Our obsessively researched list of what to pack for Kilimanjaro.
Packing for an adventure like climbing Mount Kilimanjaro can be daunting – figuring out what to pack, what to buy, and what to skip can be overwhelming. So when 8 type-A women decided to do a climb, there were hours spent researching, and you can bet there were spreadsheets. It’s all right here in our Kilimanjaro Packing List.
- Sleeping Bags. You’ll be told by your guides that the minimum requirement is a sleeping bag with 15 F/-9 C rating, but you’re going to want 0 f/-17 C at a minimum. If you sleep colder you’ll want to look for something rated for even colder temps than that. The nights get cold (even on the first day), so consider stuffing your clothing in the bag with you when you sleep. It’ll keep them warm with body heat, and also reduce the space inside the bag, keeping you warmer with less effort. If needed, you will be able to rent sleeping bags through your guide company, but we recommend bringing a sleeping bag liner if you do so.
- Marmot Never Summer 0 Sleeping Bag – With 650 fill-power down, it provides a great weight-to-warmth ratio (remember, this has to fit in your duffel). A true mummy shape allows for warmth with less energy waste.
- The North Face Eco Trail – The synthetic fill has the benefit of performing better should your bag somehow get wet, but it doesn’t compress quite as well, and it will be a bit heavier than their down counterparts. As synthetic bags tend to be less expensive than down, this is a great option for travelers on a budget.
- Nemo Sonic -20 – This is a great option for the colder sleepers or claustrophobic trekkers (that’s me!). It’s not a true mummy bag, so you’ve got a little more room to move around. The extra warmth can fight off the coldest nights on the mountain.
- Duffel Bags. A 70-90 L water resistant duffel will be your shield against a very soggy trip. Most porters will have your bag covered, but depending on how things are stacked, there’s still a chance, if it pours, that your bag will get wet, and if your bag isn’t water resistant, you’re in for a long, damp trek. You also want to make sure your duffel doesn’t have wheels or rigid handles, for the porter’s comfort.
- The North Face Base Camp Duffel – this 71L duffel is great if you’re a spartan packer. On the smaller side of the recommended size range, this is great for keeping everything you need, and taking up less room in the tent.
- Patagonia Black Hole – The 100L Black Hole has room to fit everything and then some. The squared shape allows for slightly more flexible storage in the corners. detachable backpack straps make it easy to carry around.
- Daypack. A 25 – 40L daypack will be your constant companion on the trail. This is what you will carry the whole trek. It’ll need to hold: your water, extra layers, rain gear, snacks, medications, and any other personal equipment you’ll need during the day. *Be sure that your daypack comes with a rain cover, or purchase one separately, in case of rain or snow.
- Osprey Skarab 30 Hydration Pack – This bag has a wide mouth, which is great when you’re frequently reaching in. It comes with a 2.5 L reservoir included and a great suspension system to keep the weight balanced on your back.
- REI Co-Op Trail 40 Pack – Great capacity for everything you’ll need during your day, with a huge zippered opening that gives easy and fast access to everything in the bag.
- Sleeping Pad – The ground that you’re going to be sleeping on is not the most friendly – Kilimanjaro is a volcano after all. As you get higher up the mountain, and the terrain becomes more and more craggy, it only gets less comfortable…not to mention cold. A thermal/insulated sleeping pad is going to be your saving grace. Not only does it add some cushion between your body and the ground, but it also keeps the chill away. If possible, you’ll want something self-inflating, or that can be inflated by something other than your lungs (inflating a sleeping pad with your mouth is not something you’re going to want to take on at high elevation).
- Trekking Poles – Whether you want them for every step of the way, or only for summit night and the descent, trekking poles go a long way to helping you keep your balance and softening the impact on your joints. You’ll want them to be collapsible, and you’ll want to make sure that the hand straps are adjustable to fit around your gloves for summit night.
- Leki Makalu – These telescoping poles collapse down to 27 inches (69 CM), and have cork grips that help prevent blisters, and great shock absorption for those craggy parts of the trek.
- Black Diamond Distance Z – Lightweight, and they collapse down to as small as 13 inches (33 CM), great for smaller packs. Lightweight with sweat-wicking EVA grips.
- Headlamp – You’ll use your headlamp for summit night, and for around camp at night, and even as a makeshift overhead light in your tent. Bring batteries, and extra batteries (at least two extra sets) to light your way. I’d keep your headlamp simple, you’re not going to want to take your hands out of your gloves on summit night to find the right button, so make sure it’s bright, with few bells and whistles.
