28 March 2012

EK Climbs Kili: Gear Review

What's that? You haven't read about my Kilimanjaro trip? Never fear, I've organized it all here. You're welcome. 

This post has been a while in the making, sorry for the long delay. I know you've been checking in here daily to see if I've got my poop in a group yet. Well, wait no longer. Here are the highlights and lowlights of my gear choices on Kilimanjaro. You can see my packing efforts here and here. In general, I was pretty on-target with the stuff I brought. A little overpacked, but not horribly so.

Boots at all times while hiking!!
Before the trip, I hemmed and hawed about footwear. I'd read some reports where people used trail running shoes instead of hiking boots and were happy with their lightweight choice. So I thought about it and thought about it some more, and ended up purchasing boots for use on the mountain. I brought a pair of Tevas for time in camp. This was the perfect set-up for me. I would highly recommend against bringing anything more than this because you are not the one carrying your crap up the mountain...the porters are.
Love me some Z-Poles!
I had been lusting over these trekking poles ever since seeing them on the GearJunkie blog. I bought them right before the Castlewood 8hr AR with a sweet coupon from Alpine Shop in our schwag bags. They were invaluable to me every day on the mountain, but especially on the descent. My legs would have absolutely disintegrated if I hadn't had these poles. If you don't have trekking poles of your own, you can (and should) rent them from your guide company, but they will probably be heavier and bulkier. Godlisten (our guide) and the rest of our crew really admired my poles for their light weight, how easy they were to assemble/break-down, and their small size once disassembled.You know it's a good piece of gear when your guide (who spends 100-200 days per year on the mountain) compliments it!
Hat, hat, hat, headlamp!
Appropriate headgear is really important on Kilimanjaro. Since you are putting more stress on your body than usual, you need to take excellent care of it and that means keeping warm and illuminated. During the days, I alternated between a baseball cap, a Buff, a fleece winter hat, and/or a wool winter hat. One of the first things I would do once arriving in camp after hiking all day would be to "keep the bod warm" (per Godlisten's advice) by putting on a heavier hat and an extra layer. At night, my headlamp was invaluable. Some people only bring flashlights and I think that would be a huge inconvenience. It would have been nice if my headlamp was brighter - the Tikka 2 is only about 40 lumens, and on the summit hike I would have appreciated 90-100. But, one set of batteries lasted the whole time so can't complain!
Behold, the nuun.
Besides my trekking poles, our guides and crew were super impressed with one other thing we brought...nuun. Or, as they liked to call it, "the no sugar". I originally brought it to help balance my electrolyte levels while drinking 4-6L per day. The delicious flavors of nuun were superfluous because the water we were drinking was clear and tasty. I shared it with Godlisten and Mareme after lunch at the Lava Tower, and after that they were hooked. For people planning a trip, I would bring about 4-6 nuun tablets per person per day (one tab per L), in a variety of flavors (grape and lemon tea with caffeine were my favorites), plus more to share if you can.

There were only a few things that I regretted not bringing: listerine strips and a mesh bag in place of one of my dry bags. Obviously, both of these items are comfort items and not required. There were a few times in the tent where I couldn't be bothered to go outside and brush my teeth again, but a listerine strip would have made my mouth happier. I would have used the mesh bag to corral my smelly clothes inside of the duffel, instead of the non-breathable drybag they were in.

I also brought too much hand sanitizer and wipes. I only used 2/3 of a small (100 mL) bottle of hand sanitizer, and I was sharing A LOT. I had a larger back-up bottle in my duffel that I didn't even open. So 100 mL per person is plenty. I also didn't use the hand wipes that I brought. I only used 1 body wipe per day and I brought enough for 2 per day. So I could have cut a nice chunk of weight there since both of these items are heavy (because they contain water).

I think the biggest suggestion I can give about packing is DON'T OVERPACK. And as a corollary...don't pack super nice stuff. Tourists are the minority on the mountain, most of the people you will see are the porters who are carrying all of your crap uphill. So first it is important to not bring volumes of stuff because at some point your porters will be passing you on the trail, with your bags on their heads or backs, and you will feel like a fat-n-lazy westerner for bringing so much stuff. So just don't do it. Corollar-ily, all of the guides and porters wear/use pretty basic clothes and gear. And they are on the mountain a lot more than you. So don't stress about Gore-Tex this and carbon-that. There is no need to go buy brand-new gear just for this trip (unless you  legitimately plan to continue using it when you get back). You can and will make do with what you have. Pin It

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