Things I Wish I Knew Before Climbing Kilimanjaro

Here at Peak Planet, we are always striving to make your Kilimanjaro climb, safari and Zanzibar trip go as smooth as possible. Some times thing can happen that are out of our control.

Things I Wish I Knew Before Climbing Kilimanjaro

Below is a couple of examples of what can go wrong.

  • Flight delays due to Flight Attendant strike
  • Lost or delayed luggage
  • Safari vehicle breaks down
  • Illness such as stomach issues, diarrhea, migraines, and nausea
  • Injury, before your trip or during
  • Flight delays due to severe weather
  • Reaction to Diamox
  • Reaction to Malarone
  • Civil unrest
  • Bush flight delays or stops
  • Flat tire
  • Bad weather such as flooding, snow, and rain
  • Tanzania government sudden changes such as new taxes or elections
  • Human error

We try our best to make sure we can provide the best trip possible. There is nothing we want more than for you to have a safe, fun, successful climb, safari, and/or Zanzibar trip. Some of our recommendations are based on previous issues that crop up all the time.

For example, there could be a storm in the Netherlands that delays your KLM flight from departing Amsterdam. Then you arrive a day late only to discover that your checked bag did not arrive at the same time you did. We have seen this countless times.

Our recommendation is to arrive a day earlier than your group climb dates. Our group climbs have an arrival and departure day built-in, but you should try to arrive one day earlier. For example, our 10-day Lemosho climb is really eight days on the mountain. If you take our advice, we can book additional lodging for you. This extra day not only allows you to recover from your long flight, but it also allows you time to attend the trip briefing. Furthermore, it also gives us time to either track down your luggage or take you into town and have you rent anything you don’t have.

Please note: renting in town is limited to stock on hand and should not be relied on in lieu of bringing your own equipment. 

Post-Trip Tips

Below are some suggestions, tips, and observations from previous clients. Their suggestions are in italic and bold and our responses follow. Their posts are verbatim, we do not edit them.

First, it is better to be overprepared vs underprepared.

At our trip briefing the day before your climb we will go over all your equipment and let you know what is essential, what is optional and what you forgot. Here is a list of gear we recommend: https://peakplanet.com/climb-preparation/#gear and here is the gear we rent: https://peakplanet.com/rental-gear/

Though my understanding was weather was typical during our trip, as a whole, I found it warmer than these forum posts implied it would be. I hiked in shorts for the first 2 days and regretted not wearing shorts for the next 2 days.

I rented a 3-season sleeping bag and was plenty warm. Did not bring, or miss, a liner. Several nights I unzipped the bag as I was too warm. The overnight summit hike was, of course, colder, but even without needing to wear my down jacket underneath my shell, my “core” was plenty warm.

Up top, I wore a base layer, a fleece, then a Goretex shell. It was quite windy, so the shell provided wind protection.

On the bottom, I was wearing a base-layer, and my fleece lined hiking pants. Legs were warm enough that base-layer probably not needed, and wind / rain layer certainly not needed. Fingers and toes were a bit cold but tolerable.

Keep in mind not everyone tolerates the hot or cold the same way. For instance, if you know you sleep cold, prepare for it. We definitely suggest dressing in layers and his thoughts about regretting not wearing short could have been solved by wearing convertible pants. That way when he got warm, he could just zip off the legs. Read more here: https://peakplanet.com/what-pants-should-i-bring-for-climbing-kilimanjaro/

Many wore gaiters, I didn’t see a purpose.

We recommend gaiters if you do not want your pant legs wet from either rain or snow. They are also nice for keeping the small rocks and dirt from getting inside your boots on the dry scree sections of the trail.

Brought lots of big and small plastic bags to keep gear dry (though it didn’t rain).. I saw no indication the authorities were applying the new plastic bag ban to tourists at airport inspections.

The Tanzania Government recently made single-use bags—such as shopping bags—illegal in the country. You can still use plastic bags like Ziploc bags for keeping your items dry and sorted in your duffel bag. You can also use dry bags.

Watch the following video on how to pack your duffel to keep everything dry.

Bought a $20 Amazon Basics (100 liter?) duffle which worked great. Unless I already owned one, saw no purpose in using an expensive, heavy, waterproof Northface / Patagonia duffle.

