There are several other items you should consider for your Kilimanjaro trek.
- Pee bottle system (optional) – A simple bottle for men or a specially made item(s) for women. Not necessary for Kilimanjaro, but will likely make life easier at nighttime.
- Backpack Cover / Trashbag – You should prepare for rain during your daily hike. You can either purchase a special rain cover for your pack or simply use a thick black trash bag.
- Camp Towel (optional) – Simple, small reusable towel for general use.
- Ziplock and/or Dry Bags – Waterproof bags to store items that cannot get wet (needed for both your large duffel and your daypack)
- 2 large black trash bags - Used as a liner for your duffel and daypack
This is an optional item and hikers/backpackers definitely have different views on whether this item should be standard gear or strictly avoided. There are options for both males and females, and we recommend everyone consider their use, not only on Kilimanjaro but on other climbs as well. They are almost exclusively used in your tent at nighttime when needed (but could feasibly be used at other times).
First thing’s first. There are certain big mountain climbs where this item is considered critical gear. For example, most guides on Denali require it. On Denali, there are certain camps that will be set up on steep mountainsides on the snow with flat areas dug out for your tent. There is a clear and present danger for groggy campers attempting to urinate outside their tent in the middle of the night. And the cold on Denali requires climbers to put on multiple layers of clothing just to go outside. This most assuredly will wake up their tent mates causing more disruption of sleep for already sleep deprived climbers.
However, this is not the case on Kilimanjaro. You will likely not even be camping on snow and even in the coldest of nights on Kilimanjaro, the temperature will not be so low that you can’t be outside your tent with lots of layers. However, the issue of waking up your tent mate is real. And finding your way to the bathroom is a chore that requires a headlamp and will often wake up your neighbors and take your body out of the mode of sleep it was in.
For males, the gear is pretty simple. Just about any bottle will do (just ensure to only use that bottle for one purpose!). Because of the rock-solid design and zero-leak properties of Nalgene bottles, we recommend repurposing one of your old Nalgene bottles as your ‘pee bottle’. Important tip: wrap the bottle in some duck tape or put lots of stickers on the bottle. Anything that will allow you to feel the difference between your bottles while in your dark tent. As you can imagine, you really don’t want to mix up your Nalgene full of water for drinking and your Nalgene full of pee! Another tip: you don’t need to get on your knees to use the bottle. With a little practice, you’ll be able to use your pee bottle while laying down which is non-disruptive for your tent mate and a lot more convenient for you. Practice is important though, so don’t wait to get to Tanzania before you give it a try!
For women, the situation is a little more complex, but still very feasible. There are several options available in the market, but the one that has gained popularity is known as a “pee funnel”. This device looks much like a funnel but creates a full seal on the climber’s body to eliminate urine from escaping out the sides. They are made of various materials, but in general, the softer, more flexible funnels are generally better for use and for packing. This can be used together with a “pee bottle” as described above at nighttime. They are also great for using during your day hike. Some women just use a bottle alone at night, others find this difficult to do. There are also integrated options available where the bottle and funnel are connected. Most important is to try the various types out before your trip. Practice makes perfect in this situation and you’ll want to have plenty of practice before you arrive on Mount Kilimanjaro. Whatever option you choose, be sure to wipe yourself as this is very important to your health (especially on a multi-day trip like Kilimanjaro). You can use a reusable handkerchief (just hang it outside your pack while hiking and it will dry) or a bit of toilet paper that you can dispose of in the toilet the next morning.
Again, Kilimanjaro is much more forgiving than other big mountains and there is little to no safety risk in opening your tent in the middle of the night to pee. However, once you get used to using a pee bottle system, most climbers emphasize that they will never go back to doing so.
We can almost guarantee that you will encounter rain at some point during your journey. Remember, you are right near the equator and literally start your journey in a rain forest! Your experience might range from light mist on a day or two all the way to multi-day downpours the likes of which you may never have experienced. Also remember that you will need to stay on your itinerary and arrive at the pre-scheduled camp no matter what. So you will be hiking when necessary – rain or shine!
