Jackets for Kilimanjaro

8:41 a.m. on March 25, 2012 (EDT)
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Hi,

I am hiking Kilimanjaro in October, and having never completed anything anywhere near that magnitude before - Ben Nevis is currently the most difficult hike I've attempted - I am need of a lot of gear.

Over the last few weeks I've spent hours, and days, searching the net for advice on equipment. I've found many great website, and lots of searches on Google directed me to this forum, where I've gained a much better understanding (I hope!) of the importance of layering. In particular Bill S has made some great points and I enjoyed reading his journal of the hike.

Please can you advise if the gear below is up to the task, and I'd appreciate where I have more than one option if you could advise which may be the most suitable.

Waterproof

Mountain Hardwear stretch cohesion - £75

OR Marmot Oracle - £85 from USA, excl. customs taxes

Mid Layer

Patagonia R1 - £55

OR Merino wool layer

Insulated Jacket


North Face Inlux Insulated - £85

OR Arc'teryx Atom SV Hoody - £120

I'll be wearing thermal base layers under the above.

I've decided against a down jacket as I generally run warm, and reading quite a few journals a lot of people have though they weren't really necessary. Those that did think so only used them for 20 mins or so. Also, after Kilimanjaro such a jacket is unlikely to see much action at all.

This leads me on to the sleeping bag, with me unlikely to be using such a warm sleeping bag again. I note Bill has mentioned he was too warm in his -40 bag. I've seen the Mountain Hardwear Lamina minus 26C rated for £120, is this likely to still be too excessive?

Any advice would be very welcome.

11:42 a.m. on March 25, 2012 (EDT)
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I just went through gathering gear for the Everest Base Camp Trek. I ended up with a Mountain Hardwear hardshell and a Patagonia Fitz Roy Down Hoodie for my insulation. I also have a patagonia 1/4 zip pullover and a Mountain Hardwear Down sweater in my kit. Rmember that when you are sitting still, you will get cold fast without a really good insulation layer.  I got a Big Agnes -0 bag with a  liner and pad so should be good to go to under about 10 degrees. Don't know what your sleeping situation is. Mine is in a expedition tent at Base camp. (17,500 feet). One thing I also did was search blogs of people who went and contacted them with questions as well.

2:10 p.m. on March 25, 2012 (EDT)
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Hoods are always useful

4:37 p.m. on March 25, 2012 (EDT)
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Now I'm starting to think that's not enough kit for the upper body. How about if I added an extra light fleece, such as the MH microchill?

Or do you think I'd need something more substantial than the Arc'teryx Atom SV Hoody for the insulated jacket, for time spent stationary?

6:45 p.m. on March 26, 2012 (EDT)
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The arcteryx atom is a very cool jacket for layering. Under a rain proof shell with some good underwear it runs hot for me. You should test your kit before if you can. Knowing is better than guessing. Remember that you will be at altitude and that can affect the way you run. I own the strech cohesion and a couple of marmot coats as well. Any one of those you mention will be fine. I've fou d the cohesion to be a tad short sometimes. The oracle is a bit longer, I would go for that one. A bag that's rated around -18celcius should do the trick.

11:51 a.m. on March 27, 2012 (EDT)
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mid layer - I have a hooded Indie from Ibex and a similar shirt by Io/Bio and love them both.  The combination of zipper and hood allow the garment to fit a very wide range of temperatures.  I doubt I'll ever venture out again in the bush without one of these pieces.

http://shop.ibex.com/Apparel/Mens-Long-Sleeve/M-Hooded-Indie



3:53 p.m. on March 27, 2012 (EDT)
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Louis-Alexis said:

Remember that you will be at altitude and that can affect the way you run.

 

Running up Kilimanjaro, you must be mad! Joking of course, I know what you mean. Great to have some feedback from someone who has tried a few of the jackets.

I've managed to get to a few outlets in the last couple of days, unfortunately most of the jackets I was looking at aren't in stock locally. But worth the visit in any case as I've found the hiking boots with the perfect fit, which had been an issue as I've very wide feet (Salomon Quest 4D GTX if anyone's interested).

