To get the most out of your African overlanding safari, it’s all about being prepared, which means packing the right stuff. Here’s our comprehensive packing list to help you have the best overlanding trip possible.
Just remember, less is more! Don’t try and bring everything and the kitchen sink – you do a lot of packing and unpacking on an overlanding safari, so having less stuff will make things easier for you.
The overlanding bag
Forget the wheelie suitcase – the only bag that’s suitable for an African overlanding safari is a backpack.
If you plan on buying curios and souvenirs on your trip (and there are great things to buy all over Africa, from wooden carvings and paintings to clothes and jewellery), think about bringing along an extra small bag that can be folded up easily inside your main backpack.
The overlanding essentials
A comfortable pillow and spare pillow case – even if you’re not on a camping trip, you’ll want to bring along a pillow for those long rides in the truck, to sit on and sleep on.
A sleeping bag – don’t forget this if you’re on a camping trip!
A headlamp – you’re probably going to use a headlamp every day on your Africa overland trip, especially if you’re camping, so get a good one! You often arrive at camp at night and have to set up your tent, or navigate your way to the bathroom in the pitch dark. Even if you’re on an accommodated trip you’ll still need to use a headlamp from time to time. There will be places where you can buy batteries but bring some spare ones just in case.
Plastic bags and Ziploc bags – plastic bags are the traveller’s best friend – you can use them for dirty clothes, wet clothes and dusty clothes. Medium and large sized Ziploc bags are great for storing stuff you don’t want to get dusty and dirty, such as your travel documents and camera.
Wet wipes and hand sanitiser – travelling by overland truck in Africa can be a dusty business, and you often have to stop for toilet breaks on the side of the road, so hand sanitiser or wet wipes are your hygienic helpers. One reason to choose wet wipes over hand sanitiser (or to pack both) is that you can use the wipes to clean your face as well as your hands, which is great after activities such as sandboarding in Namibia and
Laundry soap, plug and washing line – there are places along the way where you can do your laundry, but if you want to save money you can wash your own clothes if you bring your own soap, plug and a travel washing line to hang up your wet washing.
Travel towel – can’t live without one of these!
Water bottle – save plastic where you can and bring a reusable water bottle!
A basic first aid kit – pack band-aids and bandages, antiseptic, mosquito repellant, cortisone cream to help with insect bite itching, diarrhoea medication, pain killers and Malaria medication if you’re visiting a Malarial area. Also talk to your doctor about getting a broad-spectrum antibiotic.
Essential items include hiking pants that can be zipped off into shorts, a warm fleece jacket (Africa does get cold!), t-shirts, good walking shoes, and a swimsuit. It’s good to bring clothes in darker colours, as they show dirt less than lighter colours.
African overlanding safaris are filled with adventures and fun activities, but there is also a lot of downtime, and a lot of long days in the truck, so bringing along some things to keep you entertained is the way to go.
Books take up a lot of space in your bag, but there are opportunities to exchange ones you’ve read for new books at many backpackers and campsites you stay at along the way. A better option, however, is to get an e-reader such as a Kindle, which you can load up with books before you leave on the trip, or download more books when you can connect to wi-fi.
If you get carsick, then you probably won’t be reading books while on the road, especially as a lot of the roads on an African overland trip are pretty bumpy! A good idea is to download audiobooks from a site such as www.audible.com. Another great option for carsick travellers is podcasts. Obviously, if you’re bringing an iPod or mp3 player, you’ll want to create some rocking music playlists to listen to!
A pack of cards doesn’t take up much space in your bag, and is a great way of passing the time while chilling at campsites!
Obviously you’re going to want to capture those magical moments from your overlanding trip by taking photos or shooting video. If you’re going to use your smartphone, consider buying some lens attachments to jazz up your photos.
If you’re bringing a digital camera – whether a point-and-shoot or an SLR – think about buying an extra battery just in case, and make sure you have a lot of memory cards. If you aren’t bringing your own laptop, consider packing some CDs and using someone else’s laptop to back up your photos – it’s easy to lose those tiny memory cards!
When you stop overnight at campsites or hotels, there will be the opportunity to charge your electronics. A good item to have in your bag is a travel power strip – a three-plug unit with two USB connections that fits into one wall plug (such as this one), so you can charge all your electronics at once.
For those times in between power outlets, you can use a portable solar charger to charge up your electronics. The Solarmonkey Adventurer is a great option – it can charge smartphones, iPads, iPods and e-readers.
You may want to bring along some snacks from back home, but keep in mind they take up valuable room in your bag! There are places where you can buy some tasty snacks along the trip, such as dried fruit, biltong (dried meat jerky), nuts, chips and candy. Be sure to try local treats such as barbecued corn on the cob (which you’ll find almost everywhere) and Rolexes – fried eggs wrapped in buttery chapatti bread in Uganda.