For that reason, we recommend bringing a backpack rain cover to place over your daypack while you hike in the rain. Some packs come with this type of cover but, if not, they can be found for relatively low cost. It is essentially a light, plastic cover that has elastic around it (like a small fitted sheet) that can quickly be placed over your day pack and held in place by the elastic.
You can also use a thick trash bag (“lawn and leaf” type bag or trash compactor bag). The disadvantage of this is that there is no elastic to hold the trash bag on. However, with a little practice and some clever tying, this can be an effective solution.
Regardless of which solution you rely on, it is important to know that it will not be 100% effective. Even with a well-fitted store-bought backpack cover, there will be some rain that seeps in around the elastic. So you will want to put any items that can’t get wet (e.g. cameras, phone, batteries, etc.) into zip lock bags or specially made dry bags. However, having the backpack cover will keep most of the water out and also keep your pack from soaking up water which not only makes the pack heavier but is also very difficult to dry when soaking wet.
If you forget this important item, you might encounter some smart locals that sell them at your starting gate for the hike. They’ve cleverly created backpack covers out of trash bag material that they’ve sewn elastic into. These work very well (but there’s no guarantee they will be around the day you arrive!)
While you most likely won’t have the opportunity to shower on the mountain, it is always nice to have a small/medium-sized towel on hand. What you will have each evening and morning is a large 5 gallon bucket of warm water and a cup that you can use to clean your face, hands, arms, etc. with warm water. This is surprisingly refreshing and can really help you keep clean (in addition to the baby wipes that your bring). Your camp towel can be used to dry off after using the warm water. It is also very handy to dry off if you’ve been hiking out in the exposed rain.
Any towel will work, but there are special backpacking towels that work better because they dry quickly. We like the towels that have a small clip-able strap (or a grommet) on the corner to more easily hang the towel in your tent or even on your backpack to dry. If it’s on your backpack, it’s also handy to wipe off sweat or dry yourself after stopping at a stream to cool off along the way.
We love zip lock bags! Regardless of your final plan on how to keep items dry, we highly recommend putting several gallon sized and quart sized ziplock bags into your duffel and your backpack. The bags that are intended to be used in the freezer are generally better in that they are slightly thicker and less resistant to rips. You can use them for critical items like cameras and phones (we recommend double bagging them for protection) and even for items like socks or clothes to ensure they stay nice and dry.
You may also want to add a couple of specially made dry bags. These bags are similar to stuff sacks, but they are generally made out of slightly thicker material that is waterproof. You can put clothing and other items in them, then push out as much air as you can before rolling down the top of the bag and clicking it shut. They work quit well and can fit many more items than a ziplock. Because your drybags will already be inside another bag that is resisting most of the water, they will be very effective at keeping your items dry. Remember, your duffel bag will already be protected from most of the rain while your porter carries it and your daypack will have some type of rain cover on it. For this reason, you do not need a heavy duty dry bag like the ones that are sold for kayaking and rafting. You can get by with one of the lighter bags since it will be protected within another bag.
We like the “Freezer bag” style zip lock bags that are slightly thicker and less likely to tear. Take several large gallon sized bags as well as a few quart sized if you have them. For the dry bag, we like the Sea to Summit bags of various sizes.
You might notice we are bit risk averse when it comes to things getting wet! It never hurts to over prepare in this area. As one of our guides has stated after a 5 days of continuous downpour – there are certain times where nothing is going to keep you dry on Kilimanjaro no matter whether you spend $5 or $500! But, having multiple layers of protection will do wonders for you.
For this reason, we recommend taking two large black “lawn and leaf” type trash bags. These large bags 35-45 gallon bags can be used as a liner for your entire duffel bag and also for your daypack should the need arise. We’ve even seen them used as a makeshift poncho when the need has arisen. They are versatile and way next to nothing. So always great to pack in case it is needed.