Are you planning an African safari? If so, you’ve probably been over the details of a safari lodge, transportation, animal migration patterns, and more. One thing people tend to overlook, however, is safari clothing and the process of packing for a safari.
Choosing safari clothing can be more challenging than choosing outfits for the average city break or beach vacation. It requires carefully thinking through each and every item you pack.
Whether it’s your first safari or your tenth, being prepared with the right safari clothing is essential. This guide will teach you what materials work best, why colour matters, what to wear at the lodge, and more, along with specific recommendations from our favourite brands of safari clothing.
What to Consider When Choosing Your Safari Clothing
When it comes to the overall look of the outfit, there are no real guidelines, as the animals don’t care what you wear. However, there are a few tips to follow that will definitely make finding the right safari clothing a lot easier.
If you’ve ever seen photos of people on safari, you may have noticed that their colour choice is quite bland. Tan, brown and army green clothing isn’t just a trend (maybe just a bit). The colour of your clothing while on safari does matter and earthy tones are the typical recommendation.
First of all, blending in and not attracting attention to yourself is always good practice while around wildlife. What you wear on a safari while inside a vehicle doesn’t matter too much, as the animals generally view the car as one entity and do not differentiate the different people inside it. But if you are planning to go on any walking safaris, where you may come face to face with animals outside of a vehicle, wearing earthy colours is critical to your safety.
Another reason to wear neutrals is to avoid attracting the aggressive Tsetse flies that call central Africa home. They’re especially attracted to blue and black so whatever you do, avoid these colours.
Comfort Above All
Safaris are no fashion show. The thing that matters most is ultimately your comfort. You’ll likely be sitting in a car all day under the hot sun or walking through the bush with your guide. You’ll need clothes that fit you well but not too tight, leaving room to breathe. Soft, natural fabrics work best.
Pack Different Clothes for the Lodge
After a long day out on the savannah, you won’t want to stay in your safari clothing any longer. That’s why some travelers like to pack separate things to wear at the lodge that are also comfortable, but perhaps slightly more dressy. Most of the lodges, even the fanciest ones, do not have any dress code for their restaurants, but when you are dining and wining in such beautiful settings, it can be tempting to dress up just a bit to fit the scene.
Specific recommendations for lodge clothes can be found in the section below.
Layering up is a great idea while out on safari. Nights can be freezing cold and days can be steamy, so having multiple layers is a great solution, especially since most game drives start early in the mornings when the air is still very cold but run well into the heat of the day.
Watching the sunset in the Serengeti, Tanzania
Don’t Pack Too Much
Although it might be tempting to pack a lot for your safari, it’s essential to keep your packing list to the minimum. The main reason for this is that to get to some of the safari camps you’ll likely be taking a small plane from a major African city to a smaller town out in the bush.
These planes have strict weight limits most of the time and anything that exceeds this will have to be left behind. Make sure to research your airlines ahead of time and plan to adhere to these weight limits.
What to Wear on Safari
It might be tempting to pack shorts since you’ll be in such a hot place, but they’re generally a bad idea. You’ll want your legs covered when the Tsetse flies come out as well as when the sun gets dangerously strong.
Our favourite safari pants for women are Halle Pant from prAna, Crestwood Pant from prAna, or Quandary Pants from Patagonia. For men, we recommend Stretch Zion Pant from PrAna or Organic Cotton Gi Pants from Patagonia.
With shirts, it’s a great idea to layer a t-shirt with either a safari button-down shirt or a sweater. Make sure that both your t-shirt and your safari shirt are made of breathable, natural fabrics.
Our favourite safari shirts for women are Sahara Long-Sleeve Shirt from REI, Ezra Shirt from Kuhl, or Pilsner Peak Novelty Shirt from Colombia. Likewise, our favourite safari shirts for men are Sahara Solid Shirt or Sahara Solid Long-Sleeve Shirt, both from REI.
Unless you are doing a walking safari, boots are not a requirement for any game drive. You’ll be pleased to know that it does not matter whether you wear flip flops, running shoes or boots inside the safari vehicle, so what you choose to wear is completely up to you.
However, keep in mind that practically every game drive includes a coffee/tea break or an evening sundowner. This means that at one point or another, you will get out of the car and find yourself walking of red dusty soil, through bushes (those bush toilets don’t have any paths), and your feet will be exposed to the elements.
Max loves wearing flip flops while in the car, they let his feet breathe and he is not at all bothered by the cold or the dust that often gets kicked up into the vehicle during the drive. I, on the other hand, prefer to wear boots. They keep me warm during cool mornings and chilly evenings and they keep my feet protected from elephant poop and other dust/dirt that on the ground.
The best safari boots are those that cover your ankles as well as your feet. There’s no need to pack hiking boots, as most days you won’t be walking great distances. Instead, look for more of a combat-style boot that can be worn every day.
When it starts to pour on the savannah, you’ll be very happy you packed a good rain jacket. The best ones are light and breathable while still fully waterproof.
For both sun protection and classic safari style, a good hat is absolutely essential. Go for something with a brim to keep the sun out of your eyes and off of your face.
Clothes for the Lodge
At the end of the day, you’ll want to get out of your safari clothing and into something nicer to wear around the lodge.
We suggest packing the following:
- Dresses/Dinner Outfits: Sundresses or maxi dresses are perfect for nice dinners at the lodge. For men, pack shorts, long pants, and a few button-down shirts.
- Warm Sweater or Jacket: When the nights get especially chilly, you’ll want a cozy sweater to wear.
- Sandals: To go with your dinner outfits.
- Bathing Suits: If your safari lodge has a pool (and most of them do), make sure to bring at least one swimsuit with you.
Other Things to Bring
These don’t necessarily count as clothing, but they’re still essential to have with you while you’re on safari.
- Water Bottle: A reusable water bottle is an essential item for a day out on safari. We use and love Hydroflask bottles.
- Binoculars: To see the animals up close, binoculars are a must-have.
- Sunglasses: Protect your eyes from the harsh, direct sunlight.
- Camera with a Telephoto Lens: If you’re a photographer, you won’t want to miss the chance to photograph some of the most beautiful animals on earth in their natural habitats. Make sure to bring a good telephoto lens with you so you can zoom in close enough.
- Unlocked Phone With a SIM Card or Skyroam: The wifi at safari camps tends to be pretty bad in general, so it’s good to have a SIM card and/or mobile wifi device.
- Day Pack: For all your extra items that you’ll need throughout the day, we highly recommend a reliable day pack, such as this one from Peak Designs.
While it may seem like there are a lot of requirements for what to wear on a safari, it isn’t as complex as it appears.
Choosing the best safari clothing really comes down to practicality. If you make sure everything is comfortable, neutral in colour, and within your plane’s weight allowance, you should be in excellent shape.
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