What You Need to Pack for Overlanding Africa

It’s official, after spending two months in Cape Town we have purchased a Toyota Landcruiser and we’re currently driving across Africa! Don’t ask us about all of the logistics, a lot of it we are making up as we go along. It’s just what we do – don’t judge.

We dabbled with the idea of taking public transport from Cape Town. Which, would make for some pretty incredible stories. However, we are traveling with a lot of expensive gear and would prefer to have the freedom of our own car especially in the most remote parts of Africa.

We spent months planning this trip and items we packed have been carefully and meticulously selected. That’s why I want to give you a look inside our bags and truck.

So you can see what we have packed to overland across Africa for the next nine months. These items are great for any traveler planning an amazing safari, or for the adventurers that are over landing the continent independently.

As with travel almost everywhere, less is more. Choosing simple items that are versatile and not overpacking is key here.

Driving Through Namibia

 Overlanding Africa? Here’s what to pack.

Where to Pack your Stuff

Leave the suitcases at home and consider buying a durable hiking backpack or safari rucksack to overland Africa with. There is no need for a rolling suitcase unless you are in a city. Both Cameron and I travel with Osprey bags and love their durability.

Osprey has a fantastic lifelong warranty should anything happen to the bag, but fortunately we haven’t had to worry about this. Cameron has the Osprey Atmos 65 AG Men’s which fits his back nicely and also has a lot of little compartments to store tiny items.

I carry the Osprey Farpoint which is perfect for men and women. The Farpoint doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but it’s small and you can hide the straps in a nice zip-up compartment.

We both also organize our luggage with packing cubes. I’m a firm believer in Eagle Creek packing cubes and my pack it system has gone around the world with me.

Cameron has generic packing cubes that have held up just fine as well.

Giraffe along the Chobe

Africa is the land of job creation. You don’t have to pump your own gas, nor do you have to do your own laundry. So, getting your clothes washed and ironed cost only a few dollars.

However, when we are in the isolated bush we travel with the Scrubba bag to keep our clothes fresh.

What clothes to pack for Overlanding Africa

Keep in mind that most of Africa is in the tropics. You will want to pack clothing that is light, loose, and cool. I prefer clothing without a lot of mumbo-jumbo on it and just stick to plain colors. Colors like beige and green are great ones to go with. I would avoid blacks as that will tend to heat you up and definitely stay away from blues as it attracts the tsetse fly. You won’t need anything stylish for anywhere besides the big cities in South Africa. In Mozambique and Zanzibar stick to beach essentials.

  • Sturdy hiking shoes: Isn’t much mystery here – you will want good shoes while traveling in Africa. I love my Merrells, but here are some other favorites of mine!
Riding on a mokoro while overlanding Africa
  • Flip flops: It’s always a good idea to have a pair of flip flops to throw on in the moment’s notice. Plus you will want something for all those communal showers.
  • Sandals: It gets hot in Africa so consider a good pair of travel sandals to wear.
  • Ankle Socks: Again – hot in Africa so get some ankle socks to stay cool
  • Wool Socks: Good for those cold nights in the bush.
  • Lightweight Pants: At least one good pair of reliable “safari” pants are a good call in Africa. Read more about them here!
  • Loose Pants: If I’m not in my safari pants then I am most definitely wearing relaxed pants. Okay, they don’t have elephants on them but they are loose, lightweight, and comfortable. They may not be suitable for walking the streets of Milan – but you’re in Africa!
  • Yoga Pants: One thing that is always in my bag is a pair of yoga pants. Stretchy and comfortable for those long car rides.
  • Shorts: I have quick-drying athletic ones, as well as khaki shorts.
  • Polyester Shirts: Quick-drying, lightweight, and they last for a long time.
  • Warm Jacket: Don’t underestimate those cool African mornings and nights. If you travel without at least one jacket in Africa you will have a bad time.
  • Sweater
  • Bathing Suit: Many campsites of pools. And then, of course, there are coastal countries like Mozambique.
  • Shell Jacket– Here are our favorite jackets for travel.
  • Hat: Keep the sun off your face.
  • Buff: We use our buffs (I have the earl grey) for pretty much everything. My personal favorite is using it to keep my hair back.
  • Sunglasses: If you’re like me and break sunglasses all the time then consider picking up some extra ones when you land.
  • Towel: A quick-drying, lightweight sports towel is the way to go.
  • Scarf for the Ladies: I never go anywhere without a scarf in my bag. It helps to keep my neck warm obviously, but I also always use it to cover up when in conservative countries.
  • Shemagh for the men: Cameron loves his shemagh as it keeps him warm while looking cool in the desert.

