10 Things You Need To Know Before You Climb Mount Kilimanjaro
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10 Things You Need To Know Before You Climb Mount Kilimanjaro

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To climb Mount Kilimanjaro is a once in a lifetime opportunity. People travel from all over the world to stand on top of the Roof of Africa. Being properly prepared to climb Mount Kilimanjaro is the key to a successful summit attempt. 

In this article we discuss the 10 things you need to know before you climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

No.10 Fitness to climb Mount Kilimanjaro

There is a common misconception that you need to be super fit to be able to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. This is simply not true. In fact many fit people struggle to reach the summit because they exert themselves too much during the early stages of the trek and therefore don’t give themselves enough time to acclimatize during the ascent.

Of course having a good level of health and fitness is important for anyone wanting to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, but you don’t need to be an experienced marathon runner!

On Kilimanjaro you will be trekking approx. 5-7 hours a day (summit day being a lot longer). Preparing for these treks through practice hikes in your home country is a great way to build up your fitness level. If you don’t have time to do practice hikes our recommendation is to do basic cardiovascular exercises at the gym, such as running and cycling. This article gives detailed advice on training to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

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No. 9 Climbing Skills on Kilimanjaro

To Climb Mount Kilimanjaro does not actually require any climbing skills. In fact, Kilimanjaro is just one big hike.

On the Machame, Lemosho, Shira and Umbwe Route there is one section called the Barranco Wall that requires very basic bouldering skills. No preparation is required for this section of the hike though.

No. 8 Kilimanjaro Kit Requirements

We cannot stress enough the importance of having the right equipment to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

The hike covers four climatic zones and therefore layering of clothes is key to staying warm and comfortable as you ascend. A base thermal layer, mid fleece layer and outer jacket is a must.

The right gloves and hiking boots are also critical.

Many hikers use trekking poles which are helpful for balance and take the pressure off your knees, especially when you descend.

The list of kit requirements is fairly lengthy. We recommend reading our detailed Kilimanjaro Packing List here.

No. 7 Kilimanjaro Routes

There are seven routes from which one can climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

The Machame, Umbwe and Marangu routes approach the summit from the South. The Rongai route which starts from the North East is dryer than the other routes and therefore a little less scenic. Because it is slightly out of the way the route is never overcrowded.

Some people start their climb from the East using the Lemosho and Shira route. Both are very scenic and beautiful.

The newest route is the Northern Circuit, which is also the longest route. The Northern Circuit provides lots of opportunity to acclimatize and hence success rates are high on this route.

Here is a complete overview on Kilimanjaro Routes.

No. 6 Kilimanjaro Weather – When to book your climb?

There are two rainy seasons on Kilimanjaro – March through to end of May and November through to February. The south is wetter than the northern slopes, making the Rongai route a favourite during the rainy months.

Typically rain is less prevalent above 3,000m, which means you are only likely to experience rain on Day 1. You may however experience snow and sleet on the upper reaches of the mountain

Here is an article on the best time to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

Tour Recommendation

We do not sell tours, we simply provide impartial advice. If you would like an exact quote from our recommended tour operator click Get a Quote.

No. 5 Acclimitization on Kilimanjaro

Given enough time the body adapts to changes in altitude. Some people experience worse altitude sickness symptoms than others.

There is no correlation between susceptibility to altitude sickness and factors of gender, age, fitness ect.

To prepare for altitude it is important that you understand the symptoms associated with Acute Mountain Sickness. We highly recommend reading our article on acclimatisation which goes into much more detail on acute mountain sickness and the medications you can take to help prevent the onset of AMS.

The three key things to remember are:

1. Go slowly at all times, even on the lower reaches of the mountain

Do not exert yourself. You will hear the porters and guides say “Pole Pole”. This means ‘slow slow’ in Swahili. Make sure you listen and go slow

2. Drink load of fluids

Dehydration is a key cause of Acute Mountain Sickness. The more fluids you can drink the better. Daily recommended intake is 3 litres of water. You can add an energy supplement to the water to make it taste better and always remember to add purification tablets.

3. Climb high, sleep low

Climbing high, sleeping low allows your body to experience altitude for a short period before descending to sleep. On Kilimanjaro it is highly recommended to have an acclimatization day. Typically this happens on day 3 where you climb high (approx. 4,600m and sleep low approx. 3,900m)

You may also decide to take Diamox, which is a medication that helps prevent the onset of AMS. Here is a detailed article on Diamox.

