Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro: Essential Gear, Routes and Preparation

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure and privacy policy for more information.

Last Updated on February 5, 2023 by Audrey Scott

How do I prepare for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro? What gear and hiking essentials will I need? Which Kilimanjaro route should I choose? What do I need to do to train or prepare for the hike? How best to avoid (or manage) altitude sickness? Read on for answers to all these questions about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to help you successfully get to the summit.

There's certainly no shortage of digital ink spilled on the topic of how to successfully climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak of Africa. Even so, every article we’ve read seemed to be missing just a little something. That's where this comprehensive guide to climbing Mount Kilimanjaro comes in with a full gear list of what to pack, different Kilimanjaro route options and how best to prepare for this epic hike.

Closer to the Top - Mt. Kilimanjaro
Making it to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro…all of us.

Based on our own experience climbing and reaching the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, we share all the nuts and bolts of what an average, ordinary hiker will need to climb Kilimanjaro. We'll address choosing a Kilimanjaro route and tour, costs, equipment and hiking gear, ways to avoid and manage altitude sickness and other illnesses, and whether or not you need to train to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

Don't worry, it's not as daunting as it sounds. And it is so worth all the effort you put into it.

The following experiences and advice are taken from our Marangu Route Kilimanjaro Trek with G Adventures. If you are considering climbing Kilimanjaro with G Adventures and want to know what to expect on their tour here's a taste of how the Kilimanjaro tours are organized, guides and porter support provided, and what you need to know in advance to best prepare yourself for this challenging, but oh so amazing, climb up to the top of Africa. Disclosure: This tour was sponsored and provided to us in conjunction with our partnership with G Adventures as Wanderers.

Kilimanjaro Gear List: Hiking Essentials Checklist

We can attest that there’s no need to go out and spend a fortune on special gear for climbing Kilimanjaro as it is not a technical hike. However, it is important to pack all the right essentials and have the appropriate hiking gear and layers so that you are comfortable in different types of weather, temperatures and altitudes.

In other words, you don't to be thinking about your gear — or lack there of – when climbing Kilimanjaro so that you can focus all your attention on the actual experience.

Consider what gear to bring with you from home (e.g., clothing, shoes, day pack, and maybe outerwear) what is best rented on the ground (e.g., sleeping bags and duffels) so as to avoid taking up extra space in your luggage. This is especially relevant if you will be going on safari or doing other activities on the same trip as lugging around a big sleeping bag in your suitcase is not very practical as it takes up a lot of room and weight.

In our experience, we arrived in Moshi with just the basic stuff we carried with us all the time on our round-the-world journey. We rented the remainder of the clothes, gear and equipment needed when we arrived the day before the trek began. This included: two sleeping bags, two pairs of waterproof pants, one waterproof jacket, walking sticks, two pairs of gaiters, two big duffel bags (for porters to carry), two waterproof bags, and one day pack. Most Kilimanjaro hotels and tour companies offer the option to rent gear.

Note: For a full list of what we recommend to pack for a hike, check out our Ultimate Hiking Packing List.

Hiking Clothing Essentials for Kilimanjaro:

Before we enumerate clothing and gear you might need, you should prepare yourself to go without a shower during your Kilimanjaro hike. Here are the basic clothing essentials and gear we recommend you bringing with you.

Your porter will carry 15 kilos for you. This includes the weight of your sleeping bag. This should be more than enough weight allowance for what you’ll need to carry.

Outerwear Essentials for Climbing Kilimanjaro

At night and on summit day, it can get very cold, as in down to -25C/-13F. Be prepared for this with many layers.

Waterproof pants: At the beginning of the climb you may need this to protect against rain. On summit day, you'll need it for wind protection and warmth.

Waterproof jacket: We found that a simple winter/shell jacket is usually sufficient if supported by good multiple layers underneath.

Down or Puffy Jackets: We've started carrying a light down jacket that can be stuffed into a tiny cinch bag. It hardly takes up any room or weight in the backpack, but can provide warmth and comfort at night when temperatures drop. If we were to climb Kilimanjaro again, we'd bring this with us. Dan loves his seamless ultra-light down jacket from Uniqlo. I carry a down jacket similar to this that packs up small and light.

Climb Kilimanjaro, at Uhuru Peak
Bundled up at Uhuru Peak in our waterproof pants and jackets.

Other Essential Hiking Gear for Climbing Kilimanjaro

Hiking shoes: Make sure your shoes/boots have some ankle support (for summit day ascent and descent). Dan wore his low hikers for the first two days and switched to a rented ($15) pair of leather hiking boots on summit day.

Walking sticks / walking poles: We would recommend bringing walking sticks with you (we like this light, foldable travel-friendly pair of walking sticks) or renting at least one pole. You'll find it useful if not essential for balance, stability and pacing, particularly on the descent. Dan and I split a set and used them only on the descent.

