Essential Hiking Gear for Long Treks

We packed a lot of equipment for the trip to Africa and the hike up Kilimanjaro. We were, overall, incredibly well prepared for the experience. While all of our gear was important, some items proved more crucial than others.

Medication & First Aid Kits

Each team member brought their own small first aid kit which proved essential when dealing with cuts, blisters, altitude-induced headaches, and other small maladies. In addition, we all supplemented our standard first aid kits with medications suggested and prescribed by our travel physicians before we left:

  • Ciproflaxacin – A powerful antibiotic that helped ensure that Phil and I overcame some severe stomach issues and made it to the summit.
  • Acetazolamide (Diamox) – A useful treatment for altitude sickness — definitely helped alleviate some of the worst symptoms.
  • Atovaquone/proguanil (Malarone) – An anti-malarial medication. Even with high-quality tents and mosquito netting, I got bitten by bugs (a lot) and taking this as a preventative measure definitely helped keep my mind at ease.

I cannot stress enough the value of consulting the CDC’s website and visiting a travel physician before you leave.


See what you’re doing in the dark. Hike at night without losing the trail or falling on your face. Simple and effective.

Hydration Backpack (CamelBak)

It’s important to drink at least three liters of water per day when any sort of physical exertion is involved. Managing that amount of water with water bottles and ways to carry them can be a huge pain.

Brian and Jared sport a daypack with compartments for camera gear and a water reservoir.

A good daypack-sized backpack (or larger for solo backpacking trips) with a reservoir pocket helps ensure that you have and drink plenty of water while hiking. These bags are offered by many different manufacturers and some have various other utility purposes, such as special pockets for cameras and related equipment.

Water Purification

No matter how you do it  (iodine tablets, filters, or whatever) make sure your water is clean and free of as much bacteria is possible. I spent one day suffering from the consequences of foul water and it is no fun. No fun at all. If you’re using iodine, the water can taste pretty terrible, so after following all of the directions on appropriate wait times for optimum effectiveness, pour in a bit of Gatorade or other additive to help the flavor and add some bonus electrolytes.

A Camera

Jared stops to take a photo of Mawenzi

Many long treks are once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Thousands of photos were taken of our trip (some published to share) and they’ve been a fantastic way to remember what we accomplished and share our experience. Take a camera, lots of batteries, and lots of storage. And, most importantly, take as many photos as possible.

A Deck of Cards

You’ll be spending a lot of time in camp. The day is spent hiking, but late afternoon and evening is a time to rest up for the next day, eat, and enjoy your surroundings. On our way to Kilimanjaro we picked up a pack of counterfeit Coca-cola cards and it was probably the best decision we made all week.

Each night we had a great way to pass the time and keep our minds off pain, ailments, and any other encroaching negative thoughts. Not only were our nightly card games a solid source of old-fashioned entertainment, but they served to really bond the four of us as a team.

A Good Hat

Your hair can get pretty unpresentable. Cover it up. Either with something seasonal or with something to look a little like Indiana Jones.