29 Jan 2017 What to Pack For an Overland African Safari | Packing List UPDATED 2017
Planning an overland African safari? Preparing to travel to Africa for a long trip can be stressful. Let us help, we have been there before. We have spent more than 110 days in Africa living aboard an overland truck an epic African safari. Many overland safari companies put together lists of what to pack, but we found them to be kind of generic. So we put together our what to pack for an African safari packing list based on our experiences in Africa.
What To Pack For An Overland Safari
The first thing you need to understand about what to pack for an overland safari is the locker situation. No matter what overland company you choose, you will have a single large locker to store all your stuff. This is the only place for your stuff, and they aren’t that big, so pack light. Your overland company will have dimensions on their website and make sure your bag fits inside these dimensions.
The lockers are big, but not huge. Besides your clothes, you need to put your sleeping bag, pillow, and anything else you have in the locker. Don’t stretch the limits because things always take up more room when they are unpacked, plus I’m sure you will end up with a few souvenirs from Africa along the way.
We were lucky with the size of the lockers on Acacia Africa’s “White Nile” truck. We have traveled on 3 of Acacia’s trucks and the locker featured above was by the biggest one out of them all. The locker was big enough for Hannah to fit inside of it.
Best Bag For Safari In Africa
It’s best to pack a large duffel or soft bag as your main pack. We brought this 18 x 40 inch Lewis N Clark duffle, available on Amazon for under $30. It worked great for our 2-month safari and has since traveled around the world with us. Standard suitcases and bags with frames can be a problem fitting into the lockers. Our Osprey wheeled luggage did fit into the locker and we have the 80-liter bag. Standard suitcases are also impossible to reach into while inside the locker. A duffel you can leave inside the locker and still grab something out of your bag. If you happen to bring a bag that doesn’t’ fit in the lockers there should be room underneath the truck to store the empty bag.
To stay organized over a long African safari it’s a must to have packing cubes. Packing into packing cubes lets you take just what you need to your tent for the night. We highly suggest the Eagle Creek brand, the cheaper ones don’t last as long. Packing cubes also let you keep all your cold gear in one place so it’s easy to find when you get chilled. Don’t forget to bring a smaller day bag for excursions outside the big overland trucks.
- One large duffel bag or hiking backpack
- One small day pack not more than 35-40L
- 3-4 packing cubes to keep you organized
What To Wear On Safari While In Africa
Clothes is an obvious place to start the overland safari packing list but for the most part, it revolves around practical clothing. Let’s face it, an overland safari isn’t a fashion show. Keep your fancy clothes at home and stick to comfortable quick drying clothes. Hannah and I have several shirts & bottoms from prAna that check all our boxes: quick drying, comfortable, breathable, and still fashionable. Every few days on an overland safari there is a slow day between destinations where you will have some down time to do wash if you need to. We did well with about a week worth of clothes and washed it 5 times over our 43-day long overland safari with Acacia Africa. We stretched it a little longer than a week. Like I said it’s not a fashion show, but you also don’t want to be that stinky person on the truck either.
- 4-5 pairs of quick drying quality travel underwear, for men I suggest ExOffico brand
- 4-5 pairs of socks (if you pack extra you can trade them in Malawi for some cool wood carvings)
- 4-5 short sleeve athletic/dry fit shirts
- 1-2 long sleeve sport shirts
- 1 Northface type shell jacket
- 1 Rain jacket with stuff sack
- 2 pairs of shorts
- 1-2 pairs of pants – If you only bring one pair avoid jeans because they are slow drying, Hannah loves her prAna Kara jeans they are lightweight, dry fast, and are super comfortable. I loved my prAna Zion stretch pants, they are comfortable for long travel day and outdoor activities.
- 1 swimsuit – Several campgrounds have pools, and if you are planning water sports
The mornings and nights are cold, but the days are quite warm in Africa and it’s best to layer your clothes so you can adjust as the temperatures changes. If you are normally a colder person, you may want to adjust with more warm clothes. If your overland safari takes you to Namibia and South Africa it’s best to plan for the seasons (which are opposite of the northern hemisphere). We had a few days in June where the temps dropped to near freezing. Our Acacia Africa safari did stop every few days in a bigger city where there were proper stores to buy things if needed like blankets/clothes/supplies/etc.
What Toiletries And Medicine To Pack For An Overland Safari
When starting to figure out what to pack for an Overland safari, keep in mind that there is everything you really need available to be purchased in Africa. Most essential toiletries are available, but if you must have a certain brand then bring it from home because they aren’t going to have it. The stuff we found along the way was fine (Colgate, Vaseline, Dove), but it wasn’t always brand names we recognized from home.