However, after talking with other climbers, it's worth carrying a pair and using them for pacing and planting on the ascent up the frozen sand and scree switchbacks on the way up to Gilman Point.

Gaiters: These clip on to your shoes and pants to protect your shoes from getting inundated with dirt, sand and snow, particularly on the descent. We wouldn’t consider these crucial, particularly when we trekked during the season of limited/no snow. Rent them if your guide says you expect to walk through snow, otherwise you can probably skip them.

Sleeping bag: The warmer, the better. Try to rent a sleeping bag that is comfort rated to -20 C. Do not skimp on your sleeping bag — better to be too warm than too cold. We also recommend using a silk sleeping bag liner as it will add another layer of warmth and also a layer of additional hygiene in case you are renting a sleeping bag.

Quick-Drying Towel: It's always good to start and end your day by washing your hands and face. As you won't be taking full showers on this hike, a small to medium-sized quick drying towel is sufficient.

Extra batteries/portable charger: There is no electricity for charging batteries on the way up the mountain. Bring your own solar charger, self-contained portable charger, or stock up on extra batteries. Consider buying a phone case that doubles as an extra battery. Here’s an example for our iPhone batter case. It provides another 1-1.5 charges.

Head lamp: A head lamp is so much better than a torch on summit day. The last thing you want to do going up the mountain is hold something in your hand. Even better, carry a headlamp with an infrared light option. When you're sharing a hut with a group of people and need to take pee breaks in the middle of the night, the red light is less disturbing to your hut-mates than a regular light.

Ear plugs: As you know, we love ear plugs. Sleep is critical during the climb. Do yourself a favor and get some good ear plugs so you don't hear the bathroom breaks or snorers in your hut/tent. Also useful when the people bunking next to you squeal like 13-year old girls all night.

Duct tape: Miracle tape for preventing blisters, taping up hot spots and preventing awful blisters from getting any worse. Especially useful when wearing new shoes (which we do not recommend, but I had to do). We also recommend carrying Compeed to treat any blisters you might get on the way up or down the mountain. This stuff is magic.

Climbing Kilimanjaro, Blisters and Health
Fortunately, this was not one of our feet.

Handywipes: Helps you to stay “fresh” when you haven’t had a shower in days. Not going to go into more details here.

Electrolyte powder packets: When you're drinking so much water, it gets boring. Also, sugars and salts are useful to help the body absorb and retain water.

Peanut butter (or your favorite snack): When you are tired and your appetite is waning with elevation, something smooth, easy, familiar, and loaded with energy may just be what you need to eat.

Climbing Kilimanjaro, Snacks
No, we do not have sponsorship from Skippy. We just like peanut butter.

Medical Kit and Hygiene Gear

A few medical items to bring with you to make your Kilimanjaro experience a little easier.

  • Tylenol or Paracetamol for head and body aches: Light headaches and body aches are rather normal as you gain serious elevation. Our guide suggested that Tylenol/paracetemol is better than taking aspirin. It’s also easier on your kidneys than ibuprofen. If you choose to take Ibuprofen, be sure to drink even more water.
  • Anti-nausea or diarrhea medicine: Stomachs also tend to suffer from elevation gain. For diarrhea, you can take immodium or lomotil, but they simply mask the symptoms. For nausea, controlling your breathing is the best if you’d like to avoid vomiting.
  • Water purification drops or sterilization pen: We were provided boiled Kilimanjaro stream water at each stop. The higher the elevation, the less water actually boils at high heat. We drank the water without any purification tablets or drops and were fine. If you are nervous about water, bring water purification pills, drops, or a sterilization pen (Note: Our SteriPEN stopped working – don't know if it had something to do with elevation or cold weather killing batteries.)

(Note: No matter how tough you think your stomach is, don’t drink the tap water in Moshi or Arusha before you begin your trek. We’ve heard horror stories, as in someone being carried down the mountain on a stretcher due to amoebic dysentery. There’s no sense tempting fate.)

Choosing a Kilimanjaro Route

Since all routes lead to the same place – Uhuru Peak (5,885 meters / 19.340 feet) — we recommend not to belabor this decision. Choose a route that you think best fits your schedule (number of days), sleeping preferences (hut or tent), fitness level, sensitivity to altitude sickness (longer hikes have more time to acclimatize) and budget.

Here is an overview and map of the main Kilimanjaro routes mentioned below.

Climbing Kilimanjaro Different Routes Map
Map of the main routes to climb Kilimanjaro. [Map credit: G Adventures]

We highly recommend booking a group tour instead of climbing alone with a private guide and porter. Going Kilimanjaro solo may be for some, but we found it more fun to hike, summit and share the experience with a group. Solo climbers we spoke with expressed the same thing and often joined our group when they could for the company and conversation.

