Mt Kilimanjaro, Understanding the Sleeping Giant
My journey up the slopes of the mighty Mt Kilimanjaro started with lots of reading and lots of training. The next step after working out my training regime was to start building up the kit I would take with me.
Every trekking company will give you a kit list in varying degrees of comprehensiveness and it’s easy to become overwhelmed with what you really need. Keep in mind that the porters on the mountain are restricted to carrying a maximum of 20kg so what you take with you must amount to no more than that.
I spent many hours trawling the internet looking for gear, reading reviews and recommendations trying to discern what products would suit. For the sake of ease, I’ll break down what I took with me and add my review.
My Gear List Breakdown
The North Face Hedgehog Mid GTX Hiking Boots. I wear a women’s size 11 (Euro 42) so finding footwear is a challenge. Over the years I have always owned a pair of hiking shoes by The North Face which was super comfortable and hard wearing so when I found out they did the same shoe in a boot, I jumped for joy!
The first day I put them on I went for a two-hour hike without so much as a slight aggravation, they were supremely comfortable and supported my feet and ankles well. On Kilimanjaro, I was grateful for the cushioned support on the footbed as well as the fact that the boots were flexible enough for me to walk across very uneven terrain.
The Vibram soles had excellent grip for clambering up, down and across rocks and boulders and they kept my feet warm and dry whilst providing excellent support. I bought them in January and used them for every training hike I did, including one 16km hike in torrential rain during which they kept my feet 100% dry, and they were still as supportive and comfortable eight months later when I did my trek.
I absolutely loved these boots and will definitely buy another pair as I donated the ones I used on Kilimanjaro to my trek guide who had the same size foot like me!
“By the third night of my eight-day trek, the overnight temperature dropped to -10deg C without the windchill.”
The North Face -29deg C/-20deg F Inferno. I am one of those people who feel the cold, especially when I am tired, so I wanted to make sure I was going to be warm enough at night to give myself the best chance of getting quality sleep.
By the third night of my eight-day trek, the overnight temperature dropped to -10deg C without the windchill. That night we had 60km/h winds gusting straight through camp which was situated in a little gully beside an open plateau. I was freezing!
Given that the overnight temperatures never warmed past -10, I was so glad to have the sleeping bag that I did. One doesn’t sleep that well at altitude anyway so making sure you’re not adding the discomfort of bone-chilling cold to that mix, is important.
Sea To Summit Comfort Lite Insulated Sleeping Mat. I highly recommend it, or even the next model up, the Comfort Plus Insulated Mat. My trekking company provided me with a foam mat to sleep on.
I used the foam mat underneath my Sea to Summit mat as an essential extra layer between myself and the cold hard ground. The Sea To Summit Comfort Lite Insulated Sleeping Mat thermal mat was super-easy to blow up each evening and deflate each morning and comes with a carry bag for easy storage and transportation between camps.
“I slipped on two occasions, sliding on my derriere for a few metres before grabbing a low hanging tree branch to stop me.”
Clothing – Pants (Trousers)
I packed three pairs of trousers with me but in the end, I only used two – On days 1 – 3 when the weather was a little warmer, I wore Craghoppers Women’s Kiwi Trekking Trousers but for the remainder of the trek, I wore Skogstad Women’s Alva Trousers.
The Skogstad pants were ridiculously comfortable, warm and durable. On day 4 we had quite a steep downhill trek to camp and in one section, the path was steep and sandy but strewn with small rocks and stones.
I slipped on two occasions, sliding on my derriere for a few metres before grabbing a low hanging tree branch to stop me. I had scrapes and bruises on my legs but my pants were completely intact. Go figure.
Beneath my pants, I wore a pair of thermal Skogstad Women’s Hallingskarvet pants. They were super comfortable and given that I also slept in them, remarkably fresh after the fifth day.
“know that you are not invincible and be prepared for all eventualities, respect your mountain guide for they are the experts.”
Clothing – Tops
As far as tops go, for the first few days, I wore Kathmandu driMOTION t-shirts but then switched to long sleeves. A special mention must go to the Kathmandu Kangsar Women’s buzzGUARD Travel Hiking Shirt because it was unbelievably versatile. Due to being so lightweight, it makes it easy to layer for warm and cool days and the multitude of pockets makes it really handy also, I highly recommend this shirt.
By the fourth day, I wore long sleeve thermals, Icebreaker Oasis long sleeve (which I also slept in) under my Kathmandu Altica 200 hoodie. Over the top of those, I wore a Kathmandu Women’s Hooded Down Jacket, 650 Loft Power.
Keep your feet warm, dry and comfortable with good, worn in boots and socks like Bridgedale Outdoors Thermal liner sock (I took 3 pairs) and Kathmandu’s Merino Hike Sock and Alpine Trek Sock for over the top. I only took one of each and changed out my sock liners each day and my feet were fine.
Take gloves – a silk or merino glove liner as well as heavy duty alpine gloves like XTM Thinsulate. Take walking poles and gaiters to keep all the dust and stones out of your boots, mine were both from Kathmandu and were excellent!
Essential Camp-Comfort Clothes
Make sure you take something to wear around camp at night – fleece tracksuit bottoms and a pair of sneakers are a good option, both of which I forgot and cursed myself for! You’ll need a good quality beanie, a head-torch, two 1litre Nalgene drinking bottles and a waterproof poncho or lightweight rain jacket, all of which I sourced through Anaconda and got great deals in their end of season winter sales.
“Kilimanjaro is a punish, no doubt, but worth every second of discomfort.”
Remember sunscreen, a thick facial moisturiser and good quality SPF lip balm – you won’t mock this on the mountain when your face and lips are dry and cracked from the cold and wind! Most of all, remember why you’re doing it.
“Respect her and the people who guide you to the summit and you will come away with an experience which has to be lived to be truly understood and will change you in ways you never thought possible.”
Take your strongest, most positive mindset with you when you leave and spend time training your mind to cultivate that mindset. Don’t leave anything to chance in this regard, the mountain is really that hard and can surprise you.
Kilimanjaro is a punish, no doubt, but worth every second of discomfort. Make sure you take enough clothing to stay warm, dry and comfortable. Try out your gear before you pack it and take your favourite items for they will serve you well on the mountain.
Above all, know that you are not invincible and be prepared for all eventualities, respect your mountain guide for they are the experts.
I saw a young doctor get evacuated off the mountain in a helicopter with acute pulmonary oedema and close to death, all because he refused the advice of his guide to abort the trek and descend. He got out alive, but only just, and served as a reminder to all that this beautiful and awesome mountain is majestic but ruthless all the same.
Respect her and the people who guide you to the summit and you will come away with an experience which has to be lived to be truly understood and will change you in ways you never thought possible. You will come away with a memory to unpack and savour for years to follow.