- All soaps, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush and standard common sense stuff
- Sunscreen – Bring enough as sunscreen in Africa is expensive, sunscreen is necessary in the African sun
- Lip Balm with SPF
- Malaria Meds (check with travel doctor which is currently prescribed for the countries you will be in)
- Bug spray with a good amount of DEET – We had 95% with us last year and that was a bit excessive. The bugs weren’t as bad as we expected except for in Tanzania, specifically Dar es Salam. However, it can be seasonal and it best to be prepared.
- Band-aids, Antibiotic ointment for personal basic first-aid (the truck will have full first-aid kit)
- Diarrhea Medication – Consider an antibiotic like Ciprofloxacin or similar (check with travel doctor) or at least standard over the counter meds like this on Amazon.
- Anti-histamine cream for bites or rashes that can be common in Africa
- Painkillers to help if you have trouble adjusting to sleeping in a tent
- Sleep aid like Tylenol PM to help you dose off when you hear rustling outside your tent
Best Sleeping Bag For African Safari
This was an area we struggled with and ultimately failed in. Our first overland safari we were traveling during the ‘winter’ and we knew the second half of our overland safari the temps would be low. We bought sleeping bags rated for 5 degrees C assuming we would need them. We were wrong. We were uncomfortably hot almost every night even when it was 5 degrees outside. The tents keep a lot of heat in and we wished we had thinner sleeping bags. Kenya and Tanzania are very near the equator and don’t see big swings in the temperatures season to season.
We were super happy that we brought our own mattress pads. Acacia Africa provides a sleeping pad per person, but we found one wasn’t enough, there are 24 pads on a truck enough for one a person but if the safari truck isn’t full you can have two (don’t count on it).
On our second overland safari with Acacia Africa, we brought tropical weight sleeping bags. We again were going on an overland safari in the winter on the southern portion of the trip, but we will buy a few cheap blankets to supplement our sleeping bags for nights we might get cold. In many cities in Africa, there are stores called ‘Pep’ and we bought blankets here last year for just $5. At the end, we donated them in South Africa before traveling home.
- Tropical weight sleeping bag 20-25 degree C ‘comfortable’ rating
- A real pillow, especially important for longer safaris
- Queen size sleeping bag big enough for 2 people on a honeymoon in Africa.
- A few cheap blankets bought in Africa
- Foam camping pad to make the ground a little softer
Best Camera For Safari To Photograph African Wildlife?
Well, considering this is going to be a trip of a lifetime, I would bring the best camera you have or consider buying the best camera for safari you can, but that’s me. When you are trying to lighten your bag while figuring out what to pack for an overland safari, I wouldn’t skimp on the camera gear. You are going to see some amazing things and some wildlife up close. If you want to catch the action I would suggest a DSLR or a quality compact mirror-less camera. I carry a Nikon D5300 and Nikon D5100 and a small Sony point and shoot. If your budget allows, invest in a telephoto lens. I currently have Sigma 150-500mm, which I specifically purchased for our African safari.
Things to look for when choosing the best camera for an overland African safari is a large zoom capability. The second factor to consider is having a high number of frames per second that the camera can shoot, aim for 5+ frames per second or a burst mode. I would bring a GoPro, but not for wildlife photos. GoPros are great for action shots and you will use it a lot during the safari, but the camera is too wide angle to get good wildlife shots. You need to be very close to things for a GoPro to get good pictures and I don’t recommend getting that close to a lion or other African wildlife. The new GoPro Hero5 black would be great to have on an African safari because it has voice command, so if you see a lion you could just hello “Go Pro Take Burst.”
I didn’t have my DJI drone on my last African safari…I can only image the footage you could capture from a drone above the Serengeti or sand dunes in Namibia. Drones are getting cheaper and cheaper as well as smaller and easy to travel with. We own the DJI Phantom 3 Professional but it’s worth checking out the DJI Mavic which is super small and compact as well as GoPro Karma which has a detachable gimbal which would come in handy in Africa. Make sure to purchase extra batteries, drone batteries typically only last for 20 minutes of flying time.
If you are planning on bringing a DSLR I would suggest a monopod or a tripod to take good shots from the Land Rovers while on game drives. As if you want to take any star photos a tripod is a must. My MeFoto tripod is a really good compact tripod option.
