THE COMPLETE KILIMANJARO PACKING LIST
Layering might sound simple. Just put several different layers on top of each other and you’re good to go. Right? Unfortunately, nope… WRONG! There’s a few important principles that have to be followed to ensure that layering actually works:
- The purpose of each layer. The inner layer should remove sweat from your body as soon as possible, the middle layer is meant for insulation, while the top layer should protect you and your other layers from wind and water.
- The use of fabrics that allow moisture to pass. For this reason cotton is not a good choice.
- Wearing clothes that ‘hug’ the skin. They shouldn’t be too tight but definitely not too loose either.
So what should you bring? Here’s the list!
- 4-6 pairs of sports underwear, and 1-2 sport bras for women.
- 1 top and bottom base layer (2 for treks longer than 7-8 days). You won’t need this layer during the first few days, but towards the end of your trek it becomes without doubt the most important layer you’ll be wearing. We recommend a base layer made of 100% merino wool, as it will keep you warm and assures the best moisture control possible. If you’re allergic to wool, synthetic alternatives are available.
- 1 pair of hiking trousers (2 for treks longer than 7 days). 2-in-1 options offering the possibility to turn your trousers into shorts are a good idea for the warmer days of your trek.
- 3-4 short sleeve shirts and 1-2 long sleeve shirts in a breathable, lightweight and quick-drying fabric like polyester, merino or nylon.
- 1 fleece jacket to be worn over your base layer during cold moments. A mid-weight jacket (200 g/m²) is perfect for hiking Kilimanjaro. You can equally wear it over your t-shirt as a light jacket when temperatures drop, but for summit night eg. it should be worn without the shirt underneath, right on top of your base layer, for the best insulation.
- 1 insulated winter jacket, that will serve as your third layer, on top of your base layer and fleece jacket. This layer should be water- and windproof, and of course warm. Here’s what we recommend to look for:
- In terms of warmth, go for a mid-weight jacket of around 500-700 grams. Down jackets offer more warmth at a lower weight compared to synthetic jackets.
- Make sure your jacket has an outer layer that is highly water resistant, for any option but especially if you choose a down jacket. Down is much more sensible to moisture and will loose most of its insulation capacities when it gets wet.
- 1 pair of insulated trekking pants for the parts of your trek above 4500m/14760ft. Make sure they’re water resistant, have a fleece layer on the inside and a quick-drying polyester layer on the outside.
- 1 hard shell jacket
- 1 set of lightweight rain gear. A poncho that covers not only you but also your day pack can also come in handy.
It probably goes without saying, but the footwear you choose for climbing Kilimanjaro can make or break your chances of reaching the summit. Don’t worry, socks are on the list, but let’s start with something even more important: picking the right hiking boots.
- 1 pair of hiking boots. The best boots for Kilimanjaro? Make sure they reply to the following:
- Good traction
- Good ankle support. Make sure the boots are high enough and have a lacing system that guarantees a good support.
- Medium weight
- Fully waterproof
- Perfect fit – if you slide your foot all the way forward and manage to put a finger in the back without much problems, you should be good to go. Make sure to wear the right kind of socks, the one you’d also wear during the actual climb.
- If you buy new boots, make sure they’re fully worn in before starting your climb.
- 1 pair of trainers, to wear in the evening or do some exploring around the camp site. A basic hiking shoe that’s suitable for flat terrains should do.
- A pair of hiking socks for each day. As for the base layer of your clothes, we recommend merino wool or a quality synthetic alternative. Avoid cotton.
- 2 pairs of thermal socks.
- 1 pair of gaiters to prevent your shoes from getting wet and muddy when it rains.
WALKING GEAR AND HAND PROTECTION
The first thing that will freeze are the extremities of your body, like your hands. You need to protect them by wearing gloves. Trekking poles are also a must on your Kilimanjaro gear list, and it’s your knees that will be most thankful for them, especially during your descent.
- Gloves. The principle of layering also goes for your gloves, and you’ll need 2 types: inner and outer ones. Your inner gloves will provide insulation, the outer ones warmth and water resistance.
- Trekking poles. Studies have shown that by using the right trekking poles, you can reduce the impact of the trek on your knees by up to 25%, which is why we recommend everybody to use them. Make sure your poles respond to the following requirements:
- Weight: pick poles that are heavier than 350 grams, as these are usually more durable.
- Fully adjustable
- Grip: the 3 main materials that are used for pole grips – rubber, cork and foam – each have their own characteristics and it’s hard to pick a favorite. Rubber is good for insulation, cork is the most durable, and foam offers the best moisture control (but unfortunately is less durable). Up to you to decide what you find most important.
In terms of headgear, here’s our list of items you absolutely have to take to climb Kilimanjaro.
- Head lamp. As your summit attempt starts around midnight, you’ll need a lamp to see where you’re going. A head lamp is ideal, as it keeps your hands free. We recommend a lamp with the following characteristics:
- Brightness: a beam distance of at least 70 meters and a light output of minimum 100 lumen.
- Battery life: make sure your lamp can last for at least 30 hours.
- Weight: the lighter the better, although this might be hard seeing the necessary battery life. Try to aim for less than 230 grams.
