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The ULTIMATE overlanding packing list for Africa family travel

The ULTIMATE overlanding packing list for Africa family travel

Are you planning an epic trip to Africa? If you’re looking for the ultimate Africa packing list for families, then read on. We travelled Africa overland for 101 days so we had a lot of practice with our kit, working out exactly what we needed and what we could do without. We always try and travel as light as possible, so hopefully this overlanding packing list will help you decide what gear to prepare for Africa!

We spent 101 days overlanding Africa in a Land Rover Defender, with our two young boys (aged 2 and 4). Although we were self-driving, we didn’t want the Land Rover to be stuffed full with anything and everything.

This was our home for a few months and we wanted to ensure we weren’t playing Jenga every time we needed fresh undies or a tin of beans. Plus, a large fridge running off a second battery took up a considerable space in the boot. We aimed to pack light and were very strict on what we took with us.

I’ve compiled this comprehensive Africa packing list for families, whether it’s for a two week or two year trip. Whilst there’s a camping gear and equipment section for an Africa overlanding packing list, the clothing section is perfect for anyone needing a safari packing list.

READ: The TRUTH about doing an African safari with kids

Some of the gear listed in the below overlanding packing list could possibly be purchased along the way.

GAME supermarket, found in a few large towns across Southern Africa (Lusaka in Zambia, Blantyre in Malawi, Maputo in Mozambique for instance), stocks basic camping clothes and equipment.

It’s definitely easier to have everything ticked off your Africa packing list before you hit the road, but knowing there are occasional shops en-route provides peace of mind in case anything needs replacing; your kit will get some serious use and must be robust for long term travel.

what to pack for overlanding Africa

Clothing

Expect to hand-wash your clothes as washing machines are few and far between. Don’t forget to pack washing detergent.

Ensure your clothing is breathable, lightweight and quick drying. You really don’t have to adhere to khaki clothing, but try and avoid blues and black as for some reason the tsetse fly is attracted to these colours.

  • Underwear (pack more than you usually would to cut down amount of hand-washing)
  • T-shirts (4 each)
  • Shorts and quick-drying hiking trousers (parents one of each, kids had 4 shorts each and a pair of tracksuit bottoms)
  • Long light trousers and long-sleeved t-shirt to protect from mosquitoes in evening
  • Long skirts (couple for Mum)
  • Sarong
  • Jumper / hoody
  • Sun hat / sunglasses
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Pyjamas
  • Swim suits
  • Wet suits for kids (African swimming pools are rarely heated and we always find them to be on the chilly side)
  • Quick drying towels
  • Hiking boots
  • Trekking sandals (we love KEENS)
  • Flip flops
Mountain Warehouse Cannonball III Kids 3 in 1 Waterproof…
  • Rip Stop Fabric – Stop rips with this heavy duty fabric, longlasting and durable
  • Waterproof – Tested to 2,000mm
  • Taped Seams – Waterproof tape runs across all stitched areas, making the item fully waterproof
  • Anti-Pill – Prevents the fabric bobbling due to rubbing and abrasion
  • Microfleece – Very lightweight fleece, provides warmth without weight. Ideal layer in cold weather
Sale
Yueta Wetsuit Kids Shorty, 2.5mm Neoprene, Junior Wetsuit…
  • ★High Quality Material: This kids wetsuit made with premium stretchy neoprene and ultra elastic…
  • ★Sun Protection: The kids shorty wetsuit can effectively protect against ultraviolet rays and…
  • ★Back Zipper Design: Zipper with draw cord helps kids put on or take off the 2.5mm kids wetsuit…
  • ★Occasions: This kids diving suit is available in two colors. The high buoyancy of the neoprene…
  • ★Size Note: Before purchase, please choose the size according to your kids’ height and weight, and…
Eono Microfibre Towel, Perfect Sports, Travel, Beach Towel,…
  • Premium quality microfiber: Eco-friendly microfiber produced without harmful additives,…
  • Fast drying&super absorbent: This microfiber towel can hold 4 times its weight in water and can dry…
  • Antibacterial: The micorfibre towel is made by special microfiber with antimicrobal treatment that…
  • Compact & lightweight: Microfiber towel for sports & travel made to save the space and to be more…
  • Various sizes: They are great beach, backpacking, and camping towels because you have three size…

Everyone should wear closed toe footwear as soon as it’s dusk to protect your feet from possible scorpions and snakes (although more likely from ant and mosquito bites).

During the day, trekking sandals or flip flops are fine (depending on how active you’re being that day).

