One of my readers asked me what did I pack for an 18-day African Safari, which had a luggage size & weight restriction (soft-side, no-wheel, medium canvas duffle – combined with carry-on max weight 33 lbs). First off, I can say most (but not all) of our fellow travelers ignored the size and weight information without any added fees/downside. However, here’s some tips on what to pack, and what not to pack, if you’re thinking of a long trip of this sort (third world, wilderness safari, limited luggage, high end accommodations).
Things you might not think of that really came in handy: a small flashlight; an extension cord multi-plug strip (many places only had charging stations in the main lounge – everyone fighting for a few plugs made our US multi-plug power strip popular); tissue or toilet paper (many places, including “bush stops” don’t have it – I carried mine in a small zip-lock bag to make bush stops a leave-nothing-behind experience); a non-electric alarm (many on our trip had at least one morning of no wake up “call” which starts the morning off on the wrong foot; of course, the good wake up call in tent camps came with fresh coffee); cash in small un-damaged bills (ones and fives; the local markets all took US dollars but not worn ones; no-one gave “change”); a camping clothes-line (I did use the laundry services for shirts and pants a couple of times – it was hot and dusty and the laundry charges were small, but washed my own underthings out in the sink & hung to dry overnight); small collapsible tote (we ended up using it for a number of different things); duct tape (another traveller needed this to fix a luggage disaster and it took awhile to locate some).
Standard fare for a trip: camera, charger, extra battery, electric converter, good pair of binoculars, security pouch, travel documents (confirmation numbers, emergency phone numbers, copy of passports/visas/credit cads; I put a copy of the itinerary in each of our bags); small day pack (to hold the camera, binoculars, pullover, scarf).
A limited amount of Clothing: 2 lightweight, long-sleeved camp shirts; 4 quick-dry, short-sleeved T-shirts; 3 lightweight zip-off hiking pants (the kind that convert to shorts); 2 fleece/pullovers; 4 pair breathable socks; 4 hand-wash (quick dry) underwear; 3 sports bras (essential for bumpy roads!); 1 pair of good walking shoes/trail runners (not hiking boots)/1 pair running shoes or keens/tevas/1 pair flip flops. On safari they recommend all clothes to be in the infamous khaki or olive color; I added in some lilac & peach color. And travel wearing one piece of each item!
Additional Clothing: Wide-brimmed hat with strap (essential!); 2-3 Buff/bandanas (dust control, also essential); 1 pair sleeping clothes; 1 pair gloves; 1 rain jacket/all weather jacket; bathing suit; minimum jewelry (buy something local; leave home the good stuff). My bald hubby added a warm hat – good on cool mornings.
Other essentials: 2 pair reading glasses; 2 pair sun glasses; small bottle sun protection lotion; hand sanitizer/wet wipes; insect repellant (we pre-treated our clothes as well and I do think it helped); a small toiletries kit (deodorant, lip balm, razor/shave cream, toothpaste, floss, mouthwash, nail clippers, nail file, emery board, tweezers, small scissor, Q-tips, minimal cosmetics); a small first aid kit (ours had band-aids; an elastic wrap; anti-diarrhea pills; topical cortisone cream; anti-biotic ointment; ibuprofen; allergy medicine; sore throat lozenges); even smaller day-kit to carry (mine had 2-3 hand sanitizer wipes, 2 bug repellent wipes, ibuprofen, Pepto, Bandaids, tissues, emery board, extra hair ties). Yes, I used almost everything in our kits over the 3 weeks, either for myself or for a fellow traveller.
Things I liked having: Safari wildlife book, journal + pen (helped me to capture what I experienced each day); a lightweight pashmina/scarf (mine was cotton and it served as both warmth and color).
Things I didn’t need (and wished had not taken up space/weight): Reading books (There was very little downtime and when there was, I napped!); Soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, washcloth (All the places we stayed were well supplied); extra toothbrushes (was warned about potential of rinsing toothbrush in sink forgetfully…but I put bottled water at sink handle and never an issue); SPF body lotion (I was covered 95% of the time and only needed face product); water bottle (every location provided complimentary bottled water in the rooms, and it was widely sold as well; too many airport security checks these days to try & carry water onto the plane!). When you are limited on space/weight, leave behind these things for souvenir buying space/weight!
Don’t forget your daily medicines and Malaria prophylaxis.
If you’re planning a village visit, bring pens/pencils/notepads for village children. One woman brought nail polish for the village women and another brought ball caps for the village men (yes, she was one which disregarded weight/size limits)!
A few folks planned their “leave behinds”. One woman gave away a shirt every time she bought a new one; another left her well-stocked first aid kit on the last day. We gave our extension power cord to a camp towards the end of the trip.
Yes, I survived for 20 days (trip plus travel days) on that limited amount of items, which seems like a huge list but all easily fit into the medium sized duffle. And it felt good to be able to carry my own luggage (if I needed to). And nobody noticed I was wearing the same clothes multiple days.
Picture Credit: Me! Serengeti, 2017