How to Pack for Kilimanjaro

Let me start with a few confessions.

Confession #1: I love a good capsule wardrobe for travel.

Confession #2: I admire people who can put 3 weeks of clothing into one carryon bag.

Confession #3: While I’m hardly “fashion forward” I do try to look my best at home and when I travel.

However, when I’m climbing a mountain, I’m all about comfort and safety so the above confessions are pretty much tossed out the window.

Whew, now that’s out of the way…Once you’ve committed to Kilimanjaro, you are going to get two things in abundance: advice and packing lists. Even the most well intentioned friends will have you over packed for this journey. Trust me when I say: Don’t. Do. It.

Before you run for the hills in tears, allow me to offer some advice. Do read the packing list from your trip organizer. Think about what you need, what you can borrow, etc. (Not so shameless plug: review my beg, buy or borrow post for ideas). Take a deep breath.

The best way, IMO, to tackle your packing list is to break it into two parts. The first is what your porter carries. While this is a godsend come day three, porters are only allowed to carry so much. Spend a few minutes deciding what you really need versus what’s a safety net.

2015-03-28 05.16.31
In case you thought I was joking. Our Porter and Guide doing the required gear “weigh-in” before we started climbing.

The second list is what you want in your own day pack. You don’t have a weight restriction for your own pack. But, you’ll enjoy your climb A LOT more if you don’t burden yourself with unnecessary items.

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All ready to be packed! A mix of Kilimanjaro items from pack list #1 and #2

Kilimanjaro Pack List #1. (Again, this is what your porter carries for you. Modify the quantity of items based on the duration of your climb. I did the Rongai Route, which is six days. Other routes are shorter so you’ll need less clothing.)

  • 6 pairs socks. Invest in heavy-duty running or hiking socks so your heels and toes have some “cushion.”
  • 3 dry weave type shirts, short sleeve
  • 2 dry weave type shirts, long sleeve
  • 1 pair of hiking pants (converter style that double as shorts are best—in a fabric that dries out fast)
  • 1 pair extra thick, wool socks*
  • 2-3 pairs long underwear/base layers (top and bottom)*
  • 1 pair of heavy duty down pants, ideally wind/water proof (think ski pants)*
  • 1 all weather down jacket*
  • Winter hat*
  • Gloves*
  • Neck warmer, scarf*
  • Hand/foot warmers*
  • Select toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, travel size deodorant, bug repellant, sunscreen. That’s all you need. This is a hike, not a beauty pageant.)
  • 1 Headlamp and one small flashlight—invest in a good, light LED headlamp, you’ll thank yourself later.
  • 1 Sleeping bag (Depending on how much your sleeping bag weighs, these may have to in your backpack)
  • 1 Sleeping bag insert/sheet

* items are for the final climb to Uhuru Peak. What’s odd about packing for Kilimanjaro is that half your gear is for the final 12 hours of the climb.

Kilimanjaro Personal Pack List #2. (What you carry up the mountain)

  • Water bottle—Insulated is best but a regular bottle will work
  • Camera
  • Book or journal if you use them
  • Rain jacket
  • Rain poncho
  • Warm fleece jacket or “outer layer”
  • Sunglasses
  • Sun screen and/or hat
  • Passport, ID and cash. (There is nothing to buy on Kilimanjaro so you really don’t “need” cash. But, if you bring cash on your climb its best to keep it on your person)
  • Hard candy (bring it, if you don’t use it the porters will HAPPILY accept it)
  • Starbucks Via packets (what can I say, I need my caffeine)

Put these items in a Ziploc or dry bag inside your own pack:

  • Band-Aids and moleskin
  • Sandwich bags (if you forget to water proof your boots, or the water proofing fails, put fresh socks on, add bags and get back on the trail. Thank MacGyver)
  • 1 pair of clean socks
  • Travel pack of kleenex
  • Any meds that you take regularly
  • Hand sanitzer, wet wipes

Not referenced: dry bags. Invest in some dry bags for your clothes. Don’t be a smarty and think your stuff won’t get wet. After getting soaked on the Inka Trail, I own several different try bags. My favorite were from a now closed local store, Hudson Trail Outfitters. REI, LLBean, etc., have decent ones. When purchasing dry bags, make sure the item has  a very tight seal, otherwise its worthless.

Pro tip: Put everything in your dry bags and weigh them before you depart. Bags often add unplanned weight to your items. Depending on the final weight or your gear, you may need to shuffle and repack so your porter isn’t breaking any park rules.

Two items I packed that, in hindsight, weren’t needed: mosquito spray and after bite (think: itch reliever). There are pretty much zero mosquitos on Kilimanjaro.

