Without the right equipment for Kilimanjaro, I wouldn’t have reached the summit. Being comfortable day and night makes the challenge a lot easier as you get increasingly tired and experience the altitude. Preparation is essential to increase your chances of reaching the summit. And part of the preparation includes packing the required gear for your Kilimanjaro adventure. Here’s my Mt Kilimanjaro packing list to help you find out what’s essential, what’s nice to have, and what’s useless. I also included eco-friendly options you may not have thought about for your Kilimanjaro equipment.
We hiked Kilimanjaro as a couple so you’ll find tips for both genders in my advice and recommended Kilimanjaro equipment. This list is non-exhaustive. Please also make sure you check with your guide about the gear he thinks you will specifically need. The season and the weather forecast can impact your Kilimanjaro packing list. We were lucky during our trip and had beautiful sunny weather most of the time. I never got very cold, even at the summit. We did the hike early August.
Mt Kilimanjaro packing list
Clothes for hiking and at camp are the first things that come in mind when thinking of the equipment needed to climb Kilimanjaro. But they represent only a part of it.
I’ve started this packing list with a photo overview of what our clothes were when we climbed Kilimanjaro. Then, I have detailed all the equipment I had and how/why I chose it. I also include tips from my experience to help you make informed decisions. It’s a long list organised this way:
- Medications and pain relief
- Upper body
- Hiking accessories
- For the ladies
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My clothes for Kilimanjaro
These images only show a limited number of the items I took on Kilimanjaro. But they are an excellent indication of the clothes I used during the trek. Note that the links don’t always take you to the exact item I wore on Kilimanjaro as all models aren’t available anymore. But the models I linked to are very close to the equipment I had. My Kilimanjaro equipment is detailed later on in the article.
Terrain: Rainforest and mountain forest
Weather: rain and fog
Terrain: Moor, a few rocks
Terrain: desert, rocky
Terrain: desert, rocky, scrambling needed (wall)
Terrain: desert, rocky
Terrain: stone scree (loose stones), snow
Weather: clear at night then sunny
Clothes: long-sleeve thermal top*, water repellent softshell windstopper*, hiking jacket*, snow jacket*, thermal leggings*, quick-dry hiking pants*, snow pants*, short and high merino socks*, inner gloves*, snow gloves*, beanie*. If your snow pants do not have gaiters*, you will need them. Make sure you can remove your layers easily as you go down.
Around the camp, my fleece jacket* and my hiking jacket* were most of the time enough to stay warm. At Barafu camp, we wore the snow jacket* instead of the hiking jacket. I had my snow pants* on top of the base layer, and it felt very comfortable. I also needed inner gloves* most of the time when I was outside.
We were fine keeping our hiking shoes on, but most people prefer having a second pair of shoes around camp.
It may be surprising to see this one at the top of my Mt Kilimanjaro packing list. But I wished I was more prepared for tipping our team of porters. My friend had a local contact that ensured us our porters were treated correctly (food, a shelter for the night). It was a shock to hear about the poor treatment some porters had to accept to earn a few dollars. I don’t want to believe tourists made these terrible choices on purpose to save on their holidays. That’s why I think raising awareness on best practice is fundamental.
Long story short, porters do a fantastic job to make your adventure on Kilimanjaro a success. And they depend on your tipping for their living. You can find crucial information on how to tip Kilimanjaro porters on that website. It’s super useful to know the questions to ask in advance, the way to proceed, and the amount to prepare.
2. Medications and pain relief to pack for Kilimanjaro
I am not a healthcare professional, and I strongly suggest you see one before organising your Mt Kilimanjaro trip. The list below includes what I talked about with my doctor and added to my Kilimanjaro packing list, but is undoubtedly non-exhaustive.
Some people advise not to take Malaria tablets as there is no mosquito in altitude, so risks are low. It’s true that we only had mosquitos on the first day. It wasn’t a problem as we were covered because of the cold. We didn’t get bitten. But our Tanzania itinerary wasn’t only about climbing Kilimanjaro. We did a fantastic safari before the hike and relaxed on Zanzibar Island after. So we had to take Malaria tablets during the trek.
Altitude sickness pills
Discuss with your doctor if you want to try them, or not. Altitude sickness is a complex topic. My big advice is to do your best to avoid getting sick with something else (like food for example) to increase your chances of better resisting altitude sickness.
In our group of fit and young people, we all had very different experiences with altitude sickness.
I didn’t take any pills as I was worried about the side effects. And I suffered from altitude sickness to a point where I wondered if I will have to go down. The stomach bug I caught before starting the climb probably didn’t help. Luckily, my symptoms all went away for the summit hike so I could reach the top of Kilimanjaro safely. My partner didn’t take any pills and had no altitude sickness at all. The other couple in our group took Diamox, which supposedly helps to acclimatise faster to the altitude. They still felt sick too but a lot less than I did. We all had a different experience and, fortunately, all made it to the top.
I always have painkillers in my first aid kit. Unfortunately, my paracetamol wasn’t enough for the massive migraine I got with the altitude. It was only our second day on the trek, and I wasn’t ready to give up. I wanted to give my body a chance to acclimatise (and it did). So I accepted the painkiller my guide offered me. Trust me; you’d prefer to take one from your own kit for which you have carefully read a notice rather than to try something new on a remote African mountain. You may ask your doctor about Diclofenac for example.
If you may escape from having a headache, I’d be surprised if you don’t get a bit of stomach pain. We all felt at least bloated while hiking to the summit. It’s typical with the altitude. But if you’re unlucky, you may get something a bit worse and uncomfortable. I’m not going to write details about it. But ask your doctor about Imodium. It saved my trip.
You may also want to carry with you electrolyte tablets* to help you recover.
Feeling nauseous with the altitude? Ginger lozenges* may help. Having a sore throat because of the cold air? Ginger lozenges may help too. Is your stomach upset? Try ginger lozenges again. Plus, they taste good (if you like ginger, of course) and they are completely natural with no side effects.
