Is this kind of shell sufficient for Kilimanjaro (cold weather)?

12:46 a.m. on April 1, 2011 (EDT)
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Sorry if this is a dumb question, but most of my hiking thus far (except a trip to Machu Picchu back in December) has been limited to day hikes in Hawaii where, as you can imagine, cold weather gear is not of the utmost importance.

Anyway, I'm planning/hoping to summit Kilimanjaro next year (possibly in February) and I know I don't currently have the necessary layers I will need for the trip.  I already have some base layers but I will probably buy some sort of merino wool layer and am also looking at the Mont Bell Down Parka as an additional layer.  So here's the question.  I have a Patagonia Rain Shadow that I used in Peru when it rained...will this be a sufficient shell to use over the other layers in case of rain/snow?  Or do I need something more rugged?  If I do require something more beefy, will something like The Northface Kishtwar or Rab Latok Alpine work?  If not, please provide some recommendations. :)  Money isn't really an issue for me.  In fact, I usually like to buy higher quality items (which of course end up being more expensive) because I'm of the school of thought that better quality will last longer and the cost will be amortized over a longer period of time. :P

Thanks in advance for your help!

2:27 a.m. on April 3, 2011 (EDT)
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stick with your rain won't be too cold if it rains right? as then you will get snow, and the montbell parka should be fine with snow and anyway I think you will find it too warm to hike with it on you, you will use it when you stop for rest or around camp etc.

Take some light-mid base layers, I also like a light mid-layer such as the patagonia R1 (any light fleece or merino will do), a nice warm jacket such as the montbell down parka and something for the rain - the rain shadow is OK, you can find better (that will be stronger and more breathable) but do you need better? (if you do - the Rab is way better then the TNF)

11:13 a.m. on April 3, 2011 (EDT)
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I think that jacket is fairly baggy. It might be what I have by Patagonia, under a different name. If it is, the only thing to worry about would be the fact that it is not very breathable. The Rab jacket might be a bit tighter if it is a climbing model.

So make sure the jacket will have enough room to go over a down sweater/jacket. A synthetic top can always be worn without the jacket, or even on top if it isn't raining too hard. A synthetic duvet would also make a better pillow and be easier to wash.

I am not sure about merino as a mid layer. It is heavy and can get quite sweaty. Why not get a micro fleece hoody, just in case you lose your hat?

Or softshell and keep the lightweight jacket for when it gets really bad?

4:32 p.m. on April 3, 2011 (EDT)
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Yes, the Rain Shadow is kind of baggy.  I assume that'd be an advantage, though, when you need to layer underneath.  No?  And yes, if I recall my trip to Machu Picchu correctly, the Rain Shadow does not breathe all that well either.  I keep reading about "alpine fit" and I assume that means that those jackets are tighter fits?  If you're layering, though, wouldn't you want more room?

As far as layering goes, the base layers that I currently have are all Patagonia Capilene--the heaviest one being a Capilene 3 midweight crew.  Is this preferable over merino?  I keep reading all these glowing reviews about the warmth of the wool, its sweat-wicking ability, the fact that it dries quickly, and that it doesn't get smelly as quickly as synthetics.  For layers, I thought I'd need something over the Cap 3 and between the Montbell Down Parka.  I do have a cheap North Face microfleece (don't know which one because it's not on TNF's website), but I would probably want something a bit warmer than that.

So here are the layers I'm thinking of:

On the skin: Patagonia Cap 3 / Merino wool

Next:  Some type of fleece?  Suggestions?  Patagonia R1 Hoody?

Next:  Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka

Soft shell as the outer most layer (only during rain/snow). 

Is that sufficient?  I hope that's enough layers!  Haha.

4:27 a.m. on April 4, 2011 (EDT)
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Yes, my first paragraph agrees with your first paragraph above. Baggy is great for layering over, alpine fit is layered under (using polarguard etc). I think I could probably layer the Patagonia jacket over a down duvet, it is so baggy.

I find wool can hold too much sweat, compared to synthetics but I find that synthetics, like the R1 hoody, feel horrible next to skin. So either lightweight merino and thin fleece or there might be something with a mix. Your mileage may vary. I know Patagonia were going to start mixing merino and synthetic, so that would be on my list to replace any old base layers.

For day hikes, softshell can't be beat in my opinion. For backpacking, I use a a thin windproof, like pertex, instead of a softshell, as it is lighter and multiple thinner layers is better than a few thick layers. My insulation is usually synthetic so that I can wear it as an outer layer, over any windproof softshell type thing.

Also, merino wool boxer shorts instead of helly hansen ones are better, IMO, provided they are long in the thigh.

Your thread has reminded me that the layering system is never exhausted.

