We know first-hand just how much planning is involved in Climbing Kilimanjaro, and so we have put together this Kilimanjaro Essential Guide to help you prepare for the mental and physical challenges that you will face on your expedition to the Roof of Africa.
About Mount Kilimanjaro
At 5.895m above sea level, Mount Kilimanjaro is not only the highest peak in Africa, but it is also the tallest freestanding mountain in the world. A giant stratovolcano with volcanic peaks, namely Shira, Kibo, and Mwenzi, it lies close to the equator in the Kilimanjaro National Park on the border of Tanzania and Kenya.
Climbing Kilimanjaro is an unforgettable experience, and as it is classified as a non-technical climb (no ropes or climbing gear required) anyone with a good level of physical fitness can conquer its snow-capped peak. Paths and trails on the mountain are clearly marked and well maintained, and while the ascent can be fairly steep in some areas, there are plenty of opportunities to stop, rest, and admire the ever-changing ecological zones around you.
Kilimanjaro Weather Conditions
Due to its close proximity to the equator, Tanzania does not experience spring, summer, autumn, and winter, 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, and the short trains from November to December, but it is still possible to hike Kilimanjaro during these months providing you have water-resistant hiking boots and plenty of rain gear.
June and July are popular months to climb Kilimanjaro with clear blue skies, although it is colder than August to 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, but it can be particularly busy at that time of the year.
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
Mount Kilimanjaro is not technically challenging, and you do not need any specialist mountain equipment or training to conquer it, 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 and incorporate plenty of trekking, hiking, hill walking, and simulated climbing using a step machine.
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, you should consult your doctor first.
Train in the clothes and boots that you will be wearing during your Kilimanjaro Expedition to make sure they are comfortable and wear a weighted backpack to get used to the extra weight you’ll be carrying during your time on the mountain.
Daily Routine on Kilimanjaro
Wake, Eat, Walk, Eat, Walk Eat, Sleep and Repeat is the standard routine on Mount Kilimanjaro, although your guide may switch things up a bit if the route or weather conditions require it.
Your day will most likely start at around 06:30am with a cup of tea or coffee and a bowl of warm water for washing. You’ll then have about 30-minutes to pack up your stuff and prepare your daypack before making your way to the mess tent for breakfast. After breakfast, you will have time to brush your teeth, top up your water bottles, and pack your snacks into your backpack before heading off on the trail.
Morning treks usually last 3-4 hours with plenty of water breaks along the way. Lunch is served on route anywhere between 12:30pm and 2pm, and you can expect to arrive at base-camp in the afternoon between 3pm and 5pm. You’ll have time at leisure from 5pm to 7pm when dinner is served, before crawling into your sleeping bag for the night.
Summit night is different. You’ll have dinner earlier so that you can try to get a few hours sleep before the challenge ahead, and your guide will wake you at around 11pm with tea and biscuits to prepare you for your midnight summit attempt.
Food and Drinks on Kilimanjaro
Different companies offer different standards when it comes to food and drink on Kilimanjaro, but if you book with a reputable company, you should be well-fed and well-watered throughout.
You can expect a hot breakfast, a daily snack-pack including orange juice, chocolate, and savoury treats, a hot lunch served on route, and a three-course evening meal. Tea, coffee, hot chocolate and water should be provided at mealtimes, and your crew should provide you with filtered water each day to refill your water bottles. Vegetarians and vegan diets are available if requested in advance.
Mount Kilimanjaro Guides and Porters
Kilimanjaro guides, cooks, and porters play an important role in getting you to the peak, and they are the unsung heroes of the mountain.
To ensure your mountain crew are paid a fair salary and provided with plenty of food and clothing for the expedition, make sure you book your Kilimanjaro Climb with a Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP) and International Mountain Explorers Connection (IMEC) registered company.
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
- Assistant Guide: $15 – $20 USD per day
- Cook: $12 – $15 USD per day
- Porter: $8 – $10 USD per day
You should be informed at the start of your climb how many crew-members will be joining you. If not, introduce yourself to each crew member on day one and write down names for reference. At the end of your expedition, you should hold a ‘tipping ceremony’ and give each guide, cook, and porter their tips in individual envelopes. They will also 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 3,500m above sea level, such as headaches, 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. To avoid this situation, your mountain guide will set a slow walking pace and encourage you to eat and drink as much as you can to keep energy levels high.
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 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. Emergency mountain rescue and evacuation should be included in your expedition, but once you reach the base of the mountain, your own travel insurance must cover all medical treatments, and where necessary, repatriation to your home country.
If you feel too ill to continue with your Kilimanjaro Expedition, you will have to pay for transport, hotel costs, and meals, so make sure you are covered under your insurance policy.
Kilimanjaro Packing List – The Essentials
- Sleeping Bag (-25)
- Sleeping Bag Liner
- Inflatable mattress
- A headlamp & spare batteries
- Hiking sticks/poles
- Water bottles – regular plastic or ‘camel-back’ bottles are fine
- A large rucksack and a daypack – you will carry your daypack; the porters will carry your rucksack weighing up to 15kg
- 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