Ultimate Safari Clothes Guide: What To Wear On Safari In Africa

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Safari Clothes for Africa

Safari clothes are a serious affair in Africa. Yes, it is a bit “old-fashioned,” but fashions like the proper safari outfit never die. Unlike, certain parts of the world you won’t be laughed at if you show up in all khaki on a game reserve. In fact, there is even a South African brand dedicated to safari fashion offering only khaki garments.

While we are not seasoned guides we have spent six months of our lives in the bush. In those six months, we have been on safari in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya. We have been on safari in all of the major parks of Southern and East Africa and put our favorite clothes to the test. It’s a ridiculous amount of time on safari and we’ve even made a list of all of our favorite spots to go on a safari.

It’s unlikely the safari clothes you wear will have to hold up to a year of non-stop safari. However, we have a serious addiction to find and test the best garments on the market. We have put all that safari knowledge to the test. In this article, we can dispel some of the myths about what to wear on safari and back it up with solid packing advice. Let’s get down to some expert advice on what to wear in Africa and where to buy safari clothes.

Table Of Contents

What clothes to pack for a safari?

You don’t need an endless collection of safari clothes in your luggage. We’re big fans of versatility and minimalism.  People tend to overpack for their safari which becomes a burden. On safari, you are traveling to the wilds of the African bush a full wardrobe of clothes is unnecessary. We break down the clothes that help you look the part, but any safari expert will agree there is no set dress code or safari outfit.

Where are you going on safari?

The first decision in packing for a safari is where you’re headed on safari. Africa has a very wide range of landscapes, vegetations, and climates. You should pack for where in Africa you’re headed, that’s pretty straightforward.

What’s the forecast?

Weather plays a large role in what you wear. Most African climates do not have your standard four-season climate. Here it is mostly dry and wet season, especially in Eastern Africa. With dry season can come heat in East Africa; however, dry season in Southern Africa means that it’s going to be cool in the evenings and mornings. Then it flips. Rainy season in East Africa brings cooler weather patterns and perpetuates a constant spring-like weather in Tanzania and Kenya. While rainy season in South Africa can coincide with its hottest months.

The basic gist is if it’s dry season we suggest khaki, brown, and tan. If it’s rainy season time to bust out the browns and greens. Just please no leopard print, okay maybe a little.

Southern Africa

In Southern Africa, the climate varies across the region. Summers can be blisteringly hot while winters are freezing in the back of a game vehicle. Many visitors show up in the winter thinking they’re going to be in the hot bush only to find zero degree weather in an open vehicle. Yikes!

The key to a comfortable safari outfit is layers. We often pack and wear layers to adjust to the wide range of temperatures you can experience on a typical day. While the morning can be freezing in arid locations like Botswana by midday it can be hot, layers will save you.

What Safari Clothes To Wear Zambia

Packing list for Southern Africa

Central & East Africa

Here the weather is more temperate year round. It is often referred to as the “never ending spring.” However, morning game drives can still be chilly so convertible pants and a light jacket are great options. Always come prepared for rain given the time of year. We’ve been caught in a number of the famous thunderstorms of Africa, including a flash flood in Tanzania!

Safari Clothes - Baobabs in Ruaha National Park

Packing list for Central and East Africa

The Key Elements of Good Safari Garments

Safari clothes nightime Ruaha

There are a couple key elements to look at with each piece of safari clothing. While you may picture yourself as an adventure seeker, you should keep in mind that you are a guest and your safari guide will handle the nitty-gritty. Unless you’re driving across Africa like us, you’ll be safe. The clothes you pack should be for comfort, not some rugged adventure. If it doesn’t feel comfortable you may as well leave it at home.

  1. Versatility: You’ll want to pack light. The days are often busy so multiple wardrobe changes aren’t really in the mix. Solid clothes that are casual, yet stylish enough to wear to dinner in a lodge.
  2. Durability: This one is key. Africa can be hard on clothes even on a short trip. Climbing in and out of a safari vehicle can easily rip a weak pair of pants or shorts. Look for clothes for Africa that stretch a little.
  3. Material: With a safari, you’ve come to see nature and that’s just what you will do. So, your clothing needs to be well suited to the environments of Africa.
  4. Practicality: Things like having pockets can make or break good safari wear. Where else are you going to stash things like lip balm, sunscreen, or even a pair of binoculars?

