Kilimanjaro Weather

Kilimanjaro Weather

The short answer is that the temperatures on Mount Kilimanjaro range from hot to bitter cold. Climbing Kilimanjaro is unique for many reasons, and one of these is that from origin to summit, climbers find themselves weaving through several distinct climate zones. It is said that the journey from the gate to the peak is like traveling from the equator to Antarctica in a matter of days! Mount Kilimanjaro has five major ecological zones, each approximately 3,280 feet (1,000 m) in altitude. Each zone is subject to a corresponding decrease in rainfall, temperature and flora/fauna as the altitude increases.

Bushland/Cultivated Zone

Altitude: 2,600 to 6,000 ft (800 to 1,800 m)
Precipitation: 20 to 70 in (500 to 1,800 mm)

The lowest elevation climate zone is the bushland, resting a half mile or more above sea level. Cultivated land, grasslands and populated human settlements characterize this zone.

Natural bush, plains, and lowland forests once covered the region. However, because this area is rich with fertile volcanic soil, it makes an ideal land for agriculture. The Chaga people settled on these lower slopes to farm a variety of crops, such as highly prized coffee and tropical fruits. The grounds are irrigated by underground channels tunneling through the earth from the lush rainforest nestled above.

Many of the local mountain guides hail from the nearby villages. Large wild animals are rarely seen here, having been eliminated by farmers generations ago. However, small nocturnal mammals such as galagos and tree hyrax still thrive. Birds, such as speckled mousebirds and tropical boubou, are also are plentiful.

Rain Forest Zone

Altitude: 6,000 to 9,200 ft (1,800 to 2,800 m)
Precipitation: 79 to 40 in (2,000 to 1,000 mm)

The rain forest is drenched by six to seven feet of rain per year and bursts with biodiversity. During the day, warm temperatures and high humidity characterize this densely forested climate zone. However, rainy nights can produce surprisingly low temperatures. Climbers definitely want to have their rain gear handy to protect themselves from the constant drizzle.

The rain forest presents the most abundant opportunities for viewing unique types of African flora and fauna. Various species of orchids, ferns, sycamore figs, olive trees, and palms dripping with hanging mosses are found here. Camphorwood trees reach as high as 130 feet through the canopy grasping for sunlight. Blue and Colobus monkeys gallivant through the trees, loudly beckoning mates, and a vibrant cacophony of sounds emanate from the diverse population of birdlife.

Climbers approaching the summit from the Rongai, Lemosho, Shira or Northern Circuit trails may be lucky enough to spot elephant, buffalo, antelope and an occasional predator drifting through in search of a wayward meal.


Heath/Moorland Zone

Altitude: 9,200 to 13,200 ft (2,800 to 4,000 m)
Precipitation: 51 to 21 in (1,300 to 530 mm) 

Arctic Zone 

The final region of the climb up Kilimanjaro is the arctic zone. Finding a region like this in Africa’s equatorial belt is like finding a swath of rainforest in the middle of an Arctic glacier. Characterized by ice and rock, there is virtually no plant or animal life at this altitude. Glacial silt covers the slopes that were once concealed by the now receding glaciers visible from Kilimanjaro’s crater rim. Nights are extremely cold and windy, and the day’s unbuffered sun is powerful.

Mountain medicine classifies this zone as “extreme altitude.” Oxygen levels are roughly half of what they are at sea level, making breathing slow and labored. It is likely that climbers will experience varying degrees of altitude related symptoms at these elevations. To combat this, we try to avoid spending too much time here. We summit and descend expeditiously before AMS can escalate.

Daypack list for Kilimanjaro Summit night

You are only required to carry items from your gear list that you may need prior to reaching your next campsite. A small to medium sized backpack, with a volume capacity of up to 2000 cu in (30 liters), is appropriate. The specific items to carry generally depend on the time to reach camp and trail and weather conditions. Typically, you will have inside your daypack: waterproof gear, extra clothing, water, snacks, gloves, hat, sunglasses, and other small items, such as bug repellent and sun screen. Consult your guide if you are unsure of what you need. 

Everything else should be placed into your duffel bag, which the porters will carry. The weight limit of the duffel bag is 15 kgs. The porters will carry the duffel bag from campsite to campsite. Use plastic bags or dry bags to separate and water proof your gear. You will be expected to pack your daypack and duffel bag each morning. Note that it is acceptable to use a backpack instead of a duffel bag. However, since porters bundle the bag with other items and carry the load on their heads, a duffel bag is preferred.

These items are the essentials for your daypack which should weigh no more than 5-6kg including 2-3ltrs of water. You will be wearing some items on a day-to-day basis and everything else needed for the expedition goes in your mountain bag with a weight limit of 15kg. The more unnecessary extras you add to your daypack, the more it will weigh and the harder you will make your climb. Be nice to your body and keep your pack light.

