Like I said in my other post about Kilimanjaro there are is no right or wrong way to hike it or things to bring. The only constant on the mountain (and in your body) is change.
That said there are a few things I found to be super performers and simple tricks that really enhanced my experience that you can take on if you want, or not! All the links are to things I used and loved on the mountain. No affiliate links!
1, An SIGG/metal water bottle
Bringing a waterbottle up Kilimanjaro isn’t some great new idea (unless you are the people who were on the trek with us who were shocked to realise they’d need to carry their own water) but my friend Katie (who has summited Kilimanjaro!) told me to bring a metal one to double up as a hot water bottle at night. At dinner you can ask your porters to fill it up with boiling water. Careful when you grab it, but then take it back to your tent/hut and place it in your sleeping bag for the most lovely warm cuddle all night. I kept mine at the bottom and my toes were so happy.
I brought my lovely Bowndling bottle.
2. Ginger & Garlic pills/sweets, etc
There is a lot of controversy surrounding Diamox, the medication often prescribed to treat (or avoid) symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness. It is not approved for such use and all the NHS doctors we spoke too in the UK and hiking Kilimanjaro themselves advised against its use completely. The symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness are a warning from your body that it needs more time to get used to the altitude. Turn those off and you will only end up going higher until the more severe symptoms emerge. If your goal is to get to the top of the mountain at all costs, then so be it, but if you prefer to enjoy the trip and complete it on your own two feet (alive), then respect your body and it’s reactions. Of course there are other reasons people take Diamox at altitude and I’m sure they have weight the risks before making their decision. Just please be aware.
Ginger and garlic are natural options that help your body acclimatize and soothe some of the AMS symptoms and every place I’ve gone trekking at altitude (Nepal, Canada, Tanzania) the locals swear by it. In Nepal we had garlic soup every night, in Tanzania we had ginger tea. Alex and I also took these ginger candies which were a great treat during the long hiking days.
Remember the key to keeping warm at altitude is to keep moving and create body heat. Then capture that body heat before it escapes! I found 5 simple layers kept me perfect temperature the whole time. First I wore a wicking technical fabric long sleeve base. I wore a lifa helly hansen top and it stunk to high heaven, but did the job.
A merino wool long sleeve. My Oiselle wazzie wool did the trick and didn’t smell one bit after 5 days of wear. My favourite piece of the trip by far.
A 200 fleece. This one from Salomon was absolutely perfect.
A down gillet or full jacket. Depending on your body heat capacity. I wore the ultralight down gillet from Uniqulo (don’t let the size fool you, it’s super warm) and then on the coldest day added a larger down jacket I usually wear snowboarding.
A rain proof shell. I can’t recommend anything but Arc’tyrx here, it’s my favourite jacket ever and has lasted 10 years of every mountain trek, ski and snowboard weather thrown at it. While it never rained on our trip this is a great wind proof layer too as it will get breezy!
4. A camel back/water reservoir with insulated tubes
You have to carry 3-4 litres of water each day to remain hydrated enough at this altitude. It’s important to have a water bottle too, a camel back is the easiest way to carry it. Make sure the full bladder fits in your pack with room for clothes and your lunch box (I’d say nothing less than a 30L day pack) and get an insulated tube. Your tube will freeze on the summit day and by tucking the tube in the insulation and then keeping it in your outer layer you might have a chance of keeping the water flowing. It also helps to blow back into the tube after you’ve taken a sip!
5. All the chocolate bars in the world
You will be fed well on Kilimanjaro. In fact it took me a day to even think about snacking I was so constantly full due to the amazing meals. But there is nothing like looking forward to a treat to make some of the long walking hours go by quicker. Alex and I brought a load of Snickers, Boosts, and Kit Kats which we devoured (and shared with our porters) up and down the mountain. In fact, the last thing I ate before my 18 hours of AMS was a Snickers Duo and I am so glad I got that down as don’t think I would have had any energy to even get to base camp without it!
