Mount Kilimanjaro – What gear do you need?

In my previous post, I looked at the different routes you can take to reach the summit. So now that you’ve picked a route and booked your flights, it’s time to get you kitted! Gear will no doubt leave a huge dent in your bank account, but it’s important to invest in good quality clothing and equipment, as this could determine whether you’ll summit or not. Be weary of sales people trying to convince you to buy more than you need; stick to the list and you’ll have everything you need for a successful summit. If you must get extras, keep the tags on and if you don’t use them during the climb, you can return them to your gear outlet. Be thoughtful about what you really need to buy, there are some items that you will be able to rent from your tour company.

On your climb, you will have a porter that will carry a duffel bag with all your gear for the duration of the climb. The maximum weight for this bag is 15kg. It is therefore imperative that you pack light, and leave any unnecessary items in the hotel. Your clothing must be versatile and you should make use of layering to ensure you don’t carry too much. On that note, let’s get into the exact items you’ll require for the climb.

LOWER ALTITUDE GEAR

This is the clothing you will wear for the first 2 days of the climb.

  • Tops
    You will need two short-sleeved and two long sleeved hiking shirts. Make sure they are made of synthetic, moisture-wicking fabric. Do not buy cotton, as cotton will absorb moisture and create a cold layer on your skin, which could cause hypothermia.
  • Shorts and Pants
    One pair of shorts, and one pair of hiking pants should be sufficient. Ideally, you should get zip-off convertible trousers that convert to shorts, so you only need to buy one thing. Ensure they are synthetic and quick-drying. And please, leave your jeans at home.
  • Rain protection
    Be sure to carry a poncho as it might rain whilst you walk through the rain forest.
  • UV Protection
    A wide-brimmed hat as well as sunscreen lotion and lip sun protection are a must. Ensure these are at least SPF30. And to people of colour, this applies to you too.

HIGHER ALTITUDE GEAR

This is the clothing you need for the remainder of the climb, or whenever you feel cold.

  • Base Layer
    You will need one set of thermal underwear, which is a long sleeved top and tights. These must be synthetic and moisture-wicking.
  • Mid Layer
    Two fleece tops and one pair of fleece pants will ensure you stay warm on the cold days and nights. Depending on the duration of your climb and your tolerance for sweaty tops, you might want to get three tops. You will also need one fleece jacket.
  • Outer Layer
    One water and windproof jacket, and oneย  pair of water and windproof trousers are essential.
  • Head wear
    A warm beanie and a fleece scarf should be sufficient to keep you warm.ย A fleece buff is an excellent substitute for the fleece scarf. You can however, also get a balaclava. But try and get a versatile one that you can also roll up into a beanie.
  • Gloves
    I didn’t quite get this right for my climb, so i cannot stress how important these are! Get good ski gloves, as well as thermal glove liners to ensure your hands don’t freeze on summit night! Also get hand warmers, which are small chemical packets that release heat for up to 8 hours, to keep your hands warm. Just don’t take your hands out of your gloves all the time!!

OTHER GEAR

This is equipment you will use throughout the climb.

  • Hiking boots
    If it isn’t obvious already, this is the most important piece of gear to invest in. Get these first, and wear them on your training hikes, so that you break into them. You don’t want to wear a pair of brand new boots on Kilimanjaro as you might get blisters, and not be able to finish your climb. Your boots have to be waterproof and provide good ankle support.
  • Hiking Socks, Gaiters and hiking poles.
    You’ll likely be sharing a tent with someone, so for the sake of your “tent mate”, please bring socks to change! You will need some sock liners, hiking socks, and summit socks. Speak to your sales consultant about which brand is best for you. Gaiters are useful for preventing water and rocks from entering your shoes. I personally did not buy any and I had no problems during the climb. This one’s up to you. Hiking poles help reduce the load on knees, especially on the way down. I rented these, but I honestly didn’t use them much.
  • Bags
    A duffel bag is necessary to pack all your gear for the duration of the climb. This will be carried by the porter. I rented this, but they are not very expensive so if you feel you will use it again, it’s better to buy one. Just make sure it’s completely waterproof.ย  You will carry a daypack which will have all the personal items you need during the climb. Again, you can either rent or buy this, but it’s probably better to buy one,
  • Sleeping equipment
    You will need a good sleeping bag, preferably one that is rated at least -8ยฐC . If you are going to be renting this, then be sure to buy a sleeping bag liner, which will add extra warmth, and will also keep you from being in direct contact with a rented sleeping bag. My friends had sleeping mats, but I don’t think this is necessary. However, extra comfort has never been a bad thing! Lastly, an inflatable pillow will come in handy, and they’re really cheap!
  • Personal accessories
    One thing that’s possibly easy to forget to buy is a headlamp, but you’ll need it to get around at night, especially on summit night as this is your only source of light. I wouldn’t recommend getting a torch but you always want to keep your hands free. You’ll also need a pair of sunglasses. Some like to carry pocket-knives/multitools as well. I don’t have one of those, so I just carried a small pair of scissors.
  • Toiletries and Medicines
    You will get some warm water to wash up (about two litres). Be sure to buy a quick dry hiking towel to dry yourself, soap, a toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant and wet wipes. And of course, a toiletry bag to carry them in. Ladies, there are no facilities to throw away sanitary towels and tampons. My advice is to start monitoring your cycle and be sure to book the climb when you’re not on your period. You can use an app like Flo to help you plan. The water they provide on the mountain is taken from streams and boiled, so buy some water purification tablets to further ensure your water is safe to drink. Take your own medication, as the guide cannot give you any. Ensure you have medication for headaches, nausea, diarrhoea, coughs and flus, and a sore throat. I will talk about medication to prevent altitude sickness in a separate post, but I took Diamox to reduce the symptoms of altitude sickness. Whether or not you take it is entirely up to you.
  • Hydration and Food
    Invest in a three litre hydration pack that fits in your daypack. It will ensure you don’t need to stop to whip out a bottle each time you’re thirsty, and it will keep your hands free. Carry an extra one litre bottle for energy drinks or for use around camp. Also, pack some snacks to munch on along the way. Don’t go and buy things you’ve never tried just because they say “energy booster”. Stick to what you know and like!

I know this list is long, but it’s all the things you’ll need to ensure you are comfortable during your climb. Feel free to message me on IG if you have any questions.