East Africa Safari 2018

Three weeks in Kenya and Tanzania

How much luggage?

We have a half-dozen flights on wee bush planes in Kenya and Tanzania coming up. Little planes, and dirt airstrips. I’m not the best flyer in the world, so this ought to be an interesting (if slightly terrifying) experience.

However, it has implications beyond just taking off and landing several times per trip and shooing animals off the runways.  Because the planes are very small, weight is critical and everyone is limited to 15 kilos (33 pounds) of luggage, including everything. Clothes, camera gear, carry-on, everything.

Normally, I’d say this wasn’t a problem. We aren’t huge packers and can travel pretty easily in a small-to-medium suitcase. Except our camera gear tops out at 31 pounds.  So…roughly 16 pounds a person of clothing and other gear.

It’s surprisingly easy, actually. Since the packing list for safari can be summarized as “2 tshirt, 2 long-sleeve shirts, 3 pairs of pants, underwear, socks, hat, shoes, windbreaker and fleece”, there really isn’t much to pack. It’s not like you have nights out on the town where you have to dress up. You don’t need four pairs of shoes, you don’t need to pack jeans or anything else remotely fancy. You don’t need a hairdryer (not that most camps could even run one), or even shampoo and soap (the camps all provide them). Plus, they all offer laundry (usually handwashing, and no underwear is accepted.)

So we’re both packed. We split up the camera gear into two bags, and each have a small Eagle-Creek backpack/duffle. My bag weighed in at just 16 lbs. I’m feeling quite pleased!

I noted above that the packing list is actually quite small. Here is what I actually packed:eagle-creek-bag

  • 2 long-sleeved Omni-shade shirts (50 SPF)
  • 1 short-sleeved camp shirt
  • 2 t-shirts
  • 2 tank tops (one to sleep in)
  • 2 pairs long pants
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 4 pairs of underwear
  • 1 bra
  • 3 pairs of socks
  • 1 wind/rain shell
  • 1 pair Keen walking shoes
  • 1 wide-brimmed hat
  • silk long underwear
  • bandana

In the bag I also have my pair of binoculars, camera tripod, an extra camera strap, the filters for my camera (since they don’t fit in my camera bag), deoderant, and a ziploc bag with bug spray, sunscreen, benedryl, soap sheets, and my prescription meds.

My camera bag has:

  • Nikon D810 camera body
  • 28-300 lens
  • 14-28 wide-angle lens
  • battery charger + 2 batteries
  • charging and transfer cables
  • camera cleaning kit
  • electric plug adaptor
  • Kindle
  • travel documents and passport.

Mark packed pretty much the same things:

  • 3 long-sleeved shirts
  • 4 pairs of long pants
  • 1 t-shirt
  • 1 swimsuit
  • 5 pairs of socks
  • 4 pairs of underwear
  • silk long underwear
  • i pair hiking boots
  • fleece vest
  • rain shell
  • 1 wide-brimmed hat
  • bandana

His camera bag has:

  • Nikon D500 camera body
  • 28-200 lens
  • 50-500 Sigma zoom
  • Binoculars
  • Lens filters
  • Kindle

(A couple of notes on clothes: the recommendation is to avoid dark blue and black–which attract tsetse flies–and avoid bright colors which can startle animals. Even though most of our outings are in a safari vehicle, so the bright-color warning is less of an issue, stick with tans and browns and greens.)

I realized that this isn’t that far off from what I usually pack for trips, except this time the clothes are lighter. Usually it’s jeans and chinos and a sweater or two; this time it’s hiking pants and a hat. We pretty much haul all the camera gear no matter where we go. Mark’s camera bag is a lot heavier than mine — that big Sigma lens is HEAVY.


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