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The Ultimate Safari Packing Guide: The Best Clothes, Outfits, Hats, and More

The Best Safari Outfits
The Best Safari Outfits

I’ve been on several safaris, and packing for a safari trip always used to stress me out. There are so many different things you have to consider for a good safari outfit, from insect/sun protection to the right colors to wear—but you also still want to look good in all your vacation pictures. 

I’ve gone on budget camping safaris and five-star luxury safaris, and I’ve put together a safari essentials packing list that will cover you on any type of trip. All of the items mentioned in my packing guide are ones that I’ve personally used on safari (or my husband has used, in the case of the men’s recommendations.) 

The Best Safari Clothes

Man on safari
Man on safari

The best safari outfits should be based around natural, earthy colors like khaki, brown, or beige. (There’s a reason why khaki is so iconic for safari!) These colors will help you blend in with your surroundings, and not draw attention from wildlife, like bright colors (such as red, orange, and neon might.) If you’re going on safari in Tanzania, or other countries where tse tse flies are common, avoid wearing dark colors such as navy blue and black. I made the mistake of wearing a black shirt on safari in Tanzania and got absolutely swarmed by bugs all day long. 

Check with your safari provider to find out if you will be traveling in an open-air vehicle or closed vehicle while on game drives. If you’ll be in an open-air vehicle, it’s extra important to cover exposed skin to protect from sunburn and insect bites. Although it’s less important if you’ll be in a closed vehicle, the sun is so strong that you can still get burned through windows, so covering up is always a good idea. 

Look for safari clothing that is loose and lightweight and made from cooling fabrics such as linen. I also recommend clothing that has built-in UPF protection and insect repellent. 

Keep in mind that you will be sitting down or standing in a car for most of the day, so you want something that you can easily climb in and out of a safari vehicle in and sit comfortably in (so skip anything super short.) 

I love packing longer maxi dresses and skirts and lightweight long sleeve button down tops which maximize airflow to keep me cool on hot days. My husband always brings lightweight athletic pants along with long-sleeve linen shirts. 

If you don’t want to buy all new clothes for your safari, look at your hiking wardrobe. I find that the same items I wear on hikes (lightweight pants and shirts) do just fine on safari. You won’t be walking a lot, but you’ll want to be prepared for short walks in the bush (even if it’s just for a bathroom break) with closed-toe footwear and long pants. 

Game drives are usually held in the morning and late afternoon, when temperatures start to cool off, so bringing a lightweight jacket or extra layer is always a good idea. You’ll be spending the hottest part of the day back at your lodge or camp, so pack an outfit to change into in between safaris. 

I generally ended up changing three times in a day, and my outfit schedule looked like this:

Morning: Wake up for a sunrise safari. Mornings were chilly, so I wore sneakers, lightweight pants, and a tank top layered under a lightweight button-down. As the day warmed up, I generally took off the button-down and just wore the tank top. 

Afternoon: Afternoons were very hot, so I changed into a swimsuit and cover-up and spent the day in/around the pool. I packed a longer cover-up that was appropriate for wearing to lunch at the lodge. 

Evening: It was usually still warm in the evenings for game drives, so I wore either a maxi dress or shorts and brought my button-down from earlier in case I got chilly. Game drives usually ended around dinner time, so most people didn’t change for dinner. Even the luxury safari lodges I’ve stayed at are very casual for dinner, so you’ll be fine in whatever you wore on safari that day. However, sometimes if I had gotten especially dusty and dirty, it was nice to change before dinner into a maxi dress and sandals. 

Women’s Safari Outfits: What to Pack for Safari

  • Swimsuit and coverup
  • Lightweight maxi dresses (good for both game drives and dinners)
  • Loose linen pants
  • Lightweight, sun-protective long-sleeve shirts
  • Underwear (bring extra pairs as you’ll probably want to change clothes and shower after a game drive, and doing laundry at most safari camps is expensive)
  • Lightweight jacket
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Sandals
  • Slip-on Shoes

Men’s Safari Clothes

  • Lightweight pants (khaki, linen, or athletic fabric)
  • Performance or linen button-down shirt
  • Swimsuit
  • T-shirts
  • Polo shirt for dinner
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Sandals
  • Slip-on shoes

What Shoes Should You Wear on Safari?

