One question we get all the time is “how do I dress on Mount Kilimanjaro?” There are five distinct climate zones on Mount Kilimanjaro. Remember this as you assemble your gear. Your ascent starts low, in the warm cultivation zone. It quickly ascends to a more humid, wet rainforest. After you exit the rainforest, your trek continues in a warm, mostly arid Heather/Moorland zone. Above that, you’ll trek through the Alpine desert, which can be warm during the day, but very cold at night. And finally, you’ll be in the potentially cold, snowy, windy summit zone. So how do you prepare for that? Below is Peak Planet’s recommendations for how to dress to accommodate these varying degrees of weather and temperatures.

dress in layers for kilimanjaro

Examples of clothing for Kilimanjaro

Layering your Clothes

The best way of regulating your core temperature is by using layers of clothing. At the most basic level, the layering system consists of three different layers. Each layer serves its own purpose. These layers include a base layer, mid layer, and outer layer. Below is a minimum required clothing list. You’ll want to adjust the number of t-shirts, socks, underwear, etc. depending on the number of days on the mountain.

Base Layer

The base layer works by keeping your skin warm and dry. It also helps by wicking away moisture from the skin as it develops. This layer usually consists of a semi-snug fitting shirt such as an Under Armour type shirt or a Nike Dry Fit shirt and pants (pictured, above). You will want baselayers for both top and bottom. Bring at least 2 pairs, one for the climb and one for summit night.

Mid Layer

Your body naturally generates warmth and will be kept in with the mid layer. This can be a fleece (above) or spandex/polyester blend pullover or a soft shell jacket (above). Depending on the weather outside, this layer can be of varying thickness.

Outer Layer

The outer layer protects you from wind, cold, and rain. On Kilimanjaro, you will need to bring a full complement of rain gear – including a rain jacket (above) and rain or waterproof pants. Also, a warm down or synthetic weatherproof jacket (above) is essential. Lastly, clients should opt for a pair of gaiters (above) and also get a rain cover for their day pack.

Protect Your Head and Face

Protect your head from wind, sun, and cold by wearing something on your head at all times while trekking. In the warm climates wear a cap or wide-brimmed hat. In the cold, wear a beanie (above). While choosing headwear, do not think “cute” think “warm”. You will also want to get a balaclava (above), shemagh (top) or scarf for your face to shield you from the elements.

Keep Your Extremities Warm

Your hands and feet happen to be one of the hardest parts of your body to keep warm. The human body decreases the blood supply to your extremities the colder your body gets. Climbers should bring warm, windproof and waterproof gloves (above) or mittens and waterproof boots (read more here: https://peakplanet.com/what-kind-of-footwear/). You will also want to bring several pairs of socks and should change them regularly. You may be able to rinse them out once you reach camp. Drape them over your tent to allow them to dry before the sun goes down and they freeze.

Example of What to Pack

Number Quantity Item Description
1 1 Waterproof (Gortex) hiking boots For summit night. Make sure they are broken in
2 1 Light hikers / running shoes For lower elevation hiking and for around camp
3 1 Fleece pullover For warmth around camp and for summit night
4 1 Quick-drying camp towel To clean up at camp
5 1 Beanie For warmth, fleece or wool
6 1 Snow gloves or mittens These are snowboarding gloves, ski or any other winter sports gloves or mittens can be used as long as they are waterproof, windproof and warm
7 Toilet paper, wipes and a waterproof bag Putting your TP in a gallon size freezer bag.
8 Headlamp and extra batteries For moving around in the dark.
9 1 30-35 liter pack This is your daypack for clothes as you remove/add them and for water, snacks and camera equipment. We recommend a waterproof pack cover.
10 1 Waterproof trekking or ski pants Use on summit night or whenever it is cold, wet and/or rainy
11 1 Convertible hiking pants Removable leg bottoms to adjust for temperature. Prana makes a good, durable pair.
12 1-2 Top and bottom baselayer The layer to wear against your skin. To sleep in and for summit night
13 Shemagh/balaclava/scarf To protect your head, neck and face from the wind and cold
14 1 Fleece gloves For added warmth
15 1 Shell Waterproof and windproof. The jacket can be rented*
16 1 1 pair of trekking toles Optional, these can be rented*
17 Solar charger/power bank To charge cell phone/other electronics (optional)
18 1+ Long sleeve pullover For added warmth
19 2+ T-shirts Either long or short sleeve depending on how cold you get. Moisture-wicking. No cotton
20 1 Windproof gloves For warmth and stopping wind
21 Sunglasses/cards Maybe bring a second pair. Deck of cards (optional)
22 Toileteries Deodorant, eye care (extra contacts, saline, glasses, etc) dental floss, toothpaste, toothbrush, sunscreen, nail clippers, lip balm
23 Medications Pain meds, Allergy meds, sleeping aids, anti-diarrhea, etc.
24 Snacks (optional) Bring whatever snacks you like for hiking: Trailmix, Energy bars, beans, gels, waffles, etc.
25 1/1/1 Water bottle/bug repellent/passport Nalgene or Hydroflask, no disposable water bottles they are illegal on the Mountain. Optional bug repellant. The mountain is cold so there aren’t any mosquitos
26 1 Hydration bladder Drink plenty of water. The hose and/or mouthpiece may freeze on summit night, put it inside your shirt or wrapped in something inside your daypack
27 A good camera and extra lenses How often do you travel to Africa? Make sure you can take all the pictures you want
28 1-4 camera batteries/minimum of 100GB of SD cards for the camera / 2 pair of earplugs Batteries can fail, so can SD cards, bring extras. Earplugs are optional
29 1 Sunhat/baseball cap To keep the sun off
30 3+ Underwear Preferably a wicking material to wick moisture away to avoid chafing.
31 5+ Socks Pictured, 2 pairs of Injinji base socks, 2 pair ankle high Thorlo socks, and 1 pair tall REI socks
32 1 Puffy jacket This can come with the jacket as a 3-in-1 or separately.
Not Pictured Fleece or down pants These are great to wear at camp and under your waterproof pants for summit night
Not Pictured Sleeping bag and pad A sleeping bag and be rented* and the sleeping pad is included in the climb price

*Items can be rented here: https://peakplanet.com/rental-gear/

In the end, these are all items Peak Planet recommends. It is up to you to decide what you can live with and what you can’t. Just remember Mount Kilimanjaro is 19,341 feet tall, that is higher than Mount Everest base camp. Even though Mount Kilimanjaro is the most “walkable” mountain on Earth, it is still a harsh environment. Climbing it needs to be taken seriously. Once you make the summit, you’ll have plenty of pictures to impress your friends with on social media.

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