Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is on any serious climber’s bucket list, and rightly so. The world’s highest free-standing mountain, and the highest mountain in Africa, Kilimanjaro is a rare beast. It doesn’t require any technical climbing, so a nominally experienced hiker can make it up. (I did.) But ascending Kilimanjaro’s 19,341-foot summit demands strong legs, a tolerance for high altitude, and gritty mental toughness. (Not to mention all the vaccinations and prescriptions that come with trips to sub-equatorial Africa).
And just because Kilimanjaro’s base camp is accessible doesn’t mean it’s an easy climb. Kilimanjaro treks usually last for six to eight days, and comprise four distinct climate zones. The cloud forests at its base are eerily misty, with muddy trails and low visibility. From there, climbers ascend to the rocky moorlands, which are alternately sun-drenched or bathed in clouds. Higher still are the mountain’s deserts, where dusty winds and glaring sun can sap a climber’s energy.
Then, as climbers near the summit, you hit the polar region. Home to Africa’s only indigenous ice—not to mention cutting winds and year-round snow—Kilimanjaro’s summit is a notoriously frigid challenge. And because hikers traditionally climb from Barafu Camp to Stella Point and Uhuru Peak at night, temperatures near the summit can easily plunge below freezing with wind chill.
So if you’re serious about climbing Kilimanjaro, you should be serious about getting the best gear. Here are my recommendations, based on my experience and the advice of my guides at Adventures Within Reach and Tanzania Journeys.