Deciding what to wear on safari is easier said than done. The weather in Africa is nothing like one would expect: most people think that this part of the world is constantly warm, if not unbearably hot. Nothing could be more farther from reality. Africa, especially southern Africa, does get quite cold, indeed!
I visited Southern African between May and June, in what is winter in the southern hemisphere. I traveled for 5 weeks across the region, concentrating on South Africa, where I visited Cape Town, Stellenbosch and Johannesburg, Botswana and Namibia and with a quick stop in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. I went on 3 different safari trips and I realized the importance of knowing what to wear for safari.
Indeed, there are some items that need to be on any packing list for Africa, as they are simply essential. This post highlights what to wear on safari and includes a packing list for Africa.
What To Wear On Safari – The Ultimate Packing List For Africa
What To Wear On Safari
When deciding what to pack for a trip to Africa, and especially when thinking about what to wear on safari, there are a few things need to be kept in mind. My general tip, which I actually apply whenever I have to pack for any place I am traveling to, is to pick items that can be easily mixed and matched together in terms of colors, in order to create a good number of outfits with just a handful of things and which, with the right accessories, can be used either as day-wear or as evening-wear.
The main things to consider when deciding what to wear on safari are comfort, ease, temperatures, colors and style. Let me go through these important factors in more details.
Both men and women can look stylish on a safari, and yet stay comfortable. The main recommendation I have on what to wear for safari is to pick clothes that are breathable, neutral and that can adapt to the changing temperatures throughout the day.
Another thing to consider is that safaris hardly involve any physical exercise – most of the day is spent sitting in the car, looking for animals. Yet, getting on and off the jeep for the occasional bush stop, or to stretch the legs, calls for comfortable attire. Keep this in mind when thinking about what to wear on an African safari.
One thing to remember when picking what to wear on safari is that driving around the bush all day in an open car, one is bound to get covered in dust. T-shirts, pants and whatever else one may be wearing are bound to get dirty. After all, Namibia is mostly a desert and the bush of Botswana is also mostly sandy.
Yet, especially if camping in Botswana, and even more so when in Namibia, there are no laundry facilities. Thus, when deciding what to wear on a safari in Africa, remember to bring items that can be easily hand-washed and that are quick dry. Cotton is by far the best material, as well as technical one that dries in no time.
There is a common misconception that all of Africa is warm, if not even hot, throughout the day and night, and year round. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I realized this on my first day on a safari, where, after a full afternoon admiring wildlife in Botswana, the temperatures started dropping as soon as the sun started to set. This is an important factor when deciding what to wear on safari.
Remember that game drives are usually timed to follow the lifestyle of animals. This means that the typical safari will have two game drives per day: one starting soon after sunrise, before the animals find a hiding spot from the afternoon heat; and one in the late afternoon – with some private game reserves allowing drives to linger on after dark. Thus, when deciding what to wear on safari, it is important to wear layers.
A good packing list for Africa will include plenty of cotton shirts to wear during the day, and a few sweaters and a light jacket to wear in the early morning hours and in the evenings. I also recommend bringing a scarf, a hat and gloves.
I love bright colors, but when deciding what to wear for safari, I had to set my personal taste aside. When on a game drive, it is important to blend in with the bush as much as possible. It is recommended to wear neutral colors, such as khaki, beige, taupe or grey. Black and dark blue are thought to attract the African tse tse flies, whereas predators identify red with wounded animals. With the amount of dust in the bush, white is hardly recommended as it gets dirty very easily.
Picking what to wear on safari doesn’t mean being a fashion victim or mocking Maryl Streep in Out of Africa. But being dressed for the occasion (by which I mean being comfortable, fresh during the day and warm at night) is important.
The safaris I did in Botswana and Namibia were completely different one from the other. The one in Botswana was a luxury safari. However, I went mostly camping in Namibia. Either way, there was no need for me to wear anything fancy at night for the evening meals: a pair of nice pants and a nice top usually did the trick. My packing list for Africa was made of informal, easy to wear items.
The Ultimate Packing List For Africa
Now that I have clarified what to wear on safari and all the things that need to be considered, it is time to compile a good packing list for Africa, with all the essential items that should be taken.
Clothes and shoes
Having considered what to wear on safari, here’s a selection of the clothes I recommend taking:
- 3 pairs of khaki pants. I wore my Kuhl Kliffside Air Cargo and my Kliffside Convertible pants. My Mova Zip pants proved comfortable to wear after a long day on the road.
- A pair of shorts. I love Kuhl Kontra.
- 4 cotton t-shirts, in neutral colors. I am a fan of Kuhl Tate, Inara and Sona.
- A few long sleeves shirts, for the colder days and for the night. I love Kuhl Trista Hoody and Alva Thermal. I also had my Kinsley Flanner.
- 2 sweaters. I took my Lea Pullover and my Nova which I wore any time it got cold, either at night or in the early morning hours.
- A light yet very warm jacket. I took my Firefly Hoody.
- A scarf and a hat.
