We know firsthand how much planning is involved when climbing Kilimanjaro for the first time, so to help you prepare for this amazing adventure, we have put together this essential guide to ensure you pack the right equipment, and are both physically and mentally ready for your expedition to the Roof of Africa.
About Mount Kilimanjaro
The world’s tallest freestanding mountain, Kilimanjaro stands 5895-metres or 19,336-feet above sea level inside the Kilimanjaro National Park situated on the border of Tanzania and Kenya.
Climbing Kilimanjaro is an unforgettable experience, and anyone who is physically fit can scale this snow-capped mountain on one of the many routes available. Due to the high success rate and sheer beauty of the Machame Route, we highly recommend this for all first time ‘Kili’ conquerors, and by making this a full 7-day trip; your passage to Uhuru Peak will be smooth and enjoyable.
Mount Kilimanjaro remains popular with first time climbers due to the non-technical climbing route. The paths and trails are clearly marked and well maintained, and while the ascent can be fairly steep in some areas, the pace is always slow and you will have plenty of opportunities to rest and admire the stunning and ever-changing ecological zones.
Your team of mountain guides, cooks, and porters will ensure your climb is as comfortable as possible, and as they carry all luggage, tents, cooking facilities and equipment, the only thing you have to concentrate on is placing one foot in front of the other, drinking plenty of fluids, and eating as much of the freshly cooked food as possible.
Kilimanjaro Weather Conditions
Due to its close proximity to the equator, Tanzania does not experience extreme changes in weather temperatures, but rather wet and dry seasons. As such, it is possible to climb Kilimanjaro at any time of the year.
The long rains typically occur from February to May, the short rains during November and December. It is still possible to climb during these months if you have plenty of wet gear, and as it is ‘low season’, the mountain is less crowded.
June and July are popular months to climb with clear blue skies, although it is colder than August – October when the weather is mild. January is perhaps the warmest month to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, which is why many choose to climb on New Year’s Eve.
Whichever month you choose, you can expect a mix of warm tropical daytime temperatures and freezing cold nights – so the right clothing is key to a comfortable climb.
Training for Kilimanjaro
Climbing Kilimanjaro is not technically challenging and it does not require any specialist mountain equipment or training, but it makes sense to include some physical training in your preparations to get the most from your Kilimanjaro experience. If possible, start training 12 weeks before departure.
The best training for Kilimanjaro is trekking, hill walking, or simulated climbing using a step machine. You should walk as often as possible in the clothing you will be wearing during your Kilimanjaro climb (especially your walking boots), and to get used to the extra weight, wear your day-pack with 3 litres of water.
Additionally, running, cycling and swimming are great forms of exercise that will build muscle strength and improve your overall fitness level, but as with all training programs, please consult your doctor first.
Daily Routine on Kilimanjaro
The daily routine rarely changes when climbing Kilimanjaro, although your guide may request an early or late start depending on the route and weather conditions.
You will be woken around 7am each morning with a hot cup of tea or coffee, and will have around 30 minutes to pack most of your things and prepare for breakfast. After breakfast, you will have plenty of time to brush your teeth and pack your remaining gear before heading off on your daily trek at around 9am.
Morning treks are usually around 3-4 hours, and there will be plenty of water breaks along the way. You will be served lunch on route anywhere between 12:30 and 14:00, before continuing on to base-camp. You can expect to arrive at base-camp late afternoon (between 15:00 and 17:00), and will have time to rest and freshen up in your tent before dinner at around 19:00h.
After dinner, you may decide chat with your crew or return to your tent to relax and prepare for the next day.
Summit night is slightly different, in that you will eat dinner earlier (around 18:00h) and return to your tent to sleep before being woken at 23:00h for tea and biscuits before setting off at around midnight.
Food and Beverages on the Mountain
The 7-day Machame Route is a camping route, and therefore all your food will be carried and prepared by your porters and cook.
You can expect a hot breakfast, a daily snack-pack including orange juice, chocolate and savoury treats, a hot lunch and a three-course evening meal. Tea, coffee, hot chocolate and water are provided at meal times, and your crew will provide you with water each day to refill your water bottles. From day 2, water is collected from streams near the base camp, so we highly recommend you use water purification tablets to avoid getting an upset stomach.
Sample Menu – Vegetarian options available
- Breakfast: Fresh fruit, toast, eggs (fried, scrambled, omelette), muesli or porridge, orange juice, bacon or sausage, and pancakes
- Lunch: Fresh carrot and ginger soup, chicken in sweet and sour sauce, rice, mixed vegetable dish, and fresh fruits.
- Dinner: Mixed vegetable soup, spicy beef with garlic and tomato sauce, pasta, Chinese cabbage in coconut juice, and banana fritters with honey.
Mount Kilimanjaro Guides and Porters
Kilimanjaro guides, cooks and porters play an integral role in helping you get to the peak, and so we have an excellent team in place to ensure you get the most out of your expedition.