Note: Our Kilimanjaro hike was done with G Adventures so we provide links to their Kilimanjaro trekking tours below. These are affiliate links so the price stays the same to you, but we earn a small commission on any sales.

Marangu Route

The Marangu route is affectionately known as the “Coca Cola Route” because you sleep in huts (instead of in tents) along the way. Read all about our experience on the Marangu Route, Day by Day.

Note: Since our firsthand experience speaks only to the Marangu route, the remaining route information comes from our Kilimanjaro guide with over ten years of experience and knew every possible hiking route and conversations with other hikers we met.

Climb Kilimanjaro, Trekking Group
Group shot of our Kilimanjaro trekking contingent.

Machame Route

Known as the “Whiskey Route,” the Machame Route takes six days and is popular because you ascend and descend on different paths and experience a wider variety of scenery than on the Marangu Route. Sleeping is in tents.

Rongai Route

This 6-day Rongai Route begins close to the border with Kenya on the northern side of the mountain and then joins up with the Marangu Route at Kibo Huts. It features the same summit day and descent as the Marangu Route. Sleeping is in tents.

Lemosho Route

The Lemosho Route begins in the west and meets up with the Machame route after a few days. It takes eight days total and is said to have some of the best scenery of the Kilimanjaro routes. Sleeping is in tents.

Our friend Becki has put together a comprehensive article on her experience on the Lemosho Route.

Umbwe Route

Another 6-7 day route in tents. Our chief guide described this as the most difficult of all Kilimanjaro routes.

Shira Route

Similar to the Lemosho Route, but features a higher trailhead starting point (3,800 meters).

Note: For any given route, differences in duration are due to optional acclimatization days where you spend an additional night in a location to better adjust to the altitude. If you are especially concerned about altitude sickness, you should consider taking an extra day on the ascent.

Climbing Kilimanjaro, Uhuru Peak
At Uhuru Peak at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

When to Climb Kilimanjaro

High season for Kilimanjaro treks runs from late June to September and December to February. Consider climbing during the shoulder seasons to get good weather while avoiding the crowds.

For us, late May to early June was just about perfect: weather was great, skies were clear, and it was not too hot. Huts, trails and bathrooms were not overrun with climbers.

Cost to Climb Mount Kilimanjaro

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is not cheap. Kilimanjaro entrance fees and permits to Kilimanjaro National Park are steep. The climb also requires A LOT of people to help you get up the mountain — porters, guides, assistant guides, and cooks.

Climb Kilimanjaro, Porters Carrying Gear
Porter Carrying Equipment Up Mount Kilimanjaro

Our five-day Marangu route trek was included in our G Adventures tour in Tanzania that covered Kilimanjaro, Serengeti safari and Zanzibar. If you book the Kilimanjaro Marangu route trek (7 days) separately, it costs between $2,300-$2,800 (including two nights at a hotel in Moshi) while a tour including the Marangu route and Serengeti safari (13 days) costs $4,300-$5,300.

The Machame route and other camping treks are more expensive because the trek is longer and requires additional porters to carry additional camping equipment.

Tipping for Mt. Kilimanjaro? Estimate about $100-$200 (depending upon which route you take and how satisfied you are with your experience) in tips for your entire entourage of guides, porters and cooks. Many of the local staff earn more in tips than in salary.

We were thankful for the extra support our G Adventures Kilimanjaro team provided. This included additional manpower and support on summit day, plentiful and well-planned meals, and the peace of mind that comes with an experienced team whose aim is to help you summit safely.

Kilimanjaro Climb, Lunch
Lunch on the Way Up Mount Kilimanjaro

If you book a tour on the ground in Moshi or Arusha, you can probably negotiate a cheaper price. However, we do not recommend risking a tour that cuts corners and leaves you without proper food and support (something we heard from other travelers).

In addition, your guides and porters may not be properly insured or supported. Make sure you know exactly what you are getting for your money. If you have even the slightest doubt, trust your instinct and find an alternative provider.

Some questions to ask about a Kilimanjaro tour: What kind of food will you have? What specifically is served for breakfast, lunch and dinner? Are the porters members of the porter's association so that they have some protection, insurance and benefits? Will you have summit porters or additional help on summit day? Will your chief guide carry oxygen in case you need it? If you are taking a route where you sleep in tents, in what condition is the equipment?

