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Personal Hygiene on the Mountain: Essential Tips for Kilimanjaro Trekkers

Trekking Kilimanjaro offers unparalleled vistas and the thrill of conquering Africa's highest peak. However, amidst the adventure, maintaining personal hygiene on the mountain is a crucial yet often overlooked aspect.

In this comprehensive guide, we dive deep into ensuring optimal personal hygiene on the mountain, from bathing routines to waste management, ensuring you're well-prepared for your journey.

Bathing, Showering, and Personal Care

Personal hygiene Kilimanjaro

Bathing / Showering on Kilimanjaro:

Showers are a luxury you won't find on Kilimanjaro. The cold environment and water scarcity make it impossible. But fear not! Bathing and showering while embracing the challenges of Kilimanjaro might seem daunting. Maintaining personal hygiene on the mountain in such conditions can be challenging, but with the right tools and techniques, you can stay refreshed and clean.

Dental Hygiene:

  • Toothbrush & Paste: Carry a travel-sized toothbrush and toothpaste. You'll be grateful for that fresh feeling after meals.
  • Mouthwash: A swish of mouthwash can rejuvenate your mouth, especially when a full brush isn’t
    feasible.

Skin Care at Altitude:

  • Moisturizers: Kilimanjaro's air is dry, so pack a good moisturizer to prevent chapping.
  • Sunscreen: Despite the cold, UV rays are stronger at higher altitudes. Always apply sunscreen.

Hair Care:

  • Keeping Hair Tidy: If you have long hair, consider tying it up or braiding it. This prevents tangling and keeps it cleaner.
  • Scalp Protection: Wear a buff or hat to shield your scalp from the sun.

Hand Hygiene:

  • Hand Sanitizers: A quick way to cleanse your hands before meals or after using the toilet.
  • Hand Cream: To avoid chapped hands, regular application of hand cream can be beneficial.

Body wipes or wet wipes can be your best friend. Use them to wipe down and feel refreshed after a long day of trekking. Every morning and evening, trekkers are also provided with a bowl of warm water to freshen up.

Kilimanjaro Public Toilets vs. Private Portable Toilets

Kilimanjaro public vs private toilet

 

Maintaining personal hygiene on the mountain isn't just about keeping yourself clean but also ensuring you use sanitary facilities. Here, we weigh the pros and cons of using public toilets versus private portable ones on Kilimanjaro.

Public toilets

Public toilet facilities are available at most campsites and huts, shared by all trekkers. The type and condition of these facilities can vary:

  • Long Drop Toilets: Many camping routes offer simple wooden shelters with long drop toilets, which are essentially holes in the ground.

  • Western Toilet Blocks: Recent years have seen the introduction of western-style toilet blocks on the mountain. These are a welcome addition, but bear in mind that there aren't full-time cleaners. Particularly during peak season, the cleanliness of these facilities might leave something to be desired. When using these facilities, always carry a head torch, toilet paper, or wet wipes with you.

Private portable toilets

While access to the public toilets at campsites is already included in your package, a portable toilet might not be essential but is highly recommended. The private system offers a more comfortable and hygienic alternative, especially on camping routes. This becomes even more critical during the busy seasons when the public facilities, shared among numerous trekkers, may not always maintain the cleanliness standards you'd desire.

  • Convenience: An extra porter is included in the service. This porter takes responsibility for carrying, setting up, and cleaning the system, ensuring it's ready whenever you need it.
  • Privacy: You will be provided with a dedicated toilet tent, ensuring your privacy even in the busiest of campsites.
  • Features: The toilets come with a manual flush system and are equipped with toilet rolls for added convenience.
  • Capacity: Up to 5 people can share a single portable toilet. This makes it ideal for families, small groups or couples trekking together.
  • Recommendation: Especially during the peak months, when campsites and public facilities can become extremely crowded, we highly recommend opting for the portable toilet system.
  • Availability: Due to their popularity and limited quantities, it's advised to pre-book this item to ensure availability during your trek.

For those with leg or knee problems a private portable toilet is a highly recommended add-on.

Nature Calls Between Kilimanjaro Camps

Kilimanjaro nature toilet

Even between the camps, personal hygiene on the mountain remains paramount. Sometimes, nature calls at the most inconvenient times. While Kilimanjaro National Park discourages trekkers from relieving themselves en-route, sometimes it's unavoidable. If you find yourself in this situation, be prepared. Carry wet wipes and toilet paper in your day pack and always ensure you are at a safe distance from any water sources and are discreet.