We place your duffel bag inside a dry bag. However, the mountain is rugged and our porters are carrying the dry bag on their head, this environment can cause tears in the bags. For that reason, we suggest either having a waterproof duffel bag or packing everything inside of it inside dry bags and/or Ziplocs. See here: https://peakplanet.com/how-should-i-pack-for-kilimanjaro/

“Wet wipes” or similar products really came in handy for clean-up.

Yes, we recommend bring wipes since showering on the mountain is not an option. They are good for cleaning up and also if you spill when using a pee bottle overnight. For more tent tips watch the video below.

Did not use or need bug spray at all.

There are typically no bugs on Kilimanjaro, it is too cold. However, they may be in town or on safari. Keep in mind that wearing blue is discouraged on safari because blue attracts the tsetse fly.

No problems with my contact lenses.

It can be dusty on the mountain and windy, so you may have some issues with your contacts. Definitely bring a pair of glasses and at least two spare contacts per eye. Additionally, it can be very dusty while driving on safari. Be prepared for that. Bring a bandana or buff to cover your mouth and nose if needed.

Clear sports glasses helped eyes with the wind during the overnight hike.

Again, they can be helpful with your contacts both on the climb and on safari. They are optional.

With the exception of the way down from the summit, the rest of the hiking was easier than expected.

This all depends on how much hiking you do and how fit you are. If you are an avid hiker the hiking will obviously be easier on you versus someone who rarely hikes. Trekking poles make the decent much easier on your knees.

Glad we did safari first – helped to get over jet lag, and acclimate partially at 4000-7000 foot elevation.

We don’t recommend doing the safari first. It is very relaxing and some clients find it difficult to transition from safari mode to climbing mode. You have been training for the trek for months, you should really go straight to the mountain if possible. Additionally, the elevation on safari really has no bearing on acclimatizing since it is not very high.

Our guides will remind you to hike very slowly (Pole, Pole) so your body acclimates. We also recommend either the 10-day Lemosho or 11-day Northern Circuit routes since they both have over a 90% success rate.

A pee bottle really came in handy, especially on the days I took Diamox (~50% of the days)

Yes, we recommend a pee bottle so you do not have to get dressed and out of your tent each night. Again, bring wipes in case you miss. Label it.

Another Perspective

Below is another person suggestions for how to dress on Kilimanjaro depending on the day. Watch the video for our recommendations.

Because of the great elevation gain on a Kilimanjaro trek, you will experience all kinds of weather. At the beginning of the climb, in the rainforest, expect it to be hot and humid. Most likely you will be comfortable wearing just a tee shirt and shorts or trekking pants while walking. 

However, it gets cold pretty fast. Even on the first night of your climb, it will be chilly. A fleece jacket and knit hat will be required to keep you warm.

As you make your way between visiting these campsites, most commonly you will be fine with just one or two layers on top, such as a baselayer and a thin soft shell jacket, and one layer on bottom. As long as you are moving, or in the sun, it is not cold. However, if you stop for an extended period of time, or the clouds come, it is cold. It is a good idea to either put on a jacket when you stop for a break, or to not stop for any longer than 5-10 minutes at a time.

On every successively higher campsite, it will be colder. Most people like to hang out in camp wearing a down jacket and fleece pants. It frequently drops below freezing at night. You may wake up to ice crystals on the inside of your tent.

Some people make the mistake of trying to cover up the tent’s built in ventilation in order to keep cold air from entering the tent. But what this does is cause a build up of moisture in the tent. This actually makes you colder!  The vents are there for a reason – do not mess with it!

On the summit night, it can be very, very cold. You guide will advise you what to wear. Most people seem to do well with four layers on top – baselayer, soft shell, insulated jacket, hard shell, and three layers on bottom – tights, fleece pants, rain pants.

Once the sun comes up, it warms up fast. It can be below zero overnight, then as much as 30-40F in the morning sun. So remember to strip down and rid yourself of maybe 2 layers on top and a layer on the bottom for the descent.

This is also the reason we suggest bringing a 30-35 liter daypack. Once you shed those layers, you’ll need somewhere to put them. A small CamelBak type pack won’t fit everything.

Final Thoughts

One tip that wasn’t mentioned, was to do your research. Everything you need to know is on our website. We provide you ample amounts of information. Read the provided materials and browse through our FAQs. Chances are the questions you are having, have already been answered.  We hope this article helps you be better prepared for your Kilimanjaro trip.

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