Here’s the one-stop-shop packing list for safari! This list is what works for me, and is mainly for a safari in Southern or East Africa, during the southern hemisphere winter months.
Clothing can be very tricky – the key factor is layers – you’ll peel off in the morning and add in the afternoon. Africa is colder than most people expect. The wind chill factor on the open vehicle, especially in the early morning, will drop the temperatures by a few more degrees.
Colours must ideally be neutral. Khaki / green / brown / blue are all good to go. Avoid bright colours as they attract the bugs. They think you are a flower and are keen to investigate for nectar! White is not encouraged for walking safaris, as you attract attention from the animals by being very easy to spot – white sticks out like a sore thumb in the bush.
Here are the 10 things I don’t leave home without:
- A soft sided, robust bag. This must not be too big – it needs to fit into small planes. There are none better than the Dirt Road Outfitters trail bag.
- This bag is bullet proof, mine has gone on multiple safaris, for 12 years now!
- Tough enough to withstand the rigours of airports
- Stylish and big enough for all your needs.
- It also fits into carry on for international flights.
Another option is waterproof medium size duffel bags.
- For safari clothing, let’s start with a good outer layer. You will want a warm jacket – generally the best idea is a light waterproof / windproof outer shell. The Torrentshell from Patagonia is a great choice.
- Mid layer – you cannot beat down jackets. They are small, easy to pack, lightweight, and provide good warmth. Fleece and wool are also suitable options here.
- For your base layer – you will want cotton or wicking material tee shirts, long or short sleeve, are 100%.
- Shoes – trail running sneakers are best for all round versatility. They are comfortable and allow you to walk longer trails. Also add a pair of flip flops or sandals for cruising around camp during the day.
- Binoculars – if you leave everything else behind, don’t forget these. This is my favourite pair of binoculars – the best quality and great value for money. Best overall magnification is 8 x 30 or 8 x 42. Smaller is easier and lighter, bigger is cumbersome and unnecessary.
- Camera equipment – most smart phones have amazing quality for stills and video. You do miss out on the zoom, but there is a cheat! Using one lens of your binoculars to shoot through – takes a bit of practice but once you get it right it’s really cool. Zoom in with your camera to 1.4 magnification before you line up. Some editing software – I love Snapseed – really easy and quick to use, and it offers many “quick fixes”
- Toiletries – personal items, don’t forget to include mozzie repellent. Some of the natural citronella ones work really well, but if mozzies love you then a stronger DEET based option may be more suitable.
- Small extra kit – a beanie or hat, scarf and gloves are always welcome, especially in the mornings. If you plan to get an early start, you will want to layer up, and peel off as you go. Don’t forget a hat or cap to keep the sun at bay during the day.
- What not to bring…
- Flashy jewelry, bright colours (insects think you are flower!)
- White is generally not great as it is very obvious to the animals – especially during walking safaris. The game will spot you from a mile away and be galloping off before you’ve had a chance to see them.
- You’ll also not require any fancy dinner gear. In camp you will often go straight to dinner after the afternoon drive.
As far as safari outfitters go, I am a bit biased toward Patagonia. It’s expensive, but fantastic quality, and the company has admirable environmental and community ethics.