Post Kilimanjaro Expedition Toughts
This post is all about what is important to take with you on Kilimanjaro. Before going on this trip we also read a lot of stuff about what we should take with us. There are many articles written about this but somehow we still had some doubts when I got there so we decided to give you our own personal take on the items that you should pack.
We will put below the list we made before the trip and simply comment on how important each item was during the trip.
Big rucksack – This will be the one with that the porters will carry. There is no need to have a special backpack as they will anyway put it into some bigger bags that they carry. Duffel bag is also a good option too. Max weight 15kg (incl. other items inside)
Daypack – You will carry this one so make sure you get a light one that fits well on your back. In general up to 32lr should be good enough
Dry sacks – You do not actually need these. You can just use simple plastic bags to organize your things. Most rucksacks these days are waterproof anyway so there really is no need to spend money on these.
Sleeping bag – You can rent sleeping bags from most tour companies but we decided to buy our own. We used Western Mountaineering Antelope MF. It was too thick for most days but just perfect for the last cold night on the mountain. Anything with a lower temperature resistance (-20 degrees Celsius comfort) than this is a waste of money. You will also need an insulating mat but a simple isoprene one will be enough and you can rent it at most tour agencies.
Head and upper body
Sun glasses and strap – You will definitely need a pair of polarized sunglasses as the sun can get pretty strong. We used Oakley. I also bought a neoprene strap for them just to make sure they will not fall of but I guess that was more of an overkill. Sunglasses – important. Strap – not.
Head lamp and batteries – A must for the summit attempt and a good addition for the nights spent on the mountain. We used Petzl Tikka Plus 2. I had extra batteries with me but even though I used it every night and on the final summit attempt, I did not need the extra batteries. Head lamp – a must. Extra batteries – just in case… you would not want to be left without batteries in the middle of the last night.
Warm hat – A must of the summit attempt but I also used it at night as I kept getting my head out of the sleeping bag and it was getting cold.
Sun hat – A must for most days. You will walk a lot in the sun and you do not want that to affect you. If you buy one, buy something that protects the back of your neck also. You can of course use suncream (e.g. Goro used a simple baseball cap and he was fine with that)
Balaclava – Not the most important thing. As I (Alex) am not very fit, I was sometimes struggling with the breathing so I used it on the final attempt to cover my mouth and nose to that the cold air will not go directly to my lungs. Clearly not a must, but I found it very useful. Goro used “Buff” instead.
Light gloves – Good if you have sensitive hands. I used them every day to that I would not get blisters from the walking sticks. Georgi did not use and he was perfectly fine with that.
Thick gloves – Highly recommended for the final attempt. Get some gloves that protect you to at least -12 to -15 degrees Celsius. Your fingers are not moving a lot while your hands are pushing in the sticks so it is very probable that they will freeze if not protected well. Georgi’s blue fingers experience stands as testimony of this.
Woolen inner wear – Wool is better than synthetic since it absorbs perspiration better. I had one that I used only for the last night and final attempt.
Synthetic inner wear – I had two but used only one of them during the nights. Not so important but I just wanted to be on the safe side.
Thick Inner wear – I had a thicker one that can also be used as a inner-wear or as a middle layer. I sometimes used this as a base layer under the softshell during some of the days or as a middle layer in the last night. Versatile and good to have with you.
2 Fleeces – I was using one for the day trips (a soft shell) and one for the camps so that the first one had time to dry. You can make the trip with just one though.
Hard shell – A must. No more needed to say here.
Walking sticks – A must. They transfer some of the effort from your feet to your hands so you want to have them with you. Also good for keeping balance, especially on the descent part of the mountain.
3 or 4 synthetic T shirts – Wool or synthetic is good. Cotton is bad. You want to have more with you since they are going to get stinky with sweat. People say you should have long sleeved but I had short sleeved. It was not a problem since I was using a soft shell for most of the time.
Down jacket – I started the final attempt with it in the backpack but it came in handy with just one hour to go to the top. You will use it for less than 60 minutes on the entire trip but I consider it important since you will surely be tired and cold for the last hour of climbing. We expected -7 degrees temperature for the final summit push, but it turns out to be around -20/-25 degrees. You never know what the mountain will offer you.
Inner wear – Same as for the upper body. I used one woolen for the last night and the final attempt and a synthetic one for the evenings.
Light trekking pants – Absolute must. I wore them each and every day.
Thick pants – Georgi took his snowboard pants for the final attempt (he used a pair of inner wear under them). I used a combination of woolen inner wear, trekking pants and hard shell pants (which I rented). Both of us were fine.