The Best Safari Shoes
The Best Safari Shoes

The first time I went on safari, I packed way too many shoes. When you’re on safari, you’ll either be on a game drive, in which case you’ll be sitting in a vehicle, or relaxing at camp—since you’ll be in an area full of wild animals, there won’t be opportunities for you to go for a long walk on your own. Unless you’re going on a dedicated walking safari, plan to bring comfortable shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty.

I recommend bringing just two to three pairs of shoes:

  1. A pair of lightweight closed-toe shoes that will protect your feet from dirt, bugs, and sun. Ideally, these would be slip-on, so you can quickly toss them on if there’s an animal sighting at the camp that you want to go check out. You can also wear these shoes on the plane. My pick: Kizik’s canvas slip-on sneakers.
  2. Sandals that you can wear to dinner and the pool (many safari camps have a pool). I love Teva’s Original Sandals as they are sporty but still look nice enough for the safari dining room. 
  3. If you’ll be going on safari during the rainy season, be prepared for rain and mud by packing waterproof boots which will keep you dry and protect your ankles from bug bites. My favorite hiking boots for safari are Danner’s Mountain 600 which are super comfortable and fit the safari aesthetic. 

The Best Safari Hats

The Best Safari Hats
The Best Safari Hats

A good safari hat is indispensable. It shields your face, neck, and ears from the sun while adding a touch of classic safari style. However, you’ll want to look for one that will stay firmly on your head while driving at fairly high speeds in an open-air vehicle (many hats will get blown of your head when you’re driving quickly in pursuit of wildlife). Picking a hat with a cord can prevent you from losing it. A basic baseball hat that you can fasten tightly also works well—l always pack this cooling hat from Mission as it’s lightweight and packs down small.

These are some of my favorite safari hats: 

1. The Classic Safari Fedora: A timeless choice, the safari fedora offers excellent sun protection and undeniable style. Look for one with a wide brim and a neutral color like khaki or olive.

2. Fedora with Safari Flap: For extra neck protection, choose a fedora with an attachable neck flap. This versatile option allows you to add coverage when needed and remove it for a more polished look in camp.

3. Wide-brimmed Sun Hat: A practical choice with maximum coverage, a floppy sun hat is a good choice to wear if you’re spending a lot of time by the pool at the safari lodge. 

4. Safari Cap: A more casual option, safari caps with long bills and neck flaps offer good protection in a sporty style.

The Best Safari Shirts

Women's Safari Shirts
Women’s Safari Shirts

A good safari shirt balances protection, comfort, and style. Here’s what to look for in both men’s and women’s safari shirts:

Features of a great safari shirt:

  • Lightweight, breathable fabric
  • Long sleeves with roll-up tabs
  • Ventilation panels or mesh inserts
  • Neutral colors (khaki, olive, tan, or light grey)
  • Sun protection
  • Moisture-wicking properties
  • Relaxed fit for ease of movement
  • Odor-resistant fabric

My favorite brands of men’s safari shirts are Columbia, Royal Robbins, and ExOfficio.

These are the shirts my husband always packs on safari:

Men's Safari Shirts
Men’s Safari Shirts

My favorite places to shop for women’s safari shirts are: Patagonia, Outdoor Research, and prAna.

These are the shirts I always pack on safari:

  • Eddie Bauer UPF Guide Long Sleeve shirt: Comes in lots of fun colors and can be tied in a knot for a more fashionable fit.
  • This Runcati Linen Button Down Shirt was a great Amazon find that I’ve taken on many safaris. The linen and cotton blend is soft, comfortable, and cool.
  • I layer this bamboo linen tank under the button-down on chilly mornings and wear it alone once it gets hot—the modest neckline and longer length are good for safari. 

The Best Safari Pants and Shorts

Women's Safari Pants
Women’s Safari Pants

Although you may be envisioning a hot and sunny safari, it can be chilly in the mornings and evenings, and you’ll be glad to have a pair of long pants with you. Pants are also key for protecting against insect bites, especially in the evenings if you’re eating outdoors. However, you should also pack a pair of shorts for ultra-hot afternoons. 

Best Pants for Safari

Opt for lightweight, quick-drying pants in neutral colors. I always pack pants that look like regular pants (not zip-off convertible hiking pants which look obviously outdoors) so that they don’t look too out of place at meals (and look good in photos.) Depending on how long your safari is, you could get away with packing just one or two pairs of pants, but I always bring two and wear one on the plane as well since I get cold on planes. 

