|You can never be certain what you will run into while hunting, especially in Africa. My approach is it is better to have it and not use it, than to wish for it later. My brother-in-law is the exact opposite and on several trips he would have paid a small fortune for the relatively inexpensive gear I brought along for him. My bias for being more prepared than most is reflected in the information that follows.
Airline Luggage Considerations
In addition to understanding your International flight luggage regulations, understand what the space/weight requirements are if you have to take a Regional flight and/or are flying into a bush camp on a small plane.
Weigh bags at home and adjust loads accordingly. If you have three bags and two are heavy and one is light, by spreading that out more evenly you could almost save up to $100.
- Regional flights usually limit weights to just over 30 pounds.
- Talk to your PH or booking agent about what works bestůhe may suggest you forego an extra large wheeled duffel and take a medium and large sized bag instead as they are easier to store in the bush plane.
Airline Approved Ammo Cases
For flights into South Africa, you now have to check your ammo in a locking metal case. You are permitted to take up to 11 pounds (5 Kilos) of ammo. We now offer the Strongcase« locking ammo boxes that can hold 4-6 boxes of big bore ammo so you can comply with this new regulation. Check your airlines website for their ever changing ammo policies.
Carry Essentials Separately
Get a hydration backpack and put as many high value/small sized items in there along with all your other essential items such as extra copies of important documents, prescriptions, cameras, binoculars, extra scopes, and reading or viewing material for the trip over and back, etc.
If you are looking for a lighter weight bag, check out our Safari Canvas luggage which is made by the same company that manufacturers 90% of the heavy duty canvas seat covers you will find on hunting vehicles in Southern Africa.
Maximize Space Available
- Pack in clear plastic bags with zippers and label all of them so you can find everything easily.
- If you plan to leave clothing behind in Africa pack them using vacuum bags so you can carry more over.
- Remember to roll your clothing and stuff any empty space with socks or underwear.
- Travel with as much gear as possible on your personůsunglasses, your hat, boots, etc as that frees up valuable space/weight in your luggage and may be the difference between having versus wishing for the gear you need.
- If forced to prioritize between clothing and gear, go a bit lighter on the clothing, especially if your accommodations include daily laundry service.
- Passport-check expiration date and make a copy of it. (Travel to South Africa requires 4 empty pages)
- Itinerary and plane tickets (make an extra copy of them)
- Medical/Shot Records
- Insurance information for trip
- Emergency Evacuation Information
- Hunt Contract
- Customs form 4457 for firearms (check that serial numbers match again)
- Customs Broker/Taxidermy Tags
- Procure cash and travelers checks
- Pictures of all luggage/belongings-opened and closed.
- Extra copies of itinerary, PH contact information and all other paperwork left at home and office.
- Call your credit card company and let them know where you will be and for how long so they do not shut off your cards
More than any other section, the gear and information found in this section can make the difference between a safe and enjoyable experience and a difficult one. This gear also provides you with the biggest bang for your buck as most are relatively low cost and do not take up much space. As an added benefit, leaving some of these items behind will always be appreciated by your PH.
- Once you know your destination, make an appointment with a Doctor who specializes in Tropical diseases so you can get all the immunizations, malaria drugs and other medications required. Some of these medicines take time to become effective, so do not wait until the last minute.
- While it may not be as convenient as going to your regular Doctor, if you pick up something up in Africa you will probably need to see a specialist anyway so you might as well establish that relationship in advance. On a related note, depending on where you are hunting, you may want to make an appointment with that same Doctor soon after you return so you can get in quickly if you are ailing. If you feel fine, you can always cancel your appointment in plenty of time for them to fill that time slot.
- Prescription medicines-get your Dr to write you two prescriptions, each one for at least what you will need while over there and keep them in the original containers. Put one in your luggage and one in your carry-on pack
- If you are not accustomed to taking pills or need to take certain ones more than once a day, buy a pill organizer at your local drug store that you can fill upon arrival in camp so you make sure you do not miss a dose.
Nothing is more important to your performance and enjoyment than staying hydrated, so bring a hydration pack you can use while on the move. During my first plains game hunt we left the truck quickly without any water for what was supposed to be a short trip and returned 14 hours later after walking almost non-stop. Sucking on a stone did nothing to alleviate my thirst! This is an essential part of your gear. They also work great (with no liquid in them) to carry high value/essential gear over and back. If you are hunting during the dry season you will need to consume large volumes of water. Adding Camelback Energy Tablets to your water will make it easier for you drink more because it tastes better. They also replace electrolytes lost when you perspire and as an added benefit, each tablet contains 75mg of caffeine which is equal to a shot of espresso.
- You will probably not need it, but buy Emergency Medical Evacuation Coverage. If you get into trouble, it could make all the difference in the world. We recommend Med Jet Assist
- While the PH will probably have a first aid kit, do not leave that to chance. We strongly recommend you bring your own.
- If you are on a blood thinning medication like Coumadin, take some QuikClot to stop bleeding from the cuts one acquires on safari.
- Blister Kits-Bring them as we had one customer who missed half his safari and spent several thousand dollars for want of this $21 item.
- Bring a Leatherman Micra as it has a set of tweezers, spring action scissors and a host of other personal care accessories that will come in handy.
Eye and Sun Protection
- A week prior to your departure, we suggest you treat your shoes, pants and shirts using the 24 oz Permithren spray bottle. Permithren loses all effect if used on your skin, but kills bugs on contact if you treat your clothes prior to departure. One application lasts for 45 days or 6 washings-whichever comes first.
