Equipment and Kit List for Kilimanjaro Trekking
Typically you get two types of trekkers on Kilimanjaro – those who are woefully unprepared and under-equipped and those who have spent an arm and a leg on equipment that they will unlikely use during their trek. This page provides a happy medium between the two and covers all mandatory equipment that KCTE recommend you purchase in preparation for your adventure.
If you happen to forget a few things you can usually hire from Kilimanjaro Centre for trekking and Eco-tourism – KCTE or buy equipment from the various hawkers who loiter outside the route gates trying to sell you everything under the sun. Remember if you decide to buy from these guys they will always try to overcharge. Bartering is just the way it is done in Tanzania.
On Mount Kilimanjaro you will be trekking through four climatic zones (see Chapter 3). To ensure that you remain perfectly comfortable in each zone it is critical that you understand the concept of layering – the ability to layer up and layer down as the weather changes. Layering only works if each layer supports the wicking process (allowing moisture to pass from one layer to the next). Layers should therefore hug the skin (i.e. not too tight, but equally not too loose) and consist of wickable fabric. Cotton should be avoided as it is hydrophilic, meaning that moisture struggles to pass through and therefore the wicking process stops.
There are three layers of clothes that you need to take with you
First layer (or next-to-skin layer)
- This is arguably the most important layer as it is the one that comes in contact with your skin. You will not need to wear this layer for the first few days on the mountain (unless it is very cold).
- I recommend 1x next-to-skin pants and top (high wicking material)
- For the lower reaches you can wear a pair of light-weight trekking trousers / shorts (x1) and breathable t-shirts (x4-5). To save money and space we advise you to purchase trousers that can covert quickly and easily to shorts
Second layer (or insulation layer)
The second layer needs to consist of insulating fleece materials. You can skip getting a second layer for your legs as you will have very warm third layer trousers that you will be wearing over your thermal pants on summit night, but we do suggest you get a good quality second layer jumper or jacket. This can be worn in the evenings when temperatures get cold and will be worn on summit night.
I recommend 1 x Polartec Classic 200 for light-weight warmth and breathability. The 100s are the lightest and not as warm as the 300s which are too heavy in our opinion – 200 is a happy medium
Third layer (or water proof layer)
In most cases you will only need your third layer on summit night. This layer is very important and needs to be waterproof, breathable and very warm. We recommend going into a specialist store to purchase this layer.
1 x jacket (waterproof, windproof, breathable and very warm). It can snow heavily during your ascent and winds can get up to gale force. Having a good jacket is seriously worth the expense. Do not go ol’ cheapo!
1 x trousers (again waterproof, windproof, breathable and very warm). Good quality snow trousers with an inner fleece layer will do the job
You should not bring:
Jeans for obvious reasons – they absorb many time their weight in water, are difficult to trek in, take a long time to dry out, rapidly transfer heat from the body.
Wearing cotton shirts on the lower reaches is fine but in general we advise to avoid cotton all together. It absorbs moisture and blocks breath ability.
The footwear you take on the mountain is very important. Here are the four key things you need to take and one optional accessory.
Your hiking boots are probably the most important piece of equipment you will purchase for your Kilimanjaro trekking adventure. Get badly fitting ones and you will suffer from blisters, sore feet, an aching back and lost toenails. Two things to remember – buy quality and make sure that they fit correctly. You can test the later by putting your foot in the boot without tying the shoelaces and then sliding your foot forward until it hits the front of the boot. You should have one fingers thickness of space at your heel. If you have more than a fingers space then the boot is the wrong size.
The characteristics you are looking for are:
- Sturdy, high tops for ankle support
- Uppers made of leather or leather / condura combination
- High rubber content soles with deep lugs for good traction
- Lacing system that incorporates D-rings and speed hooks for quick lacing and additional support to the ankle
NB: do not arrive in Kilimanjaro having not worn your boots in. Do at least two decent length hikes in them before arriving in Kilimanjaro.
I recommend taking a basic pair of trainers which you can change into when you get to your camp site every night. It is not ideal to have to continue walking around in boots after a long day hiking
It is important that you purchase good quality trekking socks. You should avoid cotton or cotton-blend socks as these absorb and retain moisture, keeping your feet damp and making them susceptible to blistering. We recommend 5 x Ragg Wool trekking socks as these are the best for wicking moisture away from the foot. If you are allergic to wool we suggest to go for an acrylic or acrylic-blend alternative.
