Happy climber at Uhuru sign

Kilimanjaro preparation

Sep 15, 2021

Kilimanjaro preparation is a big topic. We discuss travelling to Tanzania, your physical training, vaccines and medications, choosing a route, putting together a budget, choosing a good tour operator, and preparing yourself mentally for the challenge.

Kilimanjaro preparation is essential as if you're reading this, you are probably in the process of making (or have already made) a decision that will change your life forever. Mount Kilimanjaro, or the Roof of Africa as it's affectionately known, is located in Tanzania and is the highest mountain in Africa. It towers about 4,900 m (16,076 ft) above its base and 5,895 m (19,341 ft) above sea level. It's also one of the Seven Summits, which are the tallest mountains from each continent. It's actually the only one of the Seven Summits that you can climb without any mountaineering experience or equipment, which makes it a very popular 'first climb'.

But what does it really take to climb the highest peak in Africa, and what is the best Kilimanjaro preparation (other than a solid pair of hiking boots and a positive mindset, of course)? There's a great deal that goes into properly preparing for such a climb.

 

 

Come prepared and maximise your experience!

When it comes to preparing for Kilimanjaro, there are a number of factors to consider. And we know that many questions come to mind and the results spewed out by the internet to your questions have probably been a tad overwhelming. With this in mind, we've created this blog post as a one-stop guide for everything you need to know to get going with your Kilimanjaro preparation.

We felt greatly taken care of by the Follow Alice crew! The guides made us feel safe at all times.

– Christoph

An excited Follow Alice trek group at Londorossi Gate, one of the entryways to Kilimanjaro National Park

An excited Follow Alice trek group at Londorossi Gate, one of the entryways to Kilimanjaro National Park

How hard is climbing Kilimanjaro?

This is probably one of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to Kilimanjaro preparation. Climbing Kilimanjaro is hard, but far from un-doable. It's also hard in more than one way, though some find it harder than others. This answer may seem obtuse, so let's break it down and explain ...

Kilimanjaro is a non-technical mountain

Firstly, Kilimanjaro is a non-technical mountain, which means that anybody with reasonable fitness can climb it. In other words, you don't need to be a mountaineer with ropes and other such equipment to climb it. So in this sense, Kilimanjaro isn't a difficult mountain to climb. As mentioned, it's actually the only of the Seven Summits that one can climb without any mountaineering experience or equipment.

Kilimanjaro stream and scenery and trekkers

Porters carry the bulk of your belongings on Kilimanjaro, helping to make the climb that bit easier

It's a big climb

The climb up the mountain is, however, still challenging. You have to carry yourself up to nearly 6,000 m above sea level, after all! That requires a good deal of legwork and sweat, even for the very fit. You also have to hike for many hours on most days, including around 12 to 15 hours on summit day! That's a lot of walking, so your fitness level needs to be reasonable to make such hours on the trail not too difficult to manage.

 

 

Some paths have sheer sections

At no point on any of the routes up Kilimanjaro do you need ropes and harnesses to successfully or safely follow the trail. There are, however, some sections on certain of the routes that can be daunting for those who don't like heights or grow fearful standing near drop-offs. Barranco Wall, for instance, is known as one of the trickiest sections of the Kilimanjaro climb. And yet it's perfectly manageable and often less scary when you're busy doing it compared with standing below it and contemplating the climb ahead. If you suffer from severe vertigo or dizziness, it might be a better idea to tackle one of the gentler routes up the mountain like the Northern Circuit.

Trekkers climbing the Barranco Wall on Kilimanjaro

Barranco Wall is usually the steepest section by far on any Kilimanjaro trek

It gets very cold!

Apart from the obvious physical challenge involved, climbing Kilimanjaro can be challenging in other ways. For starters, it gets pretty icy near the top! Night-time temperatures regular plunge below freezing. At Follow Alice we provide our trekkers with thermal sleeping bags and fleece winter jackets at no further expense, so you'll be able to keep warm even in the extreme cold. But the cold is certainly a factor that makes the Kilimanjaro climb harder than many low-altitude treks, so it's worth considering if you really struggle with cold.

