Here are some tips and general advice for climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro from our past clients: what to bring, training for your climb, gear advice, what to expect and more!
Yes, it is harder than we thought. Rockier and steeper than we had trained for. The distances are deceptive. It takes a lot more energy and time than we thought to go a short distance. I would prepare future climbers to train hard. A toilet tent is the best purchase you can make. Trust the guides implicitly. Bring a lot of money for tips!
Do as much research and reading as you can. Follow the packing guides and bring layers. Also bring short-sleeve shirts for low altitude days. It can be warm at times. Besides Diamox, bring Advil or pain killers for the headaches. But most important – to help with the altitude is to take long deep breaths and hydrate constantly! Listen to your guides, follow their pace, and Respect the Mountain!
The advice I would give is to read the advice page on [the AWR web] site! I read it several times and most was of great help. That said, we brought TOO MUCH toilet paper! The only other advice is to put yourself into the best physical shape of your life – which [we] did with Fitfortrips – so you can have fun despite the challenge of the climb.
Trust and follow your guide. On our first night, [our guide] suggested an itinerary change based on our physical shape and we summited a day EARLY.
Take spare clothes because you will get very dusty and want to change when you’re done for the day.
Our hydration hoses froze on summit night despite our best efforts. Be prepared with an insulated bottle (although the guides also shared theirs with us). A little headache and nausea medicine before problems arose made the summit night more enjoyable.
I would put a day in between returning from Kilimanjaro and the beginning of the safari. I got back to the hotel at 3PM, got briefed on the safari at 3:30 and then had to repack and be ready by 8AM the next day. It was doable but quick. Or leave around noon for the safari and do Lake Manyara on the second day. A little bit of time to decompress would have been nice. Also renting the toilet was the best $150 I have ever spent.
Rashid and Rama were excellent as guides and very accommodating and pleasant. I think they would have carried me if I had been unable to walk. For older climbers, I recommend the Marangu route with a rest day at both Horombo and Kibo, and an extra day after descent at Moshi. Oxygen was nice to have, but not used.
Pack lighter than you thought. Safaris can be long days with lots of dust. If you have ANY back issues associated with sitting for long hours on bumpy roads, you need to reconsider this activity.
I would do a fly/drive safari. Driving between safari destinations was a bit grueling.
Traveling with Children:
- Always get your guide’s phone number – you never know when you’ll need to speak with someone in the middle of the night.
- If you’re traveling with young children, have plenty of activities planned for the car (we had an iPad holder which could connect to the headrest and our son could watch TV with headphones when there were long stretches of driving)
- If traveling with children who eat earlier than 7 pm – 7:30 pm, arrange with the lodges in advance to serve them &/or you an earlier dinner. This saves you having to arrange it if you are arriving later in the afternoon. We found most places to be accommodating.
- If traveling with younger children, either arrange a child seat or bring one with you as this just makes sleeping easier on those bumpy roads as you know your little one is safe & snug.
Females should bring a Shewee or GoGirl. Even with the private toilet; you will need to pee out in the open a lot. If you have the luxury package your guides/porters will carry your backpack. Bring a fanny pack and/or small camelbak to carry supplies that you want to keep on you. Bring a book. There’s a lot of (welcome) down time. Don’t plan to use credit cards anywhere because power is not always available – bring a lot of cash. Bring clothing, candy and snacks to give to the guides and porters. They really appreciate it.
Advice I would give to future visitors would be to pack lightly and adhere to the packing list provided. Weather can change constantly and rain gear is essential. Preparing by running stairs and walking at least 3 miles a day is also good preparation. Extra shoe laces, duct tape, baby powder and a small towel definitely came in handy. Make sure your day pack is large enough to fit all of your items needed during the day along with water (caribiners came in handy to attach things to the outside of the daypack). Bring candy for the guides (we did) and they will love it! Bring extra tips because at the end of the trek, you wish you could give them double what you had originally planned.
