Mount Kilimanjaro: The 10 Item Survival Checklist

Mount Kilimanjaro: The 10 Item Survival Checklist

Reaching the top of Mount Kilimanjaro is on many people’s bucket list of things to do before they die. While it’s not the world’s highest peak, the trek is among the most popular and one of the most dangerous.

It’s vital to your survival that you’re prepared before you set off. So what do adventure seekers need before attempting the climb?

1. Pre-hike necessities

Mount Kilimanjaro is found in Tanzania in East Africa. Depending on where you’re originating from, you may be able to fly directly into the Kilimanjaro airport. Another option is to fly into a nearby city and take a shuttle bus or other transportation to the mountain base.

Regardless of your method of transportation, you’ll need a visa to get into Africa.

Travelers will also be required to get various vaccinations weeks or months ahead of their trek, including the malaria vaccine. Your doctor will know more about which vaccines are necessary.

2. Trek Clothing

When hiking Mount Kilimanjaro, trekkers will traverse several ecosystems with varying climates, ranging from extremely hot to cold. The five different ecosystems are bushland, rainforest, moorland, alpine desert, and finally, arctic at the top of the summit.

So, what you wear at the start of the hike won’t work for the upper portion. Guides recommend bringing clothing for the travel as well as the trek. The lightweight pants for traveling will be replaced - or layered - with fleece pants and long underwear.

Hikers will want to be sure to pack several different types of shirts.

  • Lightweight pants for travel
  • Fleece pants for hiking
  • Long-sleeved shirts
  • T-shirts for travel and layering
  • Waterproof socks

3. Summit Clothing

The highest parts of Mount Kilimanjaro are so cold that it’s unsustainable for human life. That means layer upon layer of the warmest clothes to protect your body from frostbite. For the summit portion of the hike, travelers should prepare as if visiting Antarctica.

  • Gloves or mittens
  • Winter hat
  • Neck gaiter or scarf
  • Wool socks
  • Long underwear

4. Footwear

Hiking boots are an absolute must for such an endeavor. However, hikers also want to bring lighter shoes, such as sandals or sneakers, to wear at camps along the trek. Depending on which route you take up the mountain, you will be spending five to ten days ascending the majestic mountain.

The hiking boots should be comfortable and waterproof.

5. Trek Equipment

Hiking Mount Everest requires ice axes, harnesses, and a pulley system to climb the peaks. However, those tools aren’t necessary when hiking Mount Kilimanjaro. Trekking poles are available to rent.

Depending on the path and season, crampons to maneuver through snow may be necessary. December to March and June to October are the best and busiest times to hike Mount Kilimanjaro.

Since you’ll spend many nights outdoors during the journey, a sleeping bag with cotton lining will help retain warmth.

Hikers will carry their own daysacks while porters working with Kilimanjaro guide companies will transport the rest. Look for a company that will organise your safari as well as your Kilimanjaro trek.

Sunglasses are recommended. Many hikers bring along cameras or cellphones to document the journey to the top. Extra storage cards and batteries will help ensure the memories are captured.

Before attempting the summit portion, cameras and phones should be insulated in the hiker’s backpack, or the batteries will freeze in the arctic temperatures.

No, Mount Kilimanjaro does not have charging stations, but hikers can bring their own power banks to use.

6. Summit Equipment

The final push to the summit is the most difficult and most rewarding part of the journey. It’s also where half of the attempts to hike Mount Kilimanjaro fail. Altitude sickness is a serious risk at this point of the trek.

Hikers can help stave off altitude sickness with prior training, but it ultimately comes down to luck.

A headlamp will make the summit trek easier, as the trek often begins late at night to reach the peak before sunrise.

7. Toiletries

Camps spread throughout the ascent do have bathrooms, but not the kind most people used to. The makeshift outhouse is simply a hole in the ground with a privacy tent around it. In fact, most people venture away from camp to find a place to relieve themselves, though that’s not always possible as the trek gets closer to the summit.

Hikers will want to pack supplies to compensate for the rudimentary toilets. Wet wipes, face wipes, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper are essentials. For hygiene, bring toothpaste and a toothbrush, as well as deodorant.

Women should bring sanitary pads. The altitude change is known to result in spontaneous menstruation.

Sunscreen and mosquito repellant are strongly recommended. Other optional toiletries include dry shampoo, moisturizer, and lip balm.

8. Food

Meals will be provided by the guides. They’ll even cook it for you. Check with the guide company to find out specifics about the provided meals.

Hikers can supplement the main meals by bringing their own snacks. Energy bars are one of the preferred snacks among trekkers.

9. Hydration

In addition to food, water is provided by the guide company. Plastic water bottles aren’t permitted on Mount Kilimanjaro. Hikers will want to bring their own water bottles to carry with them as they hike.

Energy drink mixes are suggested to restore lost electrolytes during the journey.

10. Stamina

People have trekked to Mount Kilimanjaro's top for almost 150 years. Around 35,000 people hike the mountain annually, with only 60% ever reaching the summit.

Stamina isn’t something you can pack, but it is something you can prepare. While young and old hikers can complete the trek, training in advance can make the journey easier.

Mount Kilimanjaro has a minimum age of 10 but makes exceptions for experienced hikers. The youngest person to reach the summit was 6; the oldest was 89.

Individual hikers are responsible for considering their medical history and any pre-existing conditions before attempting the trek.

Completing the journey to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s an unforgettable experience that thousands of people attempt every year. Will you be one of them?