How Do I Prepare to Climb Kilimanjaro?

This section covers what gear you need to bring, physical training, Tanzania entry requirements (passport & visa), immunizations and vaccinations, and travel insurance. 
Please read this carefully and make sure you have gathered everything before you depart on your trip.

What Gear Do I Need to Bring?

You are responsible for bringing personal gear and equipment while communal equipment (tents, food, cooking items, etc.) is provided. Below is a gear list of required, recommended and optional items to bring on your climb. (See How Should I Dress for Kilimanjaro?)

Accessories 

1 - Sunglasses or Goggles
1 - Backpack Cover, waterproof (optional)
1 - Poncho, during rainy season (optional)
1 - Water Bottle (Nalgene, 32 oz. recommended)
1 - Water Bladder, Camelbak type (optional)
1 - Towel, lightweight, quick-dry (optional)
1 - Pee Bottle, to avoid leaving tent at night (highly recommended) 
Stuff Sacks or Plastic Bags, various sizes, to keep gear dry and separate 

Equipment 

1 - Sleeping Bag, warm, four seasons
1 - Sleeping Bag Liner, for added warmth (optional)
1 - Sleeping Pad, self-inflating or closed-cell foam
1 - Trekking Poles (highly recommended)
1 - Head lamp, with extra batteries
1 - Duffel bag, for porters to carry your equipment
1 - Daypack, for you to carry your personal gear 

Other 

Toiletries
Prescriptions
Sunscreen
Lip Balm
Insect Repellent, containing DEET
First Aid Kit
Hand Sanitizer
Toilet Paper
Wet Wipes (recommended)
Snacks, light-weight, high calorie, high energy (optional)
Pencil and Notebook, miniature, for trip log (optional)
Camera, with extra batteries (optional) 
Paperwork 
Trip Receipt
Passport
Visa (available at JRO)
Immunization Papers
Insurance Documents 

Technical Clothing 

1 - Waterproof Jacket, breathable with hood
1 - Insulated Jacket, synthetic or down
1 - Soft Jacket, fleece or soft-shell
2 - Long Sleeve Shirt, light-weight, moisture-wicking fabric
1 - Short Sleeve Shirt, light-weight, moisture-wicking fabric
1 - Waterproof Pants, breathable (side-zipper recommended)
2 - Hiking Pants (convertible to shorts recommended)
1 - Fleece Pants
1 - Shorts (optional)
1 - Long Underwear (moisture-wicking fabric recommended)
3 - Underwear, briefs (moisture-wicking fabric recommended)
2 - Sport Bra (women)

Headwear 

1 - Brimmed Hat, for sun protection
1 - Knit Hat, for warmth
1 - Balaclava, for face coverage (optional)
1 - Bandana (optional)

Handwear 

1 - Gloves, warm (waterproof recommended)
1 - Glove Liners, thin, synthetic, worn under gloves for added warmth (optional) 

Footwear 

1 - Hiking Boots, warm, waterproof, broken-in, with spare laces
1 - Gym Shoes, to wear at camp (optional)
3 - Socks, thick, wool or synthetic
3 - Sock Liners, tight, thin, synthetic, worn under socks to prevent blisters (optional)
1 - Gaiters, waterproof (optional)

 

The most common mistake that climbers make is that they over pack and bring way too much gear. 

Be selective in what you take with you. Please note that our porters are limited to carrying 35 lbs (15 kg) of your personal belongings. If you have excess weight, you will be required to hire an additional porter.

Although you are expected to bring everything you need, most gear and equipment may be rented, subject to availability. All extra luggage, items you will not use on your climb, such safari clothing, gear and equipment, can also be safely stored at the hotel or in our office. 

Checked luggage on airplanes can get lost or delayed on the way to Tanzania. Therefore, you should prepare for this possibility by wearing or carrying on the items that are essential to your Kilimanjaro climb. While most clothing, gear and equipment can be replaced in Tanzania prior to your climb, there are some things that you should not and cannot. 

Msaro African Adventures recommends that you wear one complete hiking outfit on the plane, including a long sleeve shirt, hiking pants, underwear, socks, sock liner, and hiking boots. In your carry on baggage, you should bring your backpack, waterproof jacket and pants, insulated jacket, snacks, toiletries, medications, camera and all paperwork. Make sure you wear/carry your hiking boots; wearing a different pair of boots on your climb will likely cause blistering.

How Should I Train for the Climb?

