Packing for Kilimanjaro: Water & Snacks

Packing for Kilimanjaro, moving on to Water & Snacks. When trekking at altitude, it’s very important to stay well-hydrated. On Kilimanjaro, it’s a good idea to use a hydration system, that stows in your daypack and has a tube from which you suck water. These are great systems as they mean you can sip water throughout the day, not just at rest stops.

In addition to a hydration pack, you’ll also need 1-2 water bottles, these are more convenient when you are in your tent or making lunch stops on the trail. If you hate the idea of a hydration system, then you can simply bring 3 water bottles.

From our trusty Kit List – which I’m sure you’ve downloaded already! – we need:

Packing for Kilimanjaro

Hydration systems

You could just rely on water bottles, but this entails stopping every time you want to have a drink. Hydration bladders are highly recommended as you can drink small amounts of water frequently through the day. Preventing dehydration is one of the keys to successful acclimatization. You also don’t want to be battling with frozen water bottles on summit night!Platypus

Since you’ll start each day with 2-3 litres of water in your day sack, you are motivated to drink plenty as it makes your daysack lighter.

The original and best is Platypus. Camelback is another option. If you have an Osprey rucksack, then you can buy an Osprey branded one.

You might want to consider getting the insulated cover for the hydration pipe, as the water can freeze on summit night but I have never used one. I find that just making sure you blow back into the pipe after taking a sip keeps water out of the pipe so it can’t freeze.

A 2-3 litre hydration system is perfect.


Water bottles

A couple of good, rugged water bottles that fit comfortably in the side pockets of your day sack are Nalgeneessential. You’ll need these for at night, for at rest stops and for when your hydration bladder finally runs out.

It’s a matter of preference whether you take stainless steel or plastic bottles. There are several that are BPA-free. Obviously leave glass bottles at home! The bottle needs to be tough enough that if the water freezes and expands, that they don’t crack.

I recommend Nalgene, I’ve had an earlier version for more than 10 years and it’s still going strong, in spite of being thrown off a balcony in Namche Bazaar, Nepal.


Water Cleanliness

Unless you are travelling with a low-budget operator, you should expect that your water is boiled and filtered daily. It’s an important question to ask, because one glass of bacteria-filled water will ruin your climb.

If you are still not confident of the cleanliness of water, then you are going to have to take matters into your own hands. Thankfully there are several products available to clean even the nastiest water:SteriPen

Water Purification Tablets: these are revolting. Using chemicals such as Iodine or chloride, they kill bacteria in the water. They also make it virtually undrinkable except in an emergency.

Filters: “Personal Filtration Systems” as they are sometimes called (I thought my kidneys did that, right?). Katadyn makes excellent products with a hefty price tag. The SteriPen is great and easy to carry. You just pop the “pen” into the filthy water, wait until it gives you a smily face, and voila! It’s safe to drink.

I’ve never carried any water purification with me on the mountain. In my opinion if an operator can’t even provide safe, clean drinking water, then they’ve got no business taking tourists up the mountain.


Electrolye/Sports drink

The flavour of water on Kilimanjaro can sometimes not be great, depending on how it is treated. And water is boring. But there is a much more important reason to take an electrolyte additive.

In order for your body to do the job of keeping tissues and cells hydrated, it needs electrolytes. The most commonly known electrolytes are Sodium and Potassium. Sodium regulates how much water is outside the cells, and Potassium regulates how much water is inside the cells. If these electrolytes are not balanced, the water you drink will simply be excreted from the body, instead of hydrating the cells.

The very fact of drinking a lot of water means that you will urinate a lot. Each time you urinate, you excrete some electrolytes. When you hear the recommendations of how much water you need to drink on the average day on Kilimanjaro, you’d be wise to add some electrolytes. This will ensure your body uses the water to hydrate itself and not the side of the mountain!Electrolyte

Good electrolyte formulas are:

Elete – tasteless but tastes a bit salty, not great but does the job well. High5Zero comes in various flavors, Gatorade powder, the oddly-named nuun. I suggest finding a flavor that you enjoy in advance of your trip. You’ll probably need 1-2 of the flavored tablets per day.


Whilst you will be well-fed for three meals a day, keeping your blood sugar levels stable and energy levels up between meals is important. I like to carry nutrient-dense, high-energy snacks. Or a good solid trail mix will do, of dried fruit and nuts, giving slow-release energy throughout the day.

Budget for 2-4 bars per day, depending on how hungry you get between meals. I take a combination of Clif bars which tend to be high in slow-release carbohydrates and some protein bars, because, well, I like protein.

Ordinary candy or chocolate bars for when I feel I need a quick ‘pick me up’ burst of sugar.

I don’t recommend taking just candy and chocolate, as you do want some slow-release energy and you don’t need the ‘slump’ once your blood sugar drops. The exception to that is on summit night, when I do nothing but chow down my favourite chocolate and candy bars!

Further reading on Packing for Kilimanjaro:


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1 thought on “Packing for Kilimanjaro: Water & Snacks

  1. Hi there, tackling Kilimanjaro like many others is on my bucket list as it sounds like a once in a lifetime experience!

    Staying hydrated would probably be one of my biggest concerns so it’s great to be able to read your article as it’s very informative. Great information on this site which shows me just how much I still need to learn before I take the plunge and book my trip!

    Thanks for the great resource

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