How to Pack for Safari in Uganda

How to Pack for Safari in Uganda

Packing for a trip can be stressful. But generally you can re-buy most forgotten items once you get to where you’re going. When packing for safari in Uganda, however, that’s not really the case. Safaris require tons of forethought. You need to get the appropriate vaccinations and purchase tons of gear and clothing. Then you need to treat that clothing with insect repellent. And since a lot of your time is spent in remote areas, it’s not always possible to pick up items or outfits mid-trip. In fact, we didn’t have a single opportunity to do so! Fortunately, information on the topic is abundant. When Ben and I booked our safari, our tour guide sent us a packing list. It closely resembled a lot of the packing lists you can find online. While this was immensely helpful, it didn’t have a ton of nuance.

Now what exactly do I mean by nuance? Glad you asked! While the list we used was super helpful, there were a few things that stuck out to me as, well… lacking. For instance, most sources recommend long pants that can be tucked into socks for gorilla tracking. To me, that sounds like a great opportunity to bust out some leggings. But I couldn’t find any information on whether or not that would be a good idea! Like, legit nothing! I ended up packing a pair of baggy hiking pants for our time with the gorillas, and I’m glad I did because the trail ended up being pretty thorny, making looser fitting clothing ideal.

At the end of the day, I followed the provided packing guidelines to a T and had everything I needed. Are there things I would’ve done differently had I known better? Definitely. So I’m going to share the totally sufficient packing list I used for my trip, along with some tips for things I’d do differently next time.

Uganda Safari Packing List (10 Days)

  • 1-2 long-sleeved shirts
  • 3 short-sleeved t-shirts
  • 1 waterproof and windproof jacket
  • 2-3 pairs of lightweight pants that can dry quickly
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 1 skirt or dress
  • durable gloves for gorilla trekking
  • 1 sweater/sweatshirt
  • Waterproof hiking boots
  • Sandals
  • Wide-brim hat
  • Sleepwear
  • Underwear
  • Lightweight wool socks
  • Swimsuit
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Insect repellent with DEET or Picaridin
  • Small daypack
  • Flashlight
  • Binoculars
  • Extra batteries
  • Camera and extra lenses
  • Film (specifically fast film for the gorillas)
  • Personal toiletries
  • Prescription medications
  • Tissues
  • Small Notebook
  • First Aid Kit incl. rehydration sachets, anti-diarrhea medicine, aspirin, cold medication, antiseptic cream, band-aids, motion sickness pills, lip balm, eye drops and personal medication. 


Take a Durable Carry-On

Taking a carry-on instead of checking a bag is always a good idea in order to eliminate unknowns. When Ben and I flew to Uganda, we missed our connection and got stuck in Istanbul for a day, so this was a real saving grace for us. You’ll also want to make sure that whatever bag you take is durable and rugged, because safaris are hella dusty. We bought 90L Patagonia Black Hole Duffel Bags for this trip, and they were perfect. They’re a waxy material that doesn’t pick up much dirt, and they convert into backpacks for easy carrying!

Overpack a Little

I packed exactly what the list above told me to, and while that was fine, if I could go back, I’d have taken just a little bit more so as to avoid laundry and have more options. We’d been told that laundry was free or around $5 at all of our lodges, but that definitely wasn’t the case. We ended up getting laundry done twice, and though cheap by American standards, it definitely added up. Next time around, I think I’d sneak in an extra pair of pants and a few extra shirts. Maybe some comfy loungewear for hanging out at lodges, too! The urge to change after a long, hot and dusty day is very real, so having a few outfits to change into is a real comfort.

Be Mindful of Color

Honestly, just avoid bringing clothing in white, dark blue, black and dark purple. Off-white is fine, but crisp, white clothing is near impossible to keep clean thanks to the rust-colored dirt that’ll somehow seep into everything you own (and all of your pores). Blue, black and purple all attract annoying, biting tsetse flies. As if that weren’t enough, camouflage clothing is a no-no. It’s actually illegal for civilians to wear camouflage in many African countries (Uganda included).

How to Pack for Safari in Uganda

In addition to all this, a lot of sites recommend steering clear of bright colors, as they can be jarring to the animals. Ben and I tried to avoid alarming and unnatural colors, and we had pretty incredible luck in terms of animals. That said, I don’t know how necessary this is. I saw a good amount of people wearing bright colors, and I don’t know that their safari game suffered as a result of it. So I guess follow your heart on this one?!

Don’t Forget About Sun Protection

Listen, the sun is no joke in this part of the world. While sunscreen is great, long sleeved clothing with built in sun protection can be a more surefire way to protect yourself from the sun’s rays. Of course, bring, use and reapply sunscreen often, but maybe also look into clothing with SPF.

How to Pack for Safari in Uganda

Hats are also helpful! I brought a safari hat, but felt like a real dweeb in it, so I didn’t wear it as much as I should have. If this sounds like you, bring a style you’re comfortable in! More coverage is great, but some is better than none.

Dress Appropriately for the Weather and the Culture

This can be a little bit tricky because dressing in a way that doesn’t offend doesn’t always align with the weather. For example, everything I read said that shorts were deemed inappropriate for women in Uganda. So I didn’t bring any. When I got there, however, I saw tons of women wearing shorts! They were always tourists, but it didn’t seem to be upsetting to locals. Of course, I have no idea what they were thinking, so maybe the presence of women in shorts was actually deeply upsetting, but it seemed like there was a general understanding that shorts might be ok in other cultures. Personally, I think sticking to light, breathable pants is the better option, but you can use your judgment here.

Take a Day Pack

While I mostly carried around a tiny hip pack on this trip, I always had a backpack in the car with anything else I might need for the day. This was super helpful, because it’s not easy to run back to the lodge for say, sunscreen or bug spray. I know this sounds like a no brainer, but choosing a day-to-day bag for this trip was a lot harder than you might think. Luckily, this strategy worked perfectly.

And that’s it! These tips might not seem like much, but when paired with a good packing list they can go a long way in keeping you comfortable on your trip. For more information on what photography gear to bring, check this post out!

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