Standing 19,341 feet in height, Mt. Kilimanjaro is not only the tallest mountain in Africa, it is also one of the top bucket-list items for adventure travelers. Each year, thousands of people from all over the planet converge on Tanzania to attempt to reach the summit of this imposing peak made famous by the writings of Ernest Hemingway. In order to touch the Roof of Africa, you’ll need to be fit, strong, and determined. You’ll also need a bit of luck, an adventurous spirit, and a bag full of good gear too. We can’t help you with the getting fit or having good luck part, but we can recommend the best equipment to take along with you.
No matter how adventurous you are, climbing Kilimanjaro independently isn’t allowed by the Tanzanian government. That means you’ll have to sign up with a company to lead you up the mountain. (I recommend Tusker Trail) The good news is that your guides will bring a lot of gear with them that you won’t need to bring along. Things like tents, stoves, cooking gear, and so on. That allows you to focus on only looking for the best gear to meet your own personal needs and comfort. Here’s what we recommend.
Boots – Lowa Renegade GTX Mid
Depending on which route you take to the summit, you’ll be hiking betwen 30-40 miles over the course of a week or so on the mountain. Much of that will be spent climbing upwards of course, so keeping your feet healthy and happy are a must. The Lowa Renegade GTX Mid is an excellent option for doing just that, offering great support for both the foot and ankle, as well as plenty of comfort for extended days on the trail. On top of that, these boots are waterproof in case you get caught in one of Kili’s infamous downpours, and yet still breathable enough to keep your feet from overheating while walking. ($230)
Backpack – Osprey Manta AG 36
Since you’ll be traveling with a guide service you’ll have porters carrying the bulk of your gear from camp to camp each day. But you’ll still need to be able to keep important gear with you at all times, including extra layers of clothing, snacks, water, a camera, and a variety of other items. Osprey’s Manta AG 36 backpack is great choice for a Kili climb as it provides ample storage space, has plenty of organizational options, and features the company’s excellent Anti-Gravity suspension system, making it incredibly comfortable to wear over an extended period of time. It is also hydration ready and even comes with its own built-in raincover. ($175)
Sleeping Bag – Eddie Bauer Kara Koram 0º Stormdown
Getting a good nights sleep on Kilimanjaro begins and ends with having a comfortable sleeping bag that can keep you warm throughout the trek. At higher altitudes in particular the over night temperatures can sometimes get quite cold, and if you end up camping the crater of the volcano – as I did – you’ll want all the warmth you can get. The Kara Koram 0º Stormdown bag from Eddie Bauer should fit the bill nicely. It is extremely comfortable, stuffed with 850-fill, water-resistant down, and it is designed to keep you warm even in temperatures approaching 0ºF. It also packs down to a surprisingly small size and has an interior pocket for keeping a headlamp or electronic gadget close at hand. ($549)
Trekking Poles – Leki Micro Vario TI Core-Tec DSS
As far as I’m concerned, trekking poles are a must on Kilimanjaro as they save a lot of wear and tear on your legs, hips, and knees on the way up, which ends up paying major dividends on the descent. Leki’s Micro Vario TI Core-Tec DSS poles offer everything you need, including the ability to collapse down to a surprisingly small size to fit in your suitcase These poles have a comfortable grip and an integrated suspension system that helps take some of the shock out of climbing up and down steep trails all day. Pro Tip: Get accustomed to using your trekking poles before you go so you’ll be more comfortable once you start the trek. ($160)
Shell Jacket – Outdoor Research Furio Jacket
As with any tall mountain, the weather on Kilimanjaro can be fickle. That’s why you need to come prepared with good clothing that can protect you from the elements. Outdoor Research’s Furio Shell Jacket is a great choice for keeping out the wind and rain. Made with Gore-Tex fabrics, this jacket is built for use in adverse conditions, but it also comes equipped with two-way zippers and pit zips to help vent out excess heat too. This is the perfect jacket for use in just about any alpine setting, and Kili is no exception. ($375)
Shell Pants – Mountain Hardwear Quasar Lite Pants
Built specifically for mountaineers, the Mountain Hardwear’s Quasar Lite pants are designed to keep you warm and dry even when weather conditions take a turn for the worse. Both waterproof and breathable, I’m able to hike in these pants for hours and remain comfortable no matter what the weather is throwing at me. Perfect for use at mid- and higher altitudes on Kilimanjaro, this is a versatile piece of clothing that you’ll be glad you have in your bag. ($200)
Down Jacket – Jöttnar Fenrir
As you climb higher up the mountain temperatures will invariably start to drop. That’s when you’ll want an insulating layer that can keep you warmer both while on the trail and hanging around camp in the evenings. While Jöttnar isn’t as well known here in the states, the U.K.-based company makes great jackets for use in alpine settings. The Fenrir features 850-fill hydrophobic down that is both warm and comfortable. I happen to like that it packs down to an incredibly small size too. ($250)
Baselayers – Kora Shola Zip Top and Leggings
Good baselayers are a must on Kilimanjaro, particularly on summit day or in the evenings when you’re relaxing in camp. Kora makes a line of baselayers that are created using wool from yaks that are raised in the Himalaya, so you know they’ll be plenty warm for use in Africa too. The Shola Zip Top and Leggings are both very comfortable and offer more warmth, at a lighter weight, than standard merino. ($160/$145)
Gloves – Outdoor Research HighCamp Gloves
Keeping your hands warm and dry is an important part of staying comfortable. A pair of HighCamp gloves from Outdoor Research will help you accomplish that by keeping out the wind and rain, while still allowing you to maintain a degree of flexibility and movement too. An inner Nylon shell adds versatility as well, making these an all-around good solution for a number of cold weather outdoor adventures. ($89)
Hat – Marmot PreCip Safari Hat and The North Face Ascent Beanie
A good hat is another essential part of any climb, but on Kilimanjaro you’re likely to need two. At lower altitudes I go with my trusty Marmot PreCip Safari Hat that has been with me on many adventures. It helps to keep the sun off but is lightweight enough to not get overly hot as I hike either. Higher up, when temperatures take a plunge, I’ll break out the Ascent Beanie from The North Face. It is just the right weight to keep me warm while making the tough final push to the summit. ($48/$30)
There you have it. Everything you need to see you safely to the summit and back down again. Of course, there are a few other items you’ll want to take with you as well, including good hiking apparel. But this is the gear that I would take with me were I heading to Kilimanjaro again tomorrow. It has all proven to be highly trustworthy in a variety of weather conditions, and has seen me through some challenging adventures. I’m sure these items would help you to do the same.