1. Get your body in shape!
We did a lot of blog reading and Vlog watching to see what others had to say about they physical aspect when climbing Kili. To our surprise, a lot of people said that you didn't have to be in that great of shape to summit the mountain. People who aren't physically active day to day or workout here and there said all they did was the stair master and cardio. These write-ups, comments, and reviews made my husband and I somewhat skeptical. So despite our "busy" lives, we decided to follow a training program and prepare ourselves because there is no way that we weren't going to make it up to Uhuru Peak because we didn't take the time during our lunch breaks to work out.
Big Mountain Climbing Training Program
- 10 weeks, 5 days/week
- Designed to build strength, then stamina and endurance for big mountain expeditions
- Strong focus on durability to keep you healthy in the mountains
If you do, have done, or heard of Crossfit (or any type of functional fitness) these workouts are similar and a lot of fun. Mountain Athlete has a lot of lifts, stretches, and exercises that you may be unfamiliar with, but they have awesome YouTube tutorials that show you how to do them!
Along with this program, we tried to get actual time walking and hiking. We bought new hiking boots for Kili, so we wanted to break them and just needed to put some time in on our feet, being that you are hiking for 6-9 days depending on what tour you book. With this being said, we actually didn't log in as many hours as we had planed or that other's said they did, but because you are hiking "pole pole" or somewhat slow we were fine.
* Our training program did us good and we eventually made it up to Uhuru Peak! HOWEVER, walking down is a totally different story. During our training we did a lot of "step-ups," but not any step downs. We summited Kili in 6 days and walked down the entire mountain (about 18,000 feet from the top back to the exit gate) in 9 ish hours over the span of 2 days (average time down is about 6 hours).
2. Buy Quality Gear
I cannot stress enough to buy quality clothing and gear! You don't want the lack of good gear to be the reason why you didn't make it up to the summit.
When doing our research, some people said they spent up to $2,000 on clothing and gear (in addition to the cost of the hike itself and airfare), which seemed crazy to even think about, being that you already spent a pretty penny. However, when we started to research brands, talk to outdoor store employees, and chat with people who have done Kili or similar hikes, you want to go with the best brands that will offer you the best quality and protection.
When you book your hike, your tour group will send you a packing list.
Here is a list of what gear we bought and what brands we used (after months of research).
- Tights - Wunder Under High Rise Tights (Luxtreme Fabric) by Lululemon.
Great for not so cold days. Warm. Stretchy. Comfortable. Did not rip, tear, or run when scratched against rocks and volcanic terrain. Also used as a layer when it got really cold and temps were freezing!
- Glove Liners - HighLoong Compression Lightweight Sport Running
- Gloves - Outdoor Research Women's Adrenaline Mitts
- Thermals - Merino Icebreaker long sleeve thermal shirt and tights.
Great for sleeping, cold days, and obviously for the morning you summit! It was freezing and windy! I had on thermals and 3 layers of pants! It was cold and the right gear will prevent you from being miserable and possibly unable to finish!
- Shirts - I would recommend workout, anti stink, and UPF short sleeve and long sleeve shirts. Obviously you'll be exerting a lot of energy and not taking a shower the entire time so shirts that are made for physical activity are smart. We went in July, which is Tanzania's winter, so it was a little cooler, but nice and sunny. Don't forget you are at a high altitude so that means you are a lot closer to the sun! We didn't sweat much at all, but some UPF shirts are good to keep you protected from the sun. You can get some Great UPF sun shirts/ long sleeves from my friends at Mahiku Activewear! www.mahiku.com
- Fleece - Patagonia Synchilla Fleece. Best fleece I have ever owned! Kept me warm enough to not need another layer of Jacket except for when we summited Kili. It also isn't too hot. I wore it all 7 days when it was warmer, cold, and windy, and it kept me comfortable the entire hike. It's super light and has a high beckon with button that secures the wind from coming in.
- Down Jacket - Mountain Warehouse Extreme
This jacket was amazing! I bought it at the last minute because it was on super sale and it came with it's own little bag you can stuff the entire jacket into! That made it all worth it because it was a great space saver and made it super easy to pack. Besides the little stuff sack it came with, it was super warm and blocked the wind as well. It did it's job and more!
- Rain Jacket - Patagonia
It didn't rain once while we were there, and thank goodness it didn't! We hiked in July, which is their winter and dry season, they do have a rainy season, which runs from March through May. I can't imagine hiking and camping for 7 days if it had rained! If you are going during the Rainy season, I would invest in a rain jumpsuit and jacket. I'm not sure what brands sell those, but I would invest in whatever would keep me dry and warm!
