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First Major Hiking Trip - Best advice and tips for Kilimanjaro?

Hi everyone! 

This December I’m embarking on my first major outdoor/hiking adventure. I’m climbing Mt Kilimanjaro with an all women’s hiking group. This is a 7 day hike with a wide array of climates/temperatures. We are fortunate that we will have porters to carry up most of our stuff and we will only have to carry our water, snacks and a few other items in a day pack. With this being my first time hiking anything more than a day trip, I would love to hear any tips/advice from more experienced hikers! Specifically:

-Are there any specific items that you bring when hiking that aren’t commonly thought of but super useful?

-Ladies, what does layering generally mean for you? I see people generally referring to “base layers, mid layers and outer layers” but these all seem to mean different things to different people. Particularly for pants, what is a mid layer? 

-Another question more geared towards women, what do you do with your hair? I have never gone 6 days without a proper shower and I’m not concerned about looking cute but on the other hand I don’t want to have gnarly unmanageable hair, any tips or tricks in this regard?


 Other than that, any general feedback or advice you can provide is greatly appreciated! 

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14 Replies

@NatalieS We're so stoked you're getting some first hand advice here!

We wanted to call out this Expert Advice article on How to Dress in Layers that can give you some great info on layering. If you haven't already you should check it out. One other piece of advice is to make sure your layers are not too snug. The most important way your body stays warm is through circulation, and if your layers are too tight they can inhibit your body's ability to keep itself warm. This is most prevalent when you're thinking about your feet and adding thicker socks, but can apply to all your layers.

Hope this helps!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

No problem. A comb will be your hair's best friend. Keeping it tied back helps.  Using a bandana/head covering is good too. Good luck with your trip. 


Hi @NatalieS

Myself and my best adventure friend (also a woman) did Kilimanjaro about 4 years ago. We did the modified Lemosho Route on a 7-day trip. We too did the hike in December and made sure to test out all of our gear and break in our shoes prior to the trip. Since this will be your longest hike, I highly suggest doing some training hikes and weekend backpacking trips this Spring-Fall.

For me, the most important items were: toilet paper (biodegradable; we used the outhouses),lip balm (with SPF), hand sanitizer, rain gear, down jacket, wool hat, wool gloves, wool socks, and wool base layers. I sweat quite a bit so wool works great for me since it retains heat when wet. 

I'd also make sure you bring ibuprofen to deal with altitude headaches and anti-diarrheal medication. I needed it desperately on about day 4. Bringing up a insulated water bottle or having your water bladder tube insulated will also help on your final descent, otherwise your water may freeze.

If you wear glasses, see if you can get the contacts that you can sleep in for up to a week. I wore my glasses the whole time and they completely frosted over when I summited. This was very problematic and led to my severely scratching the lenses to try to clean them off to see.

For mid-layers, I just wore cotton t-shirts or long-sleeved shirts. I almost never need an intermediate layer on my legs.

I brought a small brush for my hair and kept it in a ponytail except for at night. I also brought wet wipes to take "showers".

Hi everyone! 

Follow up question about a jacket for this trip! 
I’m wondering if REI Co-op XeroDry GTX Jacket will be heavy duty enough for this trip? i have a pretty thick 800 fill down jacket as a mid-layer as well as will bring a fleece for another alternative mid layer. I’ve read all about gore-Tex and that it’s pretty much a must have for this kind of trip but I see that some of these jackets can get insanely expensive. I ordered the above referenced jacket and it seems like great quality but I’m wondering if it’s for more casual use and if I should look for something that’s a little bit more heavy duty? Please let me know your opinion and any recommended jackets if this one doesn’t seem to be quite right. Thanks! 


@NatalieS Great question!

The XeroDry jacket is a great choice for your outer layer. While it is a 2-layer Gore-Tex PacLite (which is likely why it feels light duty) you will find it has all the features you need from a jacket for a trip like this: waterproof, windproof, breathable, and durable. As long as you can fit your layers under it comfortably you should be good to go!


At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.