Starry sky over Kilimanjaro campsite with orange and green dome tents lit up from within

Sleeping on Kilimanjaro – all you need to know

May 24, 2024
Reading time: 13 minutes

Most trekkers sleep in tents on Kilimanjaro, as just one route offers hut accommodation. We explain what to expect at night-time on Kilimanjaro, from the campsites to why it can be hard to sleep at very high altitude.

Sleeping on Kilimanjaro is an important and often overlooked part of every climb. The key is to be prepared with the right equipment so that you're warm and comfortable. And you should also be prepared to not always sleep brilliantly, as high altitude can affect the quality of your sleep. But more on that in a moment.

Getting enough sleep on your Kilimanjaro climb is essential for an enjoyable and healthy adventure.

nighttime Kilimanjaro silhouettes

Night-time on Kilimanjaro is a special, ethereal time

Sleeping in tents vs huts

When you trek Mt Kilimanjaro, you sleep in one of two places: in a mountain hut or in a tent.

Most trekkers sleep in tented camps, as only the Marangu route offers hut accommodation. Fortunately, things are made easier for you as porters carry all of the camping equipment and also set up camp for you.

Tented camps

Everyone hiking one of the seven Kilimanjaro ascent routes apart from the Marangu route must camp. Personally, we think camping is the more fun option.

Like many other tour operators, we at Follow Alice provide our climbers with high-grade domed tents that comfortably sleep two people.

tented camp Kilimanjaro sleeping on Kilimanjaro

Barranco Camp

Mountain huts

The huts provided by Kilimanjaro National Park are wooden, A-frame structures. They contain beds with mattresses, though you must bring your own sleeping bag and pillow. The huts are large and have several beds, so you should come prepared to sleep alongside others.


Horombo Hut, one of the mountain huts along the Marangu route

The huts were built along the Marangu route as this is the original Kilimanjaro route. It’s also sometimes called the Coco-Cola route, as you can buy a couple of amenities like a Coke at some of the overnight stops. It’s consequently a fairly popular route and can become rather crowded at times.

What gear to pack for the nights

The following five items are essentials for everyone climbing Kilimanjaro.

But let’s start with that most essential of all night-time items: the trusty sleeping bag. 

Sleeping bag

It’s incredibly important to bring the right sort of sleeping bag to Kilimanjaro. You can’t pussyfoot around with a flimsy little bag; you’re heading up Africa’s tallest mountain, and it has an arctic climate at the summit!

This means every Kilimanjaro trekker needs a four-season sleeping bag to keep them warm at night. (Don't know what a four-season sleeping bag is? You can learn this and more in The best sleeping bags for Kilimanjaro.)

At Follow Alice we provide you with a four-season sleeping bag that can keep you warm during the cold nights on Kilimanjaro.

Many companies require you to bring your own sleeping bag to Kilimanjaro. This is fine, unless of course you don’t have one (or one that's warm enough). But a quality four-season sleeping bag doesn’t come cheap, nor is everyone in the market for one. So at Follow Alice we loan you a four-season sleeping bag at no extra charge. These are The North Face bags and are able to keep you warm in the icy conditions near the summit.

Follow Alice sleeping bag

A Follow Alice four-season sleeping bag

Having a sleeping bag provided by your tour operator if you don't have one also means that you don’t need to travel with a bulky bag, which would take up lots of precious luggage space and weight.

We also provide our climbers with sleeping bag liners. These are laundered after every climb. You could also of course bring your own liner if you prefer. 



Sleeping mat

A sleeping mat is an important piece of gear for any trekker sleeping in a tent, as it’s an extra layer between you and the cold, hard ground.

Ideally your sleeping mat should be thick and even insulated to keep you both warm and comfortable. (Remember that you fortunately don’t have to carry your own sleeping gear, as the porters in your mountain crew do this for you.) 

At Follow Alice we loan our clients sleeping mats at no extra price, so that's a further item you don’t need to think about. 🙂

A thermal sleeping mat is important for keeping you warm and comfortable at night.

tent Kilimanjaro night sleep

At night-time you hunker down in your tent for warmth and well-earned rest

The only trekkers who don't need to pack sleeping mats are those hiking the Marangu route, as the mountain huts have mattresses.


Most people like a pillow for when they sleep, and Kilimanjaro is not the time to do without an essential night-time comfort. You could bring along a pillow, though of course it shouldn’t be too big, as it needs to fit into your duffel bag.

A really handy trick is to actually just bring along a pillow case and then stuff your winter jacket inside it each night. Et voilà! A plush pillow for a beautifully comfortable sleep.

