WHAT TO PACK for an African Safari.


“What to pack?” is the number one question I hear from friends, family and travelers who are setting off on a new adventure.

So, as I prepare for dual safaris in Namibia and Botswana, here are my 10 packing essentials for an African safari

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Camera Gear

Africa is blessed with some of the most photogenic landscapes and colorful cultures on the planet. If there’s a trip worth lugging along serious camera equipment, it’s an African safari. I’m looking to hone my photography skills on dual adventures — a Namibia photographic tour and Botswana luxury safari— and that means I’ll need a camera bag that will carry, protect and provide quick-grab access to my photography equipment. While I often use a camera backpack for adventure travel, a better choice for this trip is a shoulder bag that’s small and lightweight enough for safari vehicles and bush planes, yet big enough to accommodate camera equipment plus the Macbook Air and peripheral electronics I carry to download and process the shoot in the field. Enter Lowepro’s new Urban Reporter 250,  a modern carrying solution that doesn’t shout “camera bag” and, with a removable camera insert, converts easily to a stylish messenger bag which will be perfect for summit events and meetings. 

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Pick-pocket Proof Travel Pants 

I haven’t left for a warm-weather adventure without my Exofficio Nio Amphi pants for years now and this trip will be no different. However, I’ll also be travel testing a new adventure pant, the P^cubed Pick-Pocket Proof Pants™ by Clothing Arts. Attracted to the convenience of wearable security for passport, credit cards, mobile phone, etc., the ingeneous design, which also converts to capri length, seems like the perfect travel pant.

*To read my full review, click here

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Kool Tie

This innovative bandana is a lifesaver in hot climates. Using polymer crystals, when the tie is soaked in water for 30-45 minutes the crystals expand to a cooling gel and will stay that way for several days. Wrap it around your neck and feel the evaporative cooling action, lowering heart rate and blood pressure. Crystals will re-hydrate for years and your safari mates will be green with envy, and heat exhaustion, when they’re sweating it out and you’re keeping cool. 

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Underwear Made for Adventure

Wherever adventure travelers gather you can bet, male or female, that there’s one piece of clothing they have in common — a pair of Exofficio Give-N-Go underwear. Ideal for travel, they are lightweight, breathable, comfy, easy to hand wash and they dry quickly. I pack two pair for any trip, wearing one while the other dries. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself wearing them at home, too. I do. My favorite combo: the crossover bra and bikini briefs

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Wearable Sun Protection

For a stylish blouse and quick-dry, sun-protection all in one, I pack the women’s Granite Creek Shirt by Mountain Khakis. With DWR and UVA-UVB 50+ resistantance, it has a feminine fit, roll-up sleeves with a button catch, 2 chest pockets and side zip security pocket for convenient access to extra camera memory cards and batteries, and a wicking fabric that stays cool even under the heat of an African sun. The men’s version of this shirt has become a wardrobe staple for my husband - at home and away. 

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Packing Cubes 

Before the advent of commercial packing accessories, I kept my clothing organized and clean inside my luggage with plastic hotel laundry bags. Not a sophisticated system, but a practical one. Then Eagle Creek developed their innovative Pack-It system and I upgraded my system. When weight matters, as it often does in safari vehicles and small planes, I carry Eagle Creek’s Pack-It™ Specter packing accessories. Extremely lightweight, translucent and water-resistant, the Specter packing products are made from durable silnylon fabric, the same material used for lightweight tents and backpacks. With an appropriately sized pack for everything from clothing to toiletries, thanks to Eagle Creek, I now pack like a pro. 

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The Original Adventure Sandal

My feet are happiest in a sandal and for this trip I’ll be packing an old favorite, the Teva Original Universal, recently reintroduced back into the Teva product line in celebration of the company’s 30-year anniversary of the world’s first sport sandal.

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Infinity Scarf

Whether it’s keeping the dust off me in the safari jeep, performing as a warming layer at night, or dressing up an outfit, a scarf is one wardrobe accessory that’s always in my bag. When it’s an extra-long infinity scarf, like this circular scarf by Uranta, I can also wear it as a hoodie, an evening wrap, and as a swim suit cover-up. 

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RFID Wallet

Nowadays most passports and credit cards utilize RFID chips that contain sensitive personal information. To protect my data, I carry an RFID blocking wallet which blocks out transmissions and prevents my personal information from being stolen. It inserts easily in to a pocket, money belt or neck pouch and keeps my credit cards, passport and identity safe.

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Hand’s free headlamp 

An essential for making your way around the safari camp at night or simply reading in bed without disturbing a sleeping partner, I always travel with a headlamp. While you can find less expensive alternatives, I like the SnowMiner headlamp and hand’s free lantern by Snow Peak. It runs on 3 AAA batteries (easily available anywhere in the world), operates on three light modes (high, low and strobe) and best of all, it converts from a bright headlamp beam to a lantern with soft, diffused light.  

What about you? What are your recommendations and packing favorites for Africa adventures? Share a comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Ellen Barone has been creating words and images for travel and tourism since 1998. She co-founded and publishes the group travel blog YourLifeIsATrip.com and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".