KILIMANJARO ADVENTURE GUIDE

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EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW before TAKING ON AFRICA's tallest mountain


KILIMANJARO GEAR GUIDE

 
 

Use our Kilimanjaro gear checklist as a guide for what to pack, but also use your own best judgement and discretion when choosing exactly what you'll need (no one knows you better than you)! Our biggest piece of advice is to pack as light and smart as possible and bring durable, multi use items. Your large duffel, which will be carried by a porter from camp to camp, has a strict 15 kg weight limit (including your sleeping bag), and you will carry your personal necessities (camera, rain layers, sunscreen, etc...) in your day pack. (While you’re trekking, you’ll be able to store additional luggage safely at the hotel.)

We always choose climbing dates that are during the dry seasons, but remember that no one can predict what the weather will do on Kili (that’s part of the adventure)! Mid December-March and June-October are the recommended months to climb Kilimanjaro and are usually full of cloud free days and mild weather, relatively speaking. On average, the temperature during the day at 4,000 m tends to be 15°C (50°F) and -10°C (14°F) at night. At the summit, temperatures are usually about 5°C (41°F) during the day and around -20°C (-4°F ) at night. It sounds really cold, but remember you’ll be moving, and with the right layers and proper gear, it’s nothing you can’t handle!

Your local outdoor outfitter is a great resource if you have any questions regarding the specifics of what you need. Tell them what you are doing and they’ll be able to help you make sure you’re getting the proper gear for Kili conditions. Also, keep in mind, you can rent equipment to cut down on costs. As usual, never hesitate to reach out to us if you have any concerns or questions. Be sure to check out our What to Wear to Uhuru Peak Gear Guide and 5 Not So Common Must-Haves for your Trek on the our like WHOA blog.

 
 

UP TOP

 
 

2 HATS 

Bring something light with a brim for sunny days, and a warm beanie that will cover your ears for colder nights. Both are great for hiding dirty hair too!

 
 

2-3 PAIRS OF GLOVES  

Bring one mid weight lightly insulated pair, and one more serious thermal, insulated outer pair with removable liners for summit night.  

 
 

3-4 MOISTURE WICKING TOPS  

Bring a few lightweight tops, so you can layer and re-wear them. Pack a mixture of tanks and long sleeve options. 

 
 

3-4 MEDIUM LAYErS  

These will provide insulation, and include, but are not limited to, thin fleeces, light down jackets, and vests that you can easily stuff in your daypack and layer on and off as your temperature and the conditions change. 

 
 

1 OUTER LAYER JACKET

A breathable, water and wind proof jacket with a hood that you can wear comfortably over all your layers. This is a must-have at higher altitudes and to layer on in the case of rain. 

 
 

1 BALACLAVA  

Not to be confused with a Baklava, this is a quadruple threat! It’s great for keeping your entire head, ears, neck and face warm when it’s really cold and windy, especially summit night.

 
 

DOWN LOW

 
 

1 PAIR HIKING BOOTS 

The most important thing you’ll bring! Make sure they are Gore-Tex, have ankle support, and that you’ve broken them in nice and good. 

 
 

1 PAIR CAMP SHOES 

Comfy, closed toed, easy to slip on shoes are great to have for camps, and going to the bathroom at night. Trust us, the last thing you want to do is put your boots back on after a long day of hiking. We love our CROCS for this - they’re lightweight and durable. 

 
 

4-5 BOTTOMS

You’ll want a few pairs of pants to last you the entire trek. Bring at least one pair of shorts or capris for the hotter days in the rainforest, and a few pairs of long pants or leggings to layer on as it gets colder. For summit night, you can either layer a few thermal and fleece pants under your lightweight outer layer pant to keep you shielded from the elements, or warm ski pants.

 
 

1 WIND + WATERPROOF PANT

A non-insulated, outer layer pant is a must-have to layer on over your base layers in the case of rain or wind.