After weeks of researching I'm finally ready to start splashing the cash.

Alan, the Ibex hoody looks interesting, and does have good reviews. Is that a base layer which can be worn next to the skin i.e. instead of a shirt? It's quite expensive in the UK though, cheapest I've found is about $115.

4:09 p.m. on March 27, 2012 (EDT)
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Just one more thing on the sleeping bag, if I go for one around -18C is that the extreme, comfort limit, or comfort temp?

The Mountain Equip Starlight IV is on offer near me at the moment which is rated:

  • EXTREME TEMPERATURE: -31°C
  • COMFORT LIMIT TEMPERATURE: -12°C
  • COMFORT TEMPERATURE: -5°C
  • SLEEPZONE: 10 to -18°C
4:32 p.m. on March 27, 2012 (EDT)
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In general the ring they give on sleeping bag is an average and the comfort zone is never the indicated temp. It's a shame you can't find the jacket you wanted. The tempo jacket from RAB looks like the Cohesion in some aspect. For what you're doing it should perform as good as your original selection. Another good thing to have on Kilimanjaro is a buff. It will help with the dust and the wind. 

Dont hesitate if you need anything else.

9:25 a.m. on March 28, 2012 (EDT)
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I've found an online retailer which can offer the Stretch Cohesion for £75, and I've also seen the Patagonia Rain Shadow for £60.

I've seen a number of websites reviewing the Patagonia which scores very well for value for money, and whilst not boasting the features of the more expensive jackets, it generally scores well.

The Stretch cohesion however, I've only managed to find a couple of review (well 3 including yours, Louis!).

Here's a link to a Rain shadow review:

Actually I see linking isn't allowed. It was on the outdoorgearlab .com website anyway.

The negative points on the reviews are that it doesn't breathe particularly well. How about the Cohesion, how does that stack up for breath ability? The difficulty in comparing these jackets is the propriety terminology the manufacturers use, making it hard to compare like-for-like.

Ordered the Arcteryx Atom SV + Salomons last night!

7:36 p.m. on March 28, 2012 (EDT)
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Breathability on those jacket is assured by opening the vents and pockets. Trying to understand or compare breathability is an exercise in patience or madness, you're choice. I can tell you though, that the cohesion is not my most breathable jacket. A small amount of effort is needed for me to wet the interior which, thanks to the slick finish, makes condensation appear. Opening the vents/pockets all the way helps keep me dryer. I particularly like the hood. It cover everything very well.

2:09 p.m. on March 29, 2012 (EDT)
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Look through the threads using "search." This question has been asked before. Look for posts from BillS who did Kili a few years ago and posted about what he was wearing.

Be sure the bag rating you are looking at is the EN 13537 comfort rating, not the extreme rating. Any bag sold in the EU should be rated. Here is a good explanation-

http://sectionhiker.com/deciphering-en13537-sleeping-bag-temperature-ratings/

10:13 a.m. on April 10, 2012 (EDT)
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Remember a trip to Africa is very different than a trip to the Himalayas or the arctic. You may encounter a dusting of snow (or even occasional heavy snow) at the summit, but for the most part temperatures will be WELL above freezing.

The kit you use on a shoulder season hill walk in Britain should work just fine, but you might want to add a down sweater (light, very compressible) for extra warmth on summit day.

And a -10°C sleeping bag should be fine.

3:04 a.m. on April 22, 2012 (EDT)
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Greetings!  Haven't been on this site in awhile but I just summitted Kilimanjaro (via the Machame Route) last month.

Here's what I wore on summit night:

Top:

Patagonia Cap 3 midweight

Patagonia Merino 4

Patagonia R1 Hoody

Patagonia Hi-Loft 3 fleece

Rab Xenon (when we started, I didn't have this on but I put it on after a couple hours)

Bottom:

I/O Bio Merino

Patagonia Cap 3

Patagonia Rock Guide pants

Socks:

Merino wool liner

Merino wool heavy socks (brand name escapes me at the moment)

Gloves:

Smart wool liners

Outdoor Research gloves

 

Gees, I didn't realize I wore so much Patagonia stuff.