Advice on Kilimanjaro Summit Day

Climbing Kilimanjaro, Ascent to Uhuru Peak
Summit day climb to Uhuru Peak.
  • Take many breaks on summit day: Don't be afraid to ask your guide to take a break as often as you need. If our stomachs began to feel queasy, all we’d need is a short rest with concentrated breathing to re-center. Very deep breathing — vocal exhales and yoga-style breathing, as bizarre as it sounds –can also help with oxygen intake and nausea management.
  • Play games or sing songs to take your mind off the climb: When you're plodding up volcanic scree for hour upon hour in the black of night, boredom can weigh on you. Try to come up with mind games or sing songs in your head to distract you from obsessing about the time. This is where “99 bottles of beer on the wall” comes in handy.
  • Go easy at the top: When you get to Uhuru Peak, you’ll feel exhilarated. You may want to jump for joy. Go for it once, but not twice. Control your excitement and movement. Otherwise, you may find yourself wanting to vomit on the way back down.

Avoiding and Managing Altitude Sickness on Kilimanjaro

Our assistant guide told me on the first day: “You will make it up to the top if you follow the rules.”

Here are those rules:

1. Water

Drink it until you almost feel sick. This is perhaps the most important factor when dealing with high elevation. Drink at least three liters per day. If you can drink more, do so.

Yes, you'll be get up to pee during the night but this is a better alternative than succumbing to altitude sickness. Particularly as you climb, skip the diuretics (stuff that makes you pee like tea and coffee) in favor of hot water.

2. Pole Pole (Slowly, Slowly)

Walking slowly allows you to conserve your energy and acclimatize as you go. Does your pace seems ridiculously slow? Then it must be the right one for Kilimanjaro.

3. Food

Your appetite declines as you gain elevation. This means you need to power eat on the first days of the trek and try to force yourself to eat at elevation. Not having enough energy reserves, particularly on summit day, isn’t good.

4. Sleep

Sleeping well becomes more difficult the higher you go in elevation – your heart races and your mind is wandering in and out of hallucination-like dreams. Go to bed early and sleep as best you can (see tip above for ear plugs). You'll need all the rest you can get.

Having said all this, everyone reacts to altitude differently. Prepare yourself mentally for some discomfort. Even the fittest person can succumb to altitude sickness.

Other tools and tip to manage altitude sickness:

Acclimatization walks: At the end of each day, ask your guide to take you on an acclimatization walk. The idea is to walk/hike up to a point higher than where you’ll be sleeping for the night and then descend back down. This helps your body better adjust to the lack of oxygen.

Climbing Kilimanjaro, Acclimatization Walks
Acclimatization walks also provide some nice views, too.

Altitude Medicine (Diamox) – Yes or No? Although we carry Diamox as an emergency backup, we have always avoided taking it. Our guides in Nepal and Peru instilled in us that Diamox should be taken only as a last resort.

The Kilimanjaro guides were a little more forgiving regarding their opinion of Diamox. It is heavy chemistry; it does very strange things to the acidity level of your blood and it requires that you drink even more water on the day you begin using it (4-5 liters if you can imagine that).

However, we do know experienced trekkers who take small doses of Diamox and they say that it does help them when they reach higher altitudes.

Garlic pills: In Nepal, the traditional wisdom says that garlic thins the blood. So on the Annapurna Circuit and Everest Base Camp hikes, all the tea houses offer garlic soup. We ate a bowl almost daily on our way around the Annapurna Circuit.

Knowing that garlic soup wouldn’t be available on Kilimanjaro, we carried garlic pills and took a double dose twice daily.

Did it help? Who knows?

Did we stink. Hells yes. But we stank anyway. (No showers, you know.)

Do I Need to Train to Climb Kilimanjaro?

If your lifestyle is 100% sedentary, you will definitely have some work to do. If, on the other hand, you’re accustomed to regular exercise and being active, including hikes and activities that get your heart rate up several times a week, you're probably in the league of people who can summit Kilimanjaro without a lot of additional training.

Although we did nothing specific in preparation for climbing Kilimanjaro, we were pretty active and were climbing volcanoes in Bali prior to the trip. There were others on our hike who prepared with regular training sessions for several months. I suspect this preparation helped them as much mentally as it did physically.

After all, Kilimanjaro is a mental exercise, one about fortitude and confidence as much as anything else.

Peeing on the Kilimanjaro Climb (a Woman's Perspective)

When you're drinking at least three liters of water per day, you're doing a lot of peeing — both during the day and at night. Basically, you're going to need to get used to peeing in the great outdoors.

When hiking during the day, the easiest thing is to pop behind a bush, rock, tree along the way. We usually had group water and pee breaks at the same time. When the landscape becomes more barren at higher elevation, it's a bit more difficult to find cover but you can usually find a small mound of dirt or rock.

At night, the goal is to find a spot near your hut or tent that is somewhat protected, but easy to get to in your half-asleep slumber. Your inhibitions about peeing outside go away pretty quickly.

I didn't use the She Wee or other urine funnels that allow women to pee standing up without making a mess, but might consider it for next time. Sounds like it would make things easier, faster and more efficient during the day and at night. If you use one of these on your Kilimanjaro Climb, let me know in comments how it worked out.
(Note: this section added on July 21, 2011 after receiving questions about this topic in the comments section and by email.)

