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Ultimate Female Travel Packing List for Trekking Mount Kilimanjaro

mount kilimanjaro packing list

The following is a Mount Kilimanjaro packing list by Ali Biggs. See all packing list posts here.

Preparing for the trek to the African continent’s highest point is a long process. Once you’ve selected a trekking company, paid the deposits, booked your flights, received all your vaccinations, convinced your parents (and yourself) that you will not die, and trained up so many hills that your butt looks the best it has since that time you took up weightlifting in college, packing hardly seems like a big task. While your trekking company will send you an extensive list of what to bring, this post includes those items plus things that I wish had been in my bag. While the list is long, always keep in mind that lighter is better, for your sake and that of your porters. No one wants to be the jerk with the super heavy pack!

Regardless of the route that you choose (there are six) and amount of days that you take (I chose eight), making your way to the Uhuru Peak at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro will be one of the most difficult, and ultimately rewarding experiences of your life.

Mount Kilimanjaro Packing List

You Recommend What? Four Random Things to Bring With You

Dark Fingernail Polish – Some of you may read this and think that I’m totally prissy, but I promise that this was a sentiment echoed by many women on the mountain. Despite your best efforts, it is impossible to keep the dirt from under your nails. The solution to keep from being completely grossed out: a few coats of dark fingernail polish. You can leave the bottle at the hotel with the rest of your belongings, but you’ll be glad that your hands don’t look like those of a mechanic by day three.

Panty Liners – We should all strive to leave a small “footprint” on the mountain and not contribute to the existing trash problem. Toilet paper is the eyesore of the trek, as hikers seem to use it with abandon and then… abandon it; sometimes even on the actual trail. While there are times that you absolutely must use (and leave) toilet paper, panty liners can help to minimize the need for toilet paper in most scenarios. You will be peeing a lot, due to your water intake and Diamox use, and instead of using (and leaving) TP, drip-dry as best you can and then a panty liner will help with the rest. You can replace the liner once you’re done hiking for the day, and you will dispose of one liner in the shared chemical toilet versus 5+ little piles of TP along the trail.

Something Sentimental – By the time you make it to Uhuru Peak you will be physically exhausted and possibly delirious. It’s an emotional experience and I recommend bringing something sentimental to take a photo of (or share a personal moment with) at the top. I brought a small amount of my grandfather’s ashes and spread them as the sun rose. Our friend Emma brought her county’s flag (from Ireland) and held it proudly in front of the sign while my friend Erin had a small figurine that her grandmother had asked her to take to the top just before she passed. It was quite special.

Gifts For Your Porters – You will get to know (and love) the group of 20-25 men who help you to get to the top. They carry your bags, filter your water, set up your tents, clap and sing for you upon return to camp each day — they’re amazing! While you will also tip in cash (see suggested amount below), I wish that I had thought to bring them something small from home. My dad is a college basketball coach, and 25 team t-shirts would have been easy to get a hold of and deliver. Most of the porters are using very worn gear and clothing, so you could ask your friends to donate their out-of-season mountain stuff and hand it out on day one. A gift of any size will help to say “THANK YOU.”

trekker silhouettes on Mount Kilimanjaro tour

Remaining Packing List

General rule: No cotton on the mountain. Go for wicking fabrics for all clothing and undergarments.

Clothing

4 pairs of underwear
1 snow jacket w/hood*
2 pairs of pants (at least one pair that zips off to shorts)
1 long sleeve shirt
1 light weight jacket (fleece pullover or similar)
1 waterproof jacket (shell)
4 pairs of wool socks
1 Buff
1 pair of light gloves (use most mornings)
1 pair of serious snow gloves (for summit night)
2 pairs of long underwear bottoms (for sleeping and summit night)
2 sports bras
1 hat with bill or brim
1 seriously warm head beanie
Sunglasses
Waterproof pants* (I only used these on summit night, for protection against the wind)

Shoes

Slip-on shoes with decent grip (You will be glad you have these for late-night trips to the bathroom)
Hiking boots

Kili night writing

Gear

Daypack backpack (Approx. 20L and designed for use with a Camelbak bladder; use it to carry your camera, water, rain gear, sunscreen, snacks, etc.)
40-60L backpack or duffel bag (holds all personal items plus sleeping bag and sleeping mat)
Stuff sacks for clothing (makes packing and unpacking each day much less frustrating)
Water bottle (Nalgene or similar)
Camelbak bladder (at least 3 liters)
Sleeping bag rated to 10 degrees Fahrenheit*
Trekking poles*
Gaiters* (I wish I could wear these every day—so convenient)
Headlamp* (Plus extra batteries)
Large rain poncho (this can cover both you and your daypack in the event of a downpour)

tent lit up at night
Tent lit up at night.

