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What to Pack for an African Safari

Posted: October 17, 2013

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in Travel Updates by Ellen Barone. You can read the original article here: WHAT TO PACK for an African Safari

By Ellen Barone

Consumer travel journalist, Ellen Barone, has been creating and curating intriguing, trustworthy and engaging travel inspiration and advice since 1998. With her signature blend of narrative and service journalism, editorial photography and digital technology, Ellen is a notable example of a photojournalist fusing blogging, multimedia storytelling and social media to engage with a diverse and active following.

“What to pack?” is the number one question I hear from friends, family and travelers who are setting off on a new adventure.

So, as I prepare for dual safaris in Namibia and Botswana as part of the 2013 Adventure Travel World Summit (ATWS), an annual meetup of 650 adventure travel professionals from around the globe, here are my 10 packing essentials for an African safari.


Africa is blessed with some of the most photogenic landscapes and colorful cultures on the planet. If there’s a trip worth lugging along serious camera equipment, it’s an African safari. I’m looking to hone my photography skills on dual adventures — a Namibia photographic tour and Botswana luxury safari  — and that means I’ll need a camera bag that will carry, protect and provide quick-grab access to my photography equipment. While I often use a camera backpack for adventure travel, a better choice for this trip is a shoulder bag that’s small and lightweight enough for safari vehicles and bush planes, yet big enough to accommodate camera equipment plus the Macbook Air and peripheral electronics I carry to download and process the shoot in the field. Enter Lowepro’s new Urban Reporter 250,  a modern carrying solution that doesn’t shout “camera bag” and, with a removable camera insert, converts easily to a stylish messenger bag which will be perfect for summit events and meetings.


I haven’t left for a warm-weather adventure without my Exofficio Nio Amphi pants for years now and this trip will be no different. However, I’ll also be travel testing a new adventure pant, theP^cubed Pick-Pocket Proof Pants™ by Clothing Arts. Attracted to the convenience of wearable security for passport, credit cards, mobile phone, etc., the ingeneous design, which also converts to capri length, seems like the perfect travel pant. I’ll be sharing my experiences next month, so check back again for the full review.


My feet are happiest in a sandal and for this trip I’ll be packing an old favorite, the Teva Original Universal, recently reintroduced back into the Teva product line in celebration of the company’s 30-year anniversary of the world’s first sport sandal.


Wherever adventure travelers gather you can bet, male or female, that there’s one piece of clothing they have in common — a pair of Exofficio Give-N-Go underwear. Ideal for travel, they are lightweight, breathable, comfy, easy to hand wash and they dry quickly. I pack two pair for any trip, wearing one while the other dries. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself wearing them at home, too. I do. My favorite combo: the crossover bra and bikini briefs.


For a stylish blouse and quick-dry, sun-protection all in one, I pack the women’s Granite Creek Shirt by Mountain Khakis. With DWR and UVA-UVB 50+ resistantance, it has a feminine fit, roll-up sleeves with a button catch, 2 chest pockets and side zip security pocket for convenient access to extra camera memory cards and batteries, and a wicking fabric that stays cool even under the heat of an African sun. The men’s version of this shirt has become a wardrobe staple for my husband - at home and away.


Before the advent of commercial packing accessories, I kept my clothing organized and clean inside my luggage with plastic hotel laundry bags. Not a sophisticated system, but a practical one. Then Eagle Creek developed their innovative Pack-It system and I upgraded my system. When weight matters, as it often does in safari vehicles and small planes, I carry Eagle Creek’s Pack-It™ Specter packing accessories. Extremely lightweight, translucent and water-resistant, the Specter packing products are made from durable silnylon fabric, the same material used for lightweight tents and backpacks. With an appropriately sized pack for everything from clothing to toiletries, thanks to Eagle Creek, I now pack like a pro.


I’ve traveled with the same Helen Kaminski hat for two decades. But this year I bought myself a hand-woven Panama hat during an extended stay in Cuenca, Ecuador, where Panama hats are traditionally made (click here for the full story). Lightweight and durable my new hat, similar to this women’s Panama hat from Pachacuti, has kept the sun off my face in Ecuador, Peru and Mexico. Next stop, Africa.


Whether it’s keeping the dust off me in the safari jeep, performing as a warming layer at night, or dressing up an outfit, a scarf is one wardrobe accessory that’s always in my bag. When it’s an extra-long infinity scarf, like this circular scarf by Uranta, I can also wear it as a hoodie, an evening wrap, and as a swim suit cover-up.


Nowadays most passports and credit cards utilize RFID chips that contain sensitive personal information. To protect my data, I carry an RFID blocking wallet which blocks out transmissions and prevents my personal information from being stolen. It inserts easily in to a pocket, money belt or neck pouch and keeps my credit cards, passport and identity safe.


A lifesaver for making your way around the safari camp at night or simply reading in bed without disturbing a sleeping partner, I always travel with a headlamp. While you can find less expensive alternatives, I like the SnowMiner headlamp and hand’s free lantern by Snow Peak. It runs on 3 AAA batteries (easily available anywhere in the world), operates on three light modes (high, low and strobe) and best of all, it converts from a bright headlamp beam to a lantern with soft, diffused light.

What about you? What are your recommendations and packing favorites for Africa adventures? Share a comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts