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Header image by Stig Nygaard.

In October 2010 I traveled to Tanzania with the goal of conquering a mountain. And at 5,895 metres (19,341 ft), it was really, really tall. The highest mountain in Tanzania, the highest mountain in Africa, and the highest free-standing mountain in the world, if we’re keeping score.

I trekked through some truly incredible landscapes, transformed as a person along the way, and battled through one of the world’s most challenging journeys over 7 days.

Kilimanjaro is powerful, awe-inspiring, and an experience which inspires transformation. But if you don’t know what to pack it’s going to make your life a hell of a lot harder than it has to be.

From my experience, use the following tips to guide your packing.

What to Pack if You’re Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro

Clothing

Kilimanjaro is unique in that the mountain is home to a diverse range of ecosystems. You might be trekking through a desolate mountain environment one day, and walking into a dense rainforest the next. And then of course there glaciers. So where clothing is concerned it’s best to dress in layers.

You’ll likely find that you’ll be stripping off throughout the day, so make sure you have space in your day pack for clothing. A base layer or thermal long Johns are a must have for the summit night as you go higher up.

Light trekking T shirts and trousers made of breathable fabric are easy and trek friendly. Shorts are also a viable alternative. Cotton fabric and jeans are always a bad idea as they chafe and take forever to dry. We recommend polyester, merino or nylon fabrics.

The cold doesn’t get any better, only gets bitter. Your best bet at insulation is a fleece jacket to go over your T shirt. And then your final layer should be a warm, waterproof down jacket or a hard shell jacket with waterproof trousers.

Other add-on ’s could be down mittens, hiking socks or thin liner socks, waterproof boots with a good ankle and arch support and of course, gloves. Warmth, weight and waterproofing are the three W’s to watch out for when packing clothes for Kilimanjaro.

Mt Kilimanjaro

Health and Medical

Climbing Kilimanjaro is probably going to be one of the toughest and most challenging treks you’ll face in your lifetime. And in the harsh environment, you’ll need to make sure you have medical supplies to take care of yourself. So make sure you’ve stocked a first aid kit.

Altitude Sickness

One of the biggest killers on Kilimanjaro is the altitude. And this should not be underestimated. You’ll find that your trek will be paced slowly (unbearably at times!) to allow your body to acclimatize, but you might also consider traveling with altitude sickness medications.

It is important to note that there is no substitute for proper acclimatization. Medicines are available to shorten the time it takes to get used to high altitude, however, people with altitude sickness should not continue to ascend until they have gotten used to the altitude.

But good news! Since the Anopheles mosquito’s maximum altitude is much lesser than the altitude of the mountain for most of the trek, you’re extremely unlikely to catch malaria!

But that said, prevention is always better than a cure, so if you should take a course of anti-malarials (or the general Malarone) for your time in Africa anyway. Insect repellents are required for the first and the last day.

Mt Kilimanjaro

Mt Kilimanjaro

Trekking First Aid

Trekking inadvertently causes small cuts and grazes. Tend to them with antiseptic cream. Plasters (band-aids) are going to come in very handy throughout your 7-10 days, so keep them close.

Be sure to pack bandages to beat twists, sprains and even larger flesh wounds, and anything you usually use to help against blisters.

If you’re prone to knee related problems or facing it, elastic knee supports are recommended and come to the rescue specially during steeper gradients. You might think the trek up the mountain is difficult, but coming down from the summit take a huge toll on your knees.

General Medications

The Kilimanjaro trek is physically demanding, and as well as battling the altitude, you’re probably also going to be exhausted at the end of every day.

You might consider traveling with medications like Ibuprofen, Aspirin, Paracetamol, Bismuth subsalicylate, Imodium, throat pastilles, re-hydrating powders such as Diarolyte.

These wonder drugs help you fight a host of health problems. Lip salve or chapstick/Vaseline is essential to prevent your lips from chapping too. Trust me on that one. You’ll thank me half way through!

Kilimanjaro

Mt Kilimanjaro

Lip Balm – I’m telling you!

Head Gear

Before you head out, get ready for what’s ahead. You’ll need to pack some basic headgear for the Kilimanjaro trek, to help you handle the cold, wind, rain, and snow.

With the rest of your body warm underneath your layers, your head and face will be copping the worst of the elements. A woolen hat, a wide brimmed sun hat and a hat with a neck cover can go a long way in keeping you comfortable. A thermal beanie also works as the perfect insulator.

You’ll face extremes of being really hot during the day, and really cold during the night. A balaclava can shield you from the wild extremes of heat and cold. And you will absolutely need a compatible headlamp for your night hikes.

