The Ultimate Safari Packing List

All the clothing, shoes, and accessories you need for your safari adventure.

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Pack for a Safari

Rei, Merrell, Columbia

A safari tour is a bucket-list vacation for many travelers — and it's a type of trip that requires a little bit of specialized packing. After all, you can't just pop by the store to pick up any forgotten items when you're in the bush.

While camps might have some spare supplies that you can borrow, it's important to head into this type of journey as prepared as possible. That's why we spoke to experts to put this broad safari packing list together, covering the essentials for clothing, shoes, accessories, and bags (because you might not be able to bring your normal suitcase!).

Use this guide to gather everything you'll need for your safari trip, and also be sure to pack other typical travel essentials, such as your passport and other necessary documents, toiletries, and more.

Packing Checklist for a Safari

Here's everything you need to pack for a safari with our top pick for each item. Use this as a checklist and read more about each of our specific recommendations below.

Clothing

  • Best Long-sleeved Shirt: Columbia Men's and Women's PFG Tamiami II Long-sleeve Shirt at Columbia
  • Best Short-sleeved Shirt: L.L. Bean Men's and Women's Tropicwear Shirt, Short-sleeve at L.L. Bean
  • Best Pants: REI Co-op Men's and Women's Sahara Convertible Pants at REI
  • Best Warm Layer: Patagonia Men's and Women's Better Sweater Fleece Jacket at REI
  • Best Rain Jacket: Marmot Men's and Women's PreCip Eco Jacket at Marmot

Shoes

Gear and Accessories

Luggage and Bags

T+L's Top Picks and Tips

Best Clothing

"When it comes to safari clothing, bear in mind the Three Cs: Color-sensitive, casual, and comfortable," says Micato Safaris advisor Liz Wheeler, a member of Travel + Leisure's A-List.

Color is particularly important. "Stick to neutral colors like khaki, light brown, gray, stone, and tan, which blend in with the colors of nature," says Richard Avilino, a private guide with Wilderness Safaris. You also might want to skip white — it's not ideal for the dusty conditions of most safari landscapes. As for colors to avoid, Wheeler advises to skip "flamboyantly bright colors, particularly reds, which can actually scare off the safari animals." She also advises against darker colors like dark blue, which can attract flies.

In terms of fabrics, opt for materials that will keep you cool, like cotton or moisture-wicking synthetics. Anything quick-dry is a great idea, particularly if you plan on doing laundry during your safari. "If you are in remote camps, all laundry will be done by hand and air-dried, so quick-dry is handy," says Andy Hogg, founder of the Bushcamp Company.

Fortunately, most safari lodges offer laundry services — which are frequently complimentary — so you can get away with packing light. Here's our recommended wardrobe.

Best Long-sleeved Shirt: Columbia PFG Tamiami II Long-sleeve Shirt

Columbia PFG Tamiami II Long-sleeve Shirt

Columbia

A long-sleeve shirt might be the most crucial part of your safari wardrobe. Though most safari destinations can get pretty hot during the day, long-sleeve shirts are ideal as they provide extra protection from both the sun and insect bites. Plus, it often gets fairly cold in the morning and at night, so being able to roll your sleeves down is a bonus. We love this long-sleeve shirt because it's quick-dry and moisture-wicking with mesh ventilation in the back for extra cooling.

Best Short-sleeved Shirt: L.L. Bean Tropicwear Shirt, Short-sleeve

L.L. Bean Tropicwear Shirt, Short-sleeve

L.L. Bean

If you really can't stand the idea of wearing long sleeves on safari, don't worry. Short-sleeve shirts are acceptable, too! This wrinkle-free shirt is made with UPF 50+, providing you with extra sun protection. You can toss your sunglasses in one of the two chest pockets, and you can clean them with the microfiber wipe inside the front shirttail. A bonus: This shirt is stretchy for extra comfort.

