Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro is a massive challenge, so you need to fuel your legs properly if you aim to succeed. Nobody makes it to Uhuru Peak – the mountain’s summit – on just peanut butter sandwiches!
We know that nourishing and tasty meals can make all the difference on your climb, both mentally and physically, even emotionally. For this reason, the food we feed our Kilimanjaro clients is a top priority at Follow Alice. We want to feed you the food your body needs so that you’re excited about every meal and energised afterwards to keep on climbing!
The meals you eat on Kilimanjaro can make or break your climb. Seriously.
- The importance of food and water at high altitude
- What are the meals like on a Kilimanjaro climb?
- Do you cater for different dietary requirements?
- What snacks should I bring for Kilimanjaro?
- Food for the mountain crew
- Drinking water
The importance of food and water at high altitude
Food and water, while always vital, are especially important to your body when at hight altitude. In fact, did you know that water can help to alleviate the symptoms of altitude sickness? Altitude sickness, or acute mountain sickness (AMS), is an illness that affects many people when they ascend above 3,000 m above sea level. Given that you climb to Uhuru Peak at 5,895 m on Mt Kilimanjaro, there’s a good chance AMS could affect you!
It’s quite normal to lose one’s appetite a little at higher elevations. In fact, did you know that high altitude increases your metabolism while suppressing your appetite? This means at mealtimes high up on the mountain you should eat more than you feel you inclined. It’s important to eat enough to have enough energy for the demanding climb.
High altitude can increase your metabolism while suppressing your appetite. You might therefore need to eat more than you feel inclined to achieve a good energy balance.
What are the meals like on a Kilimanjaro climb?
Every Kilimanjaro tour operator has a cook and cook’s assistant as part of the mountain crew climbing the mountain with you. These guys are highly trained cooks who know how to prepare tasty as well as nutritious meals.
Naturally every tour operator develops their own unique meal plan. That said, every reputable operator does, however, provide three solid meals, as well as snacks and hot drinks. Here is a run down of the meals on Kilimanjaro provided by Follow Alice …
Your mountain crew includes a cook and cook’s assistant.
Every morning on a Follow Alice Kilimanjaro climb starts with a hot breakfast in the mess tent. This consists of:
- porridge (oats or millet)
- a cooked meal (like eggs, sausages and pancakes)
- yoghurt and milk
- fresh fruit
You can also, of course, expect hot drinks like tea, coffee and hot chocolate to be in plentiful supply. (But as discussed in Advice for women climbing Kilimanjaro, you might want to drink these early to try fit in a visit to the toilet tent before starting the day’s hiking.)
On the days when there’s a hot lunch (which is most days), the mountain crew needs time to set things up. To allow for this, you’re served hot drinks and a snack (like biscuits) to keep you happy till the food is ready.
Like most other operators, we provide two kinds of lunches on our Kilimanjaro climbs, depending on the day. Specifically, lunch on the first day is a packed lunch. This is done so that you can sit and enjoy your food when you arrive at the gate to Kilimanjaro National Park. Meanwhile, your mountain crew deals with the necessary paperwork and prepares everything for porterage.
On most days, however, you can expect a hot lunch. This is managed by having the porters and cooks hike on ahead of you (yes, they’re crazy fit!) to set things up at the designated lunch stop. That way you arrive, drop into place, and are served a revitalising meal!
So what can you expect from your packed and hot lunches?
An example of a Follow Alice packed lunch is a recyclable box containing:
- a boiled egg
- cooked chicken
- a couple of samosas
- a slice of cheese
- a wedge of banana loaf
- an apple
- a banana
- a small yoghurt
- a juicebox
On most days of your Kilimanjaro climb you can expect a cooked lunch. As the photos below show, at Follow Alice this sometimes entails soup, toast, salad, pancake, toppings. On another day it might equal toasted cheese sarmies, flapjacks, cucumber slices and fresh fruit. And on yet another it might mean sausages, toast, savoury pancakes, fritters and papaya.
When you arrive at camp for the night, it’s still going to be a little while till dinner. The porters still need to set up camp and the cook needs time to prepare and cook the food. For this reason, a pre-dinner snack is in order. This often consists of hot drinks, popcorn and biscuits. Just something to tide you over till the main repast!
