Safari Packing List for Women

So you’ve finally booked it — you’re going on safari in Africa. Maybe it’s been at the top of your bucket list for years, or maybe you just decided to go on impulse. Either way, you’re in for a once-in-a-lifetime experience and one of the world’s greatest travel adventures. But what should you bring with you to Africa? In this safari packing list for women, I’ll walk through everything you need. You’ll even be able to travel carry-on-only!

 

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you decide to purchase through these links, I receive a percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you, which helps me keep this site up and running.

 

The ultimate carry-on safari packing list for women

 

1. Backpack: Osprey Farpoint 40L

Osprey 40l backpack

From the minute you start on an African safari, everything you own will be promptly covered in dust — and your luggage is no exception. So skip the fancy wheeled suitcase and opt for a backpack you don’t mind beating up instead.

 

I highly recommend the Osprey 40 liter pack. It’s durable, it loads from the front so you always have easy access to your stuff, and it has just enough pouches to stay organized. The adjustable waist and chest straps help with weight distribution. Plus, it fits easily in an airplane’s overhead compartment.

 

40 liters may not sound like a lot, but if you follow the rest of this safari packing list for women, you’ll have no problem fitting everything you need in this backpack. Most safari vehicles restrict how much luggage you can bring anyway.

 

2. Daypack: Osprey Day Lite

 

Just dangling my feet over the world's second largest canyon
Me with my Day Lite pack, on the edge of the world’s second-largest canyon

 

Of course, you won’t want to carry your big backpack around all the time. So you’ll need a day pack to keep with you in your safari vehicle, while your luggage is packed away.

 

I recommend the Osprey Day Lite pack. It’s small enough to easily and comfortably wear all day, but big enough for your water, camera, snacks, and anything else you might need during the day. It has a waist and chest strap to help with weight distribution for those times when you need to walk to a viewpoint.

 

If you’re spending a couple of days in an urban center like Nairobi, Arusha, Johannesburg, or Windhoek before your safari, it’s best to leave your day pack at the hotel and bring only what you need for the day. Backpacks –even when they’re as indestructible as this one — are targets for thieves and pickpockets.

 

 3. Clothing

 

Lightweight, loose clothing is the ideal makeup of your safari packing list for women
I may not have won any style points, but at least I was comfortable standing in prime lion territory at the edge of the Etosha salt pan

 

Don’t worry, y’all, I’m not going to tell you to go invest in some camouflage pants and a goofy-looking hat. You’ll definitely see folks in full-on safari garb during your trip, but what to wear on safari is the same as what to wear on any trip in semi-tropical climates.

 

Unless you’re doing a walking safari, you’ll only see animals from a car. So there’s no need to blend in with the vegetation. Still, you’ll be exposed to the sun a lot — so loose, light-colored clothing is a good idea.

 

Tanzania, Kenya, and Zambia are still pretty conservative. South Africa and Namibia are less so, but you’ll still rarely see women in shorts. So this safari packing list for women focuses on long, loose and lightweight clothes. This is doubly important if you’ll be spending time in villages on your safari. If you’re just jumping from capital city to bush camp, you can probably get away with shorts.

 

Skirts are not the best idea. You’ll have to climb in and out of the car a lot, and some cars have unusually high suspensions to facilitate bush driving.

 

Tops:

  • Four tee shirts. I pack Royal Robbins tops like this and Toad&Co tops like this. They look good enough to wear to dinner when you get back to civilization. Stick with light colors.
  • Two tank tops that can handle the dust.
  • One lightweight long-sleeved shirt: For evenings, to protect from mosquitoes. This is my favorite one — it’s incredibly comfortable.
  • One fleece like this one. It packs light and is remarkably warm. Don’t underestimate how cold some parts of Africa can get at night or at high elevations.

