UPDATED now post-trip! Originally posted early June 2021 and now refreshed 1 month post-trip in October 2021!
A couple people have asked about my Kilimanjaro gear list – whether for the trip trip or just what I take for these long, 5.5 hour walks (which are scaled back since the trip delay) – so I’ve built out what’s currently working for me and some tips to how I got it!
The benefit of having a year+ to prep for this Kili hike is having had time to buy items off-season, to test them, sometimes to return them or upgrade, or wait for a sale I know is on the way. I genuinely, personally own everything on the list below, and I’ll link them all out even though I sometimes didn’t buy them the places they’re linked, they just came up first when I googled for this post.
My tips to (almost) never paying full price:
- List, List, Baby – You can’t shop for what you don’t know you need/want. What do you need vs. what’s nice to have? Once you have your list of needs (knock off the things you already have that can do double duty, ie camping items like a sleeping bag or wool layers you already own because you live in Chicago aka Polar Vortex’s Fyre Fest), prioritize. What do you need to start training with ASAP? For me, I needed boots right away. There were a lot of ‘kilimanjaro packing list’ ‘women packing kili’ Google searches in the early days. If you’ve chosen a guide company for a trip make sure you check their custom list too. Sometimes they provide items you don’t need to buy or offer rentals so you don’t need to buy your own (like gaiters, sleeping bags or trekking poles).
- Sale Away – If you know a sale is coming, try to hold out. I narrowed down pack options to the REI Traverse 35L for women, and then sat in wait for the Memorial Day Sale. It had been 50% off in May 2019; it was not that deeply discounted in 2020 but it was 30% off so I bought it then. Usually when a big outfitter does a sale, others do too because FOMO; Moosejaw almost always does a big sale when REI does theirs, Backcountry, etc.
- Get Around – You don’t need to buy all the things from REI! I’m a massive fan of REI and did get a lot of my items there. One of their employees took 40 minutes to share her experience on a trip to Kili and recommendations. However, you can be thrifty and still REI. Support the co-op – also, pals – just buy the REI membership. It’s $20, one-time, it’s good for life, you can return items even if you used them for up to a year. I’m SERIOUS. Go do it. It’ll literally pay dividends and you get access to so much. INCLUDING my favorite: the Garage Sales. I have cleaned UP at REI from their Garage Sales, Outlet and Used sites. If you get a coupon on top of GS/Outlet/Used? Your wallet and you do a secret high five. You’ll know it when you see it.
Other places I bought gear – Moosejaw, Eddie Bauer, Campsaver, Backcountry, MountainSteals (Moosejaw’s discount site), Sierra Trading Post (TJ Maxx/Marshalls/Homegoods gift cards work here!), Patagonia & North Face’s Renewed/Used & Repaired sites (most brands have some kind of outlet, used or renewed site, you just have to google it), Nordstrom Rack, Zappos, DSW, and yes, Amazon when needed, sigh. Check thrift stores – if you’re on the North Side of Chicago I stan my local ones like Play It Again Sports or Family Tree Resale on Lincoln – or digital thrift stores like GearTrade! Don’t overlook other sources like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace too. It’s summer and people been inside for 15 months – Summer Garage Sales are the SPOT in 2021!
- Sell Yeah – Remember REI Used? Just did my first trade in with them – I have jackets I’ve grown/shrunk out of in the past year – and they sent me the mail in kit, etc. Just got an email that I have a $100+ gift card now to spend! YES! YOU DO NOT NEED ALL THOSE THINGS IN YA CLOSET, UNDER YA BED, STUFFED ABOVE THE HAMPER.
- Don’t Marry an Idea – This is hard but – do you need the newest colors or features? Nah. It’s easier to find discounting on past-season colors and on clearance! Get something you can live with though; if you hate it it’s probably not worth it long term.
- Let Yourself Be Blessed – This is a bit of a luck/hit and miss/no guarantee but I wanted to mention it. I messaged someone on FB Marketplace about a North Face Base Camp Duffel and when I showed up to buy it for $70 he asked where I was headed with it, when I said Kilimanjaro he gifted it to me. I almost cried. He said ‘have a wonderful trip and pay it forward someday.’ FOR REAL. A friend recently asked if there was anything I hadn’t bought myself and when I bashfully shared I had a ‘good enough’ fleece layer but there was one on my wish list they bought it for me. There are people who want to invest in your journey. Let them. That may be time, money, gear or emotional support. Allow them to be part of your story and success too.
