Safari Packing Advice and Tips

It’s certainly a challenge packing for a once in lifetime trip within the 33 pound luggage restrictions imposed by most air carriers in Africa.  The topic of packing is already covered very concisely under our FAQ section and you won’t want to miss it:

That being said, with regards to clothing especially, many people still ask what’s packed in MY bag!  I get the question so often that I decided to address it here.  PLUS, over the years I’ve picked up some really nice hints from other guests after they’ve returned from THEIR safari experiences, and I definitely think many of these tips are worth passing on!  Here it goes:

PERSONAL EXPERIENCE:  So… what’s in my bag?  As a rule, I keep everything very simple!  And consequently, all my clothing easily fits into a small 22” suitcase.  My personal clothing packing list includes:

Dawn’s Clothing:

-3 pair of safari pants (zip-off pant legs so convertible to shorts)
-4 or 5 t-shirts or tank tops and a SPF protective sun-shirt
-1 fleece pullover (jacket)
-1 pair of light hiking sneakers
-1 pair of flip flops
-1 hat, 1 belt, 1 scarf and 1 pair of sunglasses
-Plenty of socks and underwear, including a couple sports bras
-Pajamas, aka 1 comfortable t-shirt and shorts set to sleep in
-1 pair of comfy yoga pants for lounging around my room before bed while I’m writing in my journal or downloading pictures
-Almost all my stuff is khaki and neutral colors
-I use a set of packing cubes to contain my small items like socks and undies (like these by Eagle Creek).

Dawn’s Other Items:

-Money belt with cash, credit card, license, insurance card and passport
-Limited toiletries (I mainly use complimentary ones provided by lodges)
-Sunscreen, lip balm, deodorant, toothpaste/toothbrushes & insect repellent
CASE Backpack for SLR Camera gear and Laptop (doubles as my day pack)
-Other small items such as a journal, hair brush, lip balm, medicines, etc. included in my daypack (You can find the specialized list of small items here in a separate article: “What’s in My Day Pack”:

That’s it in a nutshell, but for those of you who want more detailed information, or wonder about the why behind my what, here is some extra advice!

CLOTHING:  Given that African safari tours by their nature are very informal vacations, our advice is to simply wear casual, comfortable and loose fitting clothes. I recommend dressing in layers for maximum flexibility since mornings can be cool and afternoons can be hot (mid 80s).  Formal clothing is not necessary, so plan to dress for casual comfort.  Packing light is a good idea due to the 33lb weight restriction for luggage ‘per person’ on the bush flight.

COLORS:  We recommend avoiding bright colored clothing during the day, and opting for more ‘neutral’ or earthy colors – think khakis, browns, greens and other muted hues.  The main reason why is to help you keep a ‘low profile’ when around wild animals.  The more you blend in with your natural environment, the less conspicuous or ‘spooky’ you will seem to the wild animals.  We also advise not to wear dark colors especially dark blue or black as they attract insects. White is okay, but may get dirty quickly given the dusty nature of the roads.  (Try to avoid camouflage; although it may sound like a good idea, other than official military personnel, it’s actually illegal in Tanzania for anyone else to wear camo. Chances are you wouldn’t have any problems as a tourist on vacation, but I always try to adhere to local laws when traveling abroad.)

TOPS:  Personally I like simple t-shirts and tank tops. Short sleeves are fine, but don’t forget the sunscreen.  Cotton is always great fabric for the outdoors, comfortable and breathable.  But these days there are a number of high-performance fabrics on the market these days that wick moisture, dry fast and repel sun.  All of these make SUPER safari gear. Many guests opt for short or long-sleeved tops made out of breathable SPF fabric designed to protect you from the sun; if you opt for the long sleeve variety, find versions that are also designed to ventilate and keep you comfortable in hot weather. You can find some great high-tech stuff at many outdoor and sports stores such as Cabela’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods, REI, Travel Smith and many, many others.  Even Walmart and Target can be a good source for inexpensive work-out gear.

PANTS:  Shorts or pants?  During the day, this is simply a matter of personal preference. If you are unsure, a great compromise is to wear a pair of convertible ‘safari’ pants that easily convert to shorts by zipping off the pant legs.  That way you can wear pants OR shorts, depending on how you feel at any given moment and without looking for a changing room!  You can see a nice selection of convertible pants at many outdoor stores or any number of online outfitters, such as REI.

Personally, in the EVENING, I do always wear pants, shoes and socks (that cover ankle) when sitting around the campfire outside or when going to dinner in the evenings, since most of the areas offer open-air dining.  The reason why is because I want to protect my ankles and feet from any insects that may come out in the evening.