Safari Clothes Are Designed To Blend

Wear beige, green, and brown colored clothes. They are the staple colors of safari wear because they blend into the environment. This provides a better game viewing experience. Wearing bright colors such as red is said to scare off animals, and make you stand out. This may or may not be true, only the animal gods know for sure.

The Maasai in Kenya and Tanzania have been wearing red for centuries!

That being said neutral colors do a great job at hiding dirt and dust which there will be plenty of on a drive or walk through the bush. White clothes aren’t going to stay white very long and dark colors are believed to attract tsetse flies. Trust us you do not want to become familiar with tsetse flies!

For example, when gorilla trekking it advised to wear long pants and greens. When on foot it is always advised to wear colors that blend well into the environment and a good pair of safari boots.

Safari Clothes

Safari Clothes - What To Wear On Safari In Mana Pools

Classic safari style in Mana Pools

Great Safari Shirt

The perfect safari shirt will make all the difference in being comfortable throughout the day. A synthetic shirt will give the most practicality, while cotton shirts tend to have a more timeless look. The cotton can also provide a nice base for warmth on a cold morning or cool evening.

Synthetic has its own advantages mostly related to quick drying, stain resistance, and keeping cool. Below is a collection of some the best safari clothes we’ve found on the market.

In the end, this is meant to be used as a guide about what to look for; what is the best fit for you may be something not included on this list. We’d also suggest you check out our post on safari shirts.

Men’s Safari Clothing: Shirts

Patagonia Farrier’s Shirt


I just added this new shirt to my safari wardrobe and love it! I love Patagonia clothing so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. They make some of our favorite products and they are a large portion of what we wear. To top it off all of my clothes are still in great condition with plenty of wear.

The safari shirt has a great material blend of hemp and recycled polyester. It feels soft to the touch, but the hemp gives a weight to the fabric that will stand the test of time and the bush. The weight is perfect for spring conditions but will be a tad hot for summer in Southern Africa.

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Columbia Men’s Silver Ridge Long Sleeve Shirt

This Columbia long sleeve shirt looks great and is well constructed. Made entirely from a nice blend of synthetic materials it allows for quick drying and ventilation in the hot sun. A long sleeve shirt like this allows for greater comfort moving from chilly mornings into hot days.

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Mountain Hardwear Canyon Shirt

This is a fantastic safari shirt for hot weather. This shirt was one of my favorite safari shirts for hot weather with sun protection. I wanted a shirt that offers protection from the African sun and while keeping me cool in the heat. This shirt knocked it out of the park. It has a nice cut, feel, and love the design of the collar which has a hidden extension to cover your neck when flipped up.

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Dickies Men’s Short Sleeve Work Shirt

Look I’m not going to lie and say Dickies are known for style because they aren’t. They are a working man’s shirt. The shirts are meant to stand up wear and tear, yet look presentable. Which, is exactly what you want out of a good shirt on safari. They’re hard to stain come in all manner of colors and sizes. Furthermore, with short sleeves, pockets, and synthetic materials this shirt is a winner.

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Hanes Sports Men’s Cool DRI Men’s Performance Tee

You don’t always need some safari garbs to enjoy your time and be comfortable. That’s where some great comfortable t-shirts come in handy. I’m a big believer in Hanes and always opt for solid colors over graphic tees. I also love a simple classic cotton T-shirt.

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Unisex Safari Clothing: Shirts

Columbia Sportswear Bahama II Long Sleeve Shirt

This shirt pretty much checks off every box when it comes to good safari wear. Design built for anglers, but that makes it a perfect fit for the African Bush. The shirt offers UV protection, it’s lightweight, quick drying, it has a vented back, and front pockets.

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Women’s Safari Clothing: Tops

Columbia Women’s Tamiami II Long Sleeve-Shirt

It’s very similar to the Bahama except this one is better fitted and doesn’t include a front breast pocket. The shirt looks a lot better than the Bahama too. However, it’s made out of the same material and has vents in the back as well.