Try out Diamox for 2 days at home first to see how your body reacts. I was very glad to have invested in really good hiking boots. They stayed warm on summit day. Take hats! You can get sunburned on your scalp. I put sunscreen on my shoulders and face, but I forgot the backs of my hands and they also burned.
For climbing Kilimanjaro, make sure you train in some way and be in relatively good shape. Being in good physical shape will make your experience much more enjoyable. I overheard several hikers on the trail complaining about how difficult the trip was. At the end, I asked a couple hikers if they had fun on the climb and they did not seem too enthusiastic. I had a great time! I think I was able to enjoy it so much because I was prepared and was in good enough physical shape to enjoy my surroundings and not be focusing on how taxing it was on the body. Also, if you have the time and the funds, spend a week in an area of higher elevation (5,000 ft or higher) because that will help with acclimating to the altitude and thus make your trek easier. I spent two weeks before my trek in Kenya at elevations between 5,000 and 6,500 ft and I am sure this made it much easier to acclimate to the elevation gain.
Definitely wear a scarf or bandana and have the guide emphasize the importance of one. We both got severe sore throats and cold like symptoms from not wearing one. We brought only carry on which worked wonderfully except at Kilimanjaro airport where they made us put it through baggage and it got lost. So keep necessary items in a backpack you can take on. We followed all the Tanzanian medical regulations where we had all prescriptions in their original containers, yellow fever and all other recommended immunizations, precautionary meds for intestinal and z pack antibiotics. We were never asked to show them but better safe than sorry. We ended up using the z pack and the intestinal meds for an infected insect bite and the runs. Plan to bring all the cash you need as we had difficulty with the ATM and it appeared in Arusha we could only get a cash advance from our credit card. The bank ate my debit card and it took several hours the next day to retrieve it. Bring enough cash depending on how much one likes to buy items or consume drinks. Suggest people get a good phone plan through their company. We bought 200 texts each and some phone minutes as we have kids at home.
For the safari, get into the communities to understand and interact with the people for a real experience. Learn a few basic words of Swahili, like the greeting, thanks and welcome, ahead of time. Airlines often lose luggage as they did with 4 out of 4 people. Bring emergency and change of clothes with you on board.
1) get the private toilet for the kili climb, it’s absolutely worth it. 2) leave one set of dry/clean clothes aside for day 6 of the kili trek so you can have something nice/warm/clean to change into. 3) be prepared for long days in the vehicle while on safari. 4) drink lots of water! bring snacks that you really enjoy for the mountain. my appetite was zero, i had to force food in and it was easier with snacks i liked. 5) bring a spare camera battery for the safari. a camera with a good zoom lens is almost imperative.
I read extensively the information passed on by past trekkers on your website and others and reached out to people i was put in touch with who had climbed Kili previously and that info proved immeasurably helpful. The thought of training for such and endeavor and then preparing yourself as far as health checks, immunizations and outfitting yourself for such a trip can seem daunting but with some research all will fall into place. We followed advise from others to rent the private toilet that was worth every penny. The four of us shared it and it worked out great. Many people said to pack light and i can’t impress upon future trekkers enough that that is sage advice. You will not need much in order to complete your trek. We rented sleeping bags, trekking poles and duffel bags and that worked out spectacularly. The sleeping bags were rated for -20F and i was toasty warm every night on the mountain. Go with the necessities and an open heart and mind and you will undoubtedly have the adventure of your life on Kilimanjaro and if possible carve out a few days at the end of your trip to do a safari. We did Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro crater over two days and that proved enough for us to see everything we could have hoped for. It truly was the adventure of my dreams and I would highly recommend it to anyone with a quest for adventure and a love of the outdoors.
Open mind. Open heart. Try to sit down with the locals and shoot the bull. Try the foods and drinks you are not used. Ask questions about the culture. Engage in conversation. Step out of whatever shell “we” may be in. Oh and try at least one Kilimanjaro beer and if you get a chance, home brewed banana beer and wine. Last but not least. LIVE!
