When it comes to packing, I am an over packer. I do believe carrying too much weighs you down (not a fan of large handbags) and makes everything expensive when traveling. In my opinion, packing less and only the essentials in Africa is better for you and for the locals.
On a trip to Tanzania, I stuffed a few t-shirts, pairs of khaki pants, socks, swimsuit, a sweatshirt, a light wind breaker jacket, flip-flops, hiking boots, and undergarments for a total of two weeks. But along with the basic clothing, I had a few items worth taking with you (besides the smart phone) on a trip to East Africa.
Purified Water Bottle
Drinking the tap water in Africa is very risky which leads many tourists and residents to buy bottle water. A big chunk of your budget could go to buying a 1-2 liter plastic bottle of water a day that will contribute to the already plastic contamination prevalent in Africa.
This is where my trusty backpacking water bottle LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle comes in handy. It removes bacteria, parasites, organic chemical matter, heavy metals and viruses out of the water. This saved me a ton of money, and I knew if I ran out of water, I could easily refill without worrying about getting sick.
There are countries within the East African region that have a law against plastic bags. This means Ziplock bags will be confiscated or you will get hefty fine if caught with a plastic bag within the country. Plus it is a great way of reducing unnecessary waste destroying the natural beauty of Africa.
I mostly bring Ziplock bags when I travel to keep toiletries from spilling all over my stuff, but in Africa, I need to find an alternative to the plastic baggies. Re-Zip Seal Reusable Storage Bag Kit helped to keep food, toiletries and other smaller items organized through out the trip.
Rick Steve’s has been talking about this little belt pouch since he started doing European tours and if worn correctly, pick pockets will not be able to get the valuables from you. His advice comes in handy not only in Europe, but also around the world-especially in Africa. Most money belts comes with RFID blocking features to keep credit cards, room key card and your passport information safe.
The money belt I used in Tanzania is the money belt by Travel Navigator. It never showed under cloths and not once did I have someone try to pick pocket me while wearing it.
A Day Bag
During a day trip I would go with a day bag in a form of a day hiking pack. It comes in handy with holding all the essentials like sunglasses, sunscreen, bug spray, extra clothing and any small items needed for the day.
Do yourself a favor and get one. When in Africa you do not have time for a wet towel to dry, let alone do you want to haul around a smelly one! I bought this towel a few years ago, and has doubled as an airline blanket on long haul flights.
Tanzania and most of East Africa (Except Rwanda) are on a type G sockets (Rwanda type C). The last thing you want to do is arrive in the country without a way to charge your phone or any other electronic device.Be on the safe side and bring a universal adapter.
Uppel Dual USB All in one Worldwide Travel Charger Adapter not only worked in Africa, but 152 different countries, so you are covered when you decide to travel to other places. This small compact adapter even kept the electronic devices plugged in from unexpected power surge and outages known to happen in parts of Africa.
Sunblock and Sunglasses
Sunblock is not used a lot by Africans and it is hard to find once you arrive unless in touristy areas which they will cost a lot. I recommend you bring a bottle with you in check luggage. I recommend at least 50 SPF or higher and you will be applying it more frequently, so you may want two bottle.
It is amazing how much brighter the sun is when you are close to the equator. Do your eyes a favor and bring some or get your existing glasses Transitions treatment. Reflection of the sun’s rays during the day on objects can really hurt the eyes.
The cost of deodorant in Africa is sky-high, and as one blogger said “dodgy as hell.” Unless you like having your pits feeling they are on fire, I would bring some deodorant with you.
(Women) Female Urination Device
Not only do you face the possibilities of squat toilets, but you may not find a decent place to do your business. This is why Go Girl Female Urination Device is a life saver both traveling and backpacking. If you are a women who cannot stand the thought of squatting over a hole in the ground, this is for you. Make sure to pack a roll of toilet paper with you! Toilet paper is not always available!
Headlamp or Light Weight Flashlight
Like I have said earlier, Africa suffers from continuous power outages in many countries. These are often controlled by the government and there isn’t much we can do unless you plan to stay in pricey hotels and lodges that have their own power supplies. Aside from that, spending a lot of time in the wild of Africa safari is huge. A headlamp or a flashlight is essential for your safety and for your ability to warn others of your presences.
I hope you found this list useful! If there is anything missing from the list you find essential let me know in the comments!
All products mentioned and linked were bought by me with my own money. I do not get a commission from Amazon when you click the links in the post. I have provided the links and descriptions as a reference to items I found useful on my travels in Africa. Also I am not affiliated with any of the brands mentioned in this post.