Key characteristics to look out for include:
- Flat seams. Bulky seams are prone to increase friction which results in blisters
- Thick socks as they provide more cushion for the foot
- Snug, not tight, fit
On summit night you will need to wear thermal socks. Again we advise to go with Ragg Wool, ensuring that they are extra thick and warm. Some people go with a polypropylene liner to assist with the wicking process.
- I recommend 2 x extra thick Ragg Wool thermal socks and 1 x Polypropylene liner socks. The extra pair of thermal socks can be used as a thermal cover for your water bottle (more on this later!)
Gaiters are made of waterproof material that extend up from your boot to your calve muscle. They are used to keep unwanted materials out of your boots (mud, water, rocks etc.).
Here are the five required headgear items and one optional.
Hat with neck cover
You are going to want to have a good hat with you for the trek to protect your face from sunburn and keep your head cool. Hats that have an adjustable neck cover are good. Make sure the hat is made from a material that breathes well. The hat should fit comfortably in your daypack – you don’t want to have to hold the hat every time you want to take it off
A thermal beanie is a must for summit night. You want to keep your head and ears warm. Make sure the beanie fits snug and is suitable for snowy conditions
Scarf or balaclava
A scarf or balaclava is a very good idea. It can be used to protect your neck from sunburn and is very handy in protecting your face from the blistering cold during summit night. Any decent quality scarf or balaclava should work
As you trek to higher altitudes on Mount Kilimanjaro, the sun intensity gets high. To protect your eyes from dangerous UV we recommend a good pair of sunglasses. They don’t need to be a big brand name but a high UV protection lens is a must
A headlamp is the best type of torch for night hiking as it frees your hands which you will need to use your trekking poles. You will use your headlamp on summit night. There are many different types of headlamps on the market, some cheaper than others. Make sure the headlamp is lightweight and uses LEDs as these last must longer and are less susceptible to blowing.
Clear goggles (optional)
Goggles are optional and are only useful if it is really snowing hard on summit night. We recommend bringing goggles if you already have them.
There are two types of bags that you will need to bring with you on your trek.
The type of duffle bag you choose is important as it will be used to carry all of your gear, including sleeping bag. The bag will be carried by your porter who will transport your gear from one camp to the next. Porters carry bags on their head so it is important that the bag is soft and weighs no more than 20kg when fully loaded. An 80 liter bag should be more than sufficient.
Key characteristics to look for in a duffle bag:
- Waterproof material: We recommend packing your gear into plastic bags which you then stuff into your duffle bag.
- Strong, sturdy zipper with ability to lock the bag. We highly recommend taking a small lock to secure your bag
- Hand strap and shoulder strap
In addition to your duffle bag (which is carried by our porter) you will be carrying your daypack. We recommend you to keep all expensive, personal (money, passport etc.) or small breakable items (camera, phone etc.) in your day pack. Small, lightweight daypacks are better – the lighter the better. Definitely ensure your daypack has a rain cover, compression straps to reduce weight stress on your back and side mesh pockets for easy access to your water bottle and other useful stuff.
Hands and walking
Here are three must-have pieces of gear for your hands.
I cannot stress the importance of having good gloves. Your hands will be the first to start freezing on summit night. Cold hands are super debilitating and painful. Invest in the warmest, most durable and waterproof gloves that you can find
I highly recommend inner gloves as well. Ideally these should be made from light weight, quick drying fleece material. As with your thermal top and pants, good inner gloves are your next-to-skin layer for your hands. Keeping your hands warm on summit night is really important!
Set of trekking poles
I also recommend buying a set of adjustable trekking poles. Most people think trekking up Mount Kilimanjaro is difficult. Let me tell you, coming down is just as testing. Your knees take a battering. Good trekking poles can reduce the impact on your knees by up to 20%. Trekking poles provide excellent additional support going up as well. Make sure your guide shows you how to adjust the poles to the perfect length for your height.
A good sleeping bag is a must as temperatures at night can get well below freezing. We recommend a sleeping bag with a rating of at least -10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit). There are two types of sleeping bag – goose / duck down or synthetic.
The former tends to be lighter and more comfortable. Whichever type you decide to purchase, We recommend looking out for the following features:
- A good fit for your body in both width and length – a mummy shape is best as it is made to fit the contours of your body
- An insulated hood which can be pulled around your head with a draw cord
- A two-way zipper for better insulation and unzipping from either end
An inflatable pillow that can quickly be inflated and deflated for storage is useful.
