My name is Olivia.
I document my adventures in Madagascar as a Peace Corps Volunteer, with the mission to share culture and empower others through my writing.

The Complete Packing Guide to Climb Mount Kilimanjaro

The Complete Packing Guide to Climb Mount Kilimanjaro


Photo credit: Molly Prentzel

Before attempting to climb the world's highest free-standing mountain, it is important to know what to pack. Here is a list to help prepare you in your adventure to reach the peak:

Base layers
Try to avoid wearing cotton. It does not dry at high altitudes and will stay wet after sweating.

  • 2 moisture wicking t-shirts

  • 2 thermal long-sleeve tops

  • 2 pair of long underwear

  • 2 sports bras

  • 7 pair of underwear

Middle and outer layers
Make sure you can actually fit the layers over each other before starting the climb.

  • 1 mid-weight, moisture-wicking long-sleeve shirt

  • 1 full-zip fleece jacket

  • 1 waterproof hard shell jacket with hood

  • 2 pair of hiking pants (ones that zip off into shorts are best since it will be hot during the first day of hiking. I wore these every day.)

  • 1 pair of light gloves/mittens

  • Knit hat 

  • Balaclava (I recommend a Buff)

  • Baseball hat or hat with wide brim

Be ready with layers. You will be climbing through five different climate zones. Pack lightly for every season. 


  • Ankle-high, waterproof hiking boots (Make sure to break them in before you start hiking.)

  • Shoes for lounging on camp (ones that are easy to slip on and off while wearing socks)

  • 3 pair of wool socks (Save a pair for wear on summit night.)

Summit night is cold, if you couldn't tell. 

What I rented
(Rent what you don't already own or need to own after the climb)

  • Insulated down jacket

  • Sleeping bag (-15C/0F)

  • 1 pair of thick winter gloves

  • 1 pair of waterproof pants 

  • 1 pair of ski pants (for summit night)

  • Walking poles (Even if you don't normally use these when hiking, they are helping when descending the mountain.)

  • Gaiters (these prevent the volcanic ash/sand from getting in your shoes when descending on summit day)


  • 65L pack (used to carry all of my gear. The porters carried this up the mountain)

  • 20-30L day pack (used to carry the essentials for the day, snacks, and water)

  • Rain cover for your day pack

Do not carry any water on the outside of your pack during summit night because it will freeze. Pack a water bottle upside down in your pack and keep it insulated with clothes.

  • 3L Camelbak bladder (Highly suggested as your guides will suggest you drink 3L a day. This is hard to do if you are stopping to get your water bottle out of your pack each time you need a drink)

  • 1 32 oz. Nalgene


Personals & toiletries

  • Basic toiletries including toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant

  • Roll of toilet paper (there will be no toilet paper in the bathrooms on the mountain)

  • Pack of panty liners (This sounds weird, but these are perfect for when you have to pee on the mountain and need to "drip dry".)

  • Face wipes (use these to "shower")

  • Hand sanitizer

  • Sunscreen

  • Chapstick w/SPF

  • Extra hair ties

  • Plastic bag to hold dirty clothes/undies

Make sure to check how many porters will be traveling with your group before arriving. We were a group of three and had 12 porters, plus two guides.


  • 1 headlamp, with extra batteries

  • Polarized sunglasses

  • Quick dry towel (to use after washing your face each morning)

  • 2 dry sacks (to hold electronics and important documents)

  • Hand/feet warmers (for summit night)

  • Digital camera (extra battery)

  • Small notebook/pen

  • Disposable camera (We brought one and it was fun.)

  • iPod (I didn't bring one, but some hikers enjoyed listening to music on summit night to pump them up for the difficult trek.)

  • Money to tip your porters and guides

  • Gift for porters (This is not necessary, but I brought chocolate bars from Madagascar to give to the porters at the end of the climb. They lug all of your clothes/gear up the mountain, in addition to tents, food, etc. They work extremely hard and you will want a way to give back and express your gratitude.)

  • Snacks (We made protein balls.)

First aid

  • Anti-diarrheal medicine (Cipro)

  • Ibuprofen

  • Sunscreen

  • Band-aids and triple antibiotic ointment

  • Diamox (We took one pill each morning to prevent altitude sickness. It does not help if you take the pill after experiencing symptoms of altitude sickness. It is a diuretic, so it is best to take it in the morning, to avoid having to pee in the middle of the night).  


Most importantly, bring a positive attitude. If you don't think you can make it to the top, you can't. Conquering Kili is a game of mental strength and the most resilient and positive hikers are the most successful.

My sister and me at Barafo Camp, the final camp before reaching the summit. Staying positive is important on this climb. Like our porter Joseph always said, "Let's kill Kili, before Kili kills us!"

8 Insider Tips to Hiking Mount Kilimanjaro

8 Insider Tips to Hiking Mount Kilimanjaro