Essential Kilimanjaro Gear List

I’ve seen a few lists of essential Kili gear on the web, but I thought I’d add a couple of things that I found to be exceptionally useful. If you’d like to read about the trip up the mountain, read Part I and Part II.

Once you’re on the mountain, there’s a good chance you’ll see some people that look like they’re about to scale Everest. They have gaiters and poles for Day 1, or they’re decked out with way too much hi-tech crap. Don’t be one of those people. Read this list, and you’ll get a good feel for what’s really important for the climb:

  • Sleeping Bag: Get one that’s rated for -10°C and made from real down. It gets really cold on the mountain, especially if you’re planning on camping at higher elevations. If you have a lightweight sleeping bag (like I did), you’re gonna freeze. If you have one that’s borderline acceptable, try using a silk liner like this one to make your nights a little warmer.
  • Hiking Boots: Bring some that are properly worn in. You don’t really need bad-ass hiking boots until the descent. Many guides and porters climb in running shoes, but they descend with hiking boots (at least from the summit to about 12,000 ft). If anything, good hiking boots will keep out dust, dirt, and rocks.
  • Hiking Poles: Not necessary until the descent, and only on the first day that you descend. Once you’re down below 10,000 ft you can put them away.
  • Gaiters: Again, only necessary for the first day of the descent (aka summit day). They might help keep dust out of your boots on Days 2 and 3, but they’re uncomfortable and make your legs sweaty. This is one piece of equipment you really don’t need until you start heading down through scree.
  • Water Bottles: Get yourself some good, lightweight metal water bottles, like Sigg bottles that are made in Switzerland. Why? Because your porters will boil drinking water every night. You can fill these metal water bottles with hot water and stuff them down your sleeping bag. They will keep your toes nice and warm all night long! You also need to drink about 4 – 6 liters of water every day while climbing, and these bottles fit nicely into the side pockets of most day packs:

    Sigg Water Bottle

    Sigg Water Bottle.

  • Plastic Baggies: Dust is everywhere on Kili. It will infiltrate everything you have. If you’re smart, you won’t leave any valuables at your hotel (where they might be lost or stolen) and you’ll place them in your day pack — in plastic baggies! Trust me, it’s a good idea to put your phone, wallet, passport, etc. into these little Ziploc bags. You’ll thank me later.
  • Diamox: Get some, take it. It’s an effective way to combat the effects of altitude sickness, but it’ll make you pee a lot (it’s a diuretic). Make sure you have enough pills for the climb. Don’t think, “Oh, I’m in great shape and I don’t need drugs” because altitude sickness has nothing to do with the shape you’re in.
  • Advil (or non-aspirin pain reliever): You shouldn’t mix aspirin with Diamox. I don’t know why — I’m not a doctor — but the label on my prescription bottle said that it’s a bad idea. Talk to your doctor when you get the Diamox, but you’ll definitely need the Advil for the altitude headaches.
  • Headlamp: Buy a good one and make sure the batteries are new. You don’t want to have it die on you while you’re trying to pee in the middle of the night (due to the Diamox).
  • Wet Wipes: These things are indispensable. Totally freakin’ indispensable!! The dust on the mountain is bad, and washing up is rather difficult. You’ll want these to clean all parts of your body, incl. your feet, ears, face, hands, etc. Bring multiple packets of wet wipes, preferably the antimicrobial or antibacterial kind.

    Wet Wipes

    Wet Wipes. You NEED these!

  • Paper Soap: You can find this stuff at travel stores, and it’s nice and light and easy to carry around. It makes washing up a little more fun than trying to use a tiny bar of soap that others have dropped in the mud/dust.

    Paper Soap

    Paper Soap. Cool.

  • Serious Sunscreen: Get some SPF 60 or SPF 100. The sun is extremely strong on the mountain. There is no shade, and the air gets thinner and thinner as the climb progresses, which means the sun gets more intense. This Neutrogena sunscreen did the trick for me, and it wasn’t greasy.


    Good sunscreen.

  • Layers of non-cotton clothing: Try Ibex or Icebreaker wool clothing for the climb. Cotton is a bad idea because it gets wet and uncomfortable, but wool will keep you nice and warm. It also seems to smell less than cotton (BO-wise), so you can wear the same item for many days in a row (and you will).

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