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Kilimanjaro Advice and Tips

Hey All, 

Has anyone hiked Kilimanjaro?! I will be trekking it this winter and would love some advice on the hike and packing. I currently live in Colorado, i know the altitude will be one of the toughest parts. Thanks!

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Re: Kilimanjaro

Hi there! 

Yes!  My husband and I hiked Kili a few years ago.  You're in for an adventure!

A few pieces of advice:

  • Choose a route and timeframe that maximizes your likelihood of summiting.  Many people try to do the shortest possible itinerary, but that means that you're likely ascending very quickly, and might not have enough time to acclimatize.  
    • For example, 5-day climbers have a 27% summit rate.  8-day climbers have an 85% summit rate.  We opted for a 7-day route, and were able to reach the summit, although the final day was still difficult!
    • Some of the routes enable you to get higher during the day, and then sleep lower at night.  This "climb high, sleep low" route profile helps with acclimatization, and also maximizes your chance of summiting.
  • Follow your guide's advice to go "pol-ee pol-ee" (slow slow)!  On the final climb, we would take one step and a full inhale/exhale, then another step.  I've never hiked so slowly in my life...but then again, I've never hiked above 18K except on Kili!
  • Packing:
    • You'll have porters carrying the tents, sleeping bags, and cooking gear, but you'll want a comfortable day pack that can hold your layers, sunscreen, water, and snacks for the day.
    • Consider a hydration pack.  You'll need to drink a LOT of water to help with the acclimatization.  Our guides recommended 3+ liters a day.  (I've never consumed this much water in my life!  Usually I drink less than 1 liter/day while backpacking.)  I had a hydration bladder in my Osprey daypack, which was super handy.
    • Many of the tour operators offer rentals of big puffy warm coats.  We opted to use theirs, and it was the right decision.  They had high-end gear, and we only really used these giant marshmallows on the last day.
    • We rented tents and sleeping bags from our tour operator as well, even though we have our own.  Theirs were more well-suited for the conditions, and the rental price was very reasonable and saved us tracking our gear halfway around the world.
    • Much of the hike is very exposed.  Pack a sun hat or bandana, and plenty of sunscreen.
    • Hiking poles were tremendously helpful.  But if you're a strong anti-pole person, you could skip them.
    • Get a prescription of Diamox to help with the altitude.  You might not need it, but it's better to have it with you just in case.
  • If your tour operator offers it, rent the portable toilet!  I think it was about $5 extra, and was well worth it, since the established toilets were quite disgusting.
  • Training:
    • Do plenty of hiking at elevation beforehand.  It's great that you're in Colorado!  It should be much easier for you to get some elevation than it is for many folks!  You don't need to go crazy with the training, but we did several challenging weekend backpacking trips in the few months leading up to the trip, and it helped build the leg strength and lung capacity.
  • If possible, combine your Kili climb with a week of safari.  We did one week on Kili and one week on safari....If I had to do it all over again, I would have done two weeks on safari!  It was absolutely incredible!

Good luck and enjoy your trip!

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Re: Kilimanjaro

Thank you so much!! this is really helpful. We have opted for the 7 day Machame route. What did you use to pack the gear the porters carried? i see many opt for a water resistant duffel bag.

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Re: Kilimanjaro

Deleted - misunderstood the question.  🙂

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Re: Kilimanjaro

For your last few nights, make sure you bring insulated water bottles so your water doesn't freeze. I opted for hydroflask.

We also did a 7-day route and summited.

Another element that was really important to us was ensuring that our money stayed within the community. Therefore, we made sure to book with a company run by Tanzanians, not Europeans.

I packed my items for porters in a duffle bag with garbage bags around my belongings for waterproofing.

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Re: Kilimanjaro

Thanks for the tips! We also chose a Tanzanian company that partners with KPAP & IMEC. I heard porters can be treated unfairly, we didnt want to contribute to those companies. 

What month did you go?

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Re: Kilimanjaro

We were told to use duffles with NO wheels. The items in your duffle should be inside a water proof bag.  The maximum weight for the duffles was 33 lbs. Our porters put our duffles inside another bag along with other items and their gear.  Thomson Safaris treats their porters well and they provide them with some outer gear.  

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Re: Kilimanjaro

Our hiking club hiked Mt. Kilimanjaro, a few years ago, and used an US based outfitter (Thomson Safarias). We did the Grand Traverse (10 days total) trek. It was a bit more luxurious but, worth the extra cost. We had more days to acclimate,  more comfortable way to go, and great guides.  The more days you have to acclimate the better. Diomox is recommended to help with the altitude.

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Re: Kilimanjaro

I am doing Kilimanjaro in July of next year, I set up a training plan through Fit4Trips. What route are you taking?

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