What to pack for Hiking Mt Kilimanjaro
What to pack for Hiking Mt Kilimanjaro is vitally important to your health and the success of your trek. We’ve put together a comprehensive list of what to pack, and why. Please use this as a checklist in planning and packing for your Kili adventure.
Now that you’ve made the decision to climb the highest peak in Africa, it’s time to prepare. We know that planning a Kilimanjaro packing list can seem a daunting task, so we’ve made it as easy as possible for you by putting together an extensive packing guide that you can follow! If you pack everything on our list, you can rest assured you’ll be fine on your Kilimanjaro trek.
You need to bring the following carrying equipment to Kilimanjaro:
- 1 daypack (between 35 and 45 liters)
- 1 daypack rain cover
- 1 duffel bag (between 65 and 100 liters)
- 1 water bladder
- 1+ water bottle
Here’s a little more detail on each of the above important items …
This is the bag that you carry on your back while on the hike. All the items that you might need during the day go into this bag.
It’s important you make an educated decision as to which daypack to bring. Really good, quality daypacks have comfortable and sturdy shoulder and hip straps as well as sternum straps that can be used if desired to help keep the shoulder straps in place.
You should also look for a pack with a netted back panel, as this allows your body heat to escape. This is something that’s especially important on those warmer days lower down the mountain.
Ideally, you want a bag with a large (2 to 3ℓ) built-in hydration pack that allows you to drink from a hose. Some also come with their own fitted rain cover, which is useful. Further, if you intend to bring along trekking poles, see if there are hooks for attaching these to the exterior when you want your hands free.
As we discuss How should I train for Kilimanjaro? you should do some training hikes using your daypack. In this way, you can ensure the pack is comfortable. You can also carry all the water and other items that will go into it on Kilimanjaro and get used to the additional weight.
Day pack rain cover
We highly recommend you pack a rain cover that’s fitted to your daypack, even if your daypack is water-resistant. Nobody needs the added challenge of carrying a sopping, heavy daypack when tackling a monster mountain like Kilimanjaro.
Your duffel bag contains everything else you need for the trek, including your sleeping bag and sleeping mat. Your duffel bag is carried by one of the porters in your mountain crew and shouldn’t weigh more than 15 kg (33 lb).
If you’d prefer to bring a rucksack rather than a duffel bag, that’s fine. The porters can manage that too. Just don’t bring a stiff bag like a suitcase, or anything too precious, as it will get a bit squished.
Ensure at the start of every day that you’ve put what you might need for that day’s climate in your daypack.
Your daypack should contain drinking water, snacks, your camera, and any extra clothes you might need that day. Everything else goes in your duffel bag, which is carried by a porter.
When packing for Kilimanjaro we recommend you include the following water carriers:
- Built-in hydration pack with drinking hose (ideal, but not essential)
- 2+ water bottles
An essential item to add to your Kilimanjaro packing list is a quality water carrier or two. We cannot over-stress how important it is to have enough water to drink while on your climb. Not only are you being very active and so need to hydrate, but water also helps to ease the symptoms of Kilimanjaro altitude sickness.
Every trekker should carry two to three liters of water per day. While the mountain crew carries the water needed for the entire trek, you have to carry what you need for each day in your own water vessels.
Water helps to ease the symptoms of altitude sickness.
Most hiking bags have hydration bags (like a CamelBak) with a water hose built into them, which is really great. This means that instead of reaching for a water bottle when thirsty, you can just pick up the mouthpiece and drink from there. You should take sips of water often – if you’re thirsty, then you’re already dehydrated!
On cold days like summit day, you want to insulate your hydration bag so that your water doesn’t freeze.
We recommend that you also carry a full water bottle or two should the water in your hose freeze (this does happen!). Ensure your water bottles are good quality and close properly. Technology is amazing, and you can even now find insulated water bottles that purify your water for you.
If you can, it’s best to keep your water bottle as close to your body as possible to avoid it freezing. A soft bottle with a clip is a good idea so that it’s comfortable and can be attached to your clothes. Putting your water bottle inside a thermal sock helps to keep it from freezing. Also, note that water freezes from top to bottom, so if you carry your water bottle upside down then you can still drink from it even if the top part has started to freeze.
You should pack the following footwear for Kilimanjaro:
- Hiking boots
- Gym shoes or sneakers
- Gaiters (optional)
The most important item on your Kilimanjaro packing list is a pair of comfortable, worn-in hiking boots. As such these shouldn’t be an afterthought in your Kilimanjaro preparation. There are so many options out there to choose from when shopping for the perfect pair of boots.
We recommend opting for either leather or Gore-Tex boots. The main difference between these two types of boots is that leather boots are more breathable, which is important in the prevention of blisters. The downside is that they’re high maintenance as they must be regularly waxed in order to become water-resistant. This of course means that the breathability is compromised. Leather boots that are properly looked after the last longer.