Concluding Thoughts on Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro

One of the great things about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is that it does not require a lot of technical skills or climbing gear. However, being prepared for the hike allows you to focus on the task at hand – getting to Uhuru Peak – instead of worrying about what you’re missing in your pack or how to handle altitude sickness.

What are we missing here?

If you are contemplating a Kilimanjaro climb and have other questions, please post them below in the comments. If you've climbed Kilimanjaro and have your own tips or secrets, please share them below.

Disclosure: Special thanks to the leaders of our G Adventures climbing and summit team: Suliman, Issa, Isaac, Hatibo and Masa. Without you, we might still be on that mountain. Our Kilimanjaro Trek in Tanzania was provided by G Adventures in connection with its Wanderers in Residence program. As always, the opinions expressed here are entirely our own.
About Audrey Scott
Audrey Scott is a writer, storyteller, speaker and tourism development consultant. She aims to help turn people's fears into curiosity and connection. She harbors an obsession for artichokes and can bake a devastating pan of brownies. You can keep up with her adventures on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. And you can learn more about her on the About Page and on LinkedIn.

52 thoughts on “Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro: Essential Gear, Routes and Preparation”

  1. Great post. Kili is def on the list of “to do’s”. All the info you need for the trek is right here. Thanks

  2. @Trans-Americas: Thanks – glad you enjoyed this post! Our approach to these practical posts is to put all the information that we wish we had known before the experience in one place. Now that you’ve got all the information you need to prepare for the hike, the next step is finding a way to Tanzania. Good luck!

  3. Wow, this is definitely the most complete Kilimanjaro guide I’ve seen. I wouldn’t have thought to bring duct tape or garlic.

  4. @Scott: Glad you found this so comprehensive! We learn something from each trek or climb we do, so we try to pass on these conventional – and not so conventional – tips on to others. Hope you make good use of the duct tape and garlic on your next trek 🙂

  5. @Lindsay: Thanks! I hope this post helps with your preparation for your upcoming climb. Very good question about peeing along the route. You definitely do a lot of it with all the water you drink. I don’t know first hand about the Lemosho route, but along the Marangu route we girls went off behind a bush or tree to pee. When the landscape got more barren and sparse, we’d try and find a small hill or rock to hide behind. When it was completely barren, the guys would essentially go ahead of us and then waited. There were outhouses (dry toilets) in a few spots along the way for us, but not sure the Lemosho route has that.

    Good luck with your climb!

  6. Hi,
    Thanks for a brilliant report. We are doing the Lemosho route on the 24th August, 2011. I have done a lot of reading about Kilimanjaro and read all there is to read, however no one seems to mention or go into detail about peeing on the mountain. Obviously being a female having to stop and pee is not going to be straight forward especially when you move up the mountain and the landscape changes to being very sparse of vegetation. Drinking huge quantities of water obviously leads to the inevitable so my question is this what do females do for the toilet on the mountain especially if there is no where to go. Thanks again for your very informative report. 🙂

  7. This is a great post! We are going to climb on the Machame route on 25th aug and was also wondering about how us ladies would go to the bathroom. Do you have any tips for going at night time? Thanks

  8. Hi there
    I did a bit of searching on the Internet and found what I think is the perfect product for solving the problem of having to get out of your tent for a pee, especially when you get further up the mountain and it is freezing cold! Hopefully if you click on the link it will take you to the page telling you about it. If it doesn’t work just google Travel John. There are several places that sell them. They hold up to 800ml of fluid so hopefully even if you need to pee more than once in the night they should be big enough!
    Good luck with your climb.

  9. @Niyanta: When you’re peeing multiple times in the night when it’s cold and you’re exhausted, many of your inhibitions go away 🙂 I just would find a spot – tree, bush, etc. – near our hut and try to go as quickly as possible so that I wouldn’t freeze. You’ll be in tents on the Machame route, but I imagine you’ll have similar pee opportunities near your tents.

    Another woman recommended trying the She-Wee – it allows you to pee while standing up. That might also speed things up 🙂

    @Lindsay: Interesting! I’ve never used something like that. It might be a bit awkward if you’re sharing a tent with someone, but if you’ve got your own tent it looks like a great option. If you use it, let me know how it works out.

  10. @Audrey Scott
    I never thought about that :-o. I’m sharing a tent with my husband so no probs. I will certainly let you know how I get on with the Travel John

  11. @Lindsay: Maybe the idea is use the she wee with the travel john 🙂 Good luck and enjoy your climb!!

    @Susan: I was originally thinking more to use the she-wee in the bushes outside the tent at night. Easier to stand than having to balance squatting when it’s cold outside and you’re half asleep.

    Thanks for the advice on Diamox for people who have previously suffered from altitude sickness or have asthma. Didn’t know it also helped with asthma.

