If you are thinking about climbing Kilimanjaro, here are some things you need to know as you prepare for your trip. Ian has personally climbed Mount Everest to the top and Kilimanjaro more than 37 times. Our head guide has climbed over 250 times and was voted Kilimanjaro’s Number one Guide. We want to see people have the best available information when deciding how to approach their Kilimanjaro climb. Check out our Kilimanjaro page and upcoming trips.
Preparing to Climb Kilimanjaro
Below, you will find the list of our 20 most effective ways to prepare for climbing Kilimanjaro in order of importance. As you start ticking off the list of things that need to be done in preparation for climbing Kilimanjaro, then you can also check out out TOP 50 TIPS for climbing Kilimanjaro. Everyone has different concerns and questions, so if you are looking for specific information, then feel free to CONTACT US. We are a world leader in managing quality run Kilimanjaro climbs to the highest level.
1). Have a Minimum of 8 Days
Yes, some people can climb Kilimanjaro in 6 or 7 days. Ian has climbed Kilimanjaro in 5,6,7, and 8 days. From our extensive experience, and watching thousands of people trying to climb Kilimanjaro, we can tell you that 40% of people do not make it to the summit. If you want to give yourself the best chance at the summit, then you need to pick a minimum of 8 days on the mountain. Likewise, using Kosovo Camp 4,900m/ 16,076 feet as your launching pad for the summit is another important part of our unique itinerary. Our 8 day climbs using our itinerary are giving us 100% success on most of our trips.
Kilimanjaro is an experience of a lifetime, sometimes even life changing for many people. Why would you cut out days of critical acclimatization which can ultimately ruin your chance of reaching the top. It does costs a lot more for each day you are on the mountain, however, if you spend less days, and can not reach the top, there is no point in saving the money! In our opinion, you should have a minimum of 8 days on the mountain. Any less an you run the high risk of getting AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) and your chances of success go down drastically. Having the best acclimatization should be your number one concern.
2). Strength and Endurance Training
Specific physical conditioning is really important. After 20 years of experience of high altitude mountaineering, we can tell you that carrying a weighted backpack, building up the weight you carry, should be at the core of our training. We recommend building up to carrying double the weight you will carry on the mountain. Along with building up to maintaining an endurance based heart rate for 1 hour and 30 minutes in your daily training. LEARN MORE.
You should be aiming to build up hiking from 3 to 8 hours once a week. Hiking up and down hills is important, as this will be what you are doing on Kilimanjaro. You should be building from 500m/ 1,640 feet of elevation in a hike to 1,000m/ 3,280 feet in your weekend hike. Building slowly over months is important.
If you do not have access to hills, then you need to be using a stair master machine in the gym or stairs wherever you can find them. You can LEARN MORE about our specific recommendations for the correct training for Kilimanjaro. You are not running a marathon, you are hiking up and down the side of a big mountain, with weight on your back, all in a low oxygen environment. Some days are longer than others. Check out the daily distances on our 8 day climbs.
Your endurance training and leg strength are key components as you train for Kilimanjaro. We have no problem with you mixing up your training, however running should not be your core focus. You need to put on a weighted backpack, building up the weight you will carry and train 5 to 6 days a week. You can read our training advice on the linked page, however, we can tell you that the reasons most people fail to reach the summit is due to two factors; not enough days on the mountain and not doing the specific training that Kilimanjaro demands.
3). Understand the Daily Elevation Gains
It is important to understand the elevation gains each day on Kilimanjaro so that you can build this into your training plan. Think about this a little more. If you have the daily distances, daily elevation gains for your Kilimanjaro climb you have the information you need to develop the correct training plan. For example, if you know you will be hiking up 500m/ 1,640 feet every day on the trail and you will be carrying a backpack with 6kg/ 13 lbs in it, then you now know how much training you need to be doing.
