For those adventure seekers who aren’t super hardcore, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro may just be the perfect trip for you. At 19,340 feet (5895 meters), it’s the highest peak in all of Africa and the tallest walkable peak in the world – meaning you don’t have to use climbing equipment to reach the summit. While this doesn’t mean it’s easy, quite the contrary, it does mean that you don’t have to have any special expertise to reach the summit. You do have to be in good shape and prepared for a week-long trek, but nearly anyone willing to do what it takes can complete this awesome challenge.
Hiking to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro is not something you can do independently. It’s necessary to go with a tour group, and as you can imagine, there are a multitude of choices. The thing to remember about doing something like hiking to the top of the tallest peak in Africa is not to go with the absolute cheapest option. You will get what you paid for, and you don’t really want improper gear or support when hiking in conditions like Kili. Altitude sickness is no joke, and many of the cheaper tours are shorter, meaning less time acclimate.
We have partnered with Global Basecamps to offer a stellar hike to the top of Kilimanjaro, so be sure to check it out. The Kilimanjaro Machame Trek is a 10 day trip (7 on the mountain) that will allow you to watch the sunrise from the summit of Kili.
When to Go/Weather
Mount Kilimanjaro can technically be hiked year-round, which is a major draw. However, there are better times than others, and if you decide to go in the less-crowded, rainy seasons, you have a decent chance of not making the summit. As with any mountain hike, weather will always be a factor no what time of year you go.
Mid-December through January and mid-June through September are the high seasons, which means two things – you will have the best possibility of being able to summit because of good weather, but you will also see the most people on the trail. The absolute peak seasons are around Christmas, New Year’s, and full moons.
If you want to take more of a chance, consider hiking Kili in mid-February or late September/early October. There is more of a chance of inclement weather, but there are also far less crowds.
As stated above, Kili can be hiked year-round, but if you go from mid-March to mid-June and mid-November to mid-December, your hike may get cut short. This is the rainy season, and you can even see snow at higher altitudes.
How to Prepare
The first thing you want to do is get yourself into good shape. Luckily you don’t have to be a marathon runner or champion climber to summit Kilimanjaro, but it makes sense to at least be fit. Even if you don’t live in a mountainous region, just getting out and walking will be helpful, even if your options are limited. Throwing some weight in your pack and getting used to hiking with a full backpack is also a great idea. I grew up and have lived in Missouri most of my life and have managed to hike in the Rockies, Patagonia, the Andes, and the Himalayas, and I am far from Mr. Fit and Trim. It can be done by anyone, you just have to prepare properly.
You also want to make sure you go with a tour that doesn’t go too fast. You are going to need plenty of time to acclimate, so jetting up the mountain at a fast and furious pace means that you will be much more prone to altitude sickness. Don’t be swayed by the cheap prices of the shorter tours – they’re cheaper for a reason.
What to Pack
Packing for a multi-day trek in the mountains is always challenging. When we hiked the W in Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, we went to an informational meeting a few days before departing and received the best packing advice ever.
First, don’t pack too much when it comes to clothing. This isn’t a fashion show, so two outfits is plenty. One to hike in and one to sleep in. Of course you are going to want to bring layers as the weather and temperature can and will change in an instant, so you will constantly be peeling and adding layers throughout each day. But you don’t need more than two complete outfits. At the end of your day, simply change into your nighttime/sleeping clothes, put your hiking clothes into a big, black trashbag, and put them in your pack. Yes, it will suck the next morning when you have to put your smelly, possibly wet outfit back on, but once you’re on the trail for 10 minutes, you won’t notice.
A good pack is necessary for any trek. Don’t go cheap on this. Most reputable companies have porters who will carry not only the tents, sleeping bags, food, and cooking equipment, but also some of your gear. You will still need a day pack at the very least for layers, rain gear (poncho, rain jacket, even an umbrella), water, snacks, and your camera. Ever since I hiked the Inca Trail, I swear by walking sticks, but that’s up to each individual. A sun hat, gloves, a warm hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, some minor first aid equipment, a headlamp, and a pocket knife are all good items to add to your pack as well.
Check out this Kilimanjaro packing list for more ideas of what to bring with you.
Climbing to the top of Africa’s highest peak is an experience that all outdoor lovers will never forget. But that incredible experience can turn negative if you don’t prepare properly.
Read on for more information on hiking to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.