 
 

ALL ABOUT THAT BASE

 
 

1-2 THERMAL BASE LAYERS

A thin, snug fitting, moisture wicking top and bottom set that you can wear underneath everything at higher altitudes to regulate your body temperature by keeping sweat away from your skin. We recommend a sport synthetic fabric like polyester or merino wool.

 
 

4-5 PAIRS WARM SOCKS

Bring durable wool socks in a few different weights - lighter for the hotter days, and serious heavy ones the nights and colder days. A couple pairs of liner socks are great to help prevent blisters too! 

 
 

2-3 SPORTS BRAS

Bring bras that provide support, feel comfortable against your skin, dry quickly and don't bind, smoosh or chafe.

 
 

4-5 UNDERWEAR

Even better if they’re the quick dry wicking kind! The amount you bring is based on personal preference. Another stay fresh tip we love is to use ultra thin panty liners that you can easily dispose of and change everyday instead of wearing a new pair of underwear.

 
 

GET YOUR ARSE IN GEAR

 
 

1 DAY PACK

You’ll need a basic, light weight hiking backpack to wear everyday to carry your water, extra layers, snacks, etc… Something around 28 L is perfect. We recommend getting one that is compatible with a water bladder and hose, and has a built-in rain cover.

 
 

1 LARGE WATERPROOF DUFFEL

This will store all of your gear and clothing for the trek, and will be carried from camp to camp by one of our amazing porters. It’s important to note, that it must be less than 15 kg all packed (approx. 75-90 liters). You can rent these from us, just be sure to note it in our Pre-Adventure HUB.

 
 

1 WATER BLADDER

Staying hydrated is of the upmost importance! We highly recommend getting a 3 L Camelbak with an insulated tube and cap. It’s the easiest way to carry and drink your water, while trekking.

 
 

1 WATER BOTTLE

Bring a 1 L wide mouth, BPA free plastic water bottle or Nalgene. You'll want this on summit night when your Camelback might freeze.

 
 

1 PAIR TREKKING POLES

Three-section, adjustable-height models are best. You can save space and rent these from us locally, just be sure to make a note of that in our Pre-Adventure HUB.

 
 

1 PAIR GAITERS

You’ll wear these over the top part of your shoe and lower pant leg, these help protect your feet from any water, dirt and pebbles that might try to sneak in. These are especially great for the downhill portions of the trek. You can rent these from us, just be sure to note it in our Pre-Adventure HUB.

 
 

1 RAIN PONCHO

Sometimes, like in the rain forest, it’s too hot and uncomfortable to wear your waterproof jacket, so a poncho is perfect to throw on to protect you and day pack. Not to mention, if it's raining a lot, using only a rain jacket and pack cover will leave too much exposed and your straps will get soaked. 

 
 

1 FOUR SEASON SLEEPING BAG

Thermarest sleeping mats are provided free of charge to everyone on our treks!

 
 

1 SLEEPING BAG LINER

This will add an extra layer of warmth at night, and is a must have if you’re using a rented sleeping bag. 

 
 

1 BUFF OR BANDANA

An all around great item to always have with you. You can use it as a neck gaiter, head band, sweat rag, etc...

 
 

1 HEAD LAMP + EXTRA BATTERIES

Important for when the sun sets at camp, and on summit night when we're hiking through the night. Start the trek with fresh batteries, and bring a spare set just in case. 

 
 

POLARIZED SUNGLASSES

Protect yourself from the fierce equatorial, mountain sun! Make sure they fit well and are UV-blocking and polarized. 

 
 

CAMERA + EXTRA BATTERIES

There are so many amazing photo ops! DSLRs can be cumbersome to have with you while trekking, but nowadays, most smartphones have great cameras and are compact and durable enough to work well in the mountain conditions. Compact point-and-shoots work well too, just make sure no matter what you choose to bring, that you have spare batteries and/or portable battery chargers. Always pack your electronics in waterproof bags/cases. 

