What to wear during climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro is probably the question we get asked most and there is, of course, a kit list for climbing Kilimanjaro on our website, however, it doesn’t tell you ‘When to Wear it’ which is the second most asked question.
The answer is, however, a little bit unclear, as it totally is subject to on the weather. For example, you might find the night before summit at Karanga Valley it is below zero with 3 inches of ice in the water bucket by morning, yet fast-forward 24hrs and you were at 5500m heading to the summit at 5895m and conditions were quite pleasant with no wind, yes it was a bit cold but nowhere near the temperature you felt at Karanga. Fast forward another 24hrs and it’s different again! Therefore, the key and most important factor when it comes to ‘what to wear during climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro’ are that your gear has to be adaptable!
People often expect that they will wear a definite type or a certain number of layers at a certain point and altitude on Mt. Kilimanjaro but the reality is that you could get terrible weather on day one, and warm lovely conditions for the rest of the climb. Or you could get harsh conditions throughout, or sunshine and light winds! Therefore, we design our equipment list to cover you for all that the mountain weather. The most important things for you is to prepare for each day as it approaches and be adaptable based on the weather around you and the view of our Guide at the time.
So we present to you a rough guide to what you would wear on a day by day basis on Kilimanjaro.
Days 1 and 7 or 8 (if you are on the Rongai route, Lemosho route, and Northern Circuit): Normally, you can expect some moisture as you climb up or down through the forest. This can be in the form of rain, cloud, mist or humidity. It is realistically warm and sometimes you may not want to put on waterproofs due to the heat so quite often an umbrella is a handy thing to have. The path is very good with well laid out paths, so gaiters are not really necessary but can be handy if you are prone to having the odd slip, especially on the descent. Poles can also be handy for the same reason. Normally, people will wear a climb shirt/top and shorts or climb trousers. There is no need for thermals or warm gear to walk in however a fleece should always be in your day pack for stops or delays.
Days 2 and 3: Generally, people will walk in a climbing shirt, trousers, sun hat, and shades. For these and in fact all days, always have a fleece and waterproof trousers and jacket in your day bag.
Days 4 and 5: Are the same actually as days 2 and 3 but with a definite need to pull on a fleece/hat when you stop, and if it is a windy walk in your waterproof jacket (this will reduce wind chill). You should also add a mid-layer to your day bag which you may need to walk in. It is likely that you will now want to wear thermals in the evenings or whilst sleeping so it is worth having these packed close or in your sleeping bag.
On Summit day: This is when you may want all your main layers, but measure the weather and conditions. If it is very cold, you need to have your base (thermal) layer on the top and bottom. On top of your leggings, you can wear 2 thin pairs of trousers or one thicker pair and a pair of waterproof trousers as your outer layer. Similarly, on top, you need to have a number of thinner mid layers (long sleeve t-shirts/climb shirts, mid layer fleeces) and a thick fleece and waterproof on top for that or alternatively a down or synthetic fill jacket. Then on your extremities gloves (inner and outer pair), balaclava if windy, warm hat/scarf and of course thick, warm, clean socks and your boots. Gaiters can also add heat. Some people also take hand warmers and if very cold do not forget to wiggle your toes as you walk to keep the blood pumping!
What you carry with you on the mountain rucksack.
You may not be able to see your daypack until at lunchtime or at the end of the day from the moment you hand it to the porter in the morning. It is necessary to pack everything that you may need during the day in your backpack.
Things to are the guidebook or maps, Compass and watch, Toilet paper and trowel, Medical kit, Lunch Box and Water, Sweets, Sunhat and Sunglasses, Rainwear, Knee supports, Walking sticks, Whistle, Suncream, Camera and other accessories
The factors to what to wear on Mt. Kilimanjaro is to cope with your own climate based on what the conditions around you and how you feel. You will find that as you walk you will warm up with exercise so it is important to regulate your temperature so that you are not too hot or too cold. The best way to do this is first to make sure that you have on the right number of layers for the conditions. If not add or remove a layer so that you are comfortable. When you climb can get warm, so unzip your jacket and mid layer and let air circulate. Then when you stop for a break pull the zips up and keep the heat in. This is particularly important if it is windy or if you’re in an exposed location.
Every night you may receive a brief from your guide so that you can have the right gear ready for the next climbing day and if you’re not sure, make sure you ask. It is really easy to regulate your clothing to ensure you are not too hot, nor too cold as long as you have what you need in your day bag. This is it, that is the secret to what to wear. There are no rules, only make sure you have what is on the gearing list and that will give you the flexibility to be adaptable to the conditions.