Avoid 8 Common Mistakes I Wish I Knew Before Climbing Kilimanjaro

Climbing Kilimanjaro can be a bit tricky if you’re new to high altitudes, outdoor camping, and long marathons. That’s because many hikers attempting Mount Kilimanjaro suffer from altitude sickness, fatigue and a lack of sleep. This is often due to poor acclimatization opportunities and a lack of physical recovery after hikes. More importantly, not knowing how to prepare to climb Kilimanjaro or ajust to the mountain’s altitudes could wind up costing you a lot of money and a successful summit. Furthermore, you’d want to have a look and compare the Lemosho vs Machame routes since they offer the best acclimatization opportunities during expeditions. The routes are easy underfoot, have great acclimatization landscapes and very high success rates. (1) That said, this post will go over various elements that are often overlooked when hikers plan their Kilimanjaro hike and will also further highlight and link to a few tips that will help you successfully and safely reach the mountain’s summit.

Man standing on rocks during happy with his Kilimanjaro hike
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What Are Things To Know Before Climbing Kilimanjaro?

  • Avoid sleeping pills because they are found to affect your breathing ability and oxygen levels at night. This can be especially dangerous at altitude, where atmospheric oxygen levels are already low. (2)
  • Bring medication and insect repellent because the lowland jungle is rife with mosquitoes and unfamiliar bacteria. This shift in environment can quickly wreak havoc upon your immune system, so it’s always advised to come prepared.
  • Since you’ll be drinking at least 3L of water a day and taking Diamox throughout your hike, you’re going to frequently want to use the bathroom. You should pack a couple of pee bottles to use during cold and windy nights, instead of waking up to visit the bathroom in bad weather. (3) The best time to climb Kilimanjaro is between June to October and December to February. Nevertheless, you’re still bound to experience subzero nightime temperatures during these months.
  • Tipping on Kilimanjaro is a customary practice that is also expected. Budget an extra $200–$400 cash in order to tip your support crew at the end of the climb.
  • If squatting will be an inconvenience during bathroom visits, pay an extra $175 for a portable toilet. Portable toilets usually come with their own portable tents that are zippered and waterproof.

6 people hiking the lemosho route
Compare Summit Difficulty Rates According To 6 Kilimanjaro Hiking Routes

1. Test Yourself Before Committing To Your Hike

Before thinking about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, conduct a fitness test to gage your ability to travel at a pace of 400 vertical meters per hour with a 10kg weighted pack. This will determine your body’s ability to adapt to sudden shifts in altitude, while assessing your strength to endurance during long hikes. Eventhough this may not be achieved on the first go around, you can slowly build up to this threshold over time. We suggest spending at least 2 months, of your overall training, engaging in regular hikes, building strength and developing endurance. This duration will not only leave your body enough room to physically adjust for Mount Kilimanjaro, but it will also serve as an enjoyable means to mentally prepare for the hike. (4)

2. Full Moon Summits Are A Scam

Full moon climbs are a scam! You read that right; a full moon climb is capitalism working at its best to create scarcity in the marketplace in order to drive up hiking costs. If you are skeptical, consider why your outfitter insists on you bringing a headlamp to your Kilimanjaro hike despite claiming a full moon would be enough to illuminate the trail leading up to the summit? (5) Full moon hikes are just another ploy for money-hungry companies to get into your coffers and maximize profits. So when you hear a tour operator touting this scheme, run!

Woman standing on a rock during the best time to hike Kilimanjaro
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3. Climbing Kilimanjaro For Free Takes Effort

The best way to climb Kilimanjaro for free is to raise money for a charitable cause and then subsidize the funds in order to cover your Kilimanjaro hike. That’s because you cannot climb Kilimanjaro without paying a registered company, a licensed guide or the park’s entry fees that could amount up to $1,529. You’re also going to have to cover travel, hiking equipment, visas and other miscellaneous expenses. A growing number of hikers nowadays are taking the opportunity of climbing Kilimanjaro in order to raise awareness and support their own charities. This of course takes creativity but, if done correctly, you could save up to $5,000 from your overall trip expenses. Instead of trying to figure out how to climb Kilimanjaro without a guide, this is the best approach of climbing Kilimanjaro on a budget without compromising your overall hike or breaking the law.

