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). This includes your sleeping bag, sleeping pad, clothes, electronics and toiletries, all stuffed into a giant waterproof duffel. 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 the ultimate Kilimanjaro packing list for women with useful tips that I learned from my recent trek on the mountain.
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Your base layer includes everything you’ll wear the first and last day on the mountain 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 plus size and hot-natured I don’t 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
- 2-3 sports bras- High impact bras aren’t necessary but I’ve found they’re thicker which will help keep your ta-ta’s warm on the mountain
- 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 since you’ll only be wearing these for a day or two
- 1-2 long-sleeved shirts– Lightweight or midweight, depending on how warm you want to be
- 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. I read bad reviews about the Columbia brand rain pants so I went with REI and have been happy with them. They’re one of the few brands that offer plus sizes.
- Thermal underwear– Nothing fancy, just your standard Cuddl Duds or fleece underwear
- 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 prefer a poncho to prevent myself from getting too hot or sweaty
- 3-in-1 snow jacket– Something with a waterproof outer shell and a warm down jacket inside that you can wear by itself when needed. A down jacket with a waterproof poncho works almost as good if you’re on a tight budget
- 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 for summit night
- Neck gaiter or buff– These are extremely important for keeping your lungs moist and free from dust on the trail. Choose a traditional buff or a fleece lined neck gaiter, it’s up to you. I brought one of each!
- 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.
Good to Know: Waterproof outerwear is extremely important on Kilimanjaro but it doesn’t always come in the size you need. If you’re particularly big, tall or short and can’t find anything in your size then I suggest trying Foxwear custom clothing. I have no experience with the company and it’s a small business but they make customized rain gear and jackets to fit your exact measurements and the prices are comparable to standard sizes outerwear.
Your hiking boots will probably be the most important purchase you make for this trip so shop around and find a pair that fits 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– I used my Crocs which are durable and lightweight but KEEN’s work well too. Just choose a shoe with a spacious toebox. In the event you bruise your toes on the hike down (or lose a toenail) you’ll want a shoe that doesn’t rub against the top of your toes.
- 1 pair of waterproof hiking boots -I LOVE my Lowa Renegade GTX but there’s so many different kinds of boots out there that you really have to find one that fits you best. Just be sure to pick a waterproof boot with GoreTex and good ankle support.
- 3-5 pairs of liner socks– These are worn as a layer between your feet and regular hiking sock and help wick away moisture. They’re essential for keeping your feet dry and blister-free!
- 3-6 pairs of hiking socks- Light and medium cushioning socks if you have wide feet, medium and heavy cushioning socks if you have regular or narrow feet. My personal favorite is the Darn Tough crew socks. They’re super soft and long enough to fit past my hiking boots but not so long that they start digging into my wide calves.
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 brought 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- Necessary if you wear contacts
- Unbreakable travel mirror
- Perfume- A small sample vial or rollerball
- Panty liners, one per day*
- 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
- Lip balm– Pack 2 or 3 in case you lose one.
- Saline Nasal Gel– The high altitude will REALLY dry out your sinuses. Use nasal gel at night to restore some moisture and prevent nosebleeds
- Baby wipes- This will be your only shower for 7 days!
- Toilet paper
- Small bottle of lotion or moisturizer. Coconut oil works well too and can double as lip balm (though you still need something with SPF)
- Compeed– Excellent for preventing blisters. I used this on a few toes and didn’t get a blister till the last day of hiking
*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 you may want to consider bringing (as always, discuss this with your doctor). 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. 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 along with some “luxury” items that will make your hike a lot easier.
- Snacks, snacks, and more snacks (3-4 per day plus a few extras)- Include some hard candies like Werther’s Originals or lozenges. Not only will the altitude dry out your sinuses but your throat will suffer too.
- 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
- Gaiters– I rented mine but you can get low gaiters for fairly cheap
- Trekking poles– Rented these too but I’m buying one for my trip to Everest Base Camp
- iPod, headphones and charger
- Photography equipment
- 2 extra sets of batteries
- Swim towel
- Portable charger– Not necessary but nice to have if you’re bringing multiple cameras. The solar charger I brought failed dismally. I’ve since bought a much better battery pack from Outdoor Tech and I’m VERY happy with it. I got their biggest battery, 10,000 mAh which charges an iPhone roughly 5 times. But the reason I like Outdoor Tech is because their battery packs are waterproof, dustproof and shockproof. It also comes with an amazingly bright flashlight on the front that works as a backup for my headlamp.
- Polarized sunglasses– These are HUGELY popular among the guides and porters. If you bring a spare pair they would be really appreciated as an additional “tip”
- Small journal and pen
Good to Know: Be sure to store whatever electronics you bring in your sleeping bag at night. The cold can drain your batteries quickly, sometimes in the span of a few hours. On summit night you may even want to hike with your camera batteries in a warm pocket or close to your chest. The last thing you want is to get to the summit and find out your camera battery is dead!
The Big Gear
This little list includes all the gear you’ll need to carry your stuff as well as your sleeping bag. I rented almost all of this equipment with the exception of my daypack. If you are new to the camping world, you’ll get the hang of it soon enough. It is important to remember that one of the most useful parts of your gear kit is the daypack itself. Without it, you’ll struggle to carry everything you’ll need. But this is why sites such as outdoorshabit.com exists, if you need a hand in choosing the best one for the job. Don’t just go for the first option you see. Take your time and make the decision you feel is right, in order to get the best experience for your camping trip.
- 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. I love my Gregory Jade 28L
- 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 only cost $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 extra wide sleeping bag. I recently bought an REI sleeping bag that comes in extra wide. It’s only rated to 24 degrees (12 degrees at the lower limit) but it’s one of the few extra wide sleeping bags and doesn’t cost a fortune or weigh 8 friggin’ pounds.
For Curvy Gals
Who says fat girls can’t climb Kilimanjaro? This Kilimanjaro packing list works for you too! But if you’re plus size like me you know it’s hard to find good quality hiking clothes that fit. Columbia brand is my personal favorite for my adventure clothing. They’re a tad expensive but their clothes are excellent quality. I’ve purchased the Columbia Just Right pants and they were GREAT for my safari, so stretchy and light. I’ve also got a pair of capris and I’m waiting for Columbia’s Bugaboo snow pants to go on sale so I can snatch one up.
Another option for outerwear is Lands’ End. They’ve got a very small selection of clothes, such as fleece jackets, that go up to 5X but most of their plus size clothing stops at 3X. However I found their sizing to be quite generous. Their long underwear is AMAZING and they have frequent sales.
Athleta also has a decent selection of plus size activewear and base layers but they only go up to 2X. Bombsheller is a website that only sells leggings but they have the most EPIC patterns you’ve ever seen in sizes that go up to 6X. I bought a pair after I climbed Kili that I’m taking to Everest Base Camp.
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 duffle and pull out just one Ziploc bag I would need for the next day instead of fishing around for something to wear. At the end of the day I’d stuff my dirty clothes back in their bag or use it for trash if needed.
I’ve personally used almost all the products listed above 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!
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