It’s not medication but still falls under the pain relief category, so I decided to add it here. It can be helpful to learn a few ways to tape your knees or neck/shoulders to relieve pressure during the hike. These kinds of elastic adhesive bandages like Kinesiology Tape* are useful to support joints or muscles and can also be used to prevent blisters. If you have an old injury you are worried about, ask a physical therapist about it. He can explain to you how to use the tape. There are also online tutorials to refresh your memory if needed.
A moisturiser like Vaseline* can be a great relief if your skin gets very dry because of the cold and the wind. Plus, Vaseline* is very versatile and can prove very useful in many situations: soothing sunburn, healing cuts, irritation, rash or blisters…
3. Bags for your Kilimanjaro equipment
Weight limit for your Kilimanjaro bags
As you are packing for Kilimanjaro, remember the idea is to pack light and only bring what’s necessary. Everything will have to be carried on the mountain. You will have one day pack (as light as possible!) and hire porters to take the rest for you. For their safety, porters follow limits in the weight they carry: no more than 20kg (see guidelines here). They won’t only bring up your bags but also all the necessary items for sleeping and eating. The more kilograms they have to carry, the more people you will need in your team, and the more expensive your trip will be (see how to tip porters here).
The large bag for the portersEssential
- Criteria I wanted: easy to carry for the porters (often on their neck!), waterproof (or at least highly water resistant), durable and light (15kg max once fully loaded), large enough to fit a sleeping bag, a sleeping mat and all my clothes for the hike.
- My tip: If you are not exclusively travelling to Mount Kilimanjaro for this trip, you may not want this bag to be your only luggage. You will only bring on the mountains the items you need. You will have to leave in another bag your swimming suits or safari clothes that you won’t be using while hiking Kilimanjaro. If you want to only travel with one checked-in suitcase, then you will need one of your two bags to be a foldable bag*.
- My choice: I opted for a cheap waterproof duffle bag. I particularly love how foldable it is, and I can easily reuse it when camping or to carry my wet scuba diving gear. My model is not available anymore, but it’s quite close to this Naturehike bag (available in 90L)*. I also own the small model of the Northface duffle bag (available in 95L)* and love it. It would be good for Kilimanjaro, and any other type of travel. It’s very comfortable to carry it as a backpack. There are cheaper alternative models on Amazon*, but I honestly don’t know anything about their quality so I can’t particularly recommend them.
The small backpack for your day packEssential
- Criteria I wanted: comfortable shoulder straps, ventilated back, adjustable straps, hip belt, front pocket, space for a water bladder, rain cover, pole-loop
- My tip: You will carry this bag on your back all day long and comfort matters a lot!
- My choice: I opted for the Forclaz 30L*
Dry sacks to organise or protect your equipmentEssential
- Criteria I wanted: various colours, compression
- My tip: These dry bags will give your equipment an extra layer of protection in case of heavy rain, but they will also allow you to compress your sleeping bag and bulky clothes to gain space. Different colours will make it easier for you to find quickly what you are looking for: a blue bag for the night equipment, a red back for underwear, etc.
- My choice: I didn’t bring my own sleeping bag; otherwise I would have opted for the Sea to Summit eVent Compression Dry Sack* to carry it. To compress the sleeping bag I rented, and organise my clothes, as well as to protect my electronic equipment in my day pack and protect my wallet; I chose soft and flexible dry sacks*. I liked how I could guess what was inside just by touching – it saved heaps of time! And it’s a lot better for the environment than packing plastic bags or zip lock bags.
4. Hydration equipment for Kilimanjaro
- Criteria I wanted: non-toxic BPA free, Insulated tube, auto-shutoff valve, taste free, wide opening (easier to clean and dry), cover for the mouthpiece, 2 or 3L
- My tip: Have a look at your day backpack before buying your water bladder to ensure it’s a good fit. A hydration bladder is not a must-have item, but it was my favourite solution for drinking. Make sure you choose something you are comfortable with as staying hydrated is essential to limit the risks of altitude sickness. If you don’t like drinking from hydration bladders, bring bottles.
- My choice: I reused a water bladder that I already owned. This hydration bladder on Amazon* meets all my criteria.
You may find it redundant with the hydration bladder. The hydration bladder is very useful, so you don’t need to stop to drink. It makes it easier to stay hydrated.
But you cannot climb Kilimanjaro with just a hydration bladder as the tube will likely freeze at some point during your summit hike. However, if you leave it inside your backpack, your water bottle will be cold but okay to drink. The temperature would even be nicer if you fill it with hot water and start the hike drinking from your bladder, and swap to the bottle when the tube is frozen. Your pipe should unfreeze as you go down, with hopefully the sun shining. Another trick would be to put your water bottle in a wool sock for extra-insulation.
Also, the drinking bottle will be handy at the camp and during the night. And it’s what you’ll use if you need to boost your body and drink electrolytes as you cannot add them to your hydration bladder. And when my guide decided I should give him my backpack to limit my effort as altitude sickness was kicking in, I could still carry my water bottle to stay hydrated.
Make sure your water bottle easily fit on the side pockets of your backpack. You don’t want to remove your bag to reach it (except on summit night – so it doesn’t freeze).
5. Footwear for Kilimanjaro
- Criteria I wanted: strong ankle support, waterproof (Gore-Tex) and a toe cap.
- My tip: Finding the right hiking boots can be challenging. Although I’m always budget-conscious, I didn’t look too much at the price when choosing mine. It’s one of your most important equipment for Kilimanjaro. Try them with big socks like the one you’ll wear in the mountains. And use them before you arrive on Mount Kilimanjaro.
