Packing for Kilimanjaro can seem insurmountable in itself. But our helpful guide will clarify not just what you need on the trek but why you need it. Hopefully understanding the logic behind the luggage will make you feel more prepared for the tenacious climb ahead.
Appropriate duffel bags & day packs
Starting with your luggage, you’ll need two bags on our Tanzania: Women’s Kilimanjaro Climb: one large duffel bag and a smaller day pack. While our team of porters have generously offered to carry our duffel bags from camp to camp—JK, we pay them handsomely to do so—you’ll be responsible for your day pack.
For this climb we recommend a waterproof duffle bag that’s 60–90 cu. litres such as this YETI Panga bag. It’s important to know that roller duffels are not acceptable as they’re difficult to carry, however internal frame backpacks are fine. Also, if your bag is not waterproof, we strongly suggest purchasing camping dry sacks—no one wants soggy knickers.
Also, the health and safety of our porters is one of our top priorities which is why we strictly follow the weight recommendations laid out by the government of Tanzania. To help us protect our porters, we kindly ask you weigh your large duffel bag and gear in advance, ensuring they do not exceed a combined 44lbs/20kgs.
While our porters will carry our larger luggage, we’ll each be responsible for our own day packs. Each night you should prepare your pack with enough water for the following day, hiking poles, extra layers for warmth, camera and snacks. For your own comfort we recommend not exceeding 11lbs/5kgs. In our experience the best day packs are 20–30 cu. litres, waterproof, have clips for water bottles, and a strong waist belt. Personally, we love this pack by Osprey.
Appropriate hiking boots for Kilimanjaro
Hiking boots are every woman’s best friend on Kilimanjaro. A good pair will keep your feet warm and dry, protect your ankles from rolling and provide extra support throughout. A bad pair will… well, let’s just not go there.
While the style and make of your hiking boots are largely personal, we have a few important technical recommendations for this climb. First, we recommend an actual boot versus, say, hiking shoes. Look for boots that go half-way up the ankle. Keep in mind higher boots offer more ankle support, but are also heavier and can become cumbersome on the trails.
Second, and although it’s pretty standard, it doesn’t hurt to ensure your boots are waterproof and warm as the chances of rain and snow are high—look for boots that incorporate GoreTex.
Also, a pair of gaiters like these will help provide extra warmth, while also preventing snow, stones, and dirt from entering your boots.
Last but not least, you must break your hiking boots in BEFORE landing in Tanzania. We can’t stress this last tip enough—the only way to avoid blisters on Kilimanjaro is taking your boots for extended 2+-hour practice hikes.
Aside from hiking boots, you’ll also want to pack a pair of lightweight running shoes/trainers to wear around camp and at our pre- and post-hike lodgings.
To keep your ten little piggies warm and dry, we recommend at least one pair of moisture-wicking (AKA sweat-wicking) socks per day with a few pairs of thick wool socks for higher elevations.
On “moisture-wicking”: We’ll be throwing the terms moisture-/sweat-wicking around quite a bit. Essentially, moisture-wicking refers to fabrics that move liquid (aka sweat) from the inside of your clothing, to the external surface while also drying quickly. Most synthetic fabrics like nylon or polyester are considered moisture-wicking. While not quite as effective as synthetic, wool does the job. On the opposite hand, avoid anti-moisture-wicking fabrics like cotton which trap sweat and take a long time to dry.
On this tour we recommend 2–3 pairs of light-weight, moisture-wicking hiking pants with zip off bottoms. These pants will protect you from the nippy wind in the morning, but as things heat up and the sweat starts pouring you can quickly zip off the bottoms to reveal shorts.
Also, a pair of rain pants that you can pull over your hiking pants is key. It’s very important to purchase fully waterproof pants with sealed seems and made of GoreTex or other waterproof material such as this pair.
Finally, 2–3 polypropylene/lycra bottoms will keep your knees toasty in higher elevations.
To prepare for Kilimanjaro’s extreme weather conditions, we recommend the four layer system: Base, Second, Outer and Functional Layers. You’ll be thankful for warm layers when you’re nearing the mountain’s summit, but more than happy to shed the extra weight in lower altitudes and in the African jungle at the mountain’s base.
Your base layer is directly on the skin and should be made of a moisture-wicking fabric. Either a short- or long-sleeved synthetic or polypropylene shirt will suffice.
On top of your base, you may add a second layer such as a thin synthetic long-sleeved shirt, collard shirt or a fleece sweater depending on the temperature. This layer helps insulate the body and keep you warm. We highly recommend fleece sweaters as they’re very warm yet still light-weight.
After your second layer is the outer layer or jacket. On this trek you’ll need a high-quality pile or down jacket. Ensure it is breathable and appropriate for extended hikes.
Your functional layer consists of items to protect you from wind, rain or snow. We recommend packing a quality rain jacket that is made of water resistant fabric (such as GoreTex), all seams are sealed and can fit over your outer layer if need be.