You'll probably be camping

Except for those following the Marangu route up the mountain, which has you stay in huts, all Kilimanjaro climbers stay in tented camps throughout the trek. For some, going days without a shower will be challenging (note that you do get a bucket of water each evening for some strategic splashing). And for some the loss of other creature comforts like a steaming latte to help you start the day could prove difficult. So think about how flexible and relaxed you are when it comes to your living situation and hygiene. If the prospect of the camp life is daunting, ask if it's worth challenging yourself to overcome your qualms for the sake of the adventure in store?

Kilimanjaro is a life-changing experience!

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You make so many incredible memories on a Kilimanjaro climb

You could get altitude sickness

We chat about altitude sickness further on in this post in more detail. But for now we just want to mention it in terms of how hard it makes the Kilimanjaro climb.

Kilimanjaro is a high-altitude trek, which means it takes you up into rarified air where oxygen levels are lower than at sea level. Most of us live well below the starting altitudes of the various Kilimanjaro routes, which are roughly around 2,000 m (6,562 ft) above sea level. That means our bodies aren't used to the lower oxygen levels on offer throughout the climb. And as you doubtless already know, the more you exert yourself, the more oxygen you need. So when putting in the effort to trek uphill, you need more oxygen than usual, but on Kilimanjaro you have less!

Consequently, many Kilimanjaro trekkers experience symptoms of altitude sickness, which include headaches, nausea and dizziness. These are uncomfortable at best, life-threatening at worst. Those with significant altitude symptoms have to descend to a lower altitude immediately, as the condition can turn deadly.

Climbing Kilimanjaro therefore means preparing yourself for two things: firstly, that you may have to keep hiking even when feeling unwell, and secondly that you may have to abort your climb if your guide assesses your symptoms as posing a danger to your health. (Further on we discuss how to avoid altitude sickness.)

 

 

The inestimable value of a positive attitude!

As should be clear by now, there may be various points in your Kilimanjaro climb that you feel are hard, for whatever reason. The best advice we have to give is to remain positive and take it very slowly. Stop. Take a deep breath. Look up and take in the beautiful backdrop of this new and exciting experience. Remember that you're stronger than you think you are.

Also, always remember that you are part of a Kilimanjaro climbing team. You're not alone. When feeling discouraged or low, look to your fellow trekkers and especially your mountain crew and team leader for help. The Kilimanjaro guides have been doing this trek for a long time and are there to support you and offer invaluable advice and encouragement.

Set yourself some goals

We find it helps to take a moment to reflect on why you want to climb Kilimanjaro. We suggest you do this regularly, both when in the thick of Kilimanjaro preparation and when in the thick of the climb. The reasons to climb the mountain are often vastly different from one person to the next. For some, it's a goal that motivates them in their journey towards being fitter and healthier. For others, the climb is a time to reflect and reassess. Perhaps the climb appeals to you as it offers the chance to break out of routine or your comfort zone? Meet likeminded people and make new friends? Recover your zest for life? As we said, the reasons are myriad, and often quite personal. What's your reason? Is there more than one reason? Why not write it - or them - down for future reference?

Sunrise view of a gorgeous glacier from the top of Kilimanjaro

Sunrise view of a gorgeous glacier from the top of Kilimanjaro

How fit must you be to climb Kilimanjaro?

To climb Kilimanjaro without feeling that the world is coming to an end requires reasonable fitness. You need to be able to hike for a few hours each day. And you need to be sure-footed enough to walk over rock-strewn paths and scree. (Trekking poles are helpful in keeping balance, as discussed in our Kilimanjaro packing list.)

Kilimanjaro-Group-Photo-Stella-Point

We love how our clients come from all over the world, and are of all different ages

You also need to have relatively healthy knees to deal with the hike down the mountain. The descent usually takes place over just two days and has you drop down by around four vertical kilometres.