We met a guy on Kili who was in the US Marines who told us that all the top guys in the Navy use drugstore face wipes for all their long secret ops missions. I love the idea of them opening a Simple Skin Care Sensitive package while in the middle of the Iraq dessert! Some camps have running water on Kilimanjaro and you get buckets of warm water and night and in the morning. But there isn’t much chance to – for the sake of a better term – get naked and wash. This is where wipes come in handy. The dust gets everywhere and a quick wipe does wonders for feeling better and *that* much fresher. (You will still stink though. Don’t get any ideas)
7. Camp socks
Some people bring camp shoes up the mountain but the camps are still pretty rocky, cold, and dangerous so I didn’t see many people in their camp sandals and shoes. I found it better to bring a super thick pair of camp socks I only wore after hiking all day. I’d then loosen my boots and use them as slip-ons for getting around camp that night. Even just for the mental boost of slipping them on after a long day, they were worth it.
Love ’em or hate ’em they’re necessary on Kili. The trails aren’t technical but having your arms do a bit of the work helps save your legs from over exertion on the long ascent days. I didn’t get up to the summit but from what everyone told me they were relying 90% on their poles for most of that day due to the difficult ascent & descent! Tresspass sent me these poles to try out and while they broke on the first day, all poles seemed to break at some point. Unless you’re going to invest in some really nice expensive ones, these are a good shout and the porters on our team were able to help me fix them so they worked fine for the rest of the trip.
9. A GPS watch
Yep, I wanted the data. I set my Suunto Ambit3 to 100 hour GPS mode and over the 5 days it only used 40% battery. Seeing our altitude gain each day was awesome and hours climbing. Our porters and guides loved checking what the watch said (always wrong) to what they knew (always right). Plus when I got home I uploaded it all to strava and am now the owner of some QOMs ON AN ACTUAL MOUNTAIN!
10. Portable chargers
At £6 each these are a no brainer. We brought 2 of them up and used them to charge our camera, watch, and phone (not ours but a porters). Remember batteries drain faster in the cold so I also kept all my electronics in my sleeping bag each night.
11. Comfortable walking clothing
I have lamented about the state of women’s walking clothing before. It’s dire. The ugliest fits, the worst colours, expensive too! Ugh. Then I found Bowndling. I wore their Four Seasons Heather T-shirt almost every day alone and as a layer. It was so perfect. Light weight, great colour, and did not smell bad at all even on day 5. Selfishly, since I’m tall I wish it was a bit longer, but it fit just fine. I went to hell and back trying to find trekking trousers but thanks to my twitter friend Naomi I found these awesome ones from Craighoppers. They have just enough elastic in them AND COME IN REGULAR AND TALL SIZING!!! The fit was great but do buy them a size down as mine ended up being a bit too big even though they fit fine in London. The stretch will take care of any layers you want to put underneath.
12. Sunglasses and a large hat
One day I didn’t use sunglasses and my eyes were so sore by the end of the day. Even if the sun isn’t directly in your eyes, the alpine sun is pretty harsh. We also wore a wide brim hat & a “desert baseball hat” each day (swapping between us depending on our outfit choices!). Having your ears & neck covered were essential to avoid the harsh sun burns. I bought this hat from decathlon with a handy removable neck cover so it could also be worn in public without extreme humiliation.
13. P20 and really good lip sunscreen
P20 is a no brainer. Put it all over your body as soon as you wake up. The only thing worse than acute mountain sickness is acute mountain sickness with a raging alpine sunburn. Plus you need at least SPF30 for your lips. I’d say no less than SPF50 as I got really burnt on my lips with SPF30. Apply it religiously and don’t bother with the Superdrug brand as it was crap.
14. A swimsuit
The first thing on my friend Katie’s kit list was a swimsuit and goggles. I lol’d at her taking a swimsuit up Kilimanjaro but the joke was on me. Defo bring one for your recover after the mountain! Most hotels in Moshi & Arusha have a pool and nothing feels better after a multi day hike than a relaxing afternoon swimming at the hotel pool. Plus you can even out some of those hiking tan lines!
15. A Positive Mental Attitude
It sounds silly but you probably paid a lot to get to Kilimanjaro and you want to enjoy the experience no matter what happens. Enjoying everyday of the journey will ensure you have a great experience on the mountain. I promise. Remember the Two Wolves story!