On our trips, we aim to summit from Kosovo Camp at 4,900m/ 16,076 feet. This means your summit night will entail a 1,000m/ 3,280 feet ascent and descent. After a break you will also have a further 1,800m/ 5,905 feet decent back to Mweka Camp. If you will be hiking up and down these types of elevations, then you need to be doing this in your training. The benefit of carrying extra weight is that it helps you strengthen your legs and muscles to be able to perform with 30% to 50% less oxygen in your body. Hiking and daily sessions doing these sort of elevation gains in your training help you come conditioned and ready for the climb. Remember the daily elevation gains give you the information you need in preparation for the trip.
4). Build the Right Training Program
How do you build the right training program when you do not have hills or if you live in a city and can not go out hiking every weekend? Your biggest asset will be in the gym. It is not ideal, nor does it simulate exactly what it is like on the side of Kilimanjaro. However, it will be the best training you can get without access to hills! Hours spent on a stair master with a backpack, carrying weight, will work. When Ian was training to climb Kilimanjaro the first time, and Mount Everest, he spent a lot of time daily on the stair master, building up the weight I was carrying.
Every person will have different optimal heart rates to do the training in. For Ian, in his 40’s, his goal is to keep his heart rate consistently at 140 beats per minute. When he is doing this type of endurance based training, carrying weight, he likes to keep his heart rate between 125 to 150 beats per minute. This will vary from person to person, so seeking out a personal trainer or gym instructor will help you understand your training zones.
You also need to consider weight training for your upper and lower body. We also also recommend doing yoga or flexibility exercises, and also adding interval type training in the last few months of your preparation. Remember, if you have access to hills and mountains, this will be the best type of training and preparation. Why not schedule a FREE CONSULTATION today, and kick start your training by getting professional advice from experts. All our office staff have climbed Kilimanjaro multiple times.
5). Having the Wrong Gear can Ruin Your Trip
Make sure you have the right clothing. Unfortunately, we cant tell you how many times we have seen people in jeans and trainers at the Kilimanjaro entrance gate, and then it rains for two days and these people are then at the rangers station in Shira 2, waiting for evacuation. Having the right clothing is extremely important. We recommend wearing Merino Wool T-shirts and layers. Having a warm and comfortable down sleeping bag and quality air mattress are also essentials on the climb. Having the right gear is essential for a comfortable experience on Kilimanjaro.
Anther essential piece of kit that we recommend is a good down jacket. You can watch our VIDEO on having the correct down jacket for Kilimanjaro. Here is our Kilimanjaro packing video. We filmed this in 2013, and we will be filming a new video which we will share soon. If you are signing up to one of our trips, then we will send you a 40 page document with an itemized kit list.
We are available 5 days a week to help you understand the items needed. If you are concerned about a specific piece of kit, you can email us and get our opinion. We can help you to make sure you are getting the right gear and clothing. When you are on the mountain, we only use quality tents and equipment. We use Mountain Hard Wear 4 person tents for 2 people, and likewise a comfortable North Face 2 person tent, for our single tent option.
6). Picking the Correct Trekking Boots
There is no one size fits all for trekking boots. We have tried a lot of boots over the years, and our favorite right now is the La Sportiva Trango TRK GTX. They are a great overall boot and are comfortable, warm and light. They have great ankle support and a more rigid sole. Here are the TREKKING BOOTS that we have used and recommend for your Kilimanjaro trip.
Our biggest piece of advice when trying on boots is to wear them in the store for 20 minutes, with the different socks types you will use on Kilimanjaro. If the store have stairs or an angled ramp to walk on, then use them and ask them to match the boots to your feet. Some trekking boots are narrow so you really need to take your time as you pick the right boots for you.
Once you have the boots, make sure you are using them. You do not need to be using them in the gym all the time. If you are not getting out hiking as much as you would like to, then use them at home, around the house, and make sure they are molding well to the shape of your foot. Buy your trekking boots early and break them in. This is very important for a comfortable journey on Kilimanjaro. If you need further assistance feel free to get in touch with us and we can help.
7). Fueling Your Climb
From experience, we can tell you that you need to have the right food on your Kilimanjaro trip. You also need some supplements before and during the trip. We highly recommend coming with a strong immune system. We recommend to always have a multi-vitamin for each day on the trail, garlic supplement, vitamin c, beta carotine and b complex and we recommend taking these before and during the trip.
