Kilimanjaro ascent (photo credit:

Travel Advice 12 Things I Wish I Knew Before Climbing Kilimanjaro

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What I Wish I Knew Before Climbing Kilimanjaro

Climbing Kilimanjaro is a challenging experience for anyone who sets out to reach its impressive 5,895m summit and you will undoubtedly learn a lot of important lessons along the way. As one of the world’s seven summits it’s no wonder that reaching Kilimanjaro summit is on the bucket list of countless hikers from around the world, attracting many first-time altitude trekkers to its’ slopes.

But how are you to know what to expect without climbing Kilimanjaro yourself? This guide will cover some of the most important things our experienced team and guides have said they wish they knew before climbing Kilimanjaro to make the journey to the summit as smooth and enjoyable as possible.

From the importance of physical preparation to our equipment recommendations for climbing Kilimanjaro, we’ll be sharing invaluable advice from the team at Kandoo Adventures on what to expect from your Kilimanjaro trek. So, read on for some insightful tips and guidance about climbing Kilimanjaro before you embark on this once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

Kilimanjaro ascent (photo credit:

1. Bring layers

Most people underestimate how cold it is on Kilimanjaro due to its proximity to the equator. Whilst the base of Kilimanjaro has a breezy and warm tropical climate, the summit is often freezing and can range between -7 and -29 degrees Celsius (20 and -20 degrees Fahrenheit).

Kilimanjaro has its own climate zones which can be split into 4 distinct areas and the weather changes drastically as you ascend the mountain. The highest area, known as the Glacial zone, is often covered in snow and the high winds at this altitude make the temperature feel far lower than it is.

The best thing you can do is bring lots of layers as you can add or remove pieces of clothing to adapt to changing weather, activity level and body temperature. Check out our Kilimanjaro gear list for a more detailed list of all the clothing you need to climb Kilimanjaro.

2. Drink plenty of water

It is important to drink plenty of water when climbing Kilimanjaro because your body loses more water than usual from exposure to the sun, from sweating due to exercise and also from breathing cold, dry air.  Staying hydrated makes climbing easier and it can also help to prevent altitude sickness.

Drinking plenty of water is even more important than eating when climbing Kilimanjaro. Your guides will encourage you to drink water all day long even if you don’t feel thirsty and the general rule of thumb is that you need to drink at least 3 litres of water per day on this high-altitude expedition.

3. Prepare for altitude sickness

Altitude sickness is when your body doesn’t have time to adjust to reduced oxygen availability when you’re at a high altitude. Your age, gender and level of fitness have no bearing on whether you will suffer from altitude sickness so you should make sure to plan for the possibility of altitude sickness.

Minor symptoms of altitude sickness such as headaches can be treated with painkillers and by maintaining your water intake. The drug Acetazolamide (Diamox) is also widely considered to be effective in managing altitude sickness and can be bought before your departure to Kilimanjaro.

4. The climb is not as technical as you think

While climbing Kilimanjaro is both physically and mentally demanding, it is not a technical climb like the other peaks that make up the world’s seven summits. This has made Kilimanjaro one of the most popular trekking peaks of all time, attracting thousands of hikers of all different abilities to its slopes every year.

Before attempting to climb Kilimanjaro you will need to train your body to cope with long periods of physical exertion. Not only this, but you need to be extremely mentally resilient for the best chance of success. Each of the seven routes requires a demanding 8 hours of walking up to 1500m of ascent each day, but the trek requires no real mountaineering skills.

Kandoo Adventures group on the Lemosho Route

5. Summit day is the hardest

Summit day is by far the hardest day of the Kilimanjaro trek. The push to the summit requires a huge amount of effort but you will be rewarding with an immense feeling of achievement once you reach the top. You will be exhausted and you should also wrap up in as many layers as possible because it is extremely cold up there.

It’s not over just yet! After you’ve taken photos at the top and had a moment to take in your great achievement, you will head back down to Mweka campsite via Barafu Camp for lunch, dinner and a well-earned sleep. On the final day of your trek, you will descend a further 1300m to Mweka Park Gate from where you can transfer to your hotel.

