So you’ve booked your dream African safari, congratulations! You’re going to have a wonderful time. And now you’re here to learn all about what you should put on your safari packing list. Well rest assured that after 4 safaris I’m well verse in what to wear on safari and what to pack (also what not to pack).
What to Wear on Safari
Best Luggage to Bring on an African Safari
I did my first safari in Tanzania after I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. When I was told there was weight limit I was worried because I didn’t know anything about packing light at the time.
It’s true most safaris, especially ones where you’re traveling via plane have weight and size limits. During my safari in Kenya we had several flights on SafariLink and they weighed our bags upon arrival at the airport in Nairobi. Their weight limit was 15kg/33lbs per person with a maximum bag size being 35 inches (90cm) x 25 inches (65cm) x 13 inches (35cm). Bags also needed to be soft luggage so no hard shell suitcases. In fact no suitcases at all, and I’d skip duffel bags with wheels as they add unnecessary weight to your bag.
For this trip I brought my CabinZero Classic with me. Not only did I not have to check a bag on my flight (because it fits in the overhead compartment), I also had plenty of room to spare! It’s a duffel and a backpack so carrying it around was SUPER easy. My other recommendation, which I saw several people with at the tiny bush airports, is the North Face Base Camp duffel size medium. I have this bag and have taken it all over the world from Tanzania to Antarctica, and it hasn’t failed me yet. The North Face bag also has straps to make it a backpack. Both bags are great options with plenty of easy pack-able space.
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What to Wear on Safari
What to wear on safari is super easy. First, go with natural earth tones; khaki, tan, brown, and hunter green are all great choices. It can get pretty hot out on a game drive and the lighter your clothes the better off you’ll be in the heat. Additionally, a lot of dust gets kicked up by the safari trucks and you get really dirty. The tan colors will make it seem like you’re not as gross as you are. I did bring a white shirt, but I only wore it in a couple of game drives and it turned out OK.
what to wear on safari: Earth Tones and Light Fabrics
Check out my travel buddy Kate’s safari outfit in the photo below; Earth tones and light fabrics.
Another reason to wear natural earth tones is because the tse tse fly is attracted to black and blue. While they’re not prevalent in every African country, they are seen in 36 countries mostly in central and western Africa. You want to avoid these annoying little buggers as much as possible because they can carry Human African Trypanosomiasis, more commonly known as African Sleeping Sickness. Packing dark colors is one of the most common mistakes people make on an African safari.
Simple and Lightweight
For the rest of your wardrobe for the trip keep everything simple and lightweight. Most safari lodges and tented camps provide laundry services, which really helps when packing light. (check in advance to make sure yours does.) I wouldn’t bring more than 3 days worth of clothes because you can easily get everything cleaned as you travel. The only thing most lodges won’t clean are women’s underwear and bras, but they do provide laundry soap so you can do it yourself.
Enough with the chit-chat, here’s what you came for – the African safari packing list.
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African Safari Packing List and What to Wear on Safari
Shorts, Capris, and Pants: What to Wear on Safari
When it comes to what to wear on safari from the waist down it varies. Shorts, capris, and pants are all acceptable. I’m a big fan of Columbia because they make their bottoms breathable, light, and they have UV Protection. Here are my recommendations. All 3 styles come in “standard” (whatever that means, ugh.) and plus sizes.
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What to Wear on Safari: Shirts
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What to Wear on Safari: Shoes
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Hat and Sunglasses
No matter what kind of safari vehicle you have you’ll need sun protection because at some point you’re going to be in the hot sun. A pair of SunCloud Rambler Polarized Sunglasses are a must pack. I’ve had these for a while now and LOVE THEM!
As for hats, there are so many opinions on what to wear on safari. Baseball hats work, but only protect your face. I recommend a hat that will give your ears some shade too.
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Mornings and evenings can be a little chilly on safari. I recommend brings this Columbia Full Zip Fleece. It kept me nice and warm on safari and I’ve had it for years.
Kenya is a country where you should dress modestly. When I visit a country that is more modest I do my best to be as respectful as possible.
Because of that I left my bikini at home and brought my favorite one piece bathing suit. It covers everything, it’s cute, and it’s super comfy.
What to Wear on Safari: Accessories and Extras
Here are a few other items to add to your safari packing list. With recommendations below.
- Scarf – You never know when you’re going to need to cover your mouth because of dust or cover your shoulders from the sun. This scarf is lightweight and easy to pack.