Did you know that there's no age limit on this life-changing adventure? The youngest person to ever undertake the climb was seven years old, and the oldest was 85 years old!

Physical Kilimanjaro preparation

So how do you physically prepare for Kilimanjaro? Well, to state the obvious, the more you exercise and train in the lead up to the climb, the easier the climb will be. A fit body is more likely to withstand the stress of consecutive days of hiking and camping. This will mean you'll enjoy your trip more and have a higher chance of successfully summiting the mountain.

You’re probably only going to climb Kilimanjaro once in your life, so if you decide to take the adventure on, be sure to give it your all – not just on the mountain, but also in preparing for it. You might like to use this opportunity to propel yourself into a healthier lifestyle. This is one of the many reasons that people commit to climbing Africa’s highest peak.

The top part of Kilimanjaro is barren and cold - an adventurer's playground!

The top part of Kilimanjaro is barren and cold – an adventurer's playground!

We recommend that you create a training schedule in the lead up to your climb (and stick to it, of course!). Your workouts should focus on strength, aerobic and cardio training.

Ideally, include some uphill hikes in your training, and wear the boots and socks that you intend to bring to Kilimanjaro. It's important that you climb Kilimanjaro wearing properly worn-in boots and comfortable socks, otherwise your trip could become a sad story of blisters. For those who don't have any hiking trails nearby, hop on a stair master machine, climb steps, or get on a treadmill and up the incline!

We go into more detail about how to prepare physically in How should I train for Kilimanjaro?

What is altitude sickness?

Acute mountain sickness (AMS) arises from being exposed too rapidly to reduced oxygen at high altitude. As already mentioned, altitude sickness is the mildest form of AMS. Altitude sickness is more irksome than troubling. When it comes to trekking Kilimanjaro, over 75% of climbers experience altitude sickness symptoms when they ascend above 3,000 m. And the peak of Kilimanjaro is nearly twice that high!

The majority of Kilimanjaro trekkers experience altitude sickness symptoms at some point in their climb.

The most common symptoms of altitude sickness are headaches, nausea, difficulty sleeping, and general fatigue. Such symptoms are nothing to panic about, but they can make certain parts of your climb quite challenging. It's important during these times of the trek that you keep it pole, pole, as the locals say, which means 'slowly, slowly'. Also be sure to always communicate with your guide about how you're feeling. Remember that altitude sickness can happen to anybody, and it's absolutely nothing to feel embarrassed about.

 

When altitude sickness becomes serious

Most trekkers who experience altitude sickness quickly recover and that's the end of the story. For an unfortunate few, however, the symptoms become severe and this indicates they've developed a more intense form of AMS. These individuals will be advised by their mountain guide to abort the trek and descend the mountain. AMS can be deadly and your health has to be put above all other considerations.

Altitude sickness can affect anyone

Note that who gets struck by altitude sickness is essentially random - it has nothing to do with fitness nor age. That said, anyone who lives at a very high altitude is obviously less likely to develop altitude sickness on Kilimanjaro.

Lemosho Route - Campsite on Kilimanjaro

One of the many Kilimanjaro campsites that are regularly above the clouds

How to avoid altitude sickness

Ultimately there's no real way to avoid altitude sickness, as it has nothing to do with fitness nor age, and can strike anyone. That said, there are a couple of things you can do to minimise your chances of falling prey to it. If you're able, try to climb high mountains as often as possible to give your body an idea of what to expect. Secondly, you could train with an altitude mask. This is basically a mask that emulates the decrease in oxygen that you will experience on your climb, giving you the opportunity to experience it beforehand. Whether or not this is effective in avoiding AMS entirely is still unclear, but if you have the option, why not give it a go?

Why we climb high and sleep low

Altitude sickness symptoms can be minimised by engaging in the correct acclimatisation process. We call this process 'climb high, sleep low'. This basically involves climbing to a new altitude during the day and then dropping back down in elevation in the afternoon so that you can sleep at a lower altitude at night.

