The starry night sky above and Moshi town below on Kilimanjaro

Travel Advice Sleeping on Kilimanjaro

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Tips for Sleeping on Kilimanjaro

There is no getting around the fact that climbing Kilimanjaro is a strenuous challenge, both mentally and physically. But the reward of reaching the top of one of the world’s seven tallest summits is truly an achievement like no other.

While on Kilimanjaro, you will be trekking up to 8 hours a day and your body will need to adjust to a new altitude. Getting enough sleep on Kilimanjaro is a crucial part of making your time on the mountain an enjoyable experience and will help you massively as you push on to the summit.

That being said, getting all the sleep you need can be difficult. Forget memory foam mattresses and feather bedding, instead you’ll be signing off for the day in a sleeping bag. Not only this, but the low oxygen environment and freezing temperatures can have a troublesome effect on your sleep quality.

All Kandoo Adventure’s Kilimanjaro itineraries are carefully planned to ensure that trekkers are allowed enough time for recovery and acclimatisation at each Kilimanjaro camp, which is part of the reason we have a 95% summit success rate on every single one of our Kilimanjaro treks.

Over the years, the team have gathered a few tips and tricks to help you have a more restful night when sleeping on Kilimanjaro. Read on to find out more!

Where do you sleep on Kilimanjaro?

Most trekkers sleep in tents on Kilimanjaro at established campsites on the mountain and just one route offers communal hut-style accommodation. Kilimanjaro campsites will vary by route but the basic amnesties available at each stop are very similar.

Trekkers climbing Kilimanjaro on the Lemosho route, Machame route, Rongai route, Northern Circuit, Shira route or Umbwe route can expect to sleep in mountain tents at the Kilimanjaro camps that are specified in each of the routes’ itinerary. Kandoo Adventurers provide only the very best Mountain Hardwear Trango 3 high altitude tents to ensure you stay warm, dry and comfortable on your Kilimanjaro climb.

Bear in mind, these are proper mountain tents, designed to cope with extreme conditions, so don’t expect to be able to stand up and walk around inside! Our Kilimanjaro tents are fully waterproof and will withstand the worst weather the mountain has to offer including strong winds, heavy rain and snow cover.


For trekkers who do not wish to camp in tents on Kilimanjaro, the Marangu route is the only Kilimanjaro route to offer dormitory-style hut accommodation. The communal A-frame huts are pretty basic, offering a communal dining room, simple washroom and toilets which lower down the trail will be flushable but as you move higher up the mountain will be “long drop” toilets.

Although some climbers like the idea of staying in a hut rather than a tent, you need to remember that you will be sharing these Kilimanjaro huts with lots of other people and should consider how this might affect your quality of sleep while on the mountain. When choosing which Kilimanjaro route you will take, you should also be aware that the Marangu route suffers the lowest success rate as too many climbers try to do it in only 5 days and fail because of poor acclimatisation.


What night-time equipment do I need?

While we’ve already written a complete Kilimanjaro packing list covering all the gear you need to climb Kilimanjaro, we thought we’d go over some of the essentials you’ll need for sleeping on Kilimanjaro as well as some extras that will hopefully make your quality of sleep that little bit better.
Sleeping bag

First and foremost, you will need a high-quality sleeping bag when sleeping on Mount Kilimanjaro. Regardless of the season, a warm sleeping bag is critical when climbing Kilimanjaro as it is always freezing at the top of the mountain. You will need a -20 or -30 degree Celsius sleeping bag although these can cost up to £600 so we generally recommend that trekkers rent and do not buy.

Sleeping mat 

Kandoo Adventures provide trekkers with a comfortable foam mattress, but you may like the additional comfort and warmth of a Thermarest sleeping mat which can be bought on Amazon. Your sleeping mat should be thick and insulated to keep you warm and comfortable through the night.


Most people like a pillow for when they sleep. A camp pillow is an optional item that can help you sleep but it needs to fit in your daypack. Alternatively, you can make a makeshift pillow out of clothing inside a pillow case. They can work well and save you from bringing another piece of gear.

Sleep mask

Studies have shown that wearing a sleep mask can actually improve sleep quality and duration. Your sleep environment should be as dark as possible so covering your eyes while you sleep is helpful. Alternatively, you could pull a beanie or neck gaiter over your eyes for a similar effect.


We highly recommend using earplugs, especially for light sleepers. Kilimanjaro campsites can be busy and earplugs are excellent at dampening the sounds around you. They’re cheap, light and an effective tool to aid sleep. Not to mention they will hardly take up any space in your bag at all.


Not only are headtorches particularly useful for trekking in the dark on summit night, but they are also great for navigating your way around camp on late-night toilet trips. The lighter the headtorch the better, we recommend no more than 270 grams, and you should make sure it has a long battery life with a max beam length greater than 70 meters and a light output of greater than 100 lumens.

Pee bottle

When climbing Kilimanjaro, it’s recommended that you drink 3 litres of water per day so it’s likely you will need to wee more than usual. If possible, we recommend hydrating earlier on in the day to avoid having to take multiple bathroom trips during the night. However, if the need arises and you’d prefer not to leave your tent, then a pee bottle could be your answer. Women may find the ‘Shewee’ to be particularly useful in this case and they can be bought on Amazon. Just remember to dispose of any waste in the morning before you leave camp.

The starry night sky above and Moshi town below on Kilimanjaro

Why is it hard to sleep at high altitude?

The reason it’s hard to sleep at high altitude is that the reduced oxygen affects your breathing. This causes increased sleep fragmentation which accounts for poor sleep quality and is what may leave you feeling slightly lethargic or fatigued the next day.

Additionally, it can be difficult to sleep if you are suffering from symptoms of altitude sickness like headaches or nausea. As you can imagine, having a pounding headache or feeling nauseated can be very disruptive of your sleep, making sleeping on Kilimanjaro a challenge.

The best way to aid sleep at high altitude is to follow our acclimatisation guidelines as best you can to decrease the likelihood of altitude sickness symptoms. This includes drinking plenty of water and following the golden rule ‘walk high, sleep low’ allowing your body enough time to acclimatise.


Additional tips for sleeping on Kilimanjaro:

  • Limit caffeine intake – caffeine is a well-known stimulant and if you’re a regular caffeine user, you might want to stop taking it earlier in the day than you normally would to allow your more to wind down more easily at bedtime.
  • Hydrate early in the day – you should be drinking lots of water during the day while climbing Kilimanjaro (a minimum of 3 litres per day). By reaching your recommended water intake by early evening you will limit the number of times you need a toilet trip in the night, allowing better chance for a night of uninterrupted sleep.
  • Magnesium – research shows that taking magnesium supplements may improve your sleep by helping to calm you and relive anxiety so you could consider packing some for your Kilimanjaro trek.
  • Use Diamox to prevent altitude sickness – the drug Acetazolamide (Diamox) is widely considered to be effective in managing altitude sickness and it can be bought before your departure to Kilimanjaro.