In your pack, in a waterproof dry bag or rubble sack:

  • Liquid hand wash (small bottle)/ sanitizer
  • Waterproof jacket and waterproof trousers
  • Sun cream and SPF lip salve – minimum SPF30, preferably SPF50. A small 50ml bottle will be plenty for the whole expedition
  • Head torch, keep in the lid of your pack
  • Toilet paper and nappy sacks, take one or two nappy sacks and keep the rest in your mountain bag
  • Water bottle / hydration bladder – 3ltrs capacity split between bottles and bladder
  • Warm hat and gloves
  • Spare fleece
  • Camera
  • Daily snacks – 3 or so snacks just for the day. All other snacks to go in your mountain bag
  • First aid kit – only need paracetamol / ibuprofen, blister plasters plus personal meds if needed daily
  • Trekking poles – great for going up and down!
  • Sunglasses – Cat 3 minimum, Cat 4 ideal, wrap around for proper UV protection

For summit night

Put on your down jackets, waterproofs, warm hats and gloves and
definitely your head torch and poles. 

In your pack:

  • 2ltrs water in bladder or bottles
  • Sun cream / lip salve
  • Sunglasses
  • Snacks for way down
  • Toilet paper / hand gel
  • Sun hat

In your down jackets:

  • Painkillers
  • Snacks
  • 1ltr water down the front of your jacket, held in place by the waist belt of your daypack
  • Camera (to keep it warm)

Your mountain bag should weigh no more than 15kg/33 lbs which is plenty for our 7-day trekking. To keep the weight down take only ½ packet of wet wipes, only extra head torch batteries needed for one change rather than a whole pack, take a small paperback book or Kindle, keep recharging gadgets to a minimum, take enough snacks for the trip so 3 a day plus 6-8 for summit night.

Please make sure that everything in your mountain bag is in waterproof dry bags or thick rubble sacks or black bags. There are no drying facilities on the mountain so it is essential to keep your kit dry, even if your bag claims to be waterproof.

Kilimanjaro’s Five Ecological Zones

Below are Mount Kilimanjaro’s zones from the lowest to the highest altitude along with the average annual precipitation, zone characteristics, and links/feeds to the current weather in each particular zone.

Altitude Acclimatization

How one reacts to high altitude is uncertain. Some people’s bodies adjust well to the decreased oxygen levels; others do not. Being physically fit and in good health, although helpful, is no guarantee of your ability to acclimatize. Therefore the best advice we can give is to take 7 or more days on the mountain.

There is a strong correlation between the amount of time spent on the mountain and the summit success rate. Because the human body adapts to high altitude slowly, the more time it has, the better the chances of acclimatization. A successful summit is usually a question of how well a climber can acclimatize to the high altitude, rather than the climber’s ability to ascend. By trekking standards, most of the day hikes on Kilimanjaro are not very strenuous. The big exception to this is the summit attempt, which requires a tremendous effort and is hard for nearly everyone. Climbers who acclimatize well to the altitude have a great chance of making it to the top.

What are the Trail Conditions?

The trails on Mount Kilimanjaro are well marked and maintained. Technical skills are not required on our trails. There are only a couple spots where scrambling (climbing on hands and feet) is required, such as the Barranco Wall, the Western Breach approach (now closed) and optional Lava Tower climb. The path to and from Uhuru Point is on scree, which can be especially tiring and slippery.

Bad weather conditions can complicate matters. Climbers should be prepared to trek through all types of weather, such as fog, rain, snow, and all types of earth, whether loose, dusty, muddy, wet, snowy or icy.

Summit Day

Summit day is a tough, 11 to 16 hour day. This monumental effort is what makes climbing Kilimanjaro an achievement. It begins very early as guides try to time their trekking party to reach Uhuru Point at sunrise. Climbers go to sleep after an early dinner the night before and are awoken around midnight to prepare for the summit attempt. After a light snack, climbers ascend in the darkness, cold and wind. It goes without saying that under these conditions, climbing is difficult, especially on loose rock and up a very steep slope. This is where your physical prowess and mental toughness will be tested.

Our team of Baraka Trails guides will be with you every step of the way to assist you during your ascent. Short breaks, usually lasting less than ten minutes, will be taken along the way for a quick snack and drink. This is to make sure the climbers stay energized and hydrated but do not get cold by sitting still. The guides will regularly check to see how everyone is feeling and offer a hand to those who may need extra help.

It is possible that someone may have to turn around on the mountain due to altitude sickness, exhaustion or a variety of other matters. Each group will have a lead guide, a number of assistant guides depending on the party size, and summit porters – all of whom are able to escort climbers down.  Therefore, if a person cannot continue the ascent, one of the staff members will accompany this climber while the lead guide takes the group onward.  The remaining party is unaffected and continues their climb as scheduled.