Walk in Wild Places | High mountain equipment list

What equipment do I need?

High mountain trekking equipment checklist

In general, all of the mountain trips we offer, require equipment suitable for 4000m+ peaks. Average temperatures on the 5,895m high Mount Kilimanjaro are in the -9° Celsius range. Having recently spent a night in the crater on Kilimanjaro, at about 5740m, I can confirm that temperatures were well below minus! I was also on top of the Atlas Mountains a few months earlier, and despite it being more than 1800m lower, it was much colder with a temperature of -16° Celsius (oh, and the wind was blowing, which made it even colder). And just to show that you can’t predict summit temperatures, I was on top of the 4533m high Ras Dejen in Ethiopia a few months ago and very comfortable in a short-sleeved shirt.

Prepare for extremely cold weather when you ascend these summits. Temperatures may plummet to anywhere near -20° Celsius at any time (or lower if the wind is blowing). Stay warm and stay alive. 

* For technical ascents, you may also need rock and/or ice climbing equipment. We’ll advise this separately if you choose a technical climb (e.g., Mount Kenya’s Batian or Nelion peaks). 

In order to cope with the variation in temperature during your trek we suggest clothing based on a layering system. For trekkers who are not familiar with this term, this means that you use a thin layer next to the skin and then add slightly thicker layers on top until you are comfortable. In general this would be a thin (thickness) layer +  medium + thick + outer layer (e.g.. waterproof).

If you are uncertain whether you could leave an item at home, or substitute it with another piece of clothing, contact us. 

Bags and travel wallets

  • Duffel Bags: 1 x 80L+ duffel bag for the gear you want the porters to carry (15Kg max). This bag must be waterproof, and durable. Using stuffbags or large plastic bags for packing your gear inside the duffel bag will further help to keep it dry. (Do not bring bags with wheels!) This bag will hold your sleeping bag, sleeping mat, cold weather clothing, etc. A 40L bag won’t do it. 1 x 40-60L+ duffel bag for storing extra clothes, etc at the hotel. This one does not need to be waterproof, and the size is dependent on what you bring along for travelling before/after the mountain trek.
  • Backpack: While trekking you will carry your own water, camera, snacks, lunch, warm and waterproof clothing, and occasionally crampons, etc. A 40-50L pack is about the right size (2400-3000 cu. in.).
  • Rain Cover: A waterproof rain cover keeps water out, and can also be used to keep your pack clean while travelling. (PS! It’s cheaper to buy a raincover than to replace a torn backpack.)
  • Daypack: Suggest a 30-40L+ daypack as a carry-on while travelling. Large enough to hold camera, passport, warm jumper, etc.
  • Wallet: I tend to use two wallets when travelling. One with sufficient cash for small purchases, which I keep in a pocket, normally together with phone, so that I can slip my hand into pocket and protect both in crowded places, and a second one that goes underneath my shirt, with cards, passport and any extra cash I need to pay for porters, etc. If I need to get cards or cash out of this, I pop into a washroom. I.e., I try not to show innocent bystanders the whereabouts of this wallet.
  • Dry bag: A waterproof bag for valuables – plastic zip-lock bags are great, but not the most robust. Suggest a thin waterproof ‘Dry bag’ to keep your passport, papers, spare passport photos, etc. dry.
  • Plastic waste bags: Large robust waste bags, to pack your gear inside duffels and backpack.

Sleeping bag, mat, liner

  • Sleeping Bag: Rated to -17° Celsius / 0°Fahrenheit. Down is lighter, but synthetic is less likely to be affected by precipitation.
  • Sleeping bag liner: Silk or high-quality cotton liners are ideal. A good liner can add as much 8° to your sleeping comfort. For high altitude, and especially if you are a cold sleeper, I’d suggest a fleece type liner (this could be in addition to your silk liner).
  • Sleeping mat: Either self-inflating or closed-cell foam mats.
  • Pillow: If you must, there are several inflatable lightweight pillows available. Or take a pillow case, and stuff a flat folded jumper or fleece into it.

