Kilimanjaro Gear and Packing List
Welcome to our Kilimanjaro Gear and Packing List. We’ve spent several hours compiling a list of everything you’ll need to succesfully attempt a summit of the mighty – Mount Kilimanjaro.
Located in the East African country of Tanzania – Mount Kilimanjaro stands at 19,341 feet (5,895 meters) above sea level. It is the largest freestanding mountain in the world. It is the tallest mountain on the entire continent of Africa and is one of the highly sought after 7 Summits of the world.
While not a technical climb, you need to be prepared. The mountain makes its own weather and we’ll be ascending and descending through several ecological zones and experiencing diverse weather conditions along the way.
Machame Route: The Machame Route is currently the most popular route to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. It’s steep Southern approach is said to be the most scenic and also one of the more strenuous routes. You can expect hiking 5-6 hour days each day and a roughly 16-18 hour day to reach the summit and descend. After a few glorious minutes at the summit, we will then immediately descend roughly 9,000 feet (2743 meters) to safety. Summit day is a long day and we begin trekking in the late evening and typically hit the summit at sunrise. From there it’s another 6-8 hours down to our camp site.
To help prepare for this epic 7 day adventure, we’ve compiled a helpful packing list to ensure that you’re ready to face any weather we may see.
Without further ado, here is our comprehensive Kilimanjaro Gear and Packing List for a successful climb and summit of the infamous Mount Kilimanjaro…
Something sentimental or personal for the summit (ashes, flags, photos, etc.)
You might consider bringing something small to the summit with you. Ashes, flags, photos, mementos are all common items. What we’re doing is no small feat. Use the achievement to pay homage to loved ones or anything else that is close to your heart. We won’t have much time at the summit due to the elevation, cold, and lack of oxygen so be creative and make it count.
Make sure you have your passport, airline tickets, phone, journal, etc. secure and in one place. We recommend keeping your cash, and aforementioned items in a small dry bag to keep safe and protected from the elements. We recommend keeping this dry bag with you in your day pack and not your main gear bag.
If you take medications please make sure you have more than enough to cover you over the 7 days while you’re climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. There are no pharmacies on Kilimanjaro and you need to make sure you are prepared. Make sure you keep your meds in a waterproof container.
Diamox can/may be prescribed by your physician. It helps with Altitude Sickness and you may want to discuss with your doctor. It is by no means mandatory and we encourage you to talk to your doctor to learn more and see if it makes sense for you.
Packing for Kilimanjaro
You’ll want to separate your safari gear from your Kilimanjaro gear if possible. You won’t need much for your safari whereas you’ll need more for climbing Kilimanjaro. Since safaris require overland travel via customized off-road Toyota Land Cruisers, space is at a premium and we don’t want to lug a bunch of Kilimanjaro gear around the country while on safari. We’ll be leaving our Kilimanjaro bags either at the hotel or at our guides home. Either way they will be locked and secure while we’re on safari.
***Here’s our Safari Gear & Packing List. For now though, let’s get back to Kilimanjaro!
Since porters (aka sherpas in Asia) will be carrying your gear – it’s important and mandatory you make it easy for them. Therefore you really only have 2 options for your dedicated Kilimanjaro main gear bag.
Kilimanjaro Main Bag/Backpack (70 – 90 Liter Maximum; 35 lbs or 18.78kgs Maximum)
If you own a legitimate internal or external frame backpack intended for extended days in the backcountry, you can use this as your main Kilimanjaro gear bag. We highly recommend that if you go this route, that your pack be waterproof or you have a waterproof cover for your backpack.
We will likely get wet in the rain forest (ha) and the last thing you want is a wet backpack with a wet sleeping bag and wet clothes inside. Not only will you be miserable this could seriously impact your ability to successfully reach the summit and presents some serious and potentially deadly consequences including frostbite and hypothermia. Even if your backpack is waterproof or has a rain cover we recommend placing everything that goes into your backpack into sorted dry bags or at the very least – sealed trash bags. Your bag may get wet but make sure the contents won’t.
Again, you’ll have a porter carrying this bag for you but regardless of who’s carrying it – you don’t want wet clothes or a wet sleeping bag. We’ll be burning a lot of energy everyday and it’s important you stay dry and get a good night sleep so you can keep your energy up throughout the 7 days.
The less expensive (and preferred) option (versus buying a new backcountry backpack) is purchasing a large (70-90 liter max) dry duffel/backpack dry bag. It’s waterproof, can be worn as a backpack or carried like a duffel. Did we mention it was waterproof? See a reoccurring theme here?
