Kilimanjaro Uncovered

An Alternative Path to Bliss

Author: Alexandra Tanbai (page 1 of 5)

The best sleeping bag for Kilimanjaro

Updated: 18 December 2018

As you plan your trip to Kilimanjaro, the biggest thing you have to pay attention apart from safety and preventing death on Kilimanjaro is what to pack. While you are arranging all the things you plan on wearing on your Kilimanjaro climb like hiking boots and rain protection, don’t forget about planning what to wear when you sleep, including your sleeping bag. The most important function of your sleeping bag on Kilimanjaro is to keep you warm overnight in freezing temperatures. So the best sleeping bag is one that is rated for very low freezing temperatures. Most tour operators will provide you with the most suitable sleeping bag to rent during your Kilimanjaro climb, but be sure to ask in advance and prepare for the coldest temperatures.

How warm should your Kilimanjaro sleeping bag be?

Our operator offered the Mountain Hardwear Lamina Z Bonfire 30 Sleeping Bag for rent, which is rated for -30 degrees Fahrenheit (-34° Celsius). These sleeping bags kept us warm and were adequate for Kilimanjaro. They didn’t need to be any warmer, nor any cooler. None of us ended up sweating and, even if, keeping the sleeping bag zip open is a lesser pain than freezing. I personally would not hike Kilimanjaro with sleeping bags rated for anything less than -30 degrees.

However, given you are reading this, you probably have never had a need for such a high-performance sleeping bag, nor will you have so in future. Under normal circumstances, you would prefer your sleeping bag to be lighter and less bulky. Thus, it would be a real waste to buy a new sleeping bag just for one-time use on Kilimanjaro. Therefore, most people prefer to simply rent a sleeping bag from their operator.

In our group of 12 hikers, 11 had come to that conclusion and rented the Mountain Hardwear Lamina Z Bonfire 30 Sleeping Bag from our operator. The only hiker who brought his own sleeping bag (also rated for minus degrees, yet not up to -30°) ended up cold overnight and regretted his decision not to rent in hindsight.

Rental sleeping bags

Best to rent your sleeping bag for Kilimanjaro from a high-quality operator

Beware of low-quality sleeping bags on Kilimanjaro climbs

However, beware! Not all operators offer high-quality equipment. In fact, most don’t. If in doubt, better check with them to confirm exactly the type of sleeping bag they would provide. Other than the model, also confirm their usage practices. It doesn’t help if they provide the best of all models but then use it over and over again. After about 10x washing, sleeping bags lose their functionality and will no longer keep you as warm as they should. Read more about operator selection criteria on this blog, and about the shockingly poor sleeping bag practices of budget operators in my book.

Sleep without socks in your sleeping bag on Kilimanjaro

Finally, a counter-intuitive piece of advice: Sleep without socks to avoid getting cold feet! Yes, I know, that doesn’t sound right. I resisted for several nights, experimenting with air activated feet warmers, or self-heating badges, and two pairs of thick thermal socks instead. Nothing worked; my feet felt like ice every single night. Finally, I followed my guide’s advice to sleep bare feet, and—lo and behold—my feet felt warm and cozy all night long!

Wishing you a great experience climbing Kilimanjaro!

Solar panels and battery packs for climbing Kilimanjaro—my recommendation

I had bought the RAVPower 15W Solar Charger with Dual USB Port for climbing Kilimanjaro. This because I was taking notes for my book on my phone and needed to be able to charge my phone to do so. RAVPower seemed to be the most recommended panels on Amazon and various online comparison websites.

Indeed, they worked perfectly, and turned out to be sturdy and long-lasting. Two years after climbing Kilimanjaro, in 2016, I cycled for four months from Cairo to Cape Town, all the way through Africa. You can read all about it on Alex Cycles Africa as I was maintaining a daily blog. During my cycling trip, I used my RAVPower solar charger almost every day to charge my phone, e-book reader, GoPro battery, Garmin sports watch, headlamp and small external battery. The panels worked perfectly for such small devices, and kept up well throughout extreme climates.

Within one hour of direct sunlight, you easily get your small devices charged up close to 100% using the RAVPower 15W Solar Panels.

Please note, however, that it takes much longer to charge a tablet or larger external battery pack. Furthermore, solar panels are not suitable to charge a laptop computer. I had done significant research on this, spoken to Apple/Mac support, and bought the most powerful solar charger that was available in the market. Conclusion: Mission Impossible! The voltage is simply not strong enough to charge more powerful devices.