The biggest piece of advice I could give is to make sure that you pack a lot of layers- you are constantly taking on and putting back on clothes as the temperatures vary greatly on the mountain. The personal toilet is an absolute no-brainer and well worth the extra $150. The only other general tip I would give is that you will spend a good deal of money on tips in Moshi, on the mountain and around town. It is a HUGE help to plan out every known portion of the trip (Porter tips, guide tips, safari tips, hotel staff tips, etc. ) and then give yourself a small allocation for other miscellaneous meals and tips along the way.
Definitely get emergency antibiotics to bring with. I got traveler’s sickness on day three and the cipro I brought with saved me big-time.
Be patient and friendly and have an open mind. Don’t overpack, but make sure you are prepared for cold weather on summit day. Huts on Mt Meru are very good, you don’t need a sleeping pad, just a nice warm sleeping bag. Bring toilet paper everywhere and lots of ziploc bags. We drove one way to Serengeti and flew back. This was a nice option because the LONG drives on bumpy, dusty roads can be tiresome, but you really get to see the country and how the landscape changes, but you only have to do it one way.
1. If climbing Kili, pay the extra for the private toilets. We added this at the last minute and it was soooo worth it.
2. follow the instructions of the guides. It’s tempting to move quickly early in the week but you’ll run out of gas later in the trek. POLE POLE is the key
-baby wipes are essential
-for ladies, paint your nails so you don’t see the amount of dirt stuck to them throughout the week
-mittens over gloves (hand warmers are a must)
-rent the sleeping bag but bring a self-inflating mattress
-I was fine with two complete changes of clothes but next time will pack additional socks (they got a little stinky)
4. Take time to stop each day and soak it all in. It’s physically demanding but nothing compares to seeing the mountain at night among the full moon and the stars. It was breath taking.
I wore multiple layers (top: bra, tech tee, fleece, down vest and ski coat; bottom: undies, long underwear, lightweight hiking pants and ski pants) and those were good for the temperature of 13 F (before wind chill!! it was really cold), but my hands froze and hand warmers didn’t work that high up. Getting a local SIM card for mobile phone was great but would be difficult without a Swahili speaker. Definitely bring an extra method of water purification. I used the Camelbak AllClear UV and then poured into my camelbak bladder. pack lots of hand sanitizer. You will always be dirty and not much you can do about that but hopefully not catch anything 🙂 The private toilets were worth it!!! We stopped in one of the public ones at lava tower and there was poo all over the floor, and in many campsites we were probably 20 minutes walk from the public toilets which would be unpleasant in the cold night. All store are bargaining for prices, even if prices are posted.
Never walk without carrying your own water. If you need to stop the group to drink, do it. Women hikers just have to get used to peeing/etc. on the trail. The toilet tent was a life saver, don’t hesitate to order one. Get over your germ phobia and dirt phobia. Take a thermal liner for your sleeping bag. I used a regular silk liner, it was not enough. You have to get sleep at night and cannot do so if you are cold in your sleeping bag. Do not just pick up and do the ‘next thing’ after the climb. I think climbers need a few days to recover (especially if one gets altitude sickness up there) and not just jump in a 4 wheel drive to do a Safari.
Read all the client advice as it is very helpful. There is way more dust than you think. Pack a buff or bandana to cover your mouth and nose while driving on safari along with plenty of wet wipes and sunglasses (especially for contact wearers). Ski goggles provided great wind and eye protection for summit night.
Prepare yourself mentally for the altitude. You may end up with alitude sickness but listen to your guides, they will get you to the top.
Pack and repack before you leave…plan for a day of clothing and meds (we even took each others) in a carry bag in case luggage is delayed…remember to practice “when in Rome, do as the Romans do!”. If you are the judgmental type, leave that piece of luggage behind and be open minded about your visit….Finally, we visited a Travel Medical office and got all of our medical prep (including vaccinations they recommended)…this took away a lot of the anxiety of visiting all the places we wanted to see so far far away . They were organized and professional and thorough about covering all the bases for our particular itinerary including health issues as well as political alerts etc.
Read as much as you can and go with little expectations. You will not be disappointed. It is an amazing country and the people are even better!!!!
