What to Pack for Africa

LandRover Sitting hatYES! Another trip to Africa planned. Yet… Recently, a friend going on her first safari asked a simple question, “What is your number-one recommended item to pack?” One?? When only allowed 26 lbs. of luggage total, EVERY ITEM is vital. After I emailed her with this collection of suggestions from our three trips, I decided to provide it here, too.

Let’s pretend you already have the standard packing list, power converter, shots and visas. From there, here are my personal additions that have come in handy.

  • A bug repellant that’s substantial — we bought a product recommended by the sales guy at REI, it worked great for me. 12 hours, a lotion, not much odor.  It was sticky, tho and unfortunately, since first posting this list, the product I bought has disappeared from the market (thus, no specific item here listed).
  • I purchased two pair of travel panties for Paris, WISH I had them in Africa, less to pack and they wash/dry overnight.  EX OFFICIO TRAVEL UNDERWEAR
  • Travel clothesline and laundry powder, not liquid.
  • Really crappy clothes. Africa soap and water – and laundry services – wreck fabrics and destroy elastic.  TIP: save up almost-dead bras for these trips. On the last day of the journey, I leave clothes behind for more packing space for souvenirs.
  • Clothes that dry overnight. My Patagonia travel pants (photo, above) drip dry in a few hours. In summer, linen is great (Europeans are linen lovers. Americans don’t appreciate wrinkles).
  • Supply of ziplock bags. From snacks to camera equipment to travel documents, you will need them.
  • Some rubber bands, paperclips, binder clips, tape, sewing kit, tiny scissors that wont get TSA confiscated. Things often need repair and this stuff works in a pinch.
  • Outlet strip – cell phone, camera batteries need recharging almost nightly. Larry and I compete for the outlet which, at best, the room has ONE. After our last Africa trip, I bought this one.
  • Two cameras per person (make one waterproof), a second battery and extra disk for each. We’ve seen heartbreak when someone’s disk goes blank, or a prong gets bent. Hotels don’t have reliable sundries shops and street vendors sell fakes.
  • Sunglasses for wrecking. One of us typically breaks a pair. Bring your cheapies.
  • Walking shoes you can trash. Victoria Falls, we got soaked. Walk in mud, sand, weeds, poop.  Lotza African poop.  I love my used Keene walking sandals purchased on EBay.  sandalsOld Nikes, I bartered for baskets on our last day. Sweet.
  • Winter Silks, aka “Long Johns.”  Even in summer, nights can be frosty. Layer, layer during the day.
  • Hard sour candy: lemon drops or Jolly Ranchers. NOT to give to local kids,* just to take the dust our of our mouths. Refreshing on afternoon game drives.
  • Jackets, vests with tons of zipped pockets. I carry a lot of stuff on my body.  Without zippers, I drop and lose things.  I love this one.
  • Scarf.  Winter warmth and breathing through on occasion – dust storms in Kenya were brutal.  India, I brought a cheap pashmina-ish thing and wore it daily over my head, under my hood.
  • Hankies. Save the Kleenix for the “loo with the view” (bush breaks). There is always a reason I am sneezing in Africa, and hankies are a must.
  • Thin, cheap tote in a color you won’t overlook. Jumping in and out of safari vehicles, my hot pink grocery bag tote was VERY helpful to not leave behind somewhere under a blanket or at the foot of a jeep. What I cannot carry in my vest, goes in there – camera equipment, snacks, binoculars.
  • Spare drugs. Vicodin. Cipro. Keep in original bottles. You do not have the luxury of predicting your type of emergencies (did you read we ran over Ashok?). I traveled my supply of unused Cipro thru four African countries and later, India, ended up needing it in Texas when a bladder infection showed up on a business trip. Saved!

*Re: candy to local kids, don’t do it. We’ve been told not to, same with toys and pencils, etc. If your intention is to teach a child whenever he sees a tourist (as in, white person) to stick out his hand (as in, beg) – then give candy. Works every time, in a FLASH that kid is back again with that hand out. So, there are real ways to “help” – charities are dedicated to it, donate. Or visit a school and give goodies to the teacher.

Le Loop

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Cynthia/What A Girl Eats June 4, 2014 at 7:41 pm

This is my dream vacation. My husband and I bought round the world tickets for our honeymoon, and spent 3 1/2 months traveling, but an African safari is a trip in itself. I want to see elephants in their natural habitat. I will bookmark this post for the future! Cynthia

2 Chrissie May 14, 2012 at 8:09 pm

Love this! I leave for my first mission trip to Rwanda in 20 days!!!!!! This has been a HUGE help for me.

3 Worth The Whisk July 20, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Jyl – Jambo!

4 jyl johnson pattee July 20, 2011 at 11:13 am

Thanks so much for this list. I head to Kenya on Saturday and am just now starting to put my packing list together. ;P

Love learning from your experience!

5 Worth The Whisk July 11, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Why golly, Sara, you are right! Including… you are RIGHT about no visible poop at Camp Blogaway, LOL.

6 averagebetty July 11, 2011 at 3:52 pm

This is great list for any kind of outdoor excursion… in fact, a similar one would be great for Camp Blogaway (though I didn’t notice too much poop around up there!).

7 Worth The Whisk July 8, 2011 at 9:42 pm

Stephanie, traveling to African countries is a real adventure, and the luggage restrictions are just part of it. We use lightweight duffel bags, tear them up by the end of of maybe two trips, get the next thing. Between the grit, grime, dirt, dust and general human abuse of the luggage, it isn’t worth using good stuff. All part of the adventure!

8 Stephanie @ The Travelling Tastebuds July 8, 2011 at 6:17 pm

This is a great list! I’ll have to keep it in mind if I ever find myself in Africa. And the baggage weight limitations totally suck because some baggages weigh HALF the total weight allowance!

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