Kilimanjaro Gear List
Example Equipment List for Climbing Kilimanjaro
Climbing Kilimanjaro is a life-changing experience. At 19,341 feet above sea level it's the highest point in Africa and the tallest free-standing mountain in the world. It is the trip of a lifetime and should be on the bucket list for any outdoor enthusiast. Approximately 20% of those who attempt to summit the mountain succeed. Reaching the top and returning safely requires being fit, determined, having the right equipment, and knowing how to use it. Let's take a look at my recommended packing list for climbing Kilimanjaro.
Before we begin, a few caveats:
I'm only covering gear required for climbing the mountain. You'll likely want to take additional items on your trip to Africa and leave them in a suitcase with the front desk at your hotel prior to embarking on the climb.
Examples are only examples. I included links to products that are appropriate for the task. Generally these are items that I have personal experience with and enjoy using or items that I'm confident will get the job done. But these are examples only. Many products are interchangeable with what I've listed. Choose what is right for you.
I'm specifying balanced-budget equipment. Climbing Kilimanjaro is somewhere between hiking and mountaineering. It's not technical, but you can get intense mountain weather and you'll be in frigid, high-altitude environments. For that reason, and because you're legally required to have a porter carry your overnight gear, I've selected a balance between primo outdoor brand-name gear and budget-brand gear. If you can afford to 'make it rain', go nuts—I won't judge. This list is for the 99% of us.
The packing list is divided into the following categories:
Choose wool or synthetic hiking clothes that will keep wicks sweat and dry quickly. Avoid anything cotton and plan for a good deal of sun exposure.
Worn next-to-skin, they help regulate your temperature by moving sweat away from your body so it can evaporate without letting you to catch a chill. At altitude they'll also provide some insulation. Choose synthetic, wool, or bamboo fabrics. Avoid cotton.
These are the items you'll turn to in order to maintain warmth while on the go and for quick stops. They should add warmth but not be so warm that you'd break a sweat while hiking. The industry refers to these items as active insulation.
By now you get it... wool or synthetic, right? Good. Make sure your boots fit all the socks you intend on wearing to the summit without constricting blood flow or you will have cold toes for sure!
Hard Shell / Rain Gear
Splurge on the waterproof jacket. You can cut corners and go with lighter-weight 3-season rain pants. Try to get full-zip for convenience.
Cold Weather Protection
You don't need to spend a fortune on hiking/mountaineering puffy insulating layers. Prioritize your gloves and then get cheap down puffies or use high-pile fleece jackets. Size-up for outer layers so you can nest like a Russian doll.
If you encounter snow or ice, slip-on spikes will save the day. Trekking poles help you conserve energy on ascents and help protect your knees on the way down.
- Trekking Poles
Protect your eyes. The sun is more powerful at altitude. You'll need to live in your sunglasses.
The cold ground will rob you of warmth faster than the air, so be sure to use two sleeping pads. Plan for the coldest conditions. A sleeping bag's rating is typically 20°F lower than the temperature at which it ceases to be comfortable. So don't be stingy with the insulation. Keep the sleeping bag dry with a drybag/waterproof compression sack.
- 2-3" Inflatable Insulated Sleeping Pad (R3 or Higher Rating). Add this on top of the pad your tour company provides for extra comfort and warmth.
- Closed-Cell Foam Pad
Add this only if your tour company doesn't provide a pad.
- 0°F Down Sleeping Bag
- Medium or Large (~14 L) Waterproof Compression Sack for Sleeping Bag
Utility, Toiletries, & Medical
You don't need to go all Rambo out there. A small, lightweight blade and a scissors will solve 90% of the issues. Repair gear quickly with duct tape. Wrap some around your trekking pole for easy storage.
You don't need to carry a mini-ambulance of medical supplies—especially if you don't know how to use them. Chances are you'll just need things for bumps, bruises, and scrapes. Be prepared for stomach-borne illness and practice good hygiene with liberal use of hand sanitizer.
- Small Multitool (Scissors and knife at least; or choose a knife and pack a small scissors.)
- Small Gorilla Tape or Duct Tape Roll
- Bic Mini Lighter
- Pain Relievers (Advil, Asprin, Tylenol, etc.)
- Anti-Diarrheal Medication (Immodium)
- Cipro (Antibiotic to treat Giardia)
- Ear Plugs
- Leukotape for blisters
- Personal Medkit including a needle and thread for treating blisters
- Hand Sanitizer
Your guide outfit will likely treat water for you, check ahead. If they don't, bring a Steripen and two sets of batteries. Use wide mouth bottles to prevent freezing at the lid.
Your electronics list may end up very personalized, here is what I took. Be sure that you have plenty of battery power and memory for your camera. Bring a second camera or use your phone as a back-up in the event of equipment failure. Don't forget to bring your charging cables.
Stowage And Packs
You only need to carry your food, water, and necessary layers for the day. A small day pack should help keep you from stuffing the kitchen sink inside. The rest of your gear travels in a duffel on the back of your porter. Don't forget to waterproof it's contents.
Tipping must be done with envelopes and with perfectly crisp US dollars of a specific denomination. (I forget why, you'll want to research it though.) Tipping is shared by the climbers. Bring what you'll need to calculate effectively.
- Envelopes that fit US Dollars for tipping (# of climbers in party x3)
- ~$160 in $20 increments, crisp and new from bank for tipping
- ~$60 in $5 and $10 increments, crisp and new from bank for tipping
- Notebook or paper for calculating tips
- Pen or Pencil
Your tour company should feed you breakfast, lunch, and dinner. What you eat while you're walking between these meals is up to you, however it is advisable to load up on some calorie-rich foods with lots of carbs and protein.
Don't forget to pack extra snacks for your porters. Show them your respect by keeping them fed with quality snacks. Mine loved some bangin' beef jerky I gave them on their hardest day.
- Personal Snacks for Each Day (~1500 cal/day)
- Some of my favorite snacks:
There you have it! That's all the equipment I'd take on a climb of Kilimanjaro. Did I miss anything? Is there something you think is overkill? This is very close to what I took and I still beat the weight limit for the porter's load by over ten pounds. I also went when it was fairly dry, so I might have needed more insulation in wetter, colder weather. Let me know what you're experiences on Kilimanjaro were in the comments below!
HACK YOUR PACK TIPS
You don't need to spend a fortune on expensive mountaineering gear to safely and comfortably climb Kilimanjaro. The examples in list above prioritizes a reasonable budget to get the most value out of equipment where it is critical for safety or comfort.
- Rent big ticket items to save your budget. Items like the winter sleeping bag are worth renting unless you know you'll be using it for subsequent winter trips.
- Look for generic or discounted performance attire. Shop at the local big-box stores and discount outlets like TJMaxx and Marshalls to snipe deals on performance layers from last year or generic brands at insane prices.
- Train in your gear. Use cold and warm weather to train in the clothing you choose to take. You'll learn how to layer for various conditions and also get a good sense for when you'll overheat or get cold.
- Take what you need to be comfortable. Kilimanjaro is not very rugged as far as backpacking and mountaineering standards go. Porters set up and take down your tent and carry it for you. Someone else prepares your meals and cleans up after you. All you have to do is walk. So if you are under in the weight department, you can throw in that inflatable pillow you love, or that industrial strength hair dryer you cannot live without.