PVC waterproof material ensures your stuff will be dry and it’s soft which works well for the porters (many will carry on their head; some will wear as a backpack). At $60 USD you really can’t go wrong here.
As backup we recommend wrapping everything inside the dry bag in trash bags or dry bags just to be safe even though it’s waterproof.
Of the 2 options, option 2 makes the most sense. Don’t skimp on keeping your gear dry. Once you’re done with Kili, you’ll have a bag for future adventures. Plus they come in cool colors. Highly recommended.
**Important note on your main bag**
The total weight of your main bag cannot exceed 35lbs or 18.78kgs. This includes the weight of the bag, your sleeping bag, sleeping pad, clothes, toiletries, etc. If you arrive with a bag that exceeds this weight limit you will be required to either remove items so it makes weight or hire another porter at your own expense. Please do not take advantage of the fact that someone else if carrying your stuff up the mountain. Please pack smart and please pack light. Everything in your bag should serve a purpose.
Your main Kilimanjaro Gear bag will be carried by porters everyday. You will not see your bag from morning until we arrive in camp each day. They will pass us on the trail and have camp set up by the time we get there. We recommend placing TSA approved luggage locks on all accessible zippers and access points. They’re small, light, and will discourage anyone from going through your belongings. Certainly not mandatory and rarely ever an issue but you know the old saying..
Kilimanjaro Day Pack (25 – 40 liter capacity)
As mentioned previously, your main bag will be carried by your porter. Because you won’t be seeing the porter during the day it’s important that you have a day pack on you while you hike. This will hold a few layers, gloves, hat, sunglasses, camera, water, etc. Sticking with the theme – your daypack should be waterproof and/or have a rain cover that works while you are wearing it.
Additionally, it can be beneficial if you have a daypack that works with a hydration bladder. This allows you access to your water without stopping while also keeping your water bladder insulated in freezing temperatures near the summit. The added insulation will help prevent the source from freezing.
NOTE: If you will be using a Camelbak, please make sure your drinking tube is insulated. It will likely be below freezing near the summit and if your water tube is frozen you’re not going to be happy. Make sure you insulate your drinking tube or you’re going to be thirsty!!!
Here is the CamelBak Daypack we recommend (a bit on the small side but one of the largest they make):
CamelBak 2016 Fourteener Hydration Pack (22 Liter pack; 100oz hydration)
Here’s a 28 liter daypack from Osprey (great manufacturer of backpacks):
For those of you who will purchase a daypack and use a bladder with it – just make sure your daypack is 25-40 liters of cargo capacity. If you’re carrying a camera and other electronics you may benefit from a slightly larger daypack. Remember…pack light.
YOU have to carry your daypack up and down the mountain. Don’t make a strenuous hike more difficult. Each pound of weight will feel like 10 up at 19,000 feet. In the backpacking world the general rule is to not carry more than 1/3 of your body weight. Since porters will be carrying most of our stuff, please keep this in mind when you’re preparing your daypack. If you’re small, pack light. If you’re large, pack light. 🙂
Waterproof daypacks under $100
Water will be provided throughout our trip. The water will be boiled by our Guides and Porters and made safe for consumption. We encourage you to also bring iodine pills, or your own personal water purifier like the SteriPen. Best practice is to fill up 2 to 4 liters of water each morning and carry with you so you have access while you climb each day. You’ll either need a hydration bladder and 2 water bottles or 3-4 water bottles and no hydration pack/bladder.
Note: Plan on carrying 3-4 liters of water on your person each day. It should be noted that iodine makes your water taste a bit funny. It’s effective at removing Giardia and other waterborne, microscopic viruses and parasites but it leaves a funky taste. It won’t hurt you and it’s a tried and proven method (we’ve used iodine pills in the backcountry for decades) however, of the two options (water purifier vs iodine pills) the iodine pills would be our last choice.
The best tasting solution besides boiling the water is hands down the SteriPen water purifier. It uses UV radiation to kill the harmful microorganisms and you can use the pen for up to 8,000 liters. For $100USD it’s a pretty good option basically breaks down to $.0125 a liter over its useful life. You don’t want to get sick on the mountain. Bring water purification just to be safe – it’s worth the pennies.
FUN FACT: water weighs 2.2lbs (1kg) per liter. If you’re carrying 4 liters of water this equates to 8.8lbs (3.9kgs). Please factor that in when you’re preparing your day pack. If you’re carrying 8.8lbs of water it will reduce the amount of weight you should be carrying. We recommend carrying no more than 15% of your body weight in your day pack and that includes your water and all of your gear and the pack itself.