Hands and Feet

You’re about to set foot on a mountain riddled with challenges. So you should make sure you have a pair of comfortable, well fitting hiking boots. However you don’t want them to wear out, so make sure you’ve invested in high quality.

Pro Tip: If you’re buying new hiking boots specifically for Mt Kilimanjaro, MAKE SURE you break them in before you travel. I can’t stress the importance of this enough. If you do not break in your shoes before the trek, you’re going to have blistered and broken feet.

Carry some trekking sandals for flat terrains and trekking socks that aren’t cotton, for dry and happy feet. Keep your feet warm with thermal socks. Trekking poles help your knees bear the brunt of long, tiring treks. They also offer a better grip and balance.

Get your hands on some warm gloves with a good thermal lining. You’ll also need a pair of mittens on your hands, to beat the cold. Make  sure they don’t curb your movement.

When climbing Kilimanjaro, The staff will carry your main bag up to a maximum weight of 15kgs plus all the tents, kitchen equipment, food, fuel, tables and chairs.

Kilimanjaro

Documents and Money

While it’s obvious that you need your passport for entry to Tanzania, make sure you have 6 months’ validity left on it from the day you intend to fly home.

You’ll also need a Tanzanian Entry Visa, and it’s is highly recommended to carry CASH in US dollars for this. Notes with denominations of $10 and $20 and $1 will be very helpful for your tipping allowance, local purchases, taxis, meals, etc.

While keeping your credit card is essential, ensure that they are used only in cases of emergency. Also note that Mastercard is more widely accepted than Visa here. Traveler’s cheques are not recommended as they have poor conversion rates in Arusha.

It’s important to carry your travel insurance documents, as well as Vaccination Certificates. Yellow Fever is a mandatory vaccination, and you’ll need to present your certificate at immigration on entering the country. If you don’t have this proof, you may be forced to have an injection in an unknown backroom in the airport.

Immunization

Photo CC Pan American Health Organization

Bags and Other Things

Grab a duffle bag and a daypack to help you bag the best climbing experience. Buy waterproof bags to keep harm from the rain at bay.

Always take a comfortable sleeping bag, with good insulation for the cold nights. And make sure that your bags are light.

Remember that plastic covers, zip lock pouches are the unsung heroes that come to your rescue, so ensure that they find a place in your bag. Also, it’s a good idea to pack alcohol wipes – you would be amazed at how dirty you are by the end of the day.

With packing done right, all that is left is to revel in the pinnacle of happiness at Kilimanjaro! Happy trekking!

BACKPACKS WE RECOMMEND: CLICK FOR BAG INFO ↓

Osprey Farpoint 40 Travel Backpack

Mountaintop 65L Internal Frame Backpack

OutdoorMaster Hiking Backpack 50L

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Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; a website dedicated to opening your eyes to the wild & natural world.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

If you enjoy getting social, you can follow their journey on FacebookTwitterYouTubePinterest and Instagram.

    41 Comments

  1. I cannot imagine wearing shorts, between the brush (those cuts and scrapes) and the cold.
    A headlamp is VERY important because so close to the equator night falls around 7 p.m. and dawn is around 7 a.m.–you’ll need a light for dinner and breakfast, at least.
    You can rent a lot of equipment at the base camps so you don’t have to haul it on a plane.

    • I got really warm during the day, perhaps because I was moving constantly, and the sun gets pretty hot beating straight down on you (you’re a lot closer when you’re up that high too). So during the day I was usually in three quarter shorts ad then would rug up in the evenings because it did get really cold. Didn’t have too much trouble with cuts thankfully :)

      Yea absolutely re a headlamp, it was an essential. I rented mine from the hotel at the base, but they were running pretty low so I would definitely recommend bringing one from home if you can. But if you forget it’s not a big deal because yes you can get them at base camp :)

  2. Looks like a very rigorous and physically demanding trek. Being closer to equator can be even more tiring to body. These precautionary tips are so helpful, important to keep them in check list before proceeding on trek.

    • Yes absolutely – it’s one of the toughest non technical climbs in the world. Very rewarding, but very tough, so it’s absolutely vital to be prepared :) Glad the post was helpful for you!

  3. In the hills, always take your time to go up. AMS is something that can hot anyone anytime no matter how many times you have climbed the mountain.

    I prefer to wear cotton as they breathe. Yes, they take some time to dry but Nylon and other synthetic materials invite electric charge which scares me a lot and also these clothes are more prone to fire than cotton. Wear layers and layers and take them off as required is the best tip ever.

    • Absolutely – AMS hit a lot of people on the mountain during my climb – only 4 out of the 7 of us made it to the summit. Two girls got AMS badly so reached base camp but didn’t do the summit, and one of our team got halfway up on the last day but couldn’t breathe so had to turn back. It’s a very serious thing.