OUTER WEAR:  A jacket or fleece is perfect to take the chill off early morning.  Rain gear is not necessary – if it DOES happen to rain while you are on safari, the guide will simply roll the canvas top back on the vehicle so you don’t get wet, and all the lodges and camps have an inventory of umbrellas to keep you dry in the spaces between.

SOCKS:  I bring several pair of ankle socks. No need for anything fancy here, but a guest recently brought a brand to my attention called Smart Wool.  I have to say, these socks are pretty great!  They keep your feet feeling fresh with their high-tech fabric that provides excellent temperature and moisture regulation. (Thanks Chere!)

PAJAMAS:  Lots of people ask me about what to bring as PJs.  I like to keep it simple and comfortable while on safari and my sleep gear consists of one comfortable t-shirt and one pair of elastic shorts. There are always plenty of blankets on the bed to stay warm, so personally I avoid pants and long sleeved shirts since getting hot while sleeping drives me crazy.  Although I do bring a pair of yoga pants to wear while sitting around the campfire or lounging around my room before bed.

UNDERWEAR:  Hey, I always bring plenty of underwear.  (And you may wish to plan for laundering some of your own.  Although most lodges will offer laundry service for a nominal fee, most kindly ask guests to exclude laundering lady’s underwear due out of respect to the conservative culture, since most of the staff are men.)  There are some great high-performance fabrics available these days that are not only comfortable to wear during the day but will also dry quickly after being laundered.  Or some guests have told me they just buy a set of cheap cotton varieties at Walmart and throw them away as they go.

SPORTS BRAS:  Ladies you may also consider bringing a couple sports bras to help accommodate the bumpy roads!

SHOES:  Personally, I bring 1 pair of light hiking-type shoes (not boots as I think hiking boots are too heavy and frankly overkill for a safari like this).  The ones I own now are made by the brand name “Salomon”, but I also like the styles made by “Merrell”. Tennis shoes can also work equally well.  But the brown-colors offered in these hiking-type shoes go better with my khakis!  I will also bring a pair of lightweight flip flops for casual lounging, wearing around my hotel room, etc.

LAUNDRY:  Laundry services are available at most lodges, hotels and camps and many can quickly return laundered items within 24 hours.  If you do have clothing laundered by the lodge staff, try to give them your clothing early in your stay to give them a fair shot at getting it cleaned and dried before you depart for your next destination.  You can also bring a travel size container of laundry detergent and do a bit of your own laundry in your own room/sink, if you prefer it. Some folks have had good luck with these dissolvable sheets by Travelon: Laundry Sheets, but a REALLY great tip I just picked up from some previous ADS guests is to simply use Shampoo for laundry!!  What a great idea, since shampoo is quite effective on both dirt and oils, gentle on both hair and clothing, and already available as a common amenity in the room! (Thank you Jody and Steve for the hot tip!!)

ACCESSORIES:  I keep it pretty simple, limiting my accessories to sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat, a belt, a couple hair ties and one scarf.  I personally find a braid works well for long hair to keep the tangles out.

WATCH:  I wear an inexpensive outdoorsy watch.  Love the Timex Ironman.  The nice indiglo feature is great when I want to check the time in the middle of the night, and I can also set the alarm for my wake-up call to make sure I’m not late for my 6am game drives!

TOILETRIES:  I always bring sunscreen, insect repellent, deodorant and toothpaste.  I always bring an extra toothbrush too, just in case I accidentally run tap water over my regular one (in Africa it’s important to use bottled water for brushing teeth as well as drinking).  For the most part, I will just use the complimentary toiletries that are available at the majority of the lodges and camps. All venues supply soap, and most supply hair shampoo but I still bring a small bottle as a back up. Some venues also supply hair conditioner and lotion, but not all of them do so I bring my own small travel size bottle of each.

FLASHLIGHT and/or HEADLAMP:  I always bring a small flashlight to keep on my nightstand while I’m sleeping.  Who knows if I’ll remember where the actual light switch is, especially when waking up in a strange new place.

OTHER:  Of course I have other small items I bring with me for health and comfort, including a small medical kit, cash, passport, Kleenex, lipbalm, and other ancillary items.  You can find a list of most of these ancillary items in this separate blog article here:  “What’s in My Day Pack”:



CHECKED LUGGAGE:   With regards to the international flight, you’ll see references in our literature that encourage guests to try and get everything into a carry-on bag.  That’s great if you can do it, but if you need to check a bag, it’s not the end of the world.  Just be sure to put all your important/valuable items and a change of clothing into your hand luggage, just in case your checked bag gets delayed by a day or two.  (Don’t put valuable items like cameras or ipads in your checked luggage.) If you have extra luggage that you don’t need for the safari (books you read on the plane, clothing you wore in Europe, etc.) you can leave excess luggage with our staff in Arusha for safe-keeping while you are on safari rather than try to lug it with you on the small plane with the weight restrictions.  If you want to try and avoid checking a bag, you can find some advice here for packing your carry-on luggage:

PRESCRIPTION MEDICINES:   The very best way to travel with prescriptions is to keep all your medicine in the original containers.  That would be the conservative and safe thing to do, to avoid having any problems with airport security.  If you have life-and-death types of medicine that you absolutely MUST have, this is the only way to do it.