My hands and feet were the coldest.  My legs and upper body were totally fine.  If I had to do it over again (which I'm not sure I would want to!  Haha), I'd bring warmer gloves (probably mittens) and I might consider bringing a balaclava.  I'd probably also bring hiking boots rather than the hiking shoes that I brought.  On day 3, we slogged through snow and slush and my feet got a little wet.  I don't think that would've been the case if I had brought my boots instead (don't ask me why I left the boots at home). 

Oh, and one of the best pieces of advice I can give you (besides keeping hydrated and yada, yada, yada....) bring your iPod with you on the summit night.  It'll help break up the monotony of going "pole pole" (Swahili for slowly, slowly).  You won't go at a fast enough pace to warm your body so make sure you bring warm clothes.  My friends who were with me were freezing their butts off (we're all from Hawaii) but I was definitely the most prepared for the cold.

As for your sleeping bag, I brought a Kelty Cosmic Down 20 and I was perfectly fine with it.  In fact it was a little too warm for me on a couple nights as I was sweating (I slept with Patagonia Cap 3 layers on top and on bottom). 

3:07 a.m. on April 22, 2012 (EDT)
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Oh, and for my waterproof jacket, I brought my Rab Latok Alpine...which came in quite handy cause we got dumped on during the first two days.

9:41 a.m. on April 22, 2012 (EDT)
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peter1955 said:

Remember a trip to Africa is very different than a trip to the Himalayas or the arctic. You may encounter a dusting of snow (or even occasional heavy snow) at the summit, but for the most part temperatures will be WELL above freezing.

The kit you use on a shoulder season hill walk in Britain should work just fine, but you might want to add a down sweater (light, very compressible) for extra warmth on summit day.

And a -10°C sleeping bag should be fine.

 I respectfully disagree with regard to the need for a good insulating layer, even if only for the top of the walk. Everyone I have spoken with who has don Kili has talked about how cold they were. While you may not experience a snow storm, the temps can be quite uncomfortable, so a good 800 fill down jacket would be a must for me, even if sparingly used. Also, toss a hot bottle of water in the bag at night to keep the toes warm.

9:32 p.m. on April 22, 2012 (EDT)
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Sam,

Well, you got a bunch of opinions, which vary from one another greatly, and only one from someone who actually hiked up the hill (plus reading my trip report). Something to keep in mind, of course, is that even though Kili is only 3 deg south of the Equator, the weather does change from day to day and with the seasons.

Since I do not see it in your posts, have you signed a guide service? If so, who? If not, I strongly suggest you book with a local guide service (locally owned and run by the guides and porters themselves), not through a European or US based service. And in Moshi, would be my first choice. The foreign companies are required to hire local guides and porters, just like any foreigners are. So you will pay less (not paying the foreign company overhead and for their personnel), and if you make an attempt to learn a bit of Swahili and talk to the guide and porters, you will have a much more pleasant experience. That said, there is an adventure travel brokerage that acts only as an intermediary between you and the local guide service that we used, based in Colorado (but services Europeans as well as Americans and Canadians), named Adventures Within Reach. They are very much environmentally oriented and make a point of using local guide services. Considering that there was a huge brouhaha a few years back that led to most of the guides and porters union breaking off and forming their own guide services (the foreign and foreign-owned "local" companies were way overworking and underpaying the guides and porters).

Second thing, I suggest you get Explore Mount Kilimanjaro, by Jaquetta Megarry, published by Rucksack Readers, Landrick Lodge, Dunblane, FK15OHY, UK, phone +44/0 1786 824 696. A Brit friend of mine recommended it to me - great maps (waterproof) and a lot of excellent tips.

Some gear comments:

Pack - a daypack of about 40 liters. The porters carry all your gear except your lunch, water, rain gear, and camera gear (yes, take that big DSLR - you will be wanting to take lots of photos, especially during the first and last days when you are in the rain forest and the Colobus monkeys are leaping through the trees). You will probably be wearing the rain gear the first day, while in the rain forest, plus maybe a few other days.

