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Equipment for Kilimanjaro

Equipment

For both trekking and technical mountaineering on Tanzanian mountains, remarkably little gear is needed compared with climbing similar-sized mountains in other parts of the world.

However, Kilimanjaro is nearly 6,000 meters (19,680 feet) tall and can be extremely cold at times. The following suggestions are necessary equipment, divided into two sets:

  • Trekkers or nontechnical climbers
  • Technical mountaineers.

The latter will obviously want to bring most of the items listed in the trekkers’ list.

On Tanzanian mountains, the three most important gear considerations are your shoes, your sleeping bag, and your clothing, as you’ll spend two-thirds of the day in the first, one-third of the day in the second, and 24 hours a day in the third.

Whereas ten years ago you needed to bring everything from home, as there were no climbing or outdoor equipment shops in Tanzania, that has changed considerably. Most of the trekking / climbing outfitters have vast stores of clothing and equipment, all rentable, and at the Marangu Gate the Kilimanjaro Guides Cooperative Society (KGCS) runs a big booth in the parking lot with a huge selection of equipment and clothing. All the KGCS gear is for rent, and it includes headlamps, stoves, goggles, boots, gloves, sleeping bags, sleeping pads—just about anything you could ever need. Although it’s not the absolute best gear around, it’s all pretty sturdy stuff, so if your luggage gets lost, or you find yourself in northern Tanzania without mountain gear, the stuff at the KGCS store is wholly adequate.

Trekkers / Nontechnical Climbers
Footwear:

  • Running or tennis shoes - One pair to wear around camp
  • Sturdy trekking shoes or boots are a must for both the approaches to Tanzanian mountains and the standard trekking routes themselves. Ankle-high boots are good for support, but also for keeping out gravel and mud, but are not entirely necessary (especially if you plan on bringing gaiters).
  • Also, make sure your footwear is well broken in before you travel to Tanzania, and carry it in your hand luggage—losing it to flight delays or what have you can bring a halt to a trip up any mountain before you get started. Other gear is less critical than your footwear.
  • Gaiters

Clothing

  • On all Tanzanian mountains, the best clothing is a collection of items that can be layered one over the other as you ascend to colder areas. Fleece and polypropylene items work well, and you should plan on bringing at least three layers, not counting a shell system to go over the thermal layers. Cotton clothing is not a good idea at the higher and colder elevations.
  • Lightweight Long Underwear - Two pair. Tops & bottoms, Capilene, other synthetic or wool. No Cotton. Lightweight is preferable as it is more versatile (worn single in warmer conditions and double layer for colder). Zip-T-neck tops allow more ventilation options. One set of white for intense sunny days and one pair of dark for faster drying gives the most versatility.
  • Trekking Pants - Two pair Lightweight nylon trekking pants worn during start of climb and safari.
  • Soft Shell Pants - (Optional) These non-insulated pants can be worn in place of trekking pants while on the climb. They provide a higher level of warmth and also repel light rain.
  • Hard Shell Pants - Waterproof, breathable. Full length side zippers preferred but not required. Full zip can be helpful when removing pants while wearing boots. 7/8 or 3/4 zips that reach to lower hip will work. Ankle zip pants are not recommended since pants can not be quickly or easily removed while wearing boots.
  • Insulated Synthetic Pants - Be sure pants can be removed while wearing boots.
  • Synthetic/Soft Shell jacket - Mid- to heavyweight. A full-zip version is easier to put on and has better ventilation than a pullover.
  • Hard Shell jacket w/ hood - We recommend a waterproof breathable shell material with full front zipper, underarm zips, and no insulation. This outer layer protects against wind and rain.
  • Insulated Down Jacket w/ hood or Insulated Synthetic Jacket w/ hood - Medium to heavy weight with hood.
  • Wool or Synthetic Socks - Three pair heavyweight socks (wool is warmer) to be worn over the liner socks. When layering socks, check fit over feet and inside boots. Remember to keep one fresh, dry pair of socks available at all times. It is very important to buy new socks regularly as they lose their cushioning over time.
  • Liner Socks - Three pair of smooth thin wool, nylon or Capilene to be worn next to the skin. This reduces the incidence of blisters and hot-spots and makes the outer sock last longer before needing to be changed. They should fit well with your heavyweight socks.
  • Bring a second pair of “walking” pants, whatever they are. Your first pair will be mud- and water-logged by the end of your first day, and it’s nice to have a “non-bog” pair when the weather clears.

Handwear

  • Lightweight synthetic gloves - Two pair, quick drying material. Should fit comfortably inside heavy mitts.
  • Hard Shell Mitts w/ insulated removable - One pair each. A good pair of ski mittens/gloves work well.

Headwear

  • Balaclava - Look for a simple lightweight model.
  • Warm Lightweight synthetic/wool hat - Hat should cover ears.
  • Baseball cap/sun hat - One with a good visor to shade the nose and eyes. Synthetic is nice as it dries quickly.
  • Bandana - Used to shade your neck.

