Climbing Kilimanjaro is not an easy feat. It can be exhausting and challenging, but with proper preparation and hiking equipment, it can also be exhilarating.
We have spent most of our lives hiking around the United States, yet we never fail to learn something new. The nine days we spent trekking along Kilimanjaro’s Lemosho Route gave us incredible life lessons as well as practical tips on how to pack for a multi-day trekking trip. This Mount Kilimanjaro packing list will help you plan for a safe and epic adventure. As an added bonus, we have provided our tried and tested Kilimanjaro gear recommendations to help ensure that you bring along the best equipment.
Mount Kilimanjaro: Africa’s tallest mountain
Mount Kilimanjaro is located in Tanzania, approximately 200 miles from the great Serengeti and 242 miles from the beautiful islands of Zanzibar. Mt. Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa, standing at about 5,895 meters (19,340 feet) above sea level. Not only is it considered one of the famed Seven Summits, but it is also the world’s tallest free-standing mountain in the world. Tens of thousands of climbers visit Kilimanjaro every year to attempt the ascent and view what remains of the majestic ice cap that once crowned the summit.
Although most trekkers are able to summit successfully, there are a large number of climbers who do not make it and are forced to turn back. The route is dangerous with risks caused by extreme temperatures and altitude. To increase your chances of climbing Kilimanjaro successfully familiarize yourself with the route and weather, plan ahead, and pack appropriate trekking gear.
Kilimanjaro climate and weather
Mount Kilimanjaro contains 5 unique climate zones ranging from 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 Celsius) at Kilimanjaro’s base, to -20 degrees Fahrenheit (-29 Celsius) at the summit. The clothing you wear and the gear that you use will vary according to the day and the climate zone that you are passing through.
- Cultivation Zone: Elevation: 2,600 feet to 6,000 feet (800m – 1,800m)
Description: This zone is characterized by warm and humid bushland with ample tree cover. Most of the land is cultivated by the villages that live in this zone. Temperatures typically range from 90 – 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Rainforest Zone: Elevation 6,000 feet to 9,000 feet (1,800m – 2,800m)
Description: This zone is characterized by rain, high humidity, and rich biodiversity. Keep an eye out for Blue and Colobus monkeys that inhabit this region. Temperatures typically range from 70 – 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Heather and Moorland Zone: Elevation: 9,000 feet to 13,000 feet (2,800m – 4,000m)
Description: This zone is characterized by unique vegetation with drier air and cooler temperatures. The first symptoms of altitude sickness may develop in this zone. Temperaturatures typically range from 70 – 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Alpine Desert Zone: Elevation 13,000 feet to 16,000 feet (4,000m – 5,000m)
Description: This zone is characterized as cold and dry with rocky landscapes. The lack of tree covereage combined with the proximity to the equator mean that there are high levels of solar radiation. The use of UV protective gear is required. Temperatures range from 40 – 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Arctic Zone: Elevation 16,000 feet to 19,350 feet (5,000m-5,895m)
Description: The final zone that climbers will encounter is marked by high winds, snow, and ice. Temperatures range from 30 to -20 degrees Fahrenheit.
Climbing Kilimanjaro: The Ultimate Kilimanjaro Packing List
- Vaccination card
Appropriate clothing is essential if you plan to climb Kilimanjaro successfully. The terrain changes drastically as you trek through five different climate zones and ascend in altitude. We recommend following a 5 step layering system (5 layers on the top with 4 on the bottom) to ensure that you are equipped to handle all temperatures and climates that you are likely to encounter.
1st layer: Moisture Wicking Baselayer
The first layer is worn in direct contact with the skin. It is intended to wick moisture away to keep the body dry and warm. It also provides significant UV protection. This layer is essentially worn all the time, in both hot and cold temperatures as well as at night for sleeping.
When choosing a baselayer, it is important to select a material that is lightweight, antimicrobial and quick-drying. For this reason, a Merino 150 blend makes the best baselayer. Nylon and polyester blends are also good baselayers. Do NOT wear cotton as a baselayer. They retain moisture and will smell.
Quickdry underwear – (3 -6 pairs)
Bottom Lightweight Baselayer (2) Recommended merino 150
Top Lightweight Base Layer (4-6) Recommended Merino 150
2nd Layer: The Midlayer
The second layer is insulating yet still lightweight and breathable enough to allow excess moisture to escape. Lightweight fleece and synthetically insulated jackets make for an appropriate midlayer. Do NOT use down insulation for a midlayer as the down will become ineffective when wet.
3rd Layer: The Soft Shell
While the previous layers are intended to wick away moisture, the third layer adds protection from the wind. The soft shell is a versatile layer that provides weather protection without limiting mobility. This allows you to wear it in a variety of scenarios without having to strip off and add layers every time that the wind changes.
