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What to Wear on Summit Night

Ask any climber what they are most concerned with when climbing Kilimanjaro and the majority of the time the answer is the summit attempt.
While every other night on the mountain is spent sleeping in tents, this night is spent making the final ascent to Uhuru Peak.
The trek to the top is a 4,000 feet climb which normally takes 6 to 8 hours. This is a significant amount of time to endure potentially subzero temperatures and strong winds while hiking slowly.
This is a general list of gear based on our experience. However, everyone’s body is different and you should listen to what your body is telling you. Always adapt to the current environment based on how you feel throughout the hike. 
What works for one person may not work for you.
Summit Gear

Head gear:

Knit hat for warmth.

Balaclava or buff for face coverage.

Head lamp.


Gloves thin, first layer.

Gloves or mittens warm, second layer.


Upper body:

1 or 2 long sleeve shirts, light- weight, moisture wicking fabric.

Soft jacket, fleece or soft-shell.

Waterproof jacket, breathable with hood.

Insulated jacket, synthetic or down.

If it is a particularly cold night, double up on the base layer.

The insulated jacket probably will not be needed while you are hiking. However, you will likely want it to put on during rest breaks to prevent getting cold when you are not moving (note: put the insulated OVER your waterproof jacket so you do not have to keep removing and putting on your waterproof jacket).

Lower body:

Underwear, moisture-wicking fabric recommended.

Long underwear, moisture-wicking fabric.

Hiking pants.

Waterproof pants, breathable.

Fleece pants.

You will likely not need to wear the hiking pants, waterproof pants and fleece pants all at the same time. We suggest wearing the hiking pants and waterproof pants, while carrying the fleece pants in your day pack, just in case.


Thin sock liner to prevent blisters and 1 or 2 socks, wool or synthetic.

Hiking boots, warm, waterproof, broken-in.

Gaiters, waterproof (optional).

Do not lace your boots up too tight as that may actually make your feet colder by cutting off circulation.


If you choose not to wear gaiters, you will probably need to empty gravel from your boots several times during the descent.

Additional stuff (in your daypack):

Brimmed hat, for sun protection.

Sunglasses or goggles.

Extra batteries for head lamp.

Water bottle (Nalgene, 32 oz.).

Water bladder (Camelbak type, 3 liters).


Snacks, light-weight, high calorie, high energy (optional).

Electrolytes, powder or tablets (optional).

Water freezes from the top down. Carry the water bottle upside down in your pack, with the cap down, to keep the lid from freezing shut. Also, most people  forget to drink on the way up. Try to drink some water at every rest break.

Your water bladder will probably freeze during the ascent. An insulated hose does not help because the valve freezes first. Drink from your water bottle on the way up and water bladder on the way down.

Remember to apply sunscreen on the descent. And wear the brimmed hat.

Cold saps the charge from batteries. So keep your extra batteries and cell phone in your inside pocket of your jacket.


Trekking poles (optional but highly recommended).

If your hands are very cold, use one trekking pole and keep your other gloved hand in your pocket. Alternate hands every once in a while so each hand has time to warm up. Make a fist inside your glove.

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