Mt. Kilimanjaro: The DO’s of Preparing For the Climb

How to bake your own perfect Kilimanjaro Trek cake:

First preheat yourself with excitement because you’re freaking about to climb Africa’s highest peak!

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups of adventure
  • 1 cup of soul searching
  • 1/2 cup of preparation
  • 1 tbsp of fitness
  • A dash of adrenaline
  • And a sprinkle of luck!

Check out my list of Do’s and what to pack for your Kili climb. Why no “Don’ts”? Well if you follow the Do’s, there wouldn’t be a need for the Don’ts, right?

Sunrise at the top.
Sunrise from the summit.

So I lied about the 1/2 cup of preparation because you need to buy a lot of things if you’ve never hiked before. However, I prepared for this trip within a week, mind you that I was in the midst of moving from Atlanta to Chicago — so if I can do it, you can too! Due to the fact that I did this so quickly, my friend and I encountered a few more problems/awkward moments than most, but that just mean we have more tips for you!

  1. DO book your climb when you get to Arusha (if you can wait). The reason is that your money will go straight to their local economy, not to middlemen, which also means the cost will be cheaper. However, if time is not on your side then it’s easier to have things booked already, less stress.
    • We booked the trek the next morning after we landed and climbed the day after that. We paid around $1,300/person for the Marangu route, the only route that have huts for you to sleep in as you will sleep in tents for the other routes.  This price also included one day safari trip to Tarangire National Park after our climb. We stayed a total of 10 days in late August.
  2. DO inspect your team before hand. Tell your agency you would like to meet your team before the climb – say you want to take pictures of the team for your blog/memory (this is if you decide to book there, I think the logistics are more legitimate if you go through a middleman). There should be max 2 porters/person. I don’t believe an assistant guide is needed unless you have close to 10 people in your group. We didn’t inspect our team before hand and met them on the day of and they trapped us with a 10-person team for 2 climbers — assistant guide included!
  3. If you decided to book in Arusha, DO bring NEW money for payment — they don’t take wrinkled, old or dated. Picky much?
  4. DO follow this tipping guide regardless of what your guide tells you during your hike. Our guide suggested an obscene amount of money  like $100/person/day on our last day and I was like, “You crazyyyyy”.
    • Tipping amount as a group, not per person: (All currency in USD $)
    • DO bring extra money envelopes for tipping your team individually.
    • Guide – $15/day
    • Assistant guide – $10/day
    • Porter – $5/porter/day
    • Cook – $8/day
    • Assistant cook – $6/day
    • Example: 6 day for 2 hikers with the whole team listed above and 4 porters: $348 / 2 hikers = $174 each
  5. DO invest time and money in finding a good daypack. This daypack will be on you 10-12 hours a day and it can be your best friend or the devil on your shoulders. Finding the correct daypack took us the longest, about 2 days running back and forth to different sporting good stores. Don’t worry about the brand just focus on the fit, so try them on and try them again until you feel comfortable. Look for ones that have both chest and hips straps — the chest strap is the most helpful for females as it will help redistribute the weight off of your shoulders.
  6. DO invest money on good trekking poles. I suggest buying the flip-lock and not the twisty ones since they’re easier to adjust with thick gloves on. You will definitely need these on the descent day because you will descend the distance that took you 5 days to climb all in one day. **See Gear section below.
  7. DO have time to break in your hiking boots, my first pair gave me blisters on the first day! Thank goodness for my paranoia, I packed my own first-aid kit so I did my own wrapping which saved my little toes. **See Shoes section below for my second pair recommendation and I love this one!
  8. DO lock your duffle bag each day before giving it back to the porter to carry. I’m not saying people are untrustworthy, but I was instructed to do this by my guide and honestly, I’d rather be safe than sorry.
  9. DO pack each outfit for each day in separate ziplock bags to make it easier to get to so you don’t have to open up a bag for socks, for undies, for shirts, and for pants. This is was how I packed, which was terrible because I have to take each bag out and have to stuff it back in my duffle bag correctly so it can all fit before giving it to the porters each morning. I wasted a lot energy and my warmth because my hands were freezing from being out of my gloves.