- A pair of thick gloves, because I hate having cold hands!
- A pair of walking shoes, and a pair of sandals or flip flops to rest the feet at the end of the day.
- Eco-friendly toiletries and mosquito repellent. Bug spray with DEET for the tent is a bonus.
- A good sunblock and lip balm.
- A very good moisturizing lotion. I am a massive fan almond oil.
- A large quick dry towel.
- A torch or headlight for when it gets dark in campsites.
- Sunglasses. I have been wearing the same pair for (I think) 10 years. I have found a model that really suits my face and I have been getting replacement lenses whenever I need to change the scratched ones. I am a massive fan of this way of saving a tiny bit of our endangered environment!
- A plug adaptor.
- A power bank.
- A hot water bottle, if camping.
- A heavy duty sleeping bag and a liner – if going on a camping trip.
- An inflatable pillow, also if going on a camping trip.
- Clothes’s line and clothespins for laundry.
- A bit of laundry detergent.
- A water bottle and a water filter, to avoid buying bottled water.
- A flask, to keep drinks either hot or cold.
- Ear plugs, for there may be someone who snores around!
First of all, remember that a safari is a photography extravaganza kind of trip. I don’t think I have ever taken as many photo on any given day as I did when I was in Africa. Any packing list for Africa has to include a good DSLR camera – sorry, but not even the best compact camera will do here!
Here’s what my packing list for Africa included in terms of photography gear:
- Nikon D3300 – I find it fairly easy to use and I took some amazing photos with it.
- 70 / 300 mm lens – it’s the minimum I recommend, it reaches quite far for fantastic wildlife photography.
- 24 / 70 mm lens – for all around photos.
- 10 / 22 mm lens – for wide angle photography. This is great to capture animals and landscape during great migrations.
- A spare battery and extra SD and CF cards and a wallet to keep the memory cards organized – the last thing I’d want after such an intense photographic experience is loosing my cards for not having kept them stored in a good place!
- A cleaning kit – to keep my lenses clean.
- iPhone – I used it to take short spontaneous videos.
- Vrikoo camera vintage shoulder bag – I love all its pockets and compartments for the camera and the lenses.
- A pair of binoculars – perfect to spot wildlife even when it is hiding in the bush.
Picking the right bag for a trip – any trip – is important. The good news is that a safari isn’t a challenging kind of trip in terms of the amount of walking and carrying around bags there is to do, whether on a luxury safari where butlers are going to handle the luggage, or on a budget one where the distance between the truck and the tent is very limited.
The one thing to keep in mind, however, in the case of a budget adventure safari like the one I did in Namibia, is the size of the tent. The last thing one wants is to have a bag that is so big to the point that it doesn’t fit in the tent, especially when this is shared with someone else.
Therefore, when thinking of a packing list for Africa, make sure to limit the number of things to carry, and keep the weight and volume to a minimum. Packing smartly is the way to go.
In terms of bags, I recommend one of these:
- Osprey Ariel 65 – this is the backpack I normally use on all my trips, and it came with me to Africa. It’s big enough to carry what to wear on safari, and very comfortable to walk around. Light packers may go for something smaller, such as the Ariel 55. I don’t recommend anything over 65 liters.
- A medium size soft duffel bag – it can be more easily stored in a truck and it takes less space in a tent; plus it’s big enough to take what to wear for safari.
I do not recommend a hard suitcase, as this occupies too much space and it is generally too heavy (something that has to be considered even on luxury safaris where there are occasional flights on small planes to move from one game reserve to the other).
A good day pack is fundamental on any trip. This is where I normally carry things such documents and whatever I may need during the day, such as snacks, water, tissues, hand sanitizer, sunblock and that much needed extra layer of clothes for when the temperatures drop at the end of the day.
Here’s my favorite day packs:
- Osprey Daylite – it’s my favorite day pack. It’s small enough to be comfortable, yet it can carry a lot of stuff thanks to the internal and front pockets.
- Cabin Zero 28L light khaki – a good size day pack that works perfectly as hand luggage and it’s just the perfect safari color. It matches what to wear on safari!
Keeping everything organized
Packing smartly means knowing where everything is in a bag, and storing items so that they can be found easily. Quite important when in Africa, especially if the space in a tent is limited and there is not much time to decide what to wear on safari.
Here’s what I recommend using:
- Packing cubes – they help to keep clothes organized either by color, clothing type or even outfit. They are perfect to easily find what to wear for safari.
- Dry bags – to be honest, I find that large ziploc bags do the trick whenever I am traveling with my Osprey backpack. They take even less room than packing cubes.
- A good toiletry bag – I like those that have multiple pockets and zips and that can be easily hanged.
- Another small purse – I always have an extra purse where I keep any medication (prescription or emergency) I may need during the trip.
Have you ever been to Africa? Do you have any further recommendations on what to wear on safari? Anything to add to this packing list for Africa?
Make sure to read my other posts for packing tips:
- All The Useful Backpacking Essentials For Long Term Travel
- The Complete List Of Travel Essentials For Women
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