The Ultimate Kilimanjaro Packing List for Women
So you’re thinking about climbing Kilimanjaro, eh? Maybe you’ve even booked your trip, bought your plane tickets and marked the big Summit Day on your calendar. But now the real work begins: researching what to bring and what to leave behind.
The porters who carry your gear up the mountain have a weight limit of just 15 kg (32 lbs) which has to include things such as your sleeping bag, sleeping pad, clothes, electronics and toiletries, all stuffed into a giant waterproof duffel bag. If you’re a woman you may find that there’s a few extra items you’ll need to bring that your male hiking partners don’t. I’ve compiled a thorough Kilimanjaro packing list for women with useful tips that I learned from my recent trek on the mountain.
Your base layer includes everything you’ll wear the first day or two on the mountain (and the last day) as well as your innermost layer for the cold days near the summit. They should consist of body-hugging, moisture-wicking polyester material, similar to what you’d wear for a standard gym workout.
How many you bring depends on your body type. If you’re hot-natured you should consider having 2 pairs of capri leggings and just one pair of thermal leggings. If you get cold easily then I recommend the opposite. Because I’m overweight and hot-natured I don’t tend to get cold as easily. I was wearing t-shirts in the evening while some of my fellow hikers were sporting their down jackets. What you pack really comes down to your own preference.
- 1-2 pairs of capri leggings or shorts- Just your standard exercise pants but funky patterns/colors are strongly encouraged
- 1-2 pairs of cold weather base layer leggings- like Under Armour ColdGear brand
- 2-3 sports bras- I recommend 3 for a 7-day hike
- Moisture-wicking underwear- One a day unless you’re wearing panty liners, then you can get away with one every other day
- 1-2 short-sleeved shirts- Cotton is okay for this but still not recommended
- 1-2 long-sleeved shirts- I like the ones with the thumb holes
- 1 wool blend base layer shirt- For the day before summit and Summit Day
I also recommend that you pack one warm outfit, either fleece or thermal underwear, that you use strictly for pajamas. It’s nice to not have to sleep in your sweaty, dirty clothes every night! Just try to pick leggings instead of pants. When you take your midnight bathroom breaks (and you surely will) you don’t want your pants to get dirty from a misguided aim or an overflowing port-a-potty. Not that I would know about such things.
Your mid layer consists of clothing you’ll don when it gets a little chilly during your hike. Early mornings and shady places can make it feel 20 degrees colder than when you’re standing out in the warm sun.
- 1 light zip-up jacket- Hooded or not
- Waterproof rain pants- Sometimes you’ll wear these even when it’s not raining, just for that extra layer
- Thermal underwear- I bought fleece underwear from Kohl’s for my mid layer, they worked well
- Glove liners or running gloves- You’ll be wearing these by Day 3 just to keep your hands from getting sunburnt
Many days I used my rain pants as my standard second layer with my capri leggings underneath. If you dislike the cold then you might find it better to wear your leggings, thermal underwear and rain pants together, especially in the mornings.
Ahhh, the warm stuff! Your outer layer needs to include high quality items to protect you from the wind and cold on summit night. You might get lucky and experience mild weather at the top of Kilimanjaro or you might get hammered with snow and hail. Make sure you have plenty of warm clothes in case it’s the latter.
- Poncho or waterproof rain jacket- I recommend a poncho, one big enough to cover you and your daypack underneath
- Down jacket- I got the one in the picture above but North Face doesn’t make that color anymore. I am NEVER getting rid of my jacket now
- Insulated snow gloves- Mittens or gloves, it’s up to you. Just make sure you can wear both sets of gloves at the same time
- Neck gaiter- I used mine very little but we had mild weather. It’s best to bring one along just in case
- Insulated snow pants- Get a size or two too big; with all your layers you’re going to need it!
I highly recommend that one of your jackets be hooded, whether it’s your down jacket or your mid layer light jacket. Even with a hat and neck gaiter the wind can cut through and leave you feeling chilled.
Your boots and socks will probably be the most important purchase you make for this trip so shop around and be sure to find a pair of hiking boots that fit you well. I have very wide feet and it was difficult finding a pair of shoes that fit me right. I even tried on a few men’s shoes before I found a brand that I liked. If you’re a lady with wide feet I would recommend the Lowa Renegade (pictured above), they’re extremely comfortable!
- 1 pair of camp shoes (Crocs are da bomb!)
