Outfitters: booking with the big boys

Now that we've talked about some of the necessary equipment, we probably need to say a word or two about who you might want to climb with. In my experience, there are essentially three tiers of outfitters: high, middle and low.

The high end outfitters are many of the global tour companies we've all come to know and respect like National Geographic, REI Adventures and a few others. There are also some that specialize on Tanzania or east Africa like Thompson Safaris. In fact, Thompson Safaris just set up a deal to provide free fitness training to clients. As you can imagine, these are the more expensive options but they also come with a number of benefits, mostly focused on safety and comfort.

For safety you'll typically travel with a fully certified and accomplished American mountaineer and have the security of dealing with a name brand organization. A fully certified mountain guide can be invaluable, especially if you plan to do a lot of mountaineering after Kilimanjaro. The guide can provide details on altitude sickness, breathing and rest-step techniques, the physiology of altitude sickness and the impact of drugs like Diamox. They are also emergy first responders and can help you in the event of an emergency.

The comfort side is a bit harder to quantify. No matter how cushy your outfitter everyone still has to get up the mountain on his/her own power. But these higher-end outfitters do make things a bit easier. The two biggest areas are in the dining and defecation dept. They typically provide huge dining tents with full chairs, tables and a very high quality of food. They also typically provide their own toilet. So if you get "performance anxiety" over a standard pit toilet this may be the option for you.

All of this safety and comfort does come at a cost though. These folks usually start at over US$3,000 for just the climb itself. Safaris and transportation are extra. If you've got the money you really can't go wrong with these companies. But if not, there are other safe and comfortable options to consider with the mid-tier outfitters. But you'll have to wait until Tuesday to hear about them.
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