- My choice: I love my Asolo Drifter hiking boots*. I’ve used them in the snow of Kilimanjaro, and the tropical rainforest of Australia and they were always comfortable. My partner also found the right shoes for him in the Asolo range, but he opted for leather boots (the Asolo Power Matic*, on the right below). They were supposed to last many years like mine, but his sole died right at the end of the trek, so I am not sure about this model, to be honest.
If you’re buying new boots for Kilimanjaro, you may still want to bring your old ones with you. Rather than letting them rot in your cupboard, you could donate them to one of the porters. When you see the equipment they have to conquer the mountains compared to you, you will feel like leaving a few things behind…
Shoes for around camp
They say the first thing you want when you arrive at camp is to remove your hiking boots. I find my hiking boots very comfortable and gladly kept them on. They were perfect to keep me warm too.
But you may be glad to have another pair of shoes. I’d recommend low waterproof hiking shoes as I wouldn’t want to get my feet wet if it’s raining. Some bring hiking sandals and like to leave their feet to breath, but it was honestly too cold for me to imagine not wearing enclosed shoes. I could remove my shoes if my feet needed air. I wouldn’t buy a specific pair just for the camp. Bring whatever you already have at home: running shoes or sneakers can be enough. Just make sure you can wear them comfortably with your big thermal socks.
If you have an old pair that you aren’t using anymore, you may make someone happy by leaving them in Tanzania.
- Criteria I wanted: merino wool socks (great for warmth, breathable and quick dry), no point of friction, breathable with moisture management.
- My tip: Hiking socks are better too small than slightly too big. I bought three different models of socks. I had one for the warmer days (3 pairs), one for the cold days (2 pairs), and one for the evening and night (1 pair). I made sure my pairs had time to air and dry at night. I was shocked by my sock budget for Kilimanjaro. But it was worth it: my feet stayed dried, warm and I had no blister!
- My choice: I did not buy my socks online. Although it’s cheaper than in-store, I wanted to try them on to feel the difference. The three models I bought are similar to these:
Blister cushion padsEssential
With good boots and sock, I never had blisters. I also made sure I wore them before climbing Kilimanjaro to confirm I had the best combo. Still, even a small blister can become highly annoying when you are hiking for a few days. So I wouldn’t hike Kilimanjaro without blister cushion pads* in my first aid kit.
I have always been satisfied with the quality of the Compeed brand. The pads provide pain relief and protection, but they also help to heal faster.
6. Pants for Kilimanjaro
- Criteria I wanted: seamless, quick-dry, tagless
- My tip: Hiking Kilimanjaro is not about being sexy. Avoid cotton at all cost as it will keep you wet with your sweat. You don’t want to wear your usual panties: you want a fabric that will let your skin breath despite your number of layers. I don’t recommend trying to pack light by planning to reuse underwear. No one wants to take the risk of contracting a UTI on Kilimanjaro.
- My choice: I couldn’t find the brand I bought, but the model and fabric look very similar to this New Balance model* (and an equivalent model for men by Reebok*).
- Criteria I wanted: stretched, warm but breathable with moisture management
- My tip: You may wear them to stay warm at night and for the summit hike. Make sure your thermal liners are long enough so you can tuck your top liner in your bottom liner. It will keep you warmer. Don’t sleep wearing any other clothes than your thermal liners in your sleeping bag, except a beanie and warm socks. I advise bringing two thermal leggins: one for walking, and one for the evening/sleeping.
- My choice: The thermal leggings I chose had the same characteristics than these:
- Criteria I wanted: UV protection, quick dry, moisture repellent, comfortable (stretch)
- My tip: If you like wearing shorts, pants that you can convert as shorts or mid-rise allow more options with just one item.
- My choice: I brought my hiking trousers that I have been using for years. It’s worth investing in a good pair of pants that lasts. I couldn’t find my model online, but they are similar to this one on the left. My partner opted for a model that you can convert in short (on the right)
- Criteria I wanted: waterproof, warm, comfortable, breathable for the evening and the summit hike
- My tip: The adjustable waist is a nice feature considering the bloating we all had with the altitude. My pants didn’t have that, and I could not close them on the summit night… Internal gaiters is a good idea too to avoid the snow coming inside your boots. Wear your thermal leggings under your snow pants for the summit hike.
- My choice: As I live in a tropical area and never go skiing, I chose to hire the ski pants in Tanzania just for Kilimanjaro. Otherwise, I would have bought a model similar to this Columbia Bugaboo II Pants* or the Columbia Men’s Ridge 2 Run II Pants* for men.
- Criteria I wanted: waterproof, breathable
- My tip: You want them to be big enough so you can quickly put them on over your other pants.
- My choice: I only had hiking pants when I arrived in Tanzania. They recommended I rented waterproof pants as rain was predicted for the first couple of days. The ones I got were not breathable enough, so they became highly uncomfortable. I’d rather be wet from the rain than from my own sweat. If I had to purchase waterproof pants today, I’d go for this model by Patagonia* that are made with recycled nylon and are said to be breathable. I may have thought differently if we had more rain during our trip or if the quality of my pants were better than the one I hired. But I didn’t feel the waterproof pants I had were useful at all.
- My tip: Gaiters keep rocks, dirt, and light snow from going in the boots. Double-check with your pants if you already have this integrated. I had some in my snow pants, which was necessary for the summit day.
- My choice: I didn’t take gaiters, and didn’t regret not having them. I cannot recall a moment when I would have needed them – except for the summit hike, but my snow pants provided the shield to avoid rocks entering in my shoes. I may have been lucky with the terrain. It would have been super annoying to stop to remove small debris from my shoes, but I never had to. If I had decided to buy gaiters, I would have looked at something small that I could easily reuse in many circumstances like these Salomon gaiters* on the left – after making sure they fit over my boots. But the high and resistant ones like the model on the right could have been a good addition to my hiking equipment too: although snakes are not a concern on Kilimanjaro, it’s a different story when hiking back home in Australia!