 

Bottoms:

  • Two pairs of athletic pants. I recommend REI hiking pants. They’re lightweight, you can convert them to capris or (long) shorts, and they tolerate all manner of use and abuse. They’re not the most stylish, but they don’t look horrible either. Alternatively, if traveling in less-conservative countries, pack one pair of pants and one pair of shorts.
  • One pair of warm leggings: Great for sleeping in, protecting yourself from mosquitoes in the evenings, or as an extra layer at elevation.
  • If you’re spending any time in cities before or after your safari, pack an extra pair of pants or a skirt/dress to wear around town.

 

Underwear/socks:

  • 8 pairs of underwear (hey, they pack light, and better to be safe than sorry, right?)
  • 3 sports bras. African roads are super bumpy — you’ll thank me later.
  • 1-2 regular bras. Choose ones that dry quickly and that you won’t be bothered if they get destroyed.
  • 4 pairs of socks.

 

Swimwear:

  • 1-2 bathing suits. If you’re in Kenya or Tanzania, you can tack on a few days on the coast after your safari. Elsewhere, you don’t want to miss out on the great campground/lodge swimming pools!
  • Sarong: Handy for covering up on your way to the pool, privacy when you have to use a “bush toilet,” or an extra layer when it gets surprisingly cold at night.
  • Sunglasses, obviously

 

4. Shoes

 

My Merrill hiking boots held up just fine, even when I walked through sulfuric acid in Ethiopia
My Merrill hiking boots held up just fine, even when I walked through sulfuric acid in Ethiopia

 

The shoes on this safari packing list for women assume you’re not doing any serious mountain climbing. If you aim to tack on a Kilimanjaro or Mount Kenya climb, or will be trekking in the Drakersberg, you should pack proper hiking boots (like these Merrells, truly the best pair of shoes you could ever invest in). Otherwise, leave the boots at home.

 

However, you should bring a pair of closed-toed shoes. Some activities require them. You wouldn’t want to go climbing the scorpion-infested dunes in the Namibian desert in sandals, for instance.

 

Good, sturdy, waterproof walking sandals are an essential part of any safari packing list for women. Don’t worry too much about style here; comfort is more important. You can’t go wrong with these Tevas.

 

Finally, be sure to pack a pair of shower/campsite flip flops. The cheap Old Navy ones work just fine.

 

5. Toiletries

 

Keep toiletries to a minimum -- sometimes this will be your whole "bathroom"
Keep toiletries to a minimum — sometimes this will be your whole “bathroom”

 

It’s not always easy to find certain hair/makeup/skin care products in Africa, especially if you’re on safari in remote places. Bring everything you need from home, or stock up in capital cities.

 

Here’s a list to get you started:

  • A bar of Lush solid shampoo — carry-on friendly and it lasts forever
  • Body wash or soap
  • Travel towel like this one from REI
  • Toothbrush
  • One tube of toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Any makeup you absolutely can’t live without (you’ll probably abandon it after a few days in the bush)
  • Wet wipes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Contact lenses (with at least two buffer pairs) and/or glasses if you need them
  • Razor
  • One small bottle of high-SPF sunscreen. You can restock in Africa if need be — even smaller towns have it.
  • Mosquito repellent with DEET. Yes, it’s gross, but it’s better than getting malaria.
  • Laundry sheets. You can often do your laundry at campsites/lodges if you’re on a longer trip or your clothes get really gross.
  • Ibuprofin or other over-the-counter pain reliever.
  • Toilet paper. Always have a roll in your day pack for questionable mid-safari toilets.
  • Talk to your doctor if you’re not sure, but most places that have large mammals also have malaria-carrying mosquitoes. The risks of getting malaria generally outweigh the downsides of taking anti-malarials.
  • A reusable water bottle and Steri-Pen/purifying tablets where necessary.

6. Electronics

 

A leopard munches on a piece of meat at Okojima
Want shots like this of a leopard? Bring a 300 mm lens (I took this on my Nikon D3200)

 

Try to minimize the number of electronics you pack for your African safari. For one, the dust is murder on this stuff. You’ll also be more of a target for thieves in cities. And forget about having WiFi access anyway.