  12. I recommended the she-wee and agree it’s a no-no unless you’re in a tent alone or know your travelling companion really well. For clothing, I highly recommend Icebreaker baselayers. They don’t smell and are lovely and warm. Finally re Diamox – take it if you’ve suffered from altitude sickness previously. This was a recommendation from a doctor specialising in altitude medicine in Nepal. From my experience, take it if you suffer with asthma.

  13. Hi. Thanks for this personal post. My husband and I are climbing Kili in September.

    I wonder if you could say more about the food. I’ve asked several companies what they serve and all say lots of rice and boiled eggs. I’m wondering if I need to bring my own “hiker’s snacks” like gorp, peanut butter, granola bars, etc.

  14. @Kelly: We were rather impressed by the food on our Kilimanjaro trek (Marangu route). Breakfast was usually toast, peanut butter (provided by tour), eggs (fried, omelette, scrambled or boiled), veggies, fruit. Lunch was usually a bag lunch – soup, sandwich, fried chicken, etc. Dinner included rice/potatoes/pasta plus some sort of meat/chicken in a sauce. Most people around us in the huts were eating similar meals.

    But, I’d recommend bringing some snacks with you for energy in between meals. We carried a jar of peanut butter and enjoyed the option of granola bars as a quick snack on the trail.

    Good luck with your climb and if you have any other questions, please be in touch!

  15. Hi 🙂

    Thank you for the great post. We are going to climb KIli around next march (2013) as its my Dad 65th Birthday and this is something that he had dreamed of doing.
    I have couple questions to ask.
    1. Food- I have noticed that everywhere is mentioned that you get a piece of meat for dinner etc. Are there any vegetarian possibilities?
    2. Also you have said about the options to pee(great advices), however are there any options/places to have “numer 2”? Could be useful for example if you get diarrhoea.
    3. We are buying flights separately and thinking of finding travel guide there. Are there many travel companies to choose from?

    Thanks a lot!


  16. In response to Marta’s questions – I hope you don’t mind me pitching in, Dan and Audrey:

    A really good book to check out which should answer all your questions and more is by Henry Stedman and is called “Kilimanjaro, the trekking guide to Africa’s highest mountain”.

    In no particular order:

    Number 2s! Basically, if you have to go, you have to go. You should try and find somewhere secluded and where others are not likely to tread; and preferably, bury the evidence. Of course, you may not have the tools to do this and it was evident from some of the places we stopped that some people either didn’t have the tools or just couldn’t care less. I’d suggest carrying spare plastic bags so you can take away used toilet roll or wipes with you.

    Travel Companies: Henry Stedman’s book suggests looking in Arusha or Moshi, with those in Moshi concentrating more on trekking (less on safaris) and having more options for budget trekking. He suggests downloading the following questionnaire from the Kili Porter’s website, which should serve as a guide for quizzing potential trekking companies and ensuring their porters are adequately prepared and supported so that they can ably support you in turn:

    I think the availability of vegetarian options will depend on which trekking company you use, and you should check that they can cater for your needs in advance.

    I hope this helps.

    Good luck. You’ll have a fantastic time!


  17. @Marta: Apologies for the delayed response to your question -we’ve been on the road the last few days with limited internet. What a wonderful trip for your father’s 65th birthday!! So exciting.

    Susan did a great job answering your questions, but just wanted to add a few things.

    1) Vegetarian food: Request vegetarian food from the tour company you choose. Before our trip, we filled out a questionnaire asking about dietary issues, including if we were vegetarian, had food allergies, etc. If the tour company you’re thinking of using does not offer vegetarian food, keep looking around until you find one that does. Also, we had jars of peanut butter on our tables each day and there are other granola bar type snacks to help keep your protein levels up.

    2) As Carol said, when you got to go, you gotta go and you find a way to make it work. One of the women in our group had stomach issues one of the days and she just found bushes a bit away from the trail to use as cover. If you take the Marangu route, there are outhouses along the trail from time to time. Also, I’d recommend taking a supply of anti-diarrhea pills (e.g., Immodium or Lomtil). (More info on basic travel health and medicines here:

    3) I think you’ll have quite a large selection of Kilimanjaro tours to choose from where you buy the flights yourself and the tour starts on the ground. We used G Adventures and the tour begins once you arrive at the hotel. The guides are excellent, as is the quality of the food and service. I’d recommend a group tour instead of a private tour because the spirit of the group helps with motivation and inspiration. You can see all the G Adventures Kilimanjaro tours here:

    @Susan: Thanks for chiming and and sharing great information. Appreciate it!

  18. This is a great guide to climb Mt.Kilimanjaro for anyone planning for a safari there. I am sure it will do also for Climbing Mt. Kenya, the sister Mountain in Kenya.