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is a physical undertaking, so you should prepare yourself accordingly with a Kilimanjaro training program. Being in good shape is important in many respects. Obviously, strong, conditioned legs make it easier to walk uphill and downhill for sustained periods of time. General aerobic fitness allows the body to function efficiently with less oxygen. And a fit body is more likely to withstand the stress of consecutive days of hiking and camping. Finally, a positive mental attitude can work wonders for you when fatigue and doubts arise. 

The best exercise that you can do to prepare for Mount Kilimanjaro is hiking. 

There are training regimens on other operator's sites which entail strict, extensive, cross-training programs, featuring hiking, running, biking, swimming, weight training, etc. Do not be alarmed by this. Those programs are excessive and unnecessary to sufficiently prepare for climbing Kilimanjaro. The best and perhaps only exercise you need to do is to hike - period. After all, that is what you will be doing on the mountain. Ideally, you should try to hike as much as possible on hills or mountains to simulate ascension on Mount Kilimanjaro. Doing day hikes is superb training. For those who do not have access to trails, but have membership to a gym, you can train very productively on a stair master machine. If you have no access to trails or a gym, then try to walk as much as you can, with extended walks on the weekends. 

You should start training for climbing Kilimanjaro at least two months prior to your departure. 

If you've never hiked before, you should start with shorter time intervals, a slower pace, and no weight (in your day pack) and then gradually increase all of the above as your fitness level improves. Remember that on Mount Kilimanjaro, you will walk slowly for prolonged periods, and carry probably no more than 20 lbs in your day pack. Therefore, in your training, it is better to increase the time interval/distance and keep a slow pace than to shorten the time interval/distance and increase the pace. Try to train three times a week, for at least one hour per session, at a minimum. If you can do day hikes for four to six hours, with moderate elevation changes (~1,500 ft/460 m) while carrying a 20 lb pack, or if you can walk on a stairmaster for 1-2 hours, at 30 steps per minute while carrying a 20 lb pack, then you're probably ready for the real thing. 

Your longest/hardest workouts should be performed two to four weeks before your departure. For the last two weeks, you should taper off your training and in the final days, rest so that your body has time to recover before your actual climb. In addition to walking/hiking, you can also supplement your training with exercises such as running or cycling, which will increase your aerobic capacity. 

It is imperative that during Kilimanjaro training, you wear the boots that you intend to climb with so that they are sufficiently broken-in (to prevent blisters). Additionally, you should wear the day pack you intend to carry so you're your shoulders/back/hips get used to the points of contact and weight (to minimize chafing and soreness). 
Lastly, physical training is just one part of getting in shape. If you have an unhealthy lifestyle, use the climb as your motivation to change. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Reduce your red meat consumption. Don't drink or smoke. Get eight hours of sleep per night. Don't worry. Be happy.

Should I Get a Medical Check Up?

All climbers should have a medical check prior to attempting the mountain. Ask your doctor if high altitude trekking is permissible for your age, fitness level and health condition. Ask if you have any preexisting medical conditions that can cause problems on the climb. Ask if any of your medications can affect altitude acclimatization. Ask whether Diamox can be taken with your existing prescription medicines. 

The minimum age for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is 10 years old. There is no maximum age. However, the climb is strenuous and presents health risks, especially to people in high risk categories. Serious consideration should be given to anyone under the age of 18 and over the age of 60. The climbers on the extreme ends of the age spectrum should definitely consult their doctor. 

What Are the Entry Requirements for Tanzania?

The following information was taken from the Tanzania National website, and should be checked for latest information.

Foreigners seeking to enter the United Republic of Tanzania should be in possession of a valid passport, at least six months prior to expiration. The passport is to be presented to the Immigration Control Officer at any entry point: border station, airport, harbour. The passport must be presented along with one of the following:

  • A valid visa
  • Resident permit
  • A pass

A visitor must also present an onward or return ticket together with proof that the visitor has sufficient funds to support himself or herself while in Tanzania. 

All foreigners from non-Commonwealth countries are required to have a valid visa unless their countries have agreements with Tanzania under which the visa requirement is waived. Exemptions: Citizens of Commonwealth countries are not required to obtain visas unless they are citizens of the United Kingdom, Canada, Nigeria, or India. The visa is permission granted to a foreigner who intends to travel to Tanzania on business, for a holiday, to study or conduct research, or for other approved activities. When entering Tanzania, the visitor with a visa may then obtain from the immigration control officer, a pass or any other authority to enter the country. 