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Fair Indigo Pocket V-neck Fair Trade Organic

Not every item in your pack has to be outdoor wear. Simple clothes like a classic T-shirt or V-neck are great staples to bring in your pack.

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LE3NO Women’s Lightweight  Sleeveless Military Anorak Vest

Functional, lightweight, and comfortable with a whole bunch of pockets. Easy Addition to the list of best safari clothes.

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ExOfficio Women’s Bugsaway Breez’R Shirt

This shirt is an insect and sun repellant so there really isn’t anything not to love. ExOfficio is a well-known retail company that strives in crafting amazing garments. This women’s safari shirt has Flow Thru Ventilation on the front and back to keep cool. There is UPF 30+ Sun Guard in the ripstop nylon and invisible permethrin (insect shield) to repel the insects. The insect repellant is great for countries in Africa where malaria is prevalent.

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Safari Pants And Bottoms

Pants should be bought with activity in mind. If you’ll be doing bush walks, light pants will be much more practical than a pair of shorts. Bottoms should also have a little give, new outdoor gear has synthetic materials built into to provide strength and give. So, when you’re hopping into the back of a safari vehicle your pants don’t rip.

Shorts also should not be feared. Most safaris are very easy going affairs riding around in the back of the vehicle so the protection of long pants is unnecessary. Whatever you pack you should bear in mind the location, time of year, and activity level.

Mens Safari Clothing: Pants

5.11 Tactical Men’s TacLite Pro Pant

5.11 specializes in tactical gear and makes some seriously great products. These pair of pants are comfortable, practical, tough, and look great. It ticks off every box for what I’m seeking in safari clothes.

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Columbia Men’s Silver Ridge Convertible Pants

Whatever these pants lack in style they make up for in practicality. Made from a synthetic material they offer UV protection, convertible, and vented for comfort.

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TRU-SPEC Men’s 24/7 Polyester Cotton Rip Stop

A pair of shorts to keep men cool and fight against stains. Yes, they might be tactical clothing, but that’s okay.

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Patagonia Men’s Field Hacking Pants

These pants were built for the modern day adventurer so they’re more than ready for an African safari. The pants are great for those going on a gorilla trek of doing some bush walks. They come with a slew of well thought out features that are sure to last a lifetime. Easily the best pants on this list, but also the most expensive.

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Bathing Suit

It really all depends on where you’re going, but Africa has some of the best beaches in the world. Not to mention some stunning hotels, rivers, lakes, lodges, and waterfalls all present the ability to go for a dip.

One of the biggest travel regrets is missing out on something. We almost always carry a spare bathing suit even on a safari. There are also plenty of great beach lodges that make for a wonderful and relaxing end to be a busy safari. You can read about the best hotels in Zanzibar or Diani Beach!

Find A Bathing Suit!

Womens Safari Clothing: Bottoms

prAna Women’s Convertible Pants

The pants are constructed from a sturdy material that offers stretch, providing solid comfort. It’s the pair of pants Tasha went with and she loves them. With detachable legs, these pants also turn into shorts. These pants are a great option. And they don’t look too bad either!

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Royal Robbins Women’s Discovery Pencil Pant

The pants are nylon and are available in the right colors. They have a mesh waistband, a snap button, and deep pockets. This makes them the perfect pants to wear on a safari. The nylon blends keep you cool while protecting your skin from the elements and bugs common on a safari. The fit of these pants allows them to avoid that ugly baggy hiking pant look.

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Columbia Women’s Saturday Trail Shorts

You can’t only wear pants on a safari unlike you’re looking to have a heat stroke in certain environments. A good pair of outdoor shorts with some stretch and quick dry qualities will do. These pants are nylon and have mesh pockets.

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Women’s Safari Dresses

REI Co-op Aoraki Travel Dress

This lightweight and stylish safari dress is a great choice. The REI Co-op Aoraki travel dress will keep you cool in the sun with lightweight fast drying fabric. It’s also great as it will dry overnight after a quick wash along the in your wash basin. The outer layer of fabric is treated with (DWR) so if you get caught in a rain storm the dress will handle the moisture well. The zippered pocket is also great to stick a small tube of sunblock or lip balm.

