If you’re anything like me, then you’re probably feeling a little overwhelmed about what the heck you should put on your safari gear list!
There’s just so much to think about and so much conflicting information, it’s hard to wade through it all to get to the real essentials.
After all, most of us who go on safari are newbies – we’ve never been on this sort of trip before, in fact, we may not have even been to Africa before.
Knowing what to pack therefore can be a stressful guessing game.
Been there, felt that!
Having just finished a 2 month overland trip through Southern and East Africa with Absolute Africa however, I’m now pretty clued up about exactly what safari gear you need… and what you don’t!
So, to help give you some ideas about what to take, here’s my complete safari packing list…
- How Much Does an African Safari Cost?
- Top 5 Africa Travel Itineraries
- Travel Insurance for Africa: Why I Chose World Nomads
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Top 4 Safari Packing Tips
#1 Stick to Practical, Comfy Clothing
You want to make sure you’re comfortable during your safari, so choosing thin, loose clothing is the best idea.
Cotton can often be the best choice, as it’s a breathable natural fabric that helps you stay cool.
Clothes with pockets are also a good idea when it comes to what to wear on a safari, as is a good day pack.
You’ll probably have a lot of things that you’ll want in easy reach during your trips in the park, including your camera at the ready, along with spare lenses and lens cleaning equipment; not to mention your hand sanitiser, sunglasses and hat, and having a decent day pack makes keeping things close at hand a lot easier!
#2 Opt for Neutral Colours
There’s a reason you so often see people wearing khaki on safari – it blends in with the surrounding habitat!
After all, you don’t want to be spotted by the wildlife before you spot them, so stay camouflaged if you can!
Choosing clothes in neutral earthy tones, such as beige, brown and grey, are perfect choices.
You can get pretty dusty and dirty on game drives and walking safaris too, so it’s sensible to avoid white and cream.
#3 Don’t Forget Warm Layers & Sun Protection
You may not realise, but it actually can get very chilly on safari, especially if you’re enjoying any dawn or dusk game drives in an open-top vehicle!
I definitely recommend bringing a warm fleece, as well as a thin windproof jacket, a buff / scarf and a warm hat with you for these occasions.
Long sleeves and trousers will also help keep you warm in the morning and evenings (as well as protect you from biting insects!) and, in the day, longer layers will help protect your skin from the strong sun too.
Packing a good sunhat, sunscreen and sunglasses is also a good idea to counteract the harmful effects of the strong UV rays.
#4 Bring Closed-Toe Shoes
Covering up from mosquitos and insects is also a reason closed-toe shoes are also strongly advised for your safari packing list.
They are also more practical and safe, protecting your feet from thorny plants, or when walking in rough or rocky terrain.
Trainers are fine for your safari if it’s the dry season and it’s not too cold.
However, if you’re planning to do any hiking safaris, such as to see gorillas or chimpanzees in east Africa, then you’ll need boots as it can be really muddy in some places.
Boots may also be a better choice for chilly morning game drives.
1x Waterproof Jacket
It didn’t rain at all during the first month of my safari trip and then I got to East Africa and it barely stopped!
As such, I was beyond glad to have packed my lightweight waterproof jacket with me!
Not only for the rain, but in the highlands and during those freezing early morning game drives, its windproof qualities really came into their own!
2x Hooded Jumper / Fleece
I splashed out before I came on my safari trip and bought a thermal fleece from Kathmandu, which ended up being so useful for those cold nights camping in altitude at Tanzania or during morning safari drives in Zimbabwe.
If you can’t find a Kathmandu one, this one from North Face would also do brilliantly.
Again in East Africa I was glad to have 2 sweaters due to the rain – ensuring at least one was always dry at any given time!
2x Thin Long Sleeved Tops / Base Layers
Perfect to go under your thermal fleece, thin long sleeved tops, or base layers, are also awesome for cold nights, early morning safaris and mosquito protection during the evenings.
Try to choose a natural fabric like cotton or merino if you can, as they wick sweat away, keep you fresh, cool and smelling better! I love this ones from Meriwool.
7x Singlets / T-Shirts
Singlets are good for hot days, T-shirts are good for when you need to protect your shoulders from the hot African sun or want to dress moderately.
Bring a mix of both (perhaps making one or 2 of them quick-dry) and enough to last you a week without washing.
2x Pair Long Thin Trousers
Having some long pants to protect you against evening mosquitos is also a good one on your safari gear list.
Long trousers are also useful for places like Stone Town in Zanzibar where is it advised you dress moderately.
Again, I always bat for natural fabrics like linen or cotton first. These ones from Roxy would be ideal.
2x Pair Leggings
As well as trousers, I’d also suggest putting a couple of pairs of legging on your safari gear list too.
