We’ve been on over 100 safaris now and have finally nailed down what makes the perfect safari shirt. When you go on a safari you want to make sure the shirt has a decent look and it’s comfortable, but there is much more that goes into a good bush shirt than those two factors.
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 of 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.
Safari Shirts and Tops
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. While organic textiles like cotton, wool, or hemp can 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 Shirt
1.) Columbia Tamiami II ($48)
This Columbia long sleeve shirt looks great and is well constructed. Made entirely from a beautiful 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 warm days.
The functionality of the shirt is great with a rear vent on the back for heat management and double breast pockets for storing gear or small items. It can be tough to find good technical shirts sometimes, but Columbia has some great options. It’s affordable, performs well, and looks pretty good so it’s a great option for safari clothing.
2.) Arc’teryx Skyline Shirt ($99)
Arc’teryx is well known for making some tremendous technical clothing. It’s all built for being active whether that’s hiking or going on a safari. It’s a lightweight shirt made from polyester fabric that resists wrinkles, dries quickly for comfort, and wicks away sweat from the body. My only gripe would be that color options tend to be a little dark, but they’re still nice neutral earth tones and the technical features do a good job at temperature management.
The front breast pocket is great for a small tube of sunscreen, bug spray, or a camera lens cap. For me, it’s the cut and technical capabilities of the shirt that make it a slam dunk choice. It comes in both long and short sleeve option so take your pick.
3.) Simms Guide Long Sleeve Shirt ($89)
Simms is a company dedicated to fishing and makes some fantastic technical clothes and shirts. The shirt is a blend of polyester and nylon which results in a lightweight shirt that has a soft and supple feel. It has fantastic moisture control that is helpful in humid environments. With the technical clothing that has UPF protection and long sleeves, it’s perfect for covering your skin from the harsh African sun.
What I love about this shirt are the zippered breast pockets which are perfect for storing sunscreen, chapstick, utility tool, or your camera lens cap. Then you have the classic styling that extends to a wide range of environments and can look good on a bushwalk or sitting down to dinner.
4.) Patagonia Farrier’s Shirt ($89)
I just added this new shirt to my safari wardrobe and loved it! I love Patagonia’s 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 excellent condition with plenty of wear.
The safari shirt has a high material blend of hemp and recycled polyester. It feels soft to the touch, but the hemp gives 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.
5.) Mountain Hardwear Canyon Shirt ($65)
This is a fantastic safari shirt for hot weather and it 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.
6.) prAna Merger Long Sleeve Shirt ($85)
We’re pretty loyal to a number of brands that have proven reliable over the years and prAna is a personal favorite. Their newest men’s shirt the Merger is perfect for Southern Africa in the cooler months.
The shirt is made from hemp and recycled polyester blend that feels warm and soft while retaining technical capabilities that we look for in a safari shirt. I love to great features in this shirt the first one being button flaps to roll up your sleeves when the temperatures rise. However, the stand out is the side hip pocket for stashing away something while in the back of safari vehicle.
We love natural fibers like hemp that offer technical features while providing a nice organic feel to them. It also helps that hemp is sustainably produced material, so for the eco-conscious travelers, this would be a great choice. It’s Fair Trade Factory certified!
7.) Marmot Aerobora Shirt ($75)
This comfortable polyester shirt from Marmot offers a stylish cut with good moisture management properties and UV protection.
It’s comfortable looks great and the roll-tab elbow sleeves keep the cuffs in place when you want them out of the way. While polyester, in general, is not the most durable material flat-felled seams at least provides some durability.
8.) Dickies Men’s Short Sleeve Work Shirt ($36)
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.
9.) African Bush Shirt ($53)
Tag Safari makes excellent shirts for a safari. All their products are made in Zimbabwe by locals, so you know their African bush shirts are about as authentic as they come. With two chest pockets, two chest security pockets, a button-down collar, and safari tabs, there are a lot of bells and whistles on this classic men’s safari shirt.
