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How To Prepare For The Kilimanjaro Climb

How Do I Prepare to Climb Kilimanjaro?

This section covers what gear you need to bring, physical training, Tanzania entry requirements (passport & visa), immunizations and vaccinations, and travel insurance. 

Please read this carefully and make sure you have gathered everything before you depart on your trip.
What Gear Do I Need to Bring?

You are responsible for bringing personal gear and equipment while communal equipment (tents, food, cooking items, etc.) is provided. Below is a gear list of required, recommended and optional items to bring on your climb.

Technical Clothing

1 – Waterproof Jacket, breathable with hood

1 – Insulated Jacket, synthetic or down

1 – Soft Jacket, fleece or soft-shell

2 – Long Sleeve Shirt, light-weight 1 – Short Sleeve Shirt, light-weight

1 – Waterproof Pants, breathable (side-zipper recommended)

2 – Hiking Pants  1 – Fleece Pants

1 – Shorts (optional)

3 – Underwear, briefs  2 – Sport Bra (women) 

Headwear

1 – Brimmed Hat, for sun protection

1 – Knit Hat, for warmth

1 – Balaclava, for face coverage (optional)

1 – Bandana (optional) 

Handwear

1 – Gloves, warm (waterproof recommended)

1 – Glove Liners, thin, synthetic, worn under gloves for added warmth (optional)  

Footwear

1 – Hiking Boots, warm, waterproof, broken-in, with spare laces

1 – Gym Shoes, to wear at camp (optional)

3 – Socks, thick, wool or synthetic

3 – Sock Liners, tight, thin, synthetic, worn under socks to prevent blisters (optional)

1 – Gaiters, waterproof (optional)

Accessories

1 – Sunglasses or Goggles

1 – Backpack Cover, waterproof (optional)

1 – Poncho, during rainy season (optional)

1 – Water Bottle (Nalgene, 32 oz. recommended)

1 – Water Bladder, Camelbak type (optional)

1 – Towel, lightweight, quick-dry (optional)

1 – Pee Bottle, to avoid leaving tent at night (highly recommended)

Stuff Sacks, various sizes, to keep gear dry and separate.

Equipment

1 – Sleeping Bag, warm, four seasons

1 – Sleeping Bag Liner, for added warmth (optional)

1 – Trekking Poles (highly recommended)

1 – Head lamp, with extra batteries

1 – Duffel bag, (waterproof recommended) for porters to carry your equipment

1 – Daypack, for you to carry your personal gear 

Other

Toiletries
Prescriptions
Sunscreen
Lip Balm 
Insect Repellent, containing DEET
First Aid Kit
Hand Sanitizer
Toilet Paper 
Wet Wipes (recommended)
Snacks, light-weight, high calorie, high energy (optional)
Pencil and Notebook, miniature, for trip log (optional)
Camera, with extra batteries (optional) 

Paperwork

Trip Receipt (your guide will have this)

Passport

Visa (available at JRO)

Immunization Papers (Yellow Fever Vaccination, required for Tanzania)

Insurance Documents 

The most common mistake that climbers make is that they over pack and bring way too much gear. 

Be selective in what you take with you. The porters are limited to carrying 35 lbs (15 kg) of your personal belongings. If you have excess weight, you will be required to hire an additional porter. Although you are expected to bring everything you need, most gear and equipment may be rented, subject to availability. All extra luggage, items you will not use on your climb, such safari clothing, gear and equipment, can also be safely stored at the hotel.

How Should I Train for the Climb?

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is a test of endurance. It does not require any mountaineering techniques. Being in good shape is important in many respects. Strong, conditioned legs make it easier to walk uphill and downhill for sustained periods of time. General aerobic fitness allows the body to function efficiently with less oxygen. And a fit body is more likely to withstand the stress of consecutive days of hiking and camping. A positive mental attitude can work wonders. 

The best exercise that you can do to prepare for Mount Kilimanjaro is hiking. 

The best and perhaps only exercise you need to do is to hike.  After all, that is what you will be doing on the mountain. Ideally, you should try to hike as much as possible on hills or mountains around you. Doing day hikes is superb training. For those who do not have access to trails, but have membership to a gym, you can train very productively on a stair master machine. If you have no access to trails or a gym, then try to walk as much as you can, with extended walks on the weekends.

You should start training for climbing Kilimanjaro at least two months prior to your departure. 

