Mount Kilimanjaro Climb – Suggested Equipment for Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
The hardest part in planning a trip to a location that you know nothing about is deciding what equipment to bring, and also what not to bring.
Good equipment is vital to a safe and enjoyable climb. Sure, in superb weather conditions you could climb the mountain in a pair of old trainers, your oldest pair of long trousers and with a couple of sweaters thrown in you will only suffer badly during the last night of the ascent. However, let the weather change for the worse, a couple of hours driving rain soon after setting off from the Horombo area, and you could be dead from hypothermia very rapidly.
SUGGESTED LOWER MONTANE FOREST CLOTHING:
Starting out, you will be in synthetic or fleece shorts, a polyester T-Shirt, sock liners with synthetic would hiking / trekking socks, and heavy-duty hiking boots.
SUGGESTED UPPER MONTANE FOREST CLOTHING:
Rain is common, so Gore-Tex jacket and pants are required. A cape is needed to protect the head from the sun. Sun block and lip balm are musts – as are bug repellent, water bottles and a water purifier.
SUGGESTED HEATH AND MOORLAND CLOTHING:
A polypro long underwear top and bottom beneath shorts and a T-Shirt is recommended.
As a suggestion during the trek, a fleece vest or jacket must be kept at ready pauses during the climb. Gaiters are essential through the wet, knee-high grasses at this elevation.
SUGGESTED ALPINE DESERT CLOTHING:
Fleece pants will warm you during the windy nights, which follow the summer-ice days at this zone. A warm sleeping bag will keep you warm for those few hours you get to sleep before making an attempt at the top.
SUGGESTED SUMMIT CLOTHING:
Polypro long, a fleece middle, and Gore-Tez outer.
A balaclava and warm hat will protect the head and line gloves, wind stopper gloves and over mitts protect your hands.
Because the summit attempt day begins at around midnight or 1:0 a.m., you will need a headlamp.
Glacier glasses will keep you from snow blindness when you reach those snows of Mount Kilimanjaro.
As you can see above, because you move from the Africa jungle to arctic tundra in a matter of days, you need many different types of clothing.
You go from dressing in shorts and T-Shirts that are wringing wet with sweat to a layering system topped off by Gore-Tex to endure winds that push the chilly air well below zero degrees.
You will require the correct underwear, thermal hiking socks, gloves (preferably mittens), warm head protection, rain coat, sunglasses and sun protection cream. Also remember your hiking boots, hiking/running shoes (it is not necessary to walk with boots or climbers shoes until the last sections where scree and rocks are encountered), and very importantly, a walking stick / ski-pole. One of the most critical items of clothing is a an outer jacket.You want it to perform the functions of keeping you warm, protect you at temperatures of as low as minus 25 degrees Celsius, keep the wind out and yet still “breath”. Try to avoid tight fitting clothing or underwear. This will hamper circulation, causing either cold or discomfort on the mountain. A balaclava will protect your face against cold, wind, sun and snow. Other clothing like shorts, sweaters and T-shirts are strongly recommended, especially during hiking on the lower slopes, when the day temperatures are still high.
The only way to ensure that you are dressed warmly is to follow the principal of wearing the correct clothing layers, starting from against the body. A common mistake made by climbers is to wear almost everything they have and to start off with cotton against the skin. Cotton absorbs moisture perfectly, and moisture trapped against the skin will result in a definite lowering of the body temperature, which could even lead to hypothermia. It is therefore very important to use proper thermal underwear with “wicking” properties (a fabric which has the ability to draw moisture away from the body) and thus enabling it to evaporate to the outside. The middle layer should provide the insulation and a product like polar fleece will be adequate in this regard. The outer layer should be windproof, waterproof and breathable. Products like Ventex, Gore-Tex or Jeantex offer these properties. Short of altitude and physical exertion, cold is one of the most serious obstacles when attempting to summit Kilimanjaro.
FOR THE HEAD :
The higher you ascend the more the suns rays burn. Something that shades your eyes is best.
…or ski mask made from some type of insulated material with just an opening for your eyes and nose. You will need it for the final ascent.
A good pair, necessary for both the desert area and for snow blindness at the summit.
FOR THE UPPER BODY :
Take one for every day you intend to be on the mountain, and one more, just in case.
Polo neck long sleeves loose are best, as the thin layers trap air which insulates you. Also bring at least one woolen or fleece jumper.
As good as you can afford. There are many insulated materials that are good, Polertex, Gortex/Ventex. Get one that can pack easily with big pockets and a covered zip area. Waterproof is good but not essential. All these features will be appreciated at 4am when you are climbing to the summit 🙂
Simple lightweight rain suit for the rain forest and in case it snows later on. The waterproof leggings will also shield your legs from the wind at the summit.
As waterproof and as windproof as possible. Ski gloves are good.
FOR THE LOWER BODY :
A change for every day. Even though it’s cold you’ll still sweat which makes climbing uncomfortable.
A pair of long-johns. If you can’t find any, a pair of elastic leggings does the same thing – nobody’s going to see them 🙂
Light jogging shorts are necessary for the first days.
