One of the most common question people ask, when organizing climbing Kilimanjaro, concerns the luggage. “What should I pack? Will I miss something? What is necessary and what is not? Is this too heavy? Should I buy something before leaving or rent it over there?
Packing for Kilimanjaro can be tricky, if you’re not an experienced hiker.
To other frequent questions about the length of the climb, the price, the difficulty, the training and more, you can find answers in this brief Q&A session.
How much can I pack?
It’s important to know two things, before packing your luggage for Mount Kilimanjaro.
First of all, you don’t have to carry all your stuff on your own shoulders. Besides the guides and the cook, there is a variant number of amazing hard working guys that climb with you. They are the porters. They take care of setting up and down the camp and carry everything from one camp to the next. Everything: tents, sleeping bag, cooking tools, food, garbage… and your thing.
The second important fact is that the agency you book with can rent you pretty much whatever you might need, for free or for a price. So, especially if you’re also touring around Africa and your backpack is already quite heavy, you don’t have to freak out for the amount of gear to bring along.
These two premises don’t want to make you feel free to bring your entire wardrobe with you, nor to let everything back home. I wrote them to make you understand that you should not freak out looking for a minimalist trip, risking being at 5000m missing something very necessary; at the same time, to also remind you that you don’t have to buy every single possible peace of gear and ship it to Africa.
The trekking is already hard on its own, don’t stress out about packing! Here I tell my experience.
Packing list: what is necessary on Kilimanjaro?
Everything you are planning to bring on the Kilimanjaro can be divided in two groups: what you give to the porters during the day (having access to it only at the camp in the morning and in the evening) and what you carry on your own shoulders.
The first fundamental choice you make is then to pick a small trekking backpack for the single day walk.
Personally, there are a couple of characteristics about a backpack that I consider absolutely necessary. Without those, I don’t even try to hike. My back is a bit weak and I know I won’t be able to carry even only few kilos for more than a couple of hours walk. I’m talking about the hip-belt and the sternum strap, both to lighten the weight from my shoulders.
I also find important to have a good support for the back and some ventilation system for more comfort.
Last, could be handy to have direct access to a water-bag, to be able to drink while walking and an additional waterproof cover in case of heavy rain.
I’ll divide everything else in 3 categories: clothing, hygiene and technology.
- Hiking boots already broke in, with a medium-hard sole and good grip.
- Cloths to cover a wide range of temperatures – At 2000 metres it’s warm, at 6000 it’s freeing cold; it could rain, it’s windy, during certain months you could encounter snow. What then? Pack both long and short sleeves t-shirt (better if quick-dry sport wear), warm and light pants, thermal pants (running or skiing style) to wear underneath the normal pants when it’s really cold), raincoat / warm jacket / ski-jacket, both warm and light socks.
- Other warm items for the evenings and the night hike: gloves, scarf and hat.
- Warm pajama / night clothing
Except for few huts on the Marangu Route, on Mount Kilimanjaro you will camp. There’s no access to running water (you’ll be served some in a bucket twice per day at the camp) nor a toilet worthy of that name.
Even further, whatever enters the national park, has to come out too: you can’t leave trash behind, there are no bin bags!
Besides the usual toiletries (such as soap, deodorant and toothbrush) I suggest to pack:
- Wet wipes – very necessary due to a lack of water
- Toilet paper – better if biodegradable!
- Ear plugs – there’s always someone partying a little too late and the porters get up really early!
- A nail file or something to clean your nails – there’s sand, a lot of sand everywhere! And it doesn’t matter how much you try, cleaning your hands without water is a daily fight!
- A headband or bandana for your hair, that after a week will be full of sand and fairly dirty.
- A small microfibre hand towel for your hands.
- Plasters to prevent or protect blisters
- Sun cream – even if you don’t feel the chill during the hike, high altitudes are a guarantee of a good tan/sunburn!
- Paracetamol, or the medication you’re used to, to keep headache at bay – headache is very common at high altitudes
- Water treatment drops/tablets – drinking water is offered every day: your porters will collect water on the way and then boil it at the camp. This process should be enough to make the water potable. If you don’t feel safe enough, you can add specific chemicals to it.
Technology and other equipment
- Head light and/or flash light – camps don’t have night lights and on the last day of hiking you’ll reach the summit by night
- Water packs or flasks for at least 2-3 litres of water
- Solar panel to recharge your phone and camera – and land it to the porters when you don’t need it! – or extra batteries
- Hand-warmers to place inside your gloves or pockets
What can/should I rent?
Most agencies rent any kind of gear out, from tents to socks.
For hygiene reasons, I think that packing your own cloths and boots is the starting point for a successful climb of Kilimanjaro, even if that means investing in good jacket and boots.These are items that last for years and you’ll be able to use them again and again in the future.
There are other things that I believe you can rent once you land in Tanzania, especially if they occupy a large space in your luggage. For instance sleeping bags and walking sticks. Do you have a sleeping bag warm enough for a night at 5000 metres? How much space does it take in your luggage? Is it worthy to bring it from home?
It’s important to ask about prices and availability when booking the climb, to avoid last minute charges or missing items.