We fully support responsible and sustainable tourism throughout Tanzania, and as members of the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP) and the International Mountain Explorers Connection (IMEC), you can be confident your porters are well looked after, paid a fair salary, and provided with adequate food and clothing while on the mountain.
All the mountain guides we use are fully registered and well-trained in areas of mountain safety, first aid and mountain rescue, flora and fauna, and the history of Kilimanjaro.
Tipping Your Crew
Your team of mountain guides, cooks and porters rely on tips to survive. The list below contains the minimum tipping recommendations set by KPAP. These amounts are per crew-member and paid by the group, not per individual climber:
- Mountain Guide: $20 – $25 USD per day (7-Machame Route Climb = $140 – $175) per guide
- Assistant Guide: $15 – $20 USD per day (7-Machame Route Climb = $105 – $140) per assistant guide
- Cook: $12 – $15 USD per day (7-Machame Route Climb = $84 – $105) per cook
- Porter: $8 – $10 USD per day (7-Machame Route Climb = $56 – $70) per porter
You should be informed at the start of your climb how many crew-members will be joining you. If this is not the case, we recommend introducing yourself to each member at the 1st campsite and write their names down so you have something to refer to at the end of the climb when giving out tips.
We also recommend that you hold a ‘tipping ceremony’ at the end of your climb, and hand each guide, cook, porter their tips in an individual envelope – this ensures each member receives the amount they are entitled to.
In addition to tips, your crew-members will appreciate any items of clothing, equipment and shoes you can spare, so please do not be afraid to offer.
Altitude Sickness & Health Issues
One of the main difficulties faced when climbing Kilimanjaro is the altitude, which can, in extreme cases, result in acute mountain sickness (AMS). Most climbers experience some discomfort over 3,500-metres, such as a headache, nausea or loss of appetite, but this is usually remedied with a litre of water and a simple Ibuprofen tablet (providing you are not allergic). Some climbers recommend taking Diamox to prevent altitude sickness, but this should only be considered after speaking to your GP.
AMS is a serious illness and the only ‘cure’ is to descend, so to avoid this situation, your mountain guide will ensure you walk at an incredibly slow pace, drink as much water as possible (at least 3 litres per day), and eat enough to keep you energy levels high. The 7-day Machame Route allows an extra day for acclimatisation, and is therefore one of Kilimanjaro’s most successful routes.
Temperatures plummet during the night, and hypothermia is a real possibility if you are not prepared. A warm sleeping bag (suitable for use in temperatures of -25), thermal underwear, thick socks, hats and gloves will all help keep your body temperature stable.
Once you reach over 5000m, the earth’s protective atmosphere drops by a staggering 55% so the sun’s rays are much more powerful. Sun protection of factor 50+ is recommended, along with a wide-brimmed hat and quality sunglasses.
Insurance & Mountain Rescue
Valid travel insurance is vital when climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. You climb includes emergency mountain rescue and evacuation, but once you reach the hospital your own travel insurance must cover all medical treatments, and where necessary, repatriation to your home country.
Kilimanjaro Packing List – The Essentials
- A warm sleeping bag – recommended for use in temperatures of up to minus 25.
- Sleeping Bag Liner
- A small camping pillow –
- A headlamp & spare batteries.
- Hiking sticks/poles
- Water bottles – regular plastic or ‘camel-back’ bottles are fine. It is recommended you have sufficient water bottles to carry 3 litres of water.
- 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.
- Waterproof cover for your rucksack/daypack.
- Camera (s) with spare batteries and memory cards.
- Mobile Phone and spare batteries – Your mobile phone will work in certain areas on Kilimanjaro, but your battery will last half the normal time.
Kilimanjaro Packing List – Clothing
- A good pair of comfortable hiking boots with Gore-Tex protection.
- Waterproof Gaiters
- 1-2 pairs Gore-Tex hiking trousers
- 4-6 Dry Fit or Wicking T-Shirts (mix of long and short sleeves).
- Gore-Tex Windproof Jacket – Optional Down Jacket for Summit Night.
- Lightweight Fleece jacket – Polartec or similar.
- 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.
- Underwear & Socks – Take plenty!
- Fleece Tracksuit & Trainers (evenings)
- Sun Hat, Thermal Hat, Gloves and Scarf
- 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!
- Small, lightweight towel
- Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Toilet Paper & Deodorant.
- Moisturiser /Lip balms.
- Water purifying tablets
- Headache tablets / painkillers (speak to your doctor first):
- Ibuprofen or Nurofen
- Diamox – prescription only drug to relieve the symptoms of altitude sickness
- Sunscreen factor 50+
- Plasters and antiseptic cream
Kilimanjaro – Final Check List
Before heading off to the airport for your flight to Kilimanjaro International, please make sure you have the following documentation:
- Valid Passport and Tanzania Tourist Visa (apply at least 5 weeks prior to departure)
- Yellow Fever Certificate – Please check with your local embassy for updates
- A return/onward flight ticket
- Travel / Medical Insurance Documents
- US Dollars and a valid international Visa/Master Credit card
If you need any further information about your upcoming Kilimanjaro climb, please do not hesitate to contact us!