This guide is to help you start to put together some of the essential equipment you will need to conquer Kilimanjaro. While there are many different approaches, thoughts and suggestions for what you’ll need – the best piece of advice we could give is to keep it simple and don’t over complicate.
yes, kilimanjaro is a big mountain and could be one of the most significant challenges of this type you’ll ever take on… but in essence, this is one long and steep hike taken over a period of 7 days… it can be done in regular runners and king-g shorts if that’s all you’ve got… you get my point. of course, things will be easier and more comfortable with gear that’s designed for these adventures, but don’t let it get away on you.
we’ll approach this gear list in sections, and prioritise items from top to bottom in each section according to our experience.
- you will be assigned a porter who will carry up to 15kg of your gear.
- you only need to carry a daypack with water, snacks, jacket and camera etc… the entire journey.
- we will start and end the odyssey at the same local hotel, so we will be able to lock away any luggage that isn’t needed for the mountain at the hotel.
A word on layering
One of the most important things to consider when planning to travel light and efficiently is to understand how layering works and keep things simple – while making sure you’re taking care of your health and comfort while out on the mountains. Here’s a brief overview of the key 4 layers we’ll be considering when on Kilimanjaro, allowing you to add the correct layers as needed and stop you from overloading with unnecessary and ineffective clothing.
NOTE: When layering clothing, it is imperative that you maintain consistency with the materials you’re using and to not introduce “non-technical” layers into the mix. If you do this, it will undermine the thermal qualities and the layers won’t work. Technical layers can be either natural fibres or man-made, but essentially, they’re going to be your items which allow moisture to wick, air to breath and keeping warmth in…
With time and experience, you’ll hone your layering system into a perfect place, so don’t expect to get it right straight away. But it’s a good idea to start building it now and get out and test, improve and get everything working the way you like.
“Long Johns” or “Thermals”, these layers are worn against the skin. You might add the upper-body layer first, but as we approach 4000+m you will start to look for the warmth on your lower-body.
Mostly this is an upper-body layer and is worn over the base-layer. Mid-layer could be a lightly insulated top like a merino hoody or polar fleece jumper. This layer could be used on its own or added under your soft and hard-shell for extra warmth.
3. SOFT SHELLS
Your soft shell layer is usually a stretchy and highly breathable layer while also being wind and water resistant. This is your first layer which will provide protection against those elements when the weather starts to turn grey. This could be worn directly over your base layer OR base + mid layers.
4. HARD SHELLS
This is your alpine armour against more serious rain and wind. This is the next layer you get on when the weather is starting to deteriorate and keeps you safe, warm and dry.
4-5 Pairs of Underwear
Top and Bottom Base Layer (thermals)
3-4 Short Sleeve
1-2 Long Sleeve Shirts
Pair of shorts
Pair of pants
Insulated Winter Jacket
Insulated Trekking Pants
Hard Shell Jacket
Lightweight Rain Gear
Large Volume Water Bottle
Water Purification Tablets
Sweat Resistant Sun Cream
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Roll on deodorant
Roll of toilet paper
Sun Hat, ideally with a neck cover
Warm beanie or Fleece Headband
Bandana or Neck Gaiter
Mid-weight Hiking Boots
Camp Trainers / Trekking Sandals
4-5 Pairs of Trekking Socks
1 Pair of Warm / Thick Trekking Socks
Lightweight Inner Gloves
Warm Outer Gloves / Mitts
Adjustable Trekking Poles
4-Season Sleeping Bag (-10C comfort rating)
Insulated Sleeping Mat
Inflatable Pillow (optional)
80-90L Waterproof Duffle Bag
Packing Cells / Compression Sacks
Extra bag (leaving behind at the hotel)
Energy Drink Supplement
Zip Lock Bags for Important Possessions
Passport, Visa, Insurance, Yellow Fever Card
Small Lock for your Duffle Bag
brands to check
Cotopaxi (mid-layers, sleeping bag, day packs)
We love Cotopaxi for their awesome colours and gear. They don’t do everything, but their mid-layers and lightweight shells are very effective. Most of all, these guys practice what they preach and #dogood in so many ways.