The final word goes to cameras. My preferred camera is a larger, multi-lens digital camera. Because of space and weight, I decided to bring the small “point and shoot” seen above. I was worried about the quality of photos but that was wasted energy.

Most camera battery’s (and iPhone’s) freeze half way to Uhuru Peak. Your best bet to capture those YOLO images is to bring an extra battery and keep it and your camera tucked inside your jacket. The warmth is usually enough to keep the battery from draining.

Happy packing (and climbing)!

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The start of the Rongai Route, Mt Kilimanjaro, Africa.

Inca Trail Pack List

While chatting with a co-worker about her upcoming Inca Trail trip this November, i realized i never included a recommended “what to pack” list on my blog. In honor of her upcoming trip, here is a packing list of things you really need.

As the italics indicate, the key word in the above sentence is *really.* Friends and tour operators will give you advice about what to bring. But here’s the thing. Most people hike the trial as part of an organized tour. And for most people (including everyone I know) that is the right way to go. In those instances, you are given a small pack and told you can put six pounds of items in the bag. Anything else that you want to bring will not be carried by the porter. Who might lug the extra pounds over a demanding terrain, where altitude is a factor, you ask? You.

The beginning of the Inca Trail
Welcome to the Inca Trail

If you are seasoned hiker, this is probably not a big deal. If you are new to long, steep and demanding hikes, i strongly recommend you follow this guidance. Friends will tell you to bring unnecessary things. What I recommend below equates to personal pack light enough to enjoy the hike.

Inca Trail Pack List #1. This is the stuff that goes in pack your porter will carry:

  • 4-5 pairs socks. Invest in heavy-duty running or hiking socks so your heels and toes have some “cushion.”
  • 3 dry weave type shirts, short sleeve
  • 2 dry weave type shirts, long sleeve
  • 1 pair of hiking pants (converter style that double as shorts are best—in a fabric that dries out fast)
  • Select toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, travel size deodorant, bug repellant, sunscreen. That’s all you need. This is a hike, not a beauty pageant.) (Second note here: depending on how much your sleeping bag weighs, these may have to in your backpack)
  • 1 Headlamp and one small flashlight—invest in a good, light LED headlamp, you’ll thank yourself later.
  • 1 Deck of cards
  • 1 Sleeping bag

My body temperature tends to drop quickly after a hike. As a result, i get very cold. If you are genetically wired the same way, i strongly recommend sucking it up and packing two additional items: a long sleeve cotton shirt and a warm sweater. As soon as you get to your campsite, change into these. Immediately, don’t wait, or you’ll get cold and body temperature is key.

Not referenced above but necessary: dry bags. Invest in some dry bags for your clothes. I got my dry bags locally at Hudson Trail Outfitters. REI is another option—and I bet LL Bean has some terrific ones—they’re one of my favorite retailers out there. You don’t need anything super fancy, just something that has a very tight seal to protect your clothes. Tip: weigh your dry bags before you get to Peru! Once i was assigned my duffel, i realized mine were adding weight causing me to repack about six times.

One of the many types of dry bags you can purchase for your Inca Trial hike.
One of the many types of dry bags you can purchase for your Inca Trail hike.

Inca Trail Personal Pack List #2. This is what you carry up the mountains.

  • Water bottle—Alternatively is a Camelbak hydration system
  • Camera
  • Book or journal if you use them
  • Band-Aids and moleskin
  • Poncho
  • Rain jacket (yes, both)
  • Travel pack of kleenex
  • Any meds that you take regularly
  • Pocket Knife—Swiss Army variety is always useful
  • Sun Glasses
  • Passport, ID and $100-$200 in cash.

The cash is in the event you want to buy treats (candy, gum, Gatorade) along the trial. You may also want a t-shirt at Machu Pichu and of course you need to tip your guide. Regarding a camera, several people took photos on their iPhone. I love to take pictures and hauled a larger, more professional version with a zoom lens. The choice is yours but I do think you’ll be happier with at least a point-and-shoot camera. There are some images older iPhone cameras just don’t capture well.

I packed my bag a few different ways. Ultimately, the above is the smartest way to go. Pack list #2 are the items you will need throughout a given day. Don’t be foolish and have them miles ahead of you with a porter.

Now, i met a person on my trip who had a full on first aid kit on her back. It weighed a ton but she wanted to be prepared. I thought it was excessive but totally admit, we borrowed her duct tape. If you have questions about optional gear, shoot me an email. I’m happy to weigh in with my two cents.

Since i migrated my blog from Tumblr, i will be updating the Peru posts. As a side note: I am really unhappy with how the pictures transferred. I debated editing my posts but decided not to. It’s a reflection of my writing style and how it’s evolved. Thankfully, i’ve evolved a lot and found, what i think, is a better style. What do you think?

And so, good luck Ms. Toher!