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What to Pack
From washing line ropes and head-torches, to swimming gear and good shoes - it’s easy to forget what to pack. Make sure you follow our overland trip pack list - all you need to worry about is packing too much!
Ah, the Big Question: let’s start with what you pack everything into: generally a medium to large backpack and a daypack is recommended; hard-sided suitcases are not advised as they are difficult to fit into the luggage compartments of overland vehicles.
We have suggested 2 bags as on tour because you’ll have access to your big pack in the morning and evening but not during the day; ensure you put everything you might need during the day into your day pack which stays with you at all times. This includes items such as spare batteries, snacks, a sweater, water bottle, or book.
Now for what you put into the bags: pack practical, easily washable clothes that do not need ironing rather than high fashion items. Leave the shirt and tie or the high heels at home; no one will care if you wear the same t-shirt for more than one day. On an overland tour your clothes will take a hammering: dust, dirt, mud, sunscreen, insect repellent, cooking oil, washing up water. Bring clothes that you don’t care too much about and are possibly prepared to ditch at the end of the trip to make room for souvenirs.
You also need to strike a balance: most people bring too many clothes with them to Africa but on the other hand many travellers are surprised at how cold Africa can get at times. Make sure you bring a warm fleece and long trousers. Conversely, it comes as no surprise to hear that Africa also gets extremely hot in places so bring shorts and T-shirts and plenty of sunscreen.
Here’s what we recommend you pack - though remember that if your main bag is too heavy to lift, you’ve packed too much.
• 3-4 short sleeved shirts or T-shirts
• 2 pairs trousers or 1 pair and 1 skirt - not jeans as they take forever to dry after washing; the trousers with zip-off legs are very practical
• Warm sweater or fleece
• 1-2 pairs shorts
• Tracksuit pants – handy to pull over shorts if it gets cool at night
• Light sweater or sweatshirt to keep in your day pack
• Underwear and socks
• Hat or cap
• Water/wind-proof jacket – essential if you are going to see the gorillas in East Africa
• Boots or sturdy sports shoes
• Sarong – very handy for both men and women; used as a towel, sunshade, wrap and sheet. Can be bought very cheaply in Africa
• Set of reasonably smart clothes to wear for the odd meal or night out
• Sandals, flip-flops or thongs. Need to be waterproof and should not fall off if you want to go white-water rafting
• Personal toiletries but leave the make-up bag and plug-in shaver at home
Other Items to Pack
Packing for an Overland adventure doesn’t just mean clothes: travel in Africa is adventurous and you will need equipment that you would not normally consider for a conventional holiday. Indeed, some items - such as a sleeping bag, water bottle and torch - are essential so check with your travel consultant whether any of these extra pieces of equipment are needed on your Overland tour.
Depending on the time of year and the countries you are visiting, a medium warmth sleeping bag is sufficient. Quite often it’s too hot to climb into your sleeping bag so get a bag that has a zip all the way around so you can open it up and lie on top. You may want to consider an inner liner or sheet as well, either to use on its own or to put inside your sleeping bag to keep it clean; you then only need to wash the sheet.
Most trips require you to bring a sleeping mat though on some shorter tours these are included - make sure you check your pre-departure information. They can also be used as comfortable seat when you are around the campfire or on the beach. The purpose of the sleeping mat is to provide you with some comfort and to insulate you from the ground. By creating a barrier between the ground and your sleeping bag, the sleeping mat helps retain heat and protects your sleeping bag from cold spots and rising damp.
Absolutely essential if you’re camping – you need to be able to see where you are going in the dark and we urge you to carry your torch everywhere at night. Many overland passengers bring head torches; these may lack a certain style but they are mighty handy when putting up a tent or cooking as they leave your hands free. Most vehicles have interior and exterior lights but excessive use of these drains the vehicle’s batteries - you will need a torch. Remember to bring enough spare batteries.
A durable plastic water bottle can be filled from the vehicle’s water tank or jerry cans which carry safe, often purified drinking water. Bottled water is available but it is expensive and throwing away several plastic bottles a day is also not very eco-friendly.
On most trips there will be the opportunity to pay for a laundry service somewhere along the way. In East Africa this might involve the washing-on-stones-in the-river method; your clothes will be wonderfully clean though this method wears them out quickly - so leave the designer gear at home.
In South Africa and Namibia you may be able to use a laundromat and some campsites have washing machines although at some point on your tour you will have to hand-wash your own clothes. Happily, washing soap is cheap and plentiful in Africa though you may want to consider bringing a clothes line and scrubbing brush.
Sleeping out under the stars in Africa is a wonderful experience but you will certainly need a mosquito net. In most campsites there will be a tree or fence from which to hang your net or you can simply hang the mosquito net from the truck. There will be some campsites however where it is necessary to sleep in a tent, especially those in national parks where animals roam free and campsites are unfenced.
Other items you may want to consider are spare camera batteries, binoculars, an alarm clock and a pen knife which is always handy - especially if it has a bottle opener or corkscrew!