Looking back at planning for the trip of a lifetime: Kilimanjaro!

FIVE years ago I climbed Kilimanjaro. FIVE YEARS! How fast time flies.

I know a lot has probably changed in terms of available gear and clothing, but I still wanted to share a blog I started writing four years ago when after a few years of trying to get pregnant, it finally happened, and my brain and focus shifted elsewhere. So much has changed from then to now, but funny enough I wear my Kili gear more now than I have in the last few years.

My reasons for using the stuff is way less exciting than it was 5 years ago, but cold covid-19 created basement offices, need Kili grade warm base layers too. And funny enough my Kilimanjaro climb has come up more this year than any other year. Just a couple of weeks ago at the dentist, I ran into a lady who saw my bumper sticker and we shared stories of our climbs and hopes that some day our daughters will want to do the climb with us.

I don’t even remember how it made its way onto my bucket list, but when I decided to tackle Kilimanjaro in 2016, it had been on my radar for quite some years. When I did finally decide to tackle it, it was quite a spur of the moment decision….After talking to my 2 friends who had recently summited, I started researching companies. Not only did I want an affordable company. I also decided I preferred to support a local climbing company and I needed their dates to match up perfectly with Pablo’s work trip.

Popote Africa ended up being the company of choice and I am very happy I went with them (and so glad that they’re still around in 2021!) The owner, Sabino, was fantastic. My guide, Imran, was absolutely amazing, as was the rest of our crew. And oh what a crew we had! While I ended up being in a group with just 1 other person, we had a crew of 9 people who supported us on our trip.

It wasn’t quite glamping, but it was as close to it as you can get on a mountain!

Seriously! Your tent was put up and taken down for you every day. You were brought hot water for cleaning every morning and night. Hot tea was also brought to your tent in the morning and the tiny 2 dining tent served as a space to grab breakfast, a late afternoon snack and dinner. We even had our very own portable toilet! And every single one of the crew members was fabulous!

When going up Kili you have multiple options. I opted for the Machame route, which is one of the more popular routes and takes 6-7 days. Wanting time to acclimate to what would be brand-new to me elevation, I opted for the 7-day route. On this route you basically spend 6 days summiting and t1 day going back down

I think the next time I do it (yes, I hope there’s a next time) I may take the Lemoshi or Rongai route, but for now I’ll say, I highly recommend Machame.

Planning for the trip was easier than I thought. I was able to borrow stuff from a friend, and Popote had some items available as well. I basically followed Popote’s Packing List and tried to imagine what each day might look like. The biggest thing to remember is that you’ll be visiting every elevation, ecosystem and temperature on the planet, so plan for layers! You also want your base layer to consist of items that dry quickly, because you will be reusing items and sweating during the day, so you want stuff to dry quickly (I’ll save my story of how badly my gear and I smelled post-trip, for another day).

I laid my clothes out in my tent every day either drying or as I planned the layers needed every day.

My 5 favorite items and absolute must-haves for the trip were:

  1. Insulated 3L Camelbak bladder. You definitely want the drink tube insulated. For the bladder, if you have space insulate it too, otherwise just wrap it in one of your layers or a scarf in your daypack.
  2. PStyle (and a plastic water bottle), so that you can pee anywhere and specifically into a water bottle at night without having to leave your tent. I did a lot of research and the PStyle was the winner because it’s easy to use and doesn’t require any toilet paper.
  3.  3-in-1 Jacket. I got the North Face 3-in-1 Alkani, which they don’t have anymore, but there are tons of similar items. The things I looked for were a nice warm inner lining, breathability (it has zippers that you can open for air circulation), waterproof, and pockets.
  4. Daypack – The one I got, Bago Hiking Backpacks, is out of stock, but I liked it because it was affordable, it had a built-in rain cover, space for the Camelbak bladder, camera, snacks and clothing layers, it had clips at chest and hip height and it had a breathable back. It was small (30L), but that’s really all you want to be carrying when you’re hiking all day.
  5. Convertible hiking pants, like these from ExOfficio pants, but really any convertible hiking pants will do. I chose these because they were also bug repellant, which worked out well because I used the same hiking pants afterwards when on safari.

I arrived to Tanzania the day before the trip. Because I’d been in Qatar overnight, I had some time to adjust to the new time zone. Popote picked me up, I met my hiking partner and we went over some details including out packing list.

The next day we had breakfast and then off we went to the Machame gate!

Check out the details of each leg of my trip: On the way to TanzaniaPlanning for Kilimanjaro – Climbing Kilimanjaro – Kilimanjaro Summit – Safari – Zanzibar (links coming soon as I write the posts!)

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