Expert Packing Tips from a 14-Time Bushtracks' African Safari Veteran

By Cynthia Tuthill
April 13, 2020

Packing for an African safari is always a challenge, and Bushtracks often takes last-minute calls from guests seeking help packing their bags, which is understandable. You’ll be away from home over two weeks, traveling in places where it is hard to pop out for extra socks or your favorite brand of sunscreen. And maximum weight limits for luggage can be as light as 33 pounds per person in East Africa, or 41 pounds per person in Southern Africa. Here, one of Bushtracks’ most well-traveled safari-goers, Cynthia Tuthill, shares her secrets for packing everything she needs for her safari into a single carry-on:

Cythia Tuthill is dressed and well-prepared for a safari in Africa

Wear Your Safari Clothes on the Plane

We pack everything in a small backpack, rather than use the duffel bags which Bushtracks supplies, which would need to be checked. We love not having to check any baggage!

We wear one set of safari clothes (colored beige, khaki, green, or brown) on the plane.  This not only saves packing space, but leads to rather fun conversations (typically starting with “Are you going on safari?”). Here is what I wear:

Flat Lay of items Cynthia Tuthill packed for Africa

Pack Fewer Clothes, and Use Laundry Services at Camp

We have found that no matter how long the trip, we only need a few items of clothing since all the camps wash, dry, and press your clothes daily (most camps can get clean clothes back to you even if you are staying for only 2 nights; my packing list allows me sufficient clean clothes to wear when I hand over the ones to wash). Here is what I pack (in addition to what I’m wearing on the plane):

Pack Small Amounts of Toiletries for Carry-On

In order to carry on our luggage, we each have one 1-quart stiff reusable clear plastic bag, with the following liquid items:

First plastic bag, with everyday use items (which I place in the bathroom in each camp):

Second plastic bag, with backup items:

Other Non-Liquid Toiletry Essentials for Camp Are Packed Separately:

Cynthia Tuthill on safari with her video camera ready

My Must-Have Safari Items

What NOT to Take on Safari

I would never bring: “American” style t-shirts with logos; short shorts; clothing that is dark blue or black (attracts tsetse flies!); bright colored clothes (i.e. non-safari colors) … our guides have told us that not dressing in the typical safari colors can decrease the experience as it can startle animals (and other guests) and isn’t therefore “respectful” of the type of trip we are on.

For more great safari packing tips and information, please email or call one of our expert safari planners at: 800-995-8689.


The first version of this article was posted on 8 Jul 2014 at 2:40 PM.

Cynthia Tuthill, PhD is an avid environmentalist and pilot who retired from her successful biotech company to spend more time playing with her grandchildren and traveling with her husband. Cynthia and Jim embarked on their first trip to Africa in 2003, and returned with the news that Africa was embedded in their hearts. Safari travel in Africa became an annual pilgrimage, and they have spent weeks each year since in Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe, and have just returned from their 13th trip to the continent. Cynthia has displayed her photographs of the people of Africa – with their inspirational infectious optimism - in an art show in Springdale, Utah, and both Cynthia and Jim have volunteered to assist in anti-poaching efforts and community and educational outreach at “Conservation Lower Zambezi” in Zambia. Their travels in Africa have been lovingly described in Cynthia’s book “Letters from Africa,” and their photos are posted at

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