Climbing Kilimanjaro can be an enchanting experience, which evokes images of the mystical Dendrosenecio forest and authentic wilderness. However, while immersing yourself in the natural scenery on the mountain may feel glamorous, the question of what to do when nature calls is not as romantic.
Indeed, sanitation and hygiene are a little bit of a taboo topic when it comes to knowing how to climb Kilimanjaro and stay clean.
Fortunately, there are a few options available to you while you’re at the campsites. However, knowing what to do between hikes is still a concern for many travelers and we’ll be discussing all of this in a little more detail later in this blog.
We will also discuss what shower and washing facilities there are on Kilimanjaro.
If you would like more information on how to prepare for a trip to Kilimanjaro, be sure to visit our Climb Kilimanjaro Experience Page.
What are the public toilets on Mount Kilimanjaro like?
Depending on your campsite and altitude, the public toilet facilities that you'll encounter on Kilimanjaro range from flush toilets at some lower campsites to very basic wooden squat ladrines. The state of cleanliness varies greatly and has caused a fair bit of disgust amongst climbers. At larger campsites, the public toilet facilities may also be a bit of a walk from your tent which is not ideal especially overnight when temperatures often drop below freezing. Therefore, private toilet tents have become popular on the mountain.
What are the private toilets on Mount Kilimanjaro like?
A private toilet tent is a tall stand-up size tent with a portable chemical toilet unit that has a seat and a flush. They're easy to put up and dismantle, and can be carried up the mountain with the help of an additional porter. Private toilet tents provide a more convenient, comfortable and cleaner alternative to the poor public toilet facilities on Mount Kilimanjaro.
Will I have access to my private toilet tent while hiking?
It is not possible to have access to a private toilet tent while hiking. If you have hired one or it is included in your package, your private toilet tent will be available as soon as you arrive at camp, as your toilet porter will transport it between the different camps and set it up for you.
On longer hiking days that include a warm lunch stop, you may also have access to your toilet tent during lunch. If you need to use the toilet while you are hiking or between camps, your guide will help you find the best option.
It is almost always possible to find bushes or rocks en route that will allow you to go native in privacy.
What’s the etiquette when using nature for my toilet business?
The key thing to consider when using mother nature to go to the toilet is to ensure that you do not leave any trace. This helps to keep Kilimanjaro clean and free of waste and sewage. So if you need to urinate while hiking, collect any toilet paper that you use and put it in a separate bag. You can then dispose of it in the communal trash at camp. If you need to defecate, ideally you should try to wait until you can use the toilets that are available at camp. However, if you need to go urgently, then try to cover up any waste by burying it or putting rocks on top of it and place any tissues in a bag to dispose of at camp.
Are there bathrooms and showers on Mount Kilimanjaro?
There are no permanent shower or bathing facilities available on Mount Kilimanjaro. However, all our tour operator partners will provide you with a daily hot bowl of washing water. Some also provide a hand wash station for use at camp.
If you require, it is possible to upgrade your climb with a portable hot mountain shower & tent, which all our VIP packages also include by default. Simply let us know when booking if you'd like to use a mountain shower, and we'll customize your Kilimanjaro climb accordingly.
How will I wash when on Mount Kilimanjaro?
There are no showers on Kilimanjaro. Therefore, it's best to really scrub yourself in the last shower you take before your climb begins. Hygiene on Kilimanjaro is limited to water and any sort of wipes or cloths that you bring.
Water for washing your hands and face will be provided daily. Otherwise, baby wipes or other premoistened towelettes are recommended. You can use them to freshen up after a long climb, in the morning and before bed.
How will I wash my hair when climbing Kilimanjaro?
We recommend using dry shampoo to keep your hair and scalp clean while climbing Kilimanjaro. Baby powder also works well for this purpose.
However, we do not recommend that you wash your hair with soap and water during your climb. This is because as you gradually get to the higher elevations, it becomes much colder. Rain, wind and cold weather are not uncommon, so washing your hair in the traditional way could potentially make you unwell.
Is it worthwhile to have a portable shower for my Mount Kilimanjaro climb?
Whether it's worthwhile to have a portable mountain shower for your Kilimanjaro climb depends on your personal preferences. Most climbers do not need it, while those who have it wouldn't want to miss it.
If you're new to camping in the wild for consecutive nights, imagining a week without a shower may be a scary thought. However, most climbers will find that it's not as uncomfortable as they imagine it to be. Overcoming this initial fear is all part of the unique personal growth experience that makes Kilimanjaro such a rewarding mountain to climb. In hindsight, you will likely feel proud of having managed a week without a shower. Even though operators who offer mountain showers would typically also provide warm water, you may also find it too cold to take off your clothes and shower.
Climbers who book a portable mountain shower & wash tent, on the other hand, also tend to use it. They enjoy the comfort and flexibility to take a shower on days when they don't feel too cold, and are happy about their decision to book a tour that includes a warm mountain shower.
The bathroom facilities on Kilimanjaro are fairly basic. Unless you opt for private toilet and shower facilities, you may find that the toilet is little more than a hole in the ground in a wooden shack, while some water is provided for you to wash.
However, the real challenge is knowing what to do when you are between hikes. Toilet facilities will be available at your camp. However, if nature calls while you are between hikes, then it’s a question of knowing when and how to answer.
If it’s really not possible to wait, then the key is to ensure that you leave no trace behind by taking a disposable bag with you to store any tissues which you can then discard in the bins at camp.
Of course, if you would prefer to use more Western-style or comfortable facilities while you are at camp, then you will need to hire your own portable shower or toilet tent that will be used exclusively by your group.
It is also advisable to take wipes as well as enough tissues to last you for the duration of your climb.
Regardless of whether you choose to use a private toilet or shower tent or the shared facilities, it is important not to allow concerns over the comfort to dissuade you from climbing Kilimanjaro or enjoying your climb.
Climbing Kilimanjaro is one of the most rewarding things you can do and the facilities are rarely as bad as you may imagine them to be.
However, if you are concerned about the cleanliness, hygiene or comfort of the existing bathroom facilities on your climb, then this is when you may want to hire your own, or consider joining a premium climb which includes a shower tent.
Solid waste on Kilimanjaro has been a concern in the past, but by following the guidelines in this blog, you can ensure your trip is a hygienic and comfortable one.
Whether you choose a VIP or standard tour package, your Kilimanjaro climb is likely to be one of the most memorable and satisfying challenges that you’re likely to take.
For more information about how to prepare for a trip to Kilimanjaro, be sure to check out our Climb Kilimanjaro Experience page.