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 and almost certainly not in the dusty and/or humid conditions one finds on Kili, with its extremes of temperature and weather.
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 and while that’s probably a bit extreme, if you like taking photographs you could well match or even surpass these figures. Indeed it may feel as if you’ve spent the entire trip with your camera attached to your face, such is the frequency with which you find something worth photographing.
Bring at least one spare set of batteries and make sure all rechargeable batteries are fully charged before you set off on the mountain. 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. 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. (Note that there is nowhere to charge anything on the mountain itself, though a couple of the more expensive trekking companies do provide some sort of electricity point.)
For those with an SLR, regarding lenses, I always take a couple of zooms: a wide-angle (around 18mm-135mm) and a telephoto. This latter is far less useful on Kilimanjaro, of course, as 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).
Other useful equipment includes a polarizing filter to bring out the rich colours of the sky, rocks and glaciers. A tripod is useful for those serious about their photography, in order to keep the camera steady and allow for maximum depth of field – though 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); a bean-bag, or one of those new, bendy ‘gorillas’, would be a more portable alternative. One other essential investment is a camera-cleaning kit. Your camera goes through a lot of hardship on Kili, not least because of the different vegetation zones you pass through, from the humidity of the forest to the dusty desert of the Saddle. Either buy a ready-made kit from a camera shop or 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.