Best Pants: REI Co-op Sahara Convertible Pants

REI Co-op Sahara Convertible Pants

REI

Safari pants are something of a personal choice — you want to wear something that feels most comfortable to you. "Some guests like the novelty and convenience of those nylon pants with the nifty zip-off legs," Wheeler says. "If you do make that fashion choice, practice zipping the legs on and off before you go. I’m serious! It’s just one of those things that’s not for everybody." If you do decide to go the convertible route, we recommend this pair of pants, which are made from water-repellant nylon and have plenty of pockets for gear.

Best Warm Layer: Patagonia Better Sweater Fleece Jacket

Patagonia Better Sweater

Patagonia

At night, it often gets fairly cold on safari, so it's essential to pack a warm layer for evenings and early-morning game drives. This full-zip Patagonia fleece, which is made from 100 percent recycled polyester, has a sweater-knit exterior that's ideal for dusty conditions on safari — it doesn't trap as much dust as fuzzier models. It has three zippered pockets, including a chest pocket for stashing your binoculars, phone, or hand warmers if you need them.

Best Rain Jacket: Marmot Men's PreCip Eco Jacket

Marmot PreCip Eco Jacket

Amazon

If you're going on safari during the wet season, toss a packable rain jacket into your duffel. This jacket, which folds into its own pocket, has a hood that can be rolled into the collar as well as a soft lining on the chin to prevent chafing. While many rain jackets trap body heat, this is a particularly breathable one, made from Marmot's proprietary NanoPro nylon. It also has zippers in the armpits for extra ventilation.

Best Shoes

Many safari operators issue weight limits for your baggage, which is often due to the small bush planes you take to get between remote camps. As such, you'll want to avoid overpacking, and cutting down the number of shoes you bring is an easy way to save space. Two essential pairs? Hiking boots or trail runners (for walking safaris or trekking along trails) and sandals (for comfortably lounging at your lodge for the day).

Best Hiking Boots: Merrell Moab 2 Mid Waterproof Hiking Boots

Merrell Moab 2

Merrell

Hiking boots aren't always necessary on safari, as most game drives don't involve much walking. But if you're on a walking safari, or if your lodge has hiking trails, you'll want to pack appropriate footwear. This mid-height pair provides enough ankle support without being too bulky, and it's waterproof — key if you're trekking through a muddy area. If you're going to bring hiking boots, make sure to break them in first. "Don’t buy new ones right before the trip," Hogg says. No one wants to develop blisters while on safari!

Best Trail Runners: Allbirds Women’s Trail Runners SWT

allbirds trail runners

Courtesy of Allbirds

Trail runners are an excellent alternative to a full-on hiking boot, as they're lightweight and require less breaking in. This pair weighs just 12.36 ounces (compared to more than 2 pounds for the Merrell hiking boots), yet they're still waterproof and have macaroni-shaped treads for traction. We also love the sock-like collar that helps keep dust and debris out of the shoe. Plus, these trail runners come in a variety of colors, many of which are safari-friendly.

Best Sandals: Birkenstock Unisex Arizona Essentials EVA

Birkenstock Birkenstock Unisex Arizona Essentials EVA Sandals

Amazon

Sandals or flip-flops are perfect for lounging around camp during the day, especially if there's a pool. If you're a fan of classic cork Birkenstocks, give this pair a go. It's made from lightweight EVA, a soft, springy plastic that is shock-absorbing and waterproof, so they're super easy to rinse off if they get dusty. And you can wear them with socks if it gets cold (if you don't mind making that style decision).

Best Gear and Accessories

Must-haves for your time out on safari include binoculars for spotting faraway animals; sunscreen, sunglasses, and insect repellant for protection; and also a camera for capturing memorable moments. Also, think about the things you'll need outside of safari time, such as an adapter suitable for your destination and an e-reader to pass the time between drives.

