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Mount Kenya Gear Checklist: The Essentials

Hiker showing off mount kenya gear and Mt Kenya hiking clothes

“What to carry on a Mt. Kenya expedition?” A question asked by hikers, both new and veterans. This Mount Kenya Gear checklist serves as a guide and an answer to the question. It details all the Mt Kenya hiking clothes and accessories you need to conquer yourself and unlock your mountain. 

Part of guaranteeing a successful and safe summit attempt on Mt. Kenya is being properly equipped and ensuring that you have the right mountain climbing gear. Proper gear should keep you warm, dry, well-insulated, and protected from the unpredictable weather characteristic of Mt. Kenya.

Remember, there is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. 

Sir Ranulph Fiennes

Preparing and packing for your expedition can get a little overwhelming, figuring out what to bring on the hike and what to leave. Below is a summary of essential clothing and gear for your next Mt. Kenya expedition: 

Mount Kenya Gear checklist summary

  • Thermal base layer
  • Quick-dry t-shirts and pants for hiking
  • Fleece jacket for keeping warm
  • A windproof, waterproof jacket for hiking
  • A pair of fleece pants for the nights
  • A puffer jacket
  • A pair of fleece-lined hiking pants for summit morning
  • A pair of waterproof, fleece-lined gloves
  • A pair of waterproof hiking boots
  • A 3L water bladder
  • Hiking bag (20‑40L)
  • Torch or headlamp
  • A pair of woolen gloves or mittens
  • A balaclava or hiking buff for wind protection
  • 4-6 pairs of woolen hiking socks
  • A pair of fleece socks
  • A pair of sunglasses
  • A hiking pole or two 
  • A porter’s rucksack that fits all your items (at least 65L)
  • A sleeping bag with a subzero temperature rating

hiking clothes in your Mount Kenya gear

An illustration of quick-dry hiking clothes, waterproof boots, leg gaiters, and a trekking pole. | Photo: Robert On Trails

Thermal Base Layer – a must-have in your mount Kenya gear checklist

Owing to the low temperatures on the mountain, keeping warm is one of the most important things to ensure your safety and comfort. A good thermal base layer is one of the essential Mount Kenya gear that keeps you warm and able to brave cold mountain nights and the summit morning. Thermal wear provides a layer of warmth by insulating your skin and wicking sweat and moisture away from your body, keeping you warm, comfortable, and dry when on the move. The thermal base layer comes in different fabrics and styles and can be used in various climates, conditions and activities. 

The most important factor to consider when choosing your thermal base layer for Mt Kenya hiking clothes is that it should be made from a wicking fabric. Because of the exposure to cold weather up the mountain, improper wicking can lead to rapid body heat loss. We recommend getting two thermal base layer sets — one for sleeping in and another for the final summit morning

Quick-Dry T-shirts 

A good hiking t-shirt is made of quick-dry, breathable material. Polyester fabric is the best recommendation for all your Mt Kenya hiking clothes, mainly t-shirts. Cotton t-shirts are highly discouraged, as cotton absorbs and retains sweat and moisture easily, leading to discomfort. We recommend having enough t-shirts to last you the entire hiking expedition comfortably. 

Quick-Dry Hiking Pants

Your hiking pants should also be made of quick-dry, breathable material. In the case of sudden rains, the pants will dry fast enough. The breathable fabric also allows sweat and moisture to escape your skin easily. 

Fleece Jacket 

A fleece jacket in your Mt Kenya hiking clothes should be light and warm. It should be worn on top of the thermal base or the quick-dry t-shirt while hiking. It can be used to keep warm when the weather changes while hiking or at night when going to sleep. In your Mount Kenya gear checklist, a fleece jacket can easily be replaced by a warm hoodie. 

Windproof jacket

You are likely to encounter windy conditions in the course of your hike. A windproof jacket should be amongst your Mt Kenya hiking clothes to protect you from the wind and helps in regulating your body heat. Consider going for a windproof jacket that is also waterproof; kill two birds with one stone!

