The Definitive Guide to Packing for Safari

Posted March 8, 2017 by Nellie Huang in Travel Tips

If you haven’t perfected your packing skills into a fine art, this is your chance. If you’re fascinated by the concept of economy applied to weight and space, prepare to master bundling. Yes, you can stash everything you need to enjoy jungles, rain forests and savannas in just one bag.

All you have to do is understand how to pack for safari. Focus on a balance between necessity and comfort. Make a list. Cut it in half. Rework it into categories. Use this definitive overview to keep it all organized.

Start With the Right Bag

Most safaris start with bush flights into base camps. Brave but small planes have to set limits, so expect an average 25-pound weight restriction on your luggage. Make it work by working with a bag that’s meant for this kind of travel. Start by avoiding anything that’s rigid or rolls on wheels.

You want something made from flexible, water-resistant material. You’ll be carrying it yourself, so comfortable handles are a must. Padded harness straps and interior compression webbing earn bonus points. This type of system lets you backpack as needed while it keeps stuff from shifting and crumpling.


Choose Your Wardrobe Wisely

You don’t have to ditch style to dress for trekking, but keep colors well within standard safari tones. Bright hues scare off the wildlife you’ve traveled so far to see. Blacks, whites and blues turn you into a target for tsetse flies.

A dozen of anything creates an unnecessary crowd. Mobile camps take care of the laundry, so save packing space with just two or three of your basics. This list of safari clothes fits into your bag with room to spare for gear, cameras and personal items.

  • Shirts – Two long-sleeved and two short-sleeved shirts are enough to cover you for the trip. Make sure they’re lightweight and easy to layer. Include a pair of T-shirts that double as sleeping wear.
  • Pants – Convertible cargo pants let you adjust to temperature swings. Zip-off legs come in handy when you want to change on the trail. Save favorite jeans or yoga pants for lounging around camp.
  • Footwear – Don’t buy new for the trip. Your feet will thank you for wearing boots or sports shoes that are already broken in. Bring along a pair of flip-flops for relaxing back at your tent.
  • Extras – Keep the weather off your back with a poncho slicker or lightweight rain jacket, and keep it off your head with a waterproof hat. Socks and bandanas treated with repellants help discourage bugs. Make sure nights stay comfortably warm with a sweater or sarong wrap.


Go With Basic Gear

It’s easy to justify bringing along a digital tablet. The device serves as a desk for sorting and storing photos, making travel journal entries and exploring safari route maps. Give it a chance to survive dust and humidity with zippered protection in a neoprene sleeve.

Keep low-tech gear basic too, and be sure to bring along:

  • An LED flashlight with extra batteries.
  • Compact field binoculars that feature image stabilizing.
  • Polarized sunglasses and non-fragrant sunscreen.
  • A small, ultra-light day pack for carrying things on the trail.

Double Your Camera Power

Between a good digital SLR camera and a small power shot model, you can capture lions at leisure and flamingos in flight. Changing an SLR setup gets dusty and risky when you’re tracking wildlife or one of the big five, so stick with one macro lens that handles long shots and close-ups without distortion. Impress your safari outfitter with your travel smarts by leaving tripods and telescopic lenses at home.

Autofocus and image stabilizing are great features for your smaller camera. Stash extra memory cards, batteries and lens wipes in your day pack. Pay attention to colors. Just like your clothes, anything other than tan or brown converts a camera bag into a bug magnet.


Take Care of Yourself

Experienced safari outfitters keep you safe in the field and back at camp, but it’s always a good idea to back up personal care. Put together a small, first-aid kit with:

  • Tweezers, bandages and blister pads.
  • Antibiotic cream, antihistamines and aspirins.
  • Anti-malarial pills and cortisone cream.

Pack a few things for pampering yourself in the wild. Non-fragrant hand lotion and soothing eye drops become mini-spa treatments at the end of a long day. Personalize sleeping space with a small pillow for comfort, and wrap yourself in a warm shawl that doubles as an extra blanket and all-round camp cover-up.


You Can Go Anywhere

Mastering the art of packing for safari almost happens with the first try. Once you’re immersed in the adventure of a lifetime, you understand more clearly what does and doesn’t work for you. As you refine your packing skills, you become every safari outfitter’s dream: a client who brings one bag and doesn’t need anything else.

You become that confident traveler who looks forward to enjoying every new horizon because you’re prepared. Anyone can stuff suitcases and trunks for treks across a continent. It’s far more satisfying to know that you can go on safari with just one well-packed bag.

About the Author

Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of WildJunket. As a professional travel writer with a special interest in offbeat destinations, she has written for numerous publications including CNN, International Business Times, BBC, Wend, and Lonely Planet. In her quest for adventure, she’s climbed an active volcano in Guatemala, swam with sea lions in the Galapagos, played with lemurs in Madagascar and cruised alongside penguins in Antarctica.

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