      Interesting to hear you prefer cotton – I can’t hike in cotton as I chafe, but ultimately it comes down to what you’re comfortable with though, as everything is a personal preference :) I don’t think there should be any issue with electric charge on the mountain, but interesting fact to know!!

  4. Hi, Megan! Yet another great list of tips! You really paid attention to the essentials, so anyone who wants to follow your footstep can be safe on track and truly enjoy it. Packing for trips like this one can be really stressful, but you made it pretty simple. I was wondering, did you had any type of physical preparation or training before this adventure and do you think it`s needed?

    • Thanks Nigel, so glad the post was helpful and informative for you :)

      Re physical preparation, I started walking for an hour every morning for a couple of months before hand to get my fitness up. Honestly though I think swimming would be a better way to train, as it gets your body used to a lack of oxygen, while you’re getting fit.

      If you’re a very fit person who is naturally active, you probably don’t need a lot of training. It’s a non technical climb, so the actual terrain is easy to traverse, but it’s difficult because you need stamina, it’s steep, and because of the lack of oxygen as you get high up. If you’re not very fit and don’t have a great deal of stamina, I would recommend training :)

      Let me know if you have any other questions, always happy to help!

  5. Kilimanjaro sounds like a great adventure but of course I imagine that being well prepared to such a trip is absolutely mandatory. What I didn’t know is that one should choose polyester or nylon over cotton. That’s a very clever tip!

    • It truly is an epic adventure, but it’s one of the most difficult non technical treks in the world, so preparation = success. Yes, my personal preference for long hikes is to ditch the cotton. Comfortable hiking clothes should be your #1 priority.

  6. OK so there are things that, in my late 50s, I now believe I have left too late. This is one of them. But, I love your comprehensive guide and I’m living the climb vicariously through your chapped lips and three ws of clothing! an excellent post.!

    • It really depend on how fit you are. There were men and women in their 60’s and 70’s climbing when I was doing it, and on the opposite end of the spectrum, a 13 year old boy who just ploughed up! I really don’t think age is a factor, though if you have health issues, or bad knees, it could definitely make it a lot tougher. If you’re physically fit and in good health, go for it!

      So glad you enjoyed the post :)

  7. I have always wanted to do this but I had severe altitude sickness in Peru so I don’t think it will happen. You’re first aid and medication lists are spot on too. Preparation is key for a trek like this. Isn’t this where you met your husband too?!?

    • Good memory, yes this is where Mike and I met; at the bottom after both having completely the climb individually. Small world! If you have trouble with altitude, it could definitely be a challenge taking on Kilimanjaro, but if it’s something you really want to do, you could seek out advise from your local doctor, and perhaps look into traveling with some oxygen – I think a couple of people on the climb were carrying oxygen when I did it because they suffer quite badly from altitude too.

  8. I agree with all of your points. Altitude Sickness, as you say , is one of the biggest killer as well as deterrent to high altitude trekking. Vasu had been to Everest base camp and he had to stay put in a place to acclimatize for every 600meters of altitude gain.

    • Very clever approach for Everest re staying put in a place to acclimatize every 600 meters. It can sometimes be really frustrating to go so slowly when you just want to get to the summitt, and I remember one day we climbed up part of Kili just to climb back down again and camp at a lower altitude than we had reached that day. But it’s so important to acclimatize properly; slow and steady wins the race here!

  9. great packing list – climbing Kilimanjaro is high on my list so no surprise to me to read about how tough it is and all that you need to accomplish it. Great tip btw about breaking in hiking shoes ahead of time – sometimes I’m shocked that people don’t think of that ahead of time and wind up with terrible blisters!

    • Thanks Gaby, I hope you do have the chance to take on the trek at some stage. Yes, I wore new hiking shoes for the first time on a trek years before Kilimanjaro, and only had to learn the lesson once! I now walk around the house in new shoes to break them in for a couple of weeks before I take on anything big. Not worth the blister pain!

  10. Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro is definitely on my bucket list someday, and now I see that I need to get a little more prepared. I don’t think I’ve ever had a yellow fever vaccination, and I don’t even have traveler’s insurance. I should probably get a better small backpack, and the tips for breaking in the boots early and bringing a good medical kit are invaluable!

    • Glad we could help you out with some tips to keep in the back of your mind for when you do organize the trek. You’ll definitely need the yellow fever shot; and if you do it before kilimanjaro, make sure you keep the certificate, I think it’s usually good for 10 years. It’s a relatively painful injection as far as injections go so you don’t want to have to have it twice because you can’t find the certificate!