Best Hat: Tilley LTM6 Airflo Broad Brim Hat

Tilley LTM6 Airflo Broad Brim Hat

REI

The sun is your worst enemy on safari, which is why all safari experts advocate for bringing a hat. "You’d be surprised how often guests forget to pack a hat or just don’t want to because hats seldom fit gracefully into luggage," Wheeler says. "But a great safari hat with a generous brim is pretty essential on the sunny plains. A ball cap is better than nothing, but sadly only does half the job unless you relentlessly flip it." This hat has a UPF 50 rating, providing great sun protection. It also has mesh ventilation to keep you cool.

Best Binoculars: Athlon Optics Midas G2 8x42 UHD Binocular

Athlon Optics Midas G2 8x42 UHD Binocular for Adult and Kids

Amazon

While it'd be lovely if all wildlife sightings happened within feet of your safari vehicle, the reality is that many sightings will be a bit more distant, which makes binoculars a necessity. This pair has 8x magnification and a 42-millimeter objective lens diameter, which is what many experts recommend for general use. They're also extremely durable — they're waterproof and fogproof with rubber armor coating. But before going out to buy your own binoculars, check with your safari operator to see if they provide them for guests, which could save you precious space and weight in your luggage.

Best Sunscreen: La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-In Milk Sunscreen SPF 60

4.8
La Roche-posay Anthelios Melt-in Sunscreen Milk SPF 60

Amazon

Even if you're wearing a wide-brim hat and a long-sleeve shirt, you should still take care to protect any exposed skin with sunscreen. Though this specific sunscreen is on the pricier side, it's well worth the investment. It's oil-free, fast-absorbing, and moisturizing, and it can be used on both the face and the body. With SPF 60 protection, plus an 80-minute water rating, this sunscreen will keep your skin well-protected on safari. But don't forget to reapply!

Best Sunglasses: Ray-Ban RB2140 Original Wayfarer Sunglasses

Ray-ban Original Wayfarer

Amazon

Pair your safari hat with sunglasses for maximum viewing comfort during a game drive. We at T+L have named the Ray-Ban Original Wayfarer the best all-around sunglasses for travel, and that includes safaris. The now-iconic frame made its debut in 1952 and is still incredibly popular worldwide, thanks to its flattering shape. There's a scratch-resistant coating on the lenses, so you don't have to worry about nicking them as you toss them into your daypack or pocket while on the go.

Best Insect Repellent: Sawyer Products Picaridin Continuous Spray Insect Repellent

4.5
Picaridin Continuous Spray Insect Repellent

Amazon

Mosquitos can carry some pretty unpleasant diseases that affect humans, from malaria to yellow fever. Certain areas of Africa are known to have mosquito populations that carry these diseases, so it's crucial to protect yourself from their bites. Beyond medication and vaccines, insect repellent is a helpful tool to do so. While DEET is the chemical best known to keep mosquitoes away, it can often be oily on the skin. Picaridin, which you'll find in this repellent, has been proven to be just as effective as DEET, but it's a little kinder to your skin. It's also more helpful than DEET in repelling flies.

Best E-reader: Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition

4.7
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition (32 GB)

Courtesy of Amazon

Game drives typically happen in the morning and the late afternoon, when the temperatures are a little cooler and animals are more active. In the middle of the day, you'll likely have a bit of downtime at your safari lodge. Bring an e-reader to help pass the time. Amazon's Kindle Paperwhite has eight gigabytes of storage, plus a 10-week battery life, making it a traveler's best friend. It's also waterproof, so don't fear splashes by the pool. (That said, it's not designed to be used underwater — it's waterproof for "accidental immersion" only.)

Best Adapter: Mingtong International Travel Adapter

Mingtong International Travel Adapter

Amazon

Different countries have different electrical outlets, so pack an adapter to ensure you'll be able to keep your phone and camera powered up. This model has four retractable plugs that cover the majority of countries' electrical outlets, and its socket also accepts all four plug shapes. It also has three USB ports and one USB-C port that allow you to charge multiple devices at once. Each port is a smart port, adapting energy needs to suit the specific device plugged into it.

