Three Things You Must Know Before Packing for South Africa
By: Nolan Thompson
One of the greatest challenges of any trip is deciding what and what not to bring. Things become even more complicated when your destination is someplace filled with such wild diversity as South Africa. Breathtaking coastlines, high mountain country, arid desert and seemingly endless grasslands can all be encountered in just a single drive. Additionally, if you're spending any time in the bush, which you should, you are going to South Africa, you'll also want to pack light to keep your number of bags to a minimum. To help with the should it stay or should go game, consider these three things, purpose, size, and versatility.
The first thing to consider is to ask, does this item I'm about to pack serve a purpose. Sure you need some t-shirts, but how many do you really need when you still need to pack a long sleeve thermal or jacket to keep you warm through the frigid African winter night. It gets cold in Africa, really cold. Pack clothing that serves a purpose and consider leaving the luxury, nice-to-have items behind. You'll be happy for space in your bag when you're packing up your local textiles, woodwork, or Springbok jersey at the end of the trip.
If you're diving into South Africa to get the "full experience" chances are you'll be overlanding at some point, which really is just a rugged, more robust road trip. You'll be spending a lot of time on a truck, sharing space with your fellow travelers, so size matters when it comes to luggage. If it doesn't fit in the truck, it's not going. What this means for you while you're packing is when you have to choose between which thermal or jacket you bring, because you just learned it gets really really cold in South Africa, you'll want to pick the most dependable one that can be packed up the smallest. This is where something like a nano-puff jacket that can be rolled up super tiny does become a great investment.
South Africa is a unique destination in that you can start your week in one of the most remote corners of the world where the only other humans you'll see will be your guides and traveling companions and then end that same week in a world-class metropolis. It's a dynamic country. Whatever you do pack, consider where else or how else something can be worn. Could those pants your packing for safari also work for going to the bar in Cape Town? Do you have an equally qualified alternative pair of pants that would work? Everything must serve its purpose, but it's even better when it can serve even more.
Everyone's needs while traveling are different. What you might need, I'm very comfortable doing without and vice versa. When you do pack, merely consider the above. There are environmental variables to consider as well.
For instance, the colors of your clothes matter. Avoid dark blues, black, and neon colors as the darker colors attract some nasty bugs, and the neon doesn't blend well in the bush and can spook the wildlife. There is a reason why safari and khaki are synonymous, but this applies mostly to your day to day clothing. In the heart of the dry season, like July, you'll be lucky to see rain, and unfortunately, Cape Town is still suffering from severe drought, so don't worry about your bright blue raincoat. You may not even need it. Just be sure you've got a pair of green or khaki shorts, some neutral color tees, and something to keep you warm at night because again, it gets cold.
At the end of the day, you can't prepare for everything. You do your best and make do along the way, that's kind of part of the adventure. The only thing you can expect is the unexpected. TIA.
Have a question about what exactly to pack for our South Africa Tour?
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