An illustration of Mount Kenya Summit Gear. | Photo: Robert On Trails

Waterproof jacket — another must-have mount Kenya gear

A waterproof jacket keeps you dry when a sudden shower hits. You may also get a raincoat, rain poncho, or rain jacket which all serve the same purpose. Ensure that it is light and completely waterproof. 

puffer jacket

A puffer jacket is warm and light. Use it as an additional layer to keep warm at night and when needed during the climb. If working on a tight budget, you can improvise with a hoodie or carry extra t-shirts in your Mt Kenya hiking clothes to improve your layering. 

A pair of fleece pants

Fleece pants should be equally light and warm. Wear them over the thermal base layer to keep warm at night. You can improvise with sweatpants or other warm pants.

A pair of fleece-Lined Hiking pants

Fleece-lined hiking pants are essential as these make the outermost layer on summit day. The pants must be windproof to keep you warm. 

A Pair of waterproof gloves

Waterproof gloves keep you warm and dry while hiking. Ensure the gloves are fleece-lined to serve the purpose.

A pair of woolen gloves or mittens

Use these to keep warm at night. 

A balaclava and/or hiking buff

Windproof balaclavas and tubular neck gaiters protect your face from wind, sunburn, and frostbite. A windproof, breathable material such as polyester is highly recommended as it quickly wicks moisture away from your skin. 

woolen hiking socks

Get four to six pairs of hiking socks for everyday use on the trail and as a base layer for your feet. Use your fair judgment to decide if you need more. Avoid cotton and other materials that soak in moisture.

A pair of fleece socks

Fleece socks are thick and fleece-lined. Use these to keep warm at night.

A pair of leg Gaiters

Leg gaiters help keep rocks, sand, mud, and other debris out of your shoes throughout your hike. 

A pair of waterproof hiking boots must feature in your mount Kenya gear

Quality hiking boots are one of the best things you can add to your Mt. Kenya gear checklist. When trekking for days, it is imperative to ensure that your feet are comfortable and remain dry throughout the expedition. With exposure to adverse weather conditions on Mt. Kenya, including steep, rocky, and snowy trails, your hiking shoes are one of the most critical parts of your gear to keep you warm and comfortable. 

When picking hiking boots for your Mount Kenya gear, it is essential that the boot is a comfortable fit, lightweight, waterproof, and offers maximum protection for your feet. You don’t need to break the bank to find a boot that ticks off all these qualifications. Depending on your budget, you can opt for brand new or used hiking boots, provided they are in excellent condition at the time of purchase. 

When shopping for hiking boots, always go one size larger than your regular shoe size. This ensures that your feet are comfortable when going up and down steep slopes. Also, because you must wear two pairs of socks on summit morning, the extra space goes a long way to avoid discomfort. 

A pair of sandals or crocs

After a long day of trekking and climbing, your feet need some time to breathe. Ensure you have these on hand, slip into them at camp, and give your feet a well-deserved break from the hiking boots.

Pro tip: go for an oversized, open front design to ensure you can comfortably wear them with fleece socks.

mount Kenya gear accessories

Water bottle or water bladder

Hydration is mandatory while out in the wild. Being intentional about carrying your water will save you lots of trouble, help you contribute to environmental conservation, and make your hiking time much easier. A water bladder is the best choice for carrying your water. Fill it, slip it into your hiking bag, and suckle from the pipe occasionally. This saves you lots of energy you would have otherwise wasted had you carried the water in a bottle or other container.

Fully geared hiker using a water bladder during a Mt. Kenya expedition. | Photo: Robert On Trails

When shopping for a water bladder, there are a few things to keep in mind: 

  1. Capacity – Most water bladders range from 1 liter to 3 liters. When hiking, it is recommended to have at least 2-3 liters. We strongly recommend erring on the side of caution–go for a 3L water bladder.
  2. Quality – To avoid leaks and pours on the trail, purchase a good quality, durable water bladder. 
  3. Insulation – As temperatures dip, water in the pipe is highly likely to freeze. Pipe insulation dramatically helps reduce the chances, so be sure to get a water bladder with an insulated pipe.

Pro tip: While hiking in subzero temperatures, blowing back into the water bladder after every sip clears the pipe and reduces the chances of freezing.

