There’s a lot of different kit lists floating around. When checking two or three of them, you can be reasonably certain that all essential items have been covered on one or the other. But for one key item: A Thermos. It remains a mystery to me why this marvel of functionality hasn’t yet made it onto any other Kilimanjaro kit lists; but of course I’ve included it onto the packing and checklist that I’ve compiled for you. Here’s why I would HIGHLY recommend a Thermos to EVERY Mt Kilimanjaro hiker:

1. Liquid water during summit night

All reviews I had read concurred: Your water will freeze during summit night. Yikes – what to do? The answer seemed obvious. This was my initial reason why – contrary to lack of recommendations from other sources and despite the additional weight – I decided to bring a Thermos onto Kilimanjaro. Ironically, this initial reason would prove to be the least important of all functionalities. It was all the other unexpected benefits that would make me such a staunch Thermos advocate.

Of course, it turned out to be true that all water bladders  would freeze during summit night. Fortunately, I hadn’t been aware that there was a very easy workaround: Use a Nalgene bottle and carry it upside down. That way, your water will freeze from the upside-down bottom. When you drink, you simply turn it around. This little trick should leave you with a sufficient supply of liquid water throughout summit night.

Furthermore, I only realized during summit night that hydration is over-rated for your final summit push. In fact, it’s not only not necessary, but also completely impractical. Just imagine yourself wrapped in layers of pants and your hands covered by warm gloves or mittens that hopefully keep you warm in a freezing wind. Now imagine exposing your fingers to that freezing wind, pulling down all your layers that will sit tightly on top of each other, and making the effort to squat in thin air. OK, guys might have a small advantage, but it won’t be a pleasant experience for them either!

So what about necessity? Yes, drinking is imperative to stay clear of altitude sickness; but no, you don’t need to drink much during summit night. On the one hand, you simply won’t feel that thirsty when it’s freezing cold, so rest assured you won’t be suffering from thirst. On the other hand, all the prior summit successes – most of whom didn’t have much to drink – provide ample evidence that you can reach the summit safely without constantly re-hydrating during that final push. Better make sure to drink your three liters of water every day before summit night!

2. Hot water to warm your body during summit night

While drinking for hydration wasn’t such a big deal, drinking to warm up from inside was absolutely wonderful during that freezing cold summit night. Even if just for that reason, I would always carry a Thermos again to the top of Kilimanjaro.

3. Hot water to keep warm in a freezing cold tent

The same logic not only applies to summit night, but all those cold nights that you spend in your tent. Being able to drink hot water last thing before you close your eyes or first thing in the morning really helps to warm your body and feel more comfortable when stuck in a tent that at times may feel like an icebox.

4. Hot water in the morning to facilitate bowel movement

Most people will have problems with their digestive system on Kilimanjaro, especially if you are used to eating lots of fibre that you won’t get on the mountain. In order to prevent your bowels from clogging up too much, drinking hot water first thing in the morning helps a lot.

5. Hot water in the morning to wash your face

Last but not least, here’s my absolute favorite use of a Thermos: Do you know those small steaming hot towels they serve you on planes? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have one of those served to you when you wake up in a freezing cold tent on the mountain? That’s exactly what my Thermos did for me. I just poured a tiny little bit of hot water that I kept overnight into my Thermos cup and dropped in one of those compressed single-use towels (also highly recommendable). Then wait for a minute and let the magic unfold. Abracadabra – that tiny token will soak up the water and expand into a steaming hot towel! With this set-up, you can “wash” yourself and get fully ready for the day all within the warm comfort of your sleeping bag! Pretty cool, huh?

Now you know my secret that helped me enjoy my hiking and camping experience all the way to the top of Kilimanjaro. Please share and spread the word!