Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tips on Clothing & Equipment for Your Kilimanjaro Climb - from Michael Theys, Editor of

Heard of Mount Kilimanjaro, I presume, no? Culminating at 5895 m (19341 feet), it is by far Africa’s highest and most majestic mountain! Here’s some advice on what to bring on your trekking odyssey!

Walking sticks

Whether you call them walking sticks, staffs, or trekking poles, they’re just indispensable for a comfortable walking journey!

Walking sticks will assist you during your climb, and support your knees on descents. Especially if you already have fragile knee joints!

For best support (and even better comfort), consider buying two sticks!


I’m sure you’re familiar with the song “These Boots are Made for Walking”, right? And no, I’m not talking about Jessica Simpson’s version (although I do admit her clip is rather “special”)! I’m referring to the original version, first recorded by Nancy Sinatra! The song’s title is quite representative of what you need during your Kilimanjaro ascension. Your walking boots have to be solid and soft at the same time, the type that will resist the most extreme weather conditions out there!

Indeed, boots are perhaps the most important item you will purchase! Both in terms of your health and well-being. Make sure they fit you properly! Moreover, try them on before buying them: they just have to be the right size!

Do this: put your foot in the shoe without tying the shoelace, and slide your foot forward until it hits the front of the boot. If you have one finger’s thickness of space at your heel, then the boot is made for you . If not, then it is either too big (don’t recommend “clowny” shoes ), or too small (less than one finger space)!

Some key features to look for in boots are:

- Vibram, or comparable high rubber-content soles with deep lugs to provide better traction.

- Sturdy, high tops with padding to protect ankles while providing good ankle support. Boots with a stiff heel counter is also a big bonus, as it relieves your foot and ankle.

- Uppers made of leather or a leather/Cordura combination.

- Removable insoles for extra comfort and cushioning.

- Lacing system with D-rings and speed hooks to easily put and remove your boots.

- Sewn-in, gusseted tongues.

- Waterproof coating to ensure your feet stay dry at all times.


Pay special attention to the material of your socks. They can be made of:

- Cotton: Not a great idea while hiking. Cotton absorbs moisture and retains it.

- Ragg Wool: Way more comfortable, but you don’t have to be allergic to it.

- Acrylic: Not as resistant and much warmer than wool socks, although they do wick moisture away from the feet. Notice that some acrylic socks have extra cushioning, which can be interesting!

- Polypropylene: Primarily used in liners – thin socks worn beneath thicker main socks. Will wick moisture away from foot, and can also reduce friction between your foot and the shoe.

- Silk: Same purpose as polypropylene.

Sleeping Bags

Should be chosen wisely! Large variety of options, from “Down Sleeping Bags” (very resistant to water and cold), to “Hollowfibre” (synthetic fibre, dries rapidly), and “Thinsulate” (state-of-the-art synthetic fibre, economic, very light) types!

Important things to consider in a sleeping bag:

- Needs to fit your body (in width and length).

- Two-way zipper (for better ventilation).

- Insulated hood.


Preferably big, but not too big either! A 25-40 litre rucksack tends to fit most people needs.


I’d go for head torches, which leaves your hands free. Petzl Zoom Headlamps and Petzl Tikka are definitely worth it, although not the cheapest I agree.


Two pairs highly recommended: a pair of wool or fleece gloves as a next to skin layer, and a second pair of waterproof gloves that go over the first pair!

A very good pair of gloves should not be underestimated if you want to keep your fingers healthy and intact!


Good-looking hats are important for sure, but as you know looks are not everything! Most importantly, a good hat is one that protects you from the sun, and also that fits easily into your backpack (or comfortably fastens to your belt, backpack, etc…). Furthermore, make sure it can provide good shade to your face, and that it “breathes”.

I just love some of those Rogue hats, don’t you?!

Thermal Beanie/Balaclava

Protects you from the wind and hinders frostbite. Not to be neglected!

Duffel Bags

A lightweight classic! Easy to stuff with your clothing and rolled socks.

Things to consider: a strong seam, good quality zippers (that can be padlocked), and short handles to pull your bag quickly if required.

Water Bottles

Drink, drink, and drink some more! Water is vital to appropriate acclimatisation, and so are water bottles! You should be able to carry 2-3 litres of water at any time!

Any water bottle is good really, although I must admit I really enjoy the Swiss Sigg types. Eco-Friendly, and reusable! Unless you’d rather go for hydration systems, with a tube from a bladder in your pack to your mouth; practical and very popular! The only disadvantage of such systems is they can freeze easily! Either way, be sure it won’t leak nor freeze.


Very useful little pieces of materials that keep mud, rocks and to a certain extent water out of your boots! May even be utilized to keep ticks away!

Can be sweaty nevertheless.

A Jacket & Trousers

Two words: comfort and waterproofing! They need to be waterproof, breathable and windproof.

ATTENTION PLEASE: No jeans! They absorb water, cling to the skin and make walking very difficult. Believe it or not, but wearing jeans can lead to hypothermia.

About the Author:

Michael Theys is Editor of In a nutshell, Africafreak is The Ultimate African Safari Experience Revealed To You. The website provides Guidelines, Tips and General Information on Safari Destinations and African Wildlife!

Dig It Twip: Dan “Acacia's Man in Africa” will be giving us the low down on visas – hook up with us on Wednesday 05 August

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