- Black Diamond Spot – 350 lumens provides plenty of light for your trek. This headlamp is simple, rugged, and lightweight for comfortable wear on the long summit night. It’s a lot of bang for your buck
- Petzel Tikka – 300 lumens is good for what you need on the mountain – a great budget option. All the light you need – no fuss.
- Gaiters – Essential for keeping moisture out of your pants on rainy days and summit night, these are easy and inexpensive to rent locally, so unless you have a real need for gaiters back at home, we recommend renting these from your guide company.
Footwear for Kilimanjaro
- Hiking Boots – You’re going to want the ankle support of a full-height hiking boot on the uneven terrain, and doubly so on summit night to add a little stability to your footing. Be sure they are WELL broken in, and your feet are used to wearing them for long periods of time. Take the time to learn how to tightlace to make your descent significantly more comfortable.
- Camp Shoes – Camp shoes should be a little slice of relief at the end of the day. You’ll want them to be comfortable and easy to put on and take off (those middle-of-the-night bathroom runs will happen, and you’re not going to want to be fumbling with your shoes). Also, make sure that your feet will still fit in them with your thick hiking socks on.
- Socks – Decide before you go if you’d rather do just socks, or socks with liners. Liners allow you to purchase less hiking/mountaineering socks (one light, one medium, and one heavy should do the trick), but if you don’t like the way they feel, you’ll need a few more, depending on the duration of your trek. Medium weight should cover the bulk of your days, with light needed on the first and last day, and heavy weight for summit night.
Clothing for Kilimanjaro
- Bottoms – You’ve got a couple of options here for your Kilimanjaro packing list. You’ll need at least two pairs of pants for the trek. You can opt for trekking tights for the days lower on the mountain, for a little more stretch, or traditional trekking pants. You’ll want to make sure you’ve got good range of motion for making big steps, and you’ll definitely want something durable enough to take some scuffs on rocks. Also make sure you’re able to fit base layers underneath, especially as you get higher up the mountain. You’ll also want waterproof pants (easily rented, as well), to keep you dry should you run into precipitation.
- Tops – You go through 5 different climate zones on Kilimanjaro, so you’ll want to be prepared for all of them. Aim for one short sleeve or tank top, two-three long sleeve, and one heavier fleece. These can all be layered as needed for the changing climates during the day. Opt for layers so you can warm up or cool down as needed. Of course, stick to sweat-wicking fabrics
- Jackets – Layering will, again, be your friend with jackets. We recommend having one insulator jacket and a waterproof jacket that can serve as both your outer shell for summit night and your rain jacket should you get caught in the rain. Be sure you try it on with multiple layers underneath, as you will be layered up on summit night.
- Base Layers – These will serve as both your layers and pajamas. I recommend 1-2 sets of medium weight, and one set of heavy weight base layers.
- Underwear – Comfortable and made of sweat wicking/tech fabrics. You don’t want anything cotton next to your skin (in fact, I’d avoid cotton on this trip, period – once it gets wet, it stays wet).
Everything Else You Need for Your Kilimanjaro Packing List
- Gloves – You’ll likely want both an insulated, heavy pair for summit night, and a lighter pair for around camp at night, and when the hikes get windy or chilly. Runner’s gloves, or glove liners work well for this. If you’re climbing in the rainy season, a pair of thinner waterproof gloves might be good to have, as well.
- Packing Cubes – You’re unpacking every night and packing up every morning. Packing cubes are super helpful in corralling all of the little things you’re bringing along, and make that process a LOT easier.
- Yak Trax – For summit night – the trail might be covered in snow or patches of ice, and the Yak Trax can help keep your traction, even when the pitch is steep.
- Sunscreen – An absolute must. Opt for SPF 30 at a minimum. You’ll be at elevation where the atmosphere is thinner, and you’ll be closer to the sun with little shade. Apply frequently. On summit night, apply before departing for the summit, as you’ll likely forget in the flurry of summiting.
- Clothespins – For hanging up wet items in your tent to dry.
- Thin socks for camp – In case your hiking socks don’t fit in your camp shoes.
- Nail Clippers – Trim your toenails just before your summit night. You want them nice and short for the thousands of feet of descent you need to do.
- Carabiners – These are super handy for attaching things to your daypack, hanging things up, etc. These are always in my travel kit no matter where I’m going!
- SheWee – Optional for the ladies. Of all of the options out there, the SheWee is the least likely to fail. I STRONGLY suggest, if you plan to use one, that you practice and get very comfortable using it before you leave for the trek.
- Hydration Bladder or Bottles – Depends on what your daypack looks like. The hydration bladder is definitely more convenient, but bottles work just fine. It’s recommended that you drink at least 3L of water per day, so a 2.5 – 3L bladder is ideal.