Taking a little rest on the climb to chat and appreciate the views

Taking a little rest on the climb to chat and appreciate the views

Certain Kilimanjaro trails like the Lemosho route and Northern Circuit route have more (or better) opportunities to climb high and sleep low than others worked into them, which is a key part of why we like and recommend them.

Is it safe to climb Kilimanjaro?

Kilimanjaro safety is always top of the list of questions and concerns. It goes without saying that the more you focus on physical and practical Kilimanjaro preparation, the safer your climb will be. We do, however, need to be realistic in that sometimes even with extensive Kilimanjaro preparation, emergency situations can arise while on your journey up the highest mountain in Africa. So what happens when there's an emergency?

We cannot stress enough how important it is to your safety that you choose a reputable and experienced Kilimanjaro operator.

First and foremost, we cannot stress enough how important it is that you choose the right Kilimanjaro operator. Ensure that the company you settle on prioritises your health and safety over everything else. Be sure to confirm with them that the guides they've placed you with are Wilderness First Responders. This means that they're trained on how to respond to emergency situations in remote areas. They are there to guide you through your entire experience and their professionalism will give you peace of mind and make your Kilimanjaro preparation easier.

 

 

As important as it is for them to do their best to keep you safe, it's just as important for you to do your best to communicate with them at all times. Always speak up if you're feeling ill. For the duration of the hike, regular readings of your vital signs will be taken. Your guide is equipped with essential equipment to monitor you throughout your Kilimanjaro climb. They'll check you multiple times a day to ensure you're acclimatising well to avoid any serious stress on the body. Your guides also have access to a first aid kit, a stretcher and bottled oxygen. Bottled oxygen is for emergencies only, and so shouldn't be given to climbers who haven't acclimatised properly but want to climb higher.

Our fantastic mountain crew sets up camp at each overnight stop while trekkers take a load off

Our fantastic mountain crew sets up camp at each overnight stop while trekkers take a load off

Kilimanjaro tour operators

It's critical that you choose the right Kilimanjaro tour operator for your trek. Firstly, you want a good tour operator who provides the necessities (and extras) to make your trek as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. Think tasty, nutritious meals, camp chairs for relaxing in during the evenings, and quality tents that ensure a dry sleep, among other things. Secondly, you want a company that takes your safety seriously. If something goes wrong on the mountain, from a sprained ankle to altitude sickness symptoms, you want guides that are properly trained in mountain first aid.

Thirdly, you want a tour operator that is professional and friendly and will support you through the whole process of planning the trek. Fourthly, you want a tour operator that offers a quality mountain crew, as these are the guys who'll be trekking with you, looking after your safety, setting up camp and cooking for you, and encouraging you if you're struggling at any point during the climb.

And finally, you want a company that you know treats its mountain crew ethically. At Follow Alice we're a partner company of the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP) and the International Mountain Explorers Connection (IMEC). This NPO advocates for the fair treatment and proper payment of Kilimanjaro porters. We encourage you to only climb Kilimanjaro with a tour operator who has undergone and passed KPAP's rigorous vetting process.

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Follow Alice is a partner company of KPAP

Note that a good tour operator should also ensure there are emergency evacuation procedures in place. For instance, if someone is seriously injured or ill, flying doctors (air ambulances) can airlift the patient down to ground level where they can receive the necessary medical treatment. Be sure to ask any tour operator you're considering travelling with if they have an emergency evacuation plan in place.

Essentially, your operator should support you through the whole process from start to finish.

Kabelo thumbs up on Kilimanjaro

We simply love this happy pic of Kabelo, who climbed the Lemosho with us in September 2021

How do I choose the right Kilimanjaro tour operator?

The internet, as informative as it is, can also be pretty overwhelming. If you search for Kilimanjaro tour operators, for instance, you'll be inundated with results. And then how to know which to look at, and which are any good? Try not to get too caught up in finding the cheapest option. We’re all for saving money, but not to the extent that it makes a major expedition like climbing Kilimanjaro unpleasant or even unsafe. You're going to be spending a chunk of money on your airfare and the trek anyways, so don't risk the quality and enjoyment of it all just to save a few dollars. That's our opinion, at least.

