What to Pack

What to Pack 2018-01-02T10:18:33+00:00


duffle bagSoft luggage, round like a duffle bag, can be tucked away on charter flights. Rectangular bags are hard to stow on small planes or sailboats.  Consider weight limits for wing safaris (26 pounds including camera gear) or backpacks for treks. Try  Orvis Battenkill® Duffles  and Orvis Battenkill Gear Bag



Essential for identifying birds and white from black rhino.


Test your gear before you leave home. I arrived in Nairobi to discover B&H failed to include a battery, and few were available at double the price.  For recharging, ask your tour operator (which should be Pulse Africa) what kind of power you can expect. Some tented camps turn off generator power at night, and some rely on solar power. You may want to take along a charger that can work off a vehicle battery.  For a small camera, I recommend the Canon Powershot. It captured this leopard several hundred meters away, in the Serengeti kopjes. 


I always pack one long black travel dress. On the luxurious trains of South Africa, and in the hotels of Cape Town, travelers dress for dinner. The same dress with a jacket or sweater can be worn on your international flight.  Add this leopard top for black tie bush dinners.

Eye glasses

Dust is irritating to contact lens wearers, so pack a pair of reading glasses. You don’t want to miss reading books that enhance your journey. My pick, Big Cat Man, the autobiography of Jonathan Scott, host of the BBC TV series. Order the book.










magliteTiny slim lights are excellent for finding your way in the dark. Many camps turn off power at night, and rarely toilets can be a stroll in the bush. These flashlights are also useful in a hotel room, to not wake your roommate by switching on a lamp. Mag Instrument K3A106 Silver Mag-Lite…

Hat with brim

Tilley Hat – Cool Mesh Lightweight Airflo Hat Khaki with Olive Underbrim (KHOL) LTM611jnnT88VrL._SL160_ Pith helmets are hot, and you will do better to choose a hat that folds for packing.  116NQZJ0N8L._SL160_
Packable Felt Hat
Scala Wool Felt Crushable Safari Hat, The Wellington


Insect repellant

The standard is DEET, but more pleasant solutions include Skin so Soft and Oil of Citronella.  Wear long sleeves and long pants in the evening, and tuck your slacks into your socks. Use the coil and mosquito nets provided.  A dot of ammonia will reduce the itch and inflammation of a bite, even those caused by Tse tse flies. Beware of ticks on a walking safari, even tall grass around your tent can harbor bombs of pepper ticks, similar to red bug chiggers in North America. Bathe, scrub, shave, shampoo.

Malaria pills

Most physicians suggest you take anti-malaria preventive two weeks before departure. To form your own opinion, consult your doctor and http://www.cdc.gov/travel/ . You should not need the pills around Nairobi, which is at 6,000 feet, but may need to take the full course for lower elevations, especially on the Indian Ocean Coast. Avoid Larium, which can have terrible side effects.

Medicine kit

Your personal choices: Aspirin, Lomotil, eye drops, band aids, disinfectant.


ATM’s in major cities and at airports, big hotels. Alert your bank before you go; some security measures do not permit withdrawal.  For currency exchange, www.oanda.com


Check your expiration date when you begin to make plans; renewing a passport can take weeks, and U.S. citizens can no longer add pages, but must buy a new passport if yours is full. Make a photo copy of your passport ID page and keep it in a separate place, maybe with those receipts for your traveler’s checks. How to Apply for a Passport Renewal


Never underestimate the power of the sun to zap your energy or burn your skin. Certain destinations, such as Australia and Africa, demand extra care, as do many outdoor activities: skiing, sailing or snorkeling.  It takes a tight weave of cloth to protect your skin; the difference in shirts can range from 5 to 30 SFP. Some shirts and slacks have indications of sun protection, but the simple test is to hold them up to the light.


Even remote tented camps provide shampoo, soaps, but not always hair dryers. Consider leaving such behind to lighten your load.

Ziplock bags

For your camera, your wet swimsuit, but beware that Kenya and Rwanda have banned plastic bags.

What not to pack:

Blue jeans take forever to dry, are not welcome in many restaurants or clubs, and only look good on a slim tush. Sandals are not smart in areas where there are poisonous snakes, thorns, rough terrain, or when a rain shower can flood unsanitary gutters, especially in developing countries. Taking jewelry is generally not a good idea, and you can buy beautiful local necklaces, bracelets and earrings.

What to Pack   Click to print a simple PDF copy of packing list.