Every year, thousands of people attempt the Mt. Kilimanjaro hike. It’s the tallest mountain in all of Africa. Hearing the word tallest is what drives many individuals to take on the challenge.
They don’t realize how difficult the hike can be. It can take years of preparation before you have enough endurance to make it halfway up the mountain, let alone to the summit.
We don’t say that to scare you away. The trek will be difficult, but you can accomplish it if go about it the right way and account for anything that could go wrong.
We can help with that. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know before you try to conquer the famous Mount Kilimanjaro hike.
Go During the Dry Season
Choosing the best time to hike Kilimanjaro can be the make or break of any attempt. If you go during the wet season, you’ll have to deal with mud and tons of rain. This only adds more challenge to a hike that will already take it out of you.
You want to try to shoot for anywhere between January and February or June and October. You’ll still have to deal with the cold, but for the most part, the weather should be clear.
Keep in mind you will run into more of a crowd if you go during these peak times. If you want to avoid all the chaos, you can attempt to schedule your hike during the sweet spot when the weather is still slowly transitioning from wet to dry.
There’s no guarantee that you won’t have to deal with rain, but many people are willing to take this gamble to have more of the mountain to themselves.
Prepare for the Cold
Just because the weather in Africa is hot, that doesn’t mean it’s warm on Mount Kilimanjaro. In fact, as you go up the summit, you’ll notice that it’s actually pretty cool.
So, if you decide to make the trek in shorts and a tank top, you’ll spend a lot of your time shivering. During the day, lighter clothes are fine. You may have to put on a jacket if the sun decides to dip behind the clouds, but you should stay comfortable.
Nighttime is what you really need to worry about. The temperature can drop well below freezing. You’re going to need a thick jacket, a beanie, gloves, pretty much the works.
Don’t Try to Speed Run It
The hike is not a race. No matter how fast you go, it’s going to take a while before you reach the top of the mountain. You might as well take it slow and enjoy the sights.
It will help you get more out of the experience, and it’s safer for your body. You see, as you reach higher altitudes, the air thins out. Your body has to work harder to get the oxygen it needs.
To try and combat the loss and adapt to your new conditions, your body will start to produce additional red blood cells, and your respiration rate will go up. When these biological responses fail, something known as acute mountain sickness will kick in.
Acute Mountain Sickness
Experiencing some acute mountain sickness symptoms is completely normal. You’ll have a headache and have to deal with a little fatigue. As soon as your body adjusts to the altitude, these side effects will fade away, and you’ll forget about them.
If you ignore what your body is telling you and continue to try and full send it to avoid being at the back of the group, your symptoms could get worse. You could die.
The good news is most travel companies have someone who keeps track of the hiker’s vitals. If it’s deemed that it’s too risky for a person to continue, they’ll be taken back down the mountain and won’t be allowed to continue.
Give Yourself About 8 Days to Work With
The thing about the Mt. Kilimanjaro hike is that it’s not short. Depending on the path you take, you could be at it for 8 days or more.
Since you’re reading this, you’re probably about to make your first attempt, so we actually recommend taking the longer path. If you choose one of the shorter ones, there’s a good chance that you won’t be able to continue.
Again, go faster than you’re prepared for, and you might experience acute mountain sickness. We will warn you that taking the longer path will cost you a lot more money, but it will be worth it for the accomplishment you’ll feel if you manage to reach the top.
You’ve Got to Book a Local Tour Company
According to the Tanzanian government, you’ll have to book a local tour guide to escort you on your hike. Even if you didn’t have to, you’d still want to, despite the cost.
Those all-inclusive Ultimate Kilimanjaro packages are nice and will increase your chances of making your end goal. You’ll have someone to carry most of your gear for you.
They’ll provide tents, and the food is to die for. No powdered meals for you! Most tour companies have a chef that cooks delicious and nutritious culinary delights using a kerosene stove.
If you have a specific diet that you adhere to, don’t worry. The tour company you go with should be able to account for your needs and provide meals that will give you the energy you need to get up the mountain.
Most packages also include porters. They’ll set up the campsite for you, go get water, and even clean up the camp the next morning, so all you have to focus on is the day ahead.
The number one thing that will keep altitude sickness at bay is staying hydrated. Since you’re going to be doing a lot of physical movement, the ideal is about five liters every day.