 
 

ALL THE SMALL THINGS

 
 

MEDS

Consult with your physician on any prescription medication you might need for this adventure, especially Diamox, a common medication taken for preventing altitude sickness. Other common medications you might want to bring along include, pain relievers, anti-histamines, antidiarrheals, etc…

 
 

PASSPORT

Make sure it’s valid for 6 months after your adventure dates, and it’s always a good idea to travel with an extra photocopy of it. Bring a Ziploc/waterproof bag to keep it dry when it’s on the mountain with you.

 
 

FIRST AID

We’ll have all this stuff on hand, but make sure you have a compact kit with Neosporin, bug spray, band-aids, moleskin, duct tape, anti-septic, etc... 

 
 

SUNSCREEN + LIPSCREEN

This is a must have for being in the strong mountain sun all day! Bring a new, full tube with an SPF rating of 30+.

 
 

TOILETRIES

Don’t forget the essentials like travel sized deodorant, sun screen, lotion, hair ties, hair brush, face wipes, tampons,contact solution, toothbrush and toothpaste etc… 

 
 

QUICK DRY TOWEL + LOTS OF WET WIPES

Who needs running water and a shower?! Don't forget about the environment and make sure your wet wipes are biodegradable. 

 
 

2 LUGGAGE LOCKS

Always lock your things! Have one for your duffel on the mountain, and have one to lock your suitcase that will stay at the hotel while you’re trekking. 

 
 

BAGS, BAGS, BAGS

You’ll want to bring along several durable bags in all shapes and sizes to help organize, pack, and separate dirty clothing and gear, and to carry trash. Everything from Ziplocks to heavy garbage bags to stuff sacks.  

 
 

SNACKS

There’s plenty of hearty food provided at meals, but bring lots of extra snacks. The days are long and you need to keep your energy up! Bring nutrient rich things like protein bars, trail mix and electrolyte powder. It’s common to lose your appetite at high altitude, so bring some comfort foods like crackers and candy!

 
 

OFF THE MOUNTAIN

 
 

For the days you’ll spend off the mountain know that Tanzania is warm and casual. We recommend packing light dresses, tops, capris and comfortable sandals and/or sneakers (walking is the best way to get around town). Bring a light sweater or scarf to cover your shoulders when it cools down in the evenings and when visiting town. When visiting local organizations or schools wear skirts, dresses or pants that cover your knees and tops that cover your shoulders and are not low cut. It’s also best to avoid tight pants and leggings (unless covered by a long shirt) - this is out of respect for the local culture. If you are going on a safari before or after, pack earth tones like khaki, brown and dull green, and avoid bright colors - especially blue because it attracts tsetse flies! Bring small bills for meals, drinks and souvenirs. Most places take US dollars but they must be marked past 2009. All meals and tips are included on our trek so you won’t need to bring any cash on the mountain with you, but you’ll want it for town.

 
 
 

KILIMANJARO FACTS

 

Kilimanjaro is the TALLEST free-standing mountain in the world.

It's also home to the highest peak in Africa: Uhuru Peak at 5,895 meters.

 

While classified as a mountain, KILI is actually made up of three volcanic coneS.

They were formed by the Great Rift Valley, and are called Shira (3,962m), Mawenzi (5,159m), and Kibo (5,895m). While the other two volcanic formations are extinct, some believe Kibo could erupt again one day. The last major eruption was around 360,000 years ago, but some volcanic activity was recorded just 200 years ago.

 
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Despite the strong equatorial sun, There's A glacier on top of Kilimanjaro.

It’s brilliant white color is what allows it to survive as it reflects most of the sun’s heat. However, the icecap has shrunk in size by more than 80 percent since 1912, and it’s predicted that it will be gone in 15 years, perhaps sooner.

 

Once above 4,000 meterS, around Karanga Camp on day 4, the temperature drops by 1°C FOR every 150 meters you ascend.

 

TALK ABOUT STAR POWER! There’s VERY little light pollution on Kilimanjaro, so the stars of the Southern Hemisphere are vibrant and plentiful.

You won’t see the Big Dipper, but you can see the iconic Southern Cross, which is very pronounced thanks the dark nebulae within the Milky Way.

