Kilimanjaro Uncovered

An Alternative Path to Bliss

Category: Accessories

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.

5 Kilimanjaro accessories that you will wish someone had told you about

1. Thermos – YES!!!

I strongly believe that a Thermos should be on everyone’s kit list. From hot water warming your body when it’s really cold to a steaming hot towel in the morning, I promise you will love it. It’s absolutely worth the extra weight. Read more about all its fantastic uses on Kilimanjaro here.

2. Solar charger – MAYBE

In our age of gadget addiction, solar panels have become unbelievably popular on Kilimanjaro. They are definitely worth the money if you plan to use your phone a lot, as I did to write my book! My panels worked like a charm and I absolutely loved them. However, they are a total overkill under normal circumstances. If just to take photos on your phone, you might want to invest the money into a decent camera instead. For most people, solar panels will end up in their cellars and never be used again. What a waste just for one trip!

3. Self-heating hand and toe warmers – NO!

Freezing overnight in my tent and during summit night was my biggest fear about Kilimanjaro. Of course I made sure to bring a stack of self-heating badges, i.e. air activated warmers that supposedly heat up as soon as you have opened the packaging and stay warm for several hours thereafter. I brought special hand warmers to put inside my gloves, toe warmers to stick to my socks, and even big warmers for my back. Conclusion: All of them were totally unreliable and – as a result – completely useless. The few instances they worked, they were far too hot. And when I most needed them, i.e. during summit night when I could no longer feel my fingers and toes, they didn’t work at all! I highly recommend you to invest in proper gear instead, like warm gloves and mitts, and a good pair of warming insoles.

4. Mid-layer fleece gloves – YES!

Most gear lists recommend liner gloves as an optional item. Scared as I was about freezing, of course I made sure to bring glove liners in addition to the warmest mittens on the market.  However, that was not enough. I often wished I had another pair of warm fleece gloves, as an experienced hiker in our group was smart enough to bring along. The benefit of thicker fleece gloves is to keep you warmer than thin liner gloves whilst providing more dexterity than clumsy mittens. I would have loved to have some during cold nights in my tent as well as while hiking in cloudy weather when my liner gloves were not thick enough to keep me warm. Most of all, I really wished I had brought some during summit night as a third pair of mid-layer gloves to keep my fingers warmer. Yes, three pairs of gloves/mittens on top of each other – that’s my strong recommendation for summit night (unless you enjoy a miraculous blood circulation)!

5. FUD – NO!

This is for women only. Surely you must have wondered how you will be able to pee in privacy. Blogs warn that at higher altitudes there might be nowhere to hide behind. Marketeers have jumped on this opportunity and come up with FUDs, short for Female Urination Devices. They promise the impossible: pee while standing, just like men. Theoretically, sounds great. Practically, I haven’t seen a single woman using them, nor was there any need to do so. Other than close to the summit, we always found rocks to hide behind; and even summit day won’t cause you any problems because you won’t drink much during summit night in any case. More about that here. So, ladies, no need to worry. You will be fine!

Do you have  any other insights worth sharing? Or do you have any unanswered questions in order to prepare your own climb? Please leave your comments below.

Accessories for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

Accessories may not be as crucial as the right gear, but they will nevertheless significantly influence your comfort and perhaps even your health. Hence, being well-prepared and packing the right accessories will help you enjoy your climb and summit Mt Kilimanjaro safely.

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chili-feet warming insoles

When organizing my Kilimanjaro hike, I was obsessed by one major concern: How to keep warm feet (or rather how to avoid frostbite) during summit night? Fear turned into excitement when I learned about chili-feet from a real outdoors expert. According to him and all my further research, they are the warmest insoles currently in the market. In essence, their innovative material produces heat purely from the pressure of walking. How wonderful would that be: Just put them into your shoes and no more cold feet when walking in winter!

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