Dressing for success on Kilimanjaro


Week of September 4-10, 1997
Dressing for success on Kilimanjaro
Going on safari in eastern Africa
Telemarking the gladed Eastern slopes
Overnight camping trips on horseback
Near escapes from the Arizona heat

Dressing for success on Kilimanjaro
Question: My girlfriend and I are climbing the Marangu route up Kilimanjaro in the middle of October. What’s the essential clothing we should bring? We don’t want to bring much because we’ll be traveling on for another month in warmer areas.

James Stafford
San Francisco, CA

Despite the heat of the plains, better
pack a sweater for Kilimanjaro

Adventure Adviser: You’re in luck. A few weeks ago, I put the finishing touches on arrangements for a feature writer and a photographer to climb Kilimanjaro. I can practically recite by heart all of the things you’ll need (except I’ll consult my list to make sure I don’t miss anything).

Before I get into gear and clothing, however, I want to make sure you’ve heard the high-altitude lecture about Kilimanjaro. If you haven’t, here’s a recap: Kilimanjaro is a deceptively demanding mountain that some people take for granted.

At 18,000 feet your body will be taking in half the amount of oxygen it normally does, which could result in shortness of breath, nausea, insomnia, headaches, and exhaustion. Chances are, the more in shape you are the better off you’ll be, but the symptoms hit randomly so be prepared.

Make sure you spend a few days acclimatizing and drink lots of water (6 to 8 quarts per day). Be sure not to short-change yourself with clothing because you could easily get hypothermic at such high altitudes.

Wilderness Travel, the outfitter we worked with, recommends climbers bring a pile jacket, pile pants, a Gore-Tex jacket and pair of pants, three sets of long underwear tops and bottoms, a brimmed hat (not a baseball hat), a pair of warm gloves, a sleeping bag rated at 10 degrees, a good pair of hiking boots, a warm parka, warm wool socks, and a warm wool sweater, among
other things such as water bottles and flashlights.

I think you could probably get away with less than three pairs of long underwear and possibly do without the wool sweater, but the rest of it, I’m afraid, is pretty mandatory. It may make for a heavier load, but it may save your life, too.

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