Trousers or track-suit pants – anything except jeans. Jeans hold the cold close to your body and give off heat very quickly. Also, if they get wet, they are very slow to dry.
Bring a good pair of rain pants of Gore-Tex or other waterproof material. Try to get a pair that are wind-proof too.
FOR THE FEET :
Two pairs of light socks for each day you intend to climb. Also bring a couple of pairs of woolen socks for climbing the final stage.
Probably one of the most important piece of equipment you could bring. The boots you wear shouldn’t be underestimated – a radio operator on a non-technical climb with us was killed in a fall, partly due to the fact that he wasn’t wearing suitable clothing and boots. The boots should be leather, insulated, and of good quality. Anything other than leather and your feet will freeze. Choose a good brand, and make sure they are well broken in before the climb.
Runners / Trainers
Optional. These are to wear in camp after a day of hiking.
Poor fitting, new or little used boots will result in blistering feet. Even if boots are only slightly to small, your toes will get bruised , particularly on your descend. It is it therefore also important to keep your toe nails short for the climb. Developing blister should be treated immediately as soon as the “hot spot” is felt. Remove the boot and cover the area with a zinc oxide tape or something similar
About 40 – 60 liter capacity. Get a rucksack with lots of side pockets for storing raingear, torch, water, camera etc. The rucksack should be frameless, with strong, comfortable padded straps, both at the shoulders and at the waist. Otherwise the rucksack will literally cut two grooves in your shoulders.
Again, get as good a sleeping bag as you can afford – it gets extremely cold on the mountain at night. Try to get a three/four season bag, preferably light and compact.
Camping Gas and Cooking Equipment
A small lightweight gas stove and one or two camping saucepans should be enough for the climb.
Important – You aren’t allowed to bring compressed gas on the aero plane, and the only camping gas available in Tanzania and Kenya is the small “bluegaz” cylinders which the stove pierces – not the screw-on type. I didn’t know this and had to buy a new stove when I got there.
A head torch is vital as you will need both hands to climb with for the final 1000 meters. Bring a couple of sets of batteries for final ascent. Keep the batteries warm, the cold will kill them.
Definitely necessary. Get a telescopic aluminum one or even two. It helps a lot to use your arms as well as your legs. They can be rented for about $12 at the base of the mountain.
High factor essential. Don’t forget it start putting it on from the start and don’t stop.
Get insulated bottles as the water freezes at higher altitude. Drink at least 4 liters of water per day to prevent dehydration.
Swiss Army Knife
Every mountaineer should have one. Get a knife with a few good features, i.e. tin opener, bottle opener, sharp blade, scissors, etc. It saves on packing individual items.
You can use US dollars pretty much everywhere, but exchange about $30 into Tanzanian shillings for small items such as soft drinks etc. Take small notes, lots of $1 bills are useful.
Take a waist belt, the small flat type that can fit inconspicuously under your clothes. Put your money and passport in it and keep it on all the time. Things have been known to go missing at the camps.
These bags are very useful for holding loose items.
Matches and Lighter
You’ll need these to light your gas stove….
Bring a good, light camera. People will tell you that the shutters freeze on good cameras at the top. They are wrong – it’s the batteries that freeze. BuyLithium, not Alkaline batteries and you should be ok. Bring a couple of spare sets and store them in your clothes close to your body so that your body heat will keep them warm. Bring a camera that’s easy to use so that someone else can take your picture at the top without messing it up. It ‘s an important photo and you can’t expect someone else to focus it at 5895 meters and get it right. Because of the high altitude bring a polarizing filter and a UV filter. Take plenty of film – ASA 200 film is good for taking shots with relatively little light.
A first aid kit should be brought on any climb. Specialized compact kits are available, but if you don’t have one, the following medical items should be brought.
Bandages of all shapes and sizes
Scissors – always handy for cutting bandages, gauze, etc.
Antiseptic Cream – for cuts and grazes.
Headache Tablets – lots of them 🙂 Be careful that they don’t have any nasty side effects though, dizzy spells at the edge of a 100m drop are generally not good.
Altitude Sickness Tablets – Diamox tablets to be taken twice a day from 13,000 feet to the top. This drug is widely used in high altitude mountaineering. I couldn’t get any and I suffered because of it. Thanks to the group of Swedish climbers who gave us some of theirs.
Please note that this is a basic first aid kit. I’m not trying to say that these are the only items you should bring, but they are a basis to which you can add more items as you see fit.
For when nature calls…Be warned – toilets usually consist of a tank buried in the ground.
Don’t leave rubbish on the mountain. Pack it up and take it down with you. Also good for separating wet and dry clothing.
Pen and Notepad
Useful for taking notes on the climb. Take a felt tip pen so the ink won’t freeze.
The medical facilities are not too good in Tanzania. Take out a fly out insurance in case of an accident.
Every day you will need to change. try to pack in a way that you can get to the next days kit easily.
The stream water high on the mountain has been tested and has been found to be fit for drinking. However, if you would like to be on the safe-side, use water purification tablets or boil drinking water in the evenings.
Eat as much as you can as you lose your appetite as you ascend. Drink lots of water, 4 liters a day – do not dehydrate.
Keep all spare batteries close to your body so they don’t freeze.