  • Portable Urination Devices: For women, devices like the SheWee or GoGirl can be valuable. They allow women to urinate while standing, making quick stops more comfortable.
  • Biodegradable Toilet Paper: If you need to use toilet paper while between camps, opt for biodegradable versions. Remember to pack out all used paper.
  • Limited public toilets: There are some limited public toilets placed in between camps on certain trails. Please check with your guide if these are available or close when required.
  • Dig a hole: If you need to defecate between camps, dig a hole at least 6 inches deep and at least 200 feet from water sources. Cover it up when done. This is one of the friendliest ways to handle waste between camps and you can bring a small portable shovel for this purpose or request one from your mountain crew.

Personal hygiene on Kilimanjaro is a unique experience, but with the right preparation, it doesn't have to be a daunting one. Remember to pack essentials like wet wipes, be respectful of the mountain's environment, and communicate any concerns with your guide. With these tips, you'll be well-prepared to tackle the hygiene aspect of your Kilimanjaro trek, letting you focus on the climb itself.

Managing Menstruation on the Mountain

Kilimanjaro feminine hygiene

For many women trekkers, managing menstruation becomes an essential part of personal hygiene on the mountain and it's crucial to be prepared for menstruation even if it's not expected during the trek. The combination of physical activity, altitude, and change in diet can sometimes lead to the unexpected. Here's what you need to know and how you can best prepare:

  • Menstrual Products: Opt for menstrual products you are comfortable with. Tampons and menstrual cups can be more compact and create less waste than pads. However, make sure you're familiar with using them before the trek. If you prefer pads, go for the individually wrapped ones for easy disposal.

  • Disposal: Remember, Kilimanjaro operates on a 'Leave No Trace' policy. Pack small ziplock bags or opaque disposal bags to pack out used menstrual products. Bringing some baking soda can help neutralize odor in your waste bag. You can hand these to your crew at campsites for proper disposal.

  • Personal Wipes: Feminine hygiene wipes can be a blessing on the mountain. They are specifically balanced for pH and can help you feel clean and refreshed. As with any waste, make sure you pack these out.

  • Extra Supplies: Even if you're not expecting your period, bring supplies just in case. The stress of the climb and change in environment can sometimes lead to unexpected cycles.

  • Medication: If you use pain relievers for menstrual cramps, make sure to pack them. Consult with your doctor about any potential interactions with altitude sickness medications.

  • Comfort: Chafing can be an issue during long treks. Wearing moisture-wicking underwear and applying anti-chafing creams can help keep you comfortable.

  • Privacy: If you've opted for a private portable toilet, it can provide a convenient and discreet place for changing menstrual products.

Being prepared for feminine hygiene ensures you can focus on the trek and enjoy the experience without unnecessary discomfort.

Managing Waste Responsibly

Leave No Trace Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro isn't just a trekking destination; it's a delicate ecosystem. Personal hygiene on the mountain extends to how we manage waste, ensuring our footprint is minimal. Every effort to minimize waste and reduce the environmental impact protects its pristine beauty for future generations.

Leave No Trace:

This principle emphasizes zero traces of your presence once you depart. Everything you bring onto the mountain, from food wrappers to hygiene products, should be taken back down.

  • Pack It Out: All non-biodegradable waste, including sanitary products, wet wipes, and toilet paper, should be packed out in sealed bags. Though it might seem like a minor act, this ensures that waste doesn’t litter the trails or contaminate the natural resources. Your crew can collect sealed bags and your trash at campsites and manage the removal of the waste for you.
  • Biodegradable Products: While products might claim to be biodegradable, decomposition at high altitudes is different and slower. It's best to pack them out instead of burying or leaving them behind. Ensure that even organic waste, like fruit peels, is packed out, as these can take longer to decompose in mountain conditions and are not native to the Kilimanjaro environment.

Minimize Use of Soap and Detergents:

If you must use them, ensure they are biodegradable. Limit their use to protect the natural water sources from contamination.

Educate & Advocate:

Being a responsible trekker also involves sharing best practices with fellow hikers. Encourage your trekking peers to adopt waste management practices, creating a community of environmentally-conscious adventurers.


Waste management and eco-conscious practices are crucial to ensure Kilimanjaro remains a beautiful trekking destination for generations to come. It's the collective responsibility of every hiker to play their part in conservation.

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