Climbing Kilimanjaro is one of the greatest experiences you could ever dream of. But doing it as a woman means you sometimes have to be a little more prepared. If you’re up for the adventure of a lifetime, but have a few questions before you set off, we’ve got you covered with our girl’s guide to climbing Kilimanjaro. From surprise periods to the one item you can’t leave home without, we’ve got the answer to all your questions…
The girl’s guide to climbing Kilimanjaro
So, what’s the toilet situation?
Nothing incites more jealousy between the sexes than the ease with which men can pee outside. If you’ve ever been on a hike with some guys, you’ve likely cursed their comfort as they nip off into the bushes (or, in some cases, just turn around) to do their business, while you hold a thigh-quivering squat, praying that you won’t see anything scrambling (or worse, slithering) between your legs. But the solution may be simple – a good few of our guests have made use of the Shewee on treks, and what starts as a bit of a giggle ends up being a lifesaver. This small, funnel-shaped device tucks easily into your knickers and allows you to pee like a dude – whether you write your name in the snow is up to you.
There are toilet tents as well, of course, but they’re pretty tight on space. And, after trekking for eight hours, you’ll be grateful for anything that saves you the agony of squatting with your knackered legs.
OK, but what if we’re talking about… the other number?
I’m afraid there’s no “she-poo” in this scenario, so you’re going to have to brave the toilet tent. A quick tip – between the diet of curried beans and the dreaded traveller’s diarrhoea, everyone comes out of the tent with a sheepish look on their face. So your best bet is to try to be the first one in. Not to generalise, but men seem to have the stronger gag reflexes in this situation, so zip to the front of the line or resign yourself to holding your breath while you’re popping a squat (which is no mean feat). If you have a really sensitive gag reflex, try putting a little bit of Vicks VapoRub under your nose… you won’t be able to smell a thing.
But the best bit of advice we can give? Laugh it off. Whether you’re the dealer or the unfortunate soul who walks into the loo to be knocked out by fumes, remember – everybody poops. And if you can’t laugh at diarrhoea, what can you laugh at, eh?
What do I do about showering?
Uh, you don’t. Think of your hike as a (far more virtuous) Electric Picnic, and embrace the fact that you won’t see hot water for days. Dry shampoo is a godsend, but less so for vanity, and more for avoiding that sweaty, oily scalp feel you get after a solid day’s activity. Really, your best friend will be baby wipes. Get a pack of biodegradable wet wipes and a full body swipe down will feel like manna from heaven after a long, sweaty day in the African sun. Otherwise? Embrace the fact you’ll look a little bit grimy. You’re all in the same boat, after all.
How do I look after my feet?
You know that little pack of Compeed you used to bring on a night out, ready to whack on as soon as your heels start to rub? You’ll never be as grateful to have them to hand as you will when your hiking boots start to give you trouble. Go one better with a Compeed stick – this invisible formula rubs straight onto your feet to reduce rubbing on your skin, and it’s easy peasy to use. Remember, deal with friction as soon as you feel it, rather than waiting for a blister to appear, because by then it’s too late and you’ll be in bits limping up the mountain.
What do I do about my period?
Let’s face it – periods are never much fun. But when you’re halfway up Kili? They’re even worse. As one of nature’s cruel tricks, high altitude plays havoc with your menstrual cycle while you’re acclimatising, potentially springing an unexpected period on you when you really, really don’t want to be dealing with it. The best thing to do? Have a chat with your doctor before you set off, to come up with a plan. But if the worst comes to the worst? You’ll never feel like more of a badass than you do when dealing with your period while climbing the highest freestanding mountain in the world. Just be sure to bring some emergency tampons, because there’s no corner shop on the side of the mountain.
How do I make myself look good while trekking?
If you’re thinking of bringing a bit of nice jewellery along for the ride, or planning an easy, minimal makeup look, the best thing to do is… not even bother. You’re going to get grubby, sweaty and grimy, which isn’t good for any kind of jewellery. And whatever you drop on the mountain will likely be lost forever. The most important thing to worry about is SPF – a good non-comedogenic one is the best shout, because otherwise the combination of sunscreen and sweat will clog up your pores real nice. Oh, and don’t wear Vaseline as a lip balm – it’s like smearing cooking oil onto your lips, primed and ready for the African sun. A good stick lip balm with SPF is your best shout.
Other than that? Get ready to embrace the rugged, outdoorsy, adventurer look. And trust us, that’s a style that looks good on everyone.
What about when the hike is over… can I pamper myself then?
Of course! One of the best showers you’ll ever take comes after you’ve completed an amazing expedition such as this. Bring a sachet of deep conditioning hair treatment for that post-hike hair wash, because your tresses will most likely be parched from the sun. A face mask is a good shout too, whatever your skin type – chances are you’ll be desperate for a good deep cleanse or a boost of hydration.
Then, when you’re scrubbed clean and basking in the glory of that post-expedition sense of accomplishment, all those memories of toilet smells and greasy hair will be far, far behind you, leaving you with one, niggling thought…what mountain will I conquer next?
How to do it
If our girl’s guide to climbing Kilimanjaro has got you ready to pop on your boots and get cracking, you can read all about our expedition here.