It is usually much colder than people expect on Mount Kilimanjaro, both in terms of actual temperature and also in how they feel. It's very helpful to look at a photo slideshow and note how people are dressed. Usually people only wear shorts or short sleeves on the first and last days on Kilimanjaro - the two lowest days. Other than that you will be wearing long pants and long sleeves, and adding layers as you move up the mountain - first a fleece jacket, then a windbreaker / rain jacket over it, and eventually a down jacket often at the two highest camps. Rain jackets and rain pants are worn for warmth and wind layers at higher altitudes even when it's dry. Warm hat and gloves are often brought out at the second camp on the mountain, where frost usually appears on our tents for the first time. Crater Camp may have temperatures around 0 to +10 degrees F overnight, sometimes colder. Wind chill is variable but when it's windy, it feels much colder of course. Generally, Kilimanjaro will not be what you picture as equatorial Africa in terms of temperature. It is usually colder than people expect, and people "feel" the cold more than they expect at any given temperature due to the altitude. The coldest times usually are when you are in camp and not moving around as much, rather than while hiking.
You don't walk on Kilimanjaro's glaciers and snowfields, but you will see them from the trail and camps. Sometimes there is snow on the trail and in the camps - more likely at Crater camp, but sometimes lower on the mountain after storms. Like any large mountain, Kilimanjaro can make her own weather at any time of year so one must be prepared for rain and snow in any season.
We provide our climbers with an extensive gear packing list far in advance of the trip. Some gear such as sleeping bags and hiking poles can be rented with advance notice. You do not need mountaineering (winter) boots, crampons, ropes, or ice axes.
With advance notice and for a fee of $200 USD, we can easily hire an extra porter to hike next to you and carry your daypack. This is especially important for those who aren't used to hiking with a pack on, or climbers who are more worried than average about the effects of being at altitude. The daypack porter can be shared by two hikers as long as they hike next to each other so the daypack porter can assist both of them. This is in contrast to the porters carrying the camping gear and your luggage, who hike quickly ahead of you to the next camp so you don't have access to your luggage during the hike.
People of all fitness levels and experience levels climb Mount Kilimanjaro. However, it is important to be physically fit and to have an exercise/training plan prior to your climb. It's helpful to have hiking and camping experience, although not everyone does. Please talk to us about your concerns in advance of registration.
In general, chances are very high on the 8 day or longer western routes on Mount Kilimanjaro. Summit success rates are estimated at 98% in general; some seasons we have had 100% summit success. Contrast that to 50-60% on the 5 day Marangu route and you can see why we recommend taking your time to acclimatize. Our suggestion is to take 8-9 day Lemosho route if you have the time and budget; if not, consider 7 day Machame or Rongai route, and only consider 6 day climbs if you absolutely don't have the time or money for a longer option, and are willing to accept that summit success rates are a concern with short climbs.
Taking our longer routes with more acclimatization time greatly reduces the chances of having a serious altitude illness emergency. However, we are always prepared, and injuries can happen on Kilimanjaro as anywhere. Our head guides have Wilderness First Responder training. Our groups are equipped with oxygen and Gamow® or similar hyperbaric bags. These are used to treat the patient while arranging evacuation for serious altitude illness. Tanzania has hospitals we use for emergencies. Serious cases may be transferred to Nairobi. Rest assured, we have plans in place to ensure you are evacuated as quickly and safely as possible in any type of emergency. But most importantly, we work hard to avoid emergencies in the first place. Please be assured that we have enough resources in our climbing groups that if someone in the group needs to stop their ascent and go to a lower camp or back to town, the rest of the group can continue their climb. One important thing to keep in mind is that even if your travel insurance "promises" you they can get you a helicopter evacuation from anywhere very quickly, that's just not the reality in Tanzania. Communication, logistical, and weather challenges mean in almost all cases, we can evacuate a person off Kilimanjaro long before a helicopter would actually arrive. Our guides and porters are well trained for this, though it rarely happens.