Dry bag - this is for your warm layers down low, plus sleeping bag, sleeping pad, etc. You could use a large waterproof duffle for this, but I found the 2 Sea to Summit dry bags I used worked better. Thing is the porters will carry this and they are officially limited to 15 kg of client gear (plus their own gear, food, etc).

Clothing - note well that in all the photos until summit day, we were wearing microfiber pants and either microfiber longsleeve or T-shirts, with no longjohns:

wicking underpants and T-shirt

mid-weight longjohns (top and bottom - I used Patagonia Capilene, because that's what I have - you will use these only on summit day, starting about midnight)

microfiber pants for hiking and around camp

long-sleeve microfiber shirt - I used my Ex Officio Buzz-off that I had for keeping the mosquitoes off during the safari part of the trip

waterproof breathable jacket (Marmot Alpinist 3, now retired and replaced with a much more breathable eVent Wild Things jacket - make sure you have pit zips - you will really want them when hiking in the rain in the rain forest)

waterproof breathable FULL SIDE ZIP bibs/pants/salopette (Wild Things bib in my case for Kili. My son has an equivalent Rab salopette). If you can get ones that allow venting the sides (velcro patches to allow the side zippers to be mostly unzipped, but not flapping if wind comes up, so much the better. I used to have a Marmot bib that was like that, but it is no longer available.

top-quality poncho - normally I would not suggest a poncho for hikes. However, in the hot, humid rain forest sections, a good poncho that has snaps all the way down the sides and a hood, so it fits over your day pack, is much cooler. It can be ripstop nylon with a polyurethane flashcoat (doesn't need to be breathable). That's what the guides wear until you are at high camp, and for good reason. Just much better ventilation than a full rainsuit

fleece jacket equivalent to Polartec 300 or Patagonia R3 - mostly for evening in camp.

light Primaloft puff jacket (Integral Designs Dolomiti was perfect, but after ID was bought by Rab, this was discontinued. Rab does have an equivalent. Patagonia's Puff jacket with hood is an alternative - Nanopuff and Micropuff are too light). I recommend against a down sweater, because of how damp things can get) - it can get cold and breezy on summit day. I started out, as usual, slightly cool from camp, expecting to warm up. But when we got about 1000 ft up, the temperature was significantly lower than I expected (my chocolate snack bars and 5-Hour energy drink in an outer jacket pocket were frozen solid, though my Camelbak hydration bladder, worn under my layers with the hose running down the sleeve was just fine all the way to the summit and back)

Gloves - Waterproof shell, medium liner

Peruvian-style Windstopper hat (bu Outdoor Research)

Balaclava (Windstopper, from Mountain Hardwear - has mesh over the ears so you can hear - straight Windstopper really blocks hearing).

Lowa boots (full leather) for the hiking - Personally, I have warm feet and hands, so I recommend strongly against goretex-lined boots. You are likely to encounter enough damp weather to make mesh boots and trail-running shoes an uncomfortable choice, though a lot of the porters wear tennis shoes (that's partly economics, though). I had rain on Day 1, rain and sleet on Day 2, rain, sleet, snow and dense fog on Day 3 (to Barranca), light snow on Day 4 (to Barafu), clear and cold to the summit and back to Barafu, rest 2 hours, then warm getting to hot during the drop 9200 ft to Mweka Camp on Day 5, and hot and humid down another 7300 ft through the rain forest to Mweka Gate on Day 6. I was very glad to have the boots (broken in and properly fitted, of course)!

Socks - thin wicking liners (I use Injinji toed socks these days, but not on Kili), plus hiker-thickness merino wool outer socks. I did a change of socks for summit day, and wore those all the way back to the exit gate.

Trekking poles - an absolute must! Especially on summit day, where you go from high camp (4600m) to the summit (5896 m), back to high camp for a couple hours rest, then down to Mweka Camp (3100 m), for an ascent of 1296 m, followed by an almost straight through descent of 2795 meters for a 10 mile day. That 16,500 ft from the summit to the gate on the last two days leves a lot of people with sore knees and often sore feet as well (that's why you need really good, supportive boots).