- Insulation Sleeve – Your water WILL freeze on Summit Night, perhaps when you need the hydration the most. You can insulate your bladder in an insulation sleeve (do not forget to insulate the line and nozzle, as those will freeze as well). If you’re using bottles, you can insulate the bottle in a thick hiking sock. Water freezes from the top down, so store your bottles upside down, so the water near the opening stays unfrozen and drinkable.
- Buffs – A bit of a multi-tool for hiking. It acts as a scarf, warming your neck, wicking sweat, covering your face when it gets windy, and can act as a hair band to keep your hair off your face, and cover it up when the dirty hair situation gets dire.
- Beanie Hat (Fleece Lined) – You’ll wear this around camp and under your hood on summit night.
- Ball Cap or Sun Hat – The sun is super strong on clear days, so you’ll want something to block the sun from your eyes.
- Sunglasses – UV protection is a must, wraparound styles are ideal for protection on all sides.
- Dry Shampoo – You won’t have a shower for up to 9 days. If your hair is prone to greasiness, bring along some dry shampoo to address it.
- Earbuds (wired) – If you’re someone that likes to listen while you hike, maybe leave your wireless buds at home for this one. You lose one on the mountain, and you’re out of luck. Ditto, if the battery runs down in the cold of Summit Night.
- Charging Cord/Power Bank – bring charging cords for all of your gadgets, and a good power bank. A 10,000 mAh power bank will charge an iPhone 3 full times (phones require about 3,000 mAh for a full charge). If you burn through your battery, consider either a larger power bank, or a solar charging panel that can be attached to your daypack like this one.
- Book and/or Journal – Your hikes, largely, will be done by mid-afternoon, so you’ll have a little time hanging around camp. Journaling can help you remember the details of the trip a bit better, and a good book can help you pass the time.
- Cleansing Cloths – These can help ward off the stank during the trip. Arrange for you and your tent-mate to each have 10-15 minutes alone in the tent to give yourself a wipe-down after the day’s trek, and get into what you’re wearing to bed. You’ll feel like a million bucks.
- Spare Contacts – just in case you lose one, or it gets torn. You’ll be popping these in and out in the tent, so you’re not exactly in a clean bathroom. Consider bringing more than one extra pairs, just in case.
- Your medications – Be sure you have all of the medications you need, and be sure to keep them in your daypack. Let your head guide know what medications you’re taking, so they can be aware of what you’re taking in case of emergency.
- Ibuprofen (NOT PM) – at some point, the soreness will sink in. You might be dealing with a strained tendon, headaches happen. She or He who has the Ibuprofen will be the hero of camp. Be sure not to get the PM versions, as they are regarded as unsafe while acclimatizing. If you need help sleeping, bring along some chamomile tea.
- Hair Ties – Bring extras, rubber bands break, get lost in the shuffle, etc.
- Travel Towel – After washing your hands or face, or mopping up spills, you’ll be happy you had a travel towel on-hand.
- Bug Spray – You won’t need this on the mountain (I, personally, am a mosquito magnet, and i didn’t get a single bite during the trek). You will, however, need it in Moshi, or if you travel on to safari in Kenya, or out to Zanzibar.
- Earplugs – Camp can get loud at night. Especially Base camp where all of the trails come together, and you get just a few precious hours of sleep before summit night.
- Batteries – Batteries and extras. I used Pale Blue Earth’s USB-Rechargable batteries at camp up until Summit night, when i put in a fresh set of disposables. I was able to top up the batteries every day, so I never had to ration my light.
- Snacks – Some energy bars or gels are great for a quick bite mid-hike. Also, bring around a favorite snack as a reward at the end of a long day on the mountain, if you think that will motivate you. Don’t go overboard, though – the guides will feed you very well!
- Plastic Bags – bring along a few zipper bags and a few trash bags, to separate items that have gotten wet, or to protect valuables and electronics in the event of rain.
- Electrolyte Drink Mix – This does double duty. You’re going to be drinking a TON of water, and sweating quite a bit. You’ll need to replenish your electrolytes. The water on the mountain, though your guides generally will purify it for you, it doesn’t taste great. A mix can help that taste a bit better and go down easier.
- Hand/Foot Warmers – Also useful at night to keep your feet and hands warm while sleeping. Just a reminder that most of these are oxygen-activated, so leave them out in the air for a few minutes before putting them in boots or gloves (or sleeping bags). They will also not activate well close to the summit.
There you have it! My comprehensive, extensively researched Kilimanjaro packing list. With all of these boxes checked, you should be prepared for just about anything the mountain can throw at you! Happy planning!
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