You can also get more expensive fleecy liners that are made specifically for warmth and are made from the same material as the filling of synthetic sleeping bags. They may be a good option if you already have a good three seasons bag.
The boots need to be absolutely waterproof and breathable, very comfortable, and well worn in!!! The very last thing you need are blisters or sore feet!
If you buy new boots, make sure they are big enough to accommodate the extra pair(s) of socks you’ll be wearing during summit night.
If boots are too tight it hinders circulation and your feet freeze… Also make sure boots are high enough. You will need that ankle support, especially on the descent from the summit.
This outermost layer should be high quality and breathable, and big enough to go over all your other clothes on summit night (when it will keep the wind off and add warmth).
Get rain protection for your pack as well. Either get an outer cover or make sure everything inside is protected in plastic bags. (My rain jacket is big enough to wear over my day pack. As for my other Kilimanjaro equipment, I only climb with quality operators who will ensure that while on Kilimanjaro, my gear is protected from moisture. Find out how your Kilimanjaro tour company carries your stuff up the mountain…)
You can’t beat down, but it’s expensive. If you’ll never need it again and if you can’t hire it (I always hire), then a few warm fleeces will do the job, provided you wear some windbreaker on the outside.
Two pairs are enough. Make sure your pants are big enough to comfortably wear over several thermal under layers.
Don’t take heavy pants like jeans or similar. They offer no benefit, they only add weight and they will never dry if they get damp or wet.
Thermal under layers have two functions. They insulate against cold and they draw moisture away from the body (they are breathable or “wicking”). But beware, that wicking effect only works if ALL the layers you wear do it. Most good fleeces are breathable and your rainwear also should be.
As explained above, the key to staying warm on Kilimanjaro is wearing many layers, so bring a couple of pairs of long johns and long sleeved thermal tops. I use one pair to walk in and one bone dry pair to sleep in and to also wear on summit night.
I can recommend the Icebreaker brand from New Zealand, because as the lady in the specialist shop who sold it to me explained: “You can wear them every day for a whole month and you’ll still never be lonely.” They don’t smell :-).
Everybody is different in their tolerance for cold, so do use your own judgment regarding how many and how high quality thermal under layers you take. Thermals come in different ratings. I live in the tropics and only the best and warmest will do for me. I also have a nice, comfortable pair of fleece pants to go over the long johns and under the trekking pants.
Whatever you take, do make sure you’ll have dry clothes on summit night.
You also need gloves and a wooly hat, and maybe something to cover your ears if the hat doesn’t.
The little oxygen activated sachets are cheap, take up no room and weigh nothing. The good ones stay warm for 12 to 16 hours and they are bliss to have. Yes, you can use them while clutching walking poles. Just shove them inside your gloves.
I myself would not be able to do without them. Do get several packets and if you buy them on Ebay or similar make sure you test them. I’ve seen the cheaper Chinese brands fail to do anything when opened…
After rejecting poles for years as something for oldies or city slickers with too much money, I eventually tried them for the sake of my knees. I took to using poles like a fish takes to water. Why did nobody ever tell me that they save your legs 30% energy on the way up? I don’t climb any mountains without them now. But my mom needed three treks at home until she got used to hers…
I don’t think you need any fancy poles. Wooden sticks did the job in the past and did it well. Collapsible poles are handy if you lug your own around the world, but you can hire poles from your operator or even get them at Machame or Marangu gate (though it may be the old style wooden version…)
You will be able to refill your bottles during the day and in the evenings. The only exception is the summit attempt when your water has to last you to the peak and back down to camp.
Most people prefer platypus type water bladders/camel backs. It makes it easy to drink as you’re walking. (Actually, easy is not the right word, because at altitude you will find it hard to walk and to hold your breath while drinking and to expend the extra energy to suck out of that bladder, all at the same time… Just you wait :-).)
Still, most people find a camel back is more convenient than having a bottle in your pack.
I never used a camel back. I can’t stand those things. I carry one or two smaller bottles on the outside of my pack where I or a climbing partner can easily get to them, and refill or change them during breaks.
If you do get a camel back make sure it is fully insulated, including the tubing. Also make sure that during the summit night you ALWYAS blow the water back into the bladder or it will freeze in the tube and mouth piece.
Add a Sigg style metal/aluminium water bottles to your Kilimanjaro equipment list. Why? They double as hot water bottles at night. (All water on Kilimanjaro needs to be boiled for drinking, and your team should boil a big tub every night to fill all bottles.)
Wrap any damp clothing items that you want to dry around the bottle and shove it in the bottom of your sleeping bag before you climb in. Bliss, and your clothes are dry in the morning.
As long as the water has been boiled properly it is safe.
Having said that, if you climb with one of the budget operators, DO take a filter or iodine tablets. (Purification tablets need to be iodine, not chlorine.) Carrying all the water and boiling it costs money for porters and fuel, so on budget climbs you need to get and purify much of your water yourself. Even if they don’t make you get it, it is safer to purifiy your own.
You should also have a medical kit in your Kilimanjaro equipment, especially when doing budget climbs! I will write a separate page about that.