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Patagonia ReCircle Dress

Safari Dress Patagonia

We love Pataonia and love that their always looking to reduce their impact and improve the supply line. This dress is designed from a new lightweight eco friendly material called TENCEL. The material is more absorbent than cotton, softer than silk, and cooler than linen all while being made from a closed loop system. It’s a slam dunk in our books for eco conscious travelers.

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Buff Headband

We both travel around with buff headbands and they’re some of our favorite travel accessories that we’ve recommended a handful of times. They’re great for keeping sweat out of our eyes on a hike. Or in dust out of your face when riding down a dusty road, which you’ll need on Safari. They offer sun protection, can act as a scarf, and a whole bunch of other things. Buy one and fall in love with it.

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Columbia Sportswear Bora Bora Booney Sunhat

You spend a lot of time outside on a safari. We often fall into the category of people who do not take sun protection seriously enough. Yes, we wear sunblock on the beach, but outside of that, it’s not something we regularly think about. The time you spend outside adds up.

On our first safari, I ended up paying for it with a nice sunburn on my neck and face because I didn’t even think about it. Mind you that was in the winter… Do yourself a favor and invest in sun protection. If it’s not a hat, at the very least wear sunblock. Even the game rangers we meet wear hats and sunblock. The full safari dress does serve a purpose. If you want to get a more in-depth look to safari hats you can check out our post detailing the best hats on the market.

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Tips On Safari Clothes

  • First and foremost, you do not have to wear any special safari clothes. At the end of the day the majority of your time is spent in a vehicle where it doesn’t matter all that much.
  • Attempt to blend in. Remember to wear a safari outfit and clothes suited for the environment.
  • Don’t wear animal prints or some ridiculous getup. You’re not bushwacking through the African jungle. This isn’t Jumanji. You’ll spend the majority of your time in the back of a vehicle. So, wear comfortable clothes that will not stain from dirt, offer sun protection, and are comfortable from the heat or cold.
  • Mind the weather. It can get really really cold in the back of a game vehicle in Africa early morning or at night. Make sure to pack a nice jacket. I didn’t recommend any here – anything that breaks the wind should do.
  • DO NOT wear blue in Eastern Africa. The color blue attracts the Tsetse fly, and this is not a myth.
  • Don’t overpack. You only need a handful of shirts and pants. You are in the African bush, there is no need for multiple wardrobe changes. However, it goes without saying to always pack ample underwear and socks.
  • Keep it relaxed. At five star lodges in Africa, things are still casual. Just because it costs one thousand dollars night doesn’t mean you need to be dressed up.
  • A good pair of sunglasses will save your eyes from staring at landscapes all day.
  • Make sure to pack in layers. It will go from cold in the morning to hot at night and then back to evening time.
  • Bring a light rain jacket depending on the season. Most Safari companies and lodges come prepared in this aspect and will provide their guests with nice thick ponchos, but if you’re doing it on your don’t forget a rain jacket.
  • Pockets. We love clothing with pockets to carry sunblock, chapstick, flashlight, camera, or binoculars. It’s better than having to juggle around a bag. We already have our safari cameras to contend with in the back of a game viewer.

Clothing Brands We Recommend

Where to buy safari clothes? It’s pretty tough outside of South Africa to find a store that carries safari clothes. I would recommend you shop online. At the end of the day, we like to choose quality. A good safari outfit is versatile, long lasting, and timeless. Spending the extra dough to buy decent brands is almost always a good idea. One of the best brands in our opinion is Patagonia.

  • Patagonia – If you’ve read any of our other packing guides you’ll know we love this brand. They make great quality clothes that hold up.
  • REI – This is one of our favorite stores! There may be no REI safari clothes specifically, but you can find a great number of products that will serve you well in the bush.
  • Columbia – This is a great outdoor company with affordable products. We tend to like Patagonia more, but the brand costs significantly more for a slight improvement in quality. {Shop the brand here!}
  • First Ascent – You can’t find this brand in America, but if shopping in South Africa they make some great quality clothes.
  • Royal Robbins – Specialize in outdoor and travel gear making some perfect safari clothes. {Shop the brand here!}
  • prAna – They’re a closer runner up to Patagonia for style and quality when it comes to outdoor apparel.

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