  10. DO buy the 3L water pack with insulated/thermal water tube. This will help most on your summit day when your water will freeze.
    • Tip: after each sip, blow the water back to prevent the tip of the tube from freezing.
  11. DO bring an insulated water bottle as back up because my friend’s water tube froze — his was not insulated. My mouthpiece finally froze midway on summit day because I didn’t blow the water back so the water bottle helped a lot. Also, the bottle is easier to carry around the camp and easier to drink during the night.
  12. DO DO DO drink 3 liters of water a day – don’t skip on this. My friend only drank 1.5L a day and on summit day he had BAD altitude sickness. I know that the water alone might not be the sole contributor to his altitude sickness, but why leave it up to chance?
    • Fun fact: smokers tend to do better on summit day because they are used to getting less oxygen. So smokers you can do this too!!!
    • They do recommend taking the altitude sickness pills (Diamox), but I’ve heard it has weird side effects like it makes you feel spacey and numbness in fingers and toes. I guess do what you feel most comfortable
  13. DO put in iodine pills to purify the water regardless if they say the water is boiled. The iodine pill makes the water taste a little weird at first, but you can also add electrolyte tablets (see below) to mask the taste. I actually prefer the iodine flavor as it reminds me that my water is clean — haha. I’ve search other ways to purify water and the iodine pills are the cheapest and easiest.
  14. DO pack other camping food – the ones that you just add hot water or RAMEN bowl or cup!!! You lose your appetite the higher you go up in altitude and by the 3rd day of eating the same potato stew, I literally wanted to gag and I wished I brought some Ramen.
  15. DO pack snacks to refuel in between meals. I brought Justin’s almond butter and Larabar. These were good until the last 2 days because they became hard as rocks so store the ones you will eat near your body to warm up. I suggest bringing the healthy fruit roll ups style for energy on the last day or some glucose chewable (the ones runners eat) that you can put in your mouth. **See Snacks section.
  16. For girls: DO buy panty liners. These comes in handy when you need to go in the middle of the night and finding toilet paper half awake is not a good idea. You will need to pee during the night if you want to keep your water intake high and I know its a nuisance, but remember to drink water!
  17. For girls: DO pick a hair style that is easy to maintain. For me, I did 2 braided pigtails and re-braided it each morning. I didn’t want to lose more body heat trying to comb or mess with it.
  18. DO pack old winter clothes that you can give away to porters. One thing I did regret not doing was not being able to collect coats/winter clothes to donate to the porters. I was in the process of moving and did not have time. If you have time/luggage space, please bring any spare winter clothes or wear old ones that you can give away to the porters as you descend. They are the most neglected and not well paid, yet they do the hardest job. I saw some wearing flip-flops and raggedy clothes. Also, if you ever see a porter falling asleep at night outside when it’s cold, please wake her/him up or else she/he will freeze overnight.
  19. DO get all of required shots especially Yellow Fever and get a Yellow Fever card to proof that you received the shot. My friend told me that we didn’t have to since United States is not a Yellow Fever epidemic country which is true. What he didn’t take into account is that we connected in Kenya which is an epidemic country. When we landed in Tanzania, the guards gave us a hard time and didn’t let us enter, but, luckily, we convinced them that we were only in Kenya for 2 hours at the airport. Also, I read some blogs that say you don’t have to take antimalarial medicine because you are covered up during the whole climb. However, I don’t think they take into account the time when you arrive and depart nor if you plan to stay an extra day for a safari trip — maybe I’m just more paranoid than others.
  20. Base on our experience: DO a landing visa at Tanzania Airport which cost $100 USD (same cost if you sent it to your local embassy). We sent our passports to their embassy in Washington DC and they got lost. We ended up having to order new passports and had them rushed which cost double. Then come to find out, the embassy found them laying on their desks somewhere in their office 2 weeks later and sent it back to us — of course, we were already in Tanzania. After this experience, we always try to opt for landing visas.

This packing list contains everything I personally used during my 6-day climb. I know this is a long list of things to buy, but most of them can be reused for future trips. Currently, I’m still using many of these items so they are worth it.

