Planning to climb Kilimanjaro? You are in for a real adventure! We have completed many of the top-rated treks around the world, so read on for a complete packing list and our tips for reaching Uhuru Peak. Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa and reaching Uhuru Peak at the top is a challenging trek that can be completed by ascending various routes.
The seven summits are the highest mountains of each of the seven continents and climbing all seven is a prestigious mountaineering challenge to complete. Kilimanjaro is the seven summit mountain in Africa and is also the world’s highest free-standing mountain at an altitude of 5895m. We have done two ‘seven summits ascends’, Kilimanjaro and Mount Elbrus in Russia, the highest peak in Europe.
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro
Climbing Kilimanjaro is often called a trek since it is not a technical ascend and mountaineering skills are not required. Just shy of 6000 m above sea level it is a serious mountain and a tough climb, do not underestimate Kili. Having the correct gear is important and will help you to be successful to reach the summit. Choosing the correct route is important. All routes are not the same, the Marangu route has huts, while the other routes are done camping. The different routes have very different success rates.
Unlike other high altitude treks like the trek to Everest Base Camp you are not allowed to climb Kilimanjaro independently, you have to do it with a certified guide and this can only be done through a trekking company. Climbing Kilimanjaro is an expensive venture, I will recommend you go with a reputable company, it is safer and you will have a lot less hassles. The average trek price is $2000 to $4000. For a complete guide on all routes, different packages and options see our Guide to Climbing Kilimanjaro.
Packing to Climb Kilimanjaro
Packing for climbing Kilimanjaro is very different from packing for a long independent trek. Irrespective of which company you use you will have porters carrying gear, food and water for the duration of the trek. The crew normally consists of several porters carrying tents, luggage and gear, a cook and guides.
You will only be carrying a daypack with things like snacks, a rain jacket, and a camera. You have the option to rent all gear required for the trek from most operators and pay extra per item. Having your own equipment is definitely a safer option to make sure you have quality equipment that fits properly to keep you comfortable, warm and dry, this is very important to make the trek more enjoyable and will help you to get to the summit.
Most operators have all gear necessary, so if you forget something you can always rent it upon arrival. Our trekking company gave us a checklist and before the trek our guide went through everything we packed with us.
You will have a bag with your clothes and gear carried by a porter and a daypack that you will carry. Extra luggage can be left with the operator so it is best to have a separate suitcase or bag to leave belongings not required on the trek.
Packing your Daypack for the Kilimanjaro trek
A small, good quality hiking daypack with a raincover is ideal. The Osprey Stratos 24 Hiking Backpack is a top quality light weight, comfortable daypack with an attached cover, internal hydration sleeve to accommodate a hydration pack and attachments for trekking poles and water bottles. The pack should have more than enough packing space to function as a daypack.
Rain poncho is a great light alternative to a rain jacket. A poncho that can fit over you with a pack, small, light will keep you and your pack dry.
You will need enough water everyday and carry a bottle in your daypack, the guides will provide you with water on the way to fill your bottle. Buy a Nalgene, most popular, top quality water bottle for years.
A hydration bladder also works well to keep you hydrated, Wacool, leakproof bladder it is great that you do not have to stop or get help to reach your water and can just sip all the time on the way, just buy a quality bladder, if they leak it is a mess.
Fantastic piece of clothing, the BUFF Multifunctional Headwear is great for sun protection, I have one in the colors of my country flag, cool for photos on the summit!
I did not use gloves, only on summit night, but thin fleece gloves can be handy in the mornings if it is cold.
Pack waterproof/sweat proof sun protection, I always have this Banana Boat ultra sport in my pack.
I will recommend sunglasses for hiking in the mountains with high UV protection and polarized lenses.
Packing your Backpack for Climbing Kilimanjaro
Your main pack will be carried by a porter (unless you insist on carrying it), they tend to not wear the backpacks so a duffel bag is perfect, exactly what this one was made for The North Face Base Camp Duffel. Some companies do provide you with a duffel bag, so just confirm this before buying.
For a great backpack for hiking or traveling, check out these quality dual purpose packs from Osprey. They open on the top (trekking pack) and in front for easy access to your gear.
