Gear for Kilimanjaro
As I write this, I am just over a week away from leaving for Africa, where I will be attempting to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro as part of a fund-raising climb led by the good folks at Tusker Trail. The team that I will be climbing with is making the trek up the highest mountain in Africa in an effort to raise $100,000 for the Duskin & Stephens Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping support the families of fallen members of the U.S. Special Forces.
Considering a the fact that a trek to the summit of Kilimanjaro is high on the bucket list for many adventure travelers, I thought it might be interesting to share some of the gear that I’ll be taking along with me when I go. Since Kilimanjaro is a non-technical climb, you don’t have to have a great deal of mountaineering experience or gear to attempt it. But on your way up you do pass through five unique climate zones that range from cloud forest to alpine desert to polar conditions on the summit. That means, in order to stay comfortable, you will still need plenty of quality gear to help get you to the top. Here’s what I’ll be taking with me.
BackpacksI’ll be taking two backpacks with me on the trek. The first will be my trusty Osprey Atmos 50, which will carry much of my gear while in transit, and the other is a lightweight Exos 48—also from Osprey—which will serve as my daypack throughout the climb. Most of the contents of the Atmos will be transferred to a duffel bag to be carried by porters at the start of the trek, while the Exos will hold the personal items that I’ll need with me while trekking each day. That will include rain gear, a down jacket, gloves, camera equipment, water, and other assorted items that it will be essential to have on me while hiking.
Sleeping BagStaying warm while in the tent each night will be crucial to getting a good nights sleep, particularly at higher altitudes. One of the nights will actually be spent camping inside the crater of the volcano, where temperatures can drop well below zero. With that in mind, I’ll be taking a 0º bag from the now-defunct GoLite, as well as a “just in case” bag liner from Sea to Summit for some extra warmth if necessary.
Shell JacketFor the early portions of the trek light clothing is sufficient to stay warm, but as you go up in altitude, and draw closer to the summit, conditions cool off considerably. For those portions of the climb I’ll be testing out a Provision Jacket from Rocky S2V. This will be the first time I’ve used this windproof/waterproof shell, but it seems like it is perfectly suited for the environment on Kili. It is lightweight, comfortable, and packed with great features, including Recco advanced rescue technology and a safety kit complete with compass, signal mirror, and emergency fire starting supplies. This well designed piece of gear was built for these kinds of activities.
Shell PantsTo go along with the Provision Jacket, I’ll also be putting Rocky S2V’s Provision Pants to the test as well. Like the jacket, these pants also provide plenty of protection from the rain, snow, and wind, while remaining comfortable to wear, even on a strenuous hike at altitude. The Provision Pants feature the Recco rescue technology as well, and are built to keep you warm and dry in extreme environments, without restricting movement along the way.
Down JacketOn Summit Day, high winds can make for a chilly final approach to the top of the mountain, which is where a good down jacket will certainly come in handy. I’ll be carrying a Mojave Down Jacket from Brooks Range Mountaineering with me on the trip. It includes Downtek waterproof down for a little extra protection when the weather turns bad. It is also incredibly lightweight and highly packable, making it very easy to stuff in you backpack for the journey.
BootsIn terms of boots, it is always important to go with a comfortable pair of sturdy footwear that is already well broken in. That’s why I’m taking a pair of Asolo backpacking boots that I’ve had for years. These boots have been with me on treks through the Himalaya, the Andes, and even a previous trip up Kilimanjaro as well. I’m also taking along a pair of Trailscope waterproof shoes from Chacos. I’ll use these shoes for kicking around camp at the end of the day. They are lightweight and comfortable, yet still mange to provide plenty of support and protection too.
Trekking PolesAnyone planning on hiking up Kilimanjaro will find the trek much easier if they bring along a good pair of trekking poles. These poles will not only help with the ascent, but are surprisingly useful on the way back down too. I’ll be carrying a pair of classic Makalu trekking poles from Leki when I go. The internal suspension on these poles help to minimize impact, while still providing good leverage and stability on uneven and rocky terrain. I wouldn’t even consider a climb like this one with taking these poles along.
TechnologyAs an adventure travel writer, I’ll need to take something along with me to help document the trip. But since it’s a remote and difficult hike, I’ll be leaving the laptop behind and carrying my iPad Mini instead. To protect that expensive device, I’m going to use a Vault case from Pelican. This will not only repel both dust and water, but keep the tablet safe from accidental drops too. I’ll also need to keep my tablet powered while I’m off the grid, so I’m carrying two Limefuel Rugged power packs with me as well. These fantastic portable chargers include two USB ports and a 15000 mAh battery, which is an amazing amount of power to be carrying around in a small, lightweight package built for the outdoors. The Rugged will also help to keep my cameras, headlamps, and various other gadgets powered throughout the trek. And speaking of cameras, I’m leaving my heavy DSLR and lenses behind on this trop, and carrying a Nikon 1 with me instead. Small, lightweight, and rugged—yet still very versatile—it is an excellent choice for this kind of adventure.
Other StuffIn addition to the items listed above, I’ll also be taking a wide variety of other gear with me too. For instance, I’ll be carrying warm base layers from Polarmax for the colder days near the top, not to mention comfortable hiking socks of various weights from Smartwool. I’ll be using both gloves and gaiters from Outdoor Research as well, and a variety of technical shirts and hiking pants from various other gear companies too.
Looking over this list of items it appears to be a lot of gear. But in reality, I’ll actually be traveling fairly light, and have just enough clothing and other items to keep me comfortable throughout the trip without going overboard. Finding the right balance for a major trek like this one can be challenging, but today’s gear is incredibly lightweight, durable, and versatile. That makes it easier than ever to travel with all your vital gear, while still having enough room for a few luxuries too.
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