There are five types of visa valid for entry into Tanzania:

  • Ordinary Visa
    An ordinary visa is issued at any Tanzanian mission abroad. It enables the holder to be granted a visitor's pass at any entry point (border, airport, harbor). However, a person coming from a country where there is no Tanzanian mission or where it is reasonably distant shall be issued a visa at the entry point in Tanzania.
  • Business Visa
    The business visa is issued to prospective investors who intend to visit Tanzania for such purposes as making feasibility studies, establishing professional and business contacts, and making arrangements for investments during the startup period. The validity of the visa can vary from one month to six months. The fees for the visa are determined administratively, so it is advised that prospective investors consult the appropriate authorities before making application for visas.
  • Multiple-Entry Visa
    Foreigners who, because of their business or investments, need to make frequent visits to the United Republic of Tanzania are issued multiple-entry visas. Their validity ranges from one month to a year. Applications for multiple-entry visas are usually submitted by local contacts on behalf of the applicants. The fees for the visa are determined administratively; so-it is advised that prospective investors consult the appropriate authorities before making application for visas.
  • Referred Visa
    The referred visa is one that requires special clearance or permission from the Director of Immigration Services in Dar es Salaam or the Principal Immigration Officer in Zanzibar. This type of visa is required for nationals of Lebanon, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Somalia and for Refugees, stateless people and other nationalities as may be specified from time to time by the authorities. People affected by this regulation may make enquiries at the nearest Tanzania mission abroad.
  • Transit Visa
    A transit visa is a permission to cross Tanzania from one entry point to another and is for people whose purpose in entering Tanzania is simply to pass through without visiting. It is issued for a maximum of two weeks.

Visas are issued by the following:

  • The office of the Director of Immigration Services, Dar es Salaam, and the office of the Principal Immigration Officer, Zanzibar.
  • Tanzanian representatives abroad: Visas can be obtained at Tanzanian Embassies and High Commissions, such as the Tanzanian Embassy of the United States.
  • Entry points to the United Republic of Tanzania: principally Namanga, Tunduma, Sirari, Horohoro, Kigoma port, Dar es Salaam International Airport, Kilimanjaro International Airport, Zanzibar Harbour and Zanzibar Airport.
  • Any other gazetted entry point.

To avoid potential loss of passports in the mail or delays in visa processing, Ultimate Kilimanjaro recommends that US citizens obtain their visas upon arrival, at Kilimanjaro International Airport. It is an easy and simple process. The cost of a Tanzanian visa for US citizens is $100.

What Vaccinations, Immunisations and Medications Do I Need?

The following information was obtained from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention Tanzania, and should be confirmed with them when planning your adventure.

Recommended Vaccinations and Preventive Medications

The following vaccines may be recommended for your travel to East Africa. Discuss your travel plans and personal health with a health-care provider to determine which vaccines you will need.

  • Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG). Transmission of hepatitis A virus can occur through direct person-to-person contact; through exposure to contaminated water, ice, or shellfish harvested in contaminated water; or from fruits, vegetables, or other foods that are eaten uncooked and that were contaminated during harvesting or subsequent handling.
  • Hepatitis B, especially if you might be exposed to blood or body fluids (for example, health-care workers), have sexual contact with the local population, or be exposed through medical treatment. Hepatitis B vaccine is now recommended for all infants and for children ages 11-12 years who did not receive the series as infants.
  • Malaria: your risk of malaria may be high in all countries in East Africa, including cities. See your health care provider for a prescription antimalarial drug.
  • Meningococcal (meningitis) if you plan to visit countries in this region that experience epidemics of meningococcal disease during December through June.
  • Rabies, pre-exposure vaccination, if you might have extensive unprotected outdoor exposure in rural areas, such as might occur during camping, hiking, or bicycling, or engaging in certain occupational activities.
  • Typhoid vaccine. Typhoid fever can be contracted through contaminated drinking water or food, or by eating food or drinking beverages that have been handled by a person who is infected. Large outbreaks are most often related to fecal contamination of water supplies or foods sold by street vendors
  • Yellow fever, a viral disease that occurs primarily in sub-Saharan Africa and tropical South America, is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected mosquitoes. The virus is also present in Panama and Trinidad and Tobago. Yellow fever vaccination is recommended for travelers to endemic areas and may be required to cross certain international borders (For country specific requirements, see Yellow Fever Vaccine Requirements and Information on Malaria Risk and Prophylaxis, by Country.). Vaccination should be given 10 days before travel and at 10 year intervals if there is on-going risk. · As needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria, measles, and a one-time dose of polio vaccine for adults.