5:14 a.m. on April 4, 2011 (EDT)
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Thanks for your input! :)

8:55 p.m. on April 4, 2011 (EDT)
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wait a few years and short sleeves with be all you need

9:33 p.m. on April 4, 2011 (EDT)
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The reason alpine fit is usually more fit is rather simple. Big insulation (Down or synthetic) is usually worn over the shell. At rest stop. I love merino wool as a base layer because even is wet it doesn't stink and stays warm. Get different thickness and try em out. You'll find what works best for you. I use a system of layer that I love that I posted before. In short is goes like this:

Wool base layer, Power strech micro-fleece,, thin Windstopper soft shell, WPB jacket, Synthetic insulation jacket. I remove or add layers depending.

You wont be hiking in your your montbell parka that for sure. ;-)

Good climb.

6:13 a.m. on April 5, 2011 (EDT)
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Haha.  I never gave too much thought to that....the part about hiking in the Montbell Parka.  For some reason, I thought I would be.  But now that you mention it, I guess it'd be much too warm to hike while wearing that.  Not to mention that I'm assuming it doesn't breathe well.  Haha.  I don't know why I didn't of that earlier.  I guess cause I'm a newbie. :P

So I've been spending hours (!) researching and came across something else...Primaloft versus down.  From what I've read down is still warmer than Primaloft but Primaloft has an advantage in that it's more water resistant and weatherproof.  So instead of the Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka would something like the Rab Microlight Alpine Jacket be better?  How much warmer is the Montbell versus the Rab?  And how much rain could the Montbell handle before it'd be rendered fairly useless (due to the down getting wet and losing its loft)?  I'm not asking how much rain it could handle in a literal sense, but is it okay if it's gets kind of wet or do I need to shed that thing (or put a shell over it) the moment it starts to drizzle?

To add to the confusion...would the Montbell U.L. Thermawrap Parka be a better alternative to either the Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka or the Rab Microlight Alpine Jacket?

My head is swimming with so many choices!!!

8:45 a.m. on April 5, 2011 (EDT)
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nworbled- I just came across a thread on another forum. Winter at Kili is August and January is the semi-dry season. I would figure Febuary also. But they said in the high camps temps were 25f when they were their in August their (winter). The day they went for the summit the temp was -10f..One person going in January this year is taking a Montbel Alpine light Parka and the individual who was their in august reccomended that and other down layering..They also kept their Camelback under their parka to keep it from freezing...

2:01 p.m. on April 5, 2011 (EDT)
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If you plan on getting it wet dont bring down. Remember you can get it wet it from the inside with your own sweat. Personally considering the dusty nature of the Kilimandjaro, (at least that's what I've heard...) I wouldn't bring down just cuz I hate washing the darn thing after wards. Not that you'll be washing it during your trip, but afterwards... In any case bring a bandana to filter some of the dust while your walking.

1:17 p.m. on April 6, 2011 (EDT)
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Sorry I didn't notice this earlier. You can get some clues from my trip report on Kilimanjaro here on Trailspace. I did the hike in December, which is at the tail end of one of the rainy seasons.

Most (all?) of the posts above seem to be from people who haven't done the hike. Make no mistake, almost all the routes are hikes, not climbs, on quite good trails.

During the first day from the gate, you will be in rain forest, and same on the last day back to the gate (and probably on the next to last day as well). You may want a full rain suit (jacket and pants), although this is one of the very few places I would ever recommend a poncho (a good quality poncho with snaps on the sides, meaning a nylon poncho, not one of the cheap plastic things that tears easily). If you click on the third photo in my report, you can see a large size version, and in it you notice that one person (a guide) is carrying an umbrella and another is wearing a poncho. It is hot and humid in the rain forest (remember, Kili is only 3 degrees south of the Equator). So a full waterproof jacket and pants will not breathe anywhere well enough (click on the summit photo and you will see that I have on eVent jacket and bibs - Goretex is much poorer at breathability than eVent, and in the rain forest sections, I was sweating heavily, despite having the pit zips wide open). A poncho allows enough ventilation to reduce the sweat accumulation.

I highly recommend using a Primaloft bag and a light Primaloft jacket (Integral Designs Dolomiti proved ideal on that hike). I took a good down sleeping bag because I anticipated it would be much colder than it turned out to be (I had no problem with getting the down wet because (1) I have many years experience in camping in wet conditions and know how to keep down dry and (2) I stored everything each day in a Sea to Summit drybag that was to be carried by the porters - you are required by Tanzanian law and park regulations to use local porters, guide, and cook on Kili). 

Definitely use layers that are easy to get on and off. You won't need long johns until the upper part of the mountain. You didn't say which route, but if you are coming from the more usual trails, that would be from the Shira (12,000 ft) or Barranca (13,000 ft) camp or equivalent on up. I wore Supplex (by REI or Columbia, don't remember which) pants and an Ex Officio light shirt most of the way, with a fleece jack at the lower camps and used the Dolomiti higher up at Barafu (the highest camp). I did wear the fleece on summit day from Barafu to the summit and back down to Barafu, but took it off for the hike back down to the gate. I also wore my Wild Things eVent jacket on most of most days, until part way down from Barafu.