Barranco Wall and porters

Porters tackling Barranco Wall – they're true legends!

The three kinds of tour operators

To help you sift through the tour operators on offer, it's helpful to know that there are three main types of Kilimanjaro tour operators:

  • Budget tour operators. These are operators are considered to be the least expensive and usually charge between $1,500 and $1,900. This may sound great, but keep in mind that if you pay them less, they probably pay their guides and porters less. Budget tour operators will also charge you less, but increase the tipping amount for you to budget, so ultimately you end up spending around the same amount of money as you would for a value tour operator, minus the quality in service. We discussed the importance of good guides and porters in relation to your health and safety earlier in this post, so keep that in the forefront of your mind when making this decision. Their equipment and food will also be of a lower standard than your value operator. The importance of good, nutritious food is not to be overlooked as this is what will sustain you on this journey.

 

 

  • Value-for-money tour operators. These tour operators generally offer a per-person package fee of anywhere between $1,900 and $3,200. Value operators offer treks of about six to eight days in duration, which give you more time to acclimatise and so increase your likelihood of successful summiting the mountain. They also ensure your guides and porters are properly prepared, well paid, and don’t compromise on the quality of food or equipment. Follow Alice falls into this category of tour operator. Our fee also includes one night of accommodation and transport on either side of the trek. When comparing the package prices of different tour operators, consider if they all offer the same inclusions.
  • Luxury tour operators. Any company offering a Kilimanjaro trek package above $3,200 per person can be considered a luxury tour operator. These operators usually offer the same services and amenities as value-for-money operators, but they just offer a little more as well. What sort of extras, you ask? Usually they'll offer five-star accommodation on either side of the trek, as well as things portable showers, wine and oxygen tanks during the trek itself. A reputable luxury tour operator is a perfectly fine choice for your Kilimanjaro trip if such extras appeal to you - the cost is just generally out of the reach of most people's pockets.

There are hundreds of Kilimanjaro tour operators out there, making the topic a large one. We consequently haven't been able to squeeze in all the info in the above synopsis. If you'd like to know more about the three categories of tour operator and the services each one provides, please contact us!

Kilimanjaro Follow Alice campsite sunset

Sunsets and sunrises are magical times on Kilimanjaro

Can you climb Kilimanjaro on your own?

The answer is simple: no. Nobody can climb Kilimanjaro on their own. In fact, it is against Tanzanian law for anyone to embark on an unguided trek. The number one reason for this is safety.

Climbing Kilimanjaro is a team affair

Every reputable tour operator employs a formally registered trek guide and a team of registered support guides and porters. Porters are the backbone of every Kilimanjaro trip - they carry all the equipment necessary for your entire stay on the mountain, including tents, food, water, cooking equipment and hikers' belongings (you do, however, carry your own daypack). To put this into perspective, for every one climber there are four support crew members! So not only would it be illegal for you to climb on your own, you would never manage to carry all that you need!

Group photo in forest, Kilimanjaro routes

Seriously ... it takes a team to get anyone up and down Kilimanjaro!

At present between 35,000 and 50,000 people attempt to climb Kilimanjaro each year. This creates hundreds of stable and rewarding jobs for the Tanzanians who work as guides and porters, not to mention the various other related jobs like drivers and hotel staff. Kilimanjaro has created opportunities within the local community and grown the economy in a massive way. When you book to climb Kilimanjaro, you're therefore supporting the local community (provided you travel with a reputable tour operator that pays its staff fairly).

 

 

The value of a trekking team

Climbing Kilimanjaro is a truly magnificent, team experience. We find that time and time again, individuals that start the trek as strangers end it as friends. To make the most of this experience, we suggest undertaking the climb in groups of between four and eight people.

We also find that trekkers bond with their trek guide and other members of the mountain crew. Chris, our Follow Alice lead guide, and his team invariably offer you invaluable advice and encouragement during your time on the mountain. Many who reflect on their Kilimanjaro climb say that they couldn't have managed without the mountain crew's practical and emotional support.