That being said, I know many travelers organize their non-critical pills and vitamins  in a Monday thru Sunday pill box.  No one has ever reported having any problems or having their medications confiscated by airport security.  However, to help minimize your risk, you may consider having at least a letter from your doctor or a photo-copy of your prescriptions or labels to carry along with you in case someone in airport security asks you to identify the contents.  I think that would go a long way.

CAMERA AND LAPTOP:  I have a great backpack by Case Logic that will accommodate both a laptop AND all my SLR camera gear, including a telephoto lens.  There is enough room and pockets that it doubles nicely as a day pack for most other small items I keep with me during the day (sunglasses, sunscreen, etc.)  It’s a great size and works nicely as my ‘carry on’ for the small bush plane, as well as a durable daypack to tote around with me in the safari vehicle during the day.  It’s well-padded to protect sensitive gear and has lots of other great features.  You can find it here:  CASE LOGIC BACKPACK

CAMERA GEAR:  I have a separate post dedicated to photography where I list my primary gear.  You may want to check it out here!  Safari Photography Equipment and Tips

ELECTRICITY, plus  DO I NEED AN ELECTRIAL ADAPTER VS. CONVERTER?:  Regarding electricity, yes you will have access to charge batteries, etc.  All properties have electricity, although some of the camps use a combination of solar and generator power, and it’s typically best to charge your batteries during the hours when the generator is running.  A very consistent time that’s good to charge batteries is during the evening and/or during dinner, as the generator is typically running during that time (approx 6pm to 10pm), although generator hours can vary slightly so best to get current details from the local staff upon arrival / check-in.

You will also need to bring an outlet adapter, which simply makes the outlet the right ‘shape’ for plugging in your North-American plug.  The one you’ll need for Tanzania is the 3 prong UK adapter, with rectangular-shaped prongs.  You can buy these at any number of travel stores, radio shack or simply online.  I’ve included a picture for your reference here so you can easily identify the right ‘shape’.

In addition to an adapter, I will often bring a ‘3-way adapter plug’ that will allow me to plug in multiple devices at one time, like this one:

Sometimes people will ask me if they need to bring an electrical converter.  Usually the answer is no.  Other than maybe hair appliances like a curling/flat iron, you shouldn’t need a voltage converter for common electronic devices such as camera batteries, laptops, ipads, etc., since most electronic devices are already rated for dual voltage.  You may check your specific devices to be 100% sure, but I’ve never heard of any recent camera battery, tablet, cell phone or computer that wasn’t already rated dual voltage.  (If it’s really important for you to have a curling iron or hairdryer during your travels, you may consider bringing a ‘travel version‘ that is rated for dual voltage or curling iron heated with butane; you can find either on or a number of other places online by doing a simple Google search.  Note that some of the camps do limit your power usage and may not be able to support appliances like a hairdryer, especially during non-generator hours.)

Want even MORE safari prep advice?  I have several other articles aimed to help, see below!

Luggage considerations
Carry-on luggage tips
What’s in my safari day pack? 
Traveling safely with cash
Cell phones
Safari souvenirs 

  1. What a huge help !! Thank you so much
    for the heads up on what is needed.
    I tend to overpack on trips and the
    outline is a lifesaver !! My experience
    with Dawn Anderson has been so helpful
    as well as a delight to speak with. Making my upcoming adventure simple and care free !! Much gratitude, let the adventure begin !!

    1. Thank you Terri! I’m so happy to know the packing article was helpful. Working with you has been such a pleasure, and it is a privilege to assist you with this very special trip!! Asante Sana.

  2. I love Bombas socks. I found out about them from Shark Tank. They donate some of their profits as well

  3. I found a slip on, slip off shoe (i.e. a Sperry boat shoe) easiest to wear in the Land Rover. We spent a lot of time getting up and down to look out of the roof and didn’t want to wear shoes while standing on the seats.
    Love reading these posts – brings back great memories!

  4. An idea on packing.
    Pack unique T shirts, jeans, shorts, zipper pants, caps, shoes, jackets, anything, sports brand names, College names, City names, anything American. Wear, give to camp crew. They will wear, then sell.
    Buy T shirts at each stop, wear them , take back home , give to your friends as souvenirs.
    You will benefit the Locals. No laundry problems, the smiles are wonderful.