The following is my ‘before trip’ list – and all has genuinely been tried out – but I’ll keep editing while I continue training and even after the trip (September 2021) so you know what was useful, what was overpacking, and what was just ridiculous.
UPDATE NOTE (Oct ’21): I found when actually packing/weighing my mountain duffel at home before the trip that I was over the weight that my company said was the limit – which was an uncomfortable level of panic the 2-3 days before leaving – everything I had was on their list, so why was it overweight?! Remember to check your guide/company’s weight limits (they can differ) – you don’t want to be the a*hole asking a porter to compromise their safety nor having to do a gear reshuffle on at the entry gate where rangers weigh your bag publicly! Pre-weigh at home and check if there’s any wiggle room; also remember you can put things in your day bag (snacks, etc) that could be a little more weight at the beginning (Days 1-3) when you’ve got energy/less likely to experience altitude issues and as you put more clothing layers on during Days 2-5 you can backfill those snacks into the duffel, making a close-to-even exchange of weight. Also tbh, eat ya snacks, you brought ’em for a reason, right?
✅ – I did end up taking this model/item
🚫 – I didn’t take this model/item
↔️ – Exchanged for a different model/item or took a different quantity!
📝 – Adding a note in bold about this item post-trip!
Testing a lot of the items on Baker helped a lot – mostly clothing but some gear – getting a good bead on what was ‘nice to have’ vs ‘need to have’
Pack & Gear:
- ✅ Hiking Backpack – REI Traverse 35 – The golden color almost got me but a cranberry, green and blue combo?! Bails 101!
- ✅📝 Water – Platypus 3L Reservoir & Nalgene 32oz, plus a Katadyn UV Water Filter SteriPen and copious Nuun tabs/powders for taste & energy. I will say, label your Nuun powders well or leave in original packaging. And be aware if you do Gu or other energy gels put in your checked baggage if over 3oz because ya girl lost one like a rookie at TSA!
- ✅ Dry Bag – Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil 13L – I plan on putting my camera gear in here and any other tech, battery pack, etc. It was on my wish list forever and I found it at an REI Garage Sale for $4 and change!
- ✅ Trekking Poles – Black Diamond Trail Backs plus these rubber tips since I train/walk on the sidewalk/street in Chicago. I’ll pull the rubber tips off before I leave; I’ve taken them off when walking on icy sidewalks and they’ve saved my cute, round bacon multiple times.
- ✅ Sleeping Pad – Klymit V Insulated Ultralight – make sure you check the R value for warmth if your trip needs it! Also – test it out and lay on it – make sure you can actually get comfortable on it, in your sleeping bag! Otherwise it’s a cold, miserable realization in ya tent.
- 🚫📝 Pillow – Outdoor Vitals Ultralight – not sure if I’ll take it or do the classic ‘clothes as pillow’ move but I got it for free so…? Classic clothes as pillow for the win! Not worth the weight even though it was super light.
- ✅📝 Sleeping Bag – North Face 0/-18 Furnace Down Bag – do your research on the temp rating – there’s lots of variance in the ranges, how warm/cold you sleep, gender, etc. Some Kili routes stay in huts vs tents and that can flex what you need re: Sleeping Pad/Bag/Liner. Adding here – practice how to zip up the top/wind baffles and the cinch cord before you are on a mountain. You’re welcome.
- ✅ Sleeping Bag Liner – Sea to Summit CoolMax – keeps your bag clean/less likely to need washing and another warm layer
- ✅ 📝 Duffel – North Face Base Camp Medium 71L – specifically for Kilimanjaro there are weight limits to your duffel to protect the porters, so the medium/71L was best for me as a chronic overpacker. This will carry everything I’m not wearing/carrying during the day, including my sleeping bag, add’l clothes, gear, med kit, etc. Also – petty – but I really loved the mountain color scheme on mine and knew it would help inspire me during training and be pretty unique from the other solid-color North Face Base Camp duffels on the side of the mountain. Whew. I was at max capacity with everything in this bag. And the weight was 2lbs over the weight when I was at home. We made it at weigh-in at the gate (10kg) but I was pretty anxious they were going to walk over and make me empty it. For some reason, no matter how many layers I was wearing…I still had to really lean to close this bag every morning. If you’re thinking about a Base Camp duffel size-wise I’d say do the L size (mine is a M, 71L) but I’m also a chronic overpacked so I definitely would have had an easier time zipping it shut but would have struggled to cut items when I had room to spare.