Clothing

Base layer
  • Underwear: Merino or synthetic long-sleeved wicking tops and long johns. You’ll seldom need this until it’s summit day or really cold. So go for the warmer option. Note! Cotton is no good as a base layer. It gets wet and will cool you down rather than keep you warm. For layering to work properly you have to wear clothes that ‘wick’ perspiration away from the body. (PS! Some ladies wear liners to keep their undies fresher longer.)
  • First Mid Layer: Medium weight long-sleeve Merino or synthetic wicking sweatshirt or thin woollen jumper, and walking trousers (for summit day you may want to use fleece-lined or softshell trousers.
  • Second Mid Layer: Light-weight wool/down or synthetic insulated long-sleeved garment.
  • First Outer Layer: Woollen jumper (sweater) or fleece, softshell.
  • Second Outer Layer: Down jacket or thick woollen jumper. (Note! You can use a combination of these layers to keep your body at the right temperature.)
  • Waterproof Outer Layer: Waterproof and windproof wicking jacket and waterproof over-trousers. On really cold days I will slip my overtrousers on over my trousers as an extra layer to keep wind and cold weather out.
  • Poncho: Ponchos are great for hiking in forests and warmer areas, as they allow a lot of airflow. They have an added advantage that they keep your pack and body dry at the same time.

Other clothing items

  • Hiking shorts, t-shirts: You may also want to take hiking shorts and some short-sleeved Merino, Bamboo or synthetic t-shirts, for hiking at lower, warmer altitudes. (Cotton shorts and shirts are okay; you won’t be wearing them on the colder upper regions.)
  • Gloves: You’ll want at least three layers for the summit day. 1) A thin pair of inners (which can also be used at lower altitudes on cooler windy days); 2) a pair of medium-weight gloves for wearing over inners on cold days and higher altitudes (as a reference look at typical winter cycling gloves), and 3) Heavy Alpine gloves or mittens, for use in the icy cold early morning summit ascent.
  • Woollen hat, balaclava and scarf: Keeping your head warm and stopping heat from escaping around your neck is important on very cold days. A woollen hat is essential in the colder evening weather and mandatory wear on the summit ascent, as is a scarf that will keep cold out and warmth inside the clothes. A balaclava or tubular scarf is very useful in very cold weather to stop you breathing the ice cold air directly into your lungs.
  • Sun hat: Optional piece of equipment. I don’t like hats, but do like the way it keeps the sun of my eyes.

Shoes, socks and gaiters

  • Camp shoes: Whatever you’re comfortable in. Sandals, slip-ons, or sneakers. It’s nice to get the boots off at the end of the day and slip into fresh socks. (Also perfect opportunity to rinse or wash today’s socks.)
  • Waterproof lightweight boots: Approach shoes are not up the task of supporting your feet for 5-8+ hours of walking. Good quality boots will keep your feet dry (and warm) as well as provide support to reduce feet fatigue. This is one part of the equipment that you should never skimp on. Buy cheap base, mid and outer layers, but get the best boots your money can afford.
  • Spare laces: just in case…
  • Gaiters: They keep snow and mud out of your boots – in other words they help to keep your socks and this feet dry and warm.
  • Inner Socks: I normally don’t use multiple layers of socks, until I get to the summit approach, or on a very cold day. On the descent they add an extra layer of cushioning.