 

KILIMANJARO CLIMATE ZONES

 

ZONE 1:
RAINFOREST

Elevation: 800 - 2,800 m
Avg Temp Range: 32 - 15 °C

Drenched by about six and a half feet of rain each year, the rain forest is lush, green and bursting with life year round. Colobus and Blue monkeys, mongoose and lots of birds and insects can be found amongst the giant ferns, vines, juniper, fig and olive trees. There are lots of endemic flowers for you to look out for too - including violets, orchids and the famous Impatiens Kilimanjari!

 

ZONE 2:
THE HEATH

Elevation: 2,800 - 3,500 m
Avg Temp Range: 26 - 0 °C

Mist and fog cling to the lower edge of the forest in this zone, but, above the tree line, the land opens out into a clear and cool landscape full of mosses and grasses that are vital for safeguarding the soil and conserving the fleeting moisture. Here you’ll also see everlasting flowers, like Proteas, tall plants with red or yellow tubular blossoms called Red Hot Pokers, and single daisy-like flowers called Helichrysum Meyeri Johannis.

 

ZONE 3:
MOORLAND

Elevation: 3,500 - 4,000 m
Avg Temp Range: 26 - 0 °C

Sometimes known as the Low Alpine Zone, the air feels crisp and cool here. Shrubs blanket the ground, but still, vegetation is sparse due to the harsher conditions. However, what it lacks in flowers it makes up for in Giant Lobelias and Senecios Kilimanjaris! You’ll see lots of these interesting, stubby palm looking trees that are endemic to the mountain.

 
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ZONE 4:
ALPINE DESERT

Elevation: 4,000 - 5,000 m
Avg Temp Range: 20 -
-5 °C

You might feel like you’re on the moon when you’re in the Alpine Desert! There isn’t much life apart from some grasses and a few small flowers. It’s very dusty, dry, and a stunning part of the trek because from here you can see Kilimanjaro’s twin summits, Kibo and Mawenzi. This zone is characterized by bright sun, high evaporation and wide daily changes in temperature.

 

ZONE 5:
ARCTIC SUMMIT

Elevation: 5,000 - 5,895 m
Avg Temp Range: -5 - -20 °C

The ultimate goal, the uppermost region is a taste of the Arctic just south of the equator! The oxygen level is about half of that at sea level and the sun is fierce. There’s very little wildlife apart from lichens (however, in 1926, a frozen leopard was discovered near the summit crater). On your way to Uhuru Peak from Stella Point you’ll see what remains of the Furtwängler Glacier, an enormous icecap that once crowned the summit.

 

KILIMANJARO WILDLIFE

 
Billy Dodson

COLOBUS MONKEY

These acrobatic monkeys can be seen leaping from tree to tree in the forest canopy of the rain forest, and rarely descend to the ground. They are black with an impressive long “cape” of white hair and a long flowing white tail. These social animals live in groups of three to fifteen members, usually with just one male. In the past, they were hunted by local tribes for their striking black-and-white coats, but their biggest threat today is deforestation.

IMPATIENS KILIMANJARI

These are the most noticeable, brightly colored flowers in the Rain Forest. They blanket damp shady floor there, and are particularly common by streams on the mountain. What the inch-long flowers lack in size, they make up for with their vibrant pinkish-red hood and curved yellow tail. This species grows nowhere else in the world, and truly capture the energy and spirit of the Rain Forest.

WHITE NECKED RAVEN

They are the largest raven species in the region having a wingspan of up to 1 meter wide. They’re known for being tricksters and got their name from the very distinctive white patch on the back of their neck. Their usual diet is insects, seeds and berries, but they’re known for eating pretty much anything. You’ll see lots near the campsites looking for leftover food scraps.

 

PROTEAS

The floral emblem of South Africa, these everlasting flowers are found in the Heath zone of Kilimanjaro. It’s rare to see them flower. In fact, it’s not a unitary flower, it’s actually a collection of flowers that are densely packed into a bulb that opens up at a certain stage of its maturity. At full maturity the flowers dry and open up appearing to have been burnt by a bush fire.