Dinner is a really great meal. We crowd together in the warmth of the dining room tent for talk about the adventures of the day, who is more hungry than everyone else, and who is looking forward to their sleeping bag the most! It’s a wonderful time, full of the laughter and camaraderie that comes after a really hard day’s climb.
As shown in the photos below, dinner is always a hearty, cooked affair. Every dinner is different, but there’s always plenty of it, and it’s always nutritious and aims to fill up the tank. One night there might be spaghetti with a tasty topping of chicken and vegetables. Another night might see juicy beef, potatoes, boiled eggs, and spinach-stuffed avocados. And yet another might see you presented with stew, chips, veggies and a fresh avocado slice.
Fresh meat, fruit and veggies … but how?
Nobody wants to be eating a meal of canned food on their Kilimanjaro climb. It’s important that you have the taste and nutrition of fresh meat, fruit and vegetables throughout your climb. But some of you clever souls might be wondering how we can promise quality, fresh produce for your meals on a climb that lasts around a week, often longer? The answer isn’t food parcels airdropped onto the summit and stored in the ice. The answer is, instead, resupply runners.
Usually once per climb a few über fit porters do a resupply run to bring us fresh produce. On the Lemosho route, for instance, runners bring fresh produce to Karanga Camp. Depending if you opted for the seven- or eight-day itinerary, this is where we overnight on Day 5 or 6 of the climb.
Runners bring us fresh produce half way through the trek.
Do you cater for different dietary requirements?
Yes, we do!
All reputable Kilimanjaro tour operators should cater for various dietary requirements. At Follow Alice this includes the following diets:
The cooks are knowledgeable about pretty much every dietary requirement under the sun, and are very experienced to boot.
At Follow Alice, we collect trekkers’ dietary info before the climb and pass it on to the team on the ground. They’re then equipped with all the necessary details for their pre-climb grocery shop.
What snacks should I bring for Kilimanjaro?
As mentioned above, you’re provided with plenty of food, including snacks, by your tour operator on the trek. So you should never be hungry during your climb. That said, bringing along some of your own, favourite snacks is still definitely a good idea. These can be a fantastic resource should your energy level or mental resolve start flagging – a taste of home could give you just the boost you need!
The benefits of snacks are twofold: they provide extra energy as well as a mental boost.
You don’t need more than one or two snacks per day. One average-sized snack bar and a couple of sucking sweets, for instance, should be sufficient for one day. The higher the altitude, the greater the chance of you experiencing some mild symptoms of altitude sickness, which include nausea and loss of appetite. If you’re eating your fair share at mealtimes, you really won’t want more than one or possibly two snacks during the climb.
Here are some snack ideas:
- Salt kicks like trail mix, sev and nuts, mini pretzels or salted nuts
- Chocolate (candy) bars like Mars, Snickers and Bar One
- Sugary sweets like mints, energy sweets, hard sweets, gummy bears or wine gums
- Dried fruits like raisins and dried mango
- Jerky (biltong) and pepperoni sticks
- Snack bars like protein, granola or energy bars
- Hardy biscuits (cookies)
If you’re planning to bring bitty snacks, like individually wrapped sweets, you might like to place the snacks for each day in a separate little baggie to make things simpler for you the trail, and ensure you don’t run out. Just a thought. (And also please note that Tanzania doesn’t permit single-use plastic carrier bags to be brought into the country. But Ziploc bags are allowed.) Electrolyte sachets could be also added to water in the evening to help you recover from the day’s trek.
You might also like to pack the following drinks sachets or bags:
- Electrolyte sachets like Gatorade, Nuun or Rehidrat
- Flavour infusion sachets to add to your water
- Favourite tea like herbal teabags
The reason we suggest the flavour infusion sachets is that the water on the mountain is purified using water tablets. These can make the water taste a little different or funky to some palates. The flavour sachets can mask the taste should you not like it.
Speaking of the evenings, bring along your favourite herbal tea or other drink of choice if you think it’ll be a comfort to you. Your tour operator will offer the usual suspects like tea, coffee, hot chocolate and maybe Milo or a similar malt drink. But you know what evening drink best suits you.
