Should you take a backpack for Mt Kilimanjaro?
Surprisingly, the answer is no.
There are two types of bags that you need to have on your Kilimanjaro hike – a duffle bag and a daypack.
You can obviously take a backpack instead of a duffel, but backpacks tend to have limited capacity (ideally you want 80L or more), and waterproof options are also limited.
The type of bag you choose (whether a backpack or duffel) is important as it will hold all of your gear, including your sleeping bag.
Here are the most frequently asked questions we get about Kilimanjaro backpacks?
Once you've read this article I recommend checking out our packing list for Kilimanjaro.
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Kilimanjaro Backpack FAQs
Can I take a backpack instead of a duffel bag?
Yes, you can take a camping backpack instead of a duffel bag. But unless you're proficient at packing light, you will need to have a backpack with at least a 70 litre capacity. Here are some large capacity backpacks.
Do I need to carry my backpack or duffel?
Your main Kilimanjaro bag (whether a duffel bag or backpack) will be carried by a porter (read about Kilimanjaro porters) who will transport your gear from one camp to the next.
Porters carry bags on their head so it is important that your bag is soft and weighs no more than 20kg when fully loaded (some trek operators limit the weight to 15kg fully-loaded).
What characteristics should I look for in a bag?
- Ideally, greater than 80 litre capacity (hence why a duffel is the preferred choice)
- Constructed from waterproof laminate material to ensure your gear stays dry. We recommend packing your gear into separate plastic bags or packing units (see below) to provide extra waterproofing and easy access to sorted gear
- A strong zipper system that is not susceptible to breaking and can be easily locked. Take a small lock to secure your bag
- A hand and shoulder strapping system to provide extra versatility
What duffel bag do you recommend?
In you are in the UK, we recommend the TYTN duffel bag, which is specifically designed for expedition hiking (unfortunately it is not available in the US).
See more duffel bag options here.
What daypack should I take?
In addition to your duffle bag (which is carried by your porter) you will be carrying your own daypack. In your daypack you should keep all important gear (suncream, sunglasses, snacks, water), personal (money, passport etc.) or small breakable items (camera, phone etc.).
Your daypack should be small and lightweight. The lighter the better.
Key characteristics to look for in a good daypack:
- Compression straps to reduce weight stress on your back
- Side mesh pockets for easy access to your water bottle and other useful stuff
- Ensure your backpack has a rain cover
Best Daypack: Osprey Talon 22
The Osprey Talon 22 is a brilliant day pack that will easily fit all your essentials in a comfortable and well-supported bag.
The Talon is definitely a leader in the lightweight market, providing versatility, high performance and quality design in a neat multi-purpose pack. The daypack also features a special compartment to put your hydration bladder.
Two sizes are available: S/M (20L) and M/L (22L) and the bag retails for ~$100/£70. Both sizes are fine for Kilimanjaro.
Best Value Daypack: The North Face Borealis
The North Face Borealis is a multi-purpose day pack. It includes all the key features that are required for climbing Kilimanjaro (including a hydration bladder compartment), as well as useful non-trekking features, such as a laptop compartment.
The Borealis has a 29L capacity and comes in at a cheaper price than the Osprey Talon.
Available in both men and women variants.
What other Kilimanjaro backpack accessories should I take?
Depending on what time of the year you are hiking, there is a possibility that you will encounter rain on the mountain. You want to avoid getting your daypack wet. A good rain cover is a worthy piece of kit to have as a precaution.
If you are going with the Osprey Talon Backpack we would also get the Osprey Hi-Visibility Raincover, which retails for the standard backpack rain cover price and is super reliable. NB: select the right size cover (i.e. 19-30 litres).
If you decide to go with a daypack which can hold a hydration bladder, then we suggest you purchase the best hydration bladder on the market. There is nothing worse than a leaky bladder!
The Platypus Big Zip Water Reservoir is undoubtedly the best product, hands down!. Where Osprey are strong in backpacks, Platypus rock the hydration bladder. The Platypus comes in a 2L and 3L version, the latter is ideal for Kilimanjaro.
Travel Bag Organisers
A pro tip that we have used to great effect on Kilimanjaro are travel bag organisers, which can be used to source separate your gear for better backing and access. They also provide a great way to separate wet or dirty gear.
Alternatively, if you want to go completely cheapo then use clear plastic bags to separate your gear.
Small TSA Lock
For obvious safety purposes you should be locking your Kilimanjaro bag. Here are some TSA locks.
Better safe than sorry... I highly recommend travel insurance for Tanzania. Use the quote calculator from our partner, World Nomads. World Nomads provide comprehensive travel cover as well as specific coverage for hiking up to 6000m, which is perfect for Kilimanjaro.