In February 2010 James and five friends commenced a 9 day trek to Mount Kilimanjaro (5895m) by the Lemosho route, one of the longest, most remote and quietest routes on the mountain. There are two options for sleeping on the climb: huts or camping in tents. James and his party were camping and consequently spent a lot of time finding out about the benefits of goosedown sleeping bag.
My PipeDream 800was both comfortable and warm throughout the duration of the trip. At no point did I feel cold, or strange as it may sound, too warm during the early days of the trek. At 6.30am before our final ascent to the peak of Killi the lowest temperature we recorded was -21C and even at this extreme temperature the bag still felt good with a set of long johns and a base layer! So for me this bag met all the requirements for the trek. During the planning of the trek I was particularly worried that spending many nights at such temperatures would be too uncomfortable, but the truth is only one night is spent at anything near this extreme. Unless you are arranging your trip completely independently and hiring guides only, you are going to be accompanied by porters for the duration of your trek. Consequently they will be carrying your main kit which just leaves the weight of a day pack plus the 3 litre daily requirement of water! Although you may not have to carry your bag on the mountain remember that you will still have to carry it during transit. Some cheaper bags boasting a similar temperature range, especially synthetic bags, will be much bulkier and heavier to carry. Even though my down bag was able to cope with sub zero temperatures, weight and pack size were not compromised.
The porters put each clients backpack into a thick dry bag (along with tent and anything and everything from the mess table to the portable toilet) and proceeded to carry these on their heads whilst trekking up the mountain, usually at a quicker pace than the rest of us! We were particuarly lucky in that we had next to no rain during our time on the mountain, so for us the issue of sleeping bags becoming wet was not a problem. However, I suspect that by putting your sleeping bag in a dry bag you have an extra layer of security. All of the porters we saw seemed to have the dry bags as standard. As a day pack I used a Gourdon 25L which was invaluable due the transparent strip on the face of the bag which gave me quick access to stuff whilst on the move.
For myself and the rest of the group I travelled with, the experience of climbing Killi truly went beyond all our expectations and the kit I had with me during the trek really came to be a big part of this. To not feel cold at anytime was invaluable, and along with the down sleeping bag I would say the one piece of kit I can't recommend highly enough would be the Alpkit Filo down jacket. Great for day walking as we got higher, a constant companion for the nights playing card in the mess tent, writing journals and the best pillow when not needed as an extra layer.
Kilimanjaro kit list
A summary of which Alpkit products we think are most suitable for your Kilimanjaro climb.
- SkyeHigh 800
- Covers most of your time on the mountain, use your down jacket as backup on summit day.
- SkyeHigh 1000
- Heavier, but recommended if you sleep on the cold side.
- PipeDream 600
- Lightweight and small pack size. Go of the PD800 if you feel the cold
- PipeDream 800
- Our warmest bag and Trail magazines 'Best lightweight down bag".
- Base 180
- Full length comfort, great value. Durable.
- Not the lightest but one of the most comfortable. Slim.
- DryDock 50
- If you need more space you probably have too much stuff!
- Gourdon 20
- Perfect day bag or for the transit through the airport.
- Airlok drybag
- An extra layer of security to keep your clothes and sleeping bag dry.
- Filo down jacket
- Stay warm on summit day and cosy in your tent.
- Aktif Calf socks
- Coolmax socks for the approach.
- Trekkers socks
- When the going gets tougher and colder reach for your Trekkers.
- Gamma headtorch
- Perfect for reading in your tent, early starts or unforeseen late nights.
Prepare for the seasons
Forget what you know about the seasons, you are in the tropics now where summer and winter are replaced by rainy seasons and less rainy seasons. Go in a rainy season only if you have an unhealthy interest in the water cycle. In this case you will probably marvel at how it transform hard-packed soil into mud, forms thick cloud and transforms to snow and ice crystals as you ascend the mountain. Just don't expect to come home with a great slide show!
While rain is always going to be an issue when preparing your kit, the other major issue is temperature. The main concern here is the swings in temperature from say 30C at 4000m to sub-zero in a matter of a few minutes. The summit day is usually the coldest day where night time temperatures can plummet to -20C, which when you throw in some wind chill can feel like a Baltic -40C.
Dressing for the mountains has never been easy!
January to March Day time temperatures tend to be colder than later in the year however the days can be clearer and more stable. There will be fewer climbers this time of year. The chances of rain increase towards the end of March.
April to June Although it is the warmest season in Tanzania it can be hard to find guides at this time of year.. and for a very good reason! It is rainy season.
June to October The rainy season gives way to the busiest season on the mountain which peaks in August and September. Clear days and very cold nights. Things start changing in October with more frequent afternoon showers and thunderstorms.
November to January It is now rainy season and the temperature will have dropped. Despite the worsening weather, mud, thick clouds and limited visibility the period around Christmas and New Year is the second peak climbing season on Kilimanjaro!