6. You summit Kilimanjaro at night

Many people don’t realise that you actually begin the trek to Kilimanjaro summit (or Uhuru Peak) during the middle of the night. After arriving at Barafu (or Kosovo) camp the day before, you will wake up and have breakfast before starting the push to the summit at around 11:30pm.

With the light of your head torch to guide your feet, you will be climbing a steep path for between 6 and 8 hours to reach Stella Point on the crater rim if you are taking the Machame route or Gillman’s point on the Marangu route. You should hopefully reach this point in time to witness the sunrise. From there the track is less steep but it is another 45 to 60 minutes to the summit.

7. Climbing Kilimanjaro is a marathon not a sprint

Even if you feel apprehensive before the climb, once you start, you will realise the slow and steady pace the guides set is completely manageable. There is no need to go fast when climbing Kilimanjaro as all Kandoo Adventures’ itineraries have been carefully planned to allow plenty of time to cover the required distance each day. Not only this, but taking the trek steady and allowing for regular breaks will help you acclimatise better and improve your overall chances of summit success.

8. Your Kilimanjaro route matters

There are 7 different Kilimanjaro routes, and some are more difficult than others. There are also several factors to consider when choosing which Kilimanjaro route you will take including how long you want to spend on the mountain, your experience level and the success rate of each route.

Depending on which Kilimanjaro route you choose, it takes between 5-9 days to reach the summit and descend to the finishing point. By choosing a longer route, you have more time to adjust to the altitude, a decreased chance of suffering from altitude sickness and ultimately the best chance of success on your Kilimanjaro trek.

Kandoo Adventures have an impressive summit success rate of 95% on all our Kilimanjaro routes which is due to the time dedicated to acclimatisation. For more information, check out our blog on the best route to climb Kilimanjaro.

The starry night sky above and Moshi town below on Kilimanjaro

9. Bring everything on our packing list

If you’re a regular adventurer, you may feel well equipped for climbing Kilimanjaro however for some, this may be your very first big adventure trip. The best way to ensure that you have everything you need for conquering this mighty mountain is by closely following our Kilimanjaro gear list.

Here you will find all the essential gear you will need to climb Kilimanjaro and where possible we have included links to gear that we personally use and recommend. You will need EVERYTHING on this list so be sure to follow it exactly and make sure you are prepared.

10. Bring snacks

If there is one thing we recommend you bring that isn’t on the gear list, it’s snacks (and plenty of them). You will be burning up to 2000 calories per day on the mountain and even with 3 huge meals provided by your mountain guides, it is a good idea to come prepared with snacks, snack bars and sweets to consume during the day to keep yourself moving.

This is of course providing that you are happy to carry them in your own daypack!

11. Pre-climbing training is important

At Kandoo Adventures, we believe that anyone with a good level of fitness and some determination can trek to the summit. You certainly don’t need to be a fitness fanatic or young individual to climb Kilimanjaro although having a high level of fitness certainly is a bonus and will make the time you spend on the mountain, trekking up to 7 hours per day, more enjoyable.

We recommend building a training plan 6 to 12 weeks prior to your climb to build your endurance. The training plan should include strength training, aerobic exercise and most importantly, weekly hikes around the countryside with a heavy bag. For more detailed information, check out our Kilimanjaro training plan.

12. Tipping is expected

We work closely with the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP), and they have recommended the following tipping procedure. KPAP recommend tips for porters are in the range of $6-$10/day per porter. For other roles we recommend $20/day for guides, $12-$15/day for assistant guides and $12-$15/day for cooks.

These figures are per group, not per climber and you will be sent a copy of the tip recommendations and estimated numbers for your group. The size of your group, however, can only be confirmed on the first day of your climb.

The tipping announcement will take place on your last night on the mountain where the team will gather to celebrate with you. Representatives will come to your hotel once you reach the bottom of the mountain to accept the tip on behalf of all the porters and they will distribute the money themselves.

Kandoo Adventures guides on the way to Shira Cave Camp on Kilimanjaro
Climbing Kilimanjaro is a challenging yet rewarding experience that you will truly never forget. We hope you have a better idea of how to prepare for your Kilimanjaro trek after reading this and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team here at Kandoo Adventures.