Packing for an Overland Safari in Africa (Advice from a Tour Leader)

Taking an overland tour in Africa? Packing for an Overland safari in Africa can be a difficult task, and stressful too. Having worked as an Africa overland tour leader for several years, rest assured I can help you figure out exactly what to take, and what to leave at home.

I have spent more than three years working on overland tours in Africa and another two years of travel Africa solo but let me tell you, regardless of the information online, my passengers still take the wrong items with them. So I have put together an itemized list of what to pack for a safari in Africa based on my experience and feedback from the passengers on my Africa overland tours.

Packing for an Overland Safari in Africa

Firstly, one of my biggest concerns on tour is when clients show up after packing for an Overland safari with a giant metallic suitcase. You need to know that most overland trucks have limited space and this extends to the lockers on board. Why do you need to know this? So your backpack will fit comfortably on board.

This will mean you have a personal locker, but please assume this will be big enough for the essentials but far too small for a suitcase. You will need to put your sleeping bag, clothes and pretty much everything you take with you inside these lockers and keep in mind; souvenirs will also take their place in here.

Best backpack for an overland tour in Africa

It makes sense to invest in the best backpack for an overland tour, and you are best not to bring more than two bags – the main backpack and smaller day bag. In this sense, the absolute best and most common option I see on an overland tour are the backpacks with a detachable day pack.

As you might expect with a German brand, Deuter has some of the best backpacks for an overland tour including the Deuter Transit50 which is a decent size and super comfortable to carry. There is a shoulder strap which makes it easy to move around as well as side and top handles. You can adjust the straps around the mid-section to ensure the right and most comfortable fit while the detachable day pack means you have all your backpacking needs in one. Last time I checked, Amazon have it advertised for approximately $185 but don’t be put off by the price tag- this is possibly the best backpack for an overland tour and a bag you will likely use for many travelling years to come.

Recap

  • One Deuter large duffel bag with detachable backpack are the best options when packing for an Overland safari.

What clothes to take on an overland tour in Africa

Do yourself a favour and leave the beige safari hat and typical safari gear at home. You will feel like an idiot wearing this on an Overland safari in Africa, and it is better to be practical rather than clever when it comes to choosing what clothes to take for an Africa overland tour. Clothes that dry fast is a huge advantage and this goes for everything from outdoor pants and shorts to a micro fiber towel.

On an overland tour in Africa, you are on the move most days, and so it is difficult to find the time when it comes to washing any clothes, let alone hanging them out to dry. For this reason, quick drying clothes are a great option and remember, nobody pays any attention to dress sense on an overland tour so don’t try to be too fancy.

Keep in mind when packing for an Overland safari the temperature will change drastically throughout the overland tour so it is better to have layers as opposed to items which can only be used in one type of climate. I find a fleece and a shell jacket (see north face below) are perfect for ensuring you don’t go cold while also having something for rain and moderate weather.

Just a note on two items:

Jeans – I like to wear jeans over here. Yes, it can be hot, but jeans are durable and warm when it is cold.

Jacket – The most expensive item of clothing I have ever purchased is my North Face shell. It is also my favourite piece of clothing, and I have trekked mountain gorillas and camped wild inside volcanoes in this jacket. You will see me wearing it everywhere I go, and it was well worth every cent.

  • Quick Drying underwear
    Socks
  • 2 x quick dry sports t-shirts
  • 1 x long sleeve top
  • 1-2 pairs of long pants
  • 2 x shorts
  • 1 x North Face Jacket

Things you should buy on Day one of an Overland Safari

Solo traveller in the airport

• Extra Blanket for cold nights and a pillow
• A mug, plate, and cutlery.
• Clothespegs for hanging up washing.
• Alarm clock – not your phone – turn it off to save power.
• Powerbanks – for charging your phone/electronic equipment
• Multi-socket adaptors with USB ports for charging.
• Condiment box for storing food in the fridge/cooler.

Packing for an Overland Safari in Africa

When preparing Africa overland tour packing list, bear in mind that most things you need can also be purchased in Africa. For toiletries, unless you use a specific brand, you will find the essentials available there. The brands may be different to home, but the outcome is the same – I’m talking about soaps, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes.

• Sunscreen – It´s advised to bring your own, as it is expensive there.
• Lip balm with a good SPF
• Malaria medication – consult your travel doctor on which type is currently prescribed for your destination country.
• Bug spray with sufficient DEET – 90% is too much and will burn holes in your clothing.
• Personal first aid kit containing band-aids and antibiotic ointment (truck has full first-aid kit)
• Painkillers just in case.
• Sleep aid for example Tylenol, as some of the campsites can be quite noisy.
• Ear plugs for the above same reason.