7. Upper body equipment for Kilimanjaro
- Criteria I wanted: advanced evaporation, quick dry, support, seamless
- My tip: Chaffing or tightness are small issues that can become highly annoying during a multi-day hike. Be careful to choose the right size and test your bra before putting them in your suitcase. Avoid cotton as the moisture won’t dry and it will make you cold.
- My choice: I find that Columbia* offers a good value sports bra, but if you can support fair trade then Patagonia* is an option to consider.
- Criteria I wanted: Breathable, quick-dry, light
- My tip: Avoid cotton: you need sweat-
wicking shirts. You don’t need to pack a clean shirt for every morning. If you purchase shirts that dry quickly and don’t retain odours, then you can wear one while the other is airing, and keep a clean top for the evenings. Long sleeves allow avoiding sunscreen. As there are no showers, I like not to add any product on my skin.
- My choice: I bought my first merino long-sleeve shirt for Kilimanjaro. There was a fantastic discount in the shop, and I got curious about this incredible fabric. It has become my favourite hiking top. I love the quality and the comfort of the merino wool. My model is very similar to this top by Merino 365* below. Unfortunately, mine does not have thumb loops. I love thumb loops to protect my hands from the sun. I only wore my t-shirt on the two days, and I had a short sleeve thermal top underneath (one that I reused from my soccer kit that looks quite similar to this Tesla thermal winter gear*). I’d have been fine with a merino wool shirt from the start. My t-shirt was a cycling shirt*: I love the half-length zip at the front to open when I needed venting after an effort.
- Criteria I wanted: warm, moisture management, quick dry
- My tip: If I could afford it, I would have bought all my shirts with Merino wool. They are versatile and adapt to the temperature to become thermal tops if needed.
- My choice: I took two long-sleeve thermal tops in addition to my merino wool top: one to wear during the day and one to wear at night. I also had a short-sleeve thermal top* that I wore from day one. On a sunny day while hiking, I often only needed a thermal top with sometimes my windstopper on top. My thermal tops are similar to these models:
- Criteria I wanted: full zip, extreme warm
- My tip: These fleece jackets are warm but rarely breathable, and they often don’t dry quickly. I recommend wearing a thermal top with a windstopper on top when you are walking, and keep the fleece jacket when you take a break.
- My choice: I opted for a fleece jacket with the aim to keep me as warm as possible. The Omni-Heat technology of Columbia Dotswarm II model* boosts heat retention.
- Criteria I wanted: windproof and waterproof, with armpit vents and adjustable hood.
- My tip: Make sure you buy it big enough so you can put it over all your layers and still be comfortable. If rain was predicted, my rain jacket was easy to grab (I could keep it outside the backpack – but I kept my softshell windstopper instead as we had great weather!) and put on top of everything else quickly (even without removing the pack).
- My choice: I bought my rain jacket years ago from Kathmandu at a great discounted price. When I got serious about hiking, it first felt weird to spend five times the price in a rain jacket than my usual rain poncho. But I never regretted it. A high-quality rain jacket is fully waterproof (tested on many boats!), durable and comfortable. The model does not exist anymore, but it is very similar to this Patagonia Torrentshell Jacket* (and Patagonia uses recycled nylon – so I like to promote their products).
- Criteria I wanted: warm but breathable, highly water-resistant, comfortable hood for extra warmth
- My tip: After experiencing how my fleece would get wet while hiking, I am glad I had a more comfortable option to add a warm layer during the effort. And in the evening, I liked having my hiking jacket on top of my fleece to keep me warm, rather than wearing a big snow jacket!
- My choice: I chose the Forclaz 500 from Decathlon for its great value, and I still love it many years later. I only regretted not having armpit vents.
- Criteria I wanted: comfortable in windy condition, providing insulation without overheating
- My tip: You may think I got crazy with the number of jackets. Indeed, the windstopper sounds slightly redundant with the hiking jacket. But I used both jackets a lot on Kilimanjaro. The windstopper was perfect when I only needed protection from the wind or the mist but without too much warmth. I wore it every day.
- My choice: I lost the cycling softshell jacket I had for Kilimanjaro, and I am looking at replacing it with the Patagonia Adze Hybrid Jacket* or buying a new cycling jacket like this one*.
- Criteria I wanted: extreme warmth, breathable.
- My tip: If you have the choice, take the warmest jacket you can find. If you are buying a new one, ask for advice in the hiking shop. I’d recommend renting or borrowing one, so you can have a model a bit too large for you and put many layers underneath.
- My choice: Like for the snow pants, I decided to hire the snow jacket in Tanzania as I didn’t own one and would hardly use it. I only found a model that was too big for me, but I didn’t wear it a lot, so it wasn’t too annoying. And it allowed me to put my hiking jacket underneath, which was very comfortable. If I had decided to buy one, I would have settled for a model that could reuse more easily later (not only for mountain hiking) – but I wouldn’t have been able to layer as much as I did. The Patagonia Insulated Snowbelle Jacket* looks like a good choice.
- Criteria I wanted: tight fitting, easy to put on and remove; good thermal lining; sweat-wicking and quick dry
- My tip: Don’t choose cotton gloves as they won’t dry if they get wet. If your camera is a touchscreen, it will be more comfortable to opt for a touchscreen compatible model.
- My choice: These Under Armour Gloves* have everything that’s needed to keep your hands warm when you’re hiking.
- Criteria I wanted: extreme warmth, waterproof
- My tip: Make sure you can easily move your fingers when wearing the gloves with the inner gloves underneath. If your gloves are too tight and you cannot move, your fingers will hurt a lot with the cold.
- My choice: For the same reasons I rented the ski jacket and the ski pants, I also rented the ski gloves, and I have no idea which model they were. But the Columbia Inferno Gloves* look good for the job.
