Safari Clothing and Gear
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It's been fun preparing for my safari trip to Botswana. It's also been rather expensive although I admittedly didn't show all that much self-restraint when it came to buying clothes and gear specific to this trip. The trip is super-expensive already so what's a few hundred dollars spent on clothes and gear, right!?
You can't go on safari without a vest, right? That's what I thought. My primary motivator for getting one was to have pockets for whatever I wanted to carry. I'll be carrying a backpack with me wherever I go, but a vest affords me easier and quicker access to small items like lens filters, batteries, or memory cards. I picked up the Columbia Silver Ridge Vest which I bought from REI for $65.
I hate wearing hats. They make my head itch. And with pretty thick hair I usually don't worry about getting a sunburn on my head. However, it seemed foolish to not take a hat with me to Africa. Aside from the obvious sun protection to my head, I figured such a hat would provide some relief to my face while also blocking the sun from my eyes to make it easier to watch the wildlife. After checking my options, I chose the Dorfman Pacific Discovery Boonie Hat for two primary reasons. First, while the top part is solid making it good for blocking the sun, the sides are mesh which means better air circulation. Second, I thought the rear cape could come in handy for keeping the bugs away from my neck. And if the cape isn't needed, it folds up nicely into the hat so it's like it's not even there.
Short- and Long-Sleeve T-Shirts
You don't need new shirts for a safari trip, but you don't want to have the wrong colors. Greens, browns, and greys are your best bet. Apparently blue attracts the tse-tse fly so that's no good. Also camouflage is discouraged as it could associate you with the military in a country that has issues with their military. I didn't have what I needed for the trip so I ordered a bunch online from LL Bean. I found they had a good selection of colors and some of their shirts had Coolmax which seemed like it'd be a good feature. I went with grey, green, and beige.
I'm a fan of technical pants. I didn't have to buy these for my trip since I already owned a few pairs. Their primary benefits include quick drying, side-pockets, and the ability to unzip the legs and turn them into shorts. With luggage weight and size limits, having a single clothing item perform two functions helps.
Yeah not too much to say about socks. I typically travel with cut-off socks which work whether I'm wearing pants or shorts. For this trip I also packed long socks for added protection during bush walks.
I brought one for the flight and for the cool mornings. I expected lows around 40°F. Wearing the fleece under the vest, although odd looking, would give me some good flexibility too.
Sunglasses and Goggles
I packed a pair of sunglasses as you might expect. I also picked up a pair of goggles to wear if the dust got too bad (I'm a contact lens wearer). I grabbed a pair of the Bobster Cruiser Goggles. They were actually relatively cheap (around $20) and had multiple lenses I could swap out depending on the amount of sunlight. They don't feel particularly strong, but I figured for one trip they'd be fine.
I typically travel with a lot of electronics including flashlights, walkie talkies, cameras, camera flash, and a mobile phone (mostly for the GPS functionality). For these I usually bring rechargeable batteries and their respective chargers. The challenge with my safari trip is that electrical plugs may be in short supply allowing for the charging of just one item at a time. Also, I'll probably need a power adapter so even if there are multiple plugs I'll still be limited in how much I can recharge simultaneously. For these reasons I opted to replace some of my rechargeable batteries with the more convenient dry cells — AA (walkie talkies and electronic keyboard), AAA (for camera flash), and CR123 (for flashlights). The trick was figuring out how many to take while keeping my luggage weight under control.
Other stuff you want to bring along include a good pair of hiking shoes, binoculars, a compact digital camera (even if you're bringing a DSLR), a multitool, and a length of velcro strap you can cut to size as needed (I bought the 1 inch x 9 feet roll from StrapAll). And while there are outfitters wherever safaris are popular, I can't imagine the selection being as great or the prices as low so plan ahead!