Wear shoes that are comfortable, waterproof with good grip, still breathable and shoes I always go for well known, quality brands.
Should you climb Mount Kilimanjaro in boots or shoes? I will recommend boots, but it is only really necessary for summit night. Many porters walk in sneakers, but for mere mortals proper trekking footwear is essential when it is cold, on summit night you will be walking in the dark on rocks, stones and maybe even snow. If you do not have hiking experience I would go for a higher cut for some ankle support. Wearing merino wool socks in waterproof hiking shoes, the temperature should not be a problem.
Our favorite hiking boots is Salomon X ULTRA 3 MID GTX waterproof, Gortex boots. These shoes are amazing, very light and breathable. We have walked in deep snow and hot climates with ours and were very happy. Ladies – Salomon X ULTRA 3 MID GTX Ladies
If you prefer to walk in a low cut hiking shoe I can recommend – Merrell Moab 2 Waterproof durable, waterproof, comfortable, have good grip. Alya walked more than 3000 km in these great Merrel’s. Columbia Dakota Drifter is another good shoe that is a bit cheaper.
Clothes to Pack for Climbing Kilimanjaro
Layering is the term for wearing a couple of layers of clothing, this makes it easy to adjust for temperature changes. Multiple thin layers of breathable clothes will keep you warmer than one thick layer because air is trapped between the layers improving insulation and keeping you warm.
Wear three layers; base, middle and outer layer. Base layer (underwear) that wicks (draws moisture away) sweat off your skin a synthetic material that does not absorb moisture works well. Middle layer is for insulation: retaining body heat. The Outer layer (the shell) must be waterproof and windproof.
Quick dry, light hiking pants or in the rainy season- warmer waterproof pants. For me I was very comfortable in trekking pants everyday and combined it with thermal underpants on summit night. Ladies pack trekking pants and yoga pants. Light and more comfortable.
The North Face stretch down jacket – light to pack, very warm this is good to wear under a hard shell, rain jacket on summit night and in the camp at night. On high altitude hikes, the piece of clothing I wear most often.
Hiking shirt – I will recommend you do not wear cotton, cotton clothes get wet from sweating making it very cold. Alya wears breathable, moisture wicking, quick dry T-shirts, packing a long sleeve shirt and one short sleeve T-shirt. I prefer Columbia shirts, quick dry, protects against sun burn, easy to wash.
Sport bras – they are great for hiking and outdoors, Alya says that she prefers sport bras over normal bras.
Thermal underwear – really recommend to pack it with, you can use thermals (men’s models) for sleeping and as an extra layer for hiking if it gets cold. I always take normal cotton socks for sleeping as well.
Underwear – take two-three pairs with depending on a hike duration.
Merino wool socks – work great, always wear them for hiking. merino wool socks ; don’t absorb odors, protect your feet, dry quick and very durable. For even more comfortable walk check Darn Tough hiking socks they’re famous for great foot support and blister protection. Alya likes their ladies’ models; colorful and funky.
Beanie – since I don’t have much hair I often wear a beanie.
As an outer core layer
You can wear a thick, waterproof jacket such as the North Face Nuptse Jacket, when climbing Mount Elbrus it was -20C. If you do the trek in the cold season this might be necessary. Ladies Nuptse Jacket
Also check out this awesome new omni heat technology down jacket from Columbia; light, flexible, waterproof.
Kilimanjaro Trek Accessories
Balaclava/ski mask I loved wearing a ski mask on summit day, it was cold!
Gaiters – Waterproof Windproof Warm Shoes Cover. Your shoes often fill with water and debris from the top. Keep them dry and keep snow, debris and dust out while hiking in any terrain or weather. Nice on Kili when going down on the skree surface, very handy to navigate the loose rocks.
Trekking Poles – helps a lot on the down, less impact on your knees and joints. On summit day during the steep climb at high altitude you will be very happy that you packed these babies! Also great during the fast, steep descent over the slippery skreet.
TrailBuddy Hiking Sticks good value, strong, well rated, aluminum hiking poles.
High end quality Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock Trekking Pole.
It gets very cold in a tent at night. Stay warm in sub zero temperatures. Down is awesome, you won’t regret it! Kelty Cosmic 20 Degree DriDown Sleeping Bag
Microfibre towels light, quick dry, takes little space. Active Roots Microfiber Travel Towel
Travel wet wipes great for washing instead of shower if it is cold.