9. Head equipment for Kilimanjaro
Cap or hatEssential
- Criteria I wanted: high sun protection (face and maybe neck), breathable
- My tip: Think of a way to clip your hat or make it fit quickly in your backpack. You’ll be more comfortable removing it if it’s easy to store it. If you already have a hat, you may only buy a neck gaiter rather than a new hat with additional covers.
- My choice: I took my usual hat from home. But if you are looking for a trekking hat, I like models that offer multi-options for when more protection is needed:
- Criteria I wanted: 100% UV-filter, stability (not slippery), wrap-around shape (increased protection)
- My tip: UV intensity at a high altitude (and Kilimanjaro is very high) is extreme. The light reflecting on the snow is intense too. Both can be dangerous for your eyes if you don’t have adequate sunglasses (at least category three, but category four is highly recommended in the snow).
- My choice: I am sensitive to light, so I opted for the highest rating (category four). Considering I had intense headaches during the hike, I did not regret that choice. It is forbidden to drive with category four sunglasses as they block too much light, so they aren’t made for everyday use. Hence, I didn’t want to invest too much in sunglasses I would rarely use (I now end up using them on boats so I wouldn’t think the same way if I had to choose again today). I trusted the Quechua brand and bought their cheaper category 4 sunglasses. But if you plan to often hike in altitude, you may want to invest in a better model. For example, the Julbo Explorer2 Sunglasses* have extra features that will add more comfort: changing lens (darker or lighter) according to the light intensity, anti-fog, coating that prevents finger marks and facilitates the removal of water, proper ventilation, custom fit…
- Criteria I wanted: lightweight, quick-dry, versatile
- My tip: It may look like an extra, but this little item adds a lot of comfort to your hike. You will need something to protect your face from the dust, the wind, the sun and the cold. Some prefer a scarf than a neck gaiter for hiking because it’s easier to get on and off. It’s true indeed, but I don’t like the extra bits of a scarf. I prefer a neck gaiter that stays well in place and has no extra fabric.
- My choice: I had a windproof neck gaiter with fleece, but found out it wasn’t the best choice. It felt sweltering and moist too quickly. Now that I have experienced the comfort of merino wool, I believe it may make a very comfortable neck gaiter (odour resistant, moisture absorption, adapts to the temperature).
- Criteria I wanted: fleece lining, breathable, quick-dry, warm
- My tip: If you don’t cover your head, you’ll lose heat. I wore my beanie for the summit hike, of course, but also at night and a few days before reaching our last camp.
- My choice: I bought my beanie because it was on sale at Kathmandu, felt super warm, and I liked the colour. It looks quite similar to the Columbia Alpine Action Beanie*, and the Omni-Heat thermal technology is perfect for Kilimanjaro.
Headlamp (+ extra batteries)Essential
- Criteria I wanted: light (no more than three AAA batteries), different modes (focused/large/red night-vision), adjustable light angle and strap, weather resistant
- My tip: Make sure you bring spare batteries and put new ones just before starting the summit hike. You don’t want to try the challenge of changing the batteries in the dark with your gloves on. We were all walking in a line at night for hours to reach the summit. So I believe a high brightness isn’t necessary. However, it’s more light makes it more comfortable to move around the camp at night if you need (I never needed it, though).
- My choice: I already had a headlamp (Kathmandu Raven 100), so I took this one with me to Kilimanjaro. I liked how light it was (less than 70g, only two AAA batteries), but I had to be careful always to put it in the medium or low mode otherwise it wouldn’t last long at all. It is not reliable equipment for Kilimanjaro. With more experience, I’d now buy a headlamp from the reputed Black Diamond or Petzl. The Black Diamond Spot* (on the left) is often listed at the top of the best headlamps for its weight, brightness and good value. But I’d personally prefer to pay a bit more to have the Petzl Actik Core* (in the middle) as its rechargeable battery is a big plus for the environment and the wallet if you use it a lot. It’s compatible with normal AAA batteries for treks like Kilimanjaro where you cannot recharge it. You may want to consider bringing a spare headlamp in your group in case one fails during the summit hike. The Petzl e+LITE* (on the right) is compact, ultra light and resistant. You’ll hardly notice it’s in your backpack, but it could make your life a lot easier.
I put the sunscreen in the face equipment because that’s what was the most exposed for me. But if you choose to hike in t-shirts or shorts, you will have to wear sunscreen on any exposed parts of your body. The sun gets more intense in altitude, so opt for at least a water-resistant SPF30+ sunscreen or for zinc to be well protected.
Make sure you reapply sunscreen regularly and in a great amount to stay protected through the day. Don’t forget to protect your lips too.
10. Toiletries for hiking Kilimanjaro
Even if you don’t care about how you look or smell, maintaining good hygiene is vital to avoid health issues.
Every evening and morning, your team will bring warm water with soap to you so you can quickly wash up. It’s fantastic for your hands, your face and your feet. But good luck for washing – or more accurately rinsing – the rest of your body. Plus, Kilimanjaro camps are very busy with all the porters, guides and the other hikers, so you may struggle to find the right spot to take up the challenge. And you’re likely to be tired, maybe even cold and sore.
As much as I hate disposable wipes for the environment, their no-need-to-rinse feature is hard to find elsewhere. So I have to admit that wipes are the best solution to stay a bit fresh and clean when hiking Kilimanjaro. Eco-friendly wipes like Combat Wipes* exist: “a 100% biodegradable wipe that you can bury after use and forget. It goes back to nature 100%, has recyclable packaging and a cleansing and refreshing formula that has all the right ingredients for anyone experiencing the outdoors. This is not just another baby wipes pack, it specifically designed to the outdoor enthusiasts.” (source: Interview from Bio-Based World News).
However, considering the number of people trekking Kilimanjaro, I don’t recommend burying your waste. Plus, the biodegradation is very slow because of the cold. Ask your guide about the best way to deal with your wipes.Essential
Cleaning your hands is crucial to reduce the odds of contracting diarrhoea. But don’t use the wipes when possible. Soap and a natural hand sanitizer will be better for leaving no trace and reducing waste.
