Embarking on an African safari is among the most epic experiences a traveller will have. With long days spent outside in rugged surroundings, it’s important to come prepared — but that doesn’t mean packing everything but the kitchen sink.

“It’s easy to spot first-timers and tourists,” admits Suzanne Teng, A&K’s Africa product manager. “They’re decked out in all the gear. The thing is, you really don’t need that much — you can probably find a lot of what you need in your closet.”

Because flights to remote locations pose weight limits and most safari camps include laundry service, your most important rule should be: don’t over-pack. Luggage restrictions are strictly adhered to, and soft-sided luggage or duffels are required for storage on safari vehicles and light aircraft. Don’t worry, though: A&K gives each safari guest a custom-designed duffel bag that’s crafted to meet airline standards. To that end, make sure your carryon is small enough to fit beneath your seat.

At the end of the day, what you really need is a few pieces of lightweight, neutral, breathable and stretchy pieces of clothing that you can layer and be comfortable sitting in, in a safari vehicle, for long periods of time. Mornings can be quite chilly; by afternoon, the African sun is beating down. You need to be ready for those fluctuations and inevitabilities.

Animals grazing

Here are our top five must-haves when preparing for your trip:

  1. A wide-brimmed hat with a chin strap helps protect you from the sun, which beats down from all angles as the day wears on. And the strap? It keeps your hat from flying off of your head when you’re driving in an open-air vehicle.
  2. A few cotton or hybrid short-sleeve shirts that are light and breathable, along with a protective, long-sleeve sun shirt, are musts. Again, temperatures fluctuate, so a down sweater or jacket also comes in handy; it’s lightweight but warm and it won’t take up a lot of space.
  3. Comfortable, closed-toe shoes that you don’t mind getting dusty are important because safari vehicles ramble off-road and along dirt paths. And while you might want a pair of flip-flops to slip on during your down time, they’re not a practical option in most cases since mosquitoes are plentiful. One more thing: heavy, clunky boots aren’t necessary in safari vehicles and they’ll eat away at your weight limit anyway.
  4. This one is for the ladies: those dirt roads are bumpy, so bring a sports bra. Take it from the pros — you’ll be happy you did.
  5. Pants that move are an absolute must. Jeans and slacks made from hard fabrics aren’t ideal due to their weight and lack of movement. Instead, choose convertible and windbreaker-type pants. Yoga and “dance” pants are added options for ladies.
Depending on where your itinerary takes you, somewhat sharper — but still casual — attire is appropriate for big city and resort dining establishments. For the same reason, packing a light jacket is wise, too. In the event you’re travelling during winter months (mid-May through early September), do pack warm clothing. That includes a heavy sweater, gloves, warmer slacks and a lined jacket. This will keep you comfortable on chilly mornings, when temperatures often dip into the low 40s Fahrenheit. Oh, and one more tip: insects are attracted to dark blue and black, so in addition to wearing DEET bug spray, you should avoid wearing those colors, along with heavy perfumes. Likewise, leave the bright colors and whites at home; they’re believed to frighten animals, sending them into hiding. Additionally, camouflage is a no-no — not to mention illegal in some game parks. In short, that aforementioned neutral, basic clothing is the way to go. Check out A&K-recommended attire at the Travel Store.