If you stuff your winter jacket in a pillow case, you have a soft pillow for night-time and won't need to find space in your duffel bag for a pillow.

Winter jacket

Speaking of winter jackets, you need one for Kilimanjaro!

You especially need one at night, when the temperatures high up on the mountain regularly drop below freezing point. Remember that you’re climbing to almost 6,000 m above sea level; the climate near the top of the mountain is alpine desert and then arctic. 

Down is an incredibly warm material that's perfect for a jacket battling subzero temperatures. But whatever inner is used, be sure the jacket you buy, rent or borrow is a proper winter jacket.

Since a winter jacket is an expensive item, and not everyone has one, please note that you can rent a down jacket from us at Follow Alice for a flat fee of US$60. Our jackets are a colourful red and black, as shown in the photo below.

down jackets kilimanjaro summit

Two of the team keeping warm at the summit in Follow Alice jackets

Of course you also need other warm items for night-time on Kilimanjaro, like a beanie and thermal gloves. We list and discuss these items in our comprehensive Kilimanjaro packing list. You might also like to read What should I wear for summit night on Kilimanjaro?

We have down jackets perfectly suited for the harsh conditions of Kilimanjaro that our climbers can rent for a flat fee of US$60.

Head torch

Everyone needs a head torch (flashlight) at night on Kilimanjaro. Navigating around camp is tricky without it.

Note that there are lamps inside the mess tent for when it’s dark, however, apart from that, you need to provide your own light. Think moving about in your tent and visiting the toilet tent.

Nighttime tent Kilimanjaro

If you want light inside your tent, you need to bring a torch or lamp

Please be sure to test out the head torch before leaving home to ensure it still works. And we advise putting fresh batteries in it, and then packing some spares. You might also consider a little standing lamp for inside your tent.

To keep yourself from fumbling around camp and tripping over guy ropes, ensure you bring a head torch on the trek.

Why it's hard to sleep at high altitude

Sleeping at altitude is notoriously hard. Or maybe you've never heard that before, so we're here to enlighten you. Don't expect to sleep like a baby on the climb, even after all of that exertion and fresh air.


The high altitude on Kilimanjaro often affects your quality of sleep

The reason it’s hard to sleep at high altitude is that the reduced oxygen affects your breathing. This isn’t something to worry about, it just means you may well have poorer quality sleep, and struggle with fatigue the next day. Again, this is normal and part of the course. Yet another reason you need determination to reach the top of Kilimanjaro!

So when you reach the higher altitudes of Kilimanjaro, you can expect to find it hard to drop off to sleep. Or at least harder than usual. Some folks find that they sleep fitfully. Others that they have very vivid dreams.

Poor sleep is just the name of the game in high-altitude trekking.

In one sense, you want to just accept that your sleep is likely going to be subpar on your Kilimanjaro climb. And understanding that most people find sleeping on Kilimanjaro to be difficult might eliminate a little of the potential stress.

That said, you also should do what you can to help yourself have the best sleep possible under the circumstances ...

5 tips for sleeping soundly on Kilimanjaro

So yes, falling asleep high up on Kilimanjaro can be tricky. So here are some tips to help set yourself up for the best sleep possible …

1. Shake your sleeping bag before getting in

Your sleeping bag will have been squashed into a bundle for transport during the day, and this can lead to the bag’s inner clumping. This is especially the case with bags made with down. You want the inner to be spread evenly for the warmest sleep. So we advise shaking out your bag before getting inside. You don't want to make sleep even harder because you're not actually warm enough!

2. Bring a soft, comfortable and warm hat

You probably already know that most of your body heat is lost through your extremities, which includes your head. Even if your sleeping bag has a hood, we highly recommend a really comfortable beanie for bedtime. This should be a separate beanie to the one you wear while trekking, so that it’s always clean and dry. A super-soft beanie made from wool, cashmere, felt or the like works really well.



3. Don't drink much right before bed

It’s a good idea to limit your liquid intake in the hour or so before bed. Nobody wants to need the loo in the middle of the dark, cold night. That said, do be sure to drink enough water throughout the day, as adequate hydration is invaluable in helping to alleviate the symptoms of altitude sickness. So we recommend drinking plenty of water throughout the day, but then stopping a little while before bedtime. Then, when it's near bedtime, or if you wake up thirsty, try to limit yourself to little sips.

Also, consider packing a pee funnel and a sealable jar so that you can go to the toilet inside of your tent if necessary. You're going to find it harder to drop back to sleep if you must rouse yourself enough to go outside into the cold to visit the toilet tent.

