What to Wear: Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

You’ve decided to climb Mt Kilimanjaro, your training’s going pretty well and now you’ve settled down to pack for your high endurance, but extremely rewarding adventure. The key to packing for an activity like this is to have an idea of what you’re going to be wear while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro from Day 1. You will also need to prepare yourself for any type of weather conditions (ie scorching sun, dry heat, dry cold, rain, sleet, hail and snow) and the best way to do this is in layers with the right type of materials.

Here is a comprehensive list of what to wear when climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, broken down to layers.

climbing Mt._Kilimanjaro taking to the open road peggy tee wikipedia-001
The snows of Kilimanjaro

Tops

  • Base layer – thermals

Invest in good quality thermals as these become the first layer against your bare skin and helps in keeping and maintaining your core temperature. Light weight merino wool (bonus if it’s sweatwicking) allows you to wear these in both sunny and windy conditions, ideal for when you start trekking from 2,700m above sea level. These kept me warm enough as we set out hiking to higher altitudes in the chilly mornings but it did not cook me as the day progressed. The long sleeves also provided great sun and wind protection; you get less and less cover as you climb higher up the mountain

  • Mid layer – fleece insulation
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There are several fleece jackets you can choose from, ranging from heavy-duty ones that keep you nice and toasty to light weight ones for mild insulation. However, I tend to go with mid to light weight fleeces for hiking as I’d prefer to keep the weight down in my pack. I wore my fleece jacket only during the stop-over nights on the mountain and on the ascent to the summit;  it’s generally too warm to hike in a fleece, and you only need this layer during the summit.

climbing mount kilimanjaro packing gear taking to the open road peggy tee
All the gear required
  • Mid layer II – down insulation

If the fleece layer doesn’t keep you warm enough, it’s time to bring in the big boys – down jackets. This acts as another mid layer to provide even more insulation. Some people may find this a bit of an overkill in keeping warm but I am absolutely terrified of the cold and wore a down jacket over my fleece for extra warmth on the -10 degrees Celsius summit climb.

climbing mount kilimanjaro views hiking taking to the open road peggy tee
Views along the way
  • Outer shell – weather proof

A triple layer Goretex shell is, in my opinion, probably the most important layer, after base layers. I actually wore my Goretex shell on the majority of my climb, even putting it on over a thin shirt at the start of the foot of the mountain. Conditions obviously worsen as you go further up the mountain and the sun and wind can be very harsh. Remember you will be exposed to these elements for hours on end so wearing a light-weight but wind and water proof Goretex layer keeps the unforgiving wind-chill out and protects you from both sun and rain. Just make sure you bring one with a hood!

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Bottoms

  • Base layer – thermals

I did not find it necessary to wear these below 3,700m and only wore them overnight and on the summit ascent. Base layer bottoms are great doubling up as pajamas on the climb – they’ll keep you warmer than tights!

climbing mount kilimanjaro peak view taking to the open road peggy tee
Porter balancing supplies
  • Base layer – trekking pants

Light-weight ones are preferable and would recommend packing at least 2 pairs with you (while wearing a pair) as it gets incredibly dusty on the mountain and you’d be wearing these the majority of the time. It helps to be able to rotate them on the week long hike.

  • Mid layer – fleece pants

These bear the same logic as its top counterpart; the fleece will provide your legs insulation especially on that freezing summit climb at night.

climbing mount kilimanjaro glaciers taking to the open road peggy tee
The glaciers on Mount Kilimanjaro
  • Outer shell – rain or ski pants

We were encouraged to carry our rain gear in our day pack just in case the skies opened up as mountain weather can be very unpredictable. I therefore suggest to invest in a light weight pair of ski pants – there are some that have a fleece layer sewn on the insides of the pants but this would add unnecessary weight to your backpack. Get an outer shell that would just be wind and water proof and leave the insulation to separate items. This helps you layer flexibly and in accordance with weather conditions.

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These items are the absolute basics that you’d require to make your hike to the top a little bit easier as they’ll protect you sufficiently against the elements and best of all, are easy to add on and shed off when the temperature fluctuates. The better equipped you are, the higher the chance of success. Happy hiking!

climbing mount kilimanjaro summit taking to the open road peggy tee
On top of the world!

FEATURED DISPATCH

Today’s Featured Dispatch wings our way from Tanzania via Jessie Tee, a savvy Gen-Yer (and my younger, adventurous sister!) who, like me, grew up in Malaysia but now calls the Lonely City of Perth her home. She requires wide, open spaces at regular intervals and is happiest on the road or thinking about the next item to travel item to cross off her bucket list. She doesn’t have a travel blog I can link to because she’s convinced she don’t write good – let her know in the comments that that just ain’t true!

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3 Comments

  1. Amber says:

    Thank you for your gear review Jessie. Could you tell us the brand & model name of your outer layers, the shell jacket and shell pants? I’m hiking Kili this November and trying to research recommended options for this layer. Thanks!

    1. Hey Amber! Good luck with Kili this November! The shell jacket was a double layer Goretex construction. The brand was Mountain Designs. The shell pants were basically ski pants from REI. Hope that helps! 🙂

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