The whole shirt is double stitched, so you know that you are getting a rugged piece of clothing. Tag Safari is known for their great products. I love their mission to help “Africa through trade, not aid.” Check out more of their products on Amazon!
10.) tasc Performance Carrollton T-Shirt ($38)
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. Tasc shirts made with organic cotton, bamboo viscose, and spandex. The result is an extremely comfortable shirt that will hold up for years.
I’m a big believer in a classic t-shirt and always opt for solid colors over graphic tees. I also love a simple classic cotton T-shirt or a performance fabric that handles sweat and the sun.
Women’s Safari Shirts
1.) Columbia Tamiami II ($48)
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.
Loaded with features such as Omni-Wick moisture management, antimicrobial treatment, and strategic mesh vented panels this shirt perfect for a safari. Columbia is one of our favorites when it comes to shirts as they make affordable and well-designed clothes. Its negatives are a more loose cut and outdoor style as it has a large vented back and large front breast pockets.
2.) Orvis Open Air Casting ($89)
For women, this is my personal favorite for the style. The shirt is lightweight and breathable with solid sun protection and other technical features. The Open Air has vented panels on the back, mesh panels, and mesh pockets that keep you cool particularly when you’re sitting in the back of a safari vehicle.
If you’re still feeling hot you can roll up the sleeves and secure them with stylish tabs. Then with two front breast pockets, you have the functionality we like with a great safari shirt. More than anything it’s a technical safari shirt with a great look.
3.) REI Co-op Sahara ($59)
It’s all built for being active whether that’s hiking or going on a safari. This lightweight shirt from REI is made from polyester fabric that resists wrinkles, dries quickly for comfort, and wicks away sweat from the body. It has a number of pattern options that help break up the monotony of khaki, green, and white.
The front breast pockets are great for a small tube of sunscreen, bug spray, or a camera lens cap. For me, it’s the cut and technical capabilities of the shirt that make it shine such as UPF protection, long sleeve cuffs, underarm panels to reduce odor, and a spandex blend for easy movement.
4.) Mountain Hardwear Canyon Shirt ($65)
This is a fantastic safari shirt for hot weather and it was one of my favorite safari shirts for both men and women that for hot weather and sun protection. I wanted a shirt that offers protection from the African sun and to keep 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.
5.) Royal Robbins Expedition ($70)
This shirt is a great safari shirt as it is built for tropical and hot weather. It’s designed with 100% polyester and offers UPF 40+ protection while remaining light, quick-dry, and flexible.
It has some great features for a safari shirt too with thermoregulating mesh to keep you cool and two front breast pockets for storage. As an added bonus this safari shirt it’s a great travel shirt in developing nations as it has a hidden pocket to secure your valuables like a passport or smartphone.
6.) prAna Foundation Short Sleeve V-neck ($45)
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 bag. This shirt from prAna is super lightweight and breathable. It’s probably the most comfortable shirt you’ll ever wear as it’s made from a new sustainable material called Lenzing Modal.
The material is made from spinning natural cellulose that comes from various trees. Our only complaint would be in regard to the longevity of the shirt due to its lightweight nature, you can easily snag this shirt if not careful
7.) KUHL Ezra Shirt ($85)
This is a tremendous shirt from Kuhl that utilizes a blend of nylon and polyester. It’s a better option than many of the polyester blends on this list as nylon has a higher strength rating with better water resistance.
Kulh’s Ezra shirt has some great features for safari clothes such as chest pockets, UPF fabric shields, and an internal envelope pocket.
8.) Patagonia Western Snap Shirt ($79)
This is similar to the Men’s Patagonia above and it’s an excellent addition to the safari wardrobe. We love Patagonia clothing so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. They make some of our favorite products. To top it off all of my clothes are still in great condition with plenty of wear.
The Western Snap Shirt is a material blend of hemp and recycled polyester. It feels soft to the touch, but the hemp gives 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.