- ✅ Compression Stuff Sack – Kelty Compression Stuff Sack – I have the XL but could have gotten a L (it was out of stock) to smoosh my sleeping bag smaller in the duffel.
- 📝 Tent – if you’re like ‘wheres the tent Bails are you sleeping outdoors on a MOUNTAIN with CRITTERS’ – this item is provided by the guide company so while I personally own a tent (hi, 2-person Coleman Sundome I got for $25) I’m not taking it with me to Africa. They use the Mountain Hardware 3-person Trango model; they usually have 2 clients : tent but they gave me and the other climber our own. Great for privacy and hanging my sweaty ‘laundry’ to dry at night, but pretty cold! I would have loved another person’s body warmth in there, haha! Lots of door options, places to hang stuff, etc.
- ✅ 📝 Boots – Lowa Renegade GTX Mid – seriously, do go at least a 1/2 size up. This was super worth it to buy from REI and test out; I did end up returning to go up 1/2 a size. Your feet will swell and you likely will need more room if you’re doing multiple sock layers such as liner/hiking sock (which I do). A helpful test was to put on my intended socks, lace them and walk down a set of stairs to see if my toes touched the front or not. Y’all – I looked at my boots post trip and they are worn through in the heels. I don’t think it was the mountain; I think it was probably Chicago sidewalks. Still, weird that I never noticed/looked!
- ✅ Socks – Darn Tough Vermont (Micro Crew, Boot, Mountaineering) – I was a Smartwool lifer until I tried Darn Tough and I’m just mad it took me this long to find the greatest sock(s) of all time. NO CONTEST. Thanks Johnny B for the realization!
- ✅ Sock Liner – Silk REI liner, Icebreaker Wool Liner – didn’t start to need these until my walks got over 2, 2.5 hours and I was so glad to have them!
- 🚫📝 Foot Stick to avoid blisters – this thing is GOLDEN for my feet; I finally found a good blend is a little of this BodyGlide stick on my common blister spots, a sock liner, then the wool hiking sock *chef’s kiss* I found that some preventative taping worked better the longer my walks get; using pre-wrap, second skin and cheap fabric tape from my med kit/local Dollar Tree.
- ✅ 📝 Camp Shoe – Crocs – sigh, yes. No one is stealing these ugly, insanely bright things. I waited until a triple-down on Zappos (sale, birthday coupon and points) so I at least could look myself in the eye for spending as little money as possible on these. Apparently they are the best shoe to put your swollen, end-of-day feet in and wear around camp; also v lightweight and easy to rinse off if muddy. Still true, but I will say they’re pretty cold on the frosty nights – I mean – there’s holes in them. Starting on the 5th night I just wore my boots all the time. It’s nice to let your boots dry out but also it was just so cold in the Crocs once the sun went down, even with double layered dry socks.
- ✅ ↔️ 📝 Underwear – Icebreaker, Smartwool and Woolx I realized on the long 6+ hour walks in the summer that sweaty booty chafing was a real one, so I got 3 pairs of Exofficios, which was a great choice in the hotter lower days and easy to wash/dry when we were in our overnight between mountain/safari SORRY THIS IS THE REAL REAL TALK, Y’ALL
- ✅ 📝 Bra – Icebreaker Longline and Smartwool – if there’s one thing I’ve learned this year that I’d tell you it’s the value in wool items for heat and cold, breathability and how rarely they smell/stink. Plus, nothing I own is as itchy as you think it might be since they’re blended w synthetics. Sooooo…wool takes awhile to dry…especially when it’s frosty overnight in a tent. I still think this was the right smell choice but wish I’d taken out the liner cups, which took longer to dry slash sometimes may not have been dry. But even when damp, the wool did what it’s supposed to and kept me warm!
- ✅ ↔️ 📝 Base Layers – Odlo, Icebreaker, Patagonia – The Odlos are amazing; wide, soft waistband but don’t fall down after several wears. If you can snag them on sale they’re so worth it. I’ve been wearing them all winter in the house too! The Icebreakers are also great for warmth but that thin waistband does migrate/dig in. I only ended up taking 1 pair of Odlos and the Patagonias; it was for weight. Really there were only 2x when I wore both at the same time (Mornings of Day 6 & 7); the Icebreakers went out due to weight and that waistband.