Good old faithful Kathmandu and Macpac are easily accessible and available almost everywhere. Keep an eye on their sales and also check out their “sponsorship” offers.
Excellent value and design, Osprey packs are really well built and you can find an option for almost everything you need. Check out their online configurator and try a bunch at stores like Paddy Pallin before buying.
Brands to check if your gear crazy
Kora – base layers made of YAK fibre
Black Yak – technical soft/hard shell layers
Hyperlite Mountain Gear – Cuban fibre packs and cell systems
extra notes and thoughts
Hiking boots should be waterproof with a flexible sole, while still offering cushioned comfort and support underfoot. Gore-tex, OutDry, KeenDry, or a similar waterproof membrane is recommended to keep your feet dry. Also, aim to get at least 1 – 1 ½ size bigger than usual – this will save your toes from being destroyed when coming down the mountain and constantly pushing forward on the shoe. When you test your boots in the shop, good stores will generally have a small ramp which you can go up/down to test this unique problem.
BLISTER PREVENTION & TREATMENT
- Moleskin: An adhesive pad with a soft pile made of heavy cotton fabric used to treat hot spots. Catching and treating hot spots early on can prevent blisters from forming.
- Mole foam: Like moleskin, but used in “U” or doughnut-shaped pieces and placed around a blister to provide relief from pressure or rubbing against a blister.
- Athletic Tape: Used to adhere to bandages or treatments (molefoam), but also for preventative taping in known problem spots.
- Spenco 2nd Skin blister pad: A gel pad bordered by a thin film designed to keep blisters from drying out and protect them from further abrasion.
- Triple Antibiotic Cream: A topical antimicrobial cream used to cover cuts, scrapes, and open blisters to p
On Kilimanjaro water will be sourced from streams along the way, captured by the guide team. It’s important that you are prepared with treatment for the water to remove any potential bugs and bacteria which can be present. Bad water can be one of the easiest ways to get sick and put yourself in an ugly situation. There are many different options out there from Iodine or Chlorine dioxide tablets, chloride dioxide formulas and modern UV pen devices. Some will give the water a funny flavour, so test and try some beforehand and bring enough treatment to treat around 2L of water p/day.
Choosing the right backpack is one of the biggest and most expensive decisions you’ll make. A vast range of backpacks is available today each with their own unique features, sizes and specialities. Here are a few key things to consider as you select a pack:
- What features will I need? Don’t get bamboozled by the million offerings out there with all the gadgets, keep a clear mind as to what you want and need this pack to do. For Kilimanjaro, a simple day pack is all you will be carrying. It will house your water, snacks, a camera and a spare jacket… plus anything else you think you’ll need to access along the way.
- What size backpack do I need? Backpacks are measured in “litres of capacity”, although some manufacturers list backpack capacity in cubic inches (1 litre = 61 cubic inches). For your day pack, we suggest 20-30L pack. This will help keep things light and tight, but also large enough to use for other adventures you may do.
- How do I fit my backpack? Each body comes in different sizes and shapes, and so backpacks are fitted based on your torso size. You must measure the distance between the top of your iliac crest (hip bones) and the uppermost spinal bone where the slope of your shoulders meets your neck. You can then apply this measurement to the manufacturer’s specifications and find the pack which suits you best. Some packs will have adjustable fittings, and others will offer 2-4 variations which are fixed.
To test the pack properly, you need to add weight. Once your backpack is on, first seat the hip belt on or above your iliac crest (based on personal preference), and cinch it down. Then, pull each shoulder strap into a comfortably snug and even position. Next, adjust the “load lifters” (running from the top of the shoulders to the backpack). Finally, locate any other adjustment points—such as behind the hips—and ensure all straps have a small amount of tension on them. Each individual is different. Seek expert assistance in fitting your pack, or spend time making different adjustments until you are comfortable.