You should always consult a nutritionist or your doctor before taking any additional supplements. Also, we like to bring some hydration tablets for the water and some additional hyper hydrating tablets for the summit night. We are happy to chat with you more about this. In additional to all this, we recommend bring summit snacks, that can be held in a small zip lock bag. We bring Clif Blocks and small amount of trail mix to have on summit night.
On an Ian Taylor Trekking trip, you are served three, three course meals per day. We have an amazing chef who works with us on all our climbs. The chef and and his support team of 4 to 6 staff, produce amazing food each day. We have developed a menu over the past 10 years that works well for our the daily demands on Kilimanjaro. Fueling your Kilimanjaro adventure with quality food is extremely important. We also have runners coming up the mountain on different days to bring fresh protein and produce. Check out our sample menu.
8). Make Sure you Have the Right Vaccinations
For most people, you will have the choice whether or not you get vaccinations before traveling to Tanzania. The only required vaccine for Tanzania is the Yellow Fever vaccine, IF you are traveling in from a country that has Yellow Fever. Tanzania does not have Yellow Fever and they want to keep it that way. You will be required to show proof of vaccine against Yellow Fever IF you are traveling from a country with it. So, if you are traveling from the United States, Europe, Australia, the UK, Canada or any other country that does NOT have Yellow Fever, then you will not have to show proof of this vaccination.
You most certainly should consider having medication that protects against Malaria. Likewise, you will want to be very careful about protecting yourself from mosquitoes in Tanzania. Your doctor will recommend certain medication that you will need to bring with you on your Kilimanjaro climb. We include all recommended medications in our 40 page dossier, which we share with you upon signing up. Check out our list of recommended vaccinations that you need to consider for your Kilimanjaro climb.
9). Watch Footage From Each day on the Mountain
On our website, we have put together some raw footage from each day on the Lemosho Route up Kilimanjaro for you to study. Start by Watching Day 1, and see the rain forest and route up to Big Tree Camp at 2,800m/ 9,186 feet. Watch Day 2 and see the amazing light through the rain forest before coming up onto the Shira Plateau to Shira Camp 1 at 3,500m/ 11,482 feet.
Watch Day 3 as we cross the amazing Shira Plateau. We cross the emergency evacuation road, then pass Simba Camp and continue past Ground Cell trees and up into Shira Camp 2 at 3,900m/ 12,795 feet. The view back down to the Shira Volcano is truly spectacular, especially at sunset. Watch Day 4 as we move up out of Shira Camp 2 crossing over two ridge lines, before reaching the Lava Tower at 4,600m/ 15,091 feet. There, we enjoy an amazing lunch, before dropping down 700m/2,296 feet into Baranco Camp at 3,900m/ 12,795 feet.
You can then watch Day 5, as one of our group climb up the Baranco Wall and cross Kilimanjaro to Karanga Camp at 4,010m/ 13,156 feet. Watch Day 6 as you make the 4 hour hike up to High Camp and rest before the long summit night and day.
Watch Day 7 as you head off at midnight aiming to be on the summit of Kilimanjaro by 7am in the morning. We would hope to be back in High Camp by 9 or 10am, before resting, packing, having brunch, and then continuing further down the mountain to Mweka camp at 3,100m/ 10,170 feet. This is a long day. Watch Day 8 and the final hike back down through the rain forest to the Mweka Gate.
10). The Top 50 Tips for climbing Kilimanjaro
After helping over 3,000 people reach the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, we have developed our Top 50 Tips for a safe and successful ascent. Eight years ago, we started with our Top 10 Tips and this has slowly moved into our Top 50 Tips. We have written this information to help you have as much information as possible before you step foot on the side of the mountain.
These are the tips that work, time and time again. We can not emphasize enough the two main reasons people are not successful climbing Kilimanjaro. Number one is the lack of proper acclimatization. And, secondly is the lack of proper or specific training that is needed to be safe and successful. There are other things that come into play, but we hope our top tips are helpful and useful as you prepare for your Kilimanjaro trip.