Keep in mind that if you arrive in Africa in a big city like Cape Town, Joburg, or Nairobi that you’re going to be able to do some shopping and pick up any clothing items that you left at home. A good outdoor company is Cape Union Mart though it is a bit expensive. If you want cheap clothing that you know you will throw out the end of your trip then try Mr. Price Sport.  For those that are just going on, safari check out our incredibly detailed guide on safari packing!


What Medicines to Pack

We purchased all of our medicine on arrival in South Africa and at a fraction of the price it costs in the US.  On our first day in South Africa, we went to the clinic, got yellow fever shots for $40. Then proceed onto the pharmacy where we walked away with a years supply of Doxycycline, anti-biotics, Dioherria Medicine, and Rehydration tablets for less than $30.

We recommend sticking to the doctors on the continent who are familiar with and have treated diseases like Malaria and Bilharzia. We found bargains on medical items at Dis-chem pharmacies throughout South Africa.

  • Anti-Malarial: We use doxycycline so we don’t have to deal with all the crazy dreams from Malarone. Again – super cheap in South Africa. However, be warned that doxycycline comes with sun sensitivity side effects and should only be taken on a full stomach. Read more about what we think of malaria and other scary things in Africa. 
  • Diarrhea Medicine: If you come out of Africa with only diarrhea then you deserve a medal
  • Aspirin or Ibuprofen
  • Antiseptic cream
  • Calamine Lotion
  • Mosquito repellant: Available in large supermarkets in South Africa for cheap. The Peaceful Sleep brand is our favorite.
  • Amoxicillin: We brought this from home just as a precaution and haven’t used it. Good to know we have, though!
  • Malaria Cure: We picked up some boxes of Artemether & Lumefantrine for $3 in Mozambique so that we have them on hand should we ever get malaria
  • Vitamins: Bring these from home or get in South Africa
  • Rehydration tablets

What Toiletries to Pack

Giraffe Time at Gondwana

Most of these are just your typical standard “duh” items. It may seem like you need to go overboard and bring three months worth, but this isn’t Mars you will be able to pick up the standard items at supermarkets. If you need specific products you like from back home then make sure to bring extras of that.

  • Soap, Shampoo, Facewash, Toothbrush
  • FLOSS: More difficult to find in some parts of Africa, make sure to stock up.
  • Hairbrush
  • Nail clippers
  • Contact solution: It’s not surprising that the contact solution is hard to find as well. Make sure to stock up when you get to a larger pharmacy.
  • Sunscreen: Expensive in Africa. Our favorite is Peak Sunscreen.
  • Vasoline: Get it in Africa. It’s dirt cheap and comes in handy for all that cracked skin you are bound to encounter.

The reality is that besides specialized products and makeup you will be able to buy most toiletries in any African supermarket. We stock up on toothpaste, deodorant, conditioner, and just about all the necessities every month or so.

What Gear to Pack

  • Backpack: I like putting valuables all into my backpack and then watching it for dear life. But a backpack can serve just about any purpose. Here are our favorite day packs.
  • Foldable Daypack: I like the Eagle Creek Packable Day Pack. It folds up really small and we always use it when we are going to the store to save on plastic.
  • Waterbottles: I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, but the Lifestraw Go really does wonders. If you’re traveling with your own vehicle we would highly recommend purchasing a water tank.
  • Multipurpose Tool
  • Matches, Lighters, and Candles
  • Little Sun: Good for those nights when you just want to read in your tent.
  • Michelin Map: A GPS is great, but a real map is better. Never take on Africa without a map.
  • Adaptors: Most of East Africa runs on the Type D or G socket. I would suggest buying one on Amazon before you land to avoid paying a ridiculous price.
  • Padlock: Never a bad idea
  • Headlamp: Essential in Africa. You can’t just flick on the lights anywhere and you will often be in remote locations.
  • An excellent flashlight: We didn’t skimp on a good flashlight. I don’t want to walk around at night knowing there are hyenas that I can’t see.
Using our Lifestraw in the Drakensberg

Extra’s that you should consider bringing to Overland Africa with

  • Extra adapters: Travel adaptors can give out quickly. It’s never a bad idea to have a spare to save you from traveling around trying to find one.
  • Extra phone charges: iPhone charges suck and I find myself always replacing them. They are cheap to make but are expensive in Africa. Travel with extra.
  • Earplugs and eyeshades: You’ll thank me later
  • Power bank
  • Car Charger: You can get these for next to nothing in South Africa, and it will 100% get used.
  • Hand Sanitizer: Depending on how long your trip is, you may want to stock up this.