- Buff Wear (original Buff) - Merino Wool
This one is super important! Because it's small and lightweight and I really wish I brought 3 with me! I used one the entire time as a head band/ear warmer. Ladies - I don't know about you, but if I don't wash my hair for more than 2 days, my hair gets really oily, not pretty to look at, and feels pretty icky. I used this to keep the hair out of my face and to hide my nasty oily roots! Next, the few times I wore a beanie, I used my Buff as a neck warmer, which really made a difference and kept me comfortable and warm! The third reason I would recommend 3 Buffs is as a face warmer or just as a spare because this can get pretty dirty. When i had it around my neck I pulled it up to cover my face and nose from the wind and cold. Day 3 and on the summit were the windiest and coldest days we experienced. The wind really hurt my nose and my Buff saved my face from wind burn and my nose from constantly dripping. Because of this - you can imagine how dirty it may have gotten. This is another reason why I got a Buff made with Merino Wool. Merino Wool is anti-microbial and doesn't smell after wearing. It's odor resistant and super soft! I used 1 and it was amazing, but like I said... if you have the extra money to spend, I would have bought 3 to take with me!
- Shoes - Lowa Renegade Gortex Hiking Boots
I searched high and low for good boots and finally found the Lowa Renegade with Gortex boot. I used it only a handful of times before our hike and it felt great the entire time on Kili! Lots of foot support and good ankle support, which is key when hiking up and down steep lengths. It's also made with Gortex material, which makes your boot water proof, wind proof, and breathable! The only time my toes were cold was when we were summiting, but I felt every bit of element when I was summiting! It's the best boot I have worn to date.
Don't go cheap on socks either. A cheap and bad sock will ruin your hike! Invest in good quality hiking socks and thermal socks for summiting and cold nights!
- Back Pack and Duffel
Deuter Futura Trail Pro 32 SL Hiking Backpack / North Face Waterproof Camping Duffel
The great news is that you don't have to carry all of your belongings on your back! You will carry what you need for the day in your backpack and your porters will carry everything else in your duffel. Daily, I carried my rain jacket and pants, a jacket, snacks, water (in a camel back), and other miscellaneous items like chapstick, sunscreen, hand lotion, sunglasses, medication, sanitary wipes, etc. My bag was never busting out of it's seems or ever too heavy. The thing that I loved about this bag is the back support and the hip side pockets that come to the front of your hips, which make it easy to grab key items without taking your pack off. I usually put in my chapstick, face sunscreen, protein bar, and little suckers. Seriously, don't bring a non-hiking back. You want a bag made for hiking with all the amenities it offers.
3. Bring Sanitization Materials
Baby Wipes - Seventh Generation
Since you won't be taking a shower nor will you have running water you definitely will want to bring some baby wipes with you. I would recommend one big pack per person. This will be your sanitary savior. I used it for the bathroom, wiping my feet before bed, and just all over my body to feel clean. Don't forget to bring "Ziploc" bags to dispose of your wipes and trash. If you have to use the restroom along the hike, which you will (a lot) these will be helpful. You can dump these little trash bags in the camps bigger garbage bags nightly.
Facial Wipes - Burt's Bee's
Removing makeup and cleaning my face morning and night.
4. Carry some Essential Oils with you!
I brought a few Essential Oils to aid in our trek up the mountain! Deep Blue roll on, which I rubbed on my aching body (neck, back, calves, thighs, etc) every morning and night. Melaleuca, which I used mainly for sunburns on our faces, lips, and neck. I also had a few cuts here and there that I used it for, rubbed it on my feet, and just put some on my clothes as a laundry refresher. Melaleuca is a great essential oil that can be used for so much! Just google and see it's benefits! The other two I brought were Peppermint and Ginger. I used peppermint to rub on my temporal lobes for headaches and mental clarity, boost energy, and rubbed it on my tummy when it was a little achy. I used ginger for stomach aches as well and a little under my nose for nausea. I felt really good the entire time, but you are exerting a lot of energy and ascending and descending up and down a mountain, so you are bound to experience a little bit of physical symptoms here and there. I say just be prepared, because if you are able to prevent a tiny ailment that will keep you from summiting the top, then it's too easy no to.
