The Woman’s Guide to Climbing Kilimanjaro
You’ve trained for months and you’re feeling fit and ready to hit Kilimanjaro. Congratulations! You’re about to embark on the trip of a lifetime.
But then it dawns on you – how are you supposed to go to the bathroom while trekking in the freezing cold? And, horror of horrors, what happens if you get your period halfway up the mountain?
Women climbing Kilimanjaro will require just a wee bit of extra planning (pun intended!). In this guide we’ll go over how to pee while trekking, what to do if you get your period on Kilimanjaro, how to pack for the Kilimanjaro trek, and safety considerations for women climbing Kilimanjaro, especially if you’re booking as a solo traveller.
Bathroom Breaks on Kilimanjaro
Thanks to the invention of the female urination device (popularly known as the she-wee), women are no longer at such a disadvantage when it comes to peeing in inopportune places.
You’ll see many different interpretations on the market, but the basic idea is the same: a funnel-type device that you can pee into without making a mess or needing to squat. Not only does this save you from embarrassment, it also saves you from getting up close and personal with the toilet tent.
Find the design that works best for you, keeping in mind the requirements for a multi-day trek. You’ll want one that’s discreet, portable, lightweight and easy to use. That means no splashing! It’s a good idea to practice using your female urination device in the shower before leaving for your trip, as there can be a bit of a learning curve.
Unfortunately, multi-day hikes are an excellent time to cultivate yeast infections and UTIs, so don’t forget to bring toilet paper or a reusable piece of cloth. In keeping with Leave No Trace principles, these should also be carted along with you until you can dispose of them responsibly, off the mountain.
Make sure you bring plenty of hand sanitizer and use it both before and after you go to the bathroom to maintain proper hygiene. This will go a long way towards avoiding any infections.
And remember, just because you’re doing it guy-style doesn’t mean you’re immune to wind and slopes! Give a bit of thought to where you’re weeing, and also try to avoid going near potential drinking sources like a stream or river.
How to Deal with Your Period While Trekking Kilimanjaro
If you’re dreading getting your period on your trek to Kilimanjaro, you’re not alone. Blood and cramps are hard enough to deal with at sea level – doing it at altitude on a mixed-gender trek can seem like mission impossible!
Some girls successfully skip their periods using birth control pills or IUDs. But altitude and travelling can do funny things to your period, making it come when you least expect it. As a rule of thumb, we recommend planning for your trek as if you were going to get your period, just in case. Plus, it’s nice to have supplies to share in case another sister is caught unawares.
Plastic bags are banned in Tanzania, so if you use pads or tampons, you’ll have to bring along a reusable dry bag to store them in until they can be disposed of at the end of the trek. Many hikers swear by menstrual cups. These are environmentally friendly and more convenient, as they don’t require lugging along a bag of used sanitary products for the rest of the trek.
Hand sanitizer and (biodegradable) wet wipes are a lifesaver, as are panty liners for lighter days. Hiking during your period can lead to dehydration, especially when combined with the effects of altitude and altitude pills, so be sure to drink enough water.
Any woman trekker you ask will have their own period hack, but most of us only fine-tune these after a few disasters. So, just in case? Consider bringing along a pair of black leggings to hide any stains.
Pills and pregnancy on Kilimanjaro
If you rely on ibuprofen or other medications to help with cramps, check with your doctor to see if these are safe to take at altitude and in conjunction with other pills such as Diamox.
While birth control pills don’t seem to have any adverse effects on altitude acclimatization, iron deficiency can mess with you, so it’s worth getting checked out before you go, especially if a close female relative has a history of anemia.
If you’re pregnant and considering climbing Kilimanjaro, definitely check with your doctor first. There are a number of unknown factors due to a lack of studies on the effects of short-term altitude exposure to the mother and the developing fetus.
Clothing and Personal Care Items on Kilimanjaro
Our Kilimanjaro packing list covers most of the essential items for your trip to Kilimanjaro, but there are several additional considerations for women.
Comfortable, moisture-wicking underwear and a supportive sports bra are a must for your trek to Kilimanjaro. As with your other base layers, try to avoid cotton when choosing a sports bra and underwear. Cotton traps moisture and makes it hard for your body to regulate heat properly.
Since it’s so impractical to maintain a beauty regime during a strenuous hike with limited access to water, most people just adapt to a more natural look, swapping lipstick for SPF lip balm. If you do have specific needs, try being flexible with products – choosing dry shampoo, moisturizing sunscreen, or other products that are tailored to trekking.
Is it Safe for Women to Climb Kilimanjaro Alone?
Plenty of solo women have joined a group trek up Kilimanjaro with no problems at all. You can choose to pay a single supplement to bunk by yourself, or agree to be paired up with another trekker from the group.
If it makes you feel more comfortable, feel free to reach out to us beforehand and ask if you can join a tour that has another solo woman, so you can share a tent and hotel room. You may also be able to request a tour with a female guide or porter, which has the added advantage of empowering local women.
We may also be able to provide contact information for solo female travellers who have hiked with us before. They can share their experiences and answer questions to help set your mind at ease.
At Climbing Kilimanjaro we pride ourselves on our excellent trekking crews, whom we hold to the highest standards. Despite our efforts, if anything should happen to make you feel uncomfortable on your trip, we encourage you to reach out to your guide, a porter, a ranger or a fellow trekker.
When staying in Moshi or Arusha, be careful and avoid going out on your own after dark. These towns are generally safe in the daytime, especially when accompanied by another person, but it’s always better to err on the side of caution at night.