Best Hiking Hat for Kilimanjaro

And Other Headwear you’ll need…

>As we can see from our comprehensive kit list, you will need a hiking hat and other headwear for your climb:

Headwear for Kilimanjaro

As you’ll be moving from hot, humid conditions at the base of the mountain to frozen Arctic tundra at the top, you’ll need relevant headwear for the different conditions. The one condition that will remain the same is protection from the sun. Even on a freezing day, the sun at altitude is ferocious. So you’ll not only need to keep your head warm, but you’ll need to protect your skin and eyes from the harsh rays of the sun.

Let’s take a closer look:

Brim hat, with neck protection

A good brimmed hat that keeps the sun off your head and face is essential. You want something lightweight, easy to pack in your daysack and preferably treated for additional UV protection. The material should be cool and breathable, preferably not cotton. Peaked caps are a possibility but they provide no protection from the sun on your neck and ears.

Something like this: Kilimanjaro headwear

Though if this style is not appealing, then just get an ordinary hiking hat with a brim.

Warm hat preferably with ear-flaps

Or, if you don’t want ear-flaps you can use your “Buff” (neck gaiter) underneath your winter hat.

Some people like the full bank-robber balaclava look: Balaclava

Others enjoy a beanie: Hiking hat for Kilimanjaro

Whatever winter hat you choose, it should keep your ears warm, not fly off if it’s windy, and fit underneath your rain-gear hood.

 Buff/Neck Gaiter


I can’t say enough about these versatile little beauties. I always carry a variety of Buffs in different colours and warmth ratings. You can wear them as a neck protector, as a face protector (like a balaclava). With some nifty folding they can be a beanie style hat, an “under-hat”, a wrist-band, a head-band, mini-towel, sunglass cleaner or something to strangle your tent-mate with.

I have a great collection bought in Nepal along the path to Everest Base Camp. I recommend a couple of the normal weight ones and then a nice fleecy one to line your neck on summit night.

Head torch

Not only for summit night where you will need this to light your way, having a good headtorch is essential for your comfort in your tent. Finding your way to the bathroom after dark, locating hidden items in your duffel bag at night, and reading in your tent if you have the energy to do so.

Batteries do not like the cold. They drain much quicker than usual. It’s important to have a head torch with good battery life and spare batteries.

Here are some great head torches, that I recommend:



Petzl Tikka XP: a great head torch with 180 lumens of light. Good battery life and not too heavy to wear on your head.




Petzl Tikka RXP: a bit more expensive but a fantastic head torch delivering 210 lumens of light – which will light your way for 110 meters! This is the one I use, and I love it!



This Vitchelo Head torch is a cheap-and-cheerful alternative to buying a decent one. It works fine, battery life isn’t great in the cold. It provides good bright light and is perfectly serviceable for what you need it to do.




The harsh equatorial sun at altitude can be very damaging to your eyes. Snow-blindness can occur even when there is not much snow. The sun still reflects off the glaciers. As you get higher up the mountain, the UV rays are more intense, and the sun is more damaging than at sea level. Extremely painful solar keratitis (inflammation of the cornea due to sunburn) can occur after only 10-15 minutes of exposure to the sun at altitude. (1)

Things to look for in sunglasses for Kilimanjaro:

  • Wrap-around sunglasses are essential, preventing any light coming in from open sides, and lenses that fit close to the face and cover the whole eye area.
  • 99-100% UV absorption
  • Category 4 rating: blocks 90% of visible light.
  • Polycarbonate lens. Lighter and more durable than glass

The normal sunglasses that you wear to the beach may not be sufficient for the harsh UV rays on Kilimanjaro.

Arguably Julbo makes the best sunglasses for Kilimanjaro. Julbo is well established in mountaineering circles, and there are a variety of styles to fit your budget and aesthetics. All sunglasses they manufacture are guaranteed to provide 100% protection from UV A, B and C rays.

If you wear prescription lenses, you can either get a pair of 100% UV sunglasses made in your prescription, or consider clip-on lenses that you wear over your normal glasses. Contact lenses can be fine in the lower slopes but you’ll need to be careful of the fine dust as you get higher up. If you do wear contact lenses, be sure to have a good pair of wrap-around sunglasses to keep the dust out.

Further reading:

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