5. Trekking Poles are your Best Friends! (Seriously, do not leave for Tanzania without your Trekking Poles!)
Again, there are all kinds of brands and all kinds of poles out there. Do your research and get a durable and LIGHT set. The difference is key when walking up, down, and carrying them on your pack when not in use. You are trying to limit the amount of weight you are carrying, because that means you will exert more energy - and you want to preserve all the energy you possibly can for the day you SUMMIT! They may seem dorky and like you're whimping out or cheating, but let me tell you... never mind the nay sayers. These babies will be beneficial to you in a hundred different ways and will help you get to the top!
6. Bring Nutritious Snacks
I don't know about you, but snacks get me through the day, and will get you up to the top. I went to Whole Foods (you can go to any health food store- or wherever) and grabbed a bunch of cashews, dehydrated mango, banana, papaya, apple (no added preservatives - as in look at the ingredients and you just wang it to say Mango), Goji berries, and protein bars. I made little trail mix bags for each day of the hike with the combined items before we left. I brought about 3 protein bars to eat per day and then some. *I brought a bunch to give out to the porters along the way because they work so very hard to get the entire camp to the next site day to day - and they WILL appreciate it! I also brought some crystalized ginger to suck on and eat to ease nausea or an upset stomach.
7. See a doctor before your trip
Certain immunizations are required for Americans to go to Tanzania. You will also need and want certain PRESCRIBED pills for Tanzania and hiking Kili as well. We were given Malaria pills, pills to stop diarrhea, pills to help with constipation, and altitude sickness pills. We didn't even know there was such a thing as altitude sickness pills, but yes, there are! Altitude sickness—also known as acute mountain sickness (AMS), is a pathological effect of high altitude on humans, caused by acute exposure to low partial pressure of oxygen at high altitude. Severe altitude sickness may cause you to not make it to top, make you descend the mountain earlier than expected, or even death. It's scary and must be taken seriously. I took them (not sure if it made a difference, but i made it up to the top without getting sick at all. My husband didn't take them and felt fine. My mother-in-law didn't take them because she was allergic and got a mild case of AMS. She was sick from day 3-7, but did make it to Stella Peak. Even though she made it, she was miserable half the time. Please read up on AMS before hand to see how you can prevent it on the mountain and possibly before. Your guides are also expert mountaineers and will help you to prevent it or aid it. *See and talk with your doctor first!
8. Make sure you are electronically prepared!
Bring a quality external battery along with you! Even though you will probably not have any cellular service while up on Kili, I'm sure most of you will be bringing your phone with you for emergency purposes, to take pictures, video, and to pass time by when relaxing in your tent. You'll want to charge your phone(s), camera, etc!
Stock up on extra batteries for your camera and test them before you leave! I brought 4 batteries with me and used all 4! Some people used solar powered chargers that they hung off their backpacks when hiking!
Be careful with your equipment. Your electronic equipment will be exposed to all the elements while hiking (rain, snow, dust, sun). My camera was flooded with so much dust by the end of the hike. Be aware of things that could possibly be damaging.
9. Get your finances situated before your tour guides even pick you up (and before you leave your home country)!
Tipping your tour guides and porters is one thing you will not want to have to figure before you leave your home country let alone on top of Kilimanjaro. In the book "Kilimanjaro - The Trekking Guide to Africa's Highest Mountain", there is an entire section about tipping and finances. The author will explain everything you will need to know there! Basically make sure you budget enough money to have to tip your tour at the end. Take out enough money, Tanzanian Schilling, before your tour picks you up. If you can, take out money right as you get off the plane in Tanzania because you don't know where you will find your next ATM. Before you tip everyone, have each person's tip into ready to hand out. Money is always a sensitive subject and you don't want to have to be figuring things out and doing math in front of anyone besides yourselves. Basically - be ready!
10. HAVE FUN!
This is more or less a once in a lifetime opportunity and adventure. You worked hard and have put down a lot of money to get yourself there. You've physically and mentally prepared for months, maybe even years! Don't rush. What's the rush? The point of this entire thing is to make it to the top. Take in the scenery! Take a lot of pictures and video. Be in the moment. Most importantly.... and I stress this... LISTEN TO YOUR GUIDES! Your guides have been up Kilimanjaro dozens of times. They have ALL started off as porters and have experienced it all. They have hiked Kilimanjaro in the heat, freezing cold, wind, and rain. They've seen and assisted people of all ages and physical capabilities. They are true mountain men (and now women)! They know what is best for you and what you need to do make it up to Uhuru Peak. If you're experienced or inexperienced - listen to them. Kilimanjaro is their mountain and they know it like the back of their hand. So yeah. HAVE FUN! You can do it!