The scenery on Kilimanjaro changes from day to day and is always a delight

The scenery on Kilimanjaro changes from day to day and is always a delight

Tipping on Kilimanjaro

When preparing your Kilimanjaro budget, it's important to know that tipping your mountain crew is a universal custom on Kilimanjaro. In fact, Kilimanjaro tipping, which is regulated by the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP), is an essential part of each crew member's income. It recognises their hard work in helping you to summit the mountain. There's even a special tipping ceremony at the end of every Kilimanjaro trek. So while tipping is not compulsory, it's expected, and it's an important way in which trekkers say thank you and goodbye to the Tanzanians who have helped them achieve a truly great feat in their lives.

Tipping may not be common practice in all countries and cultures, but it plays a large part in the financial compensation of Kilimanjaro mountain crews.

Every mountain crew consists of the following hardworking people:

  • Porters – they carry all of your food and gear
  • Guides – they guide you safely and efficiently up the mountain
  • Cook – he or she prepares all of your meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner)

 

How long does it take to climb Kilimanjaro?

Climbing the highest mountain in Africa is no overnight mission and can take between five and nine days. This really does depend on the route that you decide to trek. Each route is unique in its own way in that they can range from five days at high difficulty and a lower success rate, to six to eight days at medium to low difficulty with a higher success rate. The scenery is also vastly different from one route to the next.

As mentioned earlier, the main thing that stops people from reaching the summit is the altitude. You can be as fit as anything, but if you don't take the time to acclimatise properly, the chances of you getting acute mountain sickness (AMS) and needing to head back down the mountain are much higher. This is the main reason we like to suggest clients opt for a longer route.

Remember that climbing Kilimanjaro isn't a race. Take the advice of the experts and always go pole pole, which is Swahili for 'slowly, slowly'. If you're struggling in any way, speak to your guide and ask for help.

Southern Ice Field on Kilimanjaro

The glaciers on Kilimanjaro are incredibly beautiful

The seven Kilimanjaro routes

All of the Kilimanjaro routes lead to the summit! Having said that, trying to figure out which route to take should not be an afterthought, but rather a core component of your Kilimanjaro preparation. Choosing the right route can, in fact, make or break your climb. Each route has its own pros and considerations. It's important that you weigh these carefully before making your decision.

Here's a quick introduction to the seven routes, which may help you whittle down your options so that you only need to research some of them in detail:

  • Lemosho Route – We love this route. It is 70 km in length and is the most beautiful Kilimanjaro route. It has a high success rate and is medium in difficulty. The entire route takes seven or eight days to complete. We highly recommend this route.
  • Machame Route – The Machame is 62 km long and the busiest Kilimanjaro route. It's one of our favourite routes. The success rate is high, difficulty is medium, and it takes between six and eight days.
Mount Kilimanjaro. On the way from Machame Camp to Shira Camp

Gorgeous landscape on the Machame route

  • Marangu Route – The Marangu route offers hut accommodation. It's a relatively easy trail, which gives it a high summit success rate. The route's 72 km are covered in five or six days, though we'd always recommend opting for six days.
  • Rongai Route – The Rongai is the only Kilimanjaro route that approaches the summit from the north. It has a gentle gradient but a medium summit success rate because its acclimatisation profile isn't that great. The route is 73 km in length and takes six or seven days to complete.
  • Shira Route – The Shira is 56 km long and approaches the summit of the mountain from the west. This route takes seven or eight days and has a high summit success rate.
  • Northern Circuit – The Northern Circuit is the newest and longest Kilimanjaro route. It has a high success rate and takes nine or 10 days. We really, really like this route as it's one of the least crowded routes, offers great scenery, and has a really good acclimatisation profile.
  • Umbwe Route – The Umbwe is the shortest, steepest and hardest Kilimanjaro route. It therefore has a low success rate. Its 53 km can be covered in six or seven days.
Kilimanjaro routes map

Map of the different Kilimanjaro routes

Why choose the longer itinerary on any Kilimanjaro route?