4. Go to the toilet just before hitting the sack

Linked to the tip above, we recommend making a loo stop just before going to bed. Even if you don’t feel the need very much – go for a paranoia pee.

5. Wear earplugs

At night things are generally pretty quiet, as everyone at camp is on the same wavelength and wants a good night’s sleep! That said, there can be a hum of chatter and activity, especially if you’re one of the first to hit the hay. Also, the porters and cooks always wake up before you in the mornings, as they need to complete certain tasks like making breakfast. We therefore recommend that light sleepers bring along comfortable earplugs for the night-time. Actually, even if you’re not a light sleeper … snorers exist. ’Nough said.

Keen for more Kilimanjaro tips? Check out our 10 tips for climbing and summiting Mt Kilimanjaro.

Kilimanjaro at night

Night-time at camp on Kilimanjaro is truly special in our opinion

Things we love about night-time on Kilimanjaro

Night-time on Kilimanjaro is truly special. Just ask anyone who’s been. There’s the sight of all the tents lit up from within against the settling darkness. And you know that for a few days you’re a member of a special, small and intrepid community huddled together on the side of an immense and forbidding mountain.

Hanging around for sunsets

At camps such as Karanga Camp and Shira 2 Camp, you can witness some of the most spectacular sunsets. We definitely recommend that you venture outside whilst the sun is disappearing to enjoy these special moments on the mountain. You’ll discover spectacular colours and often rolling clouds that quickly change hue with the dipping sun. A fine reward for a hard day’s work!

sunset Kilimanjaro

Sunset on Kilimanjaro illuminating an ocean of cloud

Looking up at starry skies

When climbing Kilimanjaro, we love to gaze up at the vast starry night sky. When you’re high on the mountain, there’s little to no light pollution, so the night sky is brilliantly clear. The Milky Way is a clear swathe above you, and you can enjoy looking for the Southern Cross. 

starry skiy Kilimanjaro nighttime

The glory of the night sky shining brightly above camp on Kilimanjaro

Waking up for sunrises

The sunrises on Kilimanjaro are beautiful. This is especially the case once you’ve climbed above the rainforest zone and enter the moorland, alpine desert and, finally, arctic zones. These climate zones have few or no trees to obstruct your view over the plains surrounding the mountain. Also, you’re frequently looking down on the cloudbank that rests over the lower slopes. When the sun rises above the cloudbank, you feel as if you’re above the world! We highly recommend taking a moment (even if it’s just with your head poking out of your tent door) to watch the sun each morning as it climbs up into the sky.

You might like to read Where to see the best sunrises and sunsets on Kilimanjaro.

sunrise Kilimanjaro

Rays from the rising sun turn parts of Kilimanjaro orange

Kilimanjaro summit night

Did you know that no matter which of the seven ascent Kilimanjaro routes you choose, on summit ‘day’ you actually start your ascent to the peak at midnight?

Midnight summit hike from Barafu Camp on Kilimanjaro

Our client Frederik took this snap of his group's midnight start for the summit

You start your hike to Uhuru Peak at this crazy hour because summit day is one heck of a long day. Usually you trek for at least 13 hours today. But the term ‘summit day’ could be said to be a misnomer, as much of the day is spent descending the mountain. That’s right, you summit Kilimanjaro just after sunrise, and then descend a large portion of it during the rest of the day.

Summit day is the Big Push, if you will, and this part of the climb is the most mentally and physically challenging part of the whole trek.

You can learn more in Why do we summit Kilimanjaro at night?

Kilimanjaro full-moon climbs

Nothing beats a Kilimanjaro full-moon climb in our opinion.

Kilimanjaro summit glacier

The gorgeous glacier at the summit of Kilimanjaro

Given that you start summit day at midnight, a full-moon climb means you're never trekking in the dark, guided just by your beam from your head torch. Instead, the bright light of the full moon illuminates your path the entire way.

Hiking by a full moon makes summit day that much easier, and also that much more beautiful. The moon lets you see the peak you're heading towards, illuminates the glaciers, and shows off the bulk of the mountain that you've already conquered below you. We love a full-moon climb and cannot recommend it enough!

I climbed Kilimanjaro during the full moon and it was truly amazing! The views were second to none. 

- Sarah Johnson

Keen to climb Kilimanjaro? We'd love to take you! Whether you want to summit on a full moon or have set dates that you must trek, we can take you on this incredible adventure. Please take a look at our Kilimanjaro itineraries to find the route and date that best suit you, and let's start planning!