Not every client will need the same amount or type of gear on safari. However, we find this list to be pretty much universal.
The choice of what clothing and equipment to bring on safari is a very personal one. No list, no matter how specific, is going to suit the needs of every individual client. With that in mind, we have asked several clients that hunt with us regularly to give us their ideas of what to bring on safari and we have condensed these into our own recommendations as suggested below. After having done this we have been asked why we don’t simply publish a checklist without comments, but we feel that would not be as informative as including the comments as here attached.
There are numerous sources suggesting what the client should bring on safari to Africa. Three of the ones we like are as follows:
AFRICAN EXPERIENCE by Craig Boddington, 21 DAYS IN AFRICA by Daniel J. Donarski Jr., FLACK HUNTS SOUTH AFRICA by Peter Flack.
We structure our recommendations below based on these sources with a few additions, deletions, of our own. Keep in mind that most clients bring too much stuff. You will find traveling and hunting much more enjoyable if you keep your clothing and equipment to a minimum. At Chacma Safaris you will be supplied with daily laundry service, therefore the need for a high volume of clothing simply does not exist. The main point to remember about packing is not the quantity of material you will need but rather the quality of it and its appropriateness for the climate. You will need a lot less gear, equipment, and clothing than you would typically need hunting anywhere else, so pare down to the essentials.
The seasons in RSA are reversed from north of the equator. December, January, February is our summer. We generally do not hunt during these months. June, July, and August are our winter. During winter night time temperatures typically drop into the 30’s F. Frost can be present in the morning. However, day time temperatures are generally pleasant at 60 degrees or higher (a cool day might be 50 degrees). Since the winter is our dry season, the days are usually sunny making the cooler temperatures more tolerable. Since individual temperature comfort levels vary widely, it is a good idea to check the internet for weather conditions in Johannesburg just before your departure to RSA to determine the upcoming forecast and adjust your clothing needs accordingly.
PASSPORT & TRAVEL ESSIENTIALS.
In the list that follows, the prospective client can forget nearly everything and not have the safari impacted too seriously, as any item can be found and replaced in SA. However, you cannot enter SA without your passport. So, do not forget your PASSPORT.
You should also have the means to cover incidental travel expenses: cash and credit card. Only the client knows how much cash to have on hand to meet personal expected expenses, but many find that $500 -$1,000 in $20’s and $50’s would cover most planned, as well as unforeseen, circumstances. Don’t keep it all in one place and know where it is. Call your credit card company in advance of your flight and let them know you are traveling abroad. Otherwise, they may not approve unanticipated charges originating in another country.
GAME HARVESTING EQUIPMENT (GHE).
Whether you are an archer or rifleman, bring whatever you need (bow or rifle) to send a projectile (arrow or bullet) on its way. Also, bring all the cases, bags, ammo carriers, etc. necessary to transport your GHE across international borders and into the bush, as well as required supporting equipment (slings, sights, ammo, arrows, etc.). We do not offer specific recommendations here as to what appropriate equipment is as we feel by the time the client has booked their safari this question will have already been answered. This is just a reminder not to forget it. Please remember earplugs when shooting on the shooting range before hunting commences or for any shotgun shooting, if requested.
Be sure you have the paperwork with you necessary to import your GHE into SA. Several copies are suggested, one on your person, one in your GHE case.
THE CLEANING EQUIPMENT.
If you are a rifle hunter bring a cleaning rod, cleaning patches (both dry and solvent-saturated), bore brush, small can WD-40 and tooth brush or 1” paint brush, the latter for removing dust. Solvent-saturated cleaning patches travel better than bottled solvent. Make sure they are good and damp, but not dripping. Store as many as you think you will need in a small plastic bottle with screw on cap. Optics: bring lens cleaning solution, Q-tips.
You can decide whether you want to bring binoculars or not. If you bring them, keep them small (7 X 35 or less).
We are reluctant to say this because we know how connected people are to this instrument. If possible, do yourself a favor and leave your cell phone at home, or at the very least keep it turned off during the actual days you are afield. You will be surprised how much more you will enjoy your experience under African skies if you do not have to be engaged in cell phone conversations. If you must have access to your cell phone for business or personal family concerns, please (for the consideration of others) retire to a private location away from the presence of others and conduct your conversation as quietly and as quickly as possible.
Bring a camera of your personal choice as well as some type of light-weight carrier for keeping it dust-free in the bush, memory cards, batteries, recharger, power converter, etc. Also, be sure to bring a minimum of an 8-gig memory stick. Your PH will download onto your memory stick the photos Chacma has taken of your safari. Over the years cell phone cameras have advanced so far in terms of versatility and quality that you may elect not to bring a separate camera at all.
Bring a high-quality flashlight and batteries but keep it small. Whether you hunt at night or not (night hunting is legal in SA) you will appreciate a light if you must get up in the middle of the night.
Needed more in warmer seasons than in others, however it is always a good idea to spray one’s boots, socks, trouser bottoms, and gaiters each morning before going afield.
TOILETRY KIT AND MEDICATIONS.
