Kilimanjaro Packing List – Keep it Light!

Anyone following our travel blog will know, by now, that I struggle when it comes to packing light!  However, on our recent Kilimanjaro climb I realised that anything we wanted to take with us would have to be carried all the way up, and all the way back down again, and so I did plenty of research to make sure we were not overloaded.

Kilimanjaro Packing List - How to Pack Light

Almost every Kilimanjaro climbing company has a packing list on their website; some keep it to the bare minimum, while others insist you need to take everything you own – including the kitchen sink. So, as someone who has “been there, done that”, I thought I would take this opportunity to share our own packing list – and help those on their way to conquer ‘Kili’ to pack a little bit lighter.

If you climb Kilimanjaro with a reputable registered company, you will be provided with high-quality tents and mattresses, a mess tent with table, chairs, cutlery and crockery, and a toilet tent – the rest is up to you to take, so bear in mind that this is a camping expedition and you will be sleeping under the stars.

Kilimanjaro Packing List – Equipment Essentials:

  • A warm sleeping bag – recommended for use in temperatures of up to minus 25.  Down sleeping bags are the warmest, but they are also the most expensive, so if you are never going to use it again, go for a high quality, lightweight synthetic alternative. We also took a small camping pillow each.
  • A headlamp & spare batteries – even though we climbed Kilimanjaro during the full moon, it was still pitch dark when we came out of the mess-tent after dinner, so a good headlamp proved very useful.  If you are climbing and summiting without a full moon, a headlamp is essential.
  • Hiking sticks/poles – I add these to the list as almost every Kilimanjaro climber uses them – but we prefer to walk unaided and donated ours to the crew!  So it is a personal thing.
  • Water bottles – regular plastic or ‘camel-back’ bottles are sufficient.  It is recommended you have sufficient water bottles to carry 3 litres of water. Our mountain guide carried a flask of boiling water on summit night, so we didn’t have to worry about our supplies freezing.
  • A large rucksack and a daypack – you will carry your daypack, the porters will carry your rucksack weighing up to 15kilos.  Anything you do not need during the day should be packed in the larger rucksack each morning. Water, waterproofs, sun lotion, hats etc, go in your daypack so you are prepared for changes in weather.
  • Camera (s) with spare batteries and memory cards. Your mobile phone will work on Kilimanjaro, but your battery will last half the normal time, so take a back up.

Kilimanjaro Packing List – Clothing

  • A good pair of comfortable hiking boots with Gore-Tex protection – buy them well in advance and walk in them for hours to break them in before arriving in Tanzania.
  • Sunglasses
  • Gore-Tex hiking trousers – one or two pairs is sufficient, but make sure you have room for thermal underwear underneath.
  • Dry Fit or Wicking T-Shirts – for a 7-day Kilimanjaro climb, we would recommend at least five or six t-shirts with both long and short sleeves.  Even though the temperatures drop you will still sweat, and a smelly t-shirt is the last thing you want to put on in the morning!
  • Gore-Tex Windproof Jacket – perhaps the most important item of clothing after you boots, this will keep you dry and provide shelter from cold winds.
  • A fleece jacket – a lightweight Polartec fleece will provide much-needed warmth, without adding weight.
  • Thermal Underwear – at least one pair of thermal long johns and one or two long-sleeved thermal tops – perfect for sleeping in, and a good base layer for summit night.
  • Socks and Undies – Take plenty!  You will not be taking a shower for a week, and while you will get a bowl of warm water twice per day, there is nothing more refreshing than fresh undies.  High quality hiking socks worn over thin liner socks will keep you feet warm, dry and less prone to blisters.
  • Fleece Tracksuit & Trainers – comfortable and warm, this is perfect for slipping in to after your evening wash, before heading to the mess tent.
  • Hats, gloves and a scarf – a wide-brimmed sunhat will protect you from the strong rays on days one and two, and from day three, you will appreciate a warm thermal hat.  Windproof gloves and a warm scarf are essential for summit night, and you may well need them before.
  • Waterproofs – a poncho is sufficient and the cheapest option if your hiking gear is Gore-Tex or similar.  If you hiking clothes are not water-resistant, invest in a good set of waterproofs.

Kilimanjaro Packing List – Toiletries and Medication

  • Baby Wipes – and more baby wipes!  The best invention to ever be discovered by mountain climbers, baby wipes will keep you feeling fresh and smelling sweet all week long!  We took four packets and had two baby wipe baths per day!
  • Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Toilet Paper & Deodorant – no description needed!
  • Moisturiser /lip balms– and this is not just for the Ladies! Your skin will soon dry out when exposed to the elements, and a good moisturiser/lip balm will stop your face, lips and hands cracking.
  • Water purifying tablets – very important, from day two, your water supplier will be sourced from local rivers, and while it is boiled and clean, it could affect those with a sensitive stomach.
  • Headache tablets / painkillers – Ibuprofen is recommended for headaches caused by altitude and it definitely worked for us.  Diamox is a prescription only drug, said to relieve the symptoms of altitude sickness. This should only be considered after speaking to your doctor.
  • Plasters and antiseptic cream – just in case you get a blister!

This list may seem long for someone packing light, but our rucksacks weighed just under 15 kilos each and our daypacks around 4 kilos – if only I could manage that when I go to South Africa!!

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