It is imperative that you have good hiking boots for your climb. Even more important is that the boots are well worn in prior to starting your trek. While heavy duty full grain leather uppers are great boots, unless you’ve had a chance to break them in over 2-3 months minimum we advise against bringing them. A better and more comfortable option:
No matter what boot you decide to go with, please choose a boot that is waterproof and made with Gore-Tex. The aforementioned boots are a great solution and if you read the reviews on Amazon, you’ll see that many people have summited Mount Kilimanjaro wearing these boots and did so without blisters.
You have the option of renting a sleeping bag (and sleeping pad) while in Arusha from a 3rd party. We can arrange sleeping bag rentals for $3 per day and sleeping pad rentals for $3 per day. $6 total per day X 7 days = $42USD total.
While renting is definitely the easiest and cheapest solution, we highly recommend purchasing your own sleeping bag and sleeping pad and bringing it in your Kilimanjaro Gear bag. Sleep is precious and after several long and consecutive days of hiking you’re going to need to get good sleep each night to recover. Rental bags are worn and not always in the best shape. Because it’s a third party rental company we cannot guarantee that the gear is in top shape. There are plenty of complaints all over the internet about faulty zippers and worn out bags – so much so that we recommend bringing your own sleeping bag and sleeping pad.
You’ll want your sleeping bag to be rated to 15F (-9.4C) at minimum. Preferably your sleeping bag will be rated to 0F (-17C). It gets cold at the summit and while we won’t actually ever sleep above 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) it can and likely will get below freezing at night while we are higher on the mountain. If you sleep warm a 15F (-9C) bag should be suffice. If you sleep cold we recommend a 0F(-17C) bag. Down is the warmest and lightest but it doesn’t do well if it gets wet. If you are bringing a down sleeping bag, we recommend either purchasing a water resistant down sleeping bag or treating your down sleeping bag with Nikwax Down Proof wash. For $12USD it’s a cheap waterproofing solution for down jackets, sleeping bags and other down products.
We won’t go into the pros and cons of down vs. synthetic (plenty of info on google) but here is a good option:
A good down 0F (-17C) sleeping bag intended for backpacking and trekking use will cost you some big bucks. They’re meant to be warm and light and pack small via a ‘stuff sack.’ Box stores like REI have options from $300 – $500+. You can also rent your sleeping bag from REI and that would allow you to ensure you get a quality bag prior to departure. The above link is a good inexpensive solution if you want to bring your own sleeping bag. It’s lightweight, and packs small. You will want to use the Nikwax Down Proof wash on your bag however as it is not water resistant.
For you couples, you can purchase/rent your bags with either left or right zippers! This makes matching them possible. Essentially you can zip them together and snuggle. You’ll sleep warmer due to the body heat and this method is highly recommended if you’ll be joining us with a special someone.
Sleeping Bag Liner
Not mandatory, but a nice thing to have ESPECIALLY if you’re renting a sleeping bag. Not only will a sleeping bag liner warm your sleeping bag a few degrees, it’ll be a more hygienic option when renting as you’ll have something in between you and the often used, and sweated in rental bag. Silk liners will be the lightest but tend to cost more than fleece or microfiber. Silk, microfiber, or micro fleece liners are lightweight and pack down small. Because they’re lightweight we recommend bringing with you.
A sleeping pad keeps you off the cold hard ground. It acts as padding and as an insulator to keep you warmer. The cold ground sucks away your body heat and without a sleeping pad you’d be miserable even in a 0F (-17C) sleeping bag. This is an absolute must have. Don’t leave home without one or at very least rent one in Arusha before we depart for the climb.
Self inflating sleeping pads are best but are also susceptible to puncture. They usually come with a small patch kit for repairs in the field. Foam sleeping pads tend to be bulkier (they don’t deflate) but are more durable than a self inflating sleeping pad. We like the foam as you can use them while relaxing around camp without worrying about it puncturing. Serves as a dual purpose item which as mentioned above is a good thing. As with anything though, each have pros and cons.
Bring one of each.