The guides and cooks will be boiling water and using Steripens for your water. However, the water at Mweka camp apparently has some minerals in it (you are on the side of a volcano, after all) that upsets some people's stomachs (sulfur salts?). I wasn't bothered, but many non-locals apparently are.

Sleeping bag - as I noted in my trip report, I took my -40F/C bag, expecting much colder weather than I encountered (I slept in a tent the full time). My +15F/-10C Integral Designs Primaloft bag would have been just fine, since I could have slept in my longjohns , and maybe added my Dolomiti jacket if I had felt cold at high camp. The -40 bag was definitely overkill. I have seen recommendations of -10F/-25C, but it never got that cold. Megarry recommends -15C to -18C. The Starlight IV should be fine, and you can sleep in the longjohns and parka at high camp if not.

Sleeping pad - I used a combination of a 3/4 length standard Thermarest and a "blue foam" full length closed cell pad. In part this was because I was expecting colder weather, perhaps sleeping on snow. Well, we only had a few cm of snow, which would melt off during the day (except on the summit). The porters carry extra pads, so check with your guide service - you may be able to get along without a sleeping pad of your own.

No tent needed - furnished by your guide service (don't choose the extra cost huts - I understand they are not too clean anyway).

Don't forget to use lots of sunscreen, at least SPF 50 and broad spectrum. You will likely be using an antimalarial - read the side effects closely. The one I used turns out to have a side effect of making you more sensitive to sunlight, and indeed I did get a bit of a sunburn, despite using SPF50.

Good idea to take some gifts for the guide and porters, in addition to the tip. Because I was trying to learn Swahili and talking to the guide and porters, I was able to ascertain which of them were doing more or less. The guide obviously gets the most (he is with you all day), cook next (the amount of food was HUGE, and really good - I was never able to finish it, since there was enough for a huge meal for both me and my wife - and she wasn't along on the hike), the porters who set up your tent every day next, and, if you have any porters who carry less, you might cut down a bit there. I figured out , based on recommendations from the Adventures Within Reach folks (remember, their cost of living and annual incomes are far less than we in the the "Western" world get). And I brought separate envelopes to give directly to each team member (sealed after adjustments, but before giving them to each one). Seems that if you give the total to the guide (or worse, to the North American or European "guide" and liaison person), the porters might not get a fair share.

Hope this helps. Keep in mind that things change with time.

 

9:24 a.m. on April 23, 2012 (EDT)
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giftogab said:

peter1955 said:

The kit you use on a shoulder season hill walk in Britain should work just fine, but you might want to add a down sweater (light, very compressible) for extra warmth on summit day.

 I respectfully disagree with regard to the need for a good insulating layer, even if only for the top of the walk. Everyone I have spoken with who has done Kili has talked about how cold they were.

I don't think we're actually disagreeing here. I hike at -25°C with a fleece, shell and down sweater and I'm usually too warm. I suggested the OP ADD a down layer to the kit a hiker would normally use on a shoulder season hike in Britain, which I would expect would include some kind of insulation. 

 

1:47 p.m. on April 23, 2012 (EDT)
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MH + P + A

8:10 p.m. on April 23, 2012 (EDT)
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Coincidentally, I used Adventures Within Reach to book my Kili climb and 5-day safari.  Dan, my point of contact, was easy to work with.  AWR uses Tanzania Journeys, Ltd. in country if you'd like to book straight from the source. 

I highly recommend the Kilimanjaro guide by Henry Stedman.  There is a ton of good information in there.

The safari, while excellent and a great experience, was a little long perhaps.  If you're looking to do a safari, there are much cheaper alternatives than the one I took.  I also travelled to Zimbabwe, Zambia, and South Africa on the same trip and it seemed like safaris were much cheaper there.  Of course, the allure of the Serengeti is a huge draw which is one of the reasons why the safaris in Tanzania are expensive.  The park fees are really high.

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