What is the best sleeping bag for an overland tour in Africa

This is something everyone seems to get wrong. Temperatures will change throughout the trip so don’t bring anything too light or too heavy. As a rule, the best sleeping bag for an overland tour in Africa is reasonably light as you can always buy a spare blanket on the cheap in Africa. Depending on the operator, you may not need to bring a thermal-rest as it is sometimes provided.

Conclusion:

– Keep the sleeping bag to approx. 20 degrees C.
– Buy blankets and a nice pillow when you get there.
– Ask the operator if a sleeping mattress is provided.

Best camera for an overland safari in Africa

Since this is sure to be a memorable trip, you will want your best camera with you or consider investing in a good one. Your photography equipment is not something with which you want to save weight with; it should be high priority. You will have amazing wildlife photo opportunities. I would recommend a DSLR or a quality compact mirror-less camera. I use a Nikon D3200 and a GoPro while also taking my Samsung Phone.

A GoPro is a great addition to taking action shots but is not suitable for still wildlife photos due to its wide angle camera design. When using a GoPro you need to be very close to the subject to get a good picture, and this is not advisable when photographing a lion or other wildlife! The new GoPro Hero5 Black comes with voice command and would be very useful on safari. If you see a lion you simply say “Hello GoPro, Take Burst”.

If you take a DSLR on safari, I would recommend a monopod or Gorilla pod or tripod for use on the Land Rover while driving along. For taking high-quality photos, a tripod is a must.

Regardless of what camera you bring, remember to bring along some spare batteries and a large memory card. Unless you have your computer or another device to upload your photos, extra memory cards will be necessary.

Take a day bag with you (Like the detachable Deuter bag mentioned above)

For many portions of an overland safari, you will leave the large overland truck and travel out into the game parks in a small Land Rover. While in the Serengeti, Masai Mara, Zanzibar, and Chobe National Parks we were travelling in a Land Rover and stayed overnight in campsites organized by a secondary company. For days like this, you will leave the bulk of your gear in the lockers of the big truck and just bring a day bag with you. You should just bring what you need for the time you will spend in the park.
• Clothes for the trip
• Toiletries
• Cameras
• Chargers
• Torches/headlamps, as the campsites can be very dark
• You may need your pillow and sleeping bag, but the overland tour leader will tell you.

The remainder of your gear will remain in the truck, and for most companies, it stays in the locker at the campsite with crew members.

Must Have Accessories when packing for an Overland safari

• Headlamp – needed for setting up your tent in Africa on early morning game or at night when going to the bathroom.
• Two combination locks.
• Spare batteries for a headlamp or other electronics.
• Sunhat – baseball hat or wide brimmed hat
• Winter hat for when it´s cold, mornings and nights.
• Sunglasses
• Towel – quick drying camping towel is recommended
• Sturdy shoes – I don’t even use thongs/sandals/flip flops

travel blogger

Other useful items

• A 12v car cigarette plug-in for charging USB devices – the trucks usually have USB charges, but oft
en they are broken or in high demand.
• Powerbank – To charge your phone or other devices while on the bus or the go. The trucks usually have charging stations but to use a device while charging it, a power bank is useful.
• Travel power strip – This will give you more plug points when there are in short supply. One with USB ports allows you to charge more devices.
• Movies/Media on phone or computer – Some days will involve a lot of driving so have books, movies, music with you for entertainment. Sometimes it is nice to have a movie night at the campsites too.
• 1L water bottle – this lets you buy 1-gallon water jugs along the way, saving money and plastic.
• Shower bag/caddy – It is nice to have a mesh bag to hang up your things while showering at the campsites.
• Baby wipes – These can be used to wash when no shower is available, and are always useful in other situations. You can buy more of these while in Africa.
• Hand sanitizer – while it is better to wash your hands, this can come in handy too.
• Hand soap (small bottle)
• Ziplock bags – These are useful in many situations, for keeping food fresh, or others things dry, and for countless other things.
• Your TENT – As long as it fits in your backpack (Like mine) having your tent will give you more privacy on an overland tour as you won’t need to share with another traveler.

Otherwise, it’s all part of the adventure so have fun while you are Packing for an Overland safari and if you want advice on the best overland tour in Africa, shoot me a message on my Facebook page – I will be happy to help you out (And get you a discount too).