Climbing Kilimanjaro is a unique experience; temperature’s can range from +30 degrees in the rainforest, to -25 degrees at the summit. You will also walk through 5 different climate zones in as many days and you must have all the clothing that you will require to cope with these extremes.
Where to start?
The key to success on Kilimanjaro is layers…….the easiest way to keep cool, warm, dry and comfortable on the mountain is by adopting the layering principal. By taking light weight thinner layers, as apposed to thick heavy layers you will be able to adjust your clothing as required to keep you as comfortable as possible on the mountain.
There are 3 main layers that you should consider;
1. Base layer – provides comfort by keeping the skin dry.
2. Mid layer – provides warmth.
3. Shell layer – protects from wind and water.
The base layer is a close fitting layer next to the skin that will help to keen you warm and draw sweat away from the skin to the next layers; this will make you feel warmer and keep you more comfortable on the move.
- Synthetic materials such as polyester and microfiber-based fabrics are ideal as they do not absorb moisture but transfer it well.
- Bamboo made base layers are also an excellent choice but they can be expensive.
- Cotton is a cheap option and will feel comfortable when dry, but will absorb moisture easily and will be slow to dry out, especially in cold conditions.
The mid layer’s main purpose is to provide insulation in colder conditions. For extreme temperatures, multiple thin mid layers can be worn rather than one thicker layer. The mid layer should be loose-fitting enough to allow insulating air between the layers.
- Wool is the traditional mid layer material as it provides good insulation even when wet.
- Fleece or other synthetics has similar properties to wool, but is lighter. It provides good insulation even when wet, absorbs very little moisture and dries quickly.
- Down has a very good warmth-weight ratio and can be packed down to take up very little room. The downside’s are that it is more expensive and loses its insulating properties when wet or compressed.
- Synthetic Fiberfill such as polyester fiber is used similarly to down, but does not have as good a warmth-weight ratio. However, it is less expensive and provides good insulation even when wet.
The outermost clothing layer is called the shell layer; the main purpose is to provide protection from wind and rain. The shell layer should also be breathable, allowing moisture to pass through to the outside, while keeping the elements out.
- Plastic raincoats will protect from the wind and rain, but are not breathable. To compensate, these types of raincoats will have flap-covered holes and are very loose-fitting to allow air circulation.
- Hard shell materials are waterproof and are breathable. Their essential element is a thin, porous membrane that blocks liquid from entering the garment, but will allow water vapor (evaporated sweat) through the material. Typically, the more expensive the material the more breathable they are. The best-known brand of this type is Gore-Tex.
- A water resistant (soft shell) material will only partially block water, but they are usually more breathable, comfortable and cheaper than completely waterproof materials.
Suggested clothing list
1 – Waterproof Jacket, breathable with hood
1 – Insulated Jacket, synthetic or down
1 – Soft Jacket, fleece or soft-shell
2 – Long Sleeve Shirt, light-weight, moisture-wicking fabric
1 – Short Sleeve Shirt, light-weight, moisture-wicking fabric
1 – Waterproof Trousers, breathable (side-zipper recommended)
2 – Hiking Pants
1 – Fleece Pants
1 – Shorts (optional)
1 – Long Underwear (moisture-wicking fabric recommended)
3 – Underwear, briefs (moisture-wicking fabric recommended)
3 – Sport Bra (women)
1 – Brimmed Hat, for sun protection
1 – Knit Hat, for warmth
1 – Balaclava, for face coverage (optional)
1 – Gloves, warm (waterproof recommended)
1 – Glove Liners, thin, synthetic, worn under gloves for added warmth (optional)
1 – Hiking Boots, warm, waterproof, broken-in
1 – Trainers / Tent mules, to wear in camp (optional)
3 – Socks, thick, wool or synthetic
1 – Gaiters, waterproof (optional)
Need more help on what Kilimanjaro clothing to take? Why not check out the Kilimanjaro Kit page.