We’ve all heard that there’s nothing more important than a good night’s sleep (unless you count breakfast, or family). But on Kilimanjaro—where each day means physical challenges and adjustment to a new altitude, and your nights are spent in a sleeping bag instead of on a feather bed—getting all the sleep you need in order to reach the summit can be difficult.
Photo: Thomson Safaris guest Leah Balagopal
Luckily, the Thomson team has learned a few tricks on their treks that will help ensure you have more restful nights:
Tip 1: Use an inflatable pad
You may not be able to haul your mattress up Kili with you, but you can make nights on the ground more comfortable. An inflatable pad not only acts as a cushion; as Michael notes, “it keeps the damp away.”
Tip 2: Pack a soft, comfy hat
One of the biggest barriers to a good night’s sleep on Kili is the colder temperatures further up the mountain. Rachel combats this with “the warmest, softest, most comfortable hat” she can find. Not only does it prevent you from losing heat, it can act as another “pillow” layer!
Tip 3: Just get up and go pee
It’s the middle of the night, the air outside is freezing, and you think, if you just hold it, you’ll be able to fall back asleep.
Think again. As Amy notes, “a full bladder isn’t just uncomfortable, it’s a heat suck.” You’ll feel warmer (and sleep more soundly) if you just get up as soon as you realize you have to go.
Tip 4: Shake up your sleeping bag
Your sleeping bag says it’s good down to -30°…so why are your toes so cold?
Maybe you forgot to shake it out when you unpacked it. Since your bag will be tightly compressed while you trek, the insulation might not be evenly distributed when you pull it out for the night. But Michael found that simply shaking it a little helped even things out, keeping him warm from head to toe!
Tip 5: Change your clothes in the afternoon
After a full day of trekking, cleaning up and putting on fresh clothes will help refresh you.
But there’s an added bonus to changing up your look right when you get to camp; if you sleep in those clothes, like Katie recommends, you won’t have to start your morning with a serious case of the shivers as you try to change for the day.
Not exactly a sleeping tip, but it might buy you a few minutes of sleep—and more than a few degrees of body temperature—in the morning!
Tip 6: Upgrade your tent
Paul had a very simple response to how to get the best night’s sleep on Kili: “upgrade to the fancy tent with a cot and pillow in it!”
He was kidding, but only a little; on the Grand Traverse, hikers spend more nights in the lower elevations where it’s a bit warmer, and they also have the option to upgrade to our solar-lit, walk-in luxury sleeping tents.
So while most people will conk out easily and sleep soundly if they follow the first five tips on this list, if you know yourself to be an especially light sleeper, highly susceptible to cold, or just not a “roughing it” type, consider whether your trek—and most importantly, your chances of summit success—might be greatly improved with with the Grand Traverse and a “fancy” tent!