4th Layer: The Insulation Layer
The 4th layer provides instant warmth for colder temperatures. This insulation layer is essential for higher altitudes where temperatures can dip below freezing. Goose and duck down are the warmest insulators followed by synthetic fill materials.
5th Layer: The Waterproof Hard Shell
The final layer is your strongest protection against the elements including wind, snow, and rain. The hard shell should be lightweight with little insulation, as the other layers should already provided the needed warmth. Look for a jacket that also has a protective hood.
Hands, Feet, and Head
While rain is not guaranteed, it is highly possible. For that reason, we recommend that the best shoes for climbing Kilimanjaro are a waterproof pair of hiking boots with medium to high tops for ankle support. Flip flops can be worn at camp to give your tired feet a rest. When it is not raining, the slopes of Kilimanjaro can be very dusty. A bandana helps to prevent inhaling dust when worn over the mouth. It can also be used as a cooling towel on warmer days.
- Hiking socks ( 4-6 pairs) Recommend Darn Tough Vermont Merino Hiking Socks
- Sock Liners (OPTIONAL 2-4 pairs)
- Waterproof boots (1) – Recommend:
- Gaiters (OPTIONAL 1)
- Flip Flops (1) Recommend eco-friendly Sanuk flip flops
- Insoles (1)
- Glove liner (1)
- Waterproof Gloves (1)
- Beanie (1)
- Rimmed Hat (1)
- Bandana or Shemagh (1) – Recommend United by Blue Bandana
- Balaclava or Neck Tube (1) – Recommend Anti-odor and UPF protection Blackstrap Solid Tube Facemask
- UV Protection Sunglasses (1) – Recommended Ray Ban Polarized Sunglasses
- Hand warmers (8-12)
Temperatures can drop to as low as -20 Degrees Farenheight during the night at Uhuru Summit. Although you will not be spending the night at the summit, it is best to pack for temperatures down to at least 15 degrees. With this in mind, it is essential to bring a cold-weather sleeping bag and a sleeping pad for protection from ground temperatures. Your tent will likely be placed in close proximity to other tired trekkers. If you are a light sleeper, it would be wise to pack earplugs and eyeshades to block out intruding sounds and light from neighbors.
- 15F or colder Sleeping Bag (1) – Recommend Mountain Hardware Bozeman 15
- Sleeping pad (1) – Self-inflating Exped MegaMat
- Camping Pillow (1) – Recommend Therm-a-rest Compressible Pillow
- Earplugs (OPTIONAL 1)
- Eyeshade (OPTIONAL 1)
Equipment for Climbing Kilimanjaro
A porter will carry your duffel bag until you reach your next campsite. This means that you are only required to carry items in your day pack that you may need while hiking. This typically includes waterproof gear, extra clothing, water, snacks, hat, sunglasses, and a few first aid items. A daypack with a volume capacity between 15-30 liters is sufficient. Below you’ll find recommendations for best gear to bring when hiking Kilimanjaro.
Keep in mind that although a porter will be carrying your belongings, this does not mean that you should pack excessively. Your main duffel bag should not exceed 33lbs (15kg). Because you will be accessing your belongings inside of a small tent, packing organizers can be very useful for keeping things in order.
- Headlamp (1) – Recommend Rechargeable Petzl headlamp
- Hiking Poles (1) – Recommend Black Diamond Pro Shock Trekking Poles
- Duffel Bag (1) – Recommend >100L Osprey Duffel
- Ziplocks or Packing organizers – Recommend Eagle Creek Cube Set
- Bag Lock (1) – Recommend Sea to Summit Travel Lock
- Hydration Compatible Day Pack (1) – Recommend Osprey Mira 22
- Rainfly compatible with day pack (1) – Recommend Osprey High Visibility Raincover
Toiletries and First Aid
Some of the most important gear for Kilimanjaro are those which keep you safe, healthy, and comfortable. While most of the toiletries and first aid items below are optional, do not overlook the importance of UV protection and essential first aid supplies. If you are prone to knee pain, particularly during long stretches of steep hiking, I highly recommend bringing some sort of knee support. It can make the difference between a safe and supported experience, and a miserably painful one.
