The temperature at the base ranges between a tropical 70–80°F. Venture further up the mountain, though, and you’ll soon see temperatures drop to lows in the -20–20°F range.
Since the more comfortable you are during your hike you are also means that you’re more likely to reach Kilimanjaro’s summit, you’ll need the right jackets to protect you from cold, rain and even snow.
To stay comfortable in such vastly different climates, layering is key.
You’ll want a/an:
Light, warm layer to add over your base layer and hiking clothes to keep you warm. This is commonly known as a soft shell.
Outer layer to protect you from inclement weather. Also known as a hard shell, this should be waterproof and windproof to shield out cold, rain, wind, and snow.
Insulated camp jacket to give you warmth during the coldest parts of your hike and to keep you cozy at the end of the day.
Not all jackets are created equal. Look for jackets with:
You don’t want to spend a bunch of money and only get to wear your jacket once. While it needs to meet the criteria for Kilimanjaro, make sure it also checks boxes for other activities you enjoy, too, such as snowboarding or those crisp morning runs you enjoy throughout the year .
Your sweat and body heat should be able to escape your jacket as your activity levels increase during your hike. Jackets without breathability will trap your heat and cause you to sweat more. This can become dangerous in cold temperatures, where you have a risk of condensation freezing.
Look for features such as arm vents, breathable mesh areas, or zippers in the armpits of the jacket (aka “pit zips”). These allow heat out so you stay dry and comfortable.
Low pack weight/volume
You want light, packable jackets that can be rolled up tightly to carry along without taking up too much space or adding weight. Down is a great material for providing a lot of warmth with minimal weight, but it is not advised for wet conditions. Shop around and look for the perfect mix of high-quality materials and weight.
Make sure your jacket is large enough to fit over your base- and mid-layers, at a minimum. It also shouldn’t ride up in the back when you’re moving, or be too long that it gets in the way. As a test, put on all of the clothes that you are packing and see if your outer hard shell will fit comfortably over the top.
Drawcords found at the bottom of the jacket, at the waist, and on the hood can also be used to adjust and customize the fit of your jacket as you shed layers.
A hood is important on the mountain since most of your body heat will be escaping via your noggin. Make sure there is room for a beanie and that you can see unobstructed when your hat and hood is on.
Heavy, sturdy zippers. You don’t want cheap, flimsy zippers to break on the trail. Then you’ll have no way of keeping your jacket closed during cold, windy walks.
Zippers should run smooth and go all the way from the top of your chin to the bottom of your jacket. Zippers should also be waterproof or at least have a storm flap to prevent water from seeping inside.
Pockets are useful, whether inside or outside. Find ones with storm flaps or zippers to keep what’s inside dry. Bonus: Some jackets have insulated or lined pockets and are known as “hand warming” or “hand warmer” pockets. These are a great extra to have in your camp jacket.
Armed with this info, there is one more important factor that you must not forget and that is layering.