  19. @Ali: Good point. This mountain climbing and trekking preparation list is probably good for just about any mountain near the size and difficulty of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

  20. Hi, this article is brilliant and very helpful, I will be climbing Kili beginning of December and I am super excited!!! Getting Amped 🙂 more and more everytime I read one of these awesome articles

  21. @Teodor: Congratulations on making the decision to climb Kili in December! Should be a great time of year to do so. Glad that our posts have helped in the preparation and excitement. Just remember, pole pole!

  22. @Christine: Congratulations on your upcoming climb! Thanks for the tip on training – great advice! Regarding altitude sickness, just go as slow as you can, even from the very beginning when it is easy. Follow the advice of your guides – keep drinking water, eat at lot at the beginning, try to sleep as much as possible. Good luck and let us us know how it goes!

  23. I am climbing KILIMANJARO on Jan 15th, 2013. Very soon. Thank you for discussing the toilet issues. Everyone seems to avoid that subject LOL you have given me a lot of useful information. Passing on a little tip for some training. If you have any close to your home, try climbing ski hills in off season. It has been great work outs because of its incline. I am a little nervous about the altitude sickness but hope my mental strength will get me thru that. LOL I wish everyone who is attempting this climb a safe and enjoyable one. 🙂

  24. Hi I had no intention of ever trekking up this mountain, in fact I dont Trek anywhere, some friends of mine have just embarked on this trek and I thought I would try and read up on what it entails, I am now so envious of my friends, and have decided I want to do this, thanks for a fascinating insight as to what is required, you have fired my imagination.

  25. David Manley, be warned, trekking is addictive :-). I started with Kili and last year spent 3 months covering 1000km of Nepal’s Great Himalaya Trail. I plan to finish the last 700km and have a trekking wishlist that keeps growing. It’s a great way to connect with nature, with local people and is also a humbling experience.

  26. Hi, Ive just come back from climbing Kilimanjaro in March this year, it was the first all female trek on the mountain and we had a blast – in between the headaches, vomiting and diarrhoea – all of our group succumbed to altitude sickness in some shape or form – some – as you correctly point out due to over exertion. My tips would be:
    1. Drink water until you think you can drink no more – then drink another 1/2 litre !!
    2. Rest at every opportunity – better to get an hours sleep at 6 o’clock than wait til later and get none !!
    3. If you go on the Marangu route and in bunks rather than tents – take something to cover the pillows – emmm they’re rather dirty – no matter how long its been since you’ve had a shower – putting your head on stained pillows does not bode well for a good sleep 🙂
    4. Get some hill walking in as training before you go – its not about speed – its about distance – its a long way each day – with less oxygen as you climb.
    5. Take some of your favourite treats – high energy ones – SIS gels are ok for summit night to give you an additional boost but have something with more longevity for the long days.
    6. ENJOY IT – its the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life but also the most rewarding – and I will definitely be going back and doing it all over again – its a magnificent mountain with magnificent people and both deserve and command respect :-))))))

    Good luck and stay safe if you’re planning a trip xx

  27. @Caz: Great advice here! So glad you had a great experience on this trip. It’s certainly not an easy journey, but so worth it! Congrats again!

  28. I came across this because I was researching renting sleeping bags. The amount you quoted (back in 2011) is so much cheaper then what I’m seeing in stores, so I’m gonna rent. I’m also going with G Adventures, did you have to reserve the gear you needed, or was it somewhat of a store where they showed you what was available and you chose?

    Thanks for the peanut butter tip. I did the Inca Trail back in 2012, and I saved a bag of Skittles for later in the hike, and shared them with everyone. They may be empty calories, but people like candy.

    I’m heading up the Machame route this September.

  29. Matt, all the gear that we rented was part of a “rental shop” located at the starting point for our G Adventures tour. After we had the welcome meeting where we received details on specific needs we went to the gear shop, asked for what we needed and they pulled out what we wanted (selected the best of the bunch) to pack with us on the trek. Quite easy.

    After a long trek there is no thing as empty calories 🙂

  30. Any information on eating gluten-free on Mount Kili?
    I know carbs and protien would be my friend on such a arduous trip but for someone who can’t eat gluten, are there alternatives? Is there a company that specializes in climbing with the gluten-free?


    • Your gluten-free needs ought to be one of the first things that you share with your Kilimanjaro tour operator / provider both in advance of purchase and in advance of your arrival. I’m certain most are accustomed to accommodating gluten-free needs.

      And when I think back to the meals we had, there were plenty of potatoes, beans/lentils, rice, eggs, cheese, soup, fruit, vegetables etc. Outside of breakfast, I don’t remember a lot of bread or wheat products, actually.

      If you are packing on your own for Mt. Kilimanjaro, I highly recommend (if allergies allow) carrying peanut butter, gluten-free energy bars, fruit roll ups/bars, some of your own fresh fruit.