It is a good idea to keep electronics to a minimum, but since we accurately record our adventure we are not too good on that point. Off course we have lost some gear on some of our treks. Falling into a river and taking my DSLR camera and lenses for a swim while trekking in Namibia was tragic.
Probably the most important piece of electronic equipment, make sure you trekking with a new set of batteries, one set should be more than enough. A good headlamp is very important for summit night, you will be climbing in the dark for hours! Also in your tent and around camp at night not to be left stranded in the dark. We have been using our Petzl’s for ages, Petzl Actic 300 Lumen waterproof headlamp
There are fantastic opportunities to take photos on the mountain. I left the DSLR at home and took simpler gear. A good option for a lighter camera that takes great photos and video is the Canon G7x Camera
If you don’t want to worry about weather, the new Olympus Tough is waterproof, shockproof and takes great photos and video, it is made for this kind of action.
The new Go Pro cameras take unreal videos and don’t underestimate the photos you can take with this magic little camera. We use our Go Pro for vlogging. The stabilization when taking video is fantastic and the camera is great for wide angle photos. You will fall in love the new Go Pro Hero 9 it even has 2 screens, including a front screen to frame selfie footage! The only negative about the Go Pro is its low light performance and most of summit day is in the dark, so that is something to consider.
I always take my kindle hiking, awesome to read for a couple of minutes in the tent before falling asleep. The new Kindle Paperwhite has a backlight and is waterproof! Perfect for trekking.
Your phone is also a great tool to pack for a camera, games and more. Check out the Samsung Galaxy S10; long battery life, good video stabilization, water resistant.
We always carry a power bank to charge all our electronics with. This Fos Power Bank is waterproof and shockproof.
Keep it to the minimum, mainly stuff for sun protection and keeping everything clean.
- A bar of soap (we usually take a small hotel soap or cut a piece of a normal bar).
- Hand Sanitizer, keep it in your day pack if you want to eat something or need the toilet.
- Baby wipes, very handy for cleaning your hands, we use them at night in the tent to wash ourselves with if there is no shower, works very well, Alya always jokes that we do a ‘cat wash’.
- Sunblock SPF50, take something that is water/sweat resistant, love Banana Boat Sport Sunblock.
- Toothbrush and toothpaste (almost finished one)
First Aid Kit
The trekking company you go with should pack a comprehensive first aid kit and your guide should be trained in first aid. Here are some essentials I always pack for high altitude trekking.
- pain killers paracetemol/aspirin/ibuprofen
- imodium for an upset stomach
- rehydrate hydration packs (isotonic drink powder) for when you are dehydrated and helps with cramping
- Altitude RX Oxyboost Complex for Mountain Sickness – natural remedy preventing altitude sickness, have not tried them, but read about 500 good reviews.
- Plasters – take enough to cover or prevent blisters. Compeed – a special plaster that you can put on blisters, it reduces the pain and protects against rubbing. There are special blister prevention patches for shoes.
Booking to Climb Kilimanjaro
There are many options to book and organize your Kilimanjaro expedition. We discuss different options in detail in our Climb Kilimanjaro Guide. Support a company that is a KPAP (Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project) partner, checking that the crew is treated correctly and not exploited. Also check that the agency has an in date TALA trekking license and read TripAdvisor and Facebook reviews.
There are many local and international companies offering Kilimanjaro expeditions. Reputable international companies G-Adventures and Intrepid travel offer several Kilimanjaro treks starting at about $2100 it is possible to combine the trek with their Africa overland truck tours.
If you are planning to climb Kili and working out your budget, remember to prepare to pay a 10% tip for your porter and guide team, discuss any reservations you might have ahead with your trekking company. I am sure you will love climbing Kilimanjaro!
About Author – Campbell
The strong half of Stingy Nomads, a nomadic aquaman that would be happy to spend all his life in the water diving, surfing and spearfishing but often has to compromise with Alya and go hiking instead. Campbell is responsible for all our marine adventures and following them with write-ups. He loves traveling, braai (BBQ in South Africa), red wine and spending the day in a wetsuit.