Weather was - day 1 - pouring rain in the rain forest, which let up as we got to Machame (first camp), day 2 - intermittent rain turning to sleet most of the way to Shira (second camp), day 3 -  rain/sleet/dense fog on the way to Barranca camp (we skipped the Lava Tower, which most people do because it is a useful climb and descent for acclimatization, but with the fog so thick at the trail junction - about 10 ft visibility, and my acclimatizing easily, there was no point in taking that side trip- folks who did go that way said visibility was low enough that they could barely see each other at arms length). Day 4 - light rain plus snow on the way to Barafu. Day 5 Christmas Eve day - clear, but wore the Wild Things eVent as a wind breaker to the summit and back to Barafu, then part way on down to Mweka camp. Day 6 - dressed lightly for the last few kilometers back to Mweka gate - hot and humid.

One bit of advice - you will need to take an antimalarial of some type. I would advise not using Doxycycline, rather using one of the others. My reasoning is one of the side effects - Doxy increases your sun sensitivity (I burned my nose badly on the sunny summit day, despite liberally coating with SPF80 sunblock with lots of renewals). I strongly urge reading the side effects of your medications very carefully several times. The reason we had settled on Doxy was that you take it daily for a week or so before the trip and 4 weeks after, vs a couple of the others that are once a week. We thought that the daily dose would be easier to remember. I have talked to others who chose Doxy and got the same response - choose one of the others. But do read the side effects, because one of the others has potentially worse side effects. OTOH I know one person who says he won't take any antimalarial, feeling it is just easier to deal with the periodic recurrences than to down medicines before actually needed - your choice, just read carefully and talk to your medic.

Oh, yeah, it was far from dusty. In fact, it was mostly muddy or rocky, except for the scree slope that passes for a trail the last km or so to the crater rim.

10:06 p.m. on April 7, 2011 (EDT)
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According to my guidebook (an excellent book by Henry Stedman), January through mid-March is an excellent time to go but it's colder than the other peak dry season (June to October) and there is much greater chance that there will be snow on the path.  "The days, however, are often clearer, with only the occasional brief shower." 

That said, I'm thinking the Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka should be sufficient (with additional layers beneath it and a shell over it if/when it rains).

I have a buff that I'll bring for dust just in case.  At the very least, I'm guessing it'll come in handy when I go on the safari portion of the trip...which reminds me, I still need to research whether February is an okay time to go on safari.  If the other busy season is a better time to go on safari, I will probably have to go then instead.

Thank you very much Bill for your post.  Reading your trip log was very informative and entertaining.  I love hearing about other people's travels.

I'm no stranger to hiking in humid weather as I hike in that type of weather all the time here in Hawaii.  Haha.  That said, I'm thinking that my Patagonia Rain Shadow isn't going to be ideal in Tanzania.  Rather than the Rab Latok Alpine I'm thinking of maybe getting the Westcomb Cruiser LT instead.  It seems that reviews on the Rab are rather hit or miss while the Westcomb seems to have glowing reviews all around.

For my sleeping bag, I've got a Kelty Cosmic Down 20 that I'm pairing with a Cocoon 100% silk mummy liner and an Exped Down Mat 7 (with integrated pump).  I'm hoping that will keep me warm enough while I sleep.  I have an eVent Sea to Summit drybag to put my bag and liner in to keep it dry.  Should I also put the Exped Down Mat in a drybag?

I have experience taking anti-malaria medicine...I took some to Peru with me even though I didn't really need it.  We went whitewater rafting on the Urubamba River and since it wasn't in a "civilized" area, I thought I'd take the malaria meds just in case.  Better safe than sorry!  I actually took the meds for the entire trip with no side affects.  I can't remember the name of the medication offhand but I know I still have the bottle at home.  As for sun sensitivity--I'll work on my tan before I go to Tanzania. ;)  Haha.

4:06 a.m. on April 8, 2011 (EDT)
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I'm thinking that my Patagonia Rain Shadow isn't going to be ideal in Tanzania.  Rather than the Rab Latok Alpine I'm thinking of maybe getting the Westcomb Cruiser LT instead

nworbled: I just checked and my jacket is the Rain Shadow model, though an earlier version with horrible silicon cuffs. I wore it this week in heavy rain and 40-60mph gusts, just to refresh my memory. Normally I keep it in the bottom of my rucksack throughout the winter in case the weather gets too nasty for soft shell. I originally bought it for the city because it was a nice colour.