Kilimanjaro and the 5 day safari was an excellent combination.
Bring your favorite salty and sweet snacks on your trip to add variety.
If traveling thru Lake Natron, be sure to take advantage of the hike opportunities to the lake and the waterfall. Avoid big bills, like $20s and take mostly singles and fives. Be sure to go out at dawn before breakfast to view animals, at least a few mornings.
It was SUPER cold at the top of Kilimanjaro, and I would further stress the need for warm clothing, feet and hand warmers, etc….
Definitely good advice to have most of the money in very small bills. At the end of the trip, even the Bulk Cash window at the bank would not exchange ‘upwards’ – the small bills to larger. So you will be carrying bulky currency. Be fit; it is a difficult climb.
For the first 4 days (out of 7) hiking on the Rongai route was completed in the morning with lunch around 1.00pm allowing time to rest and to go for a short hike in the afternoon. Day 5 is a 5+ mile hike in the morning From Mawenzi Tarn to Kibo Huts, lunch on the hike, dinner at 5.00pm, up at 11.00 for porridge, then hiking to Gillman’s Point at midnight. I got to Gillman’s just before sunrise then took 1.5 hrs to get to Uhuru, and was back to Kibo Huts @11.00. After a rest there was a 6 mile hike to Hhorombo Huts. This was the most difficult part of the trek. The last day is about 7 miles through the rain forest to Marangu Gate. Many others left Kibo Huts earlier which might be advised it you want to get to Uhuru for sunrise. I worked hard to be sure all my things were in plastic bags not realizing that our bags were put inside a waterproof bag Stedman’s book “Kilimanjaro” had excellent descriptions of the route, cell phone reception, maps and all kinds of useful info. It was invaluable Tipping guide from the AWR seemed to be on target Having clothing or other gear to give to the porters at the end was really well received. If that can be made to happen the porters will really like it. There were good restaurants in Moshi but taking a cab at night is probably best. I had no trouble walking around the town during the day except from young men wanting to either sell things or guide me around town. I purchased coffee and tee-shirts from a “supper market” close to the hotel and the clock tower in Moshi. Also I shop called at a place called ICurio that had really nice things although not any cheaper than the. The market in town is really not a place to buy things; it’s mainly for the locals, food, etc. The 5 day safari worked out great-going to the Serengeti and getting back is mostly driving. Our guide did an excellent job finding animals. Rhotia Valley was wonderful.
Always go Poley poley and pack heavy winter clothing.
Please take enough hand & foot protection for cold. Or else your fingers & toes will freeze and get numb. Even after wearing 3 pairs of socks and 2 gloves I felt very cold. And I can bear a lot of cold. Temperature on the summit was -16 degrees with wind chill.
Just for all your future visitors to read in detail the information given to them via your informative e-mails. This will allow them enjoy their trip immensely without any major hiccups.
Make sure you have a warm sleeping bag, you don’t want to be cold and sleepless when trekking.
Bring lots of clothes to layer with, it’s freezing up there!!!
Try on all of the items you plan to wear on summit day. I was prepared with many layers, but I had never worn them all together. It was tight.
The temperature ranges a lot in a day, so dress in layers. You could be wearing a short sleeve T-shirt in midday, but wearing insulating jacket (fleece or light down) in the early morning or after dark.
Use lots of layer and clothes that zip up and down which makes it easy to take on and off. definitely recommend one day to rest before the climb in moshi. recommend water bottles for summit climb, camel back freezes! definitely recommend medication for altitude sickness including advil.
All groups should get the portable toilet, it should not be an option but it is. Talk to as many people as you can before the trip so that you get helpful information. Barbara and Dan were great. Take a few days before the trip to rest, hydrate, get organized and meet with your guide as the flights over there are brutal. Start your diamox and malaria pills on time. Bring warm fleece pants for the safari as it is about 40 degrees in the mornings and evenings.