- Picaridin lasts for 14 hours and will not take the finish off of your gun or harm nylons like DEET. It is also better at repelling all types of biting flies.
- We recommend SPF 30 sunscreen with DEET-FREE bug repellent for use on your face as the most popular anti-malarial medication makes you more prone to sunburn.
- We recommend AfterBite for relief from bug bites.
- We recommend impact resistant Wiley X sunglasses that have a removable membrane to keep dust out of your eyes-great when you are on the back of a safari vehicle as contacts do not work well in dusty areas.
- Eye drops to flush your eyes out just in case
- Safari hat with a chin strap so it does not blow off while driving
We recommend Turtleskin snake gaiters. They are approved for protection against all South African snakes and are very soft, lightweight, waterproof and breathable. They give you added peace of mind when hunting in thick bush or just walking on the path back to your tent after dinner where Puff Adders absorb the warmth the ground still holds and wait for their evening meal.
Flashlights and Headlamps
- We suggest a Streamlight flashlight
that you leave in your tent
- A Streamlight headlamp
that you keep in your pack in case you have to navigate out in the bush after dark. It is important to keep both of your hands free to keep your balance and push obstacles out of your way. Order the Trident Green Night Vision if you do not want to spook animals and want to preserve your night vision.
- Call your cell phone provider and see if they can add the international access needed to your existing phone. If that is not feasible consider renting a satellite phone so you can stay connected. In either case, make sure you take instructions on how to make a call with you.
- Scan and e-mail all essential documents to both yourself and the PH. This will make sure you are covered two ways in case you lose them.
- Set up another e-mail account you can use from any computer to use during your trip.
- Bring extra batteries for flashlights, cameras, etc.
- Bring a 220 to 110 volt converter for charging video cameras, phones, etc.
- We recommend the iconic Selous Safari Boot from the Courteney Boot Company. This is an extremely tough boot that will serve you well for many years. Since this is a heavy-duty boot, we suggest you purchase them at least three months in advance so you can break them in and wear them while you get in shape for your safari.
- All of the Courteney boots are cut wide. if you have a narrow foot or just want added support, we off the highly rated SOLE insoles.
- If you are hunting in the wet season (February - April) bring two pairs of boots so you can wear one while the other dries.
- Nothing will make your feet more prone to blistering than getting them wet. For that reason we suggest you include an extra pair of socks in your pack so you have a dry pair just in case.
- If your feet do get wet, take your boots off one at a time, take your sock off, wring it out, wad them up and then stuff them into the front of the boot and step on that area with your booted foot to remove some of the excess moisture in the leather. Wring out the sock, put it back on and then do the other one.
- For the above reason we suggest you bring a few pairs of thicker Rohner cushioned socks for comfort while walking long distances and a few pairs of thinner socks to compensate for the leather shrinking a bit (if you get your boots wet) as they dry.
- We also recommend Gaiters; Turtleskin if you want protection from snakes and Courteney Leather if you want the best one on the market.
- Safari Jacket
- Two Long Sleeve shirts with fasteners to keep rolled up sleeves in place
- Two Safari Pants (with zip off legs if space is an issue)
- Two Safari Shorts if space is not an issue
- Warm jacket (rain/wind proof) and heavy sweater for morning/evening wear
- Gloves and wool cap for cold mornings on the back of the truck
- Extra pair of camp shoes
We suggest you bring the same ones you practice with back home. Invest in a set of Shooting Sticks instead of buying a cheap set every three or four years as it will be less expensive over the long run and more importantly, they will never let you down. The biggest difference between our Premium Grade offerrings and every other set on the market is that on ours the connector is the strongest part and on every other ones it is the weakest part.
Soft Rifle Cases, Culling Belts and Slings
Optics and Bino Carriers
- We suggest you bring a soft case to protect your firearms from dust and damage when it is traveling on the back of the safari vehicle.
- We recommend our leather culling belts for dangerous game hunts. The extra thick, bull hide belts must be relatively stiff to give you enough rigidity to extract big bore cartridges. Wear them during your range practice to break-in both the belt and the bullet loops. If the loops are a bit tight storing some shells in them will loosen them up and if they are too big rubbing a bit of water on them with your hands and then putting them out in the sun or in front of a heat source (never above 100 degrees) will tighten them up.
- Slings make a heavy rifle much easier to carry and we recommend our Padded Elephant or Zebra Inlay Sling. We also offer extra-wide Courteney Cobra Slings and Canvas Slings for those who want a more traditional option. These slings are the widest on the market and displace the weight of heavy big bores better than narrow models.
- If you simply want to carry extra rounds in a wallet, we offer two big bore options; the Double Rifle Six Pack and the Safari Five.
- We recommend our Nylon Cordura Scope Case to protect/carry a detachable scope as in some situations you may want to take follow-up shots with open sights.
- We recommend our Safari Bino Sling so you can slide them behind out of the way when you get ready to shoot or when crawling. You can not do this with the harnesses that are fixed to your chest.
Be sure to check out our Trip Planning Timeline (PDF Version)
- Even if you keep your gun cased it will become dirty and dusty. We recommend you bring a Safari Cleaning Kit. This small kit is caliber specific and includes everything you need to keep your Big Bore clean.
- Your optics/glasses will get dusty. We recommend the Otis Lens Cleaning Kit for use on glasses, binoculars and scopes. They will not scratch the lenses when used properly.
- Leather Safari Binocular Sling so you can slide them out of the way when walking, crawling or shooting.