These 3-in-1 jackets from Mountain Warehouse are perfect for Africa. It’s a 3-in-1 fleece and waterproof jacket, with detachable hood. The fleece on its own is perfect for those cool evenings, the waterproof jacket a necessity for those downpours in Tanzania, and combined, it is just what you need to keep warm on those freezing winter mornings in South Africa and Namibia (yes, it does actually get cold in winter!)

Almost all swimming pools we came across were unheated and on the chilly side. We recommend packing wet-suits for the kids to keep them warm and in the pool longer. Remember to purchase on the small side as they work better with a tight fit.

Medical and toiletries

You can find a comprehensive medical kit list here for family travel to Africa.

We strongly advise packing a malaria test kit and taking antimalarials (speak to a travel clinic for expert and up-to-date advice).

Malaria Diagnostic Test Kit for International Travellers. 3…
  • > Malarex Ltd is a UK based company specialising in the manufacture of Malaria Diagnostic Kits…
  • > Malaria kills over half a million people each year. This kit contains 3 malaria rapid diagnostic…
  • > Expiry date of current stock is 31st December 2025 (see relevant image). Made in the UK. CE…
  • > Technical Info: Detects all four strains of malarial parasite : P.falciparum, P.vivax, P.ovale &…
  • > Malarex is a registered trademark of Malarex Ltd, a UK company based in Merseyside. All our kits…

For long term travel on your packing list for Africa, don’t bother with travel sized toiletries; they will run out quickly and you’ll struggle to find good replacements (it was really difficult to find hair conditioner in Tanzania). Pack full size.

  • Toothbrushes and toothpaste
  • Face-wash
  • Shampoo / body wash and conditioner (consider packing a shampoo bar to save on space, it’s also better for the environment!)
  • Hairbrush (and hairbands/grips)
  • Moisturiser
  • Menstrual cups (ladies only!) – tampons and sanity pads are difficult to get hold of and there is no way of hygienically disposing of them. Menstrual cups last for up to 15 years and are much better for the environment.
  • Sun screen (we like the Green People products as they’re great for sensitive skin and ocean-friendly)
  • Mosquito repellent – We prefer the roll on rather than spray as seems to last longer. Go for max strength (the mossies in Mozambique are particularly unforgiving).
THREE PACKS of Jungle Formula Maximum Spray x 125ml
  • THREE PACKS of Jungle Formula Maximum Spray x 125ml
  • product type: INSECT REPELLENT
  • Brand: Jungle Formula
  • Size: 125 ml Pack of 3
Sale
Green People Scent Free Sun Cream SPF30 100ml | Travel Size…
  • NATURAL & ORGANIC sun cream provides broad-spectrum UVA & UVB sun protection whilst being gentle on…
  • Use by date: This product’s use by date is determined by the Period After Opening symbol (symbol…
  • EASY TO APPLY, NON-GREASY formula allows smooth application with quick absorption. Sinks in quickly…
  • ALOE VERA, GREEN TEA & EDELWEISS naturally nourish and protect skin. Moisture-retaining for a…
  • REEF SAFE & CRUELTY FREE ingredients mean you can enjoy beach holidays safely whilst being kind to…
Green People Scent Free Shampoo Bar 50g | Natural & Organic…
  • NATURAL & ORGANIC shampoo bar for a sensitive scalp with natural foaming and anti-frizz properties…
  • SILICONE FREE, SLS-FREE formula suitable for all hair types. We use gentle cleansing ingredients and…
  • BABASSU, PRACAXI, BISABOLOL & ARGAN OIL are our key plant actives. This bespoke blend of Babassu,…
  • CRUELTY FREE & SUSTAINABLY SOURCED ingredients mean you can look after your hair whilst maintaining…
  • ZERO WASTE & GREAT FOR TRAVEL Re-use the plastic-free box to keep your shampoo bar fresh between…

Camping gear

Most cooking gear will be provided by your hire company. Our Land Rover also came with two roof tents (shown in video below).

On collection of your vehicle and before you set off, check that your kit is of high quality and will withstand the test of time on the African roads. We recommend not driving too far on your first day and doing a recce to check everything works as it should.

Cooking gear

We had an LPG canister (the green cylinder attached to the rear of the Land Rover in photo below), that we would connect to a two-hob gas stove (similar to this).

Braiis (BBQs) are also available at many campsites across Southern Africa.

travelling Africa with kids

The following should be provided by your hire company, although please check as you will also need:

  • Mugs
  • Bowls and plates
  • Cutlery (including chopping knife)
  • Bottle opener
  • Sauce pan and frying pan
  • Washing up bowl (we had a collapsible one similar to this)
  • Washing up liquid, scrubber and tea towel (picked up from any supermarket)

It’s worth packing from home some packets of dried pasta, Colman’s recipe mixes (spaghetti bolognese, tuna pasta bake) and, of course, Marmite and tea bags (well I am British!) We also packed powdered milk as our youngest was still having milk before bed.