If you’ve never hiked before, you should start with shorter time intervals, a slower pace, and no weight (in your day pack) and then gradually increase all of the above as your fitness level improves. Remember that on Mount Kilimanjaro, you will walk slowly for prolonged periods, and carry probably no more than 7-8 kgs in your day pack. Therefore, in your training, it is better to increase the time interval/distance and keep a slow pace than to shorten the time interval/distance and increase the pace. Try to train three times a week, for at least one hour per session, at a minimum. If you can do day hikes for four to six hours, with moderate elevation changes (~1,500 ft/460 m) while carrying a 7-8 kg pack, or if you can walk on a stairmaster for 1-2 hours, at 30 steps per minute while carrying a 7-8 kg pack, then you’re probably ready for the real thing. 

Your longest/hardest workouts should be performed two to four weeks before your departure. For the last two weeks, you should taper off your training and in the final days, rest so that your body has time to recover before your actual climb. In addition to walking/hiking, you can also supplement your training with exercises such as running or cycling, which will increase your aerobic capacity. 

It is imperative that during Kilimanjaro training, you wear the boots that you intend to climb with so that they are sufficiently broken-in (to prevent blisters). Additionally, you should wear the day pack you intend to carry so your shoulders/back/hips get used to the points of contact and weight (to minimize chafing and soreness). 

Lastly, physical training is just one part of getting in shape. If you have an unhealthy lifestyle, use the climb as your motivation to change. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Reduce your red meat consumption. Don’t drink or smoke. Get eight hours of sleep per night. Don’t worry. Be happy.

Should I Get a Medical Check Up?

All climbers should have a medical check prior to attempting the mountain. Ask your doctor if high altitude trekking is permissible for your age, fitness level and health condition. Ask if you have any pre-existing medical conditions that can cause problems on the climb. Ask if any of your medications can affect altitude acclimatization. Ask whether Diamox can be taken with your existing prescription medicines.

The minimum age for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is 12 years old. There is no maximum age. However, the climb is strenuous and presents health risks, especially to people in high risk categories. Serious consideration should be given to anyone under the age of 18 and over the age of 60. The climbers on the extreme ends of the age spectrum should definitely consult their doctor. 

Climbing the 19,341 ft Mount Kilimanjaro dos and don’ts before you attempt to scale the ‘Roof of Africa’.

Good guides are essential – they will regularly assess your health, keep you informed on progress and plan each day on the mountain. They also keep the pace, ascending as slow as possible so as to avoid the worst effects of mountain sickness. In the absence of reliable data collection on Kilimanjaro, it is generally accepted that the success rate is between 40-45%. 

DO NOT underestimate Kilimanjaro. It is a physically challenging climb, and along with the obvious demands of hiking, traversing and descending the highest free-standing mountain in the world, the body is put under considerable pressure as a result of rising altitude. Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) will be the largest threat to your summit attempt. Over 80% of climbers experience a range of symptoms, from the near-inevitable loss of appetite, nausea and headaches to the uncommon and most dangerous pulmonary oedema. There is absolutely no way of knowing how AMS will affect you, although it is generally observed that it helps to be in good physical shape.

DO take a good camera – but avoid overuse.  There is no shortage of breath-taking vantage points on the mountain and so a good camera will come in handy in attempting to immortalise the most incredible of memories. However, climbing Kilimanjaro is a near-magic experience; one that no picture can adequately capture. Immerse yourself totally in what you’re doing and try not to become preoccupied with taking the perfect picture.

DO NOT let your morale deteriorate. There are long hours spent at the camps after a day’s climbing is done, and this is where a good group of climbers come in handy. Many people become totally obsessed by Kilimanjaro’s infamous summit night and insist on sharing their apprehension on what lies ahead. Try and be as positive as possible at all times. Avoid the company of negative people.

DO invest in the right gear. On signing up for a climb. Of all the clothing that one could bring to Kilimanjaro, the most essential would be a good pair of well-fitted and well-worn hiking boots. For these, you cannot buy whatever’s cheapest or simply borrow from a friend like most of the gear on the list. 

DO NOT be a stingy tipper. The tipping culture on Kilimanjaro is well established, although it is heavily stigmatised for guides or porters to discuss this with you and so you are unlikely to experience any pressure in this regard. The crew can get pretty large depending on the amount of climbers (for four climbers we had a crew of sixteen – two guides, a chef and porters) but these guys work hard in immensely tough conditions and many are very passionate about maintaining the beauty and cleanliness of Kilimanjaro. As there is precious little infrastructure on the mountain, all of your supplies will be carried up by porters, including food and cooking equipment. Taking this into account, the variety, quality and quantity of the food served is astonishing. Porters are generally paid less than $5 a day, a comparatively decent wage in Tanzania. At the end of the climb, leave a good tip for what they have contributed to an unforgettable experience.

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Credit for the images used on this website are attributed to – The Governors Camp Collection, Wilderness Safaris, Wild Horizons, Lemala Camps & Lodges, The Zanzibar Collection & Graham Simmonds
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