The longer route itineraries offer a more relaxed pace. This allows you more time to take in your surroundings. Almost every day on a Kilimanjaro trek takes you into a new ecosystem, with new flora, fauna and scenery to appreciate. We particularly love the Lemosho route for this reason. The vegetation and scenery are so beautiful, even humbling.

Spending a decent amount of time at a comfortable pace also gives you the time to really get to know your fellow climbers and mountain crew. Tanzania is a wonderful country with a wealth of cultural history. we encourage clients to take the time to connect with your local crew members as this gives you a window into the lives of Tanzanians. You'll soon see that they're full of joy and their company is a treat.

Which is the best Kilimanjaro route?

At the end of the day, choosing a route is a personal choice, so really there is no 'best' route overall. Rather, you could say there's a best route for you and what you want to achieve. There are five essential questions to answer to help you choose your Kilimanjaro route:

  1. How diverse is the route's vegetation, terrain and scenery?
  2. How many days are spent on the mountain?
  3. What is the acclimatisation profile and success rate of the route?
  4. How much does the climb cost?
  5. How crowded does the route get?
Groundsel Trees on Kilimanjaro

Did we mention the scenery on Kilimanjaro?? 😉

That said, in our opinion the best routes are:

  1. The eight-day Lemosho
  2. The nine-day Northern Circuit
  3. The seven-day Machame

What should I pack for Kilimanjaro?

When preparing for your Kilimanjaro climb, gear is key! With a climate that changes daily, having the right clothing is essential for a successful and comfortable summit. Given that your trek takes you from the humidity of the rainforest to a world of snow and glaciers, you'll need a variety of gear to complete this journey. As an overview, we suggest having these items at the top of your Kilimanjaro packing list:

Kilimanjaro packing list

  • A water bottle and hydration pack
  • Warm hiking socks, gloves and a hat
  • Warm, well-worn hiking boots
  • A 30- or 40-litre day backpack (this will be carried by you)
  • An 80- or 100-litre duffel bag (this will be carried by a porter)
  • Water- and windproof jacket and trousers
  • Inner layers (two or three base layers and one mid layer)
  • Thermal underwear

If you've made the decision to take on this magnificent mountain, you'll need the full Kilimanjaro packing list to help you prepare for your climb.

 

 

Best time to climb Kilimanjaro

You can climb Kilimanjaro any time of the year, but some months are better than others. January to March (summer) is a good window, as is June to October (autumn). And don't worry about summer being too hot, as you're climbing to great altitude, where things are always chilly! In fact, on your climb up the mountain, you'll experience five distinct climate zones: rainforest, heath, moorland, alpine desert and arctic. Crazy, right? They say that climbing Kilimanjaro is like hiking from the Equator to the North Pole in a matter of days! For more details on when in the year to climb, read our post Best time to climb Kilimanjaro.

Full moon over Kilimanjaro

Full moon climbs are fantastic as you don't need headlamps to see your way

Have you considered a New Year's Eve Kilimanjaro climb?

Yep, we said it! Can you imagine a better way to bring in the new year?! Every year we organise a climb that has you summiting on New Year's Eve. This means that on the first of January you'll be watching the sunrise while standing at the top of Africa! Contact us and we can start chatting!

Snowy Kili summit

There's a good chance you'll experience a snowy summit if you do a New Year's Eve climb

Do I need a visa to climb Kilimanjaro?

Practical Kilimanjaro preparation is an important part of getting read for the climb. That means getting a Tanzanian visa to travel within the country. US, Canadian, British and most European citizens can simply obtain their visas upon arrival at any of Tanzania's international airports. The cost is $100 for US passport holders and $50 for others. If you're a citizen of a different country, please check with your embassy whether or not you can obtain a visa upon arrival.

You will of course also need a valid passport to enter Tanzania. Be sure you have a passport that's valid for at least six months from your arrival date.

Do I need a medical checkup before climbing Kilimanjaro?