The best option would be to fill a small reusable container with the big hand sanitizer you use at home – if you’re using a natural hand sanitiser that won’t upset the balance of the ecosystem. But if you will only use hand sanitiser for Kilimanjaro, then you may prefer to buy a small bottle.
The CleanWell Natural Hand Sanitizer* is plant-based and the spray is very easy to use.
Unfortunately, there’s no opportunity for a dip while hiking Kilimanjaro.
But after your quick wash-up or after a day of rain, you’ll appreciate having a towel to dry your face and feet. Microfibers towels* are the best for hiking with their fast drying, ultra-compact, light and antibacterial features.
Dry it at the camp rather than on your backpack when you’re hiking. Otherwise, the towel will be covered by dust.
How to brush your teeth on KilimanjaroEssential
You’ll need to bring your toothbrush and your toothpaste. Ideally, choose a biodegradable toothpaste to protect the environment like the Himalaya Complete Care toothpaste* made with organic ingredients. When you’re brushing your teeth outside, it’s recommended to use a smaller amount of toothpaste than usual. When you rinse your mouth, spray the water in a hole or over a wide area to minimise the impact on the environment.
You can bring any deodorant you wish. But I’d like to suggest the option of bringing a solid deodorant made from biodegradable ingredients. That’s what I use every day. It’s effective, and it’s plastic-free.
Ethique eco-friendly deodorant* and Lush deodorant are the most famous brands.
Going to the toilet on Kilimanjaro can be a big deal for some people. Some choose the luxurious option to have their personal portable toilets carried from one camp to another. But it costs extra. And isn’t it part of the trip to rough it?
Well, I wouldn’t be surprised if the state of the toilets on Kilimanjaro shocks a few hikers. I remember spending a few seconds staring and wondering how it was even possible to achieve such a low level (or high level actually, but I won’t go into the details). And don’t expect a seat. So if you’re sore after the hike, you’ll need one more effort. I’m used to camping and dirty, smelly toilets, but I wouldn’t judge anyone who opts for portable toilets.
Whatever option you choose for your toilets, you will need to bring your own toilet paper. And you will have to carry it in your daypack if you need to go during the day, between the camps. A roll is bulky, and you’ll need to protect it, so it may not be the best option. These two options are better for camping and hiking:
Even if your toilet paper is biodegradable, you must not leave it on the ground. You have to carry it with you back to the camp to get rid of it. If you don’t feel comfortable carrying your dirty toilet paper, the second best option is to bury it. You can bring for your group a light trowel to fit in your backpack*.
Toenails that are too long or not well cut can become a nightmare during a long hike. Broken fingernails are annoying, and long fingernails look super dirty. Considering its small size and significant potential impact, the nail clipper is high on the nice-to-have list. Note that I know nothing about nail clippers and I bring on my hikes the small ones I use at home. This image is not a particular recommendation for this model. I just liked the compact design.
11. Kilimanjaro equipment for sleeping
- Criteria I wanted: comfortable until -10ºC (14ºF), mummy shape with a hood
- My tip: Wear your thermals, socks and beanie to sleep. If you’re cold, put your extra clothes and jackets on top of the sleeping back rather than on your body. It should be warmer this way. If you are travelling as a couple, you may want to have a look at sleeping bags you can connect – like the Sea To Summit model* on the left. I have one like that, and it makes all the camping trips a lot more romantic!
- My choice: Like the other equipment for the extreme cold, I chose to rent my sleeping bag in Tanzania. It’s not the best option hygienically speaking, but I didn’t want to invest in a sleeping bag I’d use only once – even if there are affordable ones on Amazon that meet my criteria like this Elevens down sleeping bag* that had a fantastic discount. I ended up being too warm almost every night, even the last one before the summit. But that’s a lot better than being cold!
Sleeping bag linerEssential
A sleeping bag liner will be handy if:
- you want more hygiene when renting a sleeping bag
- you are unsure your sleeping bag will be warm enough
Sleeping bag liners are light and compact but can provide a great deal of extra comfort when climbing Kilimanjaro.
Hot water bottle
I’m not talking about bringing an actual hot water bottle on Kilimanjaro (although it does sound like a nice idea..!). But if you tend to be cold at night, you can fill one of your drinking bottles with hot water before going to bed and put it in your sleeping bag. And you can even add the clothes you’ll be wearing the next morning around it. They will be nicely warm when you wake up.
- Criteria I wanted: self-inflated mattress to sleep well
- My tip: Your tour operator will provide mattresses. Ask a photo or a detailed description of the mattresses, so you understand their quality. If they look like yoga mats, you’d be better bringing a pad that may help you get more rest. Sleeping pads can also provide extra insulation to keep you warm.
- My choice: I used to be fine sleeping on any ground, so I didn’t care about the mattress. But when you are tired and sore, being comfortable during the night is important. We only had yoga mats during our hike, and I wished for a bit more comfort. You can find some affordable, light and compact models on Amazon like this WellaX Ultralight Sleeping Pad* on the left. If you’re worried about being cold at night, you can pick a mattress with extra insulation, like the Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated Mat* on the right.
You may choose only to bring a pillow cover and stuff it with your clothes. Or even use your clothes under your sleeping bag hood or in your jacket. But nothing beats a real pillow. And a nice inflatable cushion may provide the extra comfort you need to relax and feel better. The Cocoon Ultralight AirCore Travel Pillow* is only 100g and hardly bigger than your fist. But you’d be better putting it under your hood as it will get cold.
Earplugs and blindfold
There will be many people around you when you camp on the way to the Kilimanjaro summit.
I feel very uncomfortable sleeping with earplugs. But some people cannot sleep with noises around them. So earplugs can be a good option to maximise your resting time if you’re unlucky, with a snoring neighbour.