Leggings are great to wear under trousers on cold game drives and to wear in bed on cold nights.
They are double as great hiking / yoga / active wear if you want to do any fitness whilst you’re on the road.
2/3x Pair Shorts
No safari gear list would be complete without some shorts for all those beautiful sunny days.
I took 2 pairs of denim shorts and a pair of Nike Dri-Fit shorts, but you could get away with just 2 pairs if pushed.
1x Beach Dress
Just what you’ll want in places like Zanzibar, South Africa or the Kenyan coast!
I also like to pair mine with leggings for a more “dressy” evening look!
1x Sports Bra
Required for those bouncy and rough safari rides!
3x Pair Socks
Take a mix of ankle and long, thick hiking socks would be my recommendation.
Enough so you don’t have to do any washing for a week!
I love my Ripcurl bikini sooo much!
1x Woolly Hat / Beanie
A godsend when I was up at altitude in the Ngorongoro Crater and Iringa in Tanzania, Eldroet and Nairobi in Kenya and Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.
1x Wide-Brimmed Sun Hat
Essential for safaris when they pop the roof and you’re without shade for hours at a time.
Also great for beach days and summer in Southern Africa.
2x Sarong / Scarf
Great for beach days, dusty safari rides, shoulder-covering, as a second towel, sheet, dress or blanket.
Check out my 20 reasons you should always travel with a sarong if you’re looking for any more ideas about the ways this amazing safari gear item can be used!
1x Pair Sandals
Flip flops, like these Havaianas, are good as they can quickly be thrown on and off when you’re getting in and out of the safari truck, your tent or the shower!
You may also want to take some extra cheap or old pairs to trade with locals when you get to Africa.
1x Pair Sneakers
Great for any walking or cycling other vaguely active activities you may want to do in drier climates.
I love my New Balance runners, which have great grip and tread for all sorts of terrains.
I wore them to hike in Malawi and for earlier morning safaris in Zimbabwe when it was freezing!
1x Pair Waterproof Boots
Essential if you’re going to be trekking to the gorillas or visiting anywhere at altitude in East Africa.
Not only is this to do with the cold, but it really can rain just about anytime of the year here and as such places quickly become muddy as hell!
Save your runners and your feet and sling on a pair of boots instead.
I took my Doc Martens on a total whim, but ended up wearing them almost everyday in the highlands of Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia!
I love my Sony A6000 mirrorless camera which is lightweight, compact and study enough for any safari.
It comes with a 16-50m lens which is ideal for capturing landscapes.
My Sony A6000 mirrorless camera came with a 16-50mm optical lense, but it’s definitely worth putting a good zoom lens on your safari gear list too.
My Sony 55-210mm lens was perfect for this and not too expensive either!
2x 64GB Fast SD Memory Cards
Get large 64GB SD memory cards as you do not want to run out of photo space when on safari!
I’d also recommend splashing out a bit and getting some fast ones, as these cards will process videos and continuous shooting images much speedier – just what you need to snap that cheetah!
Spare Camera Battery
You never want to run out of battery when there is a leopard in front of you… trust me!
Battery Charging Unit / Cables / Leads
Take spare micro USB leads as they always get lost / broken!
I took a South African adapter (for South Africa & Botswana) a British Adapter (for Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania & Kenya) and a European adapter (for Ethiopia).
They all add up but are definitely needed!
Smartphone & Headphones
It’s amazing but almost all the campsites / hostels we stayed at during the overland trip had wifi, so taking your smartphone to stay in touch with those at home and to upload some pics is a great idea.
Also download some audiobooks and music onto your phone before you leave home – a great idea for longer journey days. I recommend Amazon Audible and Spotify Premium for these purposes.
Also some noise-cancelling headphones, like these from Bose, would have been amazing!
Portable power banks are great when travelling without a solidly reliable charging source, like on a safari!
I recommend the Anker 20000mAh Portable Charger PowerCore 20100 which is super weight and super fast, meaning I could charge my phone and my camera brilliantly while on the move.
Toiletries Must Haves
Thin Washbag with Hook
Shampoo and Conditioner Bar
Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Floss
Face Cleanser, Toner, Serum & Moisturiser
Razor & Spare Blades
Tweezers, Nail Scissors, Nail File
Cotton Buds & Safety Pins
Hairbands & Hair Brush
50+ SPF Suncream
I always recommend an organic sunscreen if possible to cut down on the nasty chemicals and Eminence Organic Skincare has all you need for sun protection and hydration.
Ye yeah ladies, you know what I’m talking about! If not, check one out here.