      Highly recommend travel insurance for a trek of such high risk too. That said it’s incredibly rewarding, just a couple of things to sort out before you go to make it a safe trip.

      Hope you do have the opportunity to tackle it soon!

  11. I would need to bring two special things. A psychiatrist (to advise me that this is a VERY dumb idea) and a helicopter (to ensure that I do reach the top).

    • Bahaha I was wondering on multiple occasions throughout the trek why I had thought it was a good idea lol. But it’s worthwhile once you get to the top, and definitely a trek which allows you to really push yourself and discover your physical and mental limits. It was a very transformative experience.

  12. This is a great post for perfect packing for climbing Mt Kilimanjaro. I liked the concept of 3 W’s which is really important. Breaking the shoes before any trek always help. And yes carrying first aid kit, along with AMS medication is really important. Great informative post.

    • Thanks Suruchi! Yes absolutely; every item you pack should satisfy either warmth, weight and waterproofing. Otherwise, don’t bring it!

      Breaking in shoes before the trek is such an important thing; it’s already tough enough without having to walk for 8 hours a day with blisters. Though worst case, if you’ve packed a good first aid kit you should at least have bandaids and bandages on hand to treat them!

  13. I think it’s vital to be prepared for any climb, especially for this tough one! Climbing Kilimanjaro is a dream for me, but I’ll never be able to do it (knee condition). However, I’d add that having proper medication, proper clothing (not cotton and jeans, as you said), and water are basic for any climb (I do go on shorter and easier ones and when I see a lady in high heels… on a mountain… well, you get the idea :). It looks like you had an amazing experience!

    • I agree, preparation regardless of the level of difficulty is always key, and you should always be able to prepare with the basics for any climb. Lol it always astounds me when I see people trying to do even a lookout climb in high heels! Each to their own I guess!!!

      It was an amazing experience indeed, but yes, unfortunately it would be very bad on your knees. Glad to hear that you still love climbing though, there are so many incredible short walks everywhere :)

  14. I went in September 2010 with my daughter. She was the youngest and I was the oldest (62). Definitely the experience in my life that is right at the top (excuse the pun).

    I enjoyed this post as it brought back so many memories for me.

    Obote was out guide and we were the first group that had all submitted together!

    There’s a post on my website as well about the climb if you get time to read :-)

    Well done :-)

    • Hi Joycee, small world, I climbed in August 2010! We probably would have just missed each other!

      So glad you enjoyed the post and that your climb brings back fond memories. Massive congrats on getting your whole group to the top – only 4 of our 7 made it. It’s definitely tough!

      I’ll jump through to your website to find the post about your climb. Thanks for the heads up!

  15. We just couldn’t squeeze Kilimanjaro trek into our safari schedule last time, but it has been on our list since. Reading your post reminds me that for us it was probably a good thing. The hike sounds to be a serious one – I think it’ll be much more enjoyable now that we’ve been training actively. Thanks for a comprehensive packing list, gotta add a solid headlamp on my shopping list!

    • Just means you have a fabulous excuse to visit again … and maybe a second safari can be your reward for conquering Kilimanjaro :D

      It’s definitely attainable if you’ve been training actively, and you should be able to enjoy it a lot more as you said. Glad you enjoyed the post! Feel free to email me if you have any questions when you do go to do the climb :)

  16. I really enjoyed your blog .This is a great post for perfect packing for climbing Mt Kilimanjaro.Thank you for sharing

    • Thanks Jessy, glad the post was helpful for you :) Have an incredible climb!

  17. Hey, very nice post! I’m going on a hiking trip in two weeks (nothing too hardcore as Kilimanjaro!) and got some new boots. Thank God I read this or I’d probably would’ve had a horrible time, haha. Wearing them right now!

    • So glad we could catch you before your hike Darryl – definitely start wearing those boots in :) Have a great trip!

  18. There is some great advice here- thanks! I have recently climbed the mountain and I found that some advice specifically for girls would be quite useful so I’ve written a post here. Hopefully your (female) readers will find this helpful!

    • You’re welcome Hayley, thanks for sharing your post for solo women, I’ll check it out :)

  19. Did your phone work in Kenya Meg? Nathan has an iphone and I have a couple of different “breeds”. I was planning on buying a sim at the airport so that I could keep in touch with Australia.

    • Yep it worked ok, you’ll need a local SIM though if you want it to work on Kilimanjaro, porters were getting cell reception right at the top, but international services weren’t working – it’s been quite a few years now since I was there though so this could very well have improved since I went.

    • Meg Jerrard thank you

  20. On my wish list!

    • Hope you have the chance to tackle Kili at some stage soon :)

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