No matter the camera you bring make sure to buy an extra battery or two and a large memory card. If you don’t plan on bringing a computer or other device to take photos off your memory card consider bringing multiple memory cards. For higher end cameras make sure to buy faster cards 600x (90mbps) or faster to get the maximum number of frames per second when you see something cool. For additional photography tips see my guide to taking better photos on an overland safari here.
Bring A Day Bag For Game Drives
There are several portions of an overland safari where you will leave the large overland truck and travel in a small Land Rovers into the game parks. In the Serengeti, Masi Mara, Zanzibar, and Chobe National Parks we traveled in a Land Rover that could handle the terrain, and slept in campsites arranged by a secondary company. For these days, you will leave your main gear in the lockers of the big overland truck and just bring a day bag. In the day bag just pack enough for the time in the park. We didn’t know this when we were trying to figure out what to pack for an overland safari, but luckily we had a bag that worked for a day bag.
- Clothes for the short trip
- Basic toiletries
- Headlamps/torches these can be some of the darkest campsites
- Sometimes your pillow and sleeping bag, your tour guides will advise you
The rest of your gear will be safe in the truck, it stays in the locker with the crew at a campground (for most companies). I hate leaving my gear anywhere, but I felt pretty good about it being safe, and every time everything was safe. The campground isn’t going to steal your junk and risk losing the business from the overland safari companies. We never had any issues on our Acacia Africa tour.
Necessary Accessories To Pack For An Overland African Safari
- Headlamp you’ll need for setting up your tent in Africa on early morning game drives in Africa or midnight bathroom runs.
- 2 combination locks with a thin metal hoop (luggage sized) – The locking holes in the locker are narrow and bring two because the bouncing of the trucks breaks the locks often, 3 people on our last trip had this happen
- Spare batteries for headlamp and anything else that takes disposable batteries
- A baseball or brimmed hat to keep the sun out of your eyes, the African sun is strong
- A winter hat for cold mornings and nights
- Gloves if you get cold easy
- A bandana or Buff – to cover your face on dusty drives (especially in Namibia)
- Towel – preferably quick drying pack towel
- Sandals for showering in community showers at safari campsites
- Sturdy shoes (even though you don’t do much walking at all on an overland tour)
Stuff You Wouldn’t Know to Pack For Africa If This Is Your First Overland Safari
- A 12V car cigarette plug-in for USB charging – Many trucks have USB chargers, but they are in high demand or sometimes broken the bumpy roads are rough on the equipment.
- Powerbank – Keep your phone powered up from your seat on the bus or charge camera on the go. Most trucks have charging stations at the back of the bus and if you want to charge while using your device you need one of these.
- Travel power strip – It gives you a few more plug points when they might be at a premium. Try and buy one that has USB ports for even more charging.
- A bunch of movies/media on your phone or computer – There are a lot of days where you drive for most of the day between destinations. Bring a book, movies, music or whatever your things is, bring a bunch of it. Also, the nights at camp can be slow sometimes and you might need a movie night in your tent.
- A 1L water bottle – Allows you to buy 1-gallon jugs of water along the way and save money & plastic
- Clothespins & clothes line – You will do laundry a few times during the trip and these are a huge help. You will be able to buy clothespins in Africa.
- A shower bag/caddy – There is usually nowhere to set your stuff while showering in some of the basic campsites, but there are usually hooks so a washable mesh bag would be nice.
- A big pack of baby wipes – Some days this will be your shower, all the other days they come in handy too. Africa can get a little messy and these are a life saver. You will be able to pick more up along the way.
- Hand sanitizer – This will help, but it’s best to wash your hand to kill all germs
- Small bottle of hand soap – Soap in bathrooms is just about non-existent in Africa if you’re a germaphobe like me, buy a small bottle of Dettol brand soft hand soap in Africa and keep it handy.
- Ziplock bags – They have a ton of uses on an overland safari, keep your food fresh, or things dry while in the rain, and many more things.
- A coffee press – The instant coffee in Africa is pretty bad, and if like me you need your coffee, your best bet is to bring a coffee press from home. We were able to find one in Africa after searching for 2 weeks. If you like a certain flavor of coffee, make sure to bring some ground coffee as well. The coffee selection in Africa is lacking.
Things You Can And Should Buy While In Africa On Safari
- A real normal-sized pillow – Sleeping on a travel size pillow for a month sucks. Buy one in Africa and donate it to someone in need at the end of your trip.
- Blankets for cold nights, wait to buy them until you need them.