11). Hydration is so Important on Kilimanjaro
You need more water at high altitude. Likewise, you need to get used to drinking more water before the trip. We recommend that you are drinking 4 to 5 liters per day on the mountain. READ MORE about why hydration is critical in low oxygen environments. Making sure you are well hydrated, staying out of the sun and not getting sun burned. These are all important factors to remember on your Kilimanjaro climb. Always use a sun hat and stay as hydrated as possible.
Our goal each day on the trip is to have one liter of water drank before we start hiking at normally 8 am. While at breakfast, our amazing staff will fill your 2 – 3 liter hydration system (bladder) for you to drink during the morning hike. So, hopefully, by lunch, you should already have three liters of water down in total. Then, at lunch you can get another liter or two to drink during the afternoon portion of the hike. We will be providing you with warm soup for lunch and dinner on Kilimanjaro and this will add to your hydration. Hopefully, by five in the evening each day, you should have 4 – 5 liters of water drank. This way, you are not having to drink late into the evening, and then waking up every few hours to use the toilet in the night!
12). Why the Pace Needs to be Slow
We have developed a pace that helps our teams before more successful. Keeping your heart rates as low as possible is your goal through the whole time you are on Kilimanjaro. Getting the pace correct can make all the difference. Our team knows how to get you successfully to the summit of Kilimanjaro and back down. This does not mean you can show up unprepared. You need to come fully trained and prepared for this climb.
Trust us, coming down the mountain is a lot harder than going up the mountain. Leg strength and endurance training are super important. We can help you get the right training information for your Kilimanjaro climb. This is why pacing at high altitude is very important. Think about physical activity at sea level. You can train hard and then go home and rest and get 100% oxygen. This recover at sea level helps your body and muscles recover so you can get up again the next day and train.
On Kilimanjaro, with 30% to 40% less oxygen in the lower part of the mountain, and less than 50% oxygen getting to your muscles above 5,500m/ 18,000 feet, you need to minimize damage each day on the mountain. Therefore, the pace we move at and keeping your heart rate as low as possible, is critical for your safety and success. Our goal is to get from point A to point B, doing as little as possible. You need to keep your heart rate as low as possible. Minimize the the damage to your muscles on a daily basis. Acclimatize slowly and you give yourself the best chance of making it safety up and down Kilimanjaro. Pole Pole Pole!
13). We Look After our Team
It’s official, Ian Taylor Trekking have the best Mountain Guide on Kilimanjaro. You need to consider having the best available team in support of your climb. All our teams have one to one support when going to the summit. We always have more guides and staff on all our trips. Our team has developed and grown over the years. We have managed to keep same team working for us on the mountain for 10 years. A number of our porters have qualified to be guides through our support. Some of our staff have been on our treks and climbs in the Himalaya’s.
Each staff member knows us and we know them well. We have trained our staff over years and they get continued education and support from us. We also pay our staff and guides more than other companies and we are invested in their future. You can just ask our staff for yourself. This costs more and we only want to run quality, ethical trips, that help our staff support their families and get ahead in life. We have hundreds of local people contact us monthly looking to join our team on the mountain. Read some Reviews from our trips.
14). You Should Have Oxygen with you at all Times
You need to have access to oxygen each day and high on Kilimanjaro if it is required. However, just to be clear, if you go on oxygen on the way up the mountain, you are going to be brought down the mountain, not up the mountain. We have one bottle of oxygen per 5 people. We carry this each day and throughout the climb. This is not common among all teams on Kilimanjaro and we frequently have other guides asking if they can use our oxygen because they did not bring any for their clients.
You absolutely need bottled oxygen on your Kilimanjaro climb and you should not climb with a team who does not have any with them. This will only be used in emergency situations, but it is essential if someone is in trouble. You also need to be evaluated twice a day for heart rate and oxygen levels. On our Ian Taylor Trekking climbs, we test your oxygen saturation in the morning at breakfast and in the evening at dinner time so we can evaluate how you are adapting to the lack of oxygen in your body and minimize the risk to you as we move higher on Kilimanjaro. This is very important from day one on the trip.
