What to bring on a safari

When making a packing list for a safari, the goal is to carry as little as possible—roughly 15 kg—which is the maximum amount of luggage allowed on the bush aircraft that transport safari tourists to their lodges. If you want to build a mood board for a capsule wardrobe, by all means study stills from Out of Africa or splurge on expensive technology. (You may peruse our fashion editor’s “what to wear on safari” for more detailed recommendations on the products below.)

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Which bags are appropriate for a safari?

Select a duffel bag or soft-sided suitcase—never anything with a hard shell—to transport the gear. Writer Harriet Compston states, “This can fit into the light aircraft much more readily, even though it’s tempting to take your well-loved wheelie.” Sarah Marshall, a conservation journalist, travels everywhere with water-resistant baggage made of cloth or tarp from Eastpak or Osprey, particularly the latter’s Rolling Transporter 60. Safari writer Jane Broughton swears by the Sealand moonbag, which is created from recycled nylon and sailcloth in her hometown of Cape Town, for use as a day bag. “It’s perfect for storing sunglasses, lip balm, SPF, and tissues close at hand on game drives and walks. It’s just big enough for my passport, purse, and phone when traveling.” A bigger day bag is required for people who are carrying extra lenses for cameras or binoculars.

What apparel is appropriate for a safari?

As Jane Broughton points out, “stylish athleisure wear is perfectly acceptable these days.” Comfort is key. She’s talking about leggings, not tracksuits, but overall, a safari wardrobe is a basic collection of cozy layer pieces in cream, green, and neutral earth tones that would work for anything from scorching noon sun to freezing mornings spent in an open vehicle. Steer clear of bright colors and camouflage, which is only linked with the military in specific nations. Additionally, stay away from blues, metallic fabrics, and dark colors since tsetse flies are drawn to them.

These are the essential clothes things to bring for a safari vacation.

Stretchy pants, jodhpurs, cargo pants, utility pants, or soft drawstring pants in khaki or earthy, subdued hues mix well with t-shirts on the savannah. According to Sarah Marshall, “those that contain polygiene are great.”

Matching color UPF50 Patagonia tops and long-sleeved linen shirts (which hand wash in cold water and don’t need to be ironed). “I adore cargo pants that can be worn as both shorts and pants,” Sarah Marshall explains.

As the sun sets, you’ll need to wear a light-colored safari jacket since the temperature will decrease. For chilly weather, a lightweight cashmere or fleece sweatshirt or a thin, collapsible jacket like a Primaloft or Uniqlo puffer is a great option. Lisa Grainger, the safari expert, wears a lightweight garment that coils into a ball and is wind-and water-proof.

An expansive yet lightweight scarf is a must-have accessory. It’s easy to wear and multipurpose, as it can be wrapped around hair to shield it from dust, draped over shoulders for game drives to protect from the sun or dust, or used as cover when a cool breeze blows in or for evening al fresco dining. Alice Gully, a co-owner of Aardvark Safari, loves the kikoy, a wrap-around that resembles a sarong that is common on East Africa’s Swahili coast, particularly in Kenya. These are quite practical and multifunctional; they may be used as a temporary towel, a scarf in the event of a cold, a wrap on the beach, or a rag for accidents caused by kids. They dry and wash fast as well.

Any wide-brimmed hat that can be crushed to fit in luggage is required for safaris; a panama, wide-brimmed leather hat, or an Akubra is ideal. If it’s hot outside, just cover your head with a cap or beanie, as Natural World Safari creator Will Bolsover says.

Safaris are susceptible to cold! During the May, June, July, and August cold months, lined gloves and thicker socks become necessary, and a beanie and cashmere scarf might take the place of a wide-brimmed hat and linen scarf. The co-owner of Africa Travel Centre, Frances Geoghegan, always carries a hot-water bottle (the better lodges do tend to drop them into the vehicle every morning in winter), thermal underwear, a torch, and clothing for chilly mornings. Chloe Sachdev, an Australian travel writer, is similarly intrepid.

There seems to be disagreement around shoes. For protection and support, some people choose ankle boots; others choose trail shoes since they are more agile, dry faster, and don’t get as hot. Hiking boots are optional for shorter tracking excursions, but they are useful for walking safaris that require hours of slogging through the bush. Wendy Watta, a travel journalist living in Nairobi, advises against bothering with trainers. “I packed them once during the rainy season and they got ruined, and I got pricked all over from trekking through thorny bushes.” Bring alternative footwear for the camp, such as flip-flops on hot days or breathable sandals.

Never forget about socks. Smartwool socks are a stretch-blend of New Zealand merino wool, and Lisa Grainger suggests them.

When looking into the bush, high-quality polarized sunglasses reduce glare and eye strain.

If there are swimming pools at the resorts, don’t forget your bathing suit.

Pack extra underwear. Lisa Grainger usually packs a little package of powder for an overnight wash and dry since she knows that many lodges won’t wash them.