For smaller devices, however, I can highly recommend the RAVPower solar chargers and would buy one again.

Alternatively, you could also invest in a strong external battery pack. I didn’t use it on Kilimanjaro, but bought the RAVPower 26800mAh Portable Charger for my cycling trip. It worked perfectly, especially when I needed to charge my devices early morning before the sun had come up. In hindsight, it is also more practical. While you won’t use solar panels in your daily life, a battery pack is always useful when you’re out and about and your phone or other devices are running low. It might be a better investment for you overall.

Caution: My portable charger kept up well while cycling through Africa. However, while we did have very cold nights, temperatures never dropped below freezing. Batteries drain quickly in cold temperatures. If you use them on Kilimanjaro, makes sure to keep them in your sleeping bag with you over night to avoid drainage. I haven’t tested how well a battery pack would keep up on Kilimanjaro. In the unfortunate event that it drains completely, and if you absolutely must charge your devices while climbing Kilimanjaro, you will most likely be able to borrow a USB outlet from a fellow climber as solar chargers have meanwhile become very popular amongst Kilimanjaro climbers.

So, in a nutshell, think not only about the best solar charger, but whether you need one at all. An external battery pack might be a more useful investment for you.

How difficult is it to climb Mount Kilimanjaro?

Considering its height of 5,895 meters (19,341 feet), Mount Kilimanjaro is a relatively easy mountain to climb. Its slopes are mostly gentle, and there are well-trodden paths. One can literally walk up to the summit. Even though it is common to refer to “climbing” or “trekking” Mount Kilimanjaro, technically it is more a hike or walk than a climb or trek. No mountaineering skills are required, and visitors usually do not carry more than their daypack as porters take care of the heavy-lifting.

The list of outstanding climbers is long and varied, from the currently oldest person to summit at the age of 88, to Kyle Mynard who was the first quadruple amputee to reach the summit.

These extraordinary feasts and the notion of a “walk in the park” leads many climbers to underestimate how difficult it can be to reach the summit. With an average summit success rate of only around 60%, reaching the summit is obviously not as easy as one might expect from a hike or walk.

The difficulty of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro arises from its altitude of almost 6,000 meters (20,000 feet). This puts most of the climb into the so-called “high altitude” zone which starts from 3,500 meters and above, and the summit into the “extreme high altitude” zone over 5,500 meters of elevation.

Travelling to the “high altitude” zone can lead to medical problems. Most climbers will experience symptoms of altitude sickness or acute mountain sickness (AMS), such as headaches or nausea. With increasing altitude, the symptoms can become more severe including loss of orientation or eyesight. If not treated properly, AMS can be fatal. The best treatment against AMS is immediate descent.

This is the predominant reason why climbers need to return from the mountain before reaching the summit. Sadly, for those who do not descend in time, their vacation may end lethally. An estimated 10 tourists die on Mount Kilimanjaro every year, and AMS is the main reason for those tragic fatalities.

Hence, it is imperative to be well informed about altitude sickness and the risks involved before attempting your climb, and to acclimatize well before and during your climb.

If you follow the golden rules of acclimatization and avoid the dangers of high altitude, it is not too difficult to summit Mount Kilimanjaro. With the right preparation and mental stamina, this bucket list goal should be well within reach for most of us.

How to get started? Fair Voyage will guide you step by step and help you book your climb with a qualified responsible tour operator – making responsible travel easy and adventures possible.

Basic Kilimanjaro Swahili (Downloadable)

Basic Kilimanjaro Swahili

View online & print: Basic Kilimanjaro Swahili—PDF

Basic Kilimanjaro Swahili

Here are a few Swahili words and phrases that you may find useful while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and traveling in East Africa more broadly. While a handful of words are simple to learn, they may go a long way in making your adventure even more enjoyable. Locals will appreciate your effort to communicate in their language, and your simple exchange of Swahili words may help you will feel more connected with them and proud of your mutual understanding. It is especially helpful when speaking to your porters who carry most of your luggage up the mountain including your sleeping tents, cooking items, water, and essentials. Being more aware of the staff who are helping you to climb Kilimanjaro safely and also your social responsibility towards local workers is important for any conscious traveller. Now, let’s get talking in basic Kilimanjaro Swahili!