Here's my micro review:

The front zip is no longer water-resistant at all: my base layer was soaked underneath the zip.

The peak is pretty useless, you definitely need a baseball cap underneath.

It doesn't breathe much.

Other things, like the awful cuff design and the pockets that are impossible to open with one hand, may vary with newer models.

If you take it, you should still be ok (wash and reproof), but now would be a good time to get a proper mountain shell (and insurance), IMO.

4:36 a.m. on April 8, 2011 (EDT)
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Thanks Pathloser. :)

I believe mine is a newer model since I just bought it last year.  It performed admirably (read:  I didn't get wet) in Peru.  But like you said, there's definitely room for improvement.  I've been on such a gear buying binge these past couple months that I guess I'm just on a buying frenzy and am looking for any excuse to buy new gear.  Hahaha.

1:49 p.m. on April 8, 2011 (EDT)
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The winter season is definitely cooler, with maybe a light skiff of snow. But on the lower parts of the mountain, it will, guaranteed, be wet and rainy in the rain forest. Unless you have a lot of experience using down in wet conditions, I would suggest your plan to use a down jacket and sleeping bag. Primaloft is as warm as 500-600 fill down and stuffs as well, but provides some insulation when wet and dries, which down won't do. When we go back to Kili so Barb can do the hike, we will be taking synthetic gear and leave the down at home. But you won't need the down or Primaloft jacket while hiking, even on summit day, just for in-camp at high camp and for standing around at the summit while you get your obligatory photos (the guides try to hustle you down after 5 minutes, although Patrick knew I was wanting lots of photos and wanting to locate the "real" geocache at the summit, so we stayed for 15-20 minutes).

Merino wool is great for the socks - but there really is no other choice for quality socks - and for an insulating layer, but contrary to rumor and hyped ads, it does get stinky (Patagonia's Capilene, I find, gets less stinky than Merino, as for the long johns and insulating layers)

7:31 p.m. on April 8, 2011 (EDT)
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Shucks, I was hoping I wouldn't have to buy another sleeping bag. :(  I'll be taking the bag with me on some intermediate trips before I go to Tanzania so I guess I'll see how those experiences go before I buy a synthetic bag.

As for the jacket...I don't mind taking a Primaloft jacket since I haven't bought the down jacket yet.  I think I've seen some nice Primaloft jackets on sale recently.

I have a Patagonia Merino 4 zip-neck which I'm planning to use as a baselayer.  I have some Cap 3 bottoms and top which I guess I can use as baselayers and also to sleep in.  I already have merino socks as well.  Do you think it's okay just to take 3 pairs?  I figure I don't have to have clean socks every day; I'm thinking I could rotate them.  Bad idea?

8:48 p.m. on April 8, 2011 (EDT)
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socks - I wore one set (wicking liner plus the merino insulating socks) up to high camp, then a clean set for the summit and all the way down. Summit day consists of on the trail at midnight, summit about dawn, down to high camp for a short rest, then all the way down to the last camp before the gate, spend the night, then the last few km to the gate. Depending on how they feel, you might want to use a third set for that last leg.

12:57 a.m. on April 10, 2011 (EDT)
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this is what I wore on summit night last september - it was a dry night, but very windy and it was trying to snow. windchill was about -15C at Kibo huts.


Kathmandu thermal vest

2 kathmandu thermal t shirts

1 alpine lowe long sleeved thermal shirt

1 thin fleece with hood

1 thick fleece

1 100% goose down puffy jacket

1 karrimor goretex jacket with hood

1 fleece scarf

1 balaclava

in addition i took another alpine lowe long sleeved thermal shirt, another thick fleece and another balaclava. you can see by my picture I made it :-) and I was wearing every layer and was only just warm enough.

My hands and feet suffered the most and I had 3 pairs of merino wool socks on + 3 layers of gloves (thin merino, thin fleece, goretex windstopper)

Its a bit of a catch 22 - you dont move quickly enough to generate much body heat so you will get cold, but then you dont want to move quickly either in case you start to sweat, in which case you will get even colder!

 it will be the toughest thing you've ever done mentally as well as physically (I thought the scree would never end!) but what an absolutely amazing experience - I cant begin to describe what you feel when you achieve it.

if you're based in Hawaii, I highly recommend you do a lot of training with your backpack on sand or even better sand me on this, it will help! :-)


good luck!


3:42 p.m. on April 10, 2011 (EDT)
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Holy crap.  All you had to say was, "[you] pretty much wear every item of clothing you had with [you]".  Haha.  I don't even know how you managed to wear all of that.

I was thinking I'd wear maybe 4 layers at the most.  I guess I might have to re-think that.  I'm going to have to find some insulated pants, too.  Aargh.

We don't have sand dunes but we've got plenty of sand.  I'm going to look like an idiot running on the beach with a backpack.  Hahaha.

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