I believe that summitting Kilimanjaro requires just as much mental strength and endurance as it did physical endurance. Summit day was a kick in the pants (especially considering all the preceding days were quite easy) so be prepared for a mental challenge as you make your way to the summit. Don’t give up!!!
Gloves, balaclava, prepare physically (hiking not just running), be prepared to not shower for a few days, be prepared to crap in a hole (although we didn’t), be VERY prepared for the cold, walking sticks work very well going downhill (for me), refer to REI’s layering document to learn about base layer/insulation layer/shell layer, diamox, be prepared for a loss of appetite on the trek, be prepared for the possibility of minimal sleep, AND IT IS ALL WORTH IT WHEN YOU GET TO THE TOP (bring kleenex because you may get emotional).
Bring a small luggage lock for the duffel that your porter will carry. Although I had ZERO concerns about our porters and theft, sometimes your bag is left sitting out with a lot of other people around, and it’s nice peace of mind to know its contents are safe. For women – I highly recommend the “freshette” pee funnel and an extra nalgene!! No one wants to get out of their nice warm tent in the middle of the cold night (in my case, multiple times), and the freshette solves this problem. Sure, it’s awkward at first, but really it was the MVP of all my gear! Second place MVP of gear: handiwipes The sleeping pad provided in TZ was sufficient. I rented a thermarest as recommended and slept like a queen, but would have been fine with just the pad. One energy bar per day would have been plenty of snacks. I brought too much. Most people bring high gaiter that almost reach their knees, but low gaiters are fine. At some camps, tents are so close together that you can hear others talking/snoring. Ear plugs or an ipod (or both) are essential! If you look around the web and see “thermal flask” on other Kili packing lists, ignore it. They’re heavy and really not needed. A 3L camelback plus 1L bottle was perfect for me. I also found that a disposable 500 ml water bottle was extremely useful for mixing powders like Emergen-C or gatorade. If renting a sleeping bag, allow for at least 5 lbs in your 35 lb total allowance.
We did two of 3000 foot elevation gain hikes a week for a month before leaving for Kilimanjaro. We also took a 125mg dose of diamox while trekking.
The suggested packing lists were bang on. We happened to encounter cold weather at kili where we needed every layer suggested.
Although a driving safari can involve some long days when you are travelling between parks, it is a fantastic way to see the country, meet the people and haggle like crazy for stuff that you know will make great gifts when you get home. We wish we would have packed more pins, candies, clothes etc. to give to or exchange with the people we met.
Have a private Toilet on Kili!!! Do NOT book with a “Mzungu” (white man) guide on Kili. They charge an arm and a leg for that “premium” when in fact you are getting MUCH less of an experience.
Worked great to do the safari first, allowed extra time to acclimatize (2300 metres).
- Be flexible, be prepared to tip (a lot, and to a lot of people). We thought were were going to have 7-8 people on our trek that we would need to tip, but we ended up having to tip 12, so have lots of US cash in all different denominations.
- Pack Cipro and a shelf-stable probiotic for use after the antibiotic.
- Go on a bike tour in Moshi – it’s really fun!
- Pack at last one extra duffel bag because it’s really nice to be able to have a bag to put all your Kilimanjaro gear in (and store at the hotel) while you’re on safari. Or even just to have it to put gifts or dirty clothes in. This saved us from having to carry around all of our gear every place we traveled to.
- Talk to your guides and the locals. If you aren’t interested in talking to these people, then go visit another country (aka – they are the reason you’re there). The mountain is their spiritual place, the animals, and the land are their home. Those things are beautiful, but they are just as important. Respect them, make an effort to get to know them. I already miss all of our guides and porters and the people we met. They have made such a strong impact on me, on the mountain or animals could not.
- Use poles on the trek
- Bring gear that you would like to leave there for the people. They really appreciate it!
Comfortable sandals are fine if you’re only going on safari. A small video camera with sound is the best, you can record your experience and narrate as you go along.