Malaria

Malaria is always a serious disease and may be a deadly illness. Humans get malaria from the bite of a mosquito infected with the parasite. Your risk of malaria may be high in all countries in East Africa, including cities. All travelers to East Africa, including infants, children, and former residents of East Africa, may be at risk for malaria. Prevent this serious disease by seeing your health care provider for a prescription antimalarial drug and by protecting yourself against mosquito bites. 
All travelers should take one of the following drugs:

  • atovaquone/proguanil,
  • doxycycline,
  • mefloquine, or
  • primaquine (in special circumstances).

Yellow Fever

A certificate of yellow fever vaccination is required for entry into Tanzania when arriving from countries where yellow fever is present.

Food and Waterborne Diseases

Make sure your food and drinking water are safe. Food and waterborne diseases are the primary cause of illness in travelers. Travelers' diarrhea can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites, which are found throughout East Africa and can contaminate food or water. Infections may cause diarrhea and vomiting (E. coli, Salmonella, cholera, and parasites), fever (typhoid fever and toxoplasmosis), or liver damage (hepatitis). 
 

To stay healthy, do...

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or, if hands are not visibly soiled, use a waterless, alcohol-based hand rub to remove potentially infectious materials from your skin and help prevent disease transmission.
  • In developing countries, drink only bottled or boiled water, or carbonated (bubbly) drinks in cans or bottles. Avoid tap water, fountain drinks, and ice cubes. If this is not possible, learn how to make water safer to drink.
  • Take your malaria prevention medication before, during, and after travel, as directed. (See your health care provider for a prescription.)
  • To prevent fungal and parasitic infections, keep feet clean and dry, and do not go barefoot, even on beaches.
  • Always use latex condoms to reduce the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito insect bites:
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats when outdoors.
  • Use insect repellents that contain DEET (N, N-diethylmethyltoluamide).
  • If no screening or air conditioning is available: use a pyrethroid-containing spray in living and sleeping areas during evening and night-time hours; sleep under bed nets, preferably insecticide-treated ones.

Do not…

  • Do not eat food purchased from street vendors or food that is not well cooked to reduce risk of infection (i.e., hepatitis A and typhoid fever).
  • Do not drink beverages with ice.
  • Avoid dairy products, unless you know they have been pasteurized.
  • Do not swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to certain water-borne diseases such as schistosomiasis.
  • Do not handle animals, especially monkeys, dogs, and cats, to avoid bites and serious diseases (including rabies and plague). Consider pre-exposure rabies vaccination if you might have extensive unprotected outdoor exposure in rural areas.
  • Do not share needles for tattoos, body piercing or injections to prevent infections such as HIV and hepatitis B.
  • Avoid poultry farms, bird markets, and other places where live poultry is raised or kept.

Do I Need Travel Insurance?

Absolutely!

Climbers are strongly advised to obtain travel insurance immediately after booking their trip. Trip deposits are non-refundable and balance payments are only partially refundable. Therefore, it is prudent for you to protect your investment against trip cancellation, interruption, delays and unforeseeable expenses. Travel insurance covers expenses such as:

  • trip cancellation, interruption or delays
  • emergency accident and sickness
  • lost, damaged, stolen or delayed baggage
  • 24-hour emergency medical assistance

At a minimum, the insurance should protect you against trip cancellation and trip interruption, should you need to cancel your trip due to circumstances such as training injuries or sickness or emergencies. Ideally, insurance should cover high altitude trekking (not to be confused with "mountaineering" or "mountain climbing" which most insurance will not cover) and all medical and repatriation costs. Keep your proof of insurance on your person at all times. 

We recommend that you obtain the Adventure Travel Protection Plan, which provides coverage for high altitude trekking, trip cancellation, interruption and delay; lost, stolen and damaged baggage; medical expenses and emergency medical evacuation; and luggage delay, for a low cost. You can purchase the Adventure Travel Protection Plan online through Travel Guard.

Where Do the Kilimanjaro Climbs Begin?

Our climbs originate in Moshi, a coffee-producing gateway town to Mount Kilimanjaro, located at the base of the mountain to its south. Moshi is a short drive from the Kilimanjaro International Airport (airport code: JRO). If you fly into Kilimanjaro International Airport, you should communicate your flight information to us, and we can arrange for transport from the airport to the hotel for a small fare. 

KLM flies to Kilimanjaro International Airport regularly.  Vayama is a good source for domestic Tanzanian flights.