Boots – IT IS CRITICAL TO HAVE GOOD FITTNG BOOTS. I wrote it in bold as it was one of the things that made my trip hard. Having boots that do not fit your feet properly will create blisters (and you will spend a lot of time mending them, like I did) and will put a lot of pressure on your feet as you descend (I lost my toenails because of this… they grow back but still… you do not want the extra pain). So make sure you do a few trips before to make sure you feel good in your boots. You want to enjoy your trip not make it a burden.
Light shoes - I had a pair of sneakers that I used for the camps. They were good for me as I started hating my boots. Georgi had only his boots and he was fine with that.
Gaiters – An item you can rent. You will only use them in the last night and not for the rain or dust but mostly to make sure that your feet stay warm.
Socks – as important as the boots. They should go well together. You need 2-3 pairs of 3 seasons socks and maybe 1 pair of four season socks. I had some woolen ones that were good but did not fit properly with the boots so they were useless. Make sure you test them together with the boots. I also had two pairs of liner socks. They are good especially if you get blisters as they give some extra protection. In general you should change socks every 3-4h of walking in order to prevent blisters.
Underwear – Take Synthetic or woolen. Cotton loses its properties very fast when full of sweat.
Short pants – No need. Really. Same for cotton socks. No need.
Of course you want to have all your basics with you but you will not actually use anything. On the route we took money were useless. We only needed them when paying tips to the porters at the end.
Insurance – we made the extreme sports insurances just in case.
Tooth brush and paste – need I comment?
Shower gel and shampoo – Unless you go for some posh tour, you will only have a small portion of hot water for washing. I used wet tissues for cleaning myself and Georgi washed his hair once. This must give you an idea about the quantity to take with you.
Sunscreen and lipbalm – Important as the sun is strong and you do not want an uncomfortable trip
2 towels – One you definitely need. For the rest, see point b and decide in that context.
2 ziplock bags – I do not even remember why I wanted to get these!!!
Wet wipes – That is what I used for washing myself. Take at least 40 or 80.
Swiss knife – as useful as in any trip
Hand sanitizer – one small bottle for two people was enough.
Ear plugs – needed only if you have trouble falling asleep. I did not actually need them.
Toilet paper – A must. It is not provided and it is an item you do not want to run out of. Two of us used more than one roll in that week.
Water tablets – porters will provide boiled wated but if you want to be extra safe use these. We did… sometimes…
Malaria pills and insect repellant – you will not have such problems on the mountain as mosquitoes do not live at those altitudes. Maybe you will need them if you go on safari but definitely not on the mountain.
Altitude sickness medicine – We used a Romanian one made with the same active substance as Diamox but at 10% of the price. I guess you can find these in any country… just look for medicine with acetozolamide. We used it when we had headaches not on a regular basis and it was ok. Placebo or reality… who knows?
Pain killers – did not use but we took them in case of injuries
Eye drops – A doctor told me to take that and use before the final attempt. Did not use and had no problem.
Cold/flu medicine – a safety thing
Muscular sprain medicine - again, just for safety. Did not use
Nausea and diarrhea medicine – You do not want to struggle because of bad food. Be prepared.
Antiseptic cream – I used Betadine on my blisters just to make sure
Plaster and bandage – I could not make it without these. I used a lot of Second Skin plaster (there are at least two companies making this: Compeed and Urgo) and they are very good for blisters. I used these and put bandage on top of them to make sure they are in place even when there is a lot of friction with the boots. I had about 4 cases with 5 plasters each and used them all. Highly recommended. Georgi did not use but I guess it is better to be safe.
Thermal flash – 2 or 3 liters – I had a Platypus while Georgi had a Deuter. It is good as you can put it in your backpack. I had a insulated one while Georgi had a simple one. Regardless, both of them froze in the final attempt. Actually, for me only the mouth piece froze but still… unusable in the most important 1-2 hours.
Water flask: We also had a 1 liter flask which we filled with hot water and used it in the last night.
Phone and batteries – People say you can make phone calls from the top. I could not but who knows… maybe you can get lucky.
Camera – A must, right? Just make sure you keep all your batteries in the sleeping bag during the night. Otherwise they will drain very fast because of the cold.
Plastic bags – it is good to have a few to organize your stuff
Energy snacks – You will be provided food but most probably you will crave for something nice once in a while. Most days you can survive without them but you want to have them for the final night. You will make a lot of effort and you need something to help you gather strength. We had some Isostar bars and some sesame bars.
Locks – did not use
Book – too tired to read, skip it!
Flag – If you fancy that type of picture on the top
Music player – managed to live without it
That is pretty much it. If you have any questions, just drop us a line and we will be happy to give you more info.