- ✅ 📝 Hiking Pants – Eddie Bauer (Guide Pro Pants ) – If you can snag these on a 50% off sale they’re awesome – also sign up for the EB Adventure Rewards because every other month they’re like ‘here’s $10 use however you want no minimum’ so hitting a 50% off sale + $10 off really is a sweet spot! I will say – I like the pants much better than the leggings, they may get voted off the (duffel) island. The leggings are the weakest link, goodbye, they did not come
- ✅ Fleece Pants – Columbia Exploration Pants – I’ve layered these with base layer and hiking pant this past week in the 0-10F degree range while walking and they’re perfect; also love me a zip pocket to keep all my secretsss.
- ✅ Rain Pants/Shell – REI Rainier Full-Zip Pants – used twice, stayed dry!
- 🚫 📝 Shorts – Eddie Bauer’s Guide Pro Shorts – the pockets, the length, all perfect for long walks/hikes I ended up taking them on safari but not the mountain; I am too lazy to put sunscreen on my legs and after having a sun rash in August I was like, ‘I’ll just wear pants, even on the lower elevation days.’
- ↔️ 📝 Sun Shirt – 🚫 Mountain Hardwear Crater Lake Hoodie – I love these so, so much that I own three of them. As a pale goblin I need to hide myself from the Sun’s vengeance and these rock, hands down. SPF/UPF 50, a hood, thumb holes to cover hands, lil zip pocket for keys – plus – super thin so you stay cool! Note that these can smell t-e-r-r-i-b-l-e after one sweaty, sunny wear since they’re 100% synthetic. Wash ’em or learn to live with it. I do love this model, but coming back from Baker I was lured into the Exofficio store with a huge sale sign and found 2 sun shirts with their built-in bugspray tech – and the idea of a UPF sun shirt and bug resistance was awesome. I brought like 4 sun shirts to TZ but only one on Kili (the other 3 on safari). They were going to smell no matter what, might as well take just the one. I wore it every day but one, I think. Just learn to live with it!
- ✅ 📝 Base Layers – 🚫 Odlo, Helly Hansen, 🚫 Smartwool, Patagonia – I never got the hype about Helly Hansen before but she’s currently my fave with the 1/4 zip. I ended up just taking the HH and Patagonia; one light, one mid/heavyweight. The Odlo one stayed home even though it’s a comfort fave; it’s the same weight as the HH and I liked the convertible-ness of the HH quarter zip!
- ✅ 📝 Fleece Layer – Women’s Monkey Fleece Hooded – I’m linking the Men’s one here because I can’t find the women’s (discontinued?) but this thing was my wish list item I was gifted and it’s phenomenal. Four functional pockets in a WOMENS CLOTHING ITEM?! RING A BELL! This was everything and more. I loved this; probably the MVP item.
- 🚫 📝 Soft Shell Jacket – Stormtech Performance – not sure I’m going to take this one, jury is still out (aka I’ll weigh the duffel and decide). My current layer system without it is good/solid. Officially soft shells are on a lot of lists but I am leaning towards ‘no’ for this item in my system since I run hot. I might sneak an extra thin fleece layer instead to sleep in – an Arcteryx Delta LT Women’s Jacket I was so warm in my layer system; just necessary weight. I did take my Arcteryx fleece for non-mountain nights though!
- ✅ Puffer Layer – Marmot Quasar Down Hoodie – can fit under the hard shell since it’s thin!
- ✅ Hard Shell GORE-TEX Jacket – REI GTX at first because I was a size 16/18 and needed to fit all the above layers underneath; it came in a 2x. I found a screaming deal at Nordstrom Rack with a +25% off ‘Clear the Rack’ discount on this XL Mountain Hardwear Rain Shell I (and m’layers) now fit into. The big reason to upgrade? Pit zips. Do not discount these. Pit zips are so worth the upgrade to stay dry but not overheat.