It's not essential that you have a medical checkup before coming to Kilimanjaro. If you know that you're healthy and fit, then you're good. That said, it's never a bad idea to check in with your doc, especially if you're harbouring any concerns (perhaps concerning an old injury or an existing medical condition). A consult might be good to your peace of mind.

When chatting with the doctor you might also like to discuss the upcoming trip and ask for advice regarding altitude sickness and its symptoms.

Please note that medical insurance is a requirement for climbing Kilimanjaro. Every reputable tour operator will ask after your insurance policy before leading you on the climb. We discuss insurance in detail in How much does it cost to climb Kilimanjaro?

Vaccinations for Tanzania

No specific vaccinations are required for you to travel to Tanzania. That said, be aware that the Government of Tanzania requires proof of yellow fever vaccination upon arrival if you're travelling in from a country with a known risk of yellow fever. Further, while no vaccinations are required, some might still be a good idea. We suggest you talk to your doctor about getting the following vaccinations: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, typhoid, yellow fever, tetanus, polio, and MMR (measles, mumps and rubella). Please go to the Fit For Travel website for more up-to-date information.

Group shot - climbers and mountain crew

Group photo from one of our 2021 climbs 😊

Kilimanjaro preparation tips

Something we love is receiving feedback from trekkers about all they've learned from their their journey to the Roof of Africa. We've gathered lessons from beginner hikers to seasoned Kilimanjaro guides who've reached the summit more than 200 times and used these to compile the following list of useful tips to consider on your journey to the top:

  • We say it all the time, but seriously, take it slowly. You'll often hear the guides and porters say “Pole, pole”, which is Swahili for 'slowly, slowly'.
  • Listen to your guides when they give you advice. They know what they're talking about and have only your best interest at heart.
  • On that note, learn a few basic Swahili phrases. Your guides and porters will love it if you throw in a local word here and there.
  • Your guides and porters are your support system. Make friends with them and learn all you can about Tanzania.
  • Pack biodegradable wet wipes. There are no showers on the mountain, so wet wipes are your best bet for keeping yourself (somewhat) clean.
  • Don’t forget the sunscreen! When you're trekking in temperatures well below freezing it may not feel like you need the extra protection, but the UV index increases rapidly the higher you climb. Sunburn is uncomfortable at best!
  • Don’t shy away from eating all the food that's given to you. This is what will sustain you on your journey. Even if you don’t feel hungry - eat, eat, eat!
  • Drink water. Lots of water! Hydration is essential for your body on a Kilimanjaro climb.
  • Come equipped with yummy treats! Everyone loves a good snack and the more calories you consume while on your summit, the better. Never underestimate the importance of comfort food when you’re not in your comfort zone.

Lastly, and take it from our lead guide, Chris, be positive. Chris has reached the summit over 300 times and says that a positive mindset plays a major role in this adventure.

Kilimanjaro vegetation

The plants on Kilimanjaro are unusual and spectacular, like these lobelias in the moorland band

What can I do right now to start preparing?

Now that you've read through the various aspects of a proper Kilimanjaro preparation, let's look at some of the actions you can take right now to get going with your planning:

  • Write down your reasons for wanting to climb Kilimanjaro, and set any goals.
  • Reach out to friends or family you think might like to join you on this adventure.
  • When you've determined the time of year you wish to trek, plan your physical training leading up to the climb.
  • If you have any lingering questions, contact us. We can chat via email WhatsApp, or even set up a webinar – whatever floats your boat!

 

 

Contact

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+1 (785) 859-4930

travel@followalice.com

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Follow Alice Ltd

207 Regent Street

London, W1B 3HH

United Kingdom

 

Follow Alice Tours (T) LTD

PO Box 1923, Moshi

Tanzania

 

Follow Alice Tours (T) LTD is registered in Tanzania and holds all the necessary licences to run Kilimanjaro climbs and safaris.

 

Our Credentials

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We are an approved partner company with the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project

 

 

International Mountain Explorers Connection – IMEC – Partner for Responsible Travel Program.

 

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