“Do I really need to bring that?”
There’s a ton of articles floating around the Internet that detail what you need to bring for the Mt Kinabalu climb. Remarkably, they pretty much agree on almost everything. Except for the bloke who suggests bringing a hair drier. Here is my list, compiled from the collective wisdom of those who went before me.
General Notes on Clothing
All too many people are unprepared for the conditions. It’s not just the 0-10 degree temperatures you experience at the top, but also 20-40 km/h (or higher) winds. Many people under-dress. They might be fine as long as they keep moving but as soon as they stop they start to freeze. People have reached the summit before sunrise but have been unable to stick around for another 20 minutes because they get too cold. Some have over-dressed, and ended up overheating as they climbed despite low temperatures. Plus, of course, the weight penalty that wearing heavy clothes involves.
Layering is another subject worth checking into. The concept – adding or removing layers of clothing as needed – is simple but there’s more to it than that. REI.com has an excellent primer on the subject at Layering Basics
For the conditions on MK, we’ll need three layers: a base layer of some kind of wicking fabric that will manage moisture/perspiration, an insulating layer (fleece or similar) and an outer layer to protect against wind and rain. OutdoorGearLab.com has a more in-depth discussion at Introduction to Layered Clothing Systems
Aside from the range of climates and temperatures that we’ll encounter as we climb, we’re very likely to get rained on at some point. Keeping dry is as important as keeping warm. You need to keep your torso dry at the very least but keeping your hands and feet dry is important too. Cold, wet hands make it hard to use the ropes even with gloves.
General Notes on Equipment
I do a lot of hiking here in Quy Nhon, but it’s generally lovely, balmy weather here and I rarely do hikes longer than 4 hours or so. I use my hashing gear for hiking. Kinabalu is a different game, though. I’ve got some serious shopping to do before the climb. I’ll need new shoes, decent trousers, a backpack and trekking poles for starters.
The advantage of the 2D1N package that we’ve signed up for is that we only need clothes for two days, not three. We’re looking at three legs to plan for when we climb Mount Kinabalu (note the cunning way I’m recycling my text).
- Leg 1 – Timpohon Gate to Laban Rata starts off quite humid, but the temperature drops a lot as we climb.
Start out with shorts or hiking pants (perhaps the ones with detachable legs) and t-shirt or long sleeve shirt (lightweight jumper). As the temperature drops, add layers as needed.
- Leg 2 – Laban Rata to Low’s Peak and back will be cold (especially for us tropical types).
We can shower and change at Laban Rata. We’ll change into the gear that we’ll wear to the top. When we start the climb in the morning, layers again: shirt, jumper (or two), jacket plus gloves, beanie or scarf. It can get bitterly cold as you approach the summit so you need to protect nose and ears.
- Leg 3 – Laban Rata to Timpohon Gate will be cool, becoming warmer and more humid.
Pretty much the reverse of coming up. If we’re lucky enough to stay dry on Leg 2 then we can settle for changing shirts at Laban Rata.
- Shoes: for Mt Kinabalu, heavy duty hiking boots aren’t needed. Hiking boots or shoes are fine as long as they’re comfortable, lightweight, rugged and have good tread and grip. Boots provide better ankle support. Personally, I swear by Merrell shoes, been using them for years.
- Socks: I wear long footie socks for hashing, these are probably a good choice. They’ll provide extra insulation for lower legs. I’d like to work out a good way of keeping my feet dry, however. (plastic bags over your socks, maybe?). Leggings will help a lot, I think.
- Pants: They should be lightweight and water resistant. It’s a balance, though – the more waterproof they are the heavier. Avoid jeans – they weigh a ton when they’re wet and don’t dry out.
- Shirts: I’m going to go for this – wicking t-shirt, long-sleeve lightweight cotton shirt, light jumper, heavy jumper, lightweight waterproof jacket (perhaps with hood)
- Gloves: I’ve got a lovely pair of toasty warm woolen gloves that I’m taking (These were a Christmas gift from my sister-in-law, Lady Godiva. Hash names…). I’m not sure how they’ll handle wet weather however. Waterproof over-gloves maybe?
- Hat: I don’t need to talk to Aussies about hats.
- Underwear/socks: enough for the trip plus extra for emergencies.
- Lightweight backpack: capable of carrying up to 10 kilos.
- Small day pack: for Leg 2. You don’t want to carry any more than you have to to the summit: water, snacks, layers, etc. Maybe a maximum of 2-3 kilos.
- Trekking poles: I’ve never used them but Jim swears by them. They’re highly recommended for MK.
- Wet weather gear: Rain jacket or poncho. Ponchos cover your backpack. A lot of sites recommend disposable raincoats, they’re lightweight. A water-resistant windbreaker is great for all conditions short of a heavy rain. Plastic bags for keeping stuff in your backpack dry.
- Head lamp: Critical. You need enough battery power to last 3-4 hours.
- Belt bag: One with one or two pouches and water bottle holder. I’d prefer one that holds two water bottles.
- Knee/ankle braces: Optional. I’m going to use them.
- GPS: absolutely noncritical… but I like to keep tabs on my progress as well as time/distance to destination.
- Power bank: If you’ve got a digital camera, a GPS and/or a phone, critical. If you travel naked (electronically speaking) don’t bother.
- Whistle: a loud one in case you get lost or separated from your group.
- First Aid Kit
- Medication: paracetamol, ibuprofen, Diamox (for altitude sickness), imodium (just in case)
- Bandages: bandages (elastic), bandaids, antiseptic, safety pins, etc
- Sunscreen: the sun can get pretty fierce up there.
That’s everything I can think of so far, but no doubt I’ll add to it over the coming months.