Best Luggage and Bags

Given how remote many safari lodges are, you'll probably end up on tiny bush planes to get there. As such, most safari companies advise you to bring soft-sided luggage like duffel bags, which are easier to squeeze into the cargo areas of those planes. Some planes are able to handle bags with one hard side, which allows you to bring rolling duffels with extendable handles, while others might require true duffels — check about baggage rules with your safari operator before packing up for your trip.

Best Carry-on Duffel: Briggs & Riley International Carry-On Upright Duffel

Briggs & Riley International Carry-On Upright Duffel

Courtesy of Briggs & Riley

Because you'll likely have to fly on small bush planes to reach your safari lodge, it's often required that guests bring soft-sided luggage: namely, duffel bags. But many operators permit bags with one hard side, which allows for rolling duffels with retractable handles. (Check with your specific safari operator to find out what kind of bag you can bring.) If you can pack light enough to travel with just a carry-on, this rolling carry-on is the bag to bring on safari. It zips around like a regular suitcase, which makes packing and unpacking a breeze. One T+L travel writer was even able to pack for a 15-day trip in this bag.

Best Checked Duffel: Eagle Creek Migrate Wheeled Duffel 110L

Eagle Creek Migrate Wheeled Duffel 110L

Eagle Creek

Checking a bag instead? This wheeled duffel provides ample space for all your clothing and gear with a capacity of 110 liters. Impressively, it's extremely lightweight, weighing just 5 pounds. It’s also made of durable recycled TPU, a type of plastic that can handle the trials and tribulations of airport baggage handling. As you're packing this bag, remember to keep within your operator's weight limit, which is usually less than the 50-pound maximum of most major airlines.

Best Backpack Duffel: Backcountry All Around 40L Duffel

Backcountry All Around 40L Duffel

Backcountry

If you're not able to bring a rolling bag on your safari, you'll have to go with a classic duffel. This carry-on-sized model is outfitted with detachable backpack straps, making carrying it much easier on your shoulders and arms than crossbody duffels. Made of durable water-resistant tarpaulin, this bag is tough enough to handle being checked into a cargo hold, too.

Best Daypack: Osprey Daylite Pack

Osprey Daylite Pack

Amazon

"Bring a backpack to take on activities, it will come in handy as you shed layers and also for your camera equipment, sunblock, and water bottle," Avilino says. We recommend a packable daypack like this model, which has a capacity of 13 liters — plenty of space for the basic gear you'll be taking with you on game drives. It's also water-repellant, which helps if you get stuck in a surprise rain shower.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What items should I have with me during a safari?

    Start with your wardrobe, which should mainly include casual clothing in natural colors that are suitable for outdoor activities. "The best advice I can give regarding clothing for a safari is simple — layers!" Avilino says. "They are key to being comfortable and well-prepared for the extremes in temperature that we can experience in southern Africa, particularly in our winter months, when early mornings and night-time can be really cold, but by lunchtime, you could be wearing short sleeves."


    Beyond that, you'll want to bring a hat, binoculars, sunscreen, sunglasses, and insect repellent, all of which you should store in an easy-to-carry daypack. Don't forget electronics like a camera, an e-reader, and all your chargers, plus an adapter.

  • What items are not allowed on safari?

    "Absolutely do not pack camouflage clothing for safari, as it’s prohibited for non-military personnel in many African countries," Wheeler says.


    Also, aside from safari specifically, several countries in Africa have strict bans on plastic bags and may confiscate them or fine travelers for using them, so don't pack these for your trip, even to hold your toiletries — instead, opt for a reusable toiletry bag.

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

Stefanie Waldek is a travel writer who has gone on safaris across Eastern and Southern Africa. (And, in fact, she wrote this article while packing for a safari!)  She not only relied on her own experience, but also spoke with safari experts to determine the best things to pack for safari.

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