20 Essential Kilimanjaro tips

Kilimanjaro is a once in a life time experience that you will never forget. Whilst there are some basic steps you need to take to make sure you are safe (read 7 success tips for summiting Mt Kilimanjaro), here are a few “unsung hero” tips that will ensure you enjoy the journey as well. 

 

1. GET POLED

Hiking poles are particularly useful when descending and will take up to 30% of the impact off your knees. 

2. THESE BOOTS WERE MADE FOR WALKING
New boots are a disaster on Kilimanjaro. Make sure yours are well worn before you climb. Bring blister plasters or strapping tap and use it immediately if you feel a hot spot. Also make sure your boots are waterproof and comfortable as your feet are your most important asset on Kili.  
 
3. SUN PROTECTION
UV sunglasses, a hat, long sleeve clothing and sunscreen are crucial on Kilimanjaro. Most days you are extremely exposed and the sun will fry you if you don’t cover up.  
 
4. TOILET TALK

Bring toilet paper from home. You can buy paper in Tanzania and your Kili team will also bring paper but it will definitely be the kind where you a nasty surprise when your finger goes through and… Keep a roll in a plastic bag in your day pack and another in a plastic bag in your big pack. This way it stays dry and you can enjoy the loo with a view each morning.

Ladies – I’d also recommend you ask your Kili team to bring a toilet tent just for the girls. It’ll be a lot nicer than the hole-in-the-ground toilets that are supplied by the National Park.

5. WET WIPES

Meet your new best friend and your only shower buddy on Kilimanjaro. Embrace, enjoy and be clean. 

6.HYDRATION HELP

Rehydration is critical, bring some electrolyte and Rehydrate sachets so you can have something more tasty than water.

7. IF IT’S NOT DRY…YOU’LL FREEZE
Pack all of your clothing, sleeping bag and gear in plastic or dry bags. Unfortunately, once something is wet on Kilimanjaro, it is very unlikely to dry and you cannot wear wet gear on summit night. You will freeze!
 
8. BOREDOM CONCERNS

So many people pack books, journals, cards, kites, etc. because they think they will have a lot of spare time and will be bored. Trust me, you will be exhausted and all you will want to do is eat and sleep.

At altitude, your body is working so hard that you will likely fall asleep at 8pm and won’t wake up until your guide shakes your tent at 6 or 7am. If you’re abnormally hyperactive, still leave these things at home and enjoy being one with nature. 

9. LISTEN TO YOUR HEART

Seriously, listen to your body. Keep your heart rate low to reduce the risk of altitude sickness and do not ignore the signs of Acute Mountain Sickness (headache, lack of appetite, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, etc). People die on Kilimanjaro every year and your body will tell you when it has had enough. Don’t be too proud to listen.

10. SNORE-A-THON
Camping sites are noisy and many people snore. If you’re not one of them and want some sleep, BRING EAR PLUGS!
 
11. KEEP VALUABLES CLOSE
While most Tanzanian’s are trustworthy and friendly, you must remember that up to 85% of the country lives below the poverty line. Stealing your phone, camera or money is not considered theft, it is survival and it may be the only option they believe they have to ensure their family eats. 
 
12. MIND OVER MATTER

Believe it or not, your brain and mental toughness is more important than your physique. Many times I’ve seen an overweight or elderly trekker summit Kili when their younger, fitter counter-part gave up. Mentally dealing with the extreme cold, exhaustion, lack of oxygen and occasionally the boredom of putting one foot in front of the other is incredibly hard. 

Best way you can overcome this is to go in confident but not arrogant. Believe you can do it but understand that it’s ok if you don’t. The mountain will still be there another day.

13. BOOGIE TIME

When your body gets tired and your ready to give up, play a little music and best of all, play it loud and proud and get the whole mountain to boogie with you. It’s surprising how much energy music can give you and it will be exactly what you need to get you to the next camp.

14. I’M FROZEN

Outside of the conventional gear to keep you warm (see full packing lists here), I highly recommend you buy chemical hand and toe warmers for summit night. Do not underestimate how cold you will get and how quickly your fingers and toes will begin to freeze. The are also fantastic for keeping your phone warm so the battery doesn’t die. 

15. SLEEP WITH EVERYTHING

When you go to sleep before summit night, make sure you put everything you were planning to wear in the tent with you. This will ensure that when you wake up and put it on the gear will be warm and will keep you warm. If you wake up warm and put on cold gear it may cool your body temperature and you won’t get it high enough again before you depart.

This includes your boots and discomfort due to freezing of the toes is one of the most common reasons people turn around on summit night.

16. CHILL MAN

It’s day 2 or 3, you’ve just reached camp and you’re struggling. You’ve lost your appetite, your body is hurting and there’s a drum concert in your head. Simply notify your guide and stay calm. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your body can recover and how many people who thought they were done on day 2 or 3 still summit safely.  

17. DON’T MISS YOUR MOMENT TO SHINE

Battery life is significantly diminished in cold conditions and your batteries will deplete in a matter of minutes once they get cold. Prevent them from getting cold by keeping them close to your body and ensure you have spare batteries for your headlamp and camera. You will also want a portable charger for your phone so you can capture that magic moment when you reach the summit.

18. BE A GOOD KAKA/DADA

Park regulations prevent anyone from climbing without a certified guide and support crew. Be nice to them, ask them what their name is and where they are from. They all have incredible stories and if you make an effort these strangers will single handedly make or break your experience. If a little effort, they will become your new brothers (kaka) and sisters (dada), your new family. 

19. BE GRACIOUS

Tipping may not be a culture in Australia (and many other countries) but it is in Tanzania. The support crew that do everything for you on Kilimanjaro often work for less than US$10/day. This may seem like a lot of money but when you factor in the number of days they are not climbing you will realise that your tip is a crucial element for their survival. For tipping guidance refer here. 

20. THE HOLY GRAIL

Without a word of a lie, the first hot shower and sleep in a bed that you have after Kili will be the most memorable of your life. Go ahead and enjoy it, you definitely earned it.

 

Want more tips on trekking Kilimanjaro? Visit 7 success tips for summiting Mt Kilimanjaro.

About the author

Nate is an adventurer, keynote speaker and responsible tourism expert with a serious case of 'Locational A.D.D'. With experience, travelling, living & volunteering around the world, including in developing countries such as Cambodia, Tanzania and Kenya, Nate is determined to do whatever it takes to make education accessible to every child in Africa.

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