General camping gear

  • Solar lights – it gets dark so quickly in Africa each night and campsites are rarely lit. So you’re not always relying on batteries or charging, solar lights are an absolute must. Ideally pack a minimum of two.
  • Hammock – for that much needed downtime.
  • Cold weather sleeping bags, sheets and pillows (the latter you’ll probably want to purchase in Africa)
  • Camping chairs and small folding table (these will definitely be provided by your 4×4 hire company)
  • Picnic blanket – this one featured below is a good size, waterproof, sand proof, folds up really small, and you can peg it down.
travelling Africa with kids
Our hammock was one the best things we packed!

Land Rover kit

This should all be provided by your hire company. Check that you know how it all works and take photos to remind you in case of an emergency.

  • Tool kit
  • Extendable jack
  • Warning triangles, high viz jackets
  • Air compressor to change pressure of tyres according to road conditions

Navigation

Tracks 4 Africa was invaluable for our overland travels.

The Southern Africa Atlas contains details maps that include information on where to stay, eat, shopping, fuel, money matters, emergencies and what to see and do when you visit a place. It even details the road conditions!

Africa Southern Traveller’s Atlas
  • Tracks4Africa (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 142 Pages – 06/13/2017 (Publication Date) – Tracks4Africa (Publisher)

However, Tanzania is not covered in their paper map series and you may wish to purchase the Tanzania Freytag-Berndt separately.

Sale
Tanzania f&b (+r): Wegenkaart 1:1 300 000
  • Freytag & Berndt (Author)
  • 1 Page – 05/02/2012 (Publication Date) – Freytag & Berndt (Publisher)

We also relied on Lonely Planet guides for each country we drove through:

Sale
Lonely Planet South Africa, Lesotho & Eswatini: Perfect for…
  • Bainbridge, James (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 648 Pages – 04/15/2022 (Publication Date) – Lonely Planet (Publisher)
Sale
Lonely Planet Botswana & Namibia: Perfect for exploring top…
  • Fitzpatrick, Mary (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 352 Pages – 11/10/2023 (Publication Date) – Lonely Planet (Publisher)
Sale
Lonely Planet Zambia, Mozambique & Malawi: Perfect for…
  • Fitzpatrick, Mary (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 256 Pages – 09/01/2017 (Publication Date) – Lonely Planet (Publisher)
Sale
Lonely Planet Tanzania: Perfect for exploring top sights and…
  • Ham, Anthony (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 352 Pages – 11/10/2023 (Publication Date) – Lonely Planet (Publisher)

You may want also to hire through your hire company sat nav and a satellite phone.

Kids’ stuff

Apart from the odd dinosaur and car, we didn’t pack any toys for the boys. We were limited on space and I knew that no toy would hold its novelty for the entire 101 days.  The natural environment was their playground, although I always had a craft kit up my sleeve which came out almost every other day.

travelling Africa with kids
Painting stones in the Namibian desert
  • Kids’ craft kit containing coloured pens, white and coloured paper, paints (only pack blue, yellow, red and white, as you can mix any other colour), toddler scissors. Don’t bother with Play Doh, ours lasted two days after falling in dirt and getting mixed up in sand.
  • CBeebies Magazines
  • Amazon Fire tablets (loaded with books, games and TV shows)
  • Kids’ binoculars – essential for wildlife spotting on safari
  • V-Tech Kids Camera – we really should have packed one each for them.
  • Travel potty – even if they’re potty trained as public toilets on the African road are an absolute rarity. This portable urinal is super handy (or you could use a plastic bottle 😉 )
what to pack for travelling Africa
Photographing hippos on the River Zambezi

Parents’ stuff

  • Plug adaptors, extension lead and car phone charger
  • Power bank x2 – you may go days without electricity
  • Small laptop
  • Camera (you’ll want a zoom for the wildlife shots). You may also be interested to read about these best cameras for travelling with kids.
Namibia itinerary with kids
I most definitely used a zoom lens for this shot!

The Lonely Planet Africa, and the Tracks4Africa Africa Southern Traveller’s Atlas were invaluable throughout our travels.

Sale
Lonely Planet Africa: Perfect for exploring top sights and…
  • Ham, Anthony (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 1120 Pages – 11/10/2017 (Publication Date) – Lonely Planet (Publisher)
Africa Southern Traveller’s Atlas
  • Tracks4Africa (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 142 Pages – 06/13/2017 (Publication Date) – Tracks4Africa (Publisher)

You may also like to read:
FAQ: Travelling Africa with kids
Medical kit list for families travelling Africa
Tips for a safari with kids under the age of 5