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Taking a camera on Kilimanjaro

It’s important to prepare properly when it comes to taking a camera on Kilimanjaro. After all, it’s likely that your camera will not have spent seven days in constant use before. What’s more, it almost certainly would not have spent much time in the dusty and/or humid conditions one finds on Kili. Nor, in all probability will it have had to put up with such extremes in temperature and weather before this trip.

What essential equipment should you bring if you’re bringing a camera on Kilimanjaro?

The first thing to do is to make sure you have enough memory cards. I take an average of 400-600 shots each time I spend a week on Kilimanjaro. That’s probably a bit extreme because I’m always taking photos for the book or website. But if you like taking photographs you could well match or even surpass these figures. Indeed, such is the frequency with which you’ll find something worth photographing, it can feel like you’ve spent the entire trip with your camera attached to your face.

For those with an SLR, regarding lenses, I always take a couple of zooms. One is a wide-angle (around 18mm-135mm) and the other a small telephoto. This latter is far less useful on Kilimanjaro, of course. Panoramic shots of the mountain and stunning wide-angle views are the order of the day. But occasionally it’s nice to zoom in on a bird of prey or a particular part of the mountain. A telephoto zoom also comes into its own if you’re going on safari after your trek (I suggest a 300m minimum for this).

And for goodness sake don’t forget to bring the charger, so you can charge your batteries the night before you head off onto the mountain. Remember, too, that it should be the UK-style three-pin plug – or bring an adaptor. (Note that there is nowhere to charge anything on the mountain itself. That said, a couple of the more expensive trekking companies do provide some sort of electricity point.)  

What other equipment should you bring?

Bring at least one spare set of batteries. What’s more, make sure all rechargeable batteries are fully charged before you set off on the mountain. It’s true that more and more photographic equipment is becoming available for sale in Arusha and, to a lesser extent, Moshi. But I certainly wouldn’t rely on them having the battery you require for your camera.

Other useful equipment includes a polarizing filter. This will bring out the rich colours of the sky, rocks and glaciers. A tripod is useful for those serious about their photography. This not only keeps the camera steady. It also allows for maximum depth of field. But remember, you’re the one who’s going to have to carry it if you want to use it during the day. (Though you could ask your agency to provide a porter for this task. Kilimanjaro Experts, for example, charges US$10 per day for an extra porter, which basically pays for his or her wages). A bean-bag, or one of those bendy ‘gorillas’, would be a more portable alternative.

Looking after your camera

If you’re taking a camera on Kilimanjaro, an essential investment is a camera-cleaning kit. Your camera goes through a lot of hardship on Kili. From the humidity of the forest to the dusty desert of the Saddle, your camera will have to put up with a lot. Either buy a ready-made kit from a camera shop. Alternatively, make one yourself by investing in a soft cloth, cotton buds, a blow brush and tweezers.

Many people with expensive SLR cameras also bring a cheap point-and-shoot compact. This is not a bad idea, as it doubles your chances of getting some photographic record of your journey. Most of you, of course, will be bringing your smartphone, which will of course have a camera facility on it.  

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