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Each day is an opportunity for a new adventure, and soon I will be embarking on a new adventure to the tallest mountain in Africa: Mount Kilimanjaro. At nearly 20,000 feet, Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest free-standing mountain in the world and typically takes between 6-8 days to hike. For the first time in my life, I will need to factor into my packing certain challenges I might encounter with elevation and altitude, temperature changes as we ascend 9,000 feet over the course of a week, inability to shower for seven days, and lack of electricity to charge my devices. After a lot of research, planning, and insightful conversations with Pristine Trails, the tour company I will be hiking with, I feel confident that I have all the essential gear to trek Kilimanjaro. If you, too, have the desire to ever make the trek up Mount Kilimanjaro, make sure you follow this complete Kilimanjaro packing list with all my Kilimanjaro gear recommendations and tips.
Kilimanjaro Gear Recommendations
1. 15-25L HIKING PACK AND RAIN COVER
While you will have porters carrying your larger pack for you, you will need a smaller hiking pack to hold all the clothing, snacks, and water you need for the day. Look for a pack that fits you and your body comfortably. Also think about what type of organization (if any) you desire in your pack and whether you prefer to have a built in water bladder or carry a separate water bottle. And lastly, don’t forget to bring a rain cover for your backpack to keep your belongings dry. It’s one thing for you to be soaked from the rain, but then to have all your belongings soaked as well? The worst. I have a Salomon 15L similar to this one and this Osprey rain cover.
2. WATER BOTTLE
Even though my daypack has a built in water bladder, I will be carrying a separate water bottle as well. Hydration is key to conquering altitude, so I want to arm myself with as much ammo as I can to beat altitude sickness. I prefer Nalgene bottles because they are virtually indestructible and easily clip onto any pack.
3. SLEEPING BAG LINER
If you choose to bring your own sleeping bag, make sure you bring one fit for very cold weather. If you choose to rent a sleeping bag in Kilimanjaro, make sure you bring a sleeping bag liner. A liner is not only useful for sanitary reasons but also serves as an extra layer of warmth for the cold nights at high altitude. Look for a liner that is lightweight, packable, and warm, like this one from Outdoor Vitals that I will be bringing with me to Kilimanjaro.
4. HIKING POLES
If you’ve never hiked with hiking poles before, you may be thinking to yourself, “Really? That doesn’t sound like the coolest look…” You may be right, but when you’ve been hiking for a week and are exhausted, you will want nothing more than to have hiking poles as you make your way down the mountain on already tired legs and knees. Look for hiking poles that are durable and lightweight since you’ll be carrying them for an extended period of time. Try to find hiking poles that are extendable so you can adjust them to the height you want them to be. You may want a different length on your hiking poles depending on how steep the incline is that you’re hiking on. I have these Leki hiking poles that are lightweight and adjustable for easy transport.
5. PORTABLE CHARGER
Although your phone won’t be good for surfing the web or making calls during your hike, if you want to use it to take photos, jot down notes from your hike, or play games to entertain yourself, you’ll want a backup source of power to keep your phone juiced for an entire week. I always travel with my portable charger anyway, but it will come in particularly handy while hiking Kilimanjaro. small, lightweight and doesn’t take up much room on your journey. This one is small, lightweight, and holds up to 3-4 full iPhone charges at full battery.
While navigating around your campsite at night and preparing for your nighttime summit hike, a headlamp is an extremely useful and necessary tool. I have this one, which has multiple brightness settings and a swivel head.
Kilimanjaro Clothing Recommendations
Make sure to pack merino wool base layers to wear under your mid- and outer-jackets. Merino wool is my fabric of choice not only for trekking Kilimanjaro but for traveling generally because it is warm, breathable, and moisture-wicking. That means you can wear the same clothes for a week without scaring everyone around you away. I have several sets of merino wool base layers from Icebreaker, SmartWool, and Arc’teryx that I would highly recommend.
8. MERINO WOOL SHORT SLEEVE AND LONG SLEEVE SHIRTS
For your short and long sleeve shirts outside of your base layer, look for merino wool or synthetic fabrics. Again, these fabrics will help moderate your body temperature as you move from hot to cold temperatures and keep odors at bay. A couple of merino wool shirts that I really like are this tank top and this short sleeve shirt.
9. MID-LAYER JACKET
I’ve used the Patagonia Better Sweater Fleece for a while now, and it’s the warmest mid-layer I’ve been able to find, without the bulk. It comes in several styles: half zip, full zip, with hood, and without hood. You can get yours here.
10. GORE-TEX OUTER SHELL JACKET
11. HIKING TROUSERS
Not only do they keep your legs warm, dry and safe from the elements, but they are also great for continuing your journey around Africa after Kilimanjaro. I recommend these convertible, UV resistant hiking pants that double up as long pants and shorts. If you do not have hiking trousers and aren’t able to purchase any before your trip, athletic leggings will do the trick as well.
12. SNOW PANTS
Being prepared for all-weather on this hike is key. Even though you might be in shorts when starting out at base camp, you will undoubtedly need double layers of everything by the time you reach summit. These snow pants will help ensure warmth and dryness even in the cooler temperatures, while keeping you warm and stylish as well.
A balaclava or buff will help keep your neck and face from getting hit with wind and dust. Remember, you will be trekking in the wilderness, so it is inevitable that you will encounter some dust and dirty. This will help to keep those elements of Mother Nature from pounding on your face. Windproof is key for these! This buff has built in UV protection features and comes in a variety of patterns.
14. INSULATED AND WATERPROOF GLOVES
I recommend getting a pair of warm, interior gloves and a pair of waterproof, exterior gloves to ensure your hands stay warm and dry. Alternatively, you can find a pair of gloves that are insulated and waterproof if you would rather not have to bring two pairs of gloves. These Gore-Tex gloves are windproof and waterproof, which makes them a great outer layer, and this is a good inner glove that has touch screen capabilities as an added bonus.