No. 4 Kilimanjaro Food

Eating well on Kilimanjaro is key to your success – you’ll need the energy on summit night. Food is carried and prepared by your guiding team. Typically breakfast consists of tea / coffee, bread with spreads, porridge, sausage and eggs. Lunch usually includes soup, bread, a cooked stew or sandwiches. Dinner is similar to lunch.

Taking adequate snacks is important. Energy bars are a great idea. Plan to eat 3 a day.

One of the main symptoms of AMS is nausea and loss of appetite. If you experience these symptoms you must remember to try eat something to ensure that you have some energy reserves you can draw on during the summit. Eating a few biscuits helps!

No. 3 Water on Kilimanjaro

Water is critical on the mountain.

On day one you will be given 2-3 litres from your guide. During the climb porters will be collecting water to replenish supplies.

You should aim to drink at least 3 litres of water a day. Dehydration is a key cause of AMS so make sure you remain hydrated. You can add an energy supplement to your water to make it more palatable.

You must add water purification tablets to your water.

No. 2 Kilimanjaro Guides and Porters

climb-mount-kilimanjaro-portersThe Kilimanjaro guides and porters are your greatest asset on the mountain. Most guides and porters are locals who speak Swahili. Guides usually have a good command of English.

Typically every climbing group has at least 1 guide, and each climber has three porters. Porters carry all gear, tents, cooking supplies and water. You will learn to respect these guys by the end of day one on your climb. – each porter carries approx. 20kg of kit on their back!!

To find out more about guides and porters including standard tipping rates, check out this article.

No. 1 Determination

Getting to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro has a lot to do with determination. There will likely be a point during the summit attempt where you might feel like giving up – typically around Stella Point or Gilman’s Point. You might be feeling awfully sick and exhausted. At that lowest point it is important that you remain determined to get to the top – one step at a time!

Of course your determination must not supersede your health. Monitor AMS symptoms closely. Your guide will be monitoring you. It is important that you listen to your body and others in your group if they say that you need to descend.

Being prepared is key to success on Kilimanjaro.

Tour Recommendation

We do not sell tours, we simply provide impartial advice. If you would like an exact quote from our recommended tour operator click Get a Quote.

You can find a complete Kilimanjaro kit list on this page.

P.S. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below and we will respond within 24 hours.

About the Author Mark Whitman

Hi, I'm Mark! Welcome to Climb Kilimanjaro Guide - the Web's No.1 Trekking Guide to Mount Kilimanjaro. This site is your one stop shop for everything Kilimanjaro. To date over 2 million people have visited ClimbKilimanjaroGuide.com, many of which have gone on to summit Kili! I hope you find all the answers you are looking for, but if you have any questions don't hesitate to drop a comment below! Happy Trekking!

Leave a Comment:

stuart plant says April 26, 2015

Climb high sleep low is not medically proven and for AMS walk slow is best and rest. Also 3 porters to 1 climber, sorry but that is poor advice and ripping tourists off. U can hike the mountain with a guide only or 1 porter and do your own water collection and put your own tent up. Also fresh food dinners ha ha, no real climber does that. Use dried foods weigh less and easily got rid off.

    Mark Whitman says April 27, 2015

    Hi Stuart, thanks for your comment. You make valid points for people who are serious trekkers / mountaineers, who aim to tackle Kili using an alpine mountain style of climbing (or trekking in the case of Kili). We admire this type of climbing and would encourage anyone with the right level of experience to tackle Kili using lightweight and limited support methods. However, I would hazard a guess that this group account for about 2-5% of people who climb Kili every year. The other 95% of trekkers on the mountain (~30,000 people) often have limited trekking experience – for some Kili is their first experience of long-distance hiking and certainly their first experience of high altitude. Many people have in fact never camped before, let alone setup tents and cooked in the backcountry. For this group of people (i.e. the majority of trekkers on the mountain), full support teams are absolutely necessary.
    In terms of AMS, our recommendations here are based on the most up to date research available (year 2014/15): https://www.climbkilimanjaroguide.com/acclimatization-kilimanjaro/

    bob says November 12, 2015

    Is it 100% necessary to have a guide/porter? If you have a wealth of backpacking experience and even some climbing, must you hire a guide? Are there regulations that require it?