15). Emergency Road Access
Does the route you pick have emergency evacuation access? The Lemosho Route has the best emergency evacuation road on Kilimanjaro. This evacuation road is situated between Shira Camp 1, at 3,500m/ 11,482 feet, and Shira Camp 2, at 3,900m/ 12,795 feet. We have learned it is of the upmost importance to have more acclimatization not less acclimatization between 3,500m/ 11,482 feet and 4,500m/ 4,600/ 15,091 feet. That is why we have more nights built into all our itineraries, giving you the safest and best chance at reach the summit of Kilimanjaro.
We use the Lemosho Route as we have access to this emergency road. Our treks have Flying Doctor coverage and we can get you off the mountain as quickly as possible on this western side of Kilimanjaro. On our trips we will be checking your oxygen saturation daily, but if you are not coping with the lack of oxygen in your body, we will see real indicators at this elevation. If you need to be taken off the mountain, we have this road access to make it a smooth transition to a medical facility. This is an important safety factor you need to consider for your Kilimanjaro climb.
16). Have a High Level of Support on Summit Night
Make sure you have 1 to 1 support on your summit climb. We sometimes need to help other people on Kilimanjaro. Many teams bring minimal support for their clients, and when people get in trouble, we have to help them out. We have a maximum of 10 team members per group (unless Ian Taylor is leading the trip). Having smaller teams aids in safety on Kilimanjaro. We will have one guide or support staff heading to the summit for each climber on summit night. You need to have this support in case you or team members are struggling and need to get down the mountain as quickly as possible. You need to have this safety measure in place to minimize the risk you are taking on Kilimanjaro.
17). We have a Maximum of 10 people per Team
Small teams means you are better looked after and issues and concerns are easily spotted and seen on the mountain. Being part of a smaller team means you will have better access to our staff and our world class guides. They then can get you know you better and spot altitude related issues a lot quicker.
Our guides will be able to spot subtle changes in your behavior and be able to react quickly. Smaller groups are more relaxed, safer and give you a more enjoyable experience on Kilimanjaro. We have found a maximum of 10 people makes a more successful and more enjoyable and positive overall experience for each team member.
18). Seek out Professional Advice
Your personal safety should be at the fore front of your decision making. You need to have the right information from professionals before you go. Having access to people who have climbed Kilimanjaro on all routes, different times of year and have helped over 3,000 people to the summit is key. When you sign up to an Ian Taylor Trekking team, you will have access to expert staff 5 days a week, who all have climbed Kilimanjaro multiple times. We will answer all your questions. Likewise, we can help give you excellent training advice and are ready to assist you with professional first hand information. This can mean the difference between success and failure.
19). The Right Breathing Techniques are Important
Practice the right breathing techniques needed for high altitude trekking. This is easier shown than trying to write about it. In low oxygen environments you need to flood your body with oxygen. This means deep breaths in through your nose and fast out through you mouth. Think about it like this. Your body and muscles are being starved of oxygen on Kilimanjaro, therefore you need to force oxygen into your body.
You do not need to be doing this every step and it will vary from day 1 to summit night. This technique requires focus so it is good to practice in your training and while you are on the mountain. Trust us, you will need this technique throughout your summit night to make sure you are giving your brain, lungs, heart and body enough oxygen to reach the summit and get back safely.
20). Contact our Team Today
Contact us today. Pick up the phone to get our help. Just remember, we are in Colorado, USA, so Mountain Time Zone (-7 GMT). We can help you get all the information you need for your Kilimanjaro climbing adventure. Ian Taylor Trekking have helped train thousands of people for Kilimanjaro. We have also personally trained our team on the ground over the years, offering the highest levels of service.
We have the team, service, set up and only run quality, safe Kilimanjaro climbs. Drop us an E-MAIL TODAY, pick up the phone and we can help you take the right steps towards the summit of Kilimanjaro.