9.) KOGMO Military Anorak Vest ($25)
This safari vest is functional, lightweight, and comfortable with a whole bunch of pockets. Easy Addition to the list of best safari clothes. It’s not high-quality fashion and I wouldn’t expect much out of this piece, but for the price, it’s tough to complain. Oh, and it’s available via Amazon Prime.
10.) Filson Scout Shirt ($115)
Filson makes some wonderful high-quality clothes made for the outdoorswoman. Their women’s Scout Shirt is made from a heavy 4-oz cotton twill that’s super durable and perfect for the bush.
It has a classic look and the thick cotton is beautiful but just light enough to not be overly hot. That being said it’s best in the cooler seasons on safari. It’s best compared to a lightweight flannel. If you want to know the cooler months on safari read here.
What Makes a Great African safari Shirt?
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 over a five-course meal.
Versatility can include the right material, fit, and functionality. For example, a good long sleeve shirt can keep you warm in the morning, but cool during the day in a way that short sleeve or tee shirts fail.
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.
You also have a lot of dust and sun exposure. If you’re involved in conservation efforts, on a walking safari, or spending anytime outside of a game vehicle you need some decent safari clothes that will hold up the elements. The best way is often to stick with solid name brands that we trust when ordering online or to shop in your local store, although that can be difficult with limited selections.
A good safari shirt needs to be tailored to handle harsh environments. Bonus for materials that are lightweight, quick dry, sun resistant, and bug resistant. With a safari, you’ve come to see nature and that’s just what you will encounter. So, your clothing needs to be well suited to the environments of Africa. When it comes to our safari shirts we go for a mix natural materials like hemp, linen, or wool.
Manmade materials such a nylon or polyester are other great options as they are excellent at moisture management and proaction. The only material we’re not massive fans of is cotton, but it’s often the softest and warmest material with great value. I always read the tags and materials on outdoor apparel before I make a purchase and consider it’s intended purpose.
Things like having pockets can make or break a good safari shirt. Where else are you going to stash things like lip balm, sunscreen, or even a pair of binoculars?
The day to day wear of clothes is the most important part because if you feel uncomfortable in the bush you’ll likely end up looking ridiculous. You aren’t walking the runways of Paris, but spending time in the bush. Care about your look, but not too much.
Safari shirts are designed to blend in with the environment. You should wear beige, green, and brown colored clothes. They are the staple colors of safari wear because they blend into the environment and can provide a better game viewing experience.
While 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 animals know for sure. Of course, the Maasai Warriors 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!
The Basics of Safari Clothes
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. As 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. In addition the common form of transportation is a small Cessna bush plane so a heavy suitcase of clothes is not going to fly.
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 To Go 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.
We have another post on the best destinations to go on safari along with our favorite parks, camps, and lodges. While you’re at it you can read up on our favorite safari animals to see while traveling.
What Season to Go on Safari?
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.
What to Wear in 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 to Wear in 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!
Where to Buy Safari Shirts?
We have found the best place to buy safari clothes is online. Amazon has great deals and prices, and if you are Prime member, then two-day shipping is free. REI is another excellent outdoor company to find a variety of safari clothes as well.
Our Favorite Lodges in Africa
We’ve spent over a year on safari and tried out dozens of lodges and have visited nearly every park in Africa. While it’s impossible to say we’ve visited every lodge we’ve seen a fair amount. Check out our list of favorite lodges in Africa. Have you visited any yourself?
See our other helpful safari packing posts
- How to Pick a Great Safari Hat and Protect from the Sun
- The Best Safari Boots For Bush Walks
- The Africa Packing List Items You’ll Want to Have • 2019 Update
- The 11 Best Binoculars for a Safari in Africa
- The Ideal Women’s Safari Clothing Checklist
- Africa’s Best Safari Animals + Where to See Them
- Best Camera For Safari: What Camera Is Best For You?
- The Best Safari Vests to Take to Africa
- The 15 Best Safari Shorts for Men and Women
- The Best Safari Boots For Bush Walks Reviewed