      Mark Whitman says November 13, 2015

      Hi Bob, yes, you need to take a registered guide in order to get onto Mount Kilimanjaro.

    terence robinson says April 18, 2016

    I climbed kili many years ago but turned around very close to the top i was all alone and realized if anything went wrong there would b no one to help me. I would love to go again if i flew to arusha could i find a group or guide on spec to take me up,
    Ps i had no special training and didnt wear any special clothing the only time it got cold was just before the final climb, other than that everything was just one long trek.

Jennifer Salton says October 5, 2015

I’m a 63 year old woman and I have a wish to climb Kilimanjaro by the time I turn 65. I need to be put in touch with someone who can advise me on what is required of me to achive this goal. I live in Gauteng South Africa so some one here would be idea. Thanks Jennifer

    Mark Whitman says October 5, 2015

    Hi Jennifer,

    That’s great news! We’re not in touch with anyone in SA who can help, but you should be able to find loads of useful information on our site. Failing that I recommend Henry Stedman’s book. The good news is that many people in there sixties climb Kilimanjaro successfully every year!

    All the best!

    Molay says November 8, 2015

    Hi Jeniffer,
    I’m a Kilimanjaro mountain guide for 16 years now! Is not a big deal,what you need to do is to stay healthy and little exercise to keep you fit,like jogging and long walks. No technical skills required! On the mountain the pace you required to use is slowly,slowly pace. The fit persons climbs more easy,uses less oxygen per unit of work done and is more energy efficient. Imprve you Cardiovascular (CV) fitness by exercising in your taget zone at least 20 minutes several times a week. Dancing,cycling,swimming,treadmill,or climb small hill to prepare your leg muscles from the rough terrain or climbing lose screen. You will need extra day on the mountain for more acclimatize.

    Rowena says August 19, 2017

    Did you do it Jennifer?

bob says November 13, 2015

Are there regulations in place requiring a party to be accompanied by a guide? IF not How necessary is it to have one, especially if you have a wealth of backpacking experience?

    Mark Whitman says November 13, 2015

    Hi Bob, Yes, all trekkers on Mount Kilimanjaro need to be accompanied by a registered guide. As most treks are full camping expeditions it is also useful to have a porter or two to help carry gear, food, supplies. All the best!

Lisa says December 28, 2015

Is it possible to hire a registered guide for an independent hiker rather than go on a tour group?

    Mark Whitman says December 28, 2015

    Hi Lisa, it is possible to hire an independent and registered guide, but unless you plan to carry most of the gear yourself you will also need a small support crew of porters. Many tour operators can arrange a private 1-person trek but these can be quite costly as all costs will be borne by you. Group treks are affordable as costs are spread among the group. Hope this helps!

Stephen says February 25, 2016

Hi can you tell me please what happens to people in the group that cannot continue for whatever reason & how common is it that this happens ? I don’t like using tracking pole’s would this be a major problem on killi thanks

    Mark Whitman says March 1, 2016

    Hi Stephen, it really depends on your tour operator. Generally, if someone can’t continue due to altitude sickness, then a guide will assist them off the mountain and the rest of the group will continue. It is therefore important to check with your tour operator that they have a high guide to client ratio. The cheaper operators cut corners here as the more guides and assistant guides, the more expensive the trip. But ultimately you pay for what you get and I would make sure that your tour operator has explicit safety descent procedures and a high guide to client ration. In terms of trekking poles, these are not mandatory. Many people, including myself, find them very useful on the descent. All the best!

Pat Maharaj says July 2, 2016

My concern. I’m climbing Kili in 6 weeks time and have all these questions about the summit night. How do I carry a insulated water bottle, two others bottles with water…a hand torch and still have my hands on my trekking poles.

    Mark Whitman says July 3, 2016

    Hi Pat, you shouldn’t bring a handtouch, you need a head torch! Your water bottles can be kept in your daypack / or if you using a hydration bladder this will be sitting in the back of our daypack. Your hands should therefore be free to hold your trekking poles. Hope this helps!

Natalie rogers says September 18, 2016

Really strange question, what is it best to sleep in clothing wise?

    Mark Whitman says September 19, 2016

    Hi Natalie, lower down the mountain you might get away with sleeping in your underwear / thermals. As you get higher up and particularly on summit night you might want to wear most of your clothing that you will be wearing on the summit push. Hope this helps.

Alex D says November 22, 2016

Hello! I’m currently trying to book a trip to climb Kilimanjaro, and our travel agent is suggesting that we should wait 3-4 days after landing in Tanzania before we start the climb.

It’s for my honeymoon, so I was hoping to rest for a day after flying in and start climbing directly after, which would give us 3-4 days at the end of the climb for the safari. How long after you land did you start your climb? Do you have a recommended resting day period for people to follow before they start climbing?

