Toiletries / Personal Items
Just like many overnight camping trips there are several small but important items to include when you climb Kilimanjaro.
- Toothbrush/Toothpaste/Floss/Deodorant – Self explanatory
- Wet Wipes – Also called “baby wipes”. These are an awesome way to keep clean on the mountain.
- Hand sanitizer – Good for keeping hands clean.
- Prescriptions – Any prescriptions that you normally take.
- Diamox (optional) – This prescribed medication can help you better adjust to high altitudes.
- Sunscreen – This is a critical item to bring due to the suns harmful rays at higher elevations.
- Lip Balm with SPF protection – Lip balm will help protect and sooth your lips from being damaged by the wind and sun.
- Insect Repellent – Mostly needed at lower elevations during the first and last days on your journey.
- First Aid Kit – While your guides will carry significant first aid materials, you should also have a small kit available.
- Toilet Paper – If your guide will be providing a privy (toilet) for your team, they will provide toilet paper. But it is not a bad idea to also bring some.
- Camera with extra batteries (optional) – With so many people using their phones as cameras, this may not be needed.
Don’t forget the usual hygiene basics that you typically use at home! 6-10 days without brushing your teeth would be a long time! We also recommend bringing floss (even if its not part of your daily regimen), just in case something gets stuck in your teeth during the trip. And deodorant will be a thoughtful inclusion – especially for others on your team!
Very few guiding companies offer an outdoor shower. So your best hope of keeping clean will be taking part in the warm water that is brought out to you and your fellow climbers to keep your face, hands and arms clean. But for more private areas of your body, you’ll need to rely on wet wipes (aka “baby wipes”). These do a great job of keeping your clean from head to toe (and especially for the areas in between!). Take a new pack to ensure they are moist (old ones might be dried out). We also recommend trying out your selected brand before leaving for Tanzania. We’ve seen some brands that fall apart when you rub them on your skin which don’t work as well. If you buy a large pack with several hundred wipes, just estimate about 100 or so wipes and put them in a ziplock bag for your trek.
Alcohol based hand sanitizer was a “must have” item for camping long before it was highly sought after for COVID-19! Be sure the sanitizer you bring is at least 60% alcohol. Other than that, your selection of the many options out there is based on your preference (scented vs. non-scented, etc.)
We very highly recommend bringing hand sanitizer and using it after using the bathroom every time. While a lot of people think that backpackers get sick from tainted water (this is absolutely possible), many people have discovered it is actually the unsanitary habits that often happen while camping. And much if this has to do with using the bathroom. Remember, regardless of whether you use the public toilets in your camps or if your guides have provided a privy for your group, you will still be sharing the toilet. So be just as diligent about keeping your hands disinfected as you would with any other public restroom (perhaps even more!)
Unless otherwise directed by your doctor, be sure to continue to take whatever medications you usually take (e.g. cholesterol medications, blood pressure, diabetes, etc.). These maintenance medications are just as important for your body on your trek as they are at home. To cut down on space, you could portion out just what you need for your trip into a plastic bag (perhaps adding an extra day or two just as a backup).
Do some research to determine if you want to take Acetazolamide (which is the generic medication for the brand name “Diamox”). There is a lot of conflicting information about the use of this medication to help adjust to high altitudes, so consider the information and decide if you would like to consider it. We have our opinion on whether it is a good idea. If so, talk to your doctor about it and see what they think about taking it. Their opinion is probably the most important one to consider, since they also know what other medications you are taking and if it should be avoided for health reasons. If you decided to take it, we recommend trying it out for a few days before heading to Tanzania just so you know what the side effects feel like. You can either take the medication with you in its own bottle or put it in a ziplock bag that you’ve clearly labeled.
Sun can be the enemy of all vacationers who enjoy it. However, the effects of the sun are significantly more extreme on Kilimanjaro. This is for three fundamental reasons:
- Latitude – The closer you are to the equator, the higher the UV radiation. Kilimanjaro is quite close to the equator (just south of it), and thus experiences more extreme sun rays than other parts of the world.
- Altitude – The sun’s UV radiation is 10-12% more intense for every 1000 meters (3,300 feet) above sea level. With Kilimanjaro’s peak of 5,895 m (19,341 feet), the suns UV radiation will be 60-70% more intense than at sea level!
- Snow – You will definitely encounter snow on summit day, and perhaps on other days you are above about 15,000 feet. Snow is very efficient at reflecting not only the suns visible light, but also the suns damaging UV radiation. In fact, snow can reflect approximately 80% of the suns UV radiation.
Hopefully we’ve convinced you to adequately protect your skin from sunburns with clothing, hats, glacier-style sunglasses, face buffs and other items. These items are infinitely better at protecting your skin than sunscreen is (and it doesn’t need to be frequently re-applied). However, you will definitely have some skin that is exposed, and that’s where you need to liberally apply sunscreen. And be sure to apply to everywhere that the sun hits your skin AND where reflected sun hits your skin. We have seen many a climber have the bottom of their chin and ears burnt and even the skin around their nostrils burn and peel. So use sunscreen frequently, and don’t fear the “white face” look!