Meds

Diamox (Prevents altitude sickness)
Cipro and anti-diarrheal (Just in case)
Ibuprofen or Tylenol (Treats mild cases of altitude sickness)
Birth control and/or tampons (I am a huge advocate for the Mirena implant if travelling long-term; removes the need to carry tampons or pills)

Toiletries

Roll of toilet paper
Face tissues
Unscented, biodegradable wet wipes
Anti-bacterial hand sanitizer
Solid deodorant
Sunscreen
Lip balm (w/ SPF)
Face wash bar
Face lotion
Hair brush
Extra hair ties
Hand/feet/body warmers
Large and small bandages and moleskin (For blisters, cuts, scrapes)
Antibiotic ointment

Technology

Camera + extra battery
iPod for summit night
Kindle or book – Quite a bit of down time
Optional – Solar-powered device charger

Miscellaneous

Small, quick-drying hand towel (for washing your face)
Snacks (Almond butter packets, candy, etc.)
Ziplock bags for trash and dirty laundry
Journal
Small detergent packets for washing underwear and socks
Clothes pins for hanging up wet laundry
$250-$300 in USD for tipping guides, chefs, and porters at the end of the trek

Trekking Company Will Supply

Sleeping mat
Tent
Filtered water
All meals (which are surprisingly delicious)

* Item can be rented from trekking company. However, I would recommend that you bring your own jacket and sleeping bag as the ones that I rented were quite old and had faulty zippers.

What You Don’t Need

Shampoo + Conditioner – You won’t use it
Bug spray – Bugs are only a factor on the first night, and you will be completely covered
Anti-malarial medication – Again, you will only see mosquitoes on the first night
Contacts – Glasses are definitely recommended, as your hands will be perpetually dirty and the air is dry and dusty

Random Tips

If you get cold at night (which you will), use your heavy jacket as an extra blanket on top of your sleeping bag instead of wearing it. Trust me, it will make a big difference.

Practice replacing your headlamp batteries before summit night, as you don’t want to get caught in the dark, fumbling around with tiny screws.

Create a “Summit Night” iPod playlist ahead of time, making sure that it’s at least 8-hours long and will get you to the top! Keep your iPod deep in a breast pocket so it doesn’t freeze.

Try to time your trek so that you summit on or near a full moon. The amount of light makes a huge difference, and you may not even need a headlamp. Some companies charge more for the luxury. Climb Kili does not, and I must say that they were awesome overall!

welcome to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro
Welcome to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro
ali biggs

About the Author: Ali Biggs quit her full-time job in 2011 in order to explore the world and pet as many animals as possible. So far she has hiked through the Bolivian jungle with a puma, stalked lions in Kruger National Park, and adopted a street dog from Thailand. She chronicles her experiences volunteering with animals around the world through stories and photographs on her blog, Off She Goes, and on Facebook. And yes, she always carries hand sanitizer.

*All photos, except for title photo, are by Ali Biggs.

Book a Viator Tour Before You Go

7 Days Mount Kilimanjaro Trekking Adventure

7-Days Mount Kilimanjaro Trekking Via Machame Route From Arusha – $2,340.00*
The itinerary below describes the six night/seven day Kilimanjaro climb on the Machame route. To shorten it to six days you skip the night in the Karanga Valley and instead walk straight from the Barranco Huts to the Barafu Huts in one day. Theoretically you could also extend the trek to increase your summit chances, but if you can afford a longer trek then the Shira or Lemosho route are better options. They share the same scenic path for the last four days to the summit, but offer real wilderness and solitude on the first couple of days.

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Gear We Use

Organization

Packing Cubes – Organize your luggage with the lightweight, durable and compressible Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes.


Backpacks + Daypacks

Pacsafe – Since they come with extra theft-resisting features, Pacsafe bags make you a more confident traveler. We especially love this bag.

Sea to Summit – Of all the Sea to Summit products, our most recommended is the fits-in-your-palm, super packable Ultra-Sil Daypack.


Personal Care

Nalgene Toiletry Bottles – These leak-free toiletry bottles and tubs come in all sizes – even super tiny, helping minimalists pack it all without bulk.

Turkish Towels – They’re thinner than most travel towels, and they actually cover your body! We can’t get enough of Turkish towels for travel.


Clothing

Speakeasy Supply Co. – They make the awesome hidden pocket infinity scarves that are perfect for stashing secret cash, lip balms, and passports.

Anatomie – Anatomie travel pants come with luxury prices, but they offer many benefits for travelers. See our review of the famous Skyler pants.

Travel Resources

Booking Airfare

Dollar Flight Club – Get flight deal alerts for your preferred departure airport. There is both a free and premium version (recommended for more sweet deals). Members save on average $500 USD per flight!