You’ll need to drink at least one liter before you begin your hike. By lunch, you should be at three liters, and when you’re winding down for the evening and eating dinner, you’ll drink the rest. If you really want to make sure that you stay hydrated, you can add supplements to your supply.
Do Some Endurance Training
Your hike is going to start long before you head to Africa to take on the challenge. Again, this trek is not for the faint of heart. If your body isn’t prepared for it, there’s a good chance that you won’t make it to the summit.
To this end, you’re going to need to do a few years of endurance training. Even though the tour company will be carrying a lot of your gear for you, you’ll want to train by carrying a heavy pack on your back.
This will help you build up your endurance and build those leg muscles. Two things that are crucial for taking on Mt. Kilimanjaro. Get some practice by going on regular hikes.
Since the Mt. Kilimanjaro hike is full of constant downhills and uphills, you’ll want to get some experience with that as well. If you don’t have access to hills or you can’t go on hikes on a regular basis, the gym makes for an okay alternative. It’s not the same as being in the great outdoors, but the stair master machines can simulate the hills.
Don’t stop at training your legs. You’re going to need your core strength too. Yoga is the perfect exercise for this.
Be Prepared for the Expense
Taking on this life-changing adventure will not be kind to your wallet. First, you have to secure your flight to Tanzania. There’s a good chance that you’re not going to take on the challenge as soon as you get off the plane, so you’re going to need to account for at least one night of lodgings.
Booking a tour guide isn’t cheap. You won’t get away with less than 1,000 dollars. It’s more than worth it considering everything the packages have to offer.
We can’t stress this enough. Tip the porters, the chef, and everyone else that’s part of the tour company. It’s not a requirement, but it should be.
If you’re going to stay in Tanzania a few days after your hike (which we recommend), you’ll need to pay for further lodgings. Some people book a safari, which will cost another 1,000 dollars. As you can see, it can get out of hand quickly.
You Won’t Have Access to Your Electronics
If you’re the kind of person that needs to have your phone on you 24/7 to check work emails and take important calls, this might not be the activity for you. There’s obviously no wi-fi on the mountain.
There will be times when you get enough cell signal to send a quick email or make a call, but you shouldn’t bank on it. All it takes is one little cloud to cause an inteferance.
You shouldn’t use your phone too much anyway. There’s no place to plug your devices in when you’re in the great outdoors. If you want to bring a camera to take pictures, you’ll need to make sure that you bring along plenty of extra batteries.
An external battery pack should work wonders for keeping your phone charged if you need it. Some people opt for solar chargers, but they can be kind of unreliable.
Find a Way to Keep Your Spirits High
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro will be one of the most unforgettable experiences of your entire life. It will teach you important lessons and show you how perseverant you can be.
It’s also one of the most difficult things that you’ll ever do. After a few days on the hike, you’ll feel your spirit begin to dry up. During these trying times, the best thing you can do is laugh with someone.
It will release feel-good endorphins that will keep you going strong. You can also sing, but that’s a little more difficult considering you won’t have that much oxygen.
Another good way to keep yourself motivated is to take on the challenge with a friend. You need someone who can laugh with you when you’re at your lowest and celebrate milestones with you.
Get Your Vaccinations
This is important. You won’t be able to travel to Tanzania unless you’ve gotten the proper vaccination. There’s only one that’s required, and that is yellow fever.
If you’re coming from a country that has it, you’ll need to show proof that you’ve been vaccinated as soon as you get off the plane. If you’re not coming from a country that has this disease, you can ignore this step.
Bring the Right Gear
The one thing that can ruin your trip the most is not being equipped with the right gear. There’s a chance you’re going to run into rain. You don’t want to be wearing denim jeans if that happens.
Layers are key. A down jacket, beanie, thermal leggings, and gloves are a must. You’re also going to need a good pair of hiking pants.
Don’t try to make the trek in your sneakers. Opt for high-quality hiking boots. The sun will be beaming down on you during the day.
A sun hat and shades should protect your skin. You’ll need water bottles to stay hydrated, and don’t forget to pack a warm sleeping bag to crash in.
Taking on the Kilimanjaro Hike
There’s almost nothing more life-changing and spectacular than participating in the Mount Kilimanjaro hike. It will be rough. You’ll have to do a lot of preparation if you want to make it to the top.
If you use these tips to plan accordingly, though, there’s not much that can beat the feeling of accomplishment you’ll have when you get to the summit.
Looking for other amazing things to do in Tanzania that don’t involve the hike? Browse our online magazine for some more travel tips!