In September 2016 I finally got round to ticking one of the top things off my bucket list – I climbed Kilimanjaro.
I’m an organiser and planner by nature, so before I went I did a LOT of research to work out what to take – and you can read all about it here. I compared loads of different articles, packing lists, and other people’s blogs, and talked to friends who had done it before. Not being a natural camper, I was particularly concerned about the logistics of being a girl on the mountain (if you know what I mean!), so I paid extra attention to advice about that. Some of the stuff I took I was very grateful for, and some it turned out I didn’t need at all.
So here, for the benefit of the the next intrepid adventureress (or, indeed, adventurer), is my Kilimanjaro Packing List of what I would take if I were doing it again tomorrow. I did the 8-day Lemosho route, so my list includes enough for 8 days; clearly if your trip is shorter you’ll need less stuff.
- Two pairs North Face zip-off walking trousers (I only took one pair, and wore them every day. They were FILTHY by the end, so a second pair would have been good. Though I did manage without them).
- One pair North Face fleece trousers for wearing around camp and for sleeping in (I LOVED having these!).
- One pair thermal baselayer leggings.
- One pair waterproof trousers (mine were Mountain Equipment Aeon Pants).
- One pair ski trousers or warm hiking trousers. (I only wore mine on summit night, with my baselayer leggings underneath, and I was very grateful for them).
- Gore-tex waterproof jacket (mine was an Arcteryx Zeta LT).
- Two non-cotton wicking t-shirts.
- Two long-sleeved non-cotton sports tops.
- One long-sleeved thermal baselayer.
- Zip-up fleece mid layer.
- Ultra-light down jacket (mine is from Uniqlo and I love it!).
- My mum’s old cashmere polo neck as a mid-layer. A bit non-technical, this, but I wore it around camp in the evenings and as an extra layer on summit night and it was great.
- 8 pairs thin liner socks and 6 pairs thick hiking socks. Fresh socks nearly every day was really nice, so if you can stretch to a pair for every day then do it.
- 8 pairs of non-cotton, microfibre knickers (from M&S, so much cheaper than any sports ones I looked at).
- Two sports bras.
- Two pairs of gloves: one thin, one thick ski gloves.
- Two buffs, one thin and breathable for keeping out dust and sun, one fleecy for keeping out cold.
- Two hats: a baseball cap or sunhat and a knitted beanie. I took a baseball cap and did have a bit of an issue with trying to keep the sun off the back of my neck, so you might want to go with a proper wide-brimmed sunhat.
- Trainers for wearing around camp.
- Hiking boots (better not forget those!). Mine are Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX.
- Thick down jacket (I rented this from the company to avoid having to carry it all round Tanzania).
- Gaiters – it’s very dusty so you definitely need these. Try to get the ones that zip/velcro on and off at the front or back as mine had to go on over my foot which meant I had to take my boots off to get them on and off and that was quite annoying.
- 30-40 l daypack. Mine was the Osprey Tempest 40 and although it wasn’t full most of the time I did appreciate the extra space for shedding layers on summit day.
- 2l hydration bladder.
- A water bottle for summit night (the hydration bladder tube can freeze).
- 4 season sleeping bag (I rented this from the company, it came with a liner but you might want to check).
- Travel towel (this was very useful).
- Flannel – I didn’t have one but my friend did and used it every day for washing. I was jealous!
- Pillowcase (nice for putting clothes inside to make a pillow).
- Headtorch and spare batteries. I didn’t have enough and worried all week about them dying on summit night. You’ll use your headtorch every evening in camp as well so make sure you bring at least three fresh sets, maybe more if your headtorch eats them.
- Notebook and pen – I used this to take notes for writing all of this stuff when I got back, but if that’s not your thing then you can do without.
- Kindle / book.
- Wraparound sunglasses.
- Waterproof backpack cover.
- Ear plugs (definitely useful in camp).
- Portable phone charger / power pack (and don’t forget to bring the right cables!). Mine is a little Anker one and it was just right.
- Camera and 4 spare batteries. Mine is a Fujifilm X1ooT and it was PERFECT!
- Snack bars – enough for 1 a day plus a couple for summit night.
