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kilimanjaro - right gear for summit

Can I get some help? - I'm climbing Kili in August - I know it will get cold on summit day. My plan is various fleece layers under an arcteryx Alpha jacket. (The alpha is super light gore-tex) and with a hooded down Ama Dablan jacket to throw on top when we stop. This means i'm not doing it with a heavier parka. does anyone think i'm underestimating what i need? Should I go with a heavier outerlayer, and does anyone think i should have a jacket I can put the down layer underneath?

I've done lots of cold weather hiking but this is different in several ways. Thanks.

Hi Tim
Dispense with fleece and go with merino wool layers. Better performance, higher warmth weight ratio and creates a micro climate that thermo regulates your body temperature. This means instead of stripping off synthetic layers to cool down the merino will do it for you. Doesn't hold body odour so no smell!

Wool is fine, but there is nothing wrong with fleece. I wear it all the time. Bill S has actually climbed Kilimanjaro, so if he sees this post, he may give you some first hand advice. Bill is the most experienced climber and hiker I know of on this site-pay attention to what he says.


Take a look at my trip report on Kili here on Trailspace . Kili is pretty warm for a 19,000+ foot mountain, though the temperature on summit day is fairly cool. Keep in mind that the lower part of the mountain is through rain forest (yes, you will have rain, lots of it, which is why it is called a "rain forest"!). I would actually advise a poncho for the lower part of the mountain, since you will get quite warm on that first day or two and on the last day. Your Arcteryx Alpha will be too warm down low, even if you are hiking in T-shirt and shorts under the poncho. Now, when you get to the first camp, the temperatures are noticeably lower. Still, I didn't put on the long johns until the 3rd day. On summit day, I wore long johns (midweight), Supplex pants, eVent bibs (WildThings), wicking T-shirt under the long john top, fleece vest, and eVent shell, with a fleece hat for the first 1000 ft or so out of the high camp (Barafu), then added a fleece jacket. I was plenty warm for the rest of the way to the top. I did get out my Dolomiti jacket on top, because we spent about 15-20 minutes taking photos, admiring the views, and locating the real geocache near the summit (there is a virtual geocache, which is the summit sign, as well). We arrived just at dawn. One group had been at the top before us and had left while it was still dark because of the cold. I forget the temperature, but think it was about 10-15F, calm wind, so not too bad. I took the Dolomiti off for the descent, especially since the tropical sun pops the temperature up really quickly. I think your Ama Dablam jacket could be too warm. Also, because of the rain, I would suggest a Primaloft jacket like the Dolomiti (Integral Designs) rather than the down. We had rain on Day 1, rain plus sleet on Day 2, rain plus sleet plus snow on Day 3, fog plus rain plus snow on Day 4, severe clear on Day 5 (summit day and back down to about 8000 ft), and some drizzle on Day 6 (back to the exit gate).

Kili is a pretty easy hike on most of the routes on good trails (except for the altitude gain). A large fraction of people have problems with the altitude (as many as 50% turn back on some of the routes and faster itineraries, and around 20% on the slower itineraries that allow more for acclimatization). I found the hiking speed a bit too slow, though every day I came into camp in less that the published target time ranges. A good pair of leather boots is plenty warm enough (I used my Lowa mountaineering boots). I also used my -40F/C Feathered Friends down expedition bag, which was way too warm (even more so during our photo-safari, where I slept with it fully open every night).

What does your guide service recommend? I hope you are using a local company rather than booking through a US or EU based company. The foreign companies add a lot of overhead to the cost, and some do not make sure the required local guides and porters are getting a fair wage. Then again, some of the big local companies are exploiting their guides and especially their porters with low wages and poor gear, plus much higher loads than the porters' union recommends.

I think your layer plan is fine. I have been to the tippy top of Kili as well. It is cold, but not Denali cold and no need for the parka. But layers are key and fleece is fine.

To draft off Bill S - use a local company if you can. I have a great one that I can provide many recommendations if you like:

I got his website done here in SF so it is fancier than you might think a local company would have, but they are as local and as good as it gets...Or one of the best at least. Ask for Tunzo! Have fun in either case.

THANK YOU guys - hugely helpful. We are going with ATR (Africa travel Resrouces) - very well regarded British firm, and they make a BIG deal out of giving their guides/porters a really fair deal. I've been incredbily impressed with them so far.

It really helped hearing that the cold is not that crazy - I'm happy with the plans now. The ama Dablan may be a bit heavy, but with one less layer of fleece i'm sure it'll work. I hadn't thought about the poncho. it sounds right, but I'd figure the Arc. gore tex would breathe a lot better?

