Small Things To Remember For A Better Hike
1. Electrolytes are Key
As any guide on Kilimanjaro will tell you, each hiker needs to consume 4+ liters of water a day in order to stay properly hydrated for the rigors of the day and changes in altitude. Between my Camelback (1.5 L), an REI bladder (3 L), and my two water bottles (each around 0.75 L), I had more than enough water for each day on the mountain, but I found that retaining this water was a whole other issue I had not considered.
Some days I had to stop 10 to 15 times for a bathroom break and lost much of the precious water I had consumed. This is where electrolytes come in: they are essential for ensuring the water you drink stays in your body and is properly used. Luckily, a few members of my trek had brought their own post-workout mixes and our team doctor was able to concoct a solution of sugar and salt that served the same purpose. I would highly recommend that you bring your own preferred blend of electrolytes, which often come in various flavors, so that you are not constantly draining your fluids on the mountain and have something more flavorful to drink than purified water.
2. Speaking of the bathroom...
Bring your own toilet paper! Now this is not because there is a limited supply on the mountain, the guides and porters are actually quite good at getting you TP whenever you ask in camp, but there will be moments that nature calls while you are on the trail and you will definitely want your own personal supply. Two or three rolls, you know your body, should do and be enough to ensure you are good no matter when a bathroom emergency may strike.
3. Hand Sanitizer for Days
If the first two mentions on this list aren't enough to get you to bring your own hand sanitizer, the fact that you do not want to get sick 19,000 ft up on the tallest free standing mountain in the world certainly will. I am not what some would call a germaphobe (I will believe in the 5 second rule till I die), but it would definitely benefit any traveler to practice good hygiene in a country that your body is not accustomed to. There are wash stations in camp but there will be several instances in which you will want to clean your hands on the fly without having to ask your fellow trekkers every time. Should you decide to go on the extension trip, and I cannot stress enough how much you should, sanitizer will come in handy then too.
4. Bring Sunglasses
I felt like I was one of the more prepared people on my trek and I still forgot an essential accessory: sunglasses. At first I thought I'd be able to get by without them, but the higher up the mountain you go the more exposed to the sun you become and the more you increase the chances of hurting your eyes. Squinting or looking at your feet for hours at a time does not make for a pleasurable hiking experience, especially when you consider how many beautiful vistas there are on Kili. Be sure to bring a pair of polarized sunglasses for the days that the sun shines directly in your face and especially for summit day, when the sun rises above the clouds and reflects off the peak's snow, so that you don't miss one view on from this breathtaking place.
While the guides and cooks made sure that we were properly fed during breakfast, lunch, and dinner, having food in between those meals was scarce. Many days we began hiking around 8:00-8:30 am and would not make camp for lunch until about 2:00 pm in the afternoon. Personally, that left plenty of time for me to work up a ravenous appetite and to ponder how badly I wish I had brought a few granola bars for these moments. I was rescued several times by a generous teammate of mine but still wish I had brought my own grub. Bringing a pack of granola bars, or any of snacks of choice, will do you wonders during your hike and your stomach will thank you!
6. Sunscreen or you're "Done-Screen"
Horrible rhyme aside, some people on my trek learned the hard way that the sun exposure you will get on Kilimanjaro is enough to sunburn even the darkest of complexions in a heartbeat. Especially for the four or so days you will spend above the clouds, it is important that you protect your face and neck from the effects of a bad sunburn. Not only will you be uncomfortable and tired with a bad burn, but you also don't want to have a beat red face for those posed-pictures and selfies you are likely to take along the way (let's face it, this will happen, you know who you are). I suggest wearing something at or above 30 SPF and reapplying more often than you typically would to ensure your skin's safety. Combining this with a brimmed hat is a killer combination to dodge a sunburn.
7. Bugs Ain't No Thang
Disclaimer: It is very important that you take your anti-malarial medications and also to bring bug spray for the times that you are off the mountain, in Moshi, and on the safari and Zanzibar as part of the extension.
This point is a little bit counter-intuitive compared to the rest of this list. Don't get me wrong, you don't want to risk getting malaria as mentioned above, but from the point where you begin on the mountain (3000+ feet above sea level) there are very few bugs to be seen and almost no mosquitos. So I guess my suggestion here is that you should come prepared, with a bottle of bug spray, but you don't need to go overboard like I did and bring an extra two bottles that you will almost never need on the mountain.