- Hand warmers
- Biodegradable wipes
- Toilet Paper
- Female Sanitary products
- Hand Sanitizer
- Chapstick or Vaseline
- Spare eyeglasses and/or contact lenses
- Lightweight Travel Towel – Recommend Eagle Creek Towel
- Insect Repellent
- Prescription medication (particularly for diarrhea, altitude sickness, and malaria)
- Personal First Aid Kit
- Knee support (OPTIONAL) – Recommend Pro-Tec Athletics Knee Sleeve
Electronics and personal items
After dinner is served at the campsite, there is downtime for chatting with fellow climbers and relaxing. Bring whatever items you may require to decompress and relax. If you plan to bring electronic items, keep in mind that cold weather can drain batteries. A solar panel is a helpful tool for keeping your electronics charged and ready to go.
- Watch with alarm
- Solar panel or extra batteries – Recommend Biolite Solar Panel
Food and hydration
Because the use of porters and guides are mandatory when climbing Kilimanjaro, all of your water and the majority of food will be transported and prepared for you. There is no need for iodine or water purification systems, however it is important to have both a water bottle and an adequate water bladder system. It is also necessary to bring an insulated water tube as it can be challenging to keep the water from freezing at higher altitudes. The water bottle is for use at camp and inside your tent.
- Water Bottle – Recommend Lightweight Insulated Hydroflask
- Water Bladder – Recommend Camelbak 3L Resevoir (Be sure to check that resevoir is compatible with day pack)
- Insuated water tube – Recommend Camelbak Insulated Water Tube
- Energy Snacks – Recommend Jelly Belly Sports Beans and RX Protein Bars
- Electrolyte replacement – Recommend NUUN Hydration Tablets
Gifts for Porters on Kilimanjaro
The team of guides, porters, and cooks are essential to the Kilimanjaro trekking journey. They carry incredible amounts of weight up a mountain, while also preparing nourishing meals and a safe campsite for trekkers to rest their heads. It is customary to tip your mountain crew upon completion of your trip. See the Kilimanjaro tipping guide below for quick reference:
- Lead Guide – $20-$25 per day
- Assistant Guide – $10 – $15 per day
- Cook(s) – $10 – $15 per day for each cook
- Porter(s) – $5-$10 per day for each porter
*These tipping amounts are made per trekking group, not per climber.
In addition to tipping your porter, consider donating any used clothing and climbing equipment. These team members make that climb many times a year and do not always have access to quality Kilimanjaro gear. Quality hiking shoes and protective gear are meaningful gifts that can have a great impact.
Kilimanjaro Packing Tips
Choose clothing materials wisely. Avoid cotton. Cotton retains water and bacteria. When wet, it is heavy and provides no insulation. Merino wool is the best ultralight baselayer for climbing Kilimanjaro. It wicks sweat/water very effectively and is simultaneously antimicrobial. Merino wool will not “smell bad” after repeat wearing because the odor-causing bacteria will not grow in them. When considering Merino wool 150 vs 250, the lightweight 150 Merino is better for warmer weather whereas the heavier 250 Merino is more durable and appropriate for cold weather.
Is Nylon a good base layer? Nylon is very lightweight, wicks water, and is antimicrobial as well. You can wear nylon for a very long time without washing, and they’re very lightweight for packing. They don’t trap heat the way cotton does, so they are cooling in hot weather but provide no warmth in cold weather. Polyester is another lightweight water-wicking fabric, however, it is not antimicrobial and will start to smell after minimal use.
Women may want to throw in a few optional items to ensure ultimate comfort during the climb. The Mount Kilimanjaro packing list for women is relatively the same with a few minor additions. Panty liners, hair ties, a Pee Funnel (Recommend Freshette), and tampons/pads just in case.
Pack for high UV protection. The amount of sun and solar radiation at higher altitudes is surprisingly strong. For the protection of your eyes and skin, invest in high-intensity UV protection sunglasses and sunscreen.
Pack light-colored clothing. On hot days, light-colored clothing will reflect the sun helping to reduce the amount of solar absorption. This will help you to stay cooler on the trails.
Proactively preserve the battery life of your electronics. Cold weather tends to drain batteries quickly. Turn off electronics when they are not in use. Wrap them in warm clothes and keep them close to your body. Charge electronics via a solar panel strapped to your day pack.
Stuff a change of clothing in the bottom of your sleeping bag. Before falling asleep, select the clothing you will change into the next morning and stuff them into the bottom of your sleeping bag. This will provide extra warmth for your feet and in the morning you will have a warm set of clothing to change into.
The most important item on the Kilimanjaro gear list is a good attitude. Climbing over 19,000 feet above sea level is not a simple feat. It can challenge you in ways you would never expect. Slow down. Enjoy the incredible surroundings of Kilimanjaro and the Great Rift Valley. Embrace the moment and realize you are part of a very small percentage who can say that they have set foot on the tallest mountain in Africa. No matter what challenge you might encounter, a good attitude and positive mindset will get you through it.
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