Clothes:

  • (1) Under Armor tight (wore under my hiking pants each day –  I take my hiking pants off if it gets too hot)
  • (1) Fleece-lined tight (sleep)
  • (1) Long-john (sleep)
  • (3) Sports bras
  • (1) Short sleeved breathable shirt (first warm day hike)
  • (1) Long sleeved thermal shirt (base layer)
  • (1) Fleece (mid layer) – North Face Denali Fleece
  • (1) 2nd mid-layer (windproof) – North Face Apex Bionic – I switch back and forth between the fleece and this or wear both depending on how cold I feel or how windy it is.
  • (1) Shell (outer layer) – I bought a Canada Goose and it was expensive and was not practical because it did not pack well. I recommend The Northface Triclimate Jacket – it has an outer shell with a detachable fleece. This way you don’t have to buy the mid-layer. You can wear the detachable fleece with the 2nd mid-layer to sleep because you don’t want loud ruffling sound of the shell. I’ve used this for my other thru hikes.
  • (1) Hiking pants – Mountain Hardwear
    • What I look for is lightweight material with a wide leg opening. When it gets cold I can slip it over my tights and I don’t need to take off my shoes to put it on.
  • (1) Waterproof pant/snowboarding pants – outer layer for rain and for wind blocking on summit day
  • (2) Pairs of silk sock liners – Fox River Wick Dry Coolmax – wear under the trekking socks and they will definitely help prevent blisters
  • (4) Pairs of wool/trekking socks – Darn Tough Vermont Crew Cushion Socks
  • (1) Regular, normal length sock – I wear this to sleep with one of the Darn Tough socks.
  • (5) Pairs of underwear
  • (1) Pair of glove liners (to wear when its not too cold) – this way you can just slip the thick snow gloves over and you can squeeze a HotHands hand warmer in between them on summit day.
  • (1) Pair of thick gloves/snowboarding gloves
  • (1) Snowboarding beanie
  • (1) Sun hat with brim/bill – Columbia Sun Hat
  • (1) Fleeced neck gaiter – Turtle Fur
  • (1) Bandana – to cover your face when you reach the desert zone and keep your warm breath close to your face. Also, you can use it to protect your neck from the sun and to blow your nose. So many uses.

Shoes:

  • (1) Pair of good hiking boots – Merrell Moab Mid Waterproof – I brought this pair for my Machu Picchu hike and like my Kili climb, I didn’t break these in and they were the most comfortable. Also, I recommended this pair to one of my friends recently and she loved it too! She didn’t break them in before her hike either — blisters free.
  • (1) Pair of tennis shoes – to give your feet a break from the boots and to wear around the campsite

Gear:

  • Daybag backpack: I used the North Face Alteo 35 and I found that it gave me a lot of shoulder pains.
    • However, I switch up my daypack in my next hike and I really like Osprey Tempest 30. It was so comfortable! It gave me support and did not give me pain! Also, it had enough space and pockets to hold my daily snacks, bandages, extra jacket, pants, and gloves. It wasn’t too big nor small.
  • Duffle bag: Eagle Creek – I got a medium which is about 60L
    • However, looking back I should have ordered a large — it makes packing easier. I don’t have to place each item perfectly back inside each day so it can be zip up, but don’t think you can fill it up! Remember you have a weight limit.
  • Ziplock bags: Ziploc Space Bags – to keep your daily clothes dry and it saves you a lot of space in your duffle bag.
    • Remember to sort out each day outfit in each bag and not by category. Example – pants/shirt/socks for Day 1 in one bag.
  • Trekking poles: Leki Corklite Trekking Poles – these were so easy to use and super light.
    • Always use flip-lock style poles as they can be easily adjustable while wearing gloves. The twist-and-lock style will require you to take off your gloves to adjust which mean your hands will be expose to the cold.
  • Insulated water bottle: Polar Bottle
    • The bottle is a good back up for when your camelbak bladder freeze during summit day and its good to carry around camp and drinking at night.
  • Hydration bladder and an Insulated/thermal water tube: 3L (100 oz) Camelbak Bladder and Antidote Insulated Tube
    • It is a MUST to have the insulated drinking tube! I guarantee you it will freeze. *See my Kilimanjaro Do’s List for tips on how to delay the freeze*
  • Sleeping bag -10° C or 14°F – you can rent this at your climbing agency if you don’t want to invest in one.
  • Headlamps + extra battery: Black Diamond Storm Headlamp
    • Tip: change your battery for summit night. You don’t want to walk in the dark for this one nor do you want to change the battery during the trek.
  • Large rain poncho to cover you and your day pack
  • Sun glasses

Toiletries:

