Kilimanjaro Tips For The First-Time Visitor!
More than 35,000 climbers flock to Mount Kilimanjaro each year, eagerly attempting to summit Tanzania’s highest mountain peak. Although Tanzania is home to many mountain ranges, including the longest mountain range in Africa, Kilimanjaro is not part of a range! Instead, it is the largest freestanding mountain in Africa – and in the world. It is also one of only a few mountains in Africa with glaciers.
Tanzania is home to many mountain ranges, including the Eastern Arc Mountains. This range is the oldest in East Africa. The Usambara Mountains, Uluguru Mountains, Udzungwa Mountains, Pare Mountains, Kipengere Mountains, and Mahale Mountains can also be found in Tanzania. However, Kilimanjaro’s soaring summit eclipses all of these mountains in popularity, attracting hopeful trekkers who bravely attempt to reach the peak.
The Ins And Outs Of Climbing Kilimanjaro
Kilimanjaro is what is known as a “non-technical” summit. That means the majority of the trail is easy enough for a novice hiker to tackle. However, Kili is a deceptively difficult climb, with a successful summit rate of only 60 percent! What makes Kilimanjaro such a challenge for so many people? The answer is simple – altitude.
Kilimanjaro is the tallest freestanding peak in the world, at 19, 341 feet. Altitude sickness is a true concern for climbers, who need to factor in a period of acclimation to their training before tackling Kili’s trails. During this acclimation period, climbers slowly ascend to higher altitudes to allow their bodies to adjust to the decreasing oxygen levels and prevent altitude sickness. Here are some additional tricks, as well as Kilimanjaro tips, that will guarantee a successful summit – even for a less experienced trekker!
- Hire a reputable guide – the Tanzania government requires everyone who climbs Kilimanjaro to climb with a guide. However, not all guides are created equal! Scrimping on a tour operator can lead to a bad outcome. It makes sense to hire a reputable guide who is knowledgeable about the routes and well-versed in medical emergencies. It is also worth the price to make sure your guide fee includes porters (to carry your equipment, as well as food and water). Trying to cut costs in this respect can make a challenging climb a miserable experience!
- The route matters – there are seven routes to Kilimanjaro’s summit. Each route varies in difficulty and distance. Your tour guide should suggest a route that correlates with your fitness level as well as your hiking experience. Opting for a longer route with more time to acclimate to elevation is the most important factor in guaranteeing a successful summit. The shortest route to Kilimanjaro’s peak takes five days; however, less experienced hikers should expect to spend 8 or 9 days on the trail if they want to reach the top of Kili!
- Time of year is important – Kilimanjaro’s location on the equator means that it is possible to climb all year round. However, experienced Kilimanjaro travel guides will tell you that some months are better than others when planning your expedition. The best months to climb the mountain are January, February, and September. July and August are also popular times to take on this challenging hike; however, they can be much colder.
- Get in shape before you go – although Kili’s trails are considered easy, getting to the summit requires some degree of fitness. A good tour operator can advise you on what you can do to prepare for your trek. At the very least, you should take regular practice hikes, with and without your pack to mimic trail conditions, and consider finding a hilly route to build up your tolerance for hiking at elevation.
- Arrive early to acclimate – if you have enough time, consider adding a buffer of one or two days to your trip. That way, you can arrive in Moshi or Arusha early enough to begin acclimating for your climb. Alternatively, you can opt for the longest route, allowing for acclimation. Either way, slow and steady is the best way to guarantee a successful climb.
How To Pack For A Kilimanjaro Trek
What you pack for your Kilimanjaro climb is extremely important to both your health and the success of your trek. This Kilimanjaro travel guide can help you make sure that you have everything you need for a positive summit experience!
- Trekking poles – collapsible trekking poles. Models that are height-adjustable and fold into three compact, packable sections are recommended.
- Hiking socks – four to five pairs of mid-weight hiking socks, preferably wool (for moisture-wicking). Make sure the socks fit comfortably over liner socks and have plenty of loft and padding.
- Gaiters – waterproof gaiters that are sized to fit your boots will keep your feet warm and dry during the climb.
- Hiking boots – waterproof, lightly insulated boots that are designed for hiking in cool to cold conditions are recommended.
- Synthetic base layers – quick-drying synthetic base layers should include underwear, sports bras, t-shirt, long bottoms, and long-sleeve, insulating top. Wool is also an option if you prefer.
- Heavyweight base layers – again, synthetic options are preferred. Make sure you have heavy-weight bottoms and tops for climbing in cold conditions as you near the summit. Again, wool is an excellent option if you do not like synthetic materials.
- Trekking pants – one or two pairs of lightweight nylon trekking pants for the warmer parts of the climb.
- Softshell pants and jacket - Stretchy, comfortable, non-insulated softshell pants should fit comfortably with or without your baselayer bottoms. The jacket should fit over your baselayer top.
- Hardshell pants and jacket - Non-insulated, fully waterproof shell pants that fit comfortably over your baselayer bottoms and softshell pants. The jacket should fit over your baselayer top and softshell jacket. You will use these items as you near the summit.
- Midlayer top - A midweight, form-fitting, lightweight fleece layer for use over baselayers. Hoods are optional but recommended. A very light puffy jacket can also be used as a midlayer.
- Insulated pants - Synthetic insulated pants with full-length separating side zips. Ski pants are NOT recommended for this layer.
- Insulated down parka - this jacket or parka should be heavily insulated with high-quality down fill. A hood is recommended.
- Accessories – lightweight liner gloves (wool or synthetic); midweight, lightly insulated softshell gloves; insulated mittens: a buff, a sunhat, an insulated ski hat, sunglasses, and a headlamp.
Additional items like sleeping pads, sleeping bags, daypacks, and hydration systems can be recommended by the tour operator you choose to use. These additional items are essential for ensuring a comfortable and well-prepared outdoor adventure experience. Whether it's a durable camping tent, a reliable backpack, or a portable stove, having the right equipment and following our Kilimanjaro tips can make all the difference in creating unforgettable memories in the great outdoors.
A Customized Kilimanjaro Travel Guide For Adventure
Looks can be deceiving, and the fact that Kilimanjaro is a freestanding mountain and not part of one of the longest mountain ranges in Africa often throws hikers off. But if you are planning a trek up Kilimanjaro's slopes, it's important to pay attention to the Kilimanjaro travel guide your tour operator shares with you! Listening to their expert advice and Kilimanjaro tips means you'll be well-prepared to conquer the challenges of Kilimanjaro and create lasting memories of this remarkable adventure.