- Portable Wi-Fi Device – Some safari lodges and camps have Wi-Fi and others don’t Stay in touch while your traveling with Tep Travel WiFi
- Portable charger – Whether you’re charging your smartphone or camera battery this Anker Portable Changer has you covered. I’ve taken this device all over the world and wouldn’t leave home without it.
- Binoculars – While your guide will probably have a spare pair of binoculars for you to borrow, having your own is preferable so you can try your hand at spotting animals. These Adision Binoculars are great, not too heavy and have a smartphone mount so you can play around with photos!
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A few more things to Bring on an African Safari
A few more things you should put on your safari packing list (or do before you leave home) that you might not have thought about:
Personal Items to add to your Safari Packing List
- Basic first Aid kit with with tums just in case you get an upset stomach. We all know how much that can suck, so be prepared!
- Personal toiletries like a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, and anything else you need.
- You’ll be out in the hot sun so bring sunscreen. I’m a big fan of Bare Republic Mineral Sunscreen, it’s great for your skin and if you decide to head to the coast after your safari it’s reef safe too.
- Bug spray is important for keeping the tsetse flies, mosquitoes, and other insects away. Sawyer Products makes a great Picaridin Bug Spray that I use on all my adventures. It’s just as effective as DEET, but less toxic.
- Any medications (like malaria pills) or vaccinations you might need for your safari destination. Talk to your primary care physician or go to a travel clinic well in advance of departure to make sure you’re covered.
Things to make your Trip Easier
- A head lamp or lightweight flashlight are always something I pack no matter where I’m going. You never know if you’re going to need it and sometimes areas aren’t well lit at night. I have the Petzl Actik Headlamp and it works like a charm.
- I know people that have arrived at the airport and forgot to bring their passport. Also check to make sure it is valid for at least 6 months after your arrival. Many countries will not allow entry if there are less than 6 months left in validity.
- Last but not least, don’t forget your travel insurance. In my Kenyan Safari blog post I talked a little about how many outfitters and lodges require travel insurance, and how unpredictable a safari can be. Be safe and get travel insurance.
- Cash in US dollars to give for tips for your guide and lodging staff.
What not to Wear on Safari (or pack)
While some people think you can pack too much when traveling when it comes to a safari those people are wrong. In fact there are several things you don’t need to bring with you on safari.
The first thing you shouldn’t add to your safari packing list are snacks. I thought otherwise, because I’m always hungry, but ended up ditching the few snacks I had. This is because is many safari lodges or tented camps animals can get in your living space. I for one NEVER want to come into my tent or room and have a monkey inside.
Don’t Bring Food on Safari
Additionally, we were fed so much food I didn’t need any snacks. From bush breakfasts, to breakfast at the camp, then lunch, followed by tea, a sundowner snack and drink, and finishing off the day with dinner, I didn’t want for a single thing when it came to food.
Now this is something you should check with your outfitter or safari lodge, but I’ve never needed to bring my own shampoo, conditioner, or soap. Basic toiletries are usually provided while on safari and that will help with the weight of your bag. Unless there is something that you need, save yourself the space in your luggage and use what is provided.
When it comes to shoes only pack 1 pair of sneakers or hiking boots. You won’t need anything more, but make sure they’re sturdy as there might be times when you’re walking on uneven terrain, or maybe your lodge or camp offers a walking safari. If your lodge or camp has a pool pack a pair of flip-flops to wear to and from the pool.
The last thing you don’t need on your safari packing list is any fancy clothing. The clothes you wear on game drives are perfectly fine to wear to meals. I almost brought a cute dress and glad I left it at home. In my opinion there is no need to pack a dress when going on safari.
5 thoughts on “What to Wear on Safari: The Ultimate Safari Packing List”
Love this comprehensive guide, thank you for sharing!
This is fantastic!! Everything I could possibly need for a Safari, but also many travel needs. I’m going to do some shopping right now 🙂
I didn’t even realize that there could potentially be a weight limit to how much you can pack, which is super helpful to think about beforehand. Plus you’re super mobile, so it makes sense why you would need to bring just the essentials with you. A perfect packing guide for the dream safari I will one day take! For sure saving this for future reference!
Like you, I did my first safari after climbing Kilimanjaro. I don’t think I wore much else than a t-shirt and those zip-off pants. The animals didn’t care. Your idea about non-deet bug spray is great. And good binocs are key.
This is a great post! Not too overwhelming, but just right! I have been thinking about 2021 bucket list travel goals and this surely will be on the list. I will be saving this post to return to when I can book a safari!