Foam sleeping pad (cheap, work great but bulky)andInflatable sleeping pad (comfy but you have to blow up; harder at altitude but doable)orSelf Inflating sleeping pad (benefits include not having to blow air into mattress at 10,000ft; PREFERRED)
NOTE: Sleeping Bag and Pad
As with all of the gear mentioned here. It’s important your gear be ‘backpacking’ gear. Backpacking gear is lightweight (it’s meant to be carried on your back) and typically lasts much longer than ‘car camping’ gear. Car camping and backpacking are two very different types of camping and the gear is very different as a result. Do not bring a full blow up mattress with a pump or a large car camping sleeping bag. These are great for car camping but it’s simply not going to work for this trip. Save yourself some embarrassment and make sure you bring backpacking specific gear.
Clothing for Lower Elevation Hiking
As we begin our climb the weather will be warm and as we hit the rainforest, humid and wet. This section covers items you’ll need for the warmer portions of our climb.
Quick Dry Wicking (Non Cotton) Underwear (Men’s)Quick Dry Wicking (Non Cotton) Underwear (Women’s)Quick Dry Wicking (Non Cotton) Sports Bra (Women’s)Quick Dry (Non Cotton) Synthetic Tee Shirt (Men’s)Quick Dry (Non Cotton) Synthetic Long Sleeve Tee Shirt (Men’s)Convertible Polyester Hiking Pants (Men’s)Convertible Polyester Hiking Pants (Women’s)Bathing Suit (Men’s) (hotel pool)Bathing Suit (Women’s) (hotel pool)Midweight Hiking SocksShemagh (only cotton item you should have in your bag; great for safari; okay for Kili)Sports Bandana (microfiber so excellent choice; unisex)Large Rain Pancho (fits over you and your day pack)
Clothing and Gear for Higher Elevation Hiking
As we climb to higher elevations and get above tree line, the landscape will change. We’ll not only be more exposed, temperatures will drop. It’s important that you be prepared for any potential weather we may encounter. Pay close attention to this section. The success of your climb depends on it. This section covers items you’ll need for the colder portions of our climb.
Smartwool Wool Sock LinersSmartwool Glove LinersMid Weight Fleece GlovesMid Weight Waterproof Ski/Snowboard GlovesUnder Armor BaclavaMid Weight Wool or Fleece Winter HatFull Wrap Sunglasses with UV ProtectionSki or Snowboard GogglesMedium Weight Synthetic Long Underwear TopMedium Weight Synthetic Long Underwear BottomHeavy Weight Synthetic Long Underwear TopHeavy Weight Synthetic Long Underwear BottomFleece PantsMid Weight Fleece or Soft Shell JacketMid Weight Down or Synthetic “Puffer” JacketLight Weight Waterproof Rain/Snow PantsLight Weight Waterproof Rain/Ski JacketGaiters
A good headlamp is essential for summit day. We will be departing camp in the middle of the night and hiking for 6-8 hours in the dark. You’ll need a good headlamp and we recommend a change of batteries.
Here are a few headlamps we recommend:
Practice replacing your headlamp batteries before summit night, as you don’t want to get caught in the dark, fumbling around. You may even want to bring 2 headlamps JIC.
Other Climbing Gear
Trekking PolesCasual Shoes (for when in camp)
Travel Size ToothbrushTavel Size ToothpasteTravel Size Dental FlossTravel Size DeodorantSpare Eyeglasses or ContactsYour MedicationsTravel Size SunscreenTravel Size LotionChapstickFeminine Hygiene Products (Women)Wet Wipes for Sensitive Spots (Men & Women)Toilet Paper (Enough for 7 days)Biodegradable Soap
NOTE for the Women
It has been said that panty liners are a great solution for keeping dry and clean while summiting Kilimanjaro.
All of our meals will be prepared by our support team and will include breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Even though we will have food 3 times a day, due to the amount of calories we’ll be burning, it’s important to have snacks with you in your day backpack. Here are a few products we recommend:
Create a “Summit Night” iPod/iPad/iPhone/Android playlist ahead of time, making sure that it’s at least 8-hours long and will get you to the top!
Keep your iPod and all other electronics deep in a breast pocket or wrapped in your clothes, socks, etc. so they doesn’t freeze on summit day!
Batteries perform worse in extreme climates. Bring backups for all of your electronics. No sense lugging your camera all the way to the summit only to realize the freezing cold has drained your batteries and your camera doesn’t have enough battery power to work. Be prepared!
We hope that our Kilimanjaro Gear and Packing List serves you as a good guide for your preparation. It’s a challenging climb but with the right gear it’s a little bit easier. Kilimanjaro is truly a test of your mind and it’s hard enough as it stands. Make sure you’re prepared. Please share this Kilimanjaro Gear and Packing List with family and friends who will be attempting the summit. Thank you.