Climbing Kilimanjaro in September: Help with gear

11:33 a.m. on June 25, 2010 (EDT)
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I am planning to hike Kilimanjaro mid to late September. Very excited!! I had to toss my hiking boots in the trash after climbing Mount Colvin in the ADK this past weekend. They were Merrell's and did not last long at all. My experience has been that they made great boots until recently....but this is not meant to be a Merrell-bashing. I have become totally confused about what are the best hiking boots to buy to climb Kili, and also to do the local hikes: two pairs or one?? Socks? foot inserts?? BAckpacks?? Clothing?? I can say that in the past I have avoided goretex as my experience is it is not breathable and my feet get HOT. Any ideas from those that know is very much appreciated!!


2:35 p.m. on June 25, 2010 (EDT)
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For about $625 you can get the very last pair of boots you should ever need.

No, I don't have a pair =(. Depending on their backlog, you may already be too late to even get them in time for your trip, let alone actually breaking them in.

If that price is too steep, then the best advice is to start visiting outfitting shops knowledgable in footwear and start trying on boots.

4:09 p.m. on June 25, 2010 (EDT)
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If you happen to see a recent copy of the Arizona Highways magazine, there's a great article about a parapalegic guy who rode a self-built bike up Kilimanjaro. He has no use of his legs.

8:33 p.m. on June 25, 2010 (EDT)
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Read my article here on Trailspace.It should give you some idea of the conditions. Since Kili is 3 deg south of the equator, the weather does not change much year around, except for a more or less "dry" season and "rainy" season.

You will note in the photo below that we did have some snow the day before summit day. Nonetheless, most of the porters (required by Tanzanian law, along with your guide and cook) wear trail running shoes. The trails (except the Western Breach) are good hiking trails. So in terms of footgear, go to a trained and experienced bootfitter, get a pair of boots under his/her guidance (and have the fitting adjustments done), then wear them on 50-100 miles of hiking around your area, preferably on hilly trails.The fitting will almost certainly include good quality footbeds, such as Superfeet.

As far as socks are concerned, the usual basic sock combination works just fine - a pair of thin wicking socks under a pair of heavy wool socks (heavy can be "medium hikers", in the current terminology of the sock manufacturers). Of the current socks on the market, I find Smartwool to be the best overall (and I get lots of different brands to test - Smartwool is the one I actually spend money for- they are Merino wool).

No reason to get more than one well-fitted pair of boots. But get full-leather. Goretex does not breathe well enough in the lower sections (in the rain forest - and it is guaranteed to rain in the rain forest, which is the first 2-3 days, depending on your route). Light-weight hikers are plenty. You are restricted to 10 kilos in your pack, so mid to heavy boots are unnecessary, much less mountaineering boots.

Pack? What pack? You, as a client, are not allowed to carry more than 10 kilo - your rain gear, a warm layer, lunch, and 2-3 liters of water. Plus your camera. Your required porters and cook will carry all your camping and cooking gear, plus your food. But they are only allowed to carry about 15 kilo of your gear each (you have more? well, you get another porter - that's the law in Tanzania). A daypack is plenty. I carried a Lowe Alpine Attack 40, and kept getting told I was carrying too much weight and should give the excess to the porters (yeah, but I am used to carrying more like 20 kilo when I include the camera gear that a trek like this demands - exotic flowers, colobus monkeys, birds of all varieties, the giant lobelia, etc etc).

You will need a sleeping bag good to the 0 to 10F range, but you can probably get the guide service to provide the foam pad. I took my usual Thermarest plus blue foam, expecting to sleep on snow, but the Thermarest would have been plenty by itself.

Take your own supply of toilet paper. The outhouses (a small square hole in the floor you squat over - watch your aim!) are pretty basic, even the new ones put in over the last 10 years or so.

Your guide, porters, and cook will appreciate your making a sincere effort to learn at least a little bit of Swahili. Words to know -

Hujambo = hello, but the following is better -

Sijambo = hello (and I am willing to try a bit of Swahili - much more friendly)

Habari za asubuhi = good morning

Habari sa leo = good day

Habari za jioni = good evening.

Asante = thank you

Asante sana = thank you very much

Nisamehe = pardon me (one of the vital words in any language)

Samahani = I'm sorry (again, a vital word in any language)

Ndiyo = yes (do not say this to any street vendors in town or the T-shirt vendors at the exit gate)

Hapana = no (only word to say to the vendors, who will follow "white fellas" for miles, trying to sell you Maasai spears - illegal to take on the plane, velvet paintings, and other stuff). Say HAPANA! very forcefully. There are fixed location arts and crafts shops that sell reasonably high quality goods, if you really want them as souveniers - locally made, too, not from Vietnam or Bengladesh (I am not joking - look at the labels).

And, of course, when the guide says, "Polepole", he really does want you to make it up the hill. Even with as little weight as you will carry, don't rush it.

And speaking about "poles", hiking poles are really good to have on the trails on Kili.

May 22, 2018
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