What to Pack for an Overland Safari in Africa
The chance to experience an overland safari in Africa is a bucket list dream for many people, myself included. The mere idea of seeing elephants, lions, hippos, and more in their natural habitat had me shaking with excitement, so I decided to set off for a trip through South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia this June. While you may envision someone covered head to toe in khaki safari clothes and a gigantic hat, you’d be surprised to know, save for a few tourists I saw in Botswana, no one actually dresses like that on safari. So, how should you decide what to pack?
Consider the countries you’re visiting and time of year
The peak season for safari in southern Africa is during the dry season – namely June, July, and August – which also happens to be winter in the southern hemisphere. While the sun keeps things warm during the day (think temps in the 70s), the nights are a different story. The farther south on the continent, the colder it will be at night and in the morning, so come prepared. I brought the KUHL Flight Jacket and Firefly Hoody with me, and the combination was perfect for early morning game drives on open air trucks!
Think about your accommodations
Camping is extremely popular for people traveling through Africa; that’s how I traveled as well. If you’re camping, warm clothing is even more important for evenings and early mornings. While the tents help keep you warm, I recommend bringing a light thermal layer like the Alva Thermal for layering.
Plan for comfort
No matter where or how you’ll be staying, overlanding in Africa requires a lot of drive time. The continent is huge, and the distance between countries and national parks is large. Plan to spend a lot of time in the car or your overland vehicle, and dress for comfort. Here, your color choices don’t matter (no need to worry about scaring the animals away), and you can even get away with your “regular” clothes. I personally found it helpful to layer my clothing since mornings started out cold on our overland vehicle and we heated up throughout the day. My go-to outfit was a pair of MOVA Skinny Pants, a tank top, and the Glyder LS top as a removable layer.
Bring one true safari outfit
While you generally won’t need to restrict your color choices if you’re sticking to game drives, make sure to pack at least one outfit with natural colors, just in case. Think khaki/tan, green, grey, brown, and the like. If you’re going to an area with highly sensitive wildlife or open spaces, your guide may recommend that you wear natural colors to avoid attracting attention and scaring off the animals. While you don’t need to dress like “Safari Jane” all the time, it’s good to be prepared!
Space is often limited on overland vehicles, so packing lightweight, breathable clothing that washes and dries quickly is important. I used a backpack for my gear, and it was a great choice – the soft sides made it easy to squeeze into the luggage compartments. Packed in my bag were:
- Two pairs of MOVA Skinny Pants
- One pair of Krush Pants
- One pair of Kontra Shorts
- Glyder LS button down shirt
- Airspeed LS button down shirt
- Variety of tank tops made from technical material
- Alva Thermal
- Long sleeve casual shirts, including the Kahera ¾ Sleeve and Klearwater Tunic (perfect for long flights!)
- One pair of sleeping clothes
- Sports bras/underwear
- Flight Jacket (one women’s fleece jacket)
- Firefly Hoody (one insulated women’s jacket)
- Airstorm Jacket (wind/waterproof women’s jacket)
- Hiking boots
- Slip on closed toed shoes (for walking to the bathrooms at night)
- Athletic sandals
- Baseball cap or sun hat
- Quick-dry towel
- Sleeping bag and sleeping bag liner – rated for freezing if you will be there in winter
- Camping pillow
- Playing cards – GREAT for connecting with the local people!
- Toiletries, including bug spray and hand sanitizer
- Lock for luggage compartment
- Water bottle with filter (I prefer GRAYL water bottles)
- Journal and pen
- Camera with zoom lens – this is one trip when you want a nice camera! Don’t rely on your phone!
- Extra batteries
- Portable charging device for recharging phone, camera, etc
If packing for the trip of a lifetime in Africa seems overwhelming, don’t worry – it doesn’t have to be! Stick to breathable, lightweight clothing that packs small and layers well, and you’ll be just fine. Luckily, KUHL has a ton of great options to help you choose!