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SCARLET-TUFTED MALACHITE SUNBIRD

These beautiful metallic green birds have a small scarlet patch on either side of their chest. They can often be seen hovering above the grass of the moorlands and hooking their long beaks into the Senecio Kilimanjari to feed on its nectar. These birds are diurnal, meaning active during the day, and are generally seen in pairs or occasionally in small family groups.

SENECIO KILIMANJARI

These crazy looking trees are abundant in the moorland of Kilimanjaro and are found nowhere else in the world! Their woody trunks and crown of large leaves can grow up to 5 m high. On top, they have a long spike of lemon-yellow flowers that bloom about once every 25 years. Their cabbage-like rosettes of tough leaves close at night to protect against frost.

 

SWAHILI 101

 

Jambo! Mambo?

Hi! How are you?

POA

good

poa kichizi kama ndizi

crazy cool like a banana

kwaheri!

goodbye!

lala salama

sleep well

tafadhali

please

asante (sana)

thank you (very much)

karibu

you’re welcome

maji ya kunywa

drinking water

maji moto

hot water

twende

let’s go!

pole! pole!

slowly!

pole

sorry

hakuna matata

no worries

dada & kaka

sister & brother

rafiki

friend

Unasemaje...na Kiswahili?

How do you say...in Swahili?

Jina langu ni...

My name is...

Unatoka wapi?

Where are you from?

Ninatoka...

I am from...

 

TREKKING TIPS

HOW TO HAVE THE HAPPIEST & HEALTHIEST ADVENTURE POSSIBLE 

 

Get to know the other trekkers and your crew

You're all taking an incredible journey - one that’s made exponentially better because you're sharing it with each other. Don’t forget that together, you have a collective strength that will get you through even the toughest times!

 

It’s about the journey

Going slowly (or pole pole) will keep you safe, happy and healthy by allowing your body to adjust to the daily altitude gains. Not to mention, it gives you the chance to really take in all the stunning scenery!

 

LAYER IT ALL ON ME

As the altitude gets higher, the temperature range gets gradually wider, and that's what makes layering so important on each day of the hike!

 

TAKE THE CHILL OFF

Store your water bottle upside down in your day pack so the mouth doesn’t freeze over. If you’re using a camelbak be sure to blow the water back into the tube when you’re done drinking to avoid it freezing when you get to higher altitudes. Keep your batteries and electronics warm by wearing them close to your body in the pocket of an inner layer during the day, and sleeping with them in your sleeping bag at night. This is especially important when you climb to higher altitudes and the temperatures start to drop. Camera batteries freeze and won’t work in cold temperatures...and you don’t want to miss getting your shots at the summit!

 

Be humbled

We live in an amazingly beautiful world! You're at the mercy of mother nature when you're on the mountain, and that’s a beautiful thing - one that we often forget in our daily lives. Even when you choose the best season, the weather can be unpredictable. So while we all hope for the best, be prepared for the worst. It’s all a part of the adventure - embrace it!

 

REMEMBER THE BIG PICTURE

Take time every day to reflect on where you are, what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it.  Taking moments by yourself to stop and take it all in will help you recharge and keep perspective.

 

Be on time!

You'll be on a strict schedule and have to stick to it (it has to do with the changing weather, meals and making the most of our daylight). So, when the guides and GALs say 8am, they mean 8am. Twende!

 

DON'T GET BURNED

Apply and reapply sunscreen and lip balm everyday and often (and you'll be holding poles all day, so don't forget the tops of your hands)! Even though it’s cold, you'll be close to the equator so the sun is no joke.

 

Experience the Undugu

This word means brotherhood and it encompasses the attitudes of Tanzanians. Broadly, it means extended family, generosity and compassion towards everyone in the community. Tanzanians go out of their way to help anyone who may need it...so say “Jambo! Mambo!” to all the dada and kaka you encounter on the mountain.

 

KILIMANJARO LIKE WHOA

 

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