What to bring (Kit and Equipment List)
As with any mountain climb, your chances of reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro comfortably and safely are greatly increased if you invest in the right climbing kit.
The equipment and clothing required to climb Kilimanjaro doesn’t differ greatly from that required for other high altitude mountain climbs (except for the absence of any need for technical climbing equipment – you won’t need cramp-ons or an ice axe, for instance), but as many prospective climbers will be approaching Kilimanjaro as their first high altitude mountain climb, we feel that it’s especially important to have a good kit guide to aid your preparations.
There is no shortage of Kilimanjaro kit lists and equipment guides on the internet, and most are perfectly adequate. It’s probably worth referring to more than one in order to ensure you aren’t missing anything.
Our kit list is based on our 25 years of experience in organising Kilimanjaro climbs and is intended to be as comprehensive as possible. We’ve distinguished between essential and optional items, so as not to overburden you with superfluous equipment. While a lack of quality kit will hamper your chances of reaching Kilimanjaro’s summit, a more common problem in our experience is that prospective climbers tend to over-pack! Knowing what not to bring is often as important as knowing what to bring.
Kilimanjaro Kit List
Comprehensive kit list for Kilimanjaro climbers (you can use the arrows at the bottom of this table to scroll through the entries).
ITEM ESSENTIAL OPTIONAL
BAGGAGE AND SLEEPING
- Large Holdall or Rucksack (a suitcase is not appropriate)
- Day Rucksack (for carrying sun cream, camera, film, water bottles etc)
- Sleeping Bag (four season) NB. IT GETS VERY COLD!
- Sleeping Mat (Foam or High Strength Thermarest)
- Long-sleeved Shirt
- Tracksuit bottoms
- Down Jacket or ski jacket
- Thermal long johns and vests). Two sets.
- Trousers (such as lightweight trekking trousers, avoid jeans)
- Underwear (light and loose)
- Socks (hiking / leisure)
- Lightweight waterproofs (jacket and trousers)
- Walking boots (sturdy well worn in boots)
- Ankle gaiters (for stopping grass scratches and rashes)
- Trainers for evenings
- Wide brimmed hat
- Insulated gloves or mittens and ALSO thermal inner gloves
- Cotton scarf, bandana or dust mask
Notes on daily weather patterns and required clothing from Jeremy Gane
The best way to deal with the significant daily changes in temperature that you encounter in the mountains is to adopt a layer system. Here are some quick notes about the weather you can expect to encounter on the mountain and how to manage your clothing layers day by day.
When you wake up (typically around 06:30) you will face temps just above freezing on the first days of your climb, and just below as you climb higher. Then, by the time breakfast is over and you are ready to trek, it will be warming up and in the sheltered places temperatures can rise to 18c and even 20c to 25c as the morning progresses. But if the mornings are cloudy even the initial rain forest days can be very chilly.
The main factor to consider is mountain convection, which pushes warm air up from the plains and over the rain forest, picking up moisture. This moist air may then precipitate early to mid-afternoon as damp air, drizzle, sleet or snow higher up the mountains. Temperatures can then drop in the early afternoons to only a few degrees above freezing. As you go higher these temps drop further in cloudy weather but on sunny days the sunlight becomes increasingly potent with very high levels of UV and potential for sunburn.
My typical day’s main clothing (apart from summit day) is as follows: 3-4 season trekking boots and two pairs of socks (to prevent blisters); long trekking trousers every day to avoid sun burn and give warmth when overcast; sweat wicking long sleeved T shirt and mid weight or heavy fleece jacket for the chilly mornings, with waterproof trousers and jacket in the day pack ready for rain, snow or cold wind. Wide brimmed hat and lightweight gloves – I use my thermal liner gloves but take two pairs up the mountain just in case I lose a glove before summit night!
The down jacket does not go with me on normal trekking days but rather stays in my main pack with the porters. I use this jacket in the cool evenings and on summit night.
This is a matter of personal choice; but you will realise from the potential daily variations that a layer system is very important. At a minimum, you must wear or carry in your day pack every day: water proofs, hat, gloves and fleece jacket.
For summit night you will need 4 layers top and bottom, so add to the above clothing: thermal base layer, padded trousers (optional), down jacket, balaclava, heavy duty cold weather mittens.
Clothing layers, types & full purchase price indicators
1) BASE LAYER
This layer – long johns and long sleeved vest – must be sweat-wicking. Merino Ice Breakers are the best at around £75; but other sweat-wicking base layers do the job too. On a long expedition, take two sets – one for the trek in and the other as pyjamas when it is cold at night and also kept aside for the summit climb.
2) MID LAYER and/or SOFT SHELL LAYER
The mid layer consists of fleece jacket and high performance trek trousers. Fleeces come in three weights (100, 200, 300) and you should go for 200 or 300 depending on how sensitive you are to the cold. Pay £40 to £100.
The soft shell layer is an optional wind-stopping and usually water resistant shell for those that really feel the cold. Or it simply replaces the less technical fleece clothing mid layer (above). Expect to pay around £100 for jacket and £60 for pants.
3) OUTER LAYER
There are two requirements for your outer layer – waterproofs and insulators (such as down jacket).
When choosing waterproofs go for Hiking Grade not Mountain Grade. They should be lightweight and breathable. E.g. Berghaus Paclite.
Your down (or duvet) jacket must be top grade. No compromise here. Mountain Equipment Annapurna, Rab Endurance or Rab Summit are the standard required. Pay £220 to £250. We hire out down jackets.
4) SLEEPING BAGS
For Kilimanjaro your bag should be comfort rated to -10c or more. There is a big difference between comfort rating and the less strict safety rating. You are looking for comfort rating.
Rab Summit 900 gives -25c; Rab Endurance gives -15c; Rab Atlas gives -12c.
Mountain Equipment Sleepwalker 3 is good and we hire out this type of bag.
5) GROUND MATS
If choosing a Thermarest you must buy the heaviest version because high mountain moraine and scree can cut through standard Thermarests. If choosing foam, then buy a good one. We hire out good thick local foam mattresses, which make your nights much more comfortable.
Go for 3 to 4 seasons Gortex if buying new. Some options to consider include:
Berghaus Explorer at £90
Scarpa SL at £185
Meindl Nepal or Burma around £175 if you prefer leather.
But the main point is to choose a boot that is comfy for you. The boot shop must loan you some trek socks and give you time to test the boots in the shop – try stairs as well as level areas in the shop.
Double layer required for the summit with thermal liner and good warm, top grade trekking sock for outer. The outer can be double knitted too to reduce blistering. Keep one set of socks clean and fresh for the summit. Icebreaker, Bridgedale Summit are all good.
(Don’t be embarrassed to take your time when selecting kit. It’s expected of you to take your time to choose the equipment that suits you best. It is going to be your shield against the elements in the high mountains!)
You can download all of the information on this page, as well as further information on Kilimanjaro kit hire, in PDF format from the Gane and Marshall website: Kilimanjaro kit list