustable. We love the Crivit Sports trekking poles. These are very good quality at a reasonable price.
1 Pair of inner gloves – we made the mistake of choosing cotton gloves.
The best to choose is wool, synthetics – any that is moisture – wicking (even silk).
1 Pair of outer gloves or mitts – waterproof, durability and warmth is of utmost importance.
1 Hydration pack – this is one of the things we appreciated the most.
At night you can filled it with warm water and keep warm.
During the day, you can sip on that same water with the least amount of effort to reach for it.
One of the biggest choices we had to make, was choosing the perfect pair of trekking boots. We took our time and researched all footwear options. It was, by far, the best decision we have made for our mountain wardrobe. No sore feet, no blisters (did not use a single plaster/band-aid). Yay!
We chose quality above anything else. The best way to test a good fit, is wearing sport socks and slide your index finger along the inner sides, back and front of the boot. The boot should fit snug. No space between your finger and the boot means that it is too small. If you can fit two fingers, the boots are too big. This is just one way of testing and would give you a good idea of how the boots should fit.
These boots have amazing grip, are of medium to heavy weight with D – lacing strings and speed hooks that truly support your ankles. Most hiking boots are waterproof as a standard nowadays and it is something to keep in mind. It was the best investment we made and the durability will last at least 10+ years.
Once we got our new pair, we spent 6 – 8 weeks prior to the climb, breaking them in. We would not advise climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with a brand new pair of boots. We trekked 2 – 4 hours doing so.
Other essential footwear:
1 Pair of runners / trainers – the first thing we did when arriving at camp was to take those hiking boots off. Our favorite trainers were comforting.
5 – 6 Pairs of wool trekking socks – the rule of thumb is; avoiding cotton. An alternative to wool is acrylic-blend socks.
1 – 2 Pairs of thermal socks – we wore these on the summit night/morning.
BACKPACK & DUFFEL BAG
Both, duffel and backpack is equally important. The porters carry the duffel bags on their shoulders and heads. So, it is important to select one that is waterproof with a soft shell.
We find that the best duffel bag is: The Northface Duffel – generally, a large (80 litre) bag is recommend. Pauric also prefers this size but I was happy with my medium (71 litres) size. I could fit everything apart from my trekking poles in the bag.
The most practical backpack is based on personal preference. For us, a lot of pockets and compartments are important. And of course the size, fit and feel. A waterproof bag is a bonus. We did not spend a lot of money on our backpacks and went for practicality over style .(This does not happen very often!)
Items to include in your backpack:
Lock, hydration pack or water bottles, rain jacket, toiletries such as wet wipes and tissue paper, medication, camera, phone, batteries, zip-lock bags, plasters / band-aid, antiseptic cream, insect repellent, sun-cream, sunglasses, snacks and energy drinks etc.
TO TAKE DIAMOX OR NOT TO TAKE DIAMOX
Diamox is an Acetazolamide tablet prescribed by your local GP and used to reduce the symptoms of altitude sickness. Whether to take Diamox or not, is completely optional. Diamox has a mixed reputation. Some people get sick from it and often the side-affects are what the tablet is meant to prevent.
We were the only people in our group who did not take Diamox. Yet, Pauric suffered from mild to acute altitude sickness from the 4th day onward. I, on the other hand, had a faint headache during the summit. Everyone else in the group who took Diamox, suffered from altitude sickness at some point.
Our honest opinion on Diamox is based on a philosophical outlook. We questioned whether it would matter how we achieved the summit. We realised that listening to our bodies and taking our time would be the best approach. Drinking plenty of water and eating even when we did not want to helped. The body will always adapt. We are, personally, not in favour of Diamox because the proof is not there.
We definitely experienced the mountain in it’s raw state.
Preparation is the key here . With space and weight at a premium you need to be sure that each packed item is necessary.