Keeping yourself clean and unscented increases your hunting success. African animals use all their senses to avoid predators; don’t make it easy for them. Field sanitation is handled the same as in most hunting environments across the globe. Human feces are deposited in a self-dug cat hole. Bring a Ziploc plastic bag to hold your own personal supply of toilet tissue, the tissue itself you can obtain from your bush chalet. Do not ignite used tissue, simply make sure it is buried at least 6 inches below the ground surface. Also, we find that pre-moistened, pre-packaged bacterial wipes make the cleanup process a bit more pleasant. Make sure you have an ample supply of all medications prescribed for you.
If you wear contact lenses bring about 4 pair; you never know what can go wrong, i.e. loss, damage, etc. Unless you have a high pain threshold, it is not advisable to wear these on the long flight to RSA. Wear prescription eye-glasses instead and rest your eyes during the flight. Also, if you develop complications with your contact lenses or eyes during the hunt, with prescription eye-glasses in reserve you will be able to keep on hunting. Good quality sunglasses are also recommended. Reading glasses are a good idea if you need them.
SUNSCREEN & LIP BALM, MOISTURIZER.
If you are on malaria medication (most of our concessions are extremely low-risk for malaria) you will be more susceptible to sun burn. Therefore, bring ample sun-screen and sun protective clothing as necessary. Several tubes of lip balm are recommended. Place them in different parts of your daily field gear. The weather is often sunny and dry increasing the prospect of chapped lips. A good non-scented hand crème will keep hands from chapping.
DAYPACK OR SHOULDER BAG.
Bring something to carry your daily field gear in (ammo, water, snacks, light windbreaker, etc.). Keep the pack small (2000 cu.in. or so), but large enough to cram in clothes that you peel off during the day. This bag can serve as your flight carry-on as well, thereby serving two purposes. Keep the color subdued (green, brown, etc.) if possible. Many daypacks come with hydration systems these days. You will not need a hydration system. We find they carry more water for hunting (excess weight) than is needed, and they can be difficult or burdensome to keep clean in a dusty environment. There will be bottled water in the hunting vehicle, and you can stuff a bottle in your daypack if you need to have water on your person. We like daypacks with frame sheets or internal stiffening rods. Such a pack can be used as a shooting platform in open terrain where standing to shooting sticks makes the hunter more visible.
It is advisable to bring a minimum of two, one to shade the head during the day, and one to increase warmth during early morning hours and evening hours. Baseball-type caps have become very popular, but they don’t shield the neck or ears on bright days. Tucking a bandanna under the sides and rear rim can solve this problem. The brims of these caps are still stiff though and can interfere with the quick mounting of a scope-sighted rifle; bending and ducking to move through brush makes them victim to branches sometime knocking them off. If you prefer this type cap, make sure it is one of the low-crown models. You can turn the brim around when it comes time to shoot. Many of our clients prefer a full-brimmed traditional fedora-type hat. While we can never go back to the historic days of Roosevelt, Hemingway, and Ruark we can still capture the flair of that era with this headgear. The full brim provides sun protection all-around; if the brim is soft branches tend less to knock it off, and a soft brim does not interfere with the mounting of a scope-sighted rifle. Add a chin strap and neither branches nor wind are likely to have any effect. Another good choice is the ever-present boonie-type hat. These offer a full, soft brim, chin strap, and are fully foldable and crushable to fit most anywhere. Western-style cowboy hats with high-stiff crowns and stiff brims are the absolute worst headgear for Africa.
One or two cotton scarves (about 40 X 40 inches, or 20 X 40 inches) can serve a variety of purposes. These can be used to keep the neck warm & sun-proofed, hide the face, and can serve as additional headgear if necessary. They can also serve as bandages in an emergency, and can be used to wipe sweat, blood, spilled liquids, etc.
Choose the traditional bush jacket or something similar (with or without a hood depending on season) as a wind-resistant shell that is made of a tough thorn-resistant fabric. A fair number of pockets make sense but keep the front of the jacket as uncluttered as much as possible. Be sure you can shoulder your rifle or draw you bow without your GHE snagging on pockets, buttons, loops, etc. Fully-suited rain gear is hardly ever needed as our hunting begins as the rainy season is tapering off. If your safari begins in March or April, you might substitute a rain jacket for the bush jacket. Better yet is simply to bring a light-weight highly compactable rain jacket in addition to the bush jacket for these months. Newer versions usually take up no more room than two soda cans.
MID-WEIGHT FLEECE OR LIGHT DOWN LAYER.
This is your insulation layer to wear beneath your jacket, and it might serve as an additional piece of outerwear without your jacket. In that latter sense, fleece makes more sense than down (though down is more packable than fleece) as fleece will be more thorn resistant. If you are cold-natured, make sure this item is satisfactory to meet your needs. Mostly, you will wear it in the mornings and when night hunting. Around camp at night you will have a fire at the boma, therefore you are less likely to need such a heavy layer just for lounging at camp.