  • (1-2) Toilet paper without the tube: Coghlan’s Tissue On The Go
  •  Face wipes: Burt’s Bees Sensitive Face Wipes
    • Warm water is very, very limited — You only get a little bucket when you reach each campsite and I ended up using it to soak my feet — Haha. My face is super sensitive and these works like a charm — No breakouts and they’re so refreshing and moisturizing! Also now, you don’t have to pack a separate face wash bar.
  • Unscented wet wipes – for the rest of your body. You most likely can’t shower and you’ll want to wipe off the grime of the day off you. 
  • Sunscreen – high SPF if you are more sun sensitive – remember to reapply!
  • Lip balm with SPF – a must to protect your lips from the harsh environment.
  • Hand sanitizers
  • Bar deodorant – the liquid/gel kind can freeze
  • CeraVe Face lotion SPF 30 – I love this brand! It is good for all types of skin especially for sensitive skin!
  • Travel mirror
  • Pack Towel – it absorbs water/sweat fast and quick drying. 
  • Handwarmers: HotHands
  • Female: Panty liners – for daily late night pee trips and forgetting to bring toilet paper.
  • Guys: battery-operated razor – you want to look fresh for summit day.

First-Aid Kit:

  • Moleskin: Moleskin Padding – these were a life saver!
    • I got blisters on the very first hour of hiking and I thanked the heaven that I had these. Also, this has rescued many hikers I have encountered through out my hiking experience. I love to see their expression of joy when I offer my moleskin.  
  • A pair of small scissors to cut the moleskin
  • Bandages in all sizes
  • Medical tape
  • Alcohol pads
    • Tip: swipe this over mosquitoes bites to take away the itchiness.
  • Neosporin
  • Nail clipper/nail file
  • Travel sewing kit – just in case something tear.
    • I actually had to sew something up for my friend during the climb.

Medicines

       Some people pack the whole pharmacy while others nothing, but these         were what I packed and used:

  • Iodine pills – this is the cheapest and easiest option to purify your water daily
  • Pepto-Bismol chewable tablets
    • I ate one before each meal to prevent any weird stomach problem.
  • Imodium – for diarrhea – (didn’t use)
  • Ibuprofen/headache med – for headaches/body pains –
    • I only took 2 before the summit day because I had a little bit of a headache.
    • I recommend packing 2 tablets per day as a precaution and for sharing with your group

Electronics:

  • Camera + extra battery: We had a DSLR and a Canon Powershot. The battery for these 2 lasted all 6 days.
  • Anker External Battery Power Bank: to charge our phones and iPods.
    • We also used our phones when we were too lazy and too cold to pull out the 2 cameras and the battery pack kept our phones charged.
  • iPod (Optional) –
    • This is for summit day. Make a playlist long enough to last 8 hours. I didn’t end up using it because all I could concentrate on was to place one foot in front of the other and to keep my breathing consistent.
    • Tip: keep your iPod in your chest pocket in your mid-layer to prevent freezing.

Snacks:

  • Honey Stinger Organic Energy Chews
    • I used this during my marathon and they were great! Wished I brought these for the trek. You place the chews in the sides of your cheeks and it’ll slowly melt. 
  • Ramen- My pick would be MAMA Tom Yum Thai Noodles
    • If you like tom yum soup this will be a treat for you. The flavors are intense and it’ll be exactly what you need as you climb elevation and you lose your taste buds and appetite. 
    • If you live near an Asian supermarket you can buy individual packets so you don’t have to order a whole box, but trust me, it’ll be gone soon enough. 
  • Camping food – Mountain House
    • More options for when the vegetable stew is no longer appetizing.
  • Electrolyte tablets
    • To mask the iodine taste and to give you extra energy.
  • Justin’s Almond Butter Squeeze Packs:
    • I ate about 2-3 packs/day with an energy bar.
  • Larabar Chocolate chip cookie dough – 1-2 bars/day.
    • These are amazing if you never tried these before. They are a purist when making these bars using no preservatives and using only simple ingredients. 

Miscellaneous:

  • Money envelopes – for tipping each person on your team.
  • Combination locks
    • For your duffle bag and luggages back at the hotel.
  • Playing cards – UNO –  you don’t have much to do after dinner and this is how you make friends with other people trust me.
  • A grocery bag to collect your trash. Don’t litter.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask! I’d love to help!

 

I'm pretty sure that's me under there.
I’m pretty sure that’s me under there. LOL
Zebra Rocks
Zebra Rocks
Playing with our headlamps and DSLR
Playing with our headlamps and DSLR