Thermal mat (optional)
We provide a thin mattress on which you can set your sleeping bag. If you are concerned about the cold and want additional cushioning you can purchase/hire a thermal mat that can be stored as a small roll in your duffle bag.
There are various other accessories that you can take on your trek up Mount Kilimanjaro. Here are twelve key accessories:
A good water bottle is a must. You want to be able to carry 2-3 liters on you when you start trekking each day. We recommend drinking 500ml before starting your trek in the morning and then refilling before you set off. To carry 2 liters of water you will usually have to take two water bottles with you.
Hydration packs, which sit inside your daypack with a tube direct to your mouth, have become very popular. Our concern with hydration packs is that the tube tends to freeze on summit night. To avoid freezing of either your water bottle or hydration pack you will need to make sure that they are well insulated on summit night. Wrapping your water bottles in your spare pair of thermal socks is a great solution. Another useful tip is to keep your bottle upside down as liquid freezes from the top
Water purification tablets
Always purify your water. Your guides will provide water that has been boiled, but bacteria in your water bottle will infect the clean water. Iodine is an effective water purifier and can be purchased in droplet or tablet form. Follow the instructions on the pack to avoid using too much iodine which can be harmful. Remember to brush your teeth with purified water as your gums may bleed when you brush your teeth and bacteria in the water can enter your body that way. One pack of 50 iodine tablets should be more than sufficient for the duration of the climb.
Trekking Kilimanjaro is strenuous exercise. By day two you are going to be a ‘smelly’, sweaty human being. This is particular true if you are using the routes that don’t have camping huts. Your guides will provide you with a small bowl of tepid water and soap after each days trek as well as first thing in the morning; however, using a bowl of water to clean yourself is not the easiest thing to do. Much easier is using baby wipes to clean your hands and rub yourself down. One pack of baby wipes should be more than sufficient.
UV light increases rapidly as you ascend Mount Kilimanjaro. Snow is also a powerful reflector of UV light. Definitely take a high SPF sunscreen and ensure to apply several times a day.
I recommend taking spare batteries for your headlamp and camera. Running out of power on your camera just as you want to take that killer summit picture is not fun.
If you are a light sleeper we recommend taking ear plugs. The stillness at night means that sound travels really well. Many people stay up late sharing trekking stories, and those who get to bed early sometimes snore, which can make sleeping difficult.
Moreover your porters and guides are usually up early getting ready for the new days hike. If you want to ensure you get that extra 30 minutes sleep in the morning, ear plugs are a useful addition to your gear.
Zip lock bags
Your day pack is going to be exposed to the elements during your hike. Exposure to dust and rain is common. To protect your valuables (i.e. wallet, money, binoculars, camera etc.), we suggest taking a few zip lock bags.
Your duffle bag will be carried by our porters. Typically your gear will be very safe but we still recommend taking a small lock to secure your belongings.
Taking energy bars on your trek is the easiest and most effective way to snack and keep your energy levels up. We suggest taking 3 energy bars for every day you are on the mountain (so if you are doing a seven day hike that would mean you bring twenty-one energy bars). Make sure your energy bars are not predominately milk based as they will freeze on summit night, making it impossible to chew. High energy oat bars are good.
Energy drink supplement
Many people don’t like the taste of water, especially after iodine has been added. An energy drink supplement will mask the taste of iodine as well as provide you with additional energy during your climb. We recommend using an isotonic or hypotonic Octane solution. A good rule of thumb is to drink half a litre of water first thing in the morning and then continue to drink another 2.5 litres during that days hike
Many people go wild on taking with them various medications. Others bring virtually nothing. The amount and type of medications you take is really up to you. We suggest taking these three medical supplies as they are the ones that usually come in most handy. 1. Paracetamol for headaches. 2. Valoid for nausea or vomiting. 3. Imodium for diarrhoea. Note: Our mountain guides carries a first aid pack that should have most medical supplies in it
Toilets and toilet paper
You can decide to brave the toilets or you can request us to organize a portable loo which will be carried and setup at each camp by a porter. A portable loo is pleasant but most climbers feel it removes the authenticity of trekking on Mount Kilimanjaro. Portable loos can usually be hired for approximately $150-$200. You will also need to bring your own toilet paper – one roll should be sufficient.
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