My favorite safari pants for women are:

My husband’s favorite safari pants are:

The Best Men's Safari Pants
The Best Men’s Safari Pants

Best Shorts for Safari 

Women's Safari Shorts
Women’s Safari Shorts

You won’t need to pack one more pair of shorts, but they are good to have. I opt for ones that aren’t inappropriately short since most safaris take place in modest cultures, but not so long that they look frumpy.

My favorite safari shorts for women are:

My husband’s favorite safari shorts for men are:

The Best Men's Safari Shorts
The Best Men’s Safari Shorts

Best Jackets for Safari

It can get chilly on safaris when the sun goes down, so I always pack a lightweight, waterproof jacket (in case of rain) along with a nicer shawl that I can use for sun protection and to wear to dinner. I find the shawl always comes in handy on the plane as well, as it can double as a blanket! I always pack this Coolibar shawl, because it has UPF 50 protection.

My favorite jackets for safari are:

My husband’s favorite jackets for men are:

The Best Safari Dresses

Best Safari Dresses
Best Safari Dresses

I always pack one or two maxi dresses to mix things up on safari. These are great to wear if you want to look nice at dinner, or if you simply want something with more airflow than pants. I tend to wear these dresses on travel days as well.

My favorite safari dresses are:

Best Bags to Bring on Safari

Bags to Bring on Safari
Bags to Bring on Safari

When you’re spending most of your day in a safari vehicle, you’ll want to have a small day bag with you where you can keep your essentials (like sunscreen, water, snacks, etc.) 

I usually bring a backpack as my personal item on the plane and use that, but if you don’t want to take out all your plane items (like headphones and neck pillows that you won’t use on safari) a foldable zip tote or packable backpack works great as well. Osprey’s Farpoint Travel Daypack and Dagne Dover’s Neoprene Backpacks are my go-to personal items.

What Luggage to Bring on Safari

Safari Suitcase
Safari Suitcase

Check with the airline you’re flying to safari to see what the dimensions are for suitcases. Most airlines ask that you use a soft-sided bag. 

Travelpro’s Maxlite 5 Softsided Carry-On Luggage fits the soft-sided requirement but is still sturdy and a spinner suitcase. It’s a 19” suitcase and should fit on even the smallest planes. 

I also recommend:

Other Important Things to Pack for Safari:

What to Pack on Safari
What to Pack on Safari
  • A bandana or buff (for dust protection and sun coverage)
  • Moisture-wicking socks
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray 
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Portable charger for phone/camera (some safari vehicles will have USB ports where you can charge your phone, you just have to remember to bring your power cord with you)
  • Lip balm with SPF
  • Refillable, insulated water bottle (most lodges will have purified water for you to fill your bottles with). I like this water bottle because it has a built-in UV purifying light for extra sanitizing. 
  • Over-the-counter medications including aspirin, tums, immodium, and Pepto
  • Small bottle of laundry detergent and travel clothesline if you plan to wash and re-wear items. I always pack Sea to Summit’s Laundry Detergent Sheets for handwashing since they are no-mess and spill-proof (and don’t count as a liquid for the 3-1-1 rule). 
  • Kindle or e-reader for entertainment in between safaris and at night

Is There a Safari Dress Code?

Safari dress codes vary by camp, but most safaris don’t have a strict dress code. You’ll be out in the bush, and even the most luxurious camps don’t require you to dress up for dinner, so you can leave the heels and suit jackets at home. However, you may want to bring one or two casual dresses or pants/shirt combos that you can change into for dinner to look a bit nicer after a game drive. 

Pro Safari Packing Tips

Safari Packing Tips
Safari Packing Tips
  1. Check the weight and baggage allowances for all of your flights. Many safaris require taking a small plane to your camp, which has strict limits on luggage. The last thing you want to do after carefully packing is arrive at the airport and find you can’t bring on your bag. 
  2. Use packing cubes to help compress everything to fit in a smaller bag and keep things organized. I always use the Eagle Creek packing cubes, which do a great job with compression.
  3. Research cultural clothing norms at your destination. Although most resorts are fairly Westernized, you still want to be respectful and not show too much skin in some areas. Additionally, some countries that are popular for safaris (like Zimbabwe and Uganda) do not allow anyone except for officials to wear camouflage. 
  4. Pack everything in a waterproof, hardshell suitcase or backpack that you can easily wipe down. Although rain isn’t a common issue on safaris, there is usually dust everywhere and your bag can get quite dirty during transfers. 

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