Definitely Machame route!!! We loved it. Very scenic! Safari for us, 2 days was ample!! Once you’ve seen all animals once it’s mundane after that! I would rather go up the mountain again!! We LOVED the farmhouse Ngorogoro crater. Amazing accommodation and awesome buffet!!! Loved the grounds, beautiful surrounds. We were not expecting it! We thought we were still camping!!! Def pack lots of ziplock bags, lipbalm, and a good sleeping bag! We had everything you suggested and it was perfect!
If you are traveling “luxury” class, no need for water sterilization – we had more than enough water at all times. Don’t forget wet wipes – they are essential. I’ve heard horror stories about local flights being cancelled, etc. All of our flights took off on time with no hassle. Although the drive from Arusha to the Serengeti was long and sometimes tedious, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. There was so much to see along the way.
Be in the very best physical shape you can be; this is something you have control of. Do as much research as you can ahead of time but be flexible. I was also drinking 3-4 liters of water per day which I would highly recommend. None of the other four in my group took diamox and we all made it to the top. I ate very well, I was always hungry except when I got back to Kibo after reaching the summit. At that point, I was too tired to be hungry. Eat as much as you can, I do believe it can make a difference. I tried to continually breath deeply, especially when we came to a stop. I also tried very hard to stay focused on the moment, “one step at a time.” I constantly had my headlamp focused on the back of the boots in front of me (I can still see them clearly). In summary, I believe it comes down to “mind over matter.” And fortunately for me, and our group as a whole, everything worked out.
For Kili, I suggest paying a little extra for another porter to ensure yourself a private toilet. The toilets on the mountain are terrible! This was a life saver for me! As for packing, I suggest bringing a disposable camera for summit day. Some of the digital camera rechargeable batteries would freeze at the top! Also pack hand/toe warmers for summit push. Last for Kili, next time I would bring foods like instant oatmeal and Ramin noodles! These would have been a nice additional snack between lunch dinner… easy to do since they always have hot water for tea/coffee. For Safari, definitely bring a bandana or facial mask to protect you from the dust! Bring lots of wet wipes, toilet paper, hand sanitizer for both trips!
If taking the the shuttle from Nairobi be sure you are prepared for a long trip in cramped quarters, hot and uncomfortable conditions. Give your self a full day in Moshi before starting the trek if taking shuttle. If taking the shuttle try to get to bus station a bit early as seats are fist come first serve. Personally, I would spend the extra money in the future to fly right to JRO. Ski goggles are a real good idea on the day of the ascent before the sun comes up. Don’t over pack. Trust me you will all smell the same by day two and in huts the quarters are so tight it is difficult to find and change clothes.
Train, take an expedition bag, tip the help along the way, not just the end.
Be prepared for cold. I expected it to be cold at the top but it was cold from day 2 on.
Pack as if you had to carry all of your clothes. Invest in high quality clothing that is made for trekking. Buy a day pack which will limit what you can bring with you.
The mountain is very dusty. Bring extra wipes for cleaning at the end of the day and maybe even paper towel to clean your gear. All the horror stories about toilets are indeed true. Remember to bring baby wipes and maybe air fresher to brave the toilets. Summit night is really cold. Take extra precaution so the water bottle/hydration tube does not freeze. I used hot water which worked very well for me. Throw some hand warmers with camera batteries for summit ascent so the camera doesn’t die quickly up at the top. Remember to enjoy your time at the summit and soak it in!!
Not to rush and if possible take the extra day on the mountain to help the acclimatization process. To leave Kibo for the summit around 11.00 otherwise you cannot get to the summit for dawn or back down before it is hot. The experience and judgment of your guide will be the most important component determining your success and safety (so it is important to get a good one!)
Don’t forget to pack:
- powdered drink mix to make the water taste acceptable
- mittens rather than gloves if you are prone to having cold hands in the winter
- chemical hand and foot warmers in case you have to spend time at Kibo waiting for the rest of your group to come back
- sunscreen and sun hat
- headlamps rather than flashlights
- plenty of layers for the final ascent since even though it starts our freezing, you get pretty hot once the sun comes out
- tons of handiwipes and tissues
- a small quick-drying towel
- a comfortable day pack