- Sunglasses for Kilimanjaro – or high altitude in general. They should offer 100% protection from UVA, B and C rays and block up to 90% of visible light. The UV-intensity at high altitudes is very high, and the snow cover causes reflections and intensified visible light, from which you should protect your eyes at all times.
- Hat with neck cover, to keep your head cool and protect your face from sunburn. Make sure the fabric is breathable – you don’t want to get a sweaty head – and ideally has an adjustable neck cover, to protect that part of your body as well.
- Thermal headband or beanie, to keep your ears and head warm on summit night. It needs to be adapted to snowy conditions.
- Neck band, to protect you from cold, sun rays and dust. We recommend versatile options that can be used as a neckband, bandanna, scarf, head cover, etc. Pick a fabric that’s breathable, absorbent and quick-drying.
BAG AND DAY PACK
Your main bag will be carried by a porter, but you’ll need to carry your own day pack, holding all important items for the day and things like snacks, water, your documents, sunscreen, camera, etc. Keep in mind that the porters walk a lot faster than you most of the time, so you won’t have access to your big bag.
Here are the most important things to think about when choosing your bags.
- Duffle bag, that your porter will carry on his head. We’ll let you know its maximum weight depending on the tour you book but usually it’s either 15 or 20 kg maximum. We recommend a trekking duffel bag with a capacity of at least 80 liters, as it should hold all your gear including your sleeping bag. The bag should be waterproof and easy to carry by hand and over the shoulder. We recommend adding a lock for security reasons.
- Day pack. The best daypack for Kilimanjaro is the lightest one, but that probably goes without saying. Make sure your day pack has a rain cover, compression straps to better divide its weight onto your body, and some side pockets for your water bottle that are easily accessible without having to open the whole bag. We recommend a capacity of 20 to 30 liters.
- Extra bag accessories like organizers and dry bags are recommended, as well as the rain cover and pad lock we already mentioned above.
No matter the season, on Mount Kili you will encounter temperatures below the freezing point. Getting enough rest is important, so make sure you pick the best sleeping bag for Kilimanjaro. The first thing to think about is obviously warmth, and we recommend a sleeping bag that covers temperatures as low as -10°C/14°F at least – or better even a bit lower. Mummy shaped sleeping bags offer the best insulation as they’re close to the body, and a hoodie with a draw cord will keep your head warm at night as well.
We’ll let you choose between down and synthetic, as both materials offer options that provide the warmth that you need, and this decision is based more on budget and durability considerations than sleeping quality. A down sleeping bag will be lighter than its synthetic alternative though.
We’ll provide a thin mattress, but if you want extra insulation you could bring an extra thermal sleeping pad. Complete your Kilimanjaro equipment list with an inflatable pillow, as well as a liner for your sleeping bag, in case you rent it. Don’t expect them to be cleaned after each customer, you’ll be disappointed for sure…
We hear you thinking, ‘Guys, how do you want me to put ALL THIS in 1 bag?!?’ But don’t worry, we’re almost there! Here’s the last few things we recommend to complete your Kilimanjaro kit list.
- 2 water bottles, 1 liter each. Very important, as you need to drink at least 2 to 3 liters of water per day to lower your chances of getting altitude sickness. If you drink half a bottle before your trek, fill up, and drink the final half bottle at the camp site, 2 one-liter bottles are all you need. A common problem, especially during summit night, is frozen water bottles. Wrap them in a thermal sock to avoid this and keep them inside your day pack until you need them. Storing them upside down also helps, as water freezes from the top down.
- 50 water purification tablets, as water is collected from streams on the mountain.
- Sun protection for your body and lips. Pick an SPF of at least 30, and make sure your sun screen is sweat resistant.
- Baby whipes. Unless you’re climbing with people you REALLY don’t like… 😉
- Your camera
- Spare batteries for your head lamp, camera, phone, etc. A solar charged power bank is also a good idea.
- Zip lock bags to protect your valuables from rain and dust.
- Ear plugs. Of course we know YOU don’t snore… but other people might.
- 2-3 energy bars per day. Make sure they’re not milk based as they might freeze during summit night.
- Medication: something to treat headaches, nausea and diarrhea. Insect repellent and blister plasters are also a must.
- Toiletries: toilet paper is a must, a quick drying towel is optional.
- Personal documents: passport, a copy of your insurance policy and who to contact in case of an emergency, a book, …
RENTING OR BUYING?
Whether you rent or buy your Kilimanjaro equipment is obviously totally up to you. It can depend on things like your budget, how often you plan to hike after climbing Kilimanjaro, and your travel plans before and after coming to Tanzania. It is possible to rent equipment in Moshi, and we’re more than happy to check things for you before you come or put you in touch with one of the local rental places. Just send us a message and we’ll get back to you!
BEFORE YOU START PACKING
Of course we get that you’re excited to start preparing your Kilimanjaro backpack, but we have a lot more practical tips that might come in handy for your preparation. Or maybe you haven’t picked your route yet? Make sure to check out our trekking itineraries for some inspiration! And of course, if you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch, it’s our pleasure to try and make your trip unforgettable!