Climbing Kilimanjaro is one of the most exciting, nerve-wracking and rewarding things that you can do in your lifetime. Not only is it a member of the mighty Seven Summits, Kilimanjaro is Africa’s tallest mountain, and the highest freestanding mountain in the world, and so standing on top of its snow-capped peak is a real privilege… but getting there is not easy!
Ask anyone who has climbed Kilimanjaro before will tell you, preparation is everything when it comes to a successful trip. You need to choose the right route, you need to do some research on the mountain’s weather conditions, and you need to prepare yourself mentally and physically for the challenges that you are going to face…especially if you’ve never been camping before!
With the exception of the Marangu Route, all routes on Kilimanjaro use specifically designated campsites where you overnight on the side of the mountain. Equipped with a registration office, some rather basic toilet facilities, and well, that’s about it, they are just camping areas, mostly with spectacular views.
Contrary to popular belief, there are no snack bars, and there is certainly nowhere to charge your smartphone at the campsite, so don’t be fooled by what you read. If your climbing company doesn’t provide snacks for you (all good companies do!), then take plenty with you for the duration of the climb. Also take at least one power bank to charge your camera and phone batteries, or better still, a backpack with a solar panel.
Kilimanjaro’s campsites are well-maintained, and the golden rule of ‘what goes up, must come down’ is strictly enforced by all Mountain Crew. You need to bring all your own rubbish down with you so you can dispose of it responsibly outside the National Park, and that includes used baby wipes, sweet wrappers, and even used toilet paper (that you haven’t disposed of in camp)!
If you are not an experienced camper, invest in a good quality sleeping bag suitable for use in temperatures as low as -25, and a good Thermarest (or similar) inflatable mattress. Mattresses may be provided by your climbing company, but they are often slim foam mats that are anything but comfortable. Kilimanjaro is one hard mountain, and you’ll appreciate the extra comfort of a thermarest, so buy before you leave home, or rent one in Tanzania.
No matter what time of the year you climb Kilimanjaro, it’s going to be freezing cold at night, and so you need a good set of thermals and warm woollen socks to wear inside your sleeping bag. The higher you get the colder it gets, so be prepared to sleep fully clothed by night 3.
Finally, a little tip for those climbing Kilimanjaro this year, the campsites on the descent routes (Mweka and Millennium) often sell beers for those who want to celebrate their achievement (or perhaps commiserate if they didn’t make it!). It’s all a bit hush-hush so your guide might need to arrange this for you, but for a mere $8 a can, you can celebrate in style!