- Extra toiletries – If you are worried about running out at near the end of your trip you can buy it there rather than packing two bottles of something. The big cities will have a good selection (good enough)
- A coffee/travel mug – Most mornings start early with a quick breakfast and next thing you know you are on the road. A travel mug lets you grab an extra cup of coffee for the ride.
- Clothespins – keeps your stuff on the line during wind and monkeys, yes monkeys.
- Laundry Soap – Some trucks might supply some, but just make sure they do before you really need it.
Best Places To Buy Things Along The Way In Africa:
- Nairobi, Kenya – The Karen Shopping mall is very close to campgrounds many overland companies use. This is perfect for those starting in Nairobi to pick up a pillow or some supplemental blankets or anything you have forgot.
- Arusha, Tanzania – The selection here is much less than Nairobi, but there are some larger grocery stores where you can still find many things.
- Lilongwe, Malawi – There is a decent grocery store here, but that’s about it. Toiletries and general supplies and snacks can be found here.
- Lusaka, Zambia – The city is one of the largest that you will pass through during your overland tour and our tour stopped in a mall with many options for a wide range of items.
- Maun, Botswana – The city has a few strip malls with lots of options, this is where we bought our blankets at PEP on our way down to Namibia.
- Windhoek, Namibia – This is a big city with full shopping malls, you should be able to find just about anything here.
- Swakopmund, Namibia – Most tours stop here for a few days and there are plenty of options for just about anything you could need.
- Cape Town, South Africa – Here you can find just about anything you could need it’s a major city.
Things You Can’t Buy In Africa
- Real Deodorant – This was the one toiletry that we had trouble finding. Most stores only carried roll on gel stuff which I hate and doesn’t work for me (I don’t want to be that stinky guy on the truck).
All countries require your passport be valid a minimum of 6 months prior to entry. Yes, your passport expires before it expires. In the USA, you cannot leave the USA on a passport that is set to expire within 6 months. So just double check your expiration dates. Also, all countries also require a minimum of 2 blank passport pages, and if you depart from Cape Town they have an 8 blank page requirement. We have never seen immigration actually count pages.
Overland safari’s that include Zanzibar, Malawi, Zambia and South Africa have mandatory yellow fever vaccinations. Zambia & South Africa have an immigration requirement, in order to be allowed into the country, you must present your yellow fever vaccination card. You will receive your vaccination card after your yellow fever shot, it is a single inject needed 10 days prior to travel.
Yellow fever is the only mandatory shot, but the travel doctor will recommend several other as well. We also have Hepatitis A & B, Typhoid fever, rabies, and tetanus. Tell your doctor the areas of Africa you will be visiting as Malaria pills will probably be recommended, different areas require different pills. Not all areas are necessarily covered by the same medication, some areas are resistant to some medications. For example, Chloroquine is not effective in every one of the countries on our route. On our African safari route, we will take doxycycline or mefloquine.
Visas in African we were able to get all of them on arrival. We didn’t have to apply for any in advance, there were a few people on our Acacia Africa trip that did and they paid more than if they would have just got their visa on arrival. Make sure you bring USD cash as this is the currency used to pay for all your visas.
- Kenya: $50 USD obtained on arrival or $100 for EAC visa works for Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda
- Tanzania: $100 USD visa on arrival
- Malawi: $0 stamp on arrival
- Zambia: $50 USD on arrival
- Botswana: $0 stamp on arrival
- Namibia: $0 stamp on arrival
- South Africa: $0 stamp on arrival
- Mozambique: $73 USD obtained at the border, we have been told prices and rules change often
- Zimbabwe: $30 USD visa on arrival
Almost all overland safari companies will require you have travel insurance. We have World Nomads and have had them for years now. For example, a 2-month insurance package will cost you $169, there are 2 types of packages. World Nomads explorer package has a higher amount of coverage, we currently have this package due to the value of our electronics we carry. We have had 2 claims with World Nomads and have had no problem getting it paid out. The first was when we were robbed in Kuala Lumpur, read the story here. The second when we got caught in a sandstorm in Namibia while on safari and sand damaged 2 lenses and the camera body.
Don’t stress too much about what to pack for an Overland Safari. Follow this Africa packing list when getting ready for an overland African safari. Just remember packing for an overland safari is just like any other trip, you’ll probably overpack and use only about half of what you brought anyway!
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Now that you know what to expect on an African safari you have no reason not to go on Safari. If you are looking at taking a safari on your own, we cannot recommend Acacia Africa enough. You can book with them on Tour Radar, check price
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