It sounds like you used a really heavy duty sleeping bag. i have a mont bell expedition rated to -15, but i've slept in it around freezing here in montana and i was way too hot. i was thinking of going to go with something rated to around +15F, with a light bivy sack in case it gets too chilly...

Love your thoughts on that, but thanks again anyway. I will check out your kili report.


By the way- I note from your report, you did it in December - we are going in August, which from the research I've done will be drier (yay!!) but a whole lot colder (boo!!) does that sound right to you?

Tim -

The Acr'teryx parka and the poncho each have their places on Kili. The poncho will breather a whole lot more than the jacket - remember that the sides are open and the skirtline is a lot larger, so a lot more breathability. Goretex does not breathe very well, certainly not well enough during the heavy exercise of hiking up the Hill, even "polepole" (remember - start studying your Swahili now, the guides and porters will appreciate your efforts to understand their culture and to communicate with them even a little bit). eVent would be better, but even there, you will find you get sweaty quickly in the rain forest sections of the trail.

As for the sleeping bag, at the first and last camps, you may be a bit on the warm side. But you can open the bag for cooling. From the second camp up, you will find it more comfortable, and at Barafu (highest camp) you will find the MontBell to be about right. The bivy sack just adds weight without a real need for its intended function.

Bill- thanks. I was told you were the expert here. I really get the poncho point now and will get that covered - - not that i want to spend more money but are we talking the $5 wal-mart poncho or something more substantial?

and just to clarify - did you think the -15F sleeping bag was needed for that last camp, or were you referring to the +15F as about right?




On the summit camp night, you will hit the sack at about 6PM, then get up at 11 or 12 midnight so you can get to the summit by dawn or shortly after. So you will be sleeping in your thermals. Add a light Primaloft jacket that you wear in the bag if you feel cool and the +15F bag should be ok. There is no need for a liner (except it keeps the bag cleaner) and certainly not a bivy sack. Some people I talked to after the climb wore most of their clothes that night to shorten the preparation time when they got up, and said they were more than warm enough in 10-15F bags.


Long Johns or thermal underwear are the order of the day. 

Good luck. Please post a report when you get back. I have been thinking of doing a trip like yours for some time and would value some first hand reviews on the tour company.

outer limit -

Merino long johns, mid-layers, and socks are proving to be really good for just about everything. Smartwool, for example, uses merino wool in their socks and midlayers, as does Patagonia. Barb and I recently added a midlayer (for each of us) that the American Alpine Club got made for members that has proven to be really great. I do have to differ about the "no odour", though. Wear anything long enough on an expedition, and it does pick up body odor, though merino much less than poly long johns. Change that to "significantly less odor", and I will agree.

I've got myself a Rab e-vent jacket, and a Rab pertex softie jacket, as well as a few merino wool t-shirts from Cotswolds Outdoor. I was out in the rain in cornwall for a weekend and was warm with just the anorak.

The merino wool shirts dry out within 5-10 minutes of taking your pack off too. Meaning you don't have to fill your pack with wet sweaty clothes.

The brand Rab is founded by some gucci mountaineer called something Rab, so the clothes are designed specifically for mountaineering and backpacking

Incidently. Jetboil stoves are wicked. They pack up into themselves and I have been told can boil a litre of water in 26 seconds.

Platypus water filters used with a milbag are highly effective.

As an alternative to boil in the bag stuff, try uncle bens microwavable rice and chorizo, biltong or jerky. Flapjack, chocolate Haribo, peanuts, and kenco/nescafe three in one coffee sachets are all superb foodstuffs. Steak is a morale booster on the first night, if taken from the freezer on the morning of the expedition, it will be defrosted in time for bed.

Comical -

Because of the requirement under Tanzanian law that all foreign "tourists" (their term for anyone hiking and climbing in their National Parks) to use licensed local guides, cooks, and porters, the recommendations on food and stove are superfluous for Kilimanjaro. Although I took a personal Steripen on my hike up Kili, the required cook and porters kept me well-supplied with water that had been boiled - no need to have my own means of purification.

As for the Jetboil boiling a liter of water in 26 seconds, even Jetboil does not claim anywhere near that fast. All the published tests, as well as tests by numerous people posting here on Trailspace, have never found anything faster than 2.5 to 3 minutes for a liter starting at "room temperature" (20C/70F). Maybe you meant 2.6 minutes rather than 26 seconds.

November 28, 2020
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