5 Tips For Packing Light For An African Safari – The Ultimate Guide
When I started to help plan holidays to Africa in 1999 the standard luggage allowance on light aircraft was just 12kg. Most safari destinations have increased this to 15kg and many have gone to 20kg. However this still doesn’t allow you to pack your whole library and the kitchen sink in your luggage. The prospect of trying to fit your clothing, camera, binoculars, guide book and other items into a small bag can be overwhelming, so here are my top 5 tips for packing light on a safari holiday.
Use a frame-free, wheel-free sports bag
Frames and wheels are great for getting heavy bags through airports, but they make it really difficult to fit everything into the small luggage pods below most light aircraft in Africa, so they’re not allowed.
The bonus for you is that bags without frames and wheels are lighter than those with, so with a simple sports bag you’re already saving weight to pack more items inside.
There is always someone on hand to help with your luggage on safari, so you don’t need to worry about lugging it around with you throughout your African travels.
Safari boots and walking in Africa
Few safari holidays require you to have heavy boots. Both multi-day walking safaris and gorilla tracking can be done in lightweight Gore-Tex boots, or even a pair of trainers if that’s your preference.
If you do want to take your heavy boots to Africa, wear them rather than packing them when flying on light aircraft.
Take fewer clothes on safari
You don’t need to be smart on a safari holiday, so plenty of items you might think of packing can stay at home. And even once that lot has gone you still probably only need half the luggage you think you do.
Laundry can be done in almost every African safari camp and lodge, with dirty clothes picked up in the morning and returned clean (and possibly ironed) the same day. Pack three of most pieces of clothing in your safari luggage. You’ll be wearing one, another is clean and waiting to go, the third is being washed.
Don’t take toiletries on safari
“It’s easy for you to tell me not to take shampoo and conditioner” I hear you say. Indeed it is. As a baldy, it’s been many years since they’ve been on any safari packing list of mine.
Even deep in the bush, all the safari camps and lodges we recommend will supply toiletries in their tents and rooms. You don’t need to take yours with you on holiday. If you must, pack a small amount decanted into a travel sized bottle, don’t bring in bulk.
Take an iPad for travel documents and books
Travel apps allow you to carry your itinerary, tickets and emergency numbers with you on your phone and tablet. We offer to upload all our clients’ African holiday information to Vamoos, so there’s no need for plastic folders with sheaves of paperwork in your luggage (unless you prefer that, in which case we are happy to oblige). Vamoos also has the advantage of allowing you to “leave a copy” with friends and family at home.
Voracious readers will also be able to pack a tablet or Kindle to carry more books than would normally be feasible; fabulous for the downtime in the middle of a safari day, or lounging on the beach. African guidebooks, animal guides and bird books can also be downloaded, with some (eg. Sasol Birds of Southern Africa) available as apps.
Packing help – Interactive safari packing list
We’ve produced an interactive safari packing list, which asks three questions before tailoring a personal list for you based on destination, time of year and safari activities you’re undertaking. Click the link to try it out: Interactive Safari Packing List
Any packing for safari questions?
We would be delighted to help you plan a holiday, or answer any packing questions. Our team of experts have travelled widely throughout Africa. They can offer expert advice on every type of safari from family and beach holidays to riding and primate safaris. If you would like to talk to someone who has been there and done it, please just send us an email or give us a call.