Climbing Kilimanjaro How-To & Tips

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As I mentioned in a previous post, Kilimanjaro was my second mountain climbing trip ever. Since then, I’ve started to figure out what sorts of things to pack and what to watch out for, and some of my biggest regrets on Kilimanjaro. Here’s my version of Kilimanjaro How-To & Tips. This is by no means a comprehensive list, just what I used / felt was important.


How-to get there:

While everyone has a different starting point, the flight journey will most likely conclude at the Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA for the airport aficionados out there), and most likely include a transfer. There are direct flights from Amsterdam, Doha (Qatar), Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Istanbul (Turkey) and probably some other places I missed. Most tour companies will arrange for pick-up and drop-off to KIA.


Here is a comprehensive list of visa requirements. In most cases, it also seems like visa on arrival is a viable option. Just note that the line at the airport could get long. I applied for a visa ahead of time, so immigration barely took any time.

What to Pack:


Tip: I highly recommend packing old items where possible – clothes and gear that would be okay to give away at the end of the trip. The porters and guides on Kilimanjaro are poorly paid, and most of them rely on giveaway clothing, shoes, and gear. We saw some porters walk up the mountain in socks & sandals.

  • Tops:
    • 3-4 tops, 2-3 short sleeved, 1-2 longer sleeved, depending on sensitivity to cold
    • The tops should not be cotton. If anything, bring sweat absorbing items!
  • Pants:
    • 2-3 pairs – I wore yoga pants the entire trip, but my friends wore trekking pants. The walking paths are pretty clear, so there’s not much hacking your way through the wild. So it’s personal preference.
    • Ski pants (or very thick pants for summit day)
  • Outerwear:
    • Ski jacket (I highly recommend the type that separate into two layers: windbreaker & fleece so they can be used separately)
    • Light sweater / additional fleece
    • If none of the above are water proof, you may want to consider bringing a rain poncho
  • Scarf / baklava
  • Gloves (used for summit day and at night, so you may want to consider bringing a liner as well)
  • Hats
    • Cap (for keeping the sun out)
    • Beanie (to keep warm on summit day and cover your ears!)
  • Socks – As many as you’d like, plus an extra warm pair for summit day

Tip: In general, reserve at least one clean item in each category for summit day! Exposure to the cold temperatures at night means anything that is remotely wet could freeze. Also, avoid wearing cotton on summit day – frozen cotton fabric rubs uncomfortably

Other items:

  • Bags:
    • Day pack (20-30L): I loved my Osprey Tempest 20 – This is fit for females, the male version is the Osprey Talon
    • Overnight pack: The porters prefer these in forms of duffels / gym bags (something like this), because they combine it with their own gear to carry up the mountain
    • Rain cover
    • Ziploc / plastic bags – to keep things dry
  • Hiking shoes
  • Regular shoes / flip flops for walking around the campsite – personal preference. It does get cold up there though
  • Headlamp (for summit day, or general walking around at night), bring extra batteries just in case!
  • Walking sticks
  • Hydration pack (3 liters), I used the a 3L Camelbak that was great.
  • Water bottle (0.5-1 liters) – needed for summit night when the hydration pack tube freezes!
  • Hygiene & personal care:
    • Sunblock & lip balm with SPF: bring lots and lots of this, because the sun is deadly up there
    • Toilet paper: there are outhouses at every camp, but there is nothing inside the outhouse
    • Toothbrush / toothpaste
    • Shower wipes: We were given small hand basins of hot water twice a day, but for those who want to be a little cleaner, bring those shower wipes! They are more gentle on the skin than wet wipes, but also clean better
    • Wet wipes
    • Small towel for washing – we had hot water twice a day to wash our hands and faces with. The team typically provides the soap and hot water, but bring your own towels
  • Optional items (personal choice)
    • Pulse Oximeter – I didn’t have my own, my friend brought one. It gets kind of addictive constantly checking your oxygen levels and heart rate
    • Water purification tablets: I didn’t end up using mine at all, the porter team preps and boils water for everyone. If you’re squeamish or have a sensitive stomach, you may want to bring some. I personally prefer the ones I linked (2 types of tablets), because the second tablet gets rid of that iodine taste from the purifying tablet
    • Energy bars / energy gels
    • Energy drink powder (i.e. Pocari)
    • Sleeping bag: The tour company provided us with sleeping bags, but they were not very warm. If you get cold easily, you may want to consider bringing your own, or bring a liner. I ended up sleeping in my ski clothes some nights


  • Vaccinations:
    • Typhoid
    • Hepatitis A
    • Yellow Fever (bring the certification along in case immigration asks for it)
  • Malaria pills: Our whole group took malaria pills, but we didn’t actually encounter too many bugs during the dry season
  • Diamox: high altitude pills!
  • Bring:
    • Painkillers (for when altitude sickness kicks in)
    • Cold medicine
    • Disinfectant / medicine for cuts etc

Whatever medicines you don’t end up using (i.e. painkillers, cold medicine, disinfectant etc) could be useful to leave behind with the tour guides as well. 

How-to Tip on Kilimanjaro:

Again, we had terrible information going up the mountain and did NOT carry enough cash. We didn’t have enough cash, and felt awful about paying on the low end of tips for an awesome team.

Tip: There is a tipping ceremony at the end of the trek, on the last day. This is when they hand out tips to all the porters / cooks, and all of the items (clothing & gear) that will be donated to the team. It is a big deal!

Quick guidelines (can be paid in USD):

  • Porters: $6-10 a day
  • Cook: $15 a day
  • Assistant guide: $15-20 a day
  • Guide: $20-25 a day
  • Keep in mind that oftentimes teams will bring along additional porters that were not accounted for. The trip package price will not change, but obviously more tip will require more tip
  • Sometimes they differentiate the porters – extra for porters who summit, extra for porters in charge of tents, etc. This will depend on the team.

If you want some additional information on tipping, there are a few good articles that discuss it. Here, here, and here.

Don’t forget:

  • Drink copious amounts of water – it’s the only thing that will get you through altitude sickness, if and when it hits
  • Travel insurance (I’ve used World Nomads and Travel Guard in the past)
  • Hang in there and have fun!

This post contains affiliate links to the products, although the opinions are entirely my own. 


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