15. HIKING BOOTS
Having good footwear is extremely important when you’ll be on your feet all day for a week straight. You want to look for hiking boots that are made of Gore-Tex material, just like your outer shell. That way, you know your feet will stay dry even if you are forced to walk through a puddle or mudslide. You also want boots that are higher cut around the ankle, so you can forego wearing gaiters if you don’t want to. I have these Salomon hiking boots and would highly recommend them. They are lightweight, waterproof, and provide good support.
16. MERINO WOOL SOCKS
As is true with your clothing, merino wool is your fabric of choice when looking for hiking socks. Merino wool will keep your feet dry and odorless, even after hiking in them for days. Bring a mix of different weights for different temperatures, like these light, medium, heavy, and extra-heavy Smartwool socks.
Kilimanjaro Personal Care Recommendations
17. BODY AND FACE WIPES
Did I mention you won’t have access to a shower for the entire week? For the first time in over 20 years, baby wipes may actually come in handy for me. These wipes are great for travel, and they conveniently come packaged in small packs of eight wipes each, so you can pack as many or as few as you’ll need.
18. DRY SHAMPOO
If your hair is anywhere near as greasy as mine, not washing your hair for an entire week sounds like a nightmare. Dry shampoo allows you to keep your hair clean and smelling fresh without actually washing it. I love this 0.85 oz travel size dry shampoo by Bumble and Bumble.
Just because you can’t shower doesn’t mean you can’t brush your teeth. Your guides will have plenty of clean, bottled water for you to use for drinking and for brushing your teeth, but in case you don’t want to waste drinking water on brushing, you may want to look into bringing these disposable travel toothbrushes for your trek.
Don’t think that just because you’ll be all bundled up in cold weather, you won’t need any sunscreen. Since you’ll be at such high elevation, and thus closer to the sun, you will absolutely feel the rays even through your clothing (unless you are wearing clothing with built in UV protection). Make sure to bring enough sunscreen for your hike, at least for your face. I like this travel size sunscreen from Blue Lizard.
For the same reason that you’ll need sunscreen, you’ll feel your lips dry out as you stay out on the mountain for multiple days. Bring whichever chapstick you typically use at home. For me, the Carmex Medicated lip balm works best.
22. HAND/FOOT WARMERS
On the coldest days and nights, your hands and feet will get very cold, even with the right hand and foot gear. That’s where hand and foot warmers come in. Make sure to bring a few of each with you, so you don’t suffer through the coldest days. HotHands is my go-to brand for hand and foot warmers, and I particularly like these foot warmers with adhesive insoles, which prevent the warmers from sliding around in your shoes as you’re walking.
23. ENERGY SUPPLEMENTS
You may not always have food at your disposal at all times, and if you are constantly hungry, like me, you may want to bring some energy bars or energy drink supplements in your day pack in case you get hungry in between meal times. I love these Emergen-C Energy drink supplements because not only do they boost my energy levels, but they also contain high levels of Vitamin C to keep my immune system strong during the long hike.
Headphones will not only keep you entertained during the down times on your hike, but they will also keep you sane as you start to get tired of being around and talking to the same people 24/7 for an entire week. If you are used to hiking with wireless headphones like I am, just make sure you bring enough power to charge your headphones for seven days, or you may want to switch to cord headphones for this hike.
Don’t forget to bring a pair of comfortable sunglasses, as (hopefully) it will not rain the entire time on your hike and you’ll have some sunny days. This is a nice pair of sunglasses that don’t look super sporty but are perfect for hikes and other active, outdoor activities.
Kilimanjaro First Aid Recommendations
If you are only hiking Kilimanjaro and will not be traveling around Africa after your hike, you won’t need that many vaccinations and medications. You should already have your Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B vaccines, but in case you don’t, make sure to get those before your trip. Hepatitis A is spread through contaminated food, so it is extremely easy to get in a foreign country that may not have the same hygiene standards that you’re used to. You may also want to get malaria pills, as there are cases of malaria at base camp. Additional medications you may wish to bring with you are Diamox for altitude sickness, pepto-bismol (which is always good to have on hand when traveling), medication for traveler’s diarrhea, and pain relieving medication for sore muscles and altitude induced headaches. Don’t forget to bring the medicine you take on a daily basis at home, too.
You never know when you’re going to get a cut or scrape while trekking out in the wilderness, so make sure to have a few bandaids on you at all times just in case. If you have room in your first aid kit, you should pack a tube of neosporin as well to ensure those cuts don’t get infected.
28. WATER PURIFICATION DROPS
Your guides will provide you with clean and safe bottled water for drinking, but in case you want to take extra precautions or have an extra sensitive stomach, you may want to bring some water purification drops with you to further purify your drinking water. Use code “MADERA40” to get 40% off site wide.
29. INSECT REPELLANT
Once you leave base camp, you won’t be faced with many mosquitos because they simply don’t exist at such high altitudes. However, you’ll likely need insect repellant for base camp, especially if you opted not to take medication for malaria. You’ll want something strong like DEET or an effective DEET alternative like this Natrapel repellant.
30. ANTIBIOTIC CREAM
Antibiotic cream can help treat a variety of skin issues, from minor cuts and scrapes to sunburns and other skin infections. I like to have a tube of antibiotic cream on me at all times when I travel, but it can come in especially handy while trekking Kilimanjaro.
Our complete Kilimanjaro packing list, with all our Kilimanjaro gear recommendations and tips, is meant to keep you safe and comfortable during your trek. If we are missing any crucial gear items, please let us know in the comments below!
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