You may also want to rest in the afternoon, or if you have a few hours after the summit hike before continuing the long day down the mountain. Having a blindfold will help you sleep when it’s daylight.
Some people hate the idea of dressing up and facing the cold to go to the toilets at night. I find it’s a nice opportunity to watch the stars, so it wasn’t a problem at all for me. But if it worries you, you may be interested in looking into bringing a pee bottle. You may simply opt for a plastic water bottle. But note there are actual products that have been designed for that purpose:
No electronic equipment on this Mt Kilimanjaro packing list is a must-have. They won’t help you reach the summit – except the MP3 player maybe. But they will help you remember it and share your experience.
You may want to take the opportunity to disconnect during your Kilimanjaro adventure. Or you may want to share it with the world.
I thought it would be worth noting that you may get mobile reception during the trek. But don’t go up with the expectation to stay connected as this will only bring frustration. You may not find a connection, or you may not have enough battery. International roaming can give you more chances as it picks up any network, but it’s expensive. You will have a better deal by bringing an unlocked phone and buying a local pay-as-you-go sim card before you start the climb (in Moshi or Arusha).
If you desperately want to increase your chances of sending updates, you may want to look at a Satellite GPS Messenger* (but be careful with the subscription and how to use it before you commit to buying it).
Your phone isn’t meant for the extreme cold. So if you bring it on the mountain, keep it in warm clothes as much as you can.
If you are thinking about bringing your phone to use it as a clock, I would recommend using a cheap watch instead.
Some people use their phone to listen to music when they hike. I’m not one of them so I cannot comment, but I’ve read before that music was essential for a few hikers during the long summit hike in the dark and when going down. However, there are cheaper and smaller options than a phone to bring to the summit of Kilimanjaro.
I’d recommend looking at a model like the Apple iPod Shuffle*. As you can wear it close to your body with the layers on top, it stays warm and keeps functioning. You may want to use KT tape to fix the headphones as you get dressed.
Weight and space apply to your camera as well. Even if big cameras often take better shots, I wouldn’t recommend bringing expensive camera equipment for Kilimanjaro, nor something bulky. The dust and the cold could put them at risk, and they would be a pain to transport.
My recommendation is a point-and-shoot camera. It’s easy to carry so you can take photos whenever you want. Make you pick a model that’s easy to use with gloves on. I like my Nikon W300*. It’s freezeproof, shockproof and dustproof so perfect for an adventure like Kilimanjaro. Of course, the famous GoPro will do a great job too, but the battery may drain with the cold. And I prefer the Nikon as I can play with the settings and zoom. It generally does better photos than the GoPro, and the quality of the films is excellent too.
Having a camera case makes it a lot easier to take photos. We love our Case Logic* with its shoulder strap, belt loop and the extra pocket at the front to store memory cards.
You will need self-charging equipment for Kilimanjaro if you want to make sure you have enough battery until the end of the trek.
I’d recommend starting the trek with a fully charged power bank like this RavPower Portable Charger* (on the left below). But it may not last the whole trip if you use your electronic equipment a lot or if the cold drains your batteries. It was enough for us, but we only took a few photos.
Hikers often bring solar panels on a multi-day trek. When you choose your model, make sure you opt for a portable and light one like the Foldable RavPower Solar Panel* (in the middle below). I find this kind of model is great for when you stop. We rarely hiked for a full day and the sun was still shining when we arrived at the camps. But you may struggle to charge it on your backpack while you hike. A smaller solar panel combined with a battery pack would work better to place on your bag, like this RavPower Solar Charger* (on the right below).
If you can, try to double up by carrying spare batteries. Batteries can be stored in the cold, but it’s better to keep them warm when you are using or charging them.
13. Hiking accessories for Kilimanjaro
First aid kitEssential
Although your guide should have a first aid kit, you will need to have a personal one in your day backpack. Pick a light and compact first aid kit*.
Don’t just buy a first aid kit to throw it in your backpack and tick the box on the packing list. Have a look at what’s inside and how it can be used. You will be a lot more prepared if something happens.
Pocket warmers* are a nice-to-have if, like me, you always have cold hands. I didn’t use them for the summit hike (there was no way I’d take of my gloves!). But it was very comfortable to find warm pockets in the evening without the need for wearing bulky snow gloves.
Please consider the environment and buy reusable ones* instead of single-use ones.
- Criteria I wanted: adjustable, foam grip (for warmth), light (carbon) and foldable or retractable to fix on my backpack
- My tip: Hiking poles may be optional for Kilimanjaro, but both my partner and I were happy to have them. Poles help reduce the impacts on the knees and provide better balance. The Kilimanjaro hike is long, and knees are challenged a lot. Going down from the summit revived an old joint injury I had from running. The poles helped me a lot in the descent, and I wonder if the damage would have been an issue for the summit day hadn’t I used them for the ascent.
- My choice: I hired hiking poles in Tanzania as I didn’t want to carry mine while travelling. Plus, I was worried the rather cheap hiking poles that I rarely use wouldn’t be strong enough for the intensity and rough terrain of Kilimanjaro. Durable hiking poles are expensive, and mine weren’t meant to take me to Africa’s highest peak. If you are looking at buying durable hiking poles, the Black Diamond’s Distance Carbon Z* look perfect.
We had a great cook with us on Kilimanjaro, so food was never an issue. Could you believe he made us crepes every morning?
Although food is provided, you need to bring your own snacks. And the type of snacks you should you bring depends on what you like. Altitude may make you lose appetite, so think of a snack that you will be happy to eat even when you don’t feel like eating anything else. Trail mix or granola bars are a wise choice, but for me, nothing beats the gummy bears or M&Ms!
If you like the taste of it, energy gels like GU Gels* can be great for the summit night. I don’t like individual packaging, but it’s a tasty drink full of energy you need to carry on the long ascent.