Miscellaneous clothing & gear
A few other important items you’ll want to have include comfortable sports bras, wool or GoreTex gloves, a warm wool hat and/or balaclava, a shade hat, UV protective sunglasses, bandanas and a buff like this. And a nice-to-have that we use on the coldest days are glove liners and hand/foot warmers.
To keep hydrated on the trails you’ll need to bring either 2-3 one liter (32fl oz) wide-mouth reusable water bottles OR—and our preference—a hydrapak like this. Note: If you bring a hydrapak, you’ll still need one reusable water bottle because nearing the summit the cold air will likely freeze the water in your tube rendering it unusable for the day.
In our opinion, the unsung heroes of trekking are hiking poles. If you’re not used to steep inclines and declines, these practical tools can be a lifesaver. Be sure to purchase light poles that are adjustable in size. Please ensure they can fit into your checked baggage before heading to the airport, though, as you can’t bring hiking poles as a carry-on item. To avoid travel hassles, you can also rent poles in Mbahe Village before the trek begins.
On our tour, most camping essentials will already be taken care of. For example we’ve reserved tents, toilets, cooking equipment and more. However, the following are a few items we’ll need you to organize on your own.
Our Women’s Kilimanjaro Climb takes its first tentative steps up the mountain in July and will conclude in early-August. These two months are some of the coldest on the mountain, however, they’re also some of the driest. At the base you can expect temperatures to fluctuate from 60–78F/16–26C. Meanwhile, at Kili’s peak temperatures can drop as low as -20F/-29C. To prepare for these extreme weather conditions we recommend bringing a 4-season sleeping bag rated for -18C/0F—please note: you can rent sleeping bags in Mbahe Village before our climb begins.
For our more tender trekkers, you may also want to consider add-ons like a sleeping bag liner for extra warmth, sleeping pads for comfort or even a small travel pillow. Though when it comes to pillows we prefer the time-tested shirts stuffed into other shirts method. 😉
Aside from your sleeping bag, you’ll need a quick-dry washcloth and towel for sponge-baths.
A headlamp (with extra batteries and lightbulb) is a required tool you’ll need around camp. You’ll also need it the morning we summit Kilimanjaro as our hike begins shortly after midnight. And during downtime you’ll want to bring a deck of cards, paperback books (no hardcovers!) or even a journal to write in.
Snacks & Supplements
One of the best things about our Kilimanjaro climb is having all meals taken care of by our amazing porters. These men and women can do wonders even in the most difficult of camping scenarios.
But while your meals are covered you’ll want to pack ample snacks and supplements to enjoy while trekking. Examples of snacks we recommend: trail mix, hard candy, jerky, energy gels, chocolate, or bars of any sort.
When it comes to supplements, we often just recommend basic powdered sports drink mixes such as Gatorade, Acli-mate, or PowerAde.
Personal First Aid Supplies
Regarding vaccines and medications, please consult a travel medical professional—Out Adventures cannot make vaccine recommendations. To keep things organized, here’s a quick checklist of personal products you may want to bring with you.
- Sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher),
- Lip balm with sunscreen,
- Hand wipes or hand sanitizer,
- Personal masks,
- Aspirin, ibuprofen, or Tylenol. Ibuprofen is also an anti-inflammatory,
- Moleskin, Second Skin blister pads, or Bodyglide lubricant to prevent blisters,
- Moisturizing cream,
- Band Aids,
- Topical antibiotic,
- Ace bandage or elastic supports for weak knees, ankles, or sore joints, or a knee brace. Please note: it’s important while training to hike multiple days back to back for up to 4 hours each day which will ensure you know of any joint issues in advance of your climb,
- Pepto-Bismol tablets for stomach problems,
- Feminine protection,
- Extra contact lenses and prescription glasses,
- Antibiotic, such as Cipro,
- Diamox – effective against the symptoms of altitude sickness.
Please note: we are not necessarily recommending Cipro and Diamox. These are prescribed drugs that you can discuss with your doctor. As previously mentioned, Out Adventures can not make medical recommendations.
Storing extra luggage
We’re well aware how difficult it will be to pack all of the equipment listed above while also staying under the required weight limits. This is why we’re providing safe and secure luggage storage during your climb. Any excess equipment or luggage you bring to Tanzania but don’t want to carry up the mountain will be safely locked away in Mbahe Village until it is driven to Moshi Town where our trek concludes.
For an easy and digestible packing checklist, visit our Important Information page for this tour and scroll down to “What To Bring”.
Ready to climb Kilimanjaro?
If you have any questions (packing or otherwise) regarding our Tanzania: Women’s Kilimanjaro Climb, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Almost everyone in our office has hiked Kili at least once. And we’d be more than happy to regale you with an endless list of our personal tips and tricks. But until then, happy trails!
Header photo courtesy of Summit Expeditions & Nomadic Experiences (SENE). All other credits from top down: Unsplash.com, SENE, Ferdinand Garcia x 2.
Jody is our passionate lesbian safari specialist. Although she's currently based in North Carolina, she owns property in South Africa and has lead over a hundred safaris on the continent. Get to know Jody and the inspiration behind her two upcoming all-women's Africa tours below! Read More