      I hope that helps!

  31. Thanks for all the great tips! Just curious which kind of camera you took on your climb and how many extra batteries did you take with you?

    • Poonam, we took with us a Nikon D300 DSLR camera and a simple handheld camera (e.g., Canon Powershot S90). We had an extra battery for each camera. One thing to keep in mind is that batteries lose power quickly when they get cold so we would put the batteries in our sleeping bags at night to keep them warm and preserve the energy. Good luck with your trek!

  32. Hi,
    How cold was it at the top? I’m trying to figure out what to bring in terms of warm vs cold clothing particularly ensuring I have enough warm clothing for Summit Day.


    • The key is layers. It was probably around -5C at the summit, but remember that you are walking up for 6-7 hours so you need to be bundled up. As I mentioned above I wore 3-4 layers on the bottom and about 6-7 layers on top (including silk long johns, turtleneck, fleece, windbreaker, waterproof jacket, etc.). Hats, gloves and scarves are also essential. Good luck with your planning!

  33. I’m leaving in 3 days to meet my youngest daughter and climb and I had been looking for the daily distance and elevation changes. Many great tips, thank you so much for your insight on the climb.

    • Hi Eric, you are welcome. Glad you found this helpful.

      Good luck to both of you on your Kili climb. We’ll look forward to hearing from you about your experience when you have come down from the mountain!

  34. Thank you so much for the great article, really useful tips and comments! I’m climbing Kilimanjaro in September and most worried about the toilet situation – definitely going to look into getting a She We now!!

    • Anne, glad you found this article useful in preparation for your upcoming Kili climb. Very exciting. And hope the She Wee works out to make the journey up a little less stressful. Good luck!

    • Annelise, it is possible to hire warm clothing from trekking agencies or sometimes hotels in Moshi. We ended up renting waterproof pants, jacket and gloves from the hotel where we were staying.

  35. This is an awesome, and very useful list. Thank you. One question though…could you recommend a good pair of waterproof pants for women? I’m planning to go to Kilimanjaro in October. I’ve got a pair of Rab Vapour Risse Guide pants for the summit night but am thinking these will probably be too warm for the other days of trekking. Hence on the lookout for a lighter pair of wind/waterproof pants.


    • Priya, I did a quick search on the Rab Vapour Rise Guide pants and agree with you that they are probably too warm for the non-summit trekking days. I used these ExOfficio NioAmphi Pants during my Kilimanjaro trek. They are light, dry quickly, and are very comfortable. More recently, I’ve been using these Clothing Arts Pants that are really durable and also have lot of pockets and zippers for keeping stuff secured. Neither are waterproof, but I find that waterproof pants, even light ones, get hot and steamy really quickly so I prefer to trek in regular trekking pants.

      Good luck with your upcoming trek!

      • Audrey…thank you so much for taking the time to research the pants and offer your recommendations. I’ll definitely take a look. I’m going up there in October and have been told that it will be very windy and I should expect wet conditions as well. I’m a little paranoid about the wind..since it tends to trigger my migraine (had a helluva time during an EBC trek last year!).

        Thanks again!

        • Priya, I definitely understand wanting to be over-prepared for the wind and possible rain. One idea is to pick up a light pair of waterproof pants to put over the regular trekking pants. That way, you can regulate the temperature a bit with layers. We recently picked up a pair of cheap waterproof cycling pants for our trek in the Balkans (similar to this, but we bought ours at a store in Germany). They folded up into almost nothing so are easy to keep in the daypack in case you need to pull them out if the weather turns bad. If you are prone to migraines, be sure to be force yourself to drink LOTS of water starting from day 1 as a way to deal with altitude sickness.

          Hope this information helps!

          • Thanks Audrey – it certainly makes sense to get a pair of over trousers – in fact, I think that might be my best bet..I could use it as an extra layer of protection on summit day as well 🙂

            Thank you for your advice regarding the migraine …I definitely intend to drink lots of water 🙂

            Good luck for your future treks, and thanks again for being so helpful!

  36. Ugh! those blisters really do look nasty (or rather what I imagine to be below). Climbing Kilimanjaro has always been one of my dreams. My grandpa did it like 20 years ago and he is still telling stories about it.
    Thx for sharing the beautiful (and some gross) impressions!

    • Blisters can be quite debilitating (and gross). But, we find that if you treat a hotspot immediately when you first feel it you can avoid a situation like you see above. Climbing Kili is definitely worth all the possible blisters 😉

  37. One thing you didn’t mention that is good for stomach discomfort is ginger. Maybe hard to get in that part of Africa, but it works. I keep a stock of ginger candies with me at altitude. Also good for seasickness.

    • Excellent suggestion, James. Thanks. Ginger is magic. Not to mention that ginger candies and dried ginger are pretty tasty.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.