Skyscanner – Skyscanner is our preferred site for searching flights. They offer unbiased search results and are free from hidden fees. You can also book your hotels and rental cars.


Accommodation

Airbnb – Airbnb is the best place to book out apartments around the world. Sign up using this link to get $37 USD off your first stay booking + $14 USD towards an experience booking!

Booking.com – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

Hostelworld – For hostels, Hostelworld remains our number one source for booking stays. Choose from straight up hostels, budget hotels and bed and breakfasts.

Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. TammyOnTheMove says

    That’s a great tip about the black nail varnish. I recently did the Everest Base Camp trek and my fingernails looked hideous with all that dirt underneath. I just couldn’t get it off.

  2. Louise says

    Wow!! Firstly Ali, thank you for being the only female to write actual useful advice on climbing the roof of Africa!! I’m doing it soon but I have to ask, your photo at the summit looks surprisingly warm and sunny, other photos I have seen the summit is covered with snow!! What time of year did you go? Do you know where I can research for a full moon trek? I’m a tad scarred of climbing in the dark, a fear of the dark doesn’t help so a full moon trek is an awesome idea!! Thank you for inspiring me further!!xx

    • Stephanie says

      Louise, this may be too late, but I just got back from climbing Kili and we climbed with Team Kilimanjaro. I would highly recommend climbing with them – they kept us comfortable and their guides and porters were amazing. We climbed the 7 day Machame route and our guide suggested that rather camping in Karanga on the fourth night, that we push on to Barafu camp and do a ‘day summit’. This was such a great suggestion. Their idea of a day summit wasn’t really to do it entirely during the day, but to start at 3 or 4am rather than at midnight like most other climbers. What it meant was that we were only hiking in the dark & cold for about 2.5 hours and then the sun came up and we warmed up. I never felt overly cold on the summit hike, our water didn’t freeze, and we got to the top around 11am and had the whole summit to ourselves – no waiting in line for pictures in front of the sign.
      Also because we were a day ahead of schedule we could stay in Barafu a second night after summitting rather than having to hike half way down the mountain. I couldn’t recommend this technique more. Good luck!

    • Ali B. says

      Hi Rachelle! I went with Climb Kili and would highly recommend them. They are very careful about your health and safety (nightly resting heart rate checks) and the guides were informative and fun. Food was fabulous, to boot. Pricing was pretty middle-of-the-road and I feel like I got a lot of bang for my buck. Good luck!

      • Carole M says

        We are climbing Kili September 2015 and are also going with Climb Kili. What size duffel did you have for the porters to carry. The Climb Kili pack list has a 100-120L bag while Her Packing List says 40-60L. Thanks.

  3. Mzuri says

    Great tips Ali! Thanks for sharing. I appreciate the thoughtfulness you’ve put into this article, especially the “what not to pack” section. I would add to the list goggles or eye protection of sorts because the dust and wind while hiking towards the summit.

  4. Pam says

    This s a great article. I’m leaving for Kili in less than two weeks and putting those final touches on my packing list. I would disagree with the nail polish though. Oxygen levels can be detected by looking at your nail beds so I like to keep them clear of polish when I hike. Noting the dusty conditions, I think I’ll pack my glacier glasses instead of just regular sunglasses since they have sides. One question I do has is about crampons, Micro Spikes or something of the sort – seems they aren’t on any packing list. Is there really no snow/ice on the summit?

  5. Shaina says

    This was such a great list! I recently returned from hiking Kili (and made it to the top!), and your list was excellent preparation. I would highly recommend the panty liners, as well as getting a Go-Girl! I never would have thought to bring panty liners without your list. And the Go-Girl was essential for not getting out of the tent at night in the pouring rain : )

    Thanks again!

  6. Kelly C says

    I used this packing list when preparing for my trip to Kili. While I found the list very helpful, after returning I felt compelled to mention one thing. “While there are times that you absolutely must use (and leave) toilet paper,” is a post in the blog. THIS IS COMPLETELY NOT EVER OK. This is a mountain that acts as the single largest source of income for an otherwise impoverished country. Leaving ANY trash on the mountain takes away from its beauty. While it is true that the mountain is littered with toilet paper at various spots, just because other people did it doesn’t mean that you should. At this time most tour companies have to send up at least one or two large groups of porters at the end of each climbing season to clean up what people think its OK to leave behind. Its your poop (or pee) on the toilet paper. Pack it in a plastic bag, wipe your hands with a wet wipe, pack that in there as well, and then suck it up and use some hand sanitizer.

  7. Liana says

    Please don’t tell people to stop taking their antimalarials on the mountain. In order to prevent malaria, all antimalarials must be taken for a certain amount of time after being in a malarial area (ie up to 4 weeks)

    I have to agree with Kelly C that there is no excuse for leaving garbage on the mountain, and that includes toilet paper.