- Hankies – enough for one a day. The dust gets right up your nose and some people were getting nosebleeds too. Definitely bring nice soft hankies as you’ll probably be using them a lot and your nose will thank you!
- Pack Mate Compression Bags – or similar, for organising and compressing your stuff. These were really good.
- Tweezers, nail scissors, and pocket mirror.
- Sports drink / electrolytes tablets. I took High 5 Zero, citrus flavour – but I took too many and had to give lots away. I drank no more than 3 litres of water a day while walking (plus extra at meals) so only take enough for that amount.
- Diamox (for altitude sickness). I took one a day which was fine.
- Ibuprofen and Paracetamol.
- Doxycyline (for malaria).
- Imodium (for diarrhoea) – happily not needed!
- Reyhdration sachets – also not needed.
- Antibiotic cream – didn’t need but would still take just in case.
- Piriton (antihistamine) – ditto.
- Blister plasters, adhesive tape, normal plasters.
- Regular wet wipes (two large packs of 25), face cleaning wipes (one large pack of 25), ‘girly’ cleansing wipes (one large pack of 20). This was about the right amount, I did have some left but not too many.
- Panty liners – DEFINITELY take these. Every time I went behind a rock you could see where other people had been and left loo paper behind which is disgusting and not good for the environment. Use panty liners every day and you won’t need to do that.
- Tampons. The altitude can affect your cycle, so best to be prepared just in case.
- Suncream SPF50 – travel size.
- Lip protection SPF30 or higher. If you’re fair skinned like me I strongly advise you to take proper zinc sunblock as worn by Aussie cricketers. I didn’t and my lips got badly blistered in spite of the factor 30 lip balm.
- Insect repellant – travel size (you’ll only need it on the first couple of days).
- Sudocrem / all-purpose soothing skin cream – I was grateful for this to soothe the sunburn.
- Stick deodorant (Roll-on ones can freeze and sprays don’t work at altitude).
- Decongestant spray (you can get bunged up at altitude) – DEFINITELY needed this!
- Eye drops (it’s dusty and you can get itchy eyes) – didn’t use them but you might.
- Toothbrush and toothpaste.
- Cold sore treatment.
- Loo paper – if you can fit it in, bring some from home. I didn’t and had to make do with the Tanzanian stuff which isn’t as nice and takes up too much space.
- Hand moisturiser – the dust and dry air made my fingertips peel and crack so definitely bring a good quality one.
- Face moisturiser.
- Hand sanitiser.
- Soap or shower gel – they give you water for washing so soap would have been good.
Things I took (on the advice of others) but did not need
- Sleeping bag liner – I hired a sleeping bag from the company and they provided a liner too. If you’re bringing your own bag then I guess you won’t need a liner either.
- Tea bags – tea was provided and it was fine. That said, if you’re fussy about your tea, then they did provide hot water too, so you could bring some.
- Water purification tablets – the water was boiled and purified for us and it was fine.
- Sleeping tablets – I took these because apparently it’s harder to sleep at altitude and people snore more. I did actually take one, one night, and was horribly groggy the next morning which made walking really hard. The guide told me off for taking one as he said it could be dangerous if you’re suffering from altitude sickness. So I wouldn’t take them.
- Playing cards – once it gets dark everyone just goes to bed, so there was no card playing.
- Sheewee – I’ve heard other people did use theirs but I didn’t. There was always a rock to crouch behind, and by the time we got to the places where cover was limited, I’d stopped caring if anyone saw me!
- Hand warmers – I did not use these but you might want to take a few as I think others in the group did.
- Extra snack bars / sweets – I took enough for two a day but they fed us SO well I really didn’t need them and ended up giving most of them away to the guides and porters. Just bring a few for the longer days and for summit night. Though you might want to check with the company you’re going with as the food provided can vary.
- Eye mask for sleeping – I didn’t need this as it’s really dark and you wake up as soon as it gets light, plus I mostly slept in my beanie with it pulled down over my eyes anyway.
- Travel sickness tablets. Didn’t need them, but I don’t really get travel sick. If you do, take them as the roads are bumpy!
Found this useful? Disagree with some of the items? Let me know in the comments!
And if you want to know more about how I prepared or what it was like on Kilimanjaro, there’s loads more stuff here.