Gear for Climbing Mt. Kenya: What to Take on a Climb of Africa’s Second Highest Mountain
Trekkers on Mt. Kenya need to be prepared for anything, from tropical rain forest conditions to alpine whiteouts. Africa’s second-highest mountain may be on the equator, but it also rises above 17,000 feet, and many of the trekking areas are between 14,000 and 15,000 feet.
At those altitudes, the only vegetation that grows is the fantastically shaped Afro-alpine giant lobelias and groundsels. Conditions are just as rugged for hikers. Never be an over confident while on the trip to Africa, because you always need african travel specialists.
Staying in Tents Versus Huts When Climbing Mt. Kenya
Hikers can trek independently without tents on the Naro Moru Route, by staying at Mt. Kenya’s Met (meteorological) Station and at Mackinder’s Camp. Hikers on the the less-traveled Sirimon Route book places in Old Moses Camp and Shiptons Camp at the Bantu Mountain Lodge in Nanyuki, near the start of the climb. Trekkers who plan to stay overnight at Austrian Hut near the Point Lenana summit must make and pay for those bookings at a park gate in advance of the climb.
There are, in addition, some other huts on the mountain. Some, such as the Mintos Tarn hut on the Chogoria route, are open to the public, but are in such a state of disrepair that their only real use is as an emergency shelter.
Other huts are owned and maintained by the Mountain Club of Kenya, and their use is limited to members. However, the club welcomes outsiders, and offers temporary memberships to visitors in Kenya for only a short visit.
Hikers on the Chogoria Route will need a tent.
Gear for Independent and Guided Trekkers on Mt. Kenya
Independent trekkers can bring gear from home, or rent equipment from the Mt. Kenya Guides and Porters Safari Club or the Naro Moru River Lodge.
Whether a trekker rents gear, or brings equipment from home, a standard complement of 3-season mountain gear is recommended for the climb. Here are some particulars, with specifics pertaining to Mt. Kenya:
- Sleeping bags rated to 20 degrees will suffice at Austrian hut; Hikers planning to sleep lower down (for example, at Mackinders), then summit can get by with a 30-degree bag.
- Tents should be freestanding and small to fit in among the rocks and boulders.
- Rain gear is required, including both pants and jacket.
- Headlamps are required for the typical pre-dawn start to Point Lenana.
- Trekking shoes are probably acceptable for the Chogoria route, although there are a lot of rocks, and most hikers prefer the ankle support of a full-fledged hiking boot. On the Naro Moru Route, most hikers prefer boots, especially in the vertical bog. (Gaiters are recommended, as well).
- Clothing layers should include one underlayer of warm wicking fabric, and two insulating layers such as a warm shirt and a fleece jacket. Hats and gloves are also required.
- Shorts and a T-shirt are needed for hiking at the lower elevations.
- A way to purify water.
- Hiking sticks or trekking poles. (especially on the Naro Moru Route with its vertical bog).
- Sleeping pad.
- Stove: Fuels available in Kenya vary. In Nairobi’s two outfitting shops, Camping Gaz-brand canisters are available for propane stoves. Home dry cleaning fluid (widely available) works in multi-fuel stoves. Kerosene is also available.
- Other standard gear: Hiking socks, first aid kit, sun hat, bug repellent, pots and eating utensils, etc.
Guide services generally provide camping equipment such as tents, stoves, and sleeping gear. If using a guide service, check their equipment list. Generally, guided hikers only bring personal equipment and clothing.
Remember that while Mt. Kenya might be on the equator, with monkeys, zebras, cape buffalo, and elephants wandering its lower slopes, the snow and storms on top are every bit as fierce as mountain storms anywhere. Come prepared, in order to enjoy the climb and stay safe.