Snacks to avoid
We don’t recommend you bring any snacks that crumble or melt too easily. The snacks, remember, will be bouncing about in our daypack. And while melting isn’t an issue higher up on the mountain, where things are very cold, it can get steamy during the hike through the rainforest sea the mountain’s base. You don’t want to wind up with a sticky mess in your backpack.
We also don’t recommend bringing the same snacks for every day. Variety is important, especially if your appetite is affected by the altitude. You may find one snack becomes unappealing, and so it’d be unfortunate for that to be all you have to turn to when wanting some extra energy.
Note that you should also avoid the following sorts of snacks:
- caffeinated snacks – high altitude can make sleep difficult, so you don’t want to consume too much caffeine
- alcohol – this is banned inside of Kilimanjaro National Park
- heavy foods – like fruit (provided for you at meals) and canned goods
- leaky goods – you don’t want anything that could make a mess in your daypack
- perishable foods – unless you’re eating it the first day, don’t bring anything that can spoil
Don’t bring snacks you think are ‘good’ for you – the meals will supply your nutritional needs. Bring snacks that make you happy.
Snacks for sharing
Be sure to also bring some snacks to share. It’s really nice to whip out a pack of sweets or biscuits to share with your teammates and mountain crew. Perhaps you have a favourite treat that’s specific to your country that you’d enjoy introducing to the others on the climb?
Having some extra snacks that you can share with others adds to the camaraderie of the adventure.
Food for the mountain crew
It’s very important that your mountain crew – which consists of your guides, cooks and porters – is eating enough nutritious food during the climb. Some budget tour companies try to keep costs low by cutting down on the food provided to the mountain crew. In fact, sometimes these teams only get one or two meals a day. Unacceptable!! Mountain crews work extremely hard and should never have to go hungry.
If you’re considering a Kilimanjaro tour operator who is able to offer an extremely low rate, investigate how they’re able to offer such a low price. Often the answer is that the mountain crew is being short-changed, from inadequate pay and training to insufficient food during the climb.
On a Kilimanjaro climb, the mountain crew regularly collects water from streams that they purify for everyone to be able to drink. They use water purifying tablets, which can give the water a slightly different taste. This is why we suggested above that you might like to bring along water infusions should you decide you don’t like the taste of the purified water. Some trekkers prefer to re-purify their own water, which is fine, but it isn’t really necessary.
Drinking enough water is an essential part of your Kilimanjaro climb. You should drink at least three litres of water per day during the climb. Again, if the flavour infusions make drinking that quantity of water easier for you, go for it!
Note that you must carry your own drinking water for each day’s trek. For this reason, we advise that you come prepared with two water containers:
- a water bladder or hydration pack (ideally built into your daypack and with a nifty drinking hose)
- a water bottle (choose one that can carry a litre and definitely does not leak!)
By carrying two water bottles, you can place them on either side of your daypack to prevent a lopsided bag. You also want a water bottle and not just a water bladder as the bladder can freeze over on summit day, leaving you parched in a world of ice. A bottle can be placed in a sock, near to your body, to keep the water from freezing. You can also place the bottle upside down, which helps too – do you know why? No? Well, we discuss this neat little trick in our Kilimanjaro packing list. 😉
Note that plastic water bottles are banned in Kilimanjaro National Park. You must pack reusable water bottles.
Meet Raja, our fab cook!
Let us introduce you to Raja, one of our excellent Follow Alice cooks! Raja is a highly trained and experienced Kilimanjaro cook. He knows exactly what needs to be done for a tasty and wholesome meal to be whipped up on the side of Africa’s tallest mountains!
Want to know more about climbing to the roof of Africa??
Got more questions? Or just keen to learn more about what it’s like to climb Kilimanjaro? Check out the links below, or if you don’t find what you need, just give us a shout and let’s connect. 🙂
- Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro FAQs
- Kilimanjaro routes
- Trekking tips for beginners
- 10 tips for climbing and summiting Mt Kilimanjaro
- Best time to climb Kilimanjaro
- Kilimanjaro full moon climb