Thanks so much!!

    Mark Whitman says November 23, 2016

    Hi Alex, most people arrive the day before their climb and start their trek the following day (for example, arrive the 7th, start trek on the 8th). If your flight arrives in the late evening or early morning (i.e. Turkish Airline flights to Kilimanjaro), then you may want to take a extra before the climb to rest, but you certainly don’t need 3-4 days rest before climbing. Some people do 3-4 days of safari before their climb, but I would suggest you keep the safari for after the climb. I also recommend using our tour operator recommendation service, where I can put you in touch with the best on-the-ground operator. Their support staff in the UK are super helpful and I know that they have organised many honeymoons before. See: https://www.climbkilimanjaroguide.com/go/

Emma says December 30, 2016

Hi there, if you are travelling alone to climb Mt Kilimanjaro, is it possible to join a group

    Mark Whitman says December 31, 2016

    Yeah, did course. Contact my partner, Kandoo Adventures! They are amazing!

Lucy says January 4, 2017

Hi there, I was wondering if there was an age restriction on climbing the mountain? I have a very fit and able 16 year old. Would they be able to climb (with me and my partner) or do you have to be 18?

    Mark Whitman says January 8, 2017

    Hi Lucy, the minimum age to climb Kilimanjaro is 12, so your 16 year old child will be able to join you!

Nanuka says January 31, 2017

Hi I just decided to climb Kilimanjaro as couple of my friends are doing so.
I am 27 and consider myself fit, as I go to the gym about 3 times as week and dance 2 times a week. But I do not have much hiking experience.
I have little bit more than a moth before the trip, do you think that is enough time to prepare for the? And what are the best ways to do so in such short time?

    Admin Admin says February 1, 2017

    Hi Nanuka, if you are already quite fit then you should be all set to go. Best way to prepare for Kilimanjaro is to get as many long distance hikes under foot, but if you can’t get into the hills then I recommend high intensity training. See here: https://www.climbkilimanjaroguide.com/training-to-climb-kilimanjaro/

Amelia says February 26, 2017

Hi I found your guide to be very useful! I just have a few questions that I hope you could answe for me please. I’m 21 years old, I have no previous hiking/climbing experience, but I am healthy, fit, go gym etc. I’ve been interested in doing this for a while but I’d be doing it on my own if I do decide to go ahead… So I was just wondering is it possible to join a group? And are there often people who have come solo and by themselves who end up joining groups? I’m more nervous about whom I’ll be doing it with as a lone female than how I’ll do it haha. Any information would be very useful, thank you

Betty says March 18, 2017

Do you think a fitness program like Fit For Trips would be a good way to prepare for the trek?

    Mark Whitman says March 20, 2017

    Hi Betty, I haven’t heard of Fit For Trips, but just checked out their site and I’m sure their fitness regime would provide good training for Kilimanjaro. All the best!

Raju says October 17, 2017

Thank you for putting up a ton of useful info. I’d like to know if there is any itinerary that avoids night time climbing and also bypasses the Barranco Wall.

    Mark Whitman says October 20, 2017

    Hi Raju, the Rongai, Marangu and Northern Circuit all avoid the Barranco Wall. Unfortunately most commercial climbs are designed for a early morning summit push (from 12pm). This gives trekkers enough time to ascend to the summit by sun rise and then descend to the lower camp by mid afternoon. Summit day is around 12 hours long so if you started your summit push at around 7am you would get back to camp at night, which would be dangerous. There are ways to attempt the summit during day time but most then camp in Kilimanjaro’s crater. As this camp is really high you need to be well acclimatised to do this route variation. I would speak with your tour operator and see what they can offer. To put your mind at ease though, the summit push at night is generally very good as you will be moving slowly and in single file with each person using a head-torch, so visibility is pretty good. If you can organise you climb to coincide with the full moon and the night sky is clear then, visibility can be great. Hope this helps!

Sally Long says December 30, 2017

Hi Mark.
2 questions, I have emphysema, which was thankfully diagnosed in the early stages. So would I be able to take on the Kilimanjaro challenge?
Also I’m a Coeliac, so need a gluten free diet!! Would my diet be catered for?
Thank you

    Mark Whitman says January 12, 2018

    Hi Sally, in terms of getting a gluten free diet I recommend chatting with you tour operator. Many are able to cater for various diets. You can also bring gluten free pasta to give to your tour operator’s chef and he can then substitute this for any gluten ingredients. With regards to emphysema, unfortunatley I’m not qualified to answer that question. I recommend contacting your doctor for the go-ahead. All the best!

