Alright, so you’ve decided to go on an African safari adventure and you’ve booked the trip of your dreams. As you plan for your trip, you’ll realize that packing for a safari isn’t as easy as other holidays. There are many limitations and restrictions that you don’t necessarily have on other vacations, especially if you’re traveling with checked luggage. Fear not, we’ve returned from a luxury safari in Tanzania and I’m going to show you exactly how to pack for a safari. This is my ultimate safari packing list, even if you’re traveling with heavy camera gear like we did (and you’re going to want to bring those long lenses to capture wildlife photos!).
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Packing List for African Safari Video
Prefer to learn by a video rather than text? Check out our safari packing list video! There are details all about the best safari luggage, what to pack for an African safari, what to wear on an African safari, and so much more.
Safari Luggage Limit: How Much to Pack
If you’re flying into East Africa to an international airport on a huge jet, you likely won’t have to worry about the weight of your luggage. Though it will vary between airlines, we were allowed two pieces of checked luggage (up to 50 lbs), one carry on bag, and one personal item on Ethiopian Airlines. However, if you plan to take any light aircraft flights, you’ll need to be very cautious over the weight of your luggage and the type of bag to bring for the journey. This is where a carefully planned safari packing list comes into play, including the luggage itself.
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After one night in Arusha, Justin and I visited two national parks in Tanzania for our safari: Tarangire National Park and Serengeti National Park (the northern section). To travel between Arusha, Tarangire, and Serengeti, we took small, 10-passenger planes on private airstrips. On a small aircraft in East Africa, the luggage limit is 15kg total per person, including hand luggage. We flew with Coastal Aviation with stops between national parks and remote sites in Tanzania with these restrictions. Here’s a fabulous master list of all safari luggage restrictions for various airlines in Africa.
Furthermore, you must bring a soft sided bag that can be manipulated into the small luggage holds in the bottom of the plane. Your safari duffel bag must not have any wheels as it must be completely flexible. Some pilots can be very strict on these limits, weighing all luggage and carry on items as you enter the plane (especially if it’s a full flight!). Make sure you follow the rules for a smooth travel experience.
How to Pack for a Safari: The Best Safari Luggage
Let’s start by choosing the best safari travel bags for your adventures in Africa. I did some extensive research as I searched for the best safari luggage. I’ve only ever traveled with wheeled luggage that typically has a hard case, so I didn’t own a safari duffel bag. I chose the best safari luggage that I could find on the market: the Red Oxx Safari Beanos PR5 bag.
First, these safari travel bags are perfect for your trip to Africa. They meet all of the restrictions to fit inside the small plane compartments as you fly between destinations within Tanzania, Kenya, or other countries. In fact, you can use this safari duffel bag no matter where you’re traveling as its the size of a carry on bag for domestic and international travel (it measures 24″L x 10″W x 10″H ). You’ll get lots of use out of this duffel carry on bag, and it’s the first item to consider on your safari packing list.
The Red Oxx Safari Duffel Bag
The Red Oxx Safari Beanos luggage is surprisingly spacious. There’s a generous top loading main compartment where you can place all of your clothes, packing cubes, and larger items. Then, there are numerous other zippered pockets on the sides of the bag for smaller items that you’d like to separate from everything else. Here’s a great tip: put your dirty laundry inside one of the smaller zipped spaces to keep it separated from your clean clothing.
Featuring its claw no slip shoulder strip and heavy duty 360 degree swivels, this durable bag is easy to throw over your shoulder and carry around with you. I was able to carry this bag across airport terminals with ease. It’s rugged and reliable, meant to withstand the abuse that a checked bag can receive. When we returned from our trip, both of our Red Oxx safari bags barely had a scratch on them, despite traveling in the luggage holds of numerous small airplanes and four international flights. It also comes with a lifetime warranty.
Red Oxx bags are made and manufactured in Montana, USA. They’re weather resistant, which is perfect for those rainstorms that can pop up in East Africa with little warning. They come in a variety of colors for every taste: we chose violet (purple) and khaki (tan). It’s the perfect bag to store everything on your safari packing list. We’ll definitely bring our Red Oxx safari luggage on all of our future adventures in Africa…and beyond!
What to Wear on Safari: Clothing Packing List
Now that you’ve chosen your safari duffel bags, it’s time to select the clothing that you’ll bring on your trip. While you don’t need to drape yourself in khaki from head to toe, there are some clothing choices that are better than others. First, neutral colors are the best choice. Light colors are great for staying cool, but it is quite dusty so I’d avoid wearing white. Earth tones and khaki are the best choices for blending in with your environment and looking clean.
Avoid wearing blue and black, if possible. Tsetse flies are attracted to dark colors, especially blue and black. Even without wearing those colors, I was still bitten quite a few times by these nasty flies. They can bite through clothing and they don’t seem to be deterred too much by bug spray. Their bites are extremely itchy and annoying, and tsetse flies even transmit a disease called African sleeping sickness. Try to avoid getting bitten by taking as many precautions as you can.
You’ll be spending most of your time on safari in an open air jeep seeking and observing animals. This means that you’ll be sitting for most of the time, partially in the shade. Wearing comfortable clothing is key. Most of the game drives take place early in the morning and late in the afternoon. You might even find that you’ll feel a little cold at times in the jeep when you’re driving around from the breeze. Bringing layers is the best solution for the changing temperatures throughout the day.
