Most packing check lists you get from mountain tour operators will probably tell you what clothes and meds to pack for the hike. As much as I trusted that blindly, I still felt like I needed more advise on what to do if I’m super freezing in the middle of the cracking night, or what to do if I get nauseated. I researched alot, and prepared for Kilimanjaro as much as I could. But for some parts, I hard to learn either the hard way or come up with random hacks on how to stay comfy when you’re obviously not.
So here goes, some of my top tips compiled from experience with some help along the way from my friends on the mountain.
Yes you heard me! Pack a bunch of lemons in a big zip lock bag. Trust me this will come in very handy, especially when you are nauseated (which happened to me everyday). Slice a lemon, squeeze those zesty drops on a mug of warm water during breakfast or dinner and dont forget to pass it along. Sharing is caring and that is the spirit of the mountain. Our tour provider, Wild Guanabana (who were super awesome), served honey along with other condiments on the dining table, so that was helpful with the hot lemon water. Add a table spoon and let the hot mug warm your hands as you sip through. This helps alot with hydrating your body (which you will need to work on the higher up you go with altitude)
Plastic and Zip lock bags
You will not regret spending a few minutes during your packing to put all your little what nots into zip lock bags. This water proofs everything and while your duffle bag SHOULD be water proof, this is an additional step that I do not recommend you skip. Mainly, because it also acts as an organiser, where you can see everything and easily pull it out of the bag.
Take a few extra medium sized bags so you can throw your messy stuff as you get ready in the mornings. Tissues, ear buds, cotton pads, squeezed lemons! Trust me.
What seriously helped us through extreme situations of zero energy was packing snacks like dates, dried apricots and nuts. I found that to be so much better than Gu gels in my opinion. I also took a bag of mini snickers, because its peanuts and chocolate yumminess, which means its perfect for energy. Luckily, its my fav choco bar too.
Pillow foot slippers
I don’t know what they call them, but this is what I think they should be called, because they are like pillows engulfing your cold feet to impart warmth. Also, I wore those inside my sleeping bag. When the going gets tough, slip in a toe warmer and you’ll sleep like a baby.
I’m sure you already know that you will need to take body wipes, nappy wipes, and all sorts of wet wipes to stay clean. I strongly suggest you take a small bottle of sanitizing gel. This is helpful once you are done with your bathroom business. Just squirt a bit on your hands and rub, instead of using another tissue and not knowing where to throw it.
Also, on summit day, do not put your wipes on the top compartment of your back pack like I did. Can you guess what happened? My wet wipes froze. even that was capable of succumbing to sub zero temperatures.
Panty liners is another life saver for lasting freshness.
Make sure all your creams and sunblock come in small tube sizes. I made the mistake of taking a big sunscreen bottle which added unnecessary weight on my backpack. I ditched it and had to rely on sharing with friends.
Your lip balm SPF should not be less than 30, and your face/body SPF not less than 70. Keep in those in your back pack to re-apply every while.
Most people on our group took solar chargers. I was envious because I took power banks instead and didnt want to over use them. So I kept my phone, go pro and camera switched off most of the time. That is, untill I heard them all complain of how useless it was and only charged 13% when they were out in the sun all day. Therefore, I strongly suggest you take 2 or 3 extra power banks, and minimise the usage of electronics. You actually won’t be able to keep taking pictures because you’ll be using both hands to hold your hiking poles.
Also, whenever you reach your next camp, there is a hut where all hikers have to sign in. It is mandatory. The good news is, some of those huts offer charging services for a small fee.
If you’re shooting videos with a Go Pro, best to have it attached on your chest or head. So you can document while hiking. Go pro batteries don’t last long, so don’t over do it.
Yes that’s a no brainer. You will need those. But please make sure they are leather or water proof. My liner gloves were made of wool and I had to chuck them away when it rained and hailed on us. Thanks, but no thanks dear frost bite.
Do not under estimate the convenience of a water bladder and the convenience it will bring you during hikes. The guides will constantly remind you to “sippy sippy” every 15 minutes and the last thing you want is to remove your back pack every now and then to reach for your water bottle. I was going to skip buying one, but I thank my lucky stars for this genius invention now. The one pictured above holds 2 litres of water.
As for water bottles, you only need one in addition to your water bladder as back up. On Summit day, you will only use this. as the water bladder will freeze in no time. Make sure to buy an insulater cover for the water bottle to delay the freezing process. I pretty much had water slush the higher up we went. Your trip organiser will normally have their porters spread across checkpoints for water refills and other emergency needs. So don’t worry about running out.
In terms of sleepwear. I swear by wearing fleece top and fleece pants. You can wear your base layer underneath as well, but its the fleece that will save your life. Depending on how your body reacts to the cold, you may layer up further from day 3 onwards.
I don’t handle the cold very well. Bless my tent mate Zahra, for suggesting to fill my water bottle with hot water so I could snuggle with it in my sleeping bag (your guides will happily do this for you). I used to roll the bottle on my sleeping bag to warm the area first and hug it all through the night.
I also used body warmer stickers on my back, and when I was warm enough, I’d chucked them away.
Want to keep your hiking clothes warm? slip them inside your sleeping bag so it takes on the heat from your body. Unless you like to wear cold clothes… then go on give it a try 🙂
Cut your nails to the shortest level possible. This will avoid dirt from sneaking under them. If you feel its necessary, take a nail brush with you.
Some will tell you to paint your nails so the dirt doesn’t bother you, I wouldnt suggest that because if for some reason your nails turn blue from pressure/ frost bite in the making etc, you won’t notice!
Please Please please pack some extra clothes or gifts to give away to the crew on your last day. You will form an unforgettable bond with those sweethearts who work tirelessly to keep you safe, comfortable and happy. It is them who will push you on the last day to summit with you. It is the least you can do to show genuine appreciation and support (aside from generously tipping them ofcourse)
Don’t forget to have fun and when the going gets tough, keep your eyes on the prize. It will all be a distant memory once you’ve conquered yourself and the mountain.
Got any more tips? Don’t be a stranger and please share below 🙂