Fix your equipment on Kilimanjaro
There’s nothing different on Kilimanjaro than on any other multi-day trek for this part. If your equipment fails, it can help to have a few light and compact items to fix it. Believe me. During our trip, we took turns to take the tent that had a broken door, trying to fix it as best as we could every night!
- sewing kit*
- insulating tape*
- safety pins (you can also use them to fix your wet clothes on your backpack so they can dry) – some first aid kit will include them
14. Extra things to think of for the ladies climbing Kilimanjaro
If you take the contraceptive pill, don’t forget to pack it. I opted for an Implanon as it allows me not to worry about contraception.
The Implanon has stopped my periods, and in adventures like Kilimanjaro, it’s a blessing. But I heard the altitude can mess up a lot the usual menstruation cycle. So bring all you need to be ready, just in case. Even if it’s not that time of the month.
If you have a way to delay your periods, you may want to consider it. You’ll have enough to deal with during the climb and don’t want to add them into the mix. I highly advise against using pads: they will be uncomfortable as you hike and they create a lot of waste. Tampons will be a lot more comfortable, but make sure you wash your hands beforehand. Also, bring a small zip-lock bag to carry them until you get to a bin (you can even line the container with foil for more privacy).
But the best is to look into a menstrual cup like the Diva Cup*. It will last a full day. Plus, it’s a lot less waste, and you’ll only need one item. Don’t forget to bring wipes to clean your hands and everything else. And make sure you use it a few times before the hike. You don’t want to be learning the techniques on Kilimanjaro.
Pee standing up
Have you ever been jealous of men who can easily pee standing up while we have to undress and squat fully? Well, you’ll even get more jealous on Kilimanjaro with the cold and the exhaustion. Plus, even the camp toilets will require you to make an effort to squat. And even if you’re not lazy, when your knee is painful after a full day hiking, you wish you were a boy. I did. I thought about bringing a device to pee standing up but decided not to. I was worried about misusing it and ending up all wet. If I were to make the trip again, I’d add it to my preparation training and take the risk!
I haven’t used such a product yet, so I don’t know what format is the most appropriate. But the pStyle* has excellent reviews on Amazon, so that’s why I featured it here, and the other one on the right looks even easier to use.
Do you really need all the equipment on this Mt Kilimanjaro packing list?
When you see how the local porters manage to climb Kilimanjaro with hardly any equipment, you can start to wonder if you needed to spend that much buying yours and carrying it all the way to Africa. Even though experts said it was impossible, a group of climbers reached the summit while only wearing shorts, back in 2014.
Hence, I am not going to write that buying the best equipment is a must to succeed. Still, I believe it is vital in giving the climber the best chances to reach the top. It is indeed one of my five big tips to prepare for climbing Kilimanjaro: “have the right equipment for the hike”.
It is quite simple: your body will already be fighting with altitude and tiredness from the hike, why would you want to add some difficulty by not bringing the necessary equipment for Kilimanjaro? The right equipment will give you a good night’s sleep, will reduce your body pain and/or will make you feel comfortable which is highly essential for the mental.
We were lucky with the weather during our climb, and I never got cold – which is something rare (at least, I hope it is rare and not an increasing trend, but that’s not the topic here!). But the weather on Mt Kilimanjaro can change quickly. I wouldn’t have risked my entire adventure by not being prepared with the right gear to reach the summit.
Useless things to bring on Kilimanjaro
The following list includes a few things I’ve seen listed, I took myself, or one of my friends took on Kilimanjaro, and we found no use for it. I’m not saying you should straight away remove it from your Mt Kilimanjaro packing list. But if you are trying to pack light for Kilimanjaro, I highly suggest you think twice about it and seek more information if you were planning to bring them.
- Water filters or purification tablets: while you may need it for the rest of your trip to avoid overusing plastic bottles, these were not necessary when climbing Kilimanjaro. Our porters who fetched water also boiled and purified it. You will want to confirm with your tour that’s the case.
- Insect repellent with DEET: I’m not a fan of bug repellent in the first place. We only had a few mosquitos for our first night. We were already wearing layers, so they weren’t an issue. However, you will need insect repellent to be safe for the rest of your stay in Tanzania.
- Bag lock: If you have valuable items, you’d better carry them in your backpack (or not bring them on Kilimanjaro). I’m not even thinking of thieves, but just that the porters have many bags and I’d imagine it’s easier for you to take care of your only bag. If someone wants to steal your stuff, I’m not convinced a bag lock will make it too hard. Isn’t a duffle bag easy to open with a knife? For me, the risks are low, and it’s not worth the effort of locking/unlocking every time you use your bag.
- Shampoo: Bring a hairbrush. Tie your hair. But don’t bother about shampoo. You’ll be smelly and dirty, and it’s just part of the adventure. Focus on important hygiene for your health, but don’t waste your time trying to look perfect and polluting the environment with unnatural products.
- Book: Unless you really love reading or cannot fall asleep otherwise, I wouldn’t bring a book. First, it’s heavy. Plus, we didn’t have much downtime. When we did, we’d be resting or sharing time with the team and our guide.
- Thermos: We were told stories about frozen drinking water during the summit hike, and someone advised us to put hot water in a thermos so we’d have something drinkable at the top of Kilimanjaro. It didn’t work well: the water was still super hot when we reached the summit! Plus, a thermos bottle is heavier than a regular bottle, so I don’t believe it was a good tip.
Have you climbed Kilimanjaro? Would you add something to this Mt Kilimanjaro packing list? Share your experience in the comments below!
Where is Mt Kilimanjaro?
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Eloise lives in Brisbane (Australia), but you won’t find her often in the city. When she is not disconnected underwater or in a national park, she loves sharing her travel tips and inspiring her readers to take care of our beautiful planet. She considers every weekend as a two-day holiday break. Her approach: you don’t always need to go far to travel. Still, she also enjoys exploring the world and discovering new cultures. Eloise is originally from France and, before moving to Brisbane, she lived in Sydney, Istanbul and England.