Continue reading

10 Highly Recommended Items For Your Medical Kit When Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

When climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, safety should always come first, because let’s be honest – there have been some recorded deaths on Kilimanjaro. And so, of course, that also includes the right medical preparations and packing a bulletproof medical kit for your Kilimanjaro climb. Please make sure to consult your specialist doctor for expert medical advice.


Highly Recommended For Your Medical Kit For Kilimanjaro

Based on my assessment and experience for my own purposes, I would always bring or take the following for my next Kilimanjaro climb:

Continue reading

5 Ways To Be A Responsible Kilimanjaro Tourist

Responsibility is a virtue that we must uphold everywhere we go in whatever we do. Sadly, many people do not consider it a thing especially if they have given out their money for any product or service.

When you visit Kilimanjaro or Kili as some prefer calling this African tallest mountain, you should observe some degree of responsibility. There are many reasons why you should. Perhaps, what the mountain means to the locals and to the entire Eastern African community should come to the fore.

Continue reading

10 curious photos from Mount Kilimanjaro

  • Artistic stone assembly on Shira plateau
    Artistic stone assembly on the Shira plateau
  • Giant Groundsel (Dendrosenecio) on Kilimanjaro Shira plateau
    Giant Groundsel (Dendrosenecio) near Shira 2 camp
  • Shira 2 camp tourist suggestion box - photo by Lynn Jackson
    Tourist suggestion box at Shira 2 (photo by Lynn Jackson)
  • Kilimanjaro porters - photo by Lynn Jackson
    Kilimanjaro porters near Moir Hut (photo by Lynn Jackson)
  • Giant lobelia on Kilimanjaro northern slopes
    Giant Lobelia on the northern slope with view to Kibo glaciers
  • Hiking boots covered by dust all looking the same
    Hiking boots all looking the same—welcome to the land of dust!
  • Food and kitchen supplies
    Food supplies in the kitchen tent
  • Buffalo carcass - photo by Lynn Jackson
    Buffalo carcass on northern slope (photo by Lynn Jackson)
  • Kibo night view from 3rd Cave camp with ghost - photo by Giovanni Baffa Scinelli
    Ghost above Third Cave (photo by Giovanni Baffa Scinelli)
  • War-like landscape and metal stretchers near Barafu Hut
    War-like landscape with rescue stretchers near Barafu Hut

5 reasons why you should beware of online Kilimanjaro information and reviews

The more I’ve been researching Kilimanjaro, and that’s almost two years now—initially to prepare my own climb, then to publish my book, and finally to fill this blog—the more frustrated I’ve been getting with the quality of content dispersed all over the Internet.

Initially new to Kilimanjaro, then new to social media, and finally new to blogging, it took me a while to figure out what’s going on. Here’s my current take on it, and why I’m ever more determined to do something about it:

Continue reading

Mt Kilimanjaro, The Highest Peak In Africa

Tanzania boasts of hosting the highest peak in Africa, located in the northern part of the country close to its border with Kenya. The peak in question is Mt. Kilimanjaro which is elevated 19,340 ft or 5,895 meters above sea level and also ranks as the highest mountain in the world that is not part of a mountain range.

Map of Kilimanjaro location in Tanzania close to the Kenya border

Kilimanjaro located in Tanzania close to the Kenya border

Like many other mountains, Mt. Kilimanjaro formed as a result of volcanic activity over a million years ago resulting in its three volcanic cones: Mawenzi, Kibo, and Shira.

Amongst the three cones, Mawenzi and Shira are extinct while Kibo is dormant with minor volcanic activity noted less than two centuries ago. However, the cone is believed to have had a major eruption over 360,000 years ago. On Kibo is the Uhuru Peak which is the highest point on the mountain.

Over the years there has been a notable decline in the glaciers on the peaks of the mountain, and approximately in the next two decades, the ice cap on the mountain will have vanished entirely.

Kibo view from Millenium Camp - photo by Lynn Jackson

Kibo view from Millenium Camp – photo by Lynn Jackson

Occupying a position as the fourth highest of the seven summits, ascending to the top of the mountain is as much a challenging as an alluring task usually approached from seven different routes that vary in a degree of complexity determined by their individual terrains and time of the year. The routes are Marangu, Machame, Rongai, Shira, Lemosho, Northern, and Umbwe.

Older posts