Most of the items on your Kilimanjaro packing list are things you’ll obviously need; most trekkers won’t question whether they’ll use their hiking boots, sleeping bag, or down coat on the mountain.

But there are a few items that might seem a little strange on the first look-through. Will you really need all that hand-sanitizer? How many layers will you really WEAR? Do you really need to bring some of your beauty routine up the mountain?

We asked Thomson staffers which item they scoffed at…until they started their trek, and realized how happy they were to have:


Katie: A Nail Brush

Our Kilimanjaro Program Manager has reached the summit twice, but even she was skeptical about the advice to pack a nail brush for her first trek.

“I thought I was rugged enough to deal with dirty nails, so I figured I wouldn’t need it.”

Needless to say, Katie thought wrong. “You get pretty dirty going up the mountain, including your nails. Having the nail brush was one of those little luxuries that helped me focus on my climb!”


Paul: Insulation

We tell all our trekkers that it gets pretty chilly on Kili, but sometimes it takes a night in a (literally) frozen tent to fully appreciate just how cold it can get:

“I was one of those naïve folks that assumed I couldn’t possibly need all that winter gear,” Paul said ruefully. “The mountain is almost on the equator, after all!”

But after a night in Barranco Camp, where he woke up to a frozen tent and nearly-frozen fingers, Paul “realized it had been a good idea to pack the long johns and extra gloves.”

Kilimanjaro Trekking and hiking attireEven if you think you can tough out the cold nights, pack your long underwear!
Photo: Patagonia/REI


Rachel: Make-up Wipes and Moisturizing Creams

Rachel was ready to keep as clean as possible on a showerless trek with Fresh Wipes, and brought extra wet-wipes for her hands, but after days of dusty, dry-season trekking, she says she was most grateful to have packed make-up removal wipes.

“It’s not like I was planning on wearing tons of makeup on the mountain, so at first I thought they might be overkill, but at the end of the day, it was SO refreshing to get the dirt and grime from the trail off my face and neck. I really didn’t think they would be so important.”

Rachel finished up her Kili “beauty routine” with ample supplies of face lotion, another packing-list item she nearly left behind. “I didn’t realize how dry the air would be on the mountain, especially higher up. I thought face lotion would be just a luxury, but it became absolutely essential!”

Kilimanjaro packing tips - face wipesCleansing makeup-removal wipes helped Rachel feel clean after long days on the mountain
Photo: Neutrogena

Amy: Neck Gaiter

Like Paul, Amy knew things would get cold on Kili, but she didn’t realize how much the temperature would change until she started her trek.

“I really didn’t think I would use my neck gaiter, but it was genius! It provided so much greater flexibility in my layering options,” she raved.

Being able to peel it off and throw it on at a moment’s notice was a huge benefit (and something Amy couldn’t do easily with clothing layers), and she said it was incredibly warm and protective against the elements.

gaiter - turtle fur

Amy relied on her Turtle Fur-brand neck gaiter more than she ever expected
Photo: Turtle Fur

Michael: Trekking Poles

Michael had been on tons of treks before he scaled Kili, and he was more than a little skeptical of the trekking poles we recommend to Kili climbers.

“I honestly didn’t think I’d use them—I’d never used poles on any other hikes, and they just seemed unnecessary.”

It didn’t take him long on the mountain to rethink his position.

“The terrain isn’t technically challenging, but it’s definitely rough, and these helped keep me stable during the climb,” he said. “There were definitely things I didn’t use much on the mountain, but my trekking poles were one thing I’m very glad I packed.”


Kilimanjaro hiking gear - trekking polesMichael was so grateful for his trekking poles on Kili that he used them again on his Tanzania Trekking Safari!
Photo: Thomson Safaris staffer Michael Moitoso