Photography Equipment to bring to Africa

Carrying a solid camera in Africa is pretty much essential. The average point and shoot camera will fall entirely short here and will only leave you disappointed with the photos. We carry both a professional DSLR and a new mirrorless camera.

Hopefully, you will be staying a good distance back from most wildlife spottings so a telephoto lens will become your best friend. Cameron travels with a Canon 5D with a telephoto lens and I travel with a Fujifilm X-T10 with a 200mm lens.

We also travel everywhere with a GoPro Hero because it is good for adventure activities and capturing video. However, the GoPro is a disaster for catching wildlife photography due to its wide-angle.

We both bought extra camera batteries in South Africa because you may not have the chance to charge up every night. We also carry a 1 TB hard drive for backing up our photographs.

If you want great aerials of the beautiful African landscape then a drone may be your thing. We’ve been able to catch great footage with our DJI Phantom 3 Advanced of the Kalahari, Okavango Delta, Namib desert, and beautiful Cape Town. Just be sure to look up drone laws before you fly!

Buy it in Africa

  • Coffee Press: We quickly realized that many Africans like instant coffee, which does not do for us. We got ourselves a french press for $4 in Swaziland and have used it every day since.
  • Camping Gear: Many of the big cities in Africa have western markets. You can buy tents, sleeping bags, kitchenware, and all of that stuff for much less than you can in Europe or America. Then you don’t have to lug it to Africa either.
  • Sunglasses: You know those people that walk around all day on the beach trying to sell you fake sunglasses? Well, they are in Africa too. I would recommend stocking up on a pair so you are never without them when in the middle of nowhere.
  • A Car: Buying a car in South Africa is sure to be a hell of a lot cheaper than buying one in your home country and shipping to Africa. Consider dealing with the headache of buying in Africa to save on cash. Update:We also SOLD our car in Africa!

Insurance while Overlanding Africa

Our 1991 Toyota Landcruiser 4×4 that we named “Charlie” cost us 60,000 ZAR.  Therefore we chose not to take out insurance on the car and we will be praying for the best. Best case scenario we get our money back when we sell the car in Kenya. Worst case scenario we completely total the car. Stay tuned.

Although, we skimped on vehicle insurance we would not consider traveling Africa without medical insurance. I pay $475/year for my plan with has a $500 deductible and covers me up to $100,000. We also paid $170 for a years supply of property insurance in case anything happens to our valuables.

I know all this is adding up, and believe me I hate paying for insurance too. But you can’t put a price on piece of mind. We both use World Nomads for short term trips, but for extended trips (like a year in Africa) I use IMG Global. Our property is insured through Clements Worldwide.  I have not had to make a claim yet.

Plan Your Trip to Africa

  • Travel Insurance: We don’t travel without travel insurance and neither should you. You never know what can happen while traveling so it’s best to be prepared. World Nomads provides good short term coverage
  • Travel Waterbottle: When we’re uncertain about the water supply we use our Grayl Purifier. It’s come in exceptionally handy around Africa.
  • Camera Gear: Chances are you’ll want a camera for your trip to Africa. We love the Sony RX100V for a pocket-size camera and the Fujifilm XT-3 for a professional camera. Check out our favorite cameras for Africa.
  • Safari Clothes: Lightweight, beige, and moisture-wicking clothing are great for traveling Africa. See our favorite safari clothing here.
  • Safari Hat: A good hat is both stylish and functional.
  • Safari Bag: A durable bag is ideal for traveling around Africa.
  • Safari Pants: We recommend neutral-colored pants as they’re great at hiding dirt and can match most shirt colors.
  • Safari Shirt: Shirts like these are lightweight and keep the bugs away!
  • Boots: While you don’t need to wear sturdy shoes everyday, at least one pair of safari boots will make your trip nicer!
  • Travel Adapter: You’ll need a special travel adapter for traveling Africa. Get one before you get there so you don’t pay a premium on the ground.
About Natasha

Natasha is the co-founder of The World Pursuit. She is an expert in travel, budgeting, and finding unique experiences. She loves to be outside, hiking in the mountains, playing in the snow on her snowboard, and biking. She has been traveling for over 10 years experiencing unique cultures, new food, and meeting fantastic people. She strives to make travel planning and traveling easier for all. Her advice about international travel, outdoor sports, and African safari has been featured on Lonely Planet, Business Insider, and Reader’s Digest.

Learn more about Natasha Alden on The World Pursuit About Us Page.

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