You are not likely to need more than 4 pair of underwear (the pair you travel in and 3 or 2 additional). If the weather is forecasted to be particularly cool you might split the underwear tops evenly between short sleeve and long sleeve. Unless you are particularly cold-natured, you are not likely to need long bottoms—-see “chaps” below.)
Three pair of trousers should be plenty (two would serve), ensuring that the pair you wear on the plane are comfortable enough for travel yet durable enough for hunting. If the weather is forecasted to be the least bit warm, the trousers with zip-off legs that can be converted to shorts in the field are a good choice. The zipped off legs can be stored in the day pack or wedged under a belt easily if the fabric is nylon. As the afternoon cools, they can be zipped on again. Don’t forget belt or suspenders to keep them up.
These are useful over a light-weight (e.g. nylon) pair of trousers both to protect against thorns, and to add a layer of warmth when night hunting (instead of long underwear bottoms). They are easily put on or taken off to adjust for temperature variations making them more versatile than long underwear; just be sure that they are not constructed of noisy material.
Three long-sleeved shirts are recommended. We like polyester or nylon because the fabric is quick-drying. However, neither of these fabrics will be as tough as cotton canvas or heavy cotton twill. Long sleeves protect from sun, brush, and insects but can still be rolled up if the temperature rises. Give instructions to the camp staff to have polyester and nylon shirts washed in cold water, line-dried, and no ironing.
Not necessary, but a versatile piece of wear if you have room. Keep the fabric light but tough. Plenty of pockets make this a useful arrangement that might eliminate the need for a day-pack on hunting days. If you have a bush jacket that converts to a vest; so much the better.
CAMP CLOTHES.(sweat suit, athletic wear, etc.).
We see this recommendation a lot. However, our recommendation is to leave this stuff at home. Just bring field clothes that are equally as comfortable and the problem of being comfortable in the evening is solved, not to mention the space and weight savings.
To keep things simple, try to make your travel clothes double as field clothes. In that vein, you do not need camouflage hunting gear. Wearing camo in airports is not particularly recommended.
Two pairs of boots are recommended by many other outfitters. However, we feel there is no need for two pairs of boots so long as you are confident that the pair you are bringing are serviceable and comfortable. An extra pair of boots takes up a lot of room and contributes to baggage weight. One pair of medium-weight, well-broken-in, ankle-height pair of boots usually suffices, and we find them suitable for the daily hunting activities as well as comfortable in the evenings. Things dry out fast in Africa, so even if they get wet a change of socks makes them perfectly useful during the period they are drying.
CAMP SHOES. See BOOTS.
Again, we feel these are unnecessary but acknowledge that needs vary among clients. Make sure yours are comfortable enough to wear in the evening. It is advisable to have a pair of shower shoes to wear in the shower. The type without the toe-splitting thong can be worn with socks and are then useful around the fire in the evening of you want a break from your boots.
SOCKS & LINER SOCKS.
A thin wool or nylon liner sock underneath a mid-weight wool or wool-blend hiking sock is a good combination. Stay away from cotton or high-cotton blend socks which absorb moisture, galls against the skin, and can cause blisters. The liner sock helps keep the feet dry and provides a more-frictionless layer against the skin than the hiking sock alone. Bring 3-4 pairs of hiking socks, and 4 pairs of liner socks. If the hiking socks cannot be laundered every day (an event occurring typically on elephant hunts) the client can change the liner sock and place the same hiking sock back over it at least giving the feel of a clean pair of socks. Foot powder is a useful accessory to aid foot comfort.
GAITERS OR BLOUSING GARTERS.
Consider a pair of low gaiters that can be worn over the trousers leg. If not gaiters, then consider blousing garters (just like worn in the military) to blouse trousers over boots. Either method keeps rocks, seeds, and dust out of the top of the boots and acts as a barrier against crawling insects—–especially if used in conjunction with insect repellent.
During the colder months, a pair of mid-weight gloves can be useful during the early morning hours and when riding in the back of the hunting vehicle. If night hunting is required, they are useful then as well. During milder weather a pair of light-weight gloves protects against the sun and brush and reduces chapping of the hands. In either case, ensure gloves do not interfere with your shooting.
If you like to read, a good book on African game animals or African hunting will keep you stoked and help pass the time on the flight. Your safari days will be filled with events you will want to remember forever, creating a lifetime of memories. Photos will not tell the whole story, so keeping a daily journal will help. Our clients find they cannot devote enough time during the busy hunting days to keep up a journal; therefore, we recommend keeping a digital tape recorder. These can be placed in a chest pocket with a collar-attached microphone. With this set-up all the client must do is just speak into the microphone all the things you want to remember including your play-by-play pursuit of animals.
UNIVERSAL ADAPTORS. Please travel with your own universal adaptors as some concessions will not have these adaptors for you to use to charge electronic devices.
Seasonal. Many concessions have swimming pools and a good soaking can feel good after a hot dusty day in the bush. Do not swim in any natural waters due to the possible presence of crocodiles.
Please contact us if you require further explanations or additional recommendations. We want you to be comfortable while on safari and indeed clients with differing needs will need differing equipment and clothing. We are happy to address your needs and provide advice.