What to Pack for a Safari: Clothes and Accessories
Here’s a great safari packing list with the clothing items you’ll need on safari. If you’re traveling on a luxury safari, you won’t need to bring more than three outfits. There is laundry service at the tented camps, and generally it’s included with your stay. We brought enough pairs of socks and underwear for our whole trip, but our laundry services covered all of our clothing items (including undergarments). Some accommodations will only wash your tops and bottoms, and you’ll need to wash socks and underwear in the sink with some laundry soap.
I should also mention that there isn’t any need to bring any fancy clothing. The dress is totally casual at safari lodges, even at dinner. Unless it’s specifically noted at certain luxury safari lodges, you won’t need to bring any fancier dresses or suit jackets. Here’s a safari packing list for both men and women:
Tops & Bottoms:
- Womens Sahara Shirt from REI // Mens Silver Ridge Long Sleeved Shirt from Columbia
- Womens Cozy Up Tank Top from REI // Mens Sahara Solid Shirt from REI
- Womens Petra Cargo Top from prAna // Mens Hardesty Sleeveless T-Shirt from prAna
- Womens Meme Pants from prAna // Mens Silencr Convertible Pants from Kuhl
- Womens Convertible Pants from prAna // Mens Stretch Zion Pants from prAna
- Womens Cargo Capri Pants from Lee // Mens Classic Sahara Convertible Pants from REI
- Womens Regular Fit Shorts from Lee // Mens Sahara Cargo Shorts from REI
- Womens Lightweight Better Sweater from Patagonia // Mens Better Sweater from Patagonia
Accessories & Shoes:
There’s no need to bring any fancy hiking boots or footwear. Your regular sneakers will totally do. You won’t be getting out of the vehicle on safari, and you’ll be doing a whole lot of sitting. With that said, if you’re doing any hiking or walking safaris during your trip, it’s a good idea to bring some durable, waterproof hiking shoes.
- La Sportiva Trango Womens Hiking Boots (Vegan / Waterproof)
- La Sportiva Blade Mens Hiking Boots (Vegan / Waterproof )
- Pair of flip flops or sandals while relaxing by the pool
You won’t need too many accessories on your safari packing list, just a few important ones:
- Womens Khari One Piece Swimsuit from prAna // Mens Quatro Board Shorts from O’Neill
- Vented Safari Outback Hat OR Tilley Wanderer Hat
- Womens Polarized Sunglasses // Mens Polarized Sunglasses
- DSLR Camera and a telephoto camera lens
- High quality binoculars (sometimes your guides will have extra pairs)
- Smartphone (there’s Wi-Fi at your accommodation or get portable Wi-Fi throughout your stay with a Teppy device)
- Underwear, bras, socks, sleepwear
Toiletries & Personal Items:
Our safari lodge had all of the basics covered: towels, shampoo, body wash, moisturizer, and insect repellent. You can feel free to bring your own, but I’d suggest using theirs to save yourself the luggage space. Here’s what you definitely need to add to your safari packing list:
- Lip balm
- Mosquito repellent (our lodge had bug spray for our use)
- Contact lens solution (if needed) and glasses
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Safety kit with Tums or Pepto-Bismol
- Hand sanitizer
- Any personal medications
Everything Else for a Safari Packing List:
- Cash in US dollars to use for tipping or souvenirs (no dates before 2006 are accepted in Tanzania)
- Passport (valid for at least 6 months before departure)
- Purchase your Visa ahead of time online (here’s where we applied for ours in Tanzania)
- See a travel clinic for appropriate vaccinations and bring proof of certain vaccinations, if needed (ie. Yellow Fever vaccination)
- Malaria pills (see travel clinic for more details)
- Get travel insurance ahead of time and bring proof of travel insurance
What You Shouldn’t Bring on Safari
Plastic bags are illegal in Tanzania, so please don’t pack any in your bags. If you do, you will have to dispose of them at the airport. We were very impressed with the lack of plastic use in the country. Every drink came in a glass bottle. All of the toiletries at our lodges were also in glass bottles. When I purchased coffee beans at the airport, the shop owner used a small cloth bag instead of a plastic one. If you use a plastic bag in Tanzania, there are hefty fines.
Don’t worry about bringing multiple pairs of shoes. In addition to your running shoes or hiking shoes that you can wear on the plane, bring an extra pair of flip flops or sandals to wear by the pool. Otherwise, there will be slippers in your safari lodge, along with a bath robe. Don’t bring too many clothing items. Take advantage of the laundry services. Generally, your laundry will be returned in the evening or within 24 hours at the latest.
Finally, don’t bring too many pairs of shorts or skirts in place of pants. I only wore pants or Capri pants throughout my stay in Tanzania – it was actually a little too cold for shorts! I still recommend bringing shorts in case the weather is warmer when you visit, but limit it to one pair. And don’t bring anything too fancy. What you wear during the day is also fine at night (with a sweater on top, of course!).
Printable Packing List for African Safari
I hope you’ve found this safari packing list to be incredibly useful. Looking for a printable version? Check out this African Safari Packing List to download (just right click and save to your computer!).
Thank you so much to Red Oxx for gifting us two Safari Beanos PR5 bags to test. We’re in love with this safari luggage and highly recommend it.