Many who hike Mt. Rinjani claim it’s one of the hardest, yet rewarding, things they’ve ever done – and I’m the first to jump in line to agree. Over the course of four days, I sweat more than I thought possible, ascended and descended over an entire crater, and felt immensely proud of myself once I exited the national park. However, every single pang of soreness and ounce of sweat was worth it to see the sunrise from the top of a volcano, a surreal experience that is unlike anything else in the world.
The summit of Mt. Rinjani
Preparing to Trek Mt. Rinjani
Whoever created the trail for Mt. Rinjani did not believe in switchbacks. You hike up, and then you hike down. Almost the entire route is steep, no matter whether you start at Senaru or Sembalun Lawang. This guide will focus on starting at Sembalun Lawang and ending in Sanaru, though it is relevant to all trekkers planning to conquer Mt. Rinjani. All tour operators will be going through the same route.
Trekkers can complete the entire route in three to five days. The summit alone can be done in an intense two-day journey. However, I recommend that you choose the four-day, three-night option for the best experience. If really pressed for time, the three-day trek is an option as well – though you won’t have as much time to relax.
When to go: The trail is open from April to October. However, the best months are between June and October because they are the driest.
Difficulty: Even experienced hikers rate this trek as challenging. Expect to walk up to seven hours per day for multiple days in a row. Prepare by jogging, strength training, and hiking nearby hills.
Best time to book: If you book 12 weeks in advance, you can save roughly $42 (6%) off the average price paid over the year to Indonesia.
Packing your backpack properly
Prepare for trekking Mt. Rinjani by hiking with your fully packed backpack and shoes, if new, ahead of time.
Many beginners over-pack or bring the wrong type of backpack for their first trek. Ideally, you’ll want a small backpack with hip support. Bring a backpack that buckles at the hips, so that your hips take the majority of the weight instead of your shoulders. A typical backpack or schoolbag, if packed too heavily, will put too much pressure on your shoulders and cause back and shoulder pain. Distribute the weight so that the heaviest items are placed near your lower back.
Pack as few items as possible. Remember that you’ll be carrying this backpack with you at all times so cull anything that isn’t necessary. If you’re bringing a large backpack, resist the temptation to fill it completely. You’ll only need the essentials listed below.
What to Pack for Mt. Rinjani
You wouldn’t expect that anywhere in Southeast Asia can get cold, but it does on the crater, at night, and at the summit of Mt. Rinjani. Even if your trek to Mt. Rinjani is a small part of a larger trip, you’ll want use precious luggage space packing a comfortable jacket and pair of trousers. Your trekking company will cover camping equipment, food, and water. Double check their packing requirements before you go.
Here is everything you need:
- 1-2 pairs of comfortable trousers/running tights for the summit and cold days. Delegating one pair for trekking and one pair for sleeping will feel luxurious to change into after a long day.
- 1-2 pairs of shorts
- 2-4 T-shirts
- 1 long-sleeved shirt to layer if the temperature drops
- 1 windproof jacket
- 1 knit hat
- 3-4 pairs of underwear
- 3-4 pairs of socks
- 1 pair of gloves for the summit (can be bought for $2 near the check-in station)
- 1 headlamp or flashlight (headlamp is preferred)
- A bag to keep your dirty clothes in
- Sunglasses and hat
Don’t bother bringing shampoo, conditioner, or anything else you’d only use in the shower. It’s not worth the weight and a dip in the hot spring will double as your bath.
- A small first-aid kit containing antiseptic ointment, bandages, and tape for blisters. Ibuprofen for days you’re extremely sore. Any medications, contact lenses, feminine products, or other items that you need.
Optional (but recommended) extras
- 1 pair of thongs or sandals to wear during downtime
- A bathing suit for the hot springs
- A steel water bottle for water during the day and hot tea at night. I filled my water bottle with boiling water before bedtime and slept with it as a makeshift heater in my sleeping bag.
- Camera – preferably with a wide-angle lens – and extra battery.
- Lightweight hiking stick for extra support
- A sarong or very small towel
- Two words: Baby wipes. There will be dirt in places you did not know it could get to.
Choosing a Company to Trek With
Unfortunately, not all companies are equal when it comes to choosing a tour operator on Mt. Rinjani. Many do not practice environmentally conscious actions, often leaving a plethora of waste (both plastic and human) along the trail. This often is the case with the very low-priced companies, who lead up to twenty trekkers per guide. Look for a company that prides itself in removing waste from the mountain.
It is also dangerous to hike with a company that has a high trekker to guide ratio. If an accident happens, you’ll want someone close by who can arrange help. A reputable company will have around one guide per every five trekkers.
Many companies will serve bland meals and have worn-out tents, sleeping bags, and mats at the lower price points. After hours of hiking, the only thing you’ll want is nutritious food in your belly and a comfortable bed to sleep in. Make sure that the company you go with takes care of their equipment by reading reviews from other travellers.
We recommend: Green Rinjani. Green Rinjani has incredible porters, guides, and equipment. The trekking company is conscious of removing plastic from the mountain and prioritises the safety of its trekkers. They have one guide leading the front and one trailing at the back to make sure that everyone is okay at all times. I didn’t expect some of my favorite meals in all of Indonesia to be served during my trek, but the porters doubled as fantastic chefs.
Tips for hiking Mt. Rinjani
Commit to a mantra
As I said earlier, many parts of the trail are incredibly steep which can be a shock if you’re not an experienced hiker or are used to hiking gradual inclines. The summit is especially challenging due to the steepness and loose ash. The last hour to the summit consists of walking two steps forward and sliding one step backward. Stay motivated through the challenging parts by focusing on taking slow, steady footsteps while repeating a mantra in your head.
Some mantras that helped me:
“Never stop moving.”
“Step by step, I will get there.”
“I can take one more step.”
For me, the thought that little by little, I will eventually make it was motivating. Your inspiration might be different. Maybe your mantra will focus on how proud you’ll be, how far you’ve come already, or something else. Though the hike is physically challenging, it also takes mental strength to keep walking when the top seems too far away.
Take frequent, short breaks
Stop often, and for just a short amount of time. Try not to get so tired that you feel like you have to sit down or rest for too long – this can cause lactic acid to build up and the stop-start action can be demotivating. Usually, resting for just a minute or two is enough to catch your breath again and keep going. Obviously, if you’re feeling ill or dizzy, rest and drink water until you’re feeling better.
Drink (water, of course) like a fish
The heat, humidity, and physical intensity of trekking Mt. Rinjani is extremely dehydrating. Drinking water every time that you rest, even when you’re not thirsty, is the best way to stay healthy on your trip.
Leave Mt. Rinjani better than you found it
Unfortunately, the tourism industry has not had the best impact on Mt. Rinjani. Many parts of the trail are littered with human waste and plastic. Combat this by sticking to the trail, trekking with an environmentally conscious company, leaving all natural flora and fauna alone, and using common courtesy.
Don’t forget to enjoy the view!
Trekking Mt. Rinjani is challenging no matter your fitness level, and it can often feel like you’ve spent the entire journey looking for obstacles on the ground. Be sure to lift your head up and observe your surroundings every once in a while. The views you’ll experience are unlike anywhere else on earth are the reward for a hard day’s work.
Ready to lace up those hiking boots and see Mt. Rinjani for yourself? Skyscanner Australia can help you plan flights, hire a car, and find a hotel to rest those sore legs at after your trek.