4. Run Altitude Simulations During Training

Avoiding altitude sickness is really one of the hardest parts of climbing Kilimanjaro. Your ability to acclimatize and get used to the low oxygen in the air, while still having to trek long distances, is what sets Kilimanjaro apart from your average weekend hikes. To get around this, you’ll have to condition yourself above 3,000m, at least 1-month prior to your arrival. (6) Otherwise, if you’re on a tight budget or can’t find the extra time, you could also engage in breathing exercises about 4 times a week in order to simulate lower atmospheric oxygen levels. Pressure breathing exercises and breath-holding drills are simple breathing exercises to help condition your body for Kilimanjaro. These options often result in much higher Kilimanjaro success rates on the mountain.

Discover How To Acclimatize To Kilimanjaro Mountain Heights And Distances
Prevent Altitude Sickness Using 4 Effective Acclimatization Techniques

5. You’re Likely To Risk Fatigue On Short Hiking Trails

Most hikers risk fatigue when they climb short hiking trails on Kilimanjaro vs Everest Base Camp. This can become especially difficult if you haven’t gone through proper training, prior to attempting the hike. That’s because short trails cover long Kilimanjaro hiking distances and leave little room for physical recovery. The best method around this is to hike longer routes on the mountain and develop your strength and endurance. As mentioned previously, hiking up and down hills with a 10kg weighted pack is by far the best training you can do for Kilimanjaro. This will help condition all the muscle groups that are regularly engaged across long hikes such as glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and hips.

6. You Could Die On The Western Breach Route

The Western Breach is the most difficult and dangerous ascent path on Mount Kilimanjaro. The route is extremely steep and rocky, with deadly rockfalls occurring during high winds. The Western Breach sits on the western side of Kibo and is a gap to the summit that was formed hundreds of thousands of years ago by volcanic eruptions and lava flows from Kibo’s Crater. Tumbling rocks are funneled into this area and, while ice used to hold loose rocks in place, the mountain is continuing to go through a glacial retreat. (7) As time goes on, rockfalls are becoming more hazardous so its best to assess various Kilimanjaro climbing reviews, along with other ascent options, before approaching the Western Breach.

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7. Avoid Foreign Agencies & Risky Kilimanjaro Operators

While foreign agencies are known to overcharge their customer base, local outfitters are notorious for risky behaviour and tourism scams. Furthermore, sifting through affordable Kilimanjaro climbing companies can be a bit difficult when most local outfitters are pushed out of the online market. Companies that are often found on Google are foreign Kilimanjaro agencies pretending to have a foot on the ground. They usually have local staff wear branded t-shirts and shoot pictures with their company banners during Kilimanjaro expeditions.

To identify a local tour operator online, look for signs of local management teams, with local contacts, and permanent local addresses. This is usually indicative of a locally owned company that run their own expeditions with a firm footing on the ground. If they speak Swahili, that’s a big plus.

Now to avoid risky local operators, evaluate the outfitter’s equipment, safety measures, and the number of support staff they use for their expeditions. Risky operators will always try to cut costs by using outdated equipment, inexperienced tour guides and a few support staff for their expeditions.

8. Not All Guides & Porters Are Licensed

Not all Kilimanjaro mountain guides and porters are licensed or certified. As mentioned previously, local companies use inexperienced tour guides and undercut staff wages on the mountain in order to save costs. As a result, hikers occasionally sustain injuries or face serious health risks at the hands of unqualified leadership.

A strong Kilimanjaro team should include 1 lead guide, with 10-15 years of experience, as well as an assistant guide for every 2 additional hikers joining the expedition. Furthermore, tour guides that undergo Wilderness First Responders training are much more capable of handling emergencies on the mountain than guides holding alternative certifications. Speaking of which, It’s worth mentioning that guides are supposed to measure your oxygen levels using oximeters every morning, before starting your hike, and every evening after treks. If your guide neglects this protocol, it may be a sign you’re dealing with an inexperienced or risky Kilimanjaro tour guide.

Porters, on the other hand, are in charge of carrying your luggage up Kilimanjaro and are limited to carrying no more than 20kg. The national park established this mandate to prevent mistreatment of support staff on the mountain. Every hiker on Kilimanjaro must have at least 3 porters to carry their belongings, as well as tents, propane tanks, and other mountain equipment. Companies that do not follow ethical guidelines will try to carry more weight and use fewer porters. (8)

Kilimanjaro Hiking Equipment
Access A Complete Equipment List Recommended For Kilimanjaro Treks

Save Up To $5,000 On Your Overall Cost Of Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro
Compare Summit Difficulty Rates According To 6 Kilimanjaro Hiking Routes
Access 4 Months To Avoid Crowds During Your Kilimanjaro Hike
Prevent Altitude Sickness Using 4 Effective Acclimatization Techniques
Get A Full 4-Step Training Guide For Kilimanjaro
Access A Complete Equipment List Recommended For Kilimanjaro Treks