We recommend bringing a medium-large size tube of sunscreen for your duffel bag (placed in a ziplock to prevent it from leaking onto your clothes). Then purchase a small bottle that can connect to a carabiner and have it connected on the outside of your pack. We find that when people bury their sunscreen in their pack, they are less likely to apply it during breaks. By having it small and conveniently placed, you are much more likely to apply it each break. You can then refill the smaller tube with the larger tube during the evening when you are back at camp.
One last tip – We often seen climbers show up for the first day of their Kilimanjaro trek already burnt! The town of Moshi is both close to the equator and is almost 1000 meters above sea level. So you can easily get burnt just exploring the town and the market. So use that sunscreen right when you get off the plane!
Try to find sunscreen with an SPF rating of at least 50, preferably one that contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
Your lips will endure a lot during your trek on Kilimanjaro including dry/dusty or freezing wind, high radiation sunlight and snow reflection. Even if you don’t regularly use lip balm, we highly recommend you take a stick with you on your Kilimanjaro trek. Be sure to find a lip balm that has SPF protection (most do not). It will work to not only sooth your lips if they dry out, but also help protect them from the elements in the first place.
You not only need to bring lip balm, but you also need to use it! If you have the item at the ready, you are far more likely to use it. If your daypack has small pockets on the waist strap, this is the best place to put it. If not, you can also put it in your pants pocket. Just be aware that the heat from your body (along with the hot sun) can tend to melt the lip balm somewhat. It doesn’t lessen its protection, but it is more difficult to use. Eventually it will harden back up. We don’t recommend putting into a jacket pocket, because you never know which layer you will have on and it may be difficult to access when needed. One final note: use it for prevention, not just as a remedy. If you apply it liberally before your lips start to dry out it will me much better in the long run.
You will absolutely need insect repellant when you first arrive in Tanzania and while you are exploring Moshi before and after your trek. Tanzania is a malaria zone and prone to mosquitoes and, even if you take Malaria medication, the best way to avoid blood-borne diseases is to prevent mosquito bites in the first place (not to mention the bites are itchy and annoying). You will also want to use your repellant for the first day or two of the trek (depending on your route) along with the very last day.
You should bring a reliable brand that has greater than 90% Deet content. Use it every day you are in town and also while on the base portion of the mountain. After you are above the rain forest zone of Kilimanjaro, there are almost no mosquitos.
For your actual trek, you might consider insect repellant wipes which are quite convenient for the brief time you need repellant on the mountain. However, be sure to pack a good (non-aerosol) spray or cream for when you are in your hotel or around town.
Your guides will have very thorough first aid kits to cover any major issues that might arise. However, it is still recommended that you bring a small kit of your own. It is worth purchasing a small first aid kit that already has the basics. They generally come in water resistant zippered ouch that will conveniently store the items.
A typical first aid kit will include:
- Adherent bandages (e.g. “Band Aids”) of several different shapes and sizes
- Gauze used for larger abrasions
- Wound care items such as butterfly closure strips, antibiotic packages and antiseptic wipes, alcohol wipes
- Adhesive tape
- Over the Counter medications such as ibuprofen, aspirin, antihistamine.
- Splinter remover and safety pins
We recommend supplementing your kit with the following items:
- Moleskin – This is a felt-like material with adhesive backing that you can use on “hotspots” (areas on the feet that feel like a blister might be forming).
- Imodium – Small pills used if you get diarrhea.
- Duct Tap – Don’t take a full roll. Just create your own tiny roll from about 30-50 feet of tape (ADD PHOTO). Can be used for gear fixes, taping moleskin down, or even pulling out tiny splinters.
If your guide is providing a portable toilet (privy) for your group while in camp, they will likely provide toilet paper as well. However, toilet paper in all of Tanzania can sometimes be difficult to locate. So we recommend packing a full roll of TP for your trip. Bring it up with you on your trek in case you need it. Be sure to pack it into a ziplock bag. You can use it as you normally would in the private privy or public bathrooms in camp. However, for women, if you use it while on your trek for peeing, please do not throw it on the ground (you must pack it out in a ziplock bag). There is little that ruins the feeling of the great outdoors like seeing toilet paper on the ground. That little bit of extra effort will help make things better for everyone. You can also opt for a reusable handkerchief (it can dry on your backpack while hiking).
Because phone cameras are getting better and better, many climbers are opting to use their phones as their main camera on Kilimanjaro. Note that phones will likely not have a cell signal, but they do make great cameras on Kilimanjaro (just don’t forget to bring your charging battery.
If you are an aspiring photographer, feel free to bring some of your camera equipment (just remember your overall weight constraints). You’ll also want to ensure you have drybags or other waterproof covers for your gear. However, with the possible exception of the first days and the last day, there will be very little animal sightings on Kilimanjaro. So it is unlikely you will need a powerful zoom lens for your SLR camera. The safari you take before or after your climb will give you far better opportunities to use your advanced camera equipment.
That being said, if you want more capabilities than your phone offers, there are some very nice small cameras that can fit in your pocket. Many of them have powerful optical zoom lenses and lots of memory for photos. Just make sure you’ve made a plan to keep it charged (either by bringing replacement batteries, or recharging from your battery pack).