Miscellaneous

  • Headlamp with extra batteries. Much as I want to be eco-friendly, rechargable batteries suck in cold high altitude areas. This is another area where you cannot afford to skimp. Get power plus, long-life batteries for your headlamp. And carry at least two sets of spares on the summit approach plus a few other sets for use in the evenings, etc. If you start at midnight, you’ll need your headlamp on for at least 4-5 hours. Oh, and I also carry a spare headlamp if I know that I’m going to be using it during an ascent. Just in case…
  • Pocket Knife. Don’t leave home without it. Single (sharp) bladed is sufficient. If you do want to take your Swiss Army Knife that’s also okay.
  • Water Bottles: The pipes of hydration bladders freezes in cold weather (anyting at or below freezing point potentially), despite any insulation you may apply. While you can blow the water back out of the pipe every time you take a sip to stop the pipe freezing, you’ll soon forget to do that when you’re at 4000m+ and on a steep ascent. 2 x plastic 1 liter bottle are the preferred option at altitude (by all means use your hydration system at lower altitudes). There are several companies that produce plastic collapsible water bottles, if you’re worried about space.
  • Water Treatment: Porters will boil water for your drinking use every evening. Technically you don’t need any water purification, but if you feel more comfortable adding some purification, it won’t do you any harm.
  • Combination Watch/Altimeter: I never wear a watch. But I do wear an altimeter when I set off on the summit attempt.
  • Camera with spare battery or batteries (I recently discovered a USB charger that can be charged with a USB power pack).
  • Power pack: You’ll not have access to electricity for about 6-7 days. Make sure your power pack will keep your phone active unless you decide to turn it off and only switch it on for short periods of time to let the family back home know you’re okay.
  • Sunglasses: The glare at altitude and especially if there is snow, is severe on the eyes. Wrap-around type sunglasses are best as they keep glare from the edges out as well as reduce cold wind blowing on to the eyes.
  • Prescription glasses or Contact lenses: Bring a spare pair of glasses and a few spare sets of contact lenses.
  • Pee bottle: Yes, you do want one. Nothing worse than having to venture out of your tent for a pee on a freezing wet night. A wide-mouthed 1 liter bottle should be sufficient. Ladies practice using the pee funnel before you get to the mountain.
  • Chemical hand warmers: They last for 8-12 hours and will help to keep you hands warm on the summit attempt and on very cold days.
  • Trekking Poles: People who use them swear by them. Claiming they make it easier on the ascent, by reducing the work the legs have to do, and are mandatory for the descent to reduce the shock on knees and legs. Get collapsible lightweight ones if you want to attach them to your pack, and only use them on the summit ascent. Otherwise any walking stick or trekking pole is fine.
  • Duct tape:Most seasoned mountaineers and hikers will have a small role in their pack.
  • Rip cord: Thin 3-4mm nylon cord. (Not plastic washing line). All kinds of uses. Washing line; spare laces; tying things onto packs, etc.

Toiletries and personal items

  • Soap, towel plus deodorant: That’s about all you need… However if you do need lotions, etc, keep it to an absolute minimum and pack it into small travel bottles. 15Kg is what you’re allowed to carry.
  • Prescription meds: If you’re taking medicine, bring enough for the duration of the trip. I also carry an emergency ration of anti-malaria prophylactics and a course of anti-biotics in case I have to treat myself while I’m three days away from the nearest village. Touch wood, I’ve not needed it for myself or any of my fellow trekkers in many years of hiking. (Ask your GP to prescibe a course, explaining where you are going.)
  • Sunscreen and protective lip balm. Use maximum SPF sunscreen for protection. Especially on the first couple of days. Use lipbalm, unless you want cracked and very sore lips!
  • Insect repellant: Mosquitoes will pester you in the forest area. Repellant keeps them away.
  • Toilet paper, wet wipes and a plastic rubbish bag: Nothing is to be left on the mountain, so if you use toilet paper you have to carry it out with you. A strong plastic bag with ziplock, which you can empty into rubbish bags every evening is as essential as the toilet paper or wet wipes that you use.
  • Bandage, plasters, ibuprofen or aspirin (ibuprofen is particularly good, as it will also act as an anti-inflammatory meaning it will reduce stiffness of muscles during ascents and after descents.), antacid tablets, imodium in case of diarrhea, safety pins, eye drops, anti-histamine cream, antiseptic cream, small scissors, tweezers, blister plasters.

From Platberg to Kilimanjaro - via Mount Stanley, Mount Kenya, and Mont-aux-Sources

Harry describes his journey to the top of Kilimanjaro. Experiences he had, like drinking tea with a marijuana farmer. Problems with trekking organisers, like running out of food. Some observations will make you smile; others touch you emotionally. Part travel story. Part guidebook. Information for trekkers and an easy read for armchair travellers.

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Did you know?

Kilimanjaro is the tallest free-standing mountain in the world!

And the highest volcano outside South America! Majestic accolades.

The name may mean 'Mountain of Light', or 'Mountain of Greatness' or 'Mountain of Caravans'. Truth is that no-one can say for certain. What we do know is that the people that live on her flanks, the Wachagga, do not even have a name for the mountain, though Kibo is known locally as 'Kipoo' and features in various local folklore.

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