Packing for Mount Mulanje

Packing for Mount Mulanje

If you’re not a regular hiker, packing for a hike in Mulanje can be quite a daunting task. This blog includes some of my recommendations based on what went right and not so right on the packing side for us. For more about the hike itself, you can have a look at a post I wrote about hiking Mount Mulanje.


Barring the obvious food and water items, a headlamp is probably the next most useful thing to pack for this hike. It gets pretty dark up in the mountains and finding your food, bed, the toilet etc is pretty difficult in the dark.

Water bottles are an absolute must. While some routes follow rivers and you have no shortage of water at all, other don’t and you will definitely need water bottles. Malawi is warm – don’t underestimate how much water you’ll need to drink.

We packed plastic cups which were great for GnTs but not so great when we wanted coffee. I would recommend packing light tin cups that can be used for both hot and cold drinks. Seeing that you’re taking the cups, don’t forget to take along some instant coffee. If you’re a light sleeper you’ll struggle to sleep in the huts and you’ll really want your coffee the next day!

Part 1 of day 1

It’s great to feel all fit and healthy when doing a hike. But do you know what’s even better? Snacks. A little sugar boost is a great distraction from the aching, sweaty limbs. The pack of Mentos that I took along was an absolute win.

A swimming costume is an absolute must. You will definitely want to cool down along the way.

A bath/swimming towel sound great but they take up space and are pretty heavy when wet. I chose to rather take a sarong with me that fit easily into my backpack and was very useful for drying off after a swim. No one wants chafe!

A first aid kit comes is really handy. Bumps, bruises, grazes, chafe, sunburn and headaches are all pretty real on the mountain. Remember to keep your first aid with you and not with your porter. The porters don’t necessarily hike right next to you the whole way so its better to keep some basic first aid items with you.

Hiking uses up a lot of energy and creates very hungry tummies but you need to make sure that you pack light food (along the lines of pasta). Heavy food with break your poor porter’s back and use up your 15kg backpack allowance pretty quickly.

The days are so warm and the evenings are so pleasant that its hard to believe you’d need warm clothes. Well, you need warm clothes. About 5 or 6 hours after sunset the temperature plummets and the cold seeps into your bones. It comes out of nowhere and it sticks around until after sunrise. Warm clothes are your friends at night!

The warm clothes won’t do you much good if you don’t have a nice warm sleeping bag. A pillow is a luxury we just didn’t have space for.

While headlamps are super useful, they aren’t great for conversation as you inevitably blind your friends all the time. Having a couple of candles to light in the evening is great for dinner time.

It’s warm out there – wear sun cream.

Mulanje 2
Part 3 of day 1

The huts are pretty rustic so don’t expect an array of cooking utensils upon your arrival. You will need to pack and carry all of your cooking stuff  with you. I’d recommend keeping it as light as possible.

Unless you have organised for backpack hire in advance, make sure you take along a big backpack for your porters as well as a small day pack for yourself. You’ll want the small one for water, snacks, first aid etc.

The hikes are steep and slippery so you would be wise to pack some good shoes. Hiking boots will no doubt be your best bet but my running shoes have good grip and worked well for me. That being said I did once take a tumble so maybe the hiking boots would have been a better bet.

The wonderful caretakers of the Mulanje will make you a hot splash bath for a small tip. This is is like a slice of heaven after a day of hiking. This makes it important to remember to pack soap as well as to carry a bit of cash on you for the tips. You’ll probably also want to tip your guide and porter after the hike because they are simply fantastic.

What not to pack:

DSLR camera – they’re heavy and will possibly get bashed and damaged on this tough hike.

Fancy clothes – they will probably get dirty and possibly torn so choose wisely.

iPod – ignore the distraction. Rather absorb your surroundings; its better than any song.







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