Ultimately, this choice is yours to make, but be very careful to break in your boots properly before your Kilimanjaro climb. It’s recommended that you and your trusty boots cover at least 100 km together before your Kilimanjaro climb.
We also like to stress the importance of either wearing your boots or having them in your hand luggage on your travels to Tanzania. Should your luggage disappear, you want to at least have your essential items on you. We always do our best to help clients with any needed items, but new or borrowed hiking boots can compromise your climb.
A pair of comfortable, worn-in hiking boots are the most important item on your Kilimanjaro packing list.
Gym shoes or sneakers
After a long day of hiking, the thought of sitting back and kicking your boots off is pure bliss. This is great except for the fact that the temperature can plummet to well below freezing higher up on the mountain. When you are packing for Kilimanjaro, it’s a good idea to throw in a pair of comfortable, closed sneakers to wear around camp.
Gaiters aren’t essential, but we do recommend using them. Their uses include helping to keep your calves and feet dry, preventing sticks and stones from getting into your shoes (super annoying!), and protecting you from ticks, snakebites, and other such nasties. On summit day you hike through the snow, so gaiters are especially helpful during that stage of the trek.
We recommend you pack the following inner layers:
• 2+ base layers
• 1 summit base layer
• 1 middle layer
• 3+ sports underwear
• 2 thermal underwear
• 2+ pairs of hiking socks
• 1 pair of summit socks
• 1+ pair of sock liners (optional)
Climbing Kilimanjaro means hiking through five distinct climate zones. For this reason, it’s helpful to have quite a few layers to work with.
Your base layer is the layer that sits closest to your body and helps to regulate your body temperature. When packing your base layers, it’s wise to go for garments that are made of non-synthetic material such as merino wool. Merino wool is breathable and dries easily. We suggest you avoid cotton altogether as it becomes very heavy when wet and takes a long time to dry.
Summit base layer
Your summit base layer should include long johns and a thermal, long-sleeved vest (preferably made of merino wool) that you wear for summit day only. Your summit day climb is by far the longest hike of the entire Kilimanjaro trek. In fact, you’re on your feet for around 12 to 15 hours on summit day! Having a fresh and comfortable layer for this day’s hike is ideal.
Your middle layer is for your torso and is worn over your base layer. This garment should be comfortable and easy to move in. We recommend a thin fleece or parka for this layer.
You experience five distinct climate zones during a Kilimanjaro climb.
So, it goes without saying that a fresh set of underwear is always a pretty good way to start each day! That’s why we recommend that you bring multiple pairs along with you. It’s best to wear sports pants (and bras) for this, as they’re comfortable and breathable. Again, avoid cotton. You want fabrics that wick away sweat.
The climate is very cold near the top of Kilimanjaro, so you need to pack thermal underwear. We recommend having two of each item – one of which you keep especially for summit day, the coldest and longest day of all.
Just like underwear, we suggest that you bring a few pairs of socks along with you. Regular hiking socks are fine. That said, it’s advisable to test out your hiking socks before coming to Kilimanjaro. Use them when you’re breaking in your hiking boots. This way you’ll be able to detect any troublesome seams or similar.
Summit day socks
We’re sure you’ve noticed a trend by now in the clothes Kilimanjaro packing list: have fresh everything that you save for summit day. This certainly goes for your hiking socks. Only note that your summit day socks should be thermal socks, as you need the extra warmth to avoid cold feet.
We also suggest you wear sock liners. Not everyone does, but these are great in helping to prevent blisters because the friction gathers between the liner and the sock rather than between your skin and the sock. It’s quite common for climbers to get blisters on their feet, especially on summit day when you’re on your feet for around 12 hours. Fresh sock liners help to avoid any further infection.
You need to pack the following outer layers for your Kilimanjaro climb:
- Down jacket
- Waterproof jacket and trousers
- Hiking trousers
A good-quality down jacket is a very important item on your Kilimanjaro packing list. The first couple of days of the trek are relatively warm and humid, so your down jacket won’t be needed and can be kept in your duffel bag. From then on you keep it in your daypack so that you can haul it out whenever you want it. The jacket really shows its worth during breaks and at camp in the evenings.
Waterproof jacket and trousers
Waterproof garments are essential for the first few days of your hike, especially if you climb Kilimanjaro during the rainy season. Higher rainfall is one of the reasons to do your research and choose the best time to climb Kilimanjaro. That said, it’s smart to carry waterproof gear no matter when you climb.
While regular rain gear is waterproof, it generally isn’t very breathable. Given how much you sweat when hiking, it’s important to have a rain jacket and trousers that are relatively lightweight and have inner membranes to make them breathable. We recommend a jacket that has a 2,000 hydrostatic head (this tells you how waterproof the jacket is).
A windbreaker goes a long way on Kilimanjaro. There’s nothing worse than wearing multiple layers to keep warm and the wind still cuts right through! To keep the load light, we suggest looking for a waterproof jacket that is also a windbreaker. We love a two-in-one solution!
