Glaciers at Crater Camp (18,802’)
Photo: Thomson Safaris staffer, Rachel Seely
We warn all our trekkers that no matter what time of year they climb Kilimanjaro, they can expect it to feel like winter at the summit. Facing some chilly weather is a fact of life on the mountain, but there are a few things you can do to stay toasty during your climb…
Spring for the right sleeping bag:
Synthetic sleeping bags might be a bit bulkier and heavier, but a good one will keep you warm even if IT gets wet.
But did you know that a heavy-duty sleeping bag can also help keep your clothes clean and dry? If you put damp items in the bag with you overnight (not soaking ones—be sure to wring them out first!), your body heat will warm them…and the bag will do the rest.
On Amy’s recent trek, this trick helped get her gear dry on time for each new day (preventing mildew for clothes going in the ‘dirty’ bag, and discomfort for gear being reworn). “You’ll wake up to ‘condensation’ on the outside of the bag, but it will dry before you get to your next camp!” she says.
“I have never had a wilderness adventure that didn’t have at least a LITTLE rain or snow at some point,” Amy added. “That makes a synthetic sleeping bag well worth the extra weight and bulk!”
Get out of sweaty clothes ASAP:
By the time Paul got into Barranco camp, he wanted nothing more than to sit down and relax in the dining tent. So much so that he didn’t bother to change out of his sweaty socks before dinner.
“Halfway through dinner, I realized my feet were frozen,” Paul said. “It’s not rocket science, but it’s worth remembering: once you cool off, sweaty clothes will make you that much colder.”
Make your water bottles work overtime (and overnight):
On the trail, you’ll need your water bottles to stay hydrated. But overnight, you probably won’t need four liters of liquid.
Instead, fill two of them with boiling water, like Katie did, so that they can serve as a personal furnace.
“I put one at the foot of my sleeping bag and zipped the other one inside my shirt, so I could ‘cuddle’ with it for warmth,” Katie said. “It worked like a charm!”
Warm up from the inside out:
There’s nothing like a cup of hot tea, a bowl of steaming broth, or a steamy serving of soup to warm your soul…and your core!
Rachel relied on hot liquids in the mornings to keep her warm on the trail. “At least one of my water bottles was always hot, and I’d add tea, or bouillon cubes. Not only did it warm me up, the different flavorings helped make it easier to drink enough liquids.”
Amy has another tip that’s as tasty as it is effective:
“Add a pat of butter to your hot cocoa in the morning. You need the extra calories on the mountain, anyway, and burning through it will help your body stay warm.”
Start chilly, end extra-toasty:
In the mornings, it might be hard to fully warm up before you hit the trail. But that might be to your benefit:
“Wearing too many layers early on is a classic rookie mistake,” Paul says. “You’re shivering in camp, so you put on the big down parka, then as soon as you start walking, you’re sweating like the proverbial pig, and you wind up peeling off layer after sweaty layer by the time you make it to the next camp. Then, the minute the wind picks up, or after just a few minutes resting, you’re frozen solid.”
Instead, plan ahead like Rachel:
“As soon as you get into camp, change out of your sweaty layers, and replace them with dry clothes AND a heavier jacket. You might be a little too warm for the first few minutes, but you’ll cool down fast, and you’ll be happy you’re already in your warmer gear!”
If you’ve gotta go, just GO:
We’ve said it before, now we’ll say it again: if you have to pee, even if it’s the middle of a very-cold night, the best thing you can do for yourself—both for warmth and for comfort—is to go as soon as possible.
A full bladder sucks heat that could and should be going to the rest of your body.
So brave the chilly night air sooner than later if you want to spend more of those overnight hours feeling toasty!