Packs & Bags for Kilimanjaro
On the mountain, most of your kit will be carried by a porter. There are strict weight limits to what the porters can carry, as he will be carrying your kit as well as his own. In your Kilimanjaro duffel bag you will pack your sleeping bag, sleeping mat (if one is not provided by the operator) and all your clothes and necessities. From our printable kit list, we will need the following:
In addition to your duffel bag you will carry your own small rucksack, in which you will keep your rain gear, your passport/money, some snacks, foot care kit, sunscreen, water, camera/phone and any other bits and bobs you require throughout the day.
Kilimanjaro Duffel Bag
You will need a good sturdy waterproof bag. These things get knocked around quite a lot, so a light canvas overnight bag will not perform well. If it rains, you need to be sure that you don’t show up at your camp to find your sleeping bag is a sodden, soaking mess.
A good duffel bag will be:
- Waterproof (including around the zipper)
- 80-100 liter capacity
- Soft outer (no hard-shell cases)
- Strong Zipper that can accommodate a small lock
Suitable duffel bags for Kilimanjaro conditions:
The North Face Base Camp Duffel
This is the duffel bag preferred by the high-end operators that provide duffel bags to their climbers. If your operator does not provide one, then this is really the best. It is completely waterproof, the zipper is rugged and tough, and there is not much you can do to destroy it.
I recommend the L size (95 liters) which is the perfect size to contain all your kit without exceeding the weight restriction.
Helly Hansen 90 Liter
The Helly Hansen 90 liter is a cheaper option, but will work just as well. If you don’t think you will be using it again after your Kilimanjaro climb, then go for this one. I would highly recommend buying a set of these waterproof stuff sacks just to be certain that your gear remains dry.
It's a little bit less rugged than the North Face, but will do the job.
Alternatively, if you’ve already got a large rucksack (70-80 liters) that fits all your gear in comfortably, it is perfectly fine for you to take that along and not go to the expense of the duffel bag. However, unless you are completely sure of the waterproofing, do buy some waterproof compression sacks. Or at the very least pack your gear in plastic garbage bags.
Also Recommended: Compression Stuff Sacks
I love compression stuff sacks. I use them in my Kilimanjaro duffel bag which helps me organize it properly (and protects against dirt and water).
I also line my rucksack with one. This gives me peace of mind that in a rain shower my gear will stay dry even if I don’t get the rain cover on quickly enough. It also protects things from the dust that inevitably creeps in.
Getting a set of these will keep your gear dry. They will help organize your kit so you know where things are, particularly when waking up at midnight to start your summit attempt!
Waterproof Stuff Sacks
Since I don’t trust one layer of waterproofing, I always pack my clothes into waterproof bags within my duffel.
Another advantage is that they compress your clothes into a smaller space and you can organize your bags according to what they contain.
Alternatively, you can just use some garbage bags that you buy from the supermarket. The only problem with these is that you can't get them completely waterproof unless you have some way of sealing the top.
Waterproof compression stuff-sacks get my vote every time.
Whilst your porter will by carrying your main duffel bag, you will carry a daypack with everything you need for the day’s trekking. You will not see your duffel until you arrive at camp in the evening.
You want a small, light rucksack that is still big enough to contain your hydration bladder (or water bottles), your rain gear, another layer (or two) for if you get cold, and your snacks and other bits and pieces.
Features of a good daypack include:
- Waist Strap: this helps to distribute weight so it is not pulling on your shoulders - some have handy pockets in the waist strap for small items such as sunscreen
- Good air-flow between the back of the pack and your body which prevents overheating and a sweaty back
- Adjustable straps so that you can find the most comfortable fit for your body type and shape
- Compartment for hydration bladder
- Between 25-35 liters depending on how much you carry around. Any smaller than this and you may have difficulty fitting everything in - unless you pack super-light!
If you are new to wearing a rucksack, I don’t recommend buying a super-cheap one, as it may feel comfortable for an hour or two, but won’t be after a few hours.
With 2-3 liters of water onboard, you want something that will see you comfortably through the day without pressure points and sore muscles. Once you’ve bought your daysack and hydration bladder, do spend some time adjusting the straps and getting the fit just right.
Practice hiking with it so you know where you’ve stowed things. Practice hiking uphill with it, as the balance will change and you may need to make further adjustments.
This is the one I use:
Osprey Talon 22
I've had a few Osprey packs in my time, and I find that they are super-comfortable, easy to adjust to get the right fit.
The air-flow system keeps the pack away from your back, preventing overheating.
The waist strap is wide, so it doesn't cut into your hips, and has handy storage pockets for snacks/sunscreen.
Some rucksacks come with a built-in rain cover, usually hidden carefully in a pocket underneath. If your rucksack does not come with a built in raincover, then be sure to get one, or your gear risks getting soaked.
Alternatively, you can get one of these poncho-type covers for your body and rucksack and risk looking like an idiot (and wasting money):
I also recommend taking some ziplock bags which have a multitude of uses. I use them as garbage bags in my tent, for separating out dirty and “not-use-again” underwear and socks. They are also useful for keeping things like cameras clean in your daypack. Things like this.
Have a small padlock for locking up your duffel. I have not experienced theft on Kilimanjaro, but if you are going with a budget operator, you may just like the peace of mind it offers. Personally, I’ve never used one, and never had any problems. Something like this.
Just make sure it's got the little red TSA logo if you are traveling from the USA - in case they need to open it at customs.
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