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What to wear Climbing Kilimanjaro

One of the most popular and arduous climbs in the world and something for many peoples' bucket lists. Here is your ultimate guide to what to wear climbing Kilimanjaro.

Kilimanjaro is by no means the only major mountain in the world that man looks to conquer. The Andes, the Himalayas and many more mountain ranges attract thousands of visitors a year to their peaks for that challenge of a lifetime.

But kitting yourself out for such an adventure can be equally daunting and not just the potential cost.

Depending on the time of year and the part of the world where you are undertaking your challenge, your gear could literally save your life!

Unless you are Bear Grylls, all your essential climbing gear will almost certainly be provided by your tour company/guide. Ropes, Axes, Tents, Sleeping Bags, Food, Cooking equipment and alike, are all likely to be part of your adventure package.  Your actual climb will probably last between 3 to 5 days or so depending on the height and climate conditions. For the real pros out there undertaking Mont Blanc or even Everest, you guys already know most of this stuff anyway we're sure. But for the novice, we hope this guide to basic clothing will help you along your way.

For the rank amateur ticking this one off their bucket list, your clothing is pretty much down to you. At Baselayer, we specialise in Technical Apparel that is ideally suited to such challenges and we attempt here to identify the essential gear you should consider for your adventure to ensure you have the best time with the least amount of discomfort.

The right gear for the right job in the right climate will help guarantee you get up and down that big rock safely from base-camp to peak.

When You Arrive....

Many participants will be undertaking their climb as part of a trip maybe on a Duke of Edinburgh award or as part of a charitable re-development programme.  This could involve 2 weeks digging ditches or building homes in a remote under-developed African location or the South American rain forest, before undertaking the climb itself.

However, even here you will need some appropriate clothing as the ground level work is very likely to be extremely hot, exhausting and dirty.

When being exposed to heat and sun for long periods, you need to ensure you keep covered up but whatever you do, don't spend a fortune as you're likely to ruin anything you use whilst working and probably dispose of it at the airport when you come home.  A few "cheap" tees and shorts that you won't mind losing are probably a good investment.  Cotton at this stage is fine but technical synthetic fabrics will dry a lot quicker than cotton and will be ready for re-use the following day whereas cotton will hold moisture for a long time and probably won't dry overnight.

For your underwear, we'd most definitely not suggest cotton.  You will go through tons of pants and a synthetic or wool blend option is far better in such situations to stay dry, light and avoid discomfort.  Your pants have never been so important!

A wide brimmed hat is a must or a Legionnaires cap with a neck cover is again, ideal to help protect the head and back of the neck so take a look at our Headwear for something suitable.  A lightweight looser fit Cool Wear Base Layer top designed for warm conditions and with UV protection, is another must have not least because it will protect you to a major degree from insect bites as well (not guaranteed though!).  Wear this as an alternative to a short sleeve tee or as a true base layer with a tee thrown over the top.

You could also benefit from a thermal base layer top and bottoms in the evenings as well at this stage, as the temperature can drop considerably and the biting blighters tend to come out in the early evening as well.

A thermal base layer will help protect you from them and also help maintain your body temperature without losing too much body heat.

For your feet, these will take a pounding and you'll probably be wearing hiking or climbing boots most of the time.  To that end, top quality walking socks are a must and consider seam free Toe Socks or regular Liner Socks too as these will manage the sweat you produce from your feet and massively help to prevent blisters.

The Climb: Day 1

First up let's explore the climate you will experience.  Regardless of your specific challenge, most of the heavily promoted big mountain challenges undertaken by us mere mortals, tend to be in warm or temperate climates or undertaken when the weather is far warmer than in the winter.  This alone causes some unique clothing dilemmas as it's very likely to be hot at the bottom and freezing cold at the top!  That very popular destination Mount Kilimanjaro is exactly like that for example, virtually tropical at the base and ice cold at the top.  Don't let the beauty and the look of the place deceive you!

To that end, you have to cater for all eventualities.  At the base of the mountain in usually steaming hot conditions, hot sun as well as mosquitoes and flies can be a real problem and your pre-trip jabs and insect repellent may save you from some nasty long term ailment, but that won't stop the blighters having a quick nip now and then.

So a quality light Base Layer is an ideal addition to your already micro-sized travel wardrobe.  The same can be said for your legs as well.  Most climbers will wear shorts at the start of their climb so a good pair of light Base Layer Leggings are ideal to keep those pesky insects at bay, reduce the risk of sun burn and manage the huge amounts of perspiration you will undoubtedly generate.

One rule should however be taken on board and that is this: Avoid Cotton!  Cotton won't dry, is uncomfortable and will actively promote cold rather than diminish it.  Cotton is fine when you're digging ditches but now's the time to ditch the cotton!

The Climb: Day 2

By day two of most of this type of event, you'll probably find yourself half way up your climb.  Now you begin to feel the chill, especially early morning when you're up at the crack of dawn.

The continued use of base layer leggings and top below shorts and tee shirt can often be adequate for many even at this stage of the climb.  But many more will look to upgrade the base layers used at the foot of the mountain to a Thermal Base Layer option to provide warmth without the need to bulk up too much just yet.  Also a light pair of Gloves are an ideal addition at this stage too.

The Climb: Day 3

Now you've reached the final leg of your momentous climb.  You're probably feeling the cold big time now and probably slept in your Thermal Base Layers the night before, just for that extra warmth. That's something we would definitely suggest.

Keep your thermal base layers on for the rest of your climb.  A good base layer will wick away moisture and have anti-bacterial fabric treatments that should prevent any excessive odours occurring so wearing them for several days without washing them, is not usually an issue.

Let's face it, there's no hotel room half way up Kili so you can't grab a shower at will and any mountain lakes are not worth risking hypothermia to get a quick bath in either.

Don't forget the Mid-Layer. Often overlooked, the Mid-Layer is a critical part of your kit and you will use it time and again and is perfect if you find yourself in that in-between phase of getting too hot with a jacket and too cold without.  Trust us, you will never regret the Mid-Layer in your bag.

Layer up for the final push. Wear your thermal base layers, form fitting gloves and probably thicker ski type gloves, some good thermal socks, toe socks, thermal beanie hat, neck warmer or face mask plus your outer wear jacket, your boots and necessary climbing gear plus your shades and you'll be fine!

This link will take you to a page showing appropriate essential clothing suggestions for your adventure from Synthetic options to 100% Merino Wool and everything in between: Climbing Kili Kit

You can always call us if you have any questions that we've not covered though, we'd be only to happy to help: 01689 603675 or