Accessories

  • Trekking Poles - One pair of adjustable three section Ski/Trekking poles with shock absorbers.
  • Headlamp - A good quality climber’s headlamp. Bring extra batteries. LED Type is best.
  • Glacier glasses - 100% UVA/B, IR, high quality optical lenses designed for mountain use and must have side covers. High quality “wrap around” style glasses work as well. Its extremely important for glasses to have either side shields or wrap around to protect eyes from high wind and dust.
  • Headlamp or flashlight
  • Spare bulbs
  • Batteries
  • Binoculars

Camping / Sleeping Gear

  • Sleeping pad
  • Matches / lighter in waterproof container
  • Water bottles
  • Water pump

Sleeping bags:

  • How warm a bag do you need? Sadly, sleeping bag ratings are not a bombproof guideline for selecting a sleeping bag because the ratings themselves vary from shape to shape, fill to fill, regional conditions, body size, and how you use it. More important still is how tired and how well nourished you are—tired trekkers and climbers who’ve hardly eaten all day are excellent candidates for the chills. On Kilimanjaro a bag rated to at least minus 23 degrees Celsius (minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit) is good. Most Tanzanian outfitters offer sleeping bags for rent.

Tents:

  • On Kili, for all routes other than the Marangu Route (whose huts must be booked in advance), it is advisable to bring a tent. There are huts on many of the routes other than Marangu, but these are in such a bad state of repair that few climbers use them. Porters and guides use the huts for cooking, so they have soot-coated walls and are pretty unappealing. However, most outfitters provide tents for Kili.

Backpacks:

  • Because your porters will carry the bulk of your load (usually sleeping bags, tents, nighttime gear, etc.), you need to only bring a personal day pack for trekking on all Tanzanian mountains. You will have the carried bag delivered to you each night so you can use the gear.

Stoves / Fuel:

  • As a result of deforestation, stoves are now required on Tanzanian peaks. But you need not bring either stove or fuel on any Tanzanian peak, unless you plan something quite out of the ordinary. In short, leave them at home.

Personal Hygiene

  • Toothbrush Toilet paper
  • Toothpaste Small backpacking towels
  • Dental floss Sunblock (very important)
  • Shaving kit Lip cream with sunblock
  • Soap
  • Prescription drugs
  • Epi-pen if needed

First Aid Kit

  • Small personal first-aid kit - (Simple and Light) Aspirin (Extra Strength Excedrin is best), Antibiotic ointment, Moleskin, molefoam, waterproof first-aid tape, athletic tape, Band-Aids, personal prescriptions, etc. The guides will have extensive first-aid kits, so leave anything extra behind. Please let your guide know about any medical issues before the climb.
  • Drugs/Medications/Prescriptions - Climbers should bring Pepto Bismol. Ciprofloxin (Cipro) 500mg tablets for traveler’s diarrhea and for urinary tract infections. Azithromycin (Z-pak) 250mg tablets for non-gastrointestinal infections. Acetazolamide (Diamox) 125 or 250 mg tablets for altitude sickness. Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) 200mg tablets for altitude headaches, sprains, aches, etc. Excedrin for headaches. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) 325mg tablets for stomach sensitivity.

Miscellaneous

  • Duffle Bag - A small duffle can be nice for storing things at the hotel during the expedition and extra clothing while traveling.
  • Plastic bags - To line stuff sacks to keep gear dry and line pack. Trash Compactor bags are best.
  • Water bag or bladder systems, they freeze or are hard to fill.
  • Map
  • Camera / film /Digital Card
  • Compass
  • Journals / pens
  • Whistle
  • Zippered plastic bags
  • Pocketknife
  • Sewing kit
  • Extra food
  • Insect repellent
  • Pee Bottle - (One Liter) Optional. Highly recommended. For cold nights in the tent. Large mouth, clearly marked bottle.
  • Pee Funnel - (for women). Optional. Highly recommended. For cold nights in the tent. Good idea to practice.
  • Extra clothing

Discuss with your outfitter other things you’ll need to bring. Generally, you will not need to bring along your own cooking utensils or food, as they will be provided. However, you still might want to bring some of your own food in case the Tanzanian mountain food is not palatable.

Technical Mountaineers

  • Mountaineering boots (leather boots work fine)
  • Helmet
  • Harness
  • Crampons (flexible, twelve-point crampons work fine)
  • Ice tools / axes
  • Extra ice picks and accessories
  • Carabiners (20–30)
  • Slings or runners (6–10)
  • Ropes, 60 meters (200 feet) x 9 millimeters (2)
  • Set of wired stoppers (usually 8–10)
  • Ice screws (6–10)
  • Set of camming units (with half sizes for the more serious routes)
  • UV-blocking goggles or mountaineering glasses
  • Technical day pack
  • Bivy sack
  • Stove
  • Fuel containers / fuel
  • Cooking pots
  • Cooking kit