Medical / First Aid Kit Essentials
2x DEET Insect Repellent
Painkillers + Anti-Inflammatories
Antihistamines / Cortisone Cream
Band Aids & Bandages
Other Safari Packing Essentials
Sleeping Bag and Silk Liner
I love my snugpak sleeping bag, which condenses down to nothing and my silk sleeping bag liner, which is perfect for keeping me cool and sweat-free.
Check out my list of other great sleeping bags for travellers here.
Compact, quick-dry and all-round brilliant!
I wouldn’t be without my Sea to Summit Tek Towel, which packs down to nothing and never gets smelly or gross!
Ideal for locking up your bag during transit, stuff on an overland truck or keeping your valuables safe in lockers at backpackers.
Travel Sewing Kit
Your clothes will get worn out fast in Africa, so having some way to repair them is a definite bonus!
Travel Clothes Line & Handwash
A travel clothes line is one of the handiest things to pack on your safari gear list as laundry facilities in Africa are thin on the ground.
I wouldn’t be without my pegless one, which I’ve used so many time on the road it’s not funny!
Great to have for those times when the one provided is less than adequate!
Headlamp & Spare Batteries
An absolute necessity on your safari gear list. Make sure you take one with a red setting to deter those insects and bugs at night.Black Diamond are always my go-to.
You can easily get cheap pairs like these ones from Eurohike.
I have this exact pair and they were perfect – lightweight and durable.
And believe it or not, I fitted all of this into a Berghaus Freeflow 40l backpack – my number 1 choice when it comes to the best backpack for travel!
Mini African Safari Travel Guide
As a huge continent, it’s impossible to give an overall best time to visit Africa, so I’ve split this question down in sub-regions.
When it comes to North Africa, I highly recommend visiting during the spring and autumn months, ie. April to May and September to October, so that the weather is pleasant enough for sightseeing.
In West Africa, the high season runs from December through February, when the region generally experiences its lowest rainfall and humidity – definitely a good idea to visit at this time!
In East Africa, visiting during the long dry season is a great idea. In general, this runs between the months of July and September and also conveniently aligns with the Great Migration too. the short rainy season in November and December can be another good time to visit this part of the continent.
And finally, we come to Southern Africa.
If you’re heading to Cape Town, I’d visit between November and February, but for Namibia and Botswana, the best months are May through October when it’s cooler and less humid.
Best African Safari Tours
If you’re interested in an unforgettable, well-priced tour across Africa, with guides you can trust, or a self-drive trip organised by a great company, then email me at [email protected] and I’ll send you my top recommendations – simple!
Alternatively, I’m currently offering my readers an exclusive discount on all Absolute Africa tours, meaning you can now travel even more in the amazing regions of southern and east Africa for even less! Simply send this top African overland tour company an email to [email protected], quoting the discount code BWSP, and start planning your incredible trip with them today!
Otherwise, if it’s strictly safari tours you’re looking for, check out these top picks.
Travel Insurance for Safaris
World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while travelling and claim online from anywhere in the world.
Alternatively, if you’re a long-term traveller, digital nomad or frequent remote worker seeking travel health cover, check out Safetywing’s Nomad Insurance policies.
Safari Travel Money
When it comes to paying for things across this continent, you want to ensure you’re not being charged overseas transaction fees or getting poor exchange rates when using your card abroad, which is why I always take my Wise card away with me wherever I travel.
The easy way to spend abroad with real exchange rates, no markups and no sneaky transaction fees, you can use your Wise card just like a debit card… and it links easily with Google and Apple pay – sold! Grab yours here.
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So there you have it, my ultimate safari gear list.
Have you been on safari in Africa?
What was top of your packing list and what did you bring that you did not need?
Please join the conversation in the comments box below …
4 thoughts on “Ultimate Safari Gear Packing List”
What time of year we’re your travelling Africa? I’m trying to figure how light a sleeping bag I can get away with during a November Trip on an almost identical route.
Hi Gemma, I travelled through Southern and Eastern Africa in the months of Sept-Dec. Understandably the climate varies quite considerably between say, South Africa and Uganda – as well as within the countries themselves due to altitude and topography. If you’re travelling the East African highlands – such as to see the gorillas etc or to the Drakensberg Mountains in South Africa, I think you’ll need a 3 season sleeping bag. If it’s just the coast you’re sticking to, 2 Season should be fine! The variables are of course Kilimanjaro or Simien Mountains in Ethiopia. I always recommend a silk sleeping bag liner too – great for when it’s too hot for a sleeping bag, or for reducing sweating and dirt on bag generally!
During all my trips, a medicine bag is always a must carry for me. The thing I’m adding to my bag is the rehydration salts. Didn’t think of that. You wrote a great article.
Thanks so much, really appreciate you saying so. And yes, rehydration salts are a great packing addition! Safe travels, Steph 🙂