A Hiking bag (20-40L) must be in your mt Kenya gear

Investing in a good hiking bag will guarantee your comfort throughout the hike. The most basic requirement is that the bag should be adequate to carry everything you need on a day hike, including your rain gear and other supplies. A good hiking bag should also be waterproof (or semi-waterproof) to keep the contents dry enough in case of rain. Whichever one you go for, ensure to carry a rain cover–you can never be too sure about the bag’s waterproofing capabilities!

Torch or headlamp

A headlamp should always be part of your Mt. Kenya hiking gear, even on day hikes. It comes in handy, particularly on the summit morning and in case you get late while trekking to camp. An LED headlamp is preferable but not mandatory. 

A pair of sunglasses

You are likely to experience snow glare on summit day. To counter that, we recommend wearing sunglasses with UV protection. If working on a tight budget, regular sunglasses will do.

Hiking/Trekking pole

Although not mandatory, hiking poles are recommended for the Mount Kenya gear checklist. Hiking poles can add a lot of stability and comfort to your hike.

One of the advantages of hiking with trekking poles is that they absorb some of the shock or pressure you feel in your knees and joints, particularly on challenging ascents and descents. Essentially, the poles act as another set of limbs to give you more stability when tackling different terrain like rocky, wet, or snowy trails. 

When it comes to hiking poles, there are so many options out there, and it can be hard to distinguish the differences between them, especially as a beginner. Some things to consider when making your choice:

  1. Pole Material – The most common materials used in hiking poles are carbon fiber and aluminum. Aluminum poles tend to be a lot more affordable than carbon fiber poles. 
  2. Grip Material – The most commonly used material for pole grips are cork, foam, and rubber. Cork material comes highly recommended as it is comfortable, durable, and porous, so it can wick away sweat from your hands and prevent blisters. The only downside to cork tends to be its price point. If on a tight budget, foam is the second best option as it is comfortable and generally more affordable. 
  3. Pole design- We recommend Tri-folding hiking poles as they are generally the lightest and most compact design. 

a Sleeping bag with a subzero rating must be on your mount Kenya gear checklist

When choosing a sleeping bag for your Mount Kenya gear checklist, it is crucial to keep in mind these vital factors:

  • Compactness: – A compact sleeping bag is essential in the spirit of traveling light. Choose a sleeping bag that is as light and compressible as possible. In this regard, down sleeping bags are your best bet. The downside is that they have a significantly higher price tag than synthetic fill sleeping bags–which are bulkier and less compact.
  • Waterproofing capabilities: – With the unpredictability of weather on the mountain, there is always the risk of heavy showers or camp floods. The last thing you need is a wet sleeping bag. We recommend purchasing a sleeping bag with the best possible waterproofing capabilities.
  • Warmth: – To guarantee a safe and comfortable experience, go for a sleeping bag that is properly designed to keep you warm. We recommend winter sleeping bags with a rating of minus 5 degrees and lower.

A porter’s rucksack

A porter’s rucksack is a large bag that will be used to carry all your Mt Kenya hiking clothes and personal effects. Typically, it is carried for you by a porter throughout the climb. The size you go for entirely depends on your needs. Our minimum recommendation is 65L. Always choose an ergonomic design that makes it easier for the porter to carry it while protecting their back from strain and injury. If working on a tight budget–or if you don’t need it after the climb–consider hiring one. 

Mount Kenya gear Personal effects

  • Toiletries: tissue paper, toothpaste, toothbrush, lotion, bath soap, or shower gel. Be sure to include wet wipes since bathing is difficult in low temperatures.
  • A small towel.
  • Energy sweets and snacks, including nuts, lunch bars, biscuits, dates, raisins, and other high-energy snacks.
  • Painkillers, antiseptic, small bandages and band-aids, and cotton wool for personal first aid.
  • Sunscreen

In conclusion, when choosing your Mount Kenya gear, think of essential, lightweight, and compact items that will keep your baggage light and compact while giving you maximum protection from the elements. Your health and safety come first, so remember to choose the options that will guarantee your safety and comfort throughout.

Carry as little as possible but choose that little with care. 

Sir Edmund Hillary

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