From July 11th to July 16th, I hiked the highest peak in Africa. I have never been much of a hiker and Kilimanjaro wasn’t on my bucket list. But when I started planning my East + Southern Africa trek, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
As most people would say, Kilimanjaro is 100% doable without any prior training. But to really enjoy your hike, I would suggest getting in shape, going on a few hikes, and possibly even training with an elevation training mask. For the record, I did not, but since I had completed two half-marathons and maintained a fairly active lifestyle, I figured I would be OK.
The first step is choosing a trekking company. The prices can range from as low as $1,200 to as high as several thousands of USD (not including tips), depending on the level of comfort you’d like. I found out, in fact, that guides don’t necessarily have exclusive contracts with trekking companies, which means your guide that works for the top-of-the-line tour operator may also take a gig with a budget operator. I did my bare-bones 6-day Machame route ascent with Kilimanjaro Heroes, because they gave me the best price. The operator, Evarist, is very responsive, and turns out, he is a business student at a local college…!
I was also lucky enough to get set up with an awesome guide, Ezekiel. A competent guide will be the difference between reaching the summit or not. Ezekiel not only answered all my questions (and trust me, I had a lot), he also had comprehensive medical knowledge as he’s had basic medical training for altitude sickness.
I met Ezekiel the night before the first day of my trek, and he went through a checklist of equipment to make sure I had what it took to get to the top. I cannot stress how important it is to have the proper equipment. I found that REI had pretty much everything I needed – and the folks there are so helpful!
Clothing & Shoes:
- Make sure everything you wear is synthetic. “Cotton is rotten” and nothing will dry on the mountain once it gets moist with sweat.
- Outer waterproof and windproof shell (upper and lower)
- Very warm fleece and/or down layer (I had both)
- 2 long-sleeved synthetic shirts
- 1 short-sleeved synthetic shirt
- Zip-off hiking pants (doubles as shorts)
- Thermal underwear (ie. Under Amour)
- Synthetic underwear (briefs/bra/etc.)
- Sun cap
- Warm winter hat (or balaclava)
- Pair of waterproof hiking boots
- Warm gloves (preferable with fleece liners)
Equipment & Accessories:
- Sleeping bag rated at 0°F
- Air-insulated sleeping mat
- Polarized UV sunglasses
- Trekking poles
- Headlamp (minimum of 70 lumens) with extra batteries
- Nalgene bottle
- Camelbak bladder (minimum 3 liters)
- Toilet paper
First Aid Kit:
- High-factor SPF sunscreen (face, lips, body)
- Aspirin / Advil
- Ciprol (ask your travel doctor)
- Diamox 125mg (ask your travel doctor)
- Cold and flu meds, throat lozenges and nasal decongestant
- Bandages and antiseptic (for potential blisters)
- Wet wipes and hand sanitizer
- Water purification tablets / SteriPen
All of this should fit in a larger duffel-like pack (for your porter to carry) and a daypack (which you will carry throughout the day). Making sure your daypack is comfortable is so key, as you will be wearing it a lot.The reason I was able to be so minimalist is because I didn’t sweat on the mountain. My guide and I both worked to keep my body temperature steady and we were careful to not overexert (as to minimize altitude sickness). I was able to wear the same clothes daily, and on summit day, wore basically everything I had brought with me, as it was the coldest day.
I hope this is helpful, and please reach out if you have questions / comments!