Kit was something I thought about a lot before we left, the rest of it is such an unknown, it's really only training and kit I felt I could prepare with! If you're preparing to go, or thinking about it, then you should have a kit list from your company. However we all took too much. We discussed that the kit list from the company we went with had far too much on there. I took things I didn't use, and I gave a lot away to the porters and guides. I finally finished unpacking and washing all our stuff and thought I'd write a post about what I actually used. I'm no expert though and I've only been once this is just how it went for me, so consult the company you're going with if you aren't sure!!
The absolute essentials I would say are:
Boots - comfortable, well worn in, waterproof.
Day Pack - comfortable, with rain cover, 30L was fine (our kit list said 30-35L but my 30L was half empty most of the time). You need to be able to carry 3L of water at least, as well as snacks, sun cream, waterproofs, extra layers of clothes etc. Train with the bag on sometimes if you can.
Coat - Down or equivalent jacket. Warm, warmer the better we both had Montane down jackets and were warm enough.
Clothes - I took 1 gym type T-Shirt, 1 long sleeve trekking top, 1 pair thermal leggings and 1 long sleeve thermal top, 1 pair of trousers (zip offs), 1 pair waterproof over trousers and coat, 1 pair thick waterproof salopettes, 1 down jacket, 2 fleeces (for layering) and 1 body warmer. I also took 3 pairs of socks, 2 liner socks, one pair of thick summit night socks, and 3 pairs of knickers. I think I did ok here, the only thing I could have maybe done without was the body warmer but it was good for days when it was chilly but not cold enough for the down jacket, and it was an extra layer on summit night (notice in the photos how I am much more padded out than Tom). I would recommend not worrying about multiples of things other than for layering, rather take a variety of things than multiples of one item.
Accessories - liner gloves and thick ski gloves - essential. Tom didn't use his thick gloves but he is a freak of nature with excessively warm hands. Sun hat and warm hat - Essential especially if like me you are prone to sunburn, I can say I didn't burn at all which is an achievement for a pale redhead spending 6 days solid outside at the equator above the clouds.
Camera - you want to capture this, our point and shoot was good as we could just clip it on our bag by a carabiner. Some people used phones which weren't as reliable battery wise, some has DSLR's which looked like a pain to carry, but their photos were much better.
Sleeping bag - We rented 5 season sleeping bags, and used a fleece liner on the colder nights and we were toasty and slept like babies. I slept in my thermals some nights too but Tom didn't and was still warm.
Sleeping mat - we both took self inflating sleeping mats and they were a godsend. Most camps were on rocky ground, and on 2 nights the tents were wet on the ground, the mats kept us up off the floor even if just by a few mm and they were insulating too.
Sun cream - 100ml Factor 50 lasted us both as after day 1 you are really only applying it to your face (I decanted it into those flight bottles you can buy from boots), we took spf30 but didn't use it much. We also took after sun which was nice after a day in the sun to put on before we went to bed although we didn't actually get burnt.
Wet wipes - I took too many (two packs, could have done with one) but they were indispensable for having a 'bath' in the tent after a long day, also for wiping off kit, shoes etc.
Antibacterial gel and wipes and nail brush - There was water for hand washing in a bucket in camp most nights and I gave my hands a good brush each night with a nail brush and soap, but the alcohol gels were an essential for using before lunch or just through the day. I also used anti bacterial wipes on my hands, and wiped off the end of my camel pack hose and the water bottle mouths with them sporadically. Getting a stomach bug is really not going to help you reach the summit!
Walking poles - I had never used them before but they were good for the descent, and helpful to steady myself with when I was a bit wobbly. To be honest I wasn't sure about them on the flat ground and sometimes they got in the way on more scrambly parts, but if you get ones which easily fold down they they can just go on the back of your bag.
Bin liners - We were told to line our bags and also to put our stuff inside bin liners and ziplock bags to keep it dry. However our holdalls were put inside thick plastic bags anyway during transit so they stayed dry, we used the bin liners on two nights though on the bottom of our tents when water was seeping through to keep us dry so they were invaluable. The ziplock bags were useful for keeping things separated and ease of packing as well.
Lip salve - You will probably get chapped or dry lips.
Glasses wearers - Take some solution and a cloth, the volcanic dust really stuck to my lenses and I had this tip before I went which I was thankful of. I bought a mini kit from boots which included a wipe, solution and a little tool with spare screws etc. I also took a spare pair of glasses just in case as it would be over for me if I broke my glasses unless someone was willing to literally guide me up there step by step.
Throat Sweets and Tissues - After summit night everyone had a runny chapped nose and a sore throat. I took plenty of losenges as I had heard about this before we went, they were essential and I gave lots out to others. I didn't take any tissues though and wish I had, I was using loo roll to blow my nose which didn't help with the soreness.
Meds - I went a bit OTT here but I always do. You need to take painkillers, anti inflammatories, throat losenges, plasters and blister plasters as a minimum. I also took antihistamine cream (I always get bitten and I did use this) and deep heat rub, loperamide capsules as well as immodium melts, some dulcolax, some dressings, stoma pouch extensions (best things for back of heel blisters!) and some antiseptic cream. I didn't use most of it and took too many of each thing, but it would be worse to need it and not have it right?
What we took which we could have lived without:
Snacks - I would take some but not so many. I lost my appetite from altitude. Plus we were so well fed that I probably would have only needed minimal snacks even if I was eating normally (cooked breakfast, 3 course lunch and 3 course dinner every day!). They were good as a morale boost, on summit night it was nice to have some sweets every time we stopped and I saved my favourite ones until then however for the rest of the week I hardly touched the massive amount of food I took. If I went again I would take a few packets of sweets and 3 protein bars at the most. This will vary per person though on how you eat at home.
Electronics - We only used the camera. I took my Ipod and never used it, we both also took our phones mainly as back up in case the camera died but didn't use them either. We took 2 spare camera batteries too as we had heard the cold can cause batteries to die. We put our electrical items in our sleeping bags at night though and it was fine so we didn't need them.
Gaiters - I wore them on summit night but didn't think they really did anything, although my Salopettes had sort of in built gaiters too. Tom didn't wear his at all.
Ear plugs - We slept well, I used ear plugs briefly on the first night but found them uncomfortable.
Loo roll - We took a roll of toilet paper each and only used it for drying the bottom of our tent when it got rained on, I would alternate one of these rolls for some packs of nice tissues for noses. There was a toilet tent in camp with loo roll, so we weren't going to use a whole roll each as well over 5 days!
Cosmetics - There was talc and vaseline on our kit list which we all brought but were a bit mystified as to why. We only used the vaseline afterwards for chapped noses after summit night. We didn't use the talc, some people did on their feet or after a wash on their bodies but only because they brought it. I also took a small pot of moisturiser in case of chapped skin on my face, which I didn't use as I had after sun.
Cards, a book, ipod etc - We didn't need any evening entertainment as our team was very sociable and we played charades, sang, talked etc in the mess tent most nights. Also you will be tired and going to bed early, so don't need too much entertainment for the down time.
Hope that's helpful to someone I read a few similar posts before I went and found it useful to compare what others had taken and found useful or not.
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