Mountain Climbing Gear for Mount Kilimanjaro: What You Need to Bring
The highest point of Mt. Kilimanjaro is 19,340 feet (5,865 meters).
Many thrill-seekers have climbed it over the years, which is by no means a small task. Climbing a mountain of this size takes a lot of hard work, and if you don’t have the right equipment you’ll be in for a bad time.
For some of the essential mountain climbing gear you’ll need to reach the top of Kilimanjaro, keep reading.
Climbing a mountain is physically demanding, but that doesn’t mean you should dress like you’re going to the gym. As you reach higher altitudes the air will get colder, so you want to have warm clothing. Bring multiple layers so you can easily add or remove them as needed.
Early in the morning will be a lot colder than the afternoon, so it’s best to have some varied clothes for mountain climbing. In addition, the climb ascends through 5 distinct climate zones, starting in the rain forest and ending in the alpine zone. Conditions can be unpredictable, so it’s good to have options.
Some things to make sure you have are:
- Underwear (3-4 pair depending on the length of your trek)
- Hiking socks (2-3 pair)
- Short and long sleeve hiking shirts (1-2 of each)
- Trekking shorts and/or pants (2-3)
- Light fleece/pullover (1)
- Waterproof jacket/pants (1)
- Down or warm synthetic jacket (1)
- Hats for warm and cold weather (baseball cap and wool or fleece lined hat, 1 of each)
- Sturdy and worn-in boots (preferably waterproof)
- Warm gloves & mittens (merino wool glove liners are excellent to wear inside your mittens!)
- Warm base-layers (top and bottoms – merino wool is perfect for its warmth and wicking qualities)
- Balaclava (to keep your face warm on summit night)
It’s wise to stay away from cotton as it absorbs moisture, so will soak up plenty of sweat. Wool and dri-fit polyester will pass sweat through and into the air, so are more suitable.
Note that our Kilimanjaro treks take 6-9 days, so you’ll need enough gear to cover this.
Without a good pair of hiking shoes, you’re not likely to get very far. Many people go on hikes with just a pair of sneakers, thinking that because they’re comfortable they’ll do the job. We strongly advise against this, as sneakers aren’t suitable for even a mild hike, let alone climbing a mountain like Kilimanjaro.
You want a pair of shoes that are sturdy and durable. A good grip will stop you from slipping and ankle support is ideal to reduce the risk of injury. Waterproof shoes are also an option, just bear in mind that these generally cost a bit more.
Some brands you should look into are Merrell, Keen, Salomon, and North Face. You should try your shoes on first to make sure they’re a good fit. It’s also very important to break them in before you take on any big hikes in them. The last thing you want is to discover your boots are not comfortable in the middle of a long trek. Blisters are no fun!
You could have all the best gear for climbing, but if you don’t stay hydrated you’ll quickly start to struggle. You don’t need anything too fancy, just make sure you at least have a sturdy reusable bottle and that you keep it full. The recommended amount of water to drink each day of the climb is 3 liters (approximately 100 ounces). Bring a 2L Nalgene bottle (available at REI) and stow it in your daypack. It’s also a good idea to bring a hydration bladder to supplement your water intake throughout the trek. However, be aware that hydration bladder tubes can easily freeze when the temperatures drop near the summit. A great tip to avoid freezing of the tube is to wrap it in a t-shirt or purchase a hydration bladder insulator, such as this one from Osprey.
If you want to be a bit more efficient you could go with a hydration bladder. This way you can drink on the move without having to keep taking your bag on and off to get your bottle out.
On top of plenty of water, you’ll need food to fuel your body on the climb. Things like fruit & nut mixes, energy bars, granola bars, etc. make great snacks.
Many people don’t have breakfast in their day-to-day lives, but you definitely want to be having a good meal each day before you set off. If you don’t you’ll quickly tire out. Our trips include all meals and beverages (except personal snacks) on the mountain, so we have you covered! Our expert chef prepares delicious, nutritious, and filling breakfasts, lunches, and dinners each day of your trek. Some examples of food that is cooked for you are:
oatmeal, eggs, pancakes, toast, fresh fruit, nutella, peanut butter, jam, potatoes, juice, milk, tea, coffee
Hot soup, chicken, rice, potatoes, vegetables, bread, pasta, beverages
Hot soup, meat, pasta, salad, vegetables, rice, potatoes, bread, beverages
Fresh popcorn, fruit, cookies, biscuits, hot chocolate, coffee, tea
If you want to immortalize your trip in videos or pictures you may want to take a camera or GoPro with you. A phone will do the job, but might not do proper justice to the sights you’ll see along the Kilimanjaro routes.
As your trip will last upwards of a week you should also bring a portable charger. If your camera dies 3 days in and you can’t charge it you might not be able to get any pictures of some of the best parts of the hike.
Bear in mind that higher capacity portable chargers can be quite heavy, and the extra weight will make the trek harder. Try to find one that’s enough for your trip, but not unnecessarily big. Check out these options for some of the best lightweight chargers.
When you’re trying to figure out what to pack there are several things that you can easily forget.
You’re going to be exposed to plenty of sunlight, so you want to protect yourself from this. Sunscreen is a good idea – getting burned on your first day could ruin the whole experience for you. A hat and sunglasses are also ideal to protect your face.
You will probably encounter a lot of mosquitos on your trip, so you should bring some mosquito repellent with you. Ones that contain DEET are best, and it’s most important to apply at dawn or dusk as that’s when you are most likely to get bitten.
In summary, here is a list of some of the other essential gear for your trip:
- Trekking poles (here is a list of the best ones for 2022)
- Headlamp (such as this one from Black Diamond)
- Personal toiletries (don’t forget your toothbrush!)
- Personal medications (including Diamox for altitude sickness, if you choose to take it)
- Insect repellent
- Bandana or Buff
Backpack and Large Duffel Bag
Now that you’ve got your packing list sorted, you need something to carry everything in. You want a daypack that’s durable, comfortable, and an ideal size.
Go too big and you’ll be lugging around a larger bag than needed. Too small and you’ll have to leave some of your gear behind. Most people go with something around 35-40 liters.
It’s best to get one in a shop rather than online so you can try it on. It needs to fit your torso correctly to make your trek as comfortable as possible.
Some bags come with a rain cover, but if you get one that doesn’t you might want to buy one separately. All your kit getting wet is never a good time.
Importantly, you will also need a large waterproof duffel bag, preferably 90-100L, in which to pack your sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and most of your clothing (except your rain gear and maybe a change of shirt and socks, which you’ll carry in your daypack). Your personal porter will carry this for you up the mountain. Our recommendation is Osprey, or this one from Thule.
Once You’ve Got the Right Mountain Climbing Gear
If you’re confident you’ve got all the right mountain climbing gear and you’re prepared, both physically and mentally, so can start organizing your trip.
Roam Wild Adventure offers several different routes up Mt. Kilimanjaro. Visit our site to see our 9-Day Northern Circuit Route – the most comprehensive Kilimanjaro trek we offer, or contact us to help you plan your Kili adventure.