 

If you absolutely must get on the Internet, pick up a local SIM card for your phone (the 3G network is much more reliable than WiFi across most of the continent).

 

I recommend you keep electronics pretty minimal on your safari packing list for women:

  • Camera: You’ll want a good camera for your safari.  I use a Nikon D3200.
  • Lenses, if applicable: I have an 18-55 mm, but to get good shots of wildlife I use this 55-300 mm
  • Camera charger, spare battery, and cable to hook it to a computer
  • Phone loaded with music and podcasts
  • Phone charger
  • Hard drive to back up your photos on
  • Plug adapter. Note that southern African plugs generally aren’t on universal adapters.

 

7. Essentials for the bush

 

Everyone who goes to camp in Namibia uses the same tent.
If you rent a tent in southern Africa, chances are it’ll be this one.

 

Whether you’re on a camping safari or staying in lodges, your safari in Africa will take you to some of the most remote and wild places you’ve ever been. Come prepared with these add-ons to your safari packing list for women.

 

Camping gear

  • If you’re camping, you can rent tents, sleeping mats, and cooking equipment in Africa.
  • You can also rent sleeping bags, but many people prefer to bring their own. Choose one that packs light, like this one.
  • An inflatable pillow. This one is pretty comfortable.
  • A headlamp. I’ve been using this one for over a year now and it’s never failed me.

 

Wildlife-watching gear

  • A pair of binoculars. Yes, you’ll look geeky. But when everyone else is gasping in awe at the herd of giraffes on the horizon, you’ll want to see them too.
  • A wildlife guide. This one is excellent for southern Africa (Namibia, Botswana, South Africa), and this one is ideal for east Africa (Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya).
  • If you’re self-driving, good maps and a real GPS (not the one on your phone) are essential.

 

And that’s it! If you follow this safari packing list for women, you’ll be prepared for a few days way off the grid, deep in the bush.

 

Curious about what a safari is actually like? Read this post for my wildlife-watching experience in Etosha National Park. Get some ideas for a Namibian road trip here. And if you’re not sure whether a camping safari is for you, read this post on what to expect.

 

Have you been on safari in Africa? Did I miss anything you think should be packed? Leave a comment!

 

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Going on an African safari? Read on to find out what to pack...

 

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you decide to purchase through these links, I receive a percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you, which helps me keep this site up and running.

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19 Comments on "Safari Packing List for Women"

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Syls Hanes
Guest

Great tips and lots of solid information. Thanks for sharing – PS love the photo close up of the leopard!

Natasha Atlas
Guest

I wish I had this packing list when I went on my Safari! Felt so unprepared! haha! Great blog x

Sarah
Guest

This is a really good and comprehensive list. Thank you! I also have an Osprey bag and love it!

SpringToMyMind
Guest

A great packing list 🙂 I never though about going on safari and had no idea that choosing what to pack for Africa is so important. It is definitely not like packing for a getaway in Europe)

Anuradha Goyal (@anuradhagoyal)
Guest

That’s a lovely long checklist. I would add choose the colors of your cloths carefully – not advisable to wear bright cloths in wild.

Kristi (@daytriptips)
Guest

I’ve yet to go on Safari but this list is amazing. Great ideas on what to take that work for camping as well. I keep hearing about Lush shampoo bars and need to give them a try.

Christina Holthuis
Guest

Makes me really wanna go on a safari right now <3 Thanks for sharing!

stellaencina
Guest

i’ve never really hiked/camped like what you did but this post will surely come in handy when i finally egt the chance to! thanks for this post! i love the bag, by the way!

So The Adventure Begins
Guest

This is such a useful packing guide! Definitely since you have included the safari specifics! Will need to save it for the future!

kosovogirltravels
Guest

A great list. I’ll make sure to come back to this when I plan a safari trip.

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