Elfrieda Kitney says April 1, 2018

I am female and 73 next Year when I plan to climb to the Kili summit. I am in perfect health except arthritis. Will the cold weather cause arthritic problems? Will the porters carry all the water or do we carry 3 liters?

    Mark Whitman says April 4, 2018

    Hi Elfrieda, great to hear that you are looking to climb Kilimanjaro. In terms of your arthritis, if your symptoms currently get bad during cold weather then I suspect the same would be true on Kilimanjaro. It does get very cold higher up the mountain. So extra layers of good quality gear is highly recommended. In terms of keeping your hands warm, I recommend two layers for gloves – inner and outer layers – as well as the use of hand warmers: https://www.climbkilimanjaroguide.com/kilimanjaro-kit-list/kilimanjaro-gloves/. Porters will carry your main gear bag, but generally hikers carry a daypack with water / other essentials. You may find that your guide can help carry some of your daypack load. Hope this helps!

shah-tours says May 8, 2018

Great blog.

Patrick Clare says July 16, 2018

Hi, I am going to be climbing Kili most likely around next August. I have been preparing a lot in advance regarding training and creating a list of equipment to bring. Two simple questions: How far in advance do I have to book my trip? I am not sure if it varies with the different companies but on average.. a month, few months? And also do I have to buy my own equipment? I know with some of the seven summits all of the equipment is provided by the company you use, but I did not know if that is the case with Mt. Kilimanjaro. Thank you very much!

    Mark Whitman says July 17, 2018

    Hi Patrick, you can book a Kilimanjaro climb with very short notice, but to ensure you get affordable flights I would recommend booking about 2-3 months in advance, if not more. In terms of gear, all Kilimanjaro operators provide the camping gear (i.e. tents, cooking gear etc.), but you will need to bring your own personal gear. See here for a full kit list: https://www.climbkilimanjaroguide.com/kilimanjaro-kit-list/

David says August 22, 2018

The guides carrying all that kit, food and water not to mention cooking and setting up camp, quite amazing. So 3 guides per person is about average? I suppose the alternative is carrying most of it yourself,would this work out significantly cheaper if all the group followed suit? I know you have to have a guide to attempt Kili but is it possible to do this without having everything done for you?



    Mark Whitman says August 23, 2018

    Hi David, generally the guides don’t carry much kit, except their own. Most gear is carried by porters. On average there are two porters person, each carrying the trekkers duffel bag (~20kg) and a portion of the camping equipment (tents, chairs, food, cooking gear etc.). It is possible to trek lite, without porters, but most commercial companies do not offer this as an option. Either way you need to take a guide at the minimum. Hope this helps.

Wim says August 29, 2018

I was wondering if we have to carry sleeping bags, mattress and clothes by ourselves or will the porter carry this? I’m asking because we are going to travel through Kenya / Tanzania with a backpack (55-75L) full of clothes + other stuff and it will definitely be much harder if we have to carry all this by ourselves.

    Mark Whitman says September 6, 2018

    Hi Wim, good news – your porter will carry your main bag. All you need to carry on Kilimanjaro is your daypack.

STEPHEN says January 3, 2019

I 63 and want to know if I can bring my own group of friends instead of climbing with some of these macho knuckleheads ? Also, since we can afford the luxury, can we take a few more experienced guides?

Priscilla Isabelle Tayari says January 11, 2019

Naomba kujua gharama za kupanda mlima kilimanjaro kwa watu 15

Elizabeth says January 28, 2019

If you are prone to motion sickness does this affect the chances of AMS?

John says March 2, 2019

So I am an experienced ultramarathoner (completed 100 miles) and know my bodies signs of fuel fatigue and mental capacity. I am in country for work but don’t have a week to take off and attempt this. Are you saying there is no chance of getting to the top in a quick ascent? I can swiftly hike without “pushing” myself. Are there no guides willing to go with me? It sounds like there are only 5 day options

    Mark Whitman says March 17, 2019

    Hi John, without pre-acclimatising I would strongly recommend not trying to hike Kilimanjaro on any route less than 6 days. There is a 5 day route, summit success rates are around 45% on it. The issue is not fitness, it’s altitude. All speed ascents on Kilimanjaro have been done by people who have spent a week acclimatising either on Kilimanjaro or on Mount Meru.

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