- 1 pair of waterproof hiking boots
- 3-5 pairs of sock liners- Essential for keeping your feet dry and blister-free
- 1-2 pairs of heavy cushioning hiking socks
- 3-4 pairs of medium cushioning socks
Let’s not forget about our noggin! You’re going to need to pack plenty of stuff to keep your head protected while on the mountain. Here’s a list of the basic necessities
- 1-2 headbands or bandanas- For the sweaty days in the jungle
- Hiking hat with a brim- Sunburn is no joke, especially when you get it on your ears and shoulders!
- 1-2 warm beanie hats- Try to bring at least one hat that covers the ears
- Head lamp- I bought one that was 250 lumens and it was great
Your toiletry bag is going to be full of stuff you wouldn’t normally bring on a trip but just remember, there are no stores on the mountain for last minute needs!
- Ibuprofen or Tylenol
- Nail clipper and fingernail file- Helpful for keeping your fingers clean, especially if you wear contacts
- Unbreakable travel mirror
- Small vial of perfume
- Panty liners, one for each day on the mountain
- Tampons or pads- High altitude can affect your menstrual cycle
- Baby Powder- For the large and/or busty ladies, or just for people who hate being sweaty
- Sunscreen with a good SPF
- Lip balm- Pack 2 or 3 in case you lose one
- Baby wipes
- Toilet paper
- Small bottle of lotion or moisturizer- Your face gets extremely dry on the mountain!
- Compeed- Excellent for preventing blisters
You’ll usually come across just one squat toilet each day so the trails are littered with toilet paper tossed behind rocks and bushes. To keep the trail looking neat I suggest wearing panty liners instead to drip dry, then save your TP for the camps where they can be disposed of properly.
*These are prescription drugs I highly recommend. Cipro is used to combat any bacterial infections you might get such as a stomach bug. It’s only taken if you start to get sick, not as a preventative measure. I needed it the last few days of my climb and it was a lifesaver. Diamox is used to prevent altitude sickness and was something our entire group took. We all summited.
There are a few necessities you should include in your pack as well as a few creature comforts that will make your hike a lot easier.
- Snacks, snacks, and more snacks (3-4 per day)
- Water bladder with insulated hose
- Nalgene water bottle
- Inflatable pillow- My FAVORITE non-necessity that I brought on my hike
- Luggage lock for your duffel bag
- Trekking poles- An essential piece of equipment but one you can easily rent
- iPod, headphones and charger
- Photography equipment
- 2 extra sets of batteries
- Swim towel
- Solar charger
- Polarized sunglasses
- Small journal and pen
The Big Gear
This little list includes all the gear you’ll need to carry your stuff as well as your sleeping bag. Much of it can be rented and I actually rented almost all of this equipment with the exception of my daypack.
- Daypack- I bought a giant 40L backpack for Kilimanjaro, filled it up with too much crap and promptly had it confiscated by my porter because it slowed me down. Heed my advice and choose a pack that’s a little smaller, 25-35L at the most.
- Waterproof Duffel Bag- An 80L+ duffle bag is easily over $100 so if you don’t plan on using one again I suggest renting this item. I did and it cost a whopping $10 for 7 days
- Sleeping Bag- A mummy-shaped sleeping bag with a minimum temp rating of 14 degrees Fahrenheit (so 14 degrees or less). Another expensive item you can rent. If you’re plus size (18W and up) I highly recommend buying your own, sleeping in a bag that’s too small is NOT comfortable!
General Packing Tips
I divided all my clothes and snacks into seven Ziploc bags and labeled them by day. It was so easy to reach into my bag and pull out just one Ziploc bag I would need for the next day instead of fishing around in my duffle bag for something to wear. At the end of the day I’d stuff my dirty clothes back in their bag to trap the smell in, or I would use it as a trash bag if needed.
Almost all of the photos shown above are products I personally used on my Kilimanjaro hike so I can attest to their quality. If you have any questions about specific brands just ask and I’ll help out as much as I can!
If you’re overweight or obese like me you may find it hard to find good quality clothing in your size. I recommend checking out REI and Athleta, they have a good selection of plus size outdoor clothing and activewear. Columbia brand has also got some clothing in plus sizes and their pants are GREAT for safaris, so stretchy and light. If they weren’t $70 a pair I’d buy more but for now I’ll stick with my one pair of pants until I figure out how much weight I can lose for my next big adventure.
And speaking of adventures, I have some pretty big plans in the works. The last time I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro I made a promise to myself to return one day to scale the remaining 150 meters from Stella Point to Uhuru Peak. I had full intentions of keeping that promise in 2018 but then WHOA Travel broke the news of a new expedition. I put down my deposit immediately. So Kili will have to wait another year or two while I get ready to hike to Everest Base Camp in April 2018!
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