- ✅ 📝 Gloves – Mountain Hardwear Firefall GTX Mitten – What?! A MITTEN?! Yup. I tried out a GORE-TEX outer glove and it was too cold for me plus didn’t have good grip. I kind of figure if you’re not going to get good grip in a glove you might as well get warmth with a mitten. Another sell for me? Having a ‘leash’ to slip them off and use my camera with just the glove liners and not drop the mitten while doing it. OK honestly? Only wore them once and they were so cumbersome. I wish I’d done gloves or just powered through. I wore the liners below for 3 days solid; they’re a ride-or-die item. The mittens were meh; mostly I slept in them on the coldest nights.
- ✅ Glove Liner – Icebreaker Quantum – good for a single layer when cool or warming up or to layer under the mittens. Plus since it’s a glove (not mitten) I get that finger dexterity back.
- ✅ Sun Hat – Adidas Superlite UPF OR 🚫Sunday Afternoons Ultra Adventure Hat (did take this on safari though)– SO nerdy in the Sunday Afternoons hat but it does have an all around brim, which is good for Bails vs. Sun. But the Adidas has been my go-to in Chicago with my sun hoodie pulled up in the back. I need to choose…
- ✅ Warm Hat – Carhartt Acrylic Hat OR 🚫 Columbia Beanie – literally a vanity decision here too just need to make it *sing-song voice* but which color do I like betttttter
- ✅ Sunglasses – 🚫 Eddie Bauer Preston Polarized have been my all around but I had to buy some Julbos (I got the Chameleon for Spectron 2-4 UV) for Mt. Baker (end of July) so I’ll probably take those unless they have some super rage-y issue
- ✅ 📝 Various neck gaiters/buffs – Turtle Fur, Buff, etc. Ended up just taking 1 merino wool Buff, 1 standard bright pink-ish Buff and a Mountain Madness one the company gave us before Baker!
- ✅ 📝 Gaiters – Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain – got to try these for the first time in a verrrry deep snow in Chicago in Feb and they were poifect! We wore these EVERY DAY – it was so dusty on Kili. I thought we’d wear these just to really descend but we wore them all day every day on the climb up and down and I was happy we did. Make sure you’re comfortable in yours and you can put them on/off easily!
- ✅ Camera/Gear – I’ve already owned my Canon T6i for a couple of years but some additional accessories were a clip from Peak Design, monster battery pack from RAVPower and an upgraded camera strap (Peak Design again)!
- 🚫📝 SheWee – OK, this was like, low on my list. They’re on most company lists but not many personal Kili lists. I didn’t think I’d get a FUD (female urination device). But then I had a glorious conversation with my OBGYN at my annual and found out – clad only in a paper gown – that she had climbed Kili in 2012! We chattered away happily while checking me for lumps, bumps and good health and she was like ‘you have to get one.’ I said, ‘really?’ and she says ‘it’s not just for privacy but honestly? Your legs are going to be so tired and shaky that you will struggle to keep your balance when you squat. And there’s not always somewhere out of the way/off the path that’s safe.’ Which hadn’t occurred to me – from both a muscle exertion and safety angle – and I trust her, so I got one. I’ve only used it once outdoors, with questionable success. I didn’t pee on myself but I like, couldn’t pee? Lifetime of don’t-pee-don’t-pee while standing up is hard to turn off. Apparently I need to practice in the shower, per the company – and I just ended up squatting in the trees on that aforementioned questionable success attempt! I tried, y’all. I couldn’t figure it out without peeing on myself in the shower. And you know what you don’t want to be on the side of a mountain in enclosed mess tents, etc. with other people, rewearing the same clothes every day for 8 days straight? The girl who pissed on herself. So I left it here *shrug*
There’s other small gear things to list out like items in my med kit, etc. that I don’t have links to but I’m taking – it’s a long list of ‘you might need so you should probably bring’ from ✅ Pepto Bismol to ✅ Diamox to 🚫 WonderWoman bandaids. There’s also more of the typical items you’d think of taking – ✅ TP, ✅ bug spray, ✅ sunscreen, ✅ luggage tags, ✅ RFID passport wallet, etc. But this is 95% of my gear list and what I plan on using! Let me know if you have add’l ideas or tips or questions and I’ll update. Happy hunting! I might flesh out this section a bit more; there were a lot of nice-to-haves that I ended up leaving here or leaving in my suitcase at HQ after gear check with our lead guide/I had a hard ‘do I really want to carry this myself’ conversation. Feel free to comment/ask any questions!