On Kilimanjaro, you will be trekking through 4 climatic zones. Weather can range from warm and tropical at the base of the mountain to freezing on the summit.
To ensure that you remain comfortable in each zone, it is critical that you understand the concept of layering with your Kilimanjaro Clothing.
As the weather changes, it is vital to layer up and down. Layering only works if each layer is made out of fabric supporting the wicking process, allowing moisture to pass from one layer to the next. Layers should hug the skin, i.e. not be too tight, but equally not too loose.
Due to its hydrophilicity, avoid cotton, because it traps moisture and stops the wicking process.
Here are the layers of Kilimanjaro clothing that you need to take with you.
There’re over 200 Kilimanjaro Operators (Choose Wisely!)
We do not sell tours, we simply provide impartial advice. Get a quote from our recommended local tour operator.
Depending on the length of your trek, you should bring 4-5 pairs of sports underwear.
Those made by Jokey or Icebreaker are excellent. Alternatively, any sporting brand underwear will work.
Women should bring two pairs of sports bras.
As you approach the upper reaches of the mountain, you will need to wear a lightweight base layer (or next-to-skin layer) over your underwear. Unless it is very cold, you won’t need to wear this layer for the first few days on the mountain. On summit night, this will be your most important layer, as it is the one that comes in contact with your skin.
We recommend Smartwool Lightweight Base Layers (Men) or Icebreaker Base Layers (Women). Both make products from 100% merino wool. Their products are super comfortable, of great quality and provide incredible moisture control.
For treks less than 8 days, one pair of top and bottom base layers should be sufficient. For treks over 8 days, you should get at least 2 pairs, to avoid smelling terrible by the end of the hike. You won’t use this layer every day but will need it during the cold nights and on summit night.
In terms of trekking shirts, we recommend 2 short sleeve shirts and 2 long sleeve shirts. Ideal fabric is a breathable, lightweight and quick-drying polyester, merino or nylon. Make sure that your shirts are not cotton.
Other great trekking shirts are made by Icebreaker, Craghoppers, Columbia and Patagonia (see their Capilene range).
You will also need to bring 1-2 pairs of these convertible trousers made by Columbia.
For the colder stretches on the hike and for summit night, you should bring 1 mid-weight fleece jacket or parka top. This is your second layer, or insulation layer, and should be used in your layering system over your base layer, or indeed as a standalone that you wear over your trekking shirt when temperatures start to drop. They also come in great use at night when it can get very cold out.
Fleeces with Polartec materials are great. Typically Polartec fleeces come in 100s, 200s or 300s. The 100s are a little light and the 300s too heavy. 200s provide great warmth and comfort and are perfect for hiking. Kilimanjaro.
Core Jacket or Third Layer
For the colder stretches on the hike and for summit night, you should bring one mid-weight fleece jacket or parka top. This is your second layer, or insulation layer, and should be used in your layering system over your base layer, or as a standalone that you wear over your trekking shirt when temperatures start to drop. It also comes to great use at night when it can get very cold.
Fleeces that use Polartec materials are great. Typically Polartec fleeces come in 100s, 200s or 300s. The 100s are a little light and 300’s too heavy. Two-hundreds provide great warmth and comfort and are perfect for hiking Kilimanjaro.
Here are the key factors to consider when selecting an appropriate jacket:
Weight and warmth: The weight of a winter jacket can vary from super light (less than 450 grams) to super heavy (more than 1kg). The lightest winter jackets use a down fill and can weigh as little as 200 grams. Down provides the greatest weight-to-warmth ratio. Generally, the lightest jackets (down or synthetic) provide the least warmth and are, therefore, ideal for moderately cold environments, but not freezing alpine or high altitude environments. Heavy jackets (down and synthetic) are generally the warmest type of jacket but can be cumbersome to transport and trek in. For Kilimanjaro, we suggest a mid-weight winter jacket (~500-700 grams).
Waterproofing: Despite the dominance of down jackets in terms of weight and warmth, they do have a major flaw – as they are much more susceptible to moisture. When down jackets get wet they lose their loft and insulation capacities. This is not to say that a light downpour or even all day snow is going to destroy the insulating qualities of your down jacket, but in similar conditions or very wet conditions, a synthetic jacket will perform better. The key thing to look for, therefore, is a jacket (down or synthetic) that has an outer fabric that has a high water-resistant capacity. Pertex Shield fabric is the best for down jackets and nylon is great on synthetic jackets.
Versatility: Unless you plan to use your jacket for a particular activity after Kilimanjaro (e.g. ice climbing, snowboarding), we suggest going for a jacket that provides as much versatility as possible (i.e. can be used for many different activities in as many different environments).
Recommended Warm Jacket
In terms of a good and affordable down jacket, we recommend The North Face Aconcagua for men and women. It retails for a great price and is super-lightweight which makes it easy to travel with and really warm.
Recommended Insulated Trousers
For the upper reaches of your Kilimanjaro trek (>4,500 meters) the temperatures can get very cold, particularly at night. Warm trekking trousers are a must.
Here are the key characteristics to look out for: water resistance, sun protection and fleece inner lining with quick-drying polyester outer for warmth.
Alternatively, some prefer to use a hard shell pair of trousers, similar to ski pants or salopettes. These trousers will have a waterproof membrane and insulated inner fabric – we recommend Columbia Bugaboo pants (men, women) or at the higher end, the Arc’Teryx Gamma.
Women might find it useful to bring some trekking tights or soft leggings to wear underneath the trousers for easy changing straight into a sleeping bag.
Hardshell and Rain Gear
In addition to these items, we recommend taking with you a hardshell jacket and some lightweight rain gear (unisex). In terms of the hardshell jacket, we recommend the North Face Resolve (men, women) or similar.
For a quick rain cover, you might also want to bring a poncho that sits over your body and daypack. Ideal for the lower reaches.
Summit Safely and Successfully
We do not sell tours, we simply provide impartial advice. Get a quote from our recommended local trek operator.
Not Recommended for Kilimanjaro
You should not bring:
- Jeans, for obvious reasons – they absorb water many times their weight, are difficult to trek in, take a long time to dry, rapidly transfer heat from the body, must we continue?.
- Cotton. Although wearing cotton shirts on the lower reaches is fine, in general, we would avoid cotton altogether. It absorbs moisture and blocks breathability.
Kilimanjaro Packing List Continued
Discover what other Kilimanjaro gear you need, choose a category.
Still have questions about Kilimanjaro clothing? Leave a comment below and we will respond within 24 hours.