  8. Rose says

    Just returned from Kilimanjaro and an 11-day safari in the Serengeti. I would have never thought about the nail issue if not for your list, but it was so true! As a result I got a gel manicure before leaving. It was a small comfort to not have to look at my dirty fingernails every day. The panti-liner advice was great, too, because of taking Diamox. No TP on the mountain. It also worked well for the safari when driving and sitting in your 4 x 4 for many hours as there is only the bush and no washrooms nearby.

    • Carole says

      Rose, I am doing this trip September 2015. Is there anything that you wished you had taken that you didn’t. Also, what did you do for charging camera batteries and other electronics. Thanks! Carole

  9. Christina says

    I am so happy to have found Ali’s packing list before I climb Mt. Kilimanjaro earlier this year. I used it as my checklist and feel I packed appropriately. My husband on the other hand probably overpacked. I was the only girl in our group of 4.

    If I would add anything to this list I would recommend packing extra panty liners. That was a HUGE recommendation that I had not considered but am glad to have packed. It is true you see TP left alongside the trail and you know where people have chosen to plop a squat. It is pretty sad not everyone understands the only take photos and leave footprints motto when hiking and camping. I would have liked to have had just a few more – I’d say pack 2-3 for each day you are on the trail.

    Personally I wish I had just one more long sleeve performance shirt. I only packed one because I thought I would be using my Hot Chillies more than I did. A friend also recommended over booties for when you get to the campsite for the evening to keep your feet warm.

    And finally, our doctor prescribed Diamox in 500 mg amounts but our guide said that the 150 mg amounts were better so that you could take one in the morning and one at dinner. So try to get Diamox in 150 mg or ask your guide prior to your trip…. it’s much easier than when you are on the mountain.

    I’d also add that I French braided my hair and it seemed to have helped for the week without washing my hair. On the final descent another group commented that maybe the two girls in their group should have braided their hair because they had issues/complained of their hair becoming tangled and frizzy.

    Just throwing in whatever I can to help ether ladies making the limb – take what works for you and leave what doesn’t – everyone’s climb is different!

    I had a great time and would recommend the climb to anyone! We took the Lemosho Route and did the Western Breach (pretty challenging day). To whomever is starting off on their adventure all I have left to say is ENJOY!!! And THANK YOU ALI for the awesome packing list!!!! It helped me be prepared and enjoy my trip even more!

  10. Anne says

    Thank you for sharing this packing list – I’m currently preparing to climb Kilimanjaro in September and it’s great to find some female specific packing tips!!

  11. Pam says

    I think I’ve added this previously, but nail polish is not a good idea. Anytime you are hiking, climbing, etc, you will want to leave your nail natural so that you can monitor your oxygen intake. If you are not getting enough oxygen, you and others will be able to know because your nail beds turn blue! I would not advise nail polish on fingers or toes ever. Trim your nails to an athletic length and use the tip of your knife to clean under the tips.

    Kili is an awesome mountain – climbed it last year and hope to go again in a year or so to take another route.

  12. Brandi says

    Hey!
    I’ll be climbing Kili this October. My tour company recommended “warm pants” but this is quite vague. Any recommendations ?

    • Christina says

      I believe when I climbed Kili last July I wore my hot chili pants that I used to use for skiing, my hiking pants, and waterproof removable pants (the ones that zip on either side so you can put them on or take them off easily on the trail without completely disrobing- LOVE them) over those layers. I was comfortable. But it was also warm the day we summited. It was cold at night and I slept in many layers and my over booties.

  13. Molly says

    Love the list- very helpful. Am hiking Kili in January. Has anyone been able to find higher waisted hiking pants or waterproof zip pants ? I am on the shorter stockier side and hate low riding pants. Have looked at most clothing lines and am getting desperate. Thx

  14. Devyn says

    Ok I’m from up north how cold is it the coldest I have seen has only been like -15max so is it that or colder(in the winter the average day is like -35)

  15. Anna says

    I’ve got some more specific questions about what to bring. I’ll be climbing in August and I’m super excited.

  16. Victoria says

    What no one recommends that I WISH I had were goggles for the decent from Uhuru peak. You’ll be sand surfing deliriously for at least 3 hours & sand will got your face… it especially sucks if you’re wearing contacts. So definitely bring sport glasses or goggles that surround your eyes securely.

  17. Hope says

    I am climbing in February and this list was super helpful in getting me started! For those who have climbed, did you use a duffel bag or decide on a 40L+ backpack? I will be carrying a small daypack but wasn’t sure if the porters would prefer to carry the rest of my stuff in a backpack or if a single strap duffel bag was ok. Was also wondering if moving through the airport would be more difficult with 2 backpacks.

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