Also, jackets with elasticated wristbands are helpful in keeping out the cold and wind.
Pack at least one pair of durable, breathable, and comfortable trousers. We love convertible (zip-off) trousers that you can turn into shorts on warm days. Again, with the two-in-one winning formula! Obviously, you could choose instead to pack regular hiking trousers as well as a pair of shorts.
Some people like to wear trousers no matter the temperature as they protect your legs from sunburn, insect bites and scratches.
Some important accessories to pack are as follows:
- Warm hat (beanie)
- Head torch and batteries
- Gloves or mittens
Headgear is important on Kilimanjaro. Firstly, a sunhat is important for the beginning and end of the trek when you’re lower down the mountain. The heat of the sun can be very intense in Tanzania – remember that you’re near the Equator! The odd person might like to bring a headband so that sweat doesn’t run into your eyes.
Head torch and batteries
A head torch is your best friend while on a Kilimanjaro climb, especially on summit day when you leave your campsite at midnight and trek in the dark. Don’t want to trek in the dark? Maybe you should consider a Kilimanjaro full moon climb where the light of the moon guides you to the summit?! You also use your head torch in the evenings, so add a few extra batteries to your Kilimanjaro packing list – you will use them!
Gloves or mittens
You absolutely must pack gloves to keep your hands warm! We especially like mittens for summit day as having all your fingers together creates more warmth. Having said that, mittens do make it quite challenging to take pictures. So, if you’d prefer fingered gloves, do ensure they’re a quality pair that offer proper insulation.
Polarised sunglasses or ski glasses are essential, and not just for looking ultra cool in pictures! On summit day you reach the arctic zone of Kilimanjaro, which means lots of snow and glaciers. The sun reflects off the snow, which can cause snow blindness. Snow blindness is temporary but painful blindness that occurs when the human eye is overexposed to the Sun’s UV rays. No fun at all! You might also like to pack a sunglasses cord if you have one of those noses that like to ditch glasses at the slightest opportunity. Or you could even bring ski glasses.
Toiletries and medicine
We recommend you pack the following personal items:
- Toilet paper
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Wet wipes (you can’t shower on the mountain)
- Small, quick-drying towel
- Lip balm
- Small moisturizer (the air is very dry higher up the mountain)
- Regular plasters
- Blister plasters or sports tape
- Mosquito repellent
- Malaria tablets (Tanzania is in a malaria zone)
- Diarrhea tablets (diarrhea is a common symptom of altitude sickness)
- Painkillers (headaches are another common symptom of altitude sickness)
The items above are relatively self-explanatory but it’s good to note that while on the mountain there will be no shower facilities. You will, however, get what the locals call ‘washy washy’ every day. This is a bucket of water for you to use to wash your hands and face. You’ll need a small towel for drying off. Personal items tend to vary from one person to the next, so add whatever you feel is necessary to your toiletry bag.
It’s very common to experience symptoms of altitude sickness when climbing Kilimanjaro. Symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, headaches, and sleeplessness. This is when meds like painkillers come in handy.
Some of the tech gear to consider packing is as follows:
- Head torch and extra batteries
There’s limited cellphone reception on Kilimanjaro, but you can get reception at some of the campsites, namely Barranco, Karanga, Barafu, Mweka, Tarn Hut, and Horombo. Have a look at the description of the different Kilimanjaro routes to see which ones stop off at these campsites.
To travel to Tanzania, you also need the following:
Please don’t forget your passport! We can help with replacing pretty much anything if needed, but sadly we can’t replace your passport. Make it number one on your Kilimanjaro packing list. Also, ensure your passport is valid for six months after your arrival date in Tanzania. You might like to pack a pen for filling out the flight card that you’ll receive on the plane to Tanzania. You also need a Tanzanian visa. US, Canadian, British, and most European citizens can simply obtain their visas upon arrival at the airport. The cost is $100 for US passport holders and $50 for others. If you’re a citizen of a different country, please check with your embassy whether or not you can obtain a visa upon arrival. You can also view the Tanzania Visa Policy.
Don’t forget your passport!
No specific vaccines are required before entry into Tanzania. That said, be aware that the Government of Tanzania does require proof of yellow fever vaccination upon arrival if you’re traveling in from a country with a known risk of yellow fever. We suggest you talk to your doctor about getting the following vaccinations which are standard in developed countries: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, typhoid, yellow fever, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), and meningococcal meningitis.
We have a handful of suggestions of other bits and bobs you may want to add to your Kilimanjaro packing list. These aren’t essential but can make your climb even more enjoyable.
- Small pillow
- Pillowcase (this could be stuffed with clothes and then you don’t even need a pillow)
- Favorite snacks
- Flavor sachets*
- Playing cards or other games
- Book or e-reader
- Journal and pen
The crew uses water-purifying tablets to purify the water they provide you for drinking. These make the water safe to drink but can alter the taste. Some folks like to add flavor sachets to their drinking water to make it more palatable.