While in most countries you can easily buy something you had forgotten, it might be an impossible task in rural Namibia. Good preparation will save you lots of frustration and make your trip more comfortable. Whether you are planning to drive across the whole country or just go there for a couple of days, here is Namibia packing list of the essential items that you don’t want to forget on a road trip.
Namibia packing essentials
First aid kit and medicine
This is kind of self-explanatory… and of upmost importance in Namibia.
Whether you accidentally cut yourself, get stomach problems, or bruise your knee while climbing granite rocks in Spitzkoppe (just looking for a real-life example…), first aid kit is an absolute necessity in Namibia.
Make sure to pack any prescription medicine you may need during the trip. We always pack a pain killer, probiotics, nose spray, disinfectant, diarrhoea medication, medicine against travel sickness, and something against allergies – in case you get bitten by an insect and have a severe reaction.
Since we have children, we also ALWAYS carry a cold pain relieving spray with us. It’s probably the most used item on any trip. Did I mention that we have three young boys?
We travelled in July and mosquitos were not really an issue, but you should never travel to Africa without a mosquito spray with DEET.
Ask any traveller to Africa about one essential item to take with you, and most of them will advise to take a flashlight. It gets dark early and you will need a flashlight all the time – to walk from your room to the restaurant, to find a key hole and open the door to your room after dinner. Some hotels also switch off their power generators at night… You get the idea. I advise to carry a pocket size powerful LED flashlight and always keep it on you.
GPS and a good map
A good map is essential for any road trip. Get a recent detailed map which indicates petrol stations and the main lodges – it’s really helpful as many places don’t really have an address.
Your road trip will be much more relaxing if you take a GPS with you. You can rent one, of course, but if you travel a lot, it’s cheaper to buy a GPS with worldwide maps (and make sure the map of the country you are going to is loaded on it before you leave home). We took our TomTom with world maps and were amazed at how precise it was in Namibia – we never expected it, but we were able to use it every day.
You cannot trust on your phone’s GPS in Namibia.
Take your smartphone, but don’t expect to have a connection all the time. Nevertheless you should always have a phone with you so that you can take advantage of every opportunity (they might be quite limited) to connect to the Internet and let your family and friends know how you are doing.
A good Swiss Army knife is a must on any road trip. We have used ours on more occasions than I can remember. If there is one travel item that every traveller should own then it’s a Swiss Army knife.
Namibia uses type D/M electrical plugs and you should buy a couple of those in advance. One might not be enough as you probably have a lot of electric appliances with you, and – as I mentioned before – some places cut off electricity at night, so you may need to charge several appliances simultaneously. Or take one of those multi-socket power adapters instead.
Camera, extra batteries, charger, memory cards
If your camera uses rechargeable batteries, you should be ok with just one spare, unless you are camping and have no possibilities to recharge – in that case you may need to take a few extra batteries. Don’t count on buying extra batteries in Namibia, so make sure you take everything with you (or buy some in Windhoek upon arrival). The same counts for the memory cards – you cannot count on buying them in Namibia (except in Windhoek or Swakopmund). So make sure you have plenty of memory cards with you. Count on making 200-300 pictures a day. If you really like taking pictures (I do), you might end up taking even more, especially when you go on safari.
If you are into photography, then you know how important it is to use a tripod. You will not be able to use it on safari rides, but there are many waterholes where you can watch animals and there a tripod is essential.
I take my Manfrotto aluminum tripod with a compact ball head with me all the time – it’s strong enough for any camera yet relatively light and compact. It’s not cheap, but after intensive use for more than 6 years I can tell you that it’s worth it.
Don’t forget binoculars – you will be watching a lot of animals and birds and it’s always a pleasure to have a good pair of binoculars with you.
As mentioned in my previous post, finding food during the day can be a real challenge in rural Namibia. You can order a lunch pack at your hotel and take it with you or stock up on food and drinks every time you pass a town and a shop. In that case you will really need a cooler. We took a soft-sided cooler with us and while not a must, it was really useful.
E-reader with built-in light
Often, the light is very minimal in hotels in Africa. Reading a book in the evening can be a challenge. An e-reader is not only compact and light to take with you, it also allows you to read in the evening. It’s especially helpful if you share a room with the kids as you can read when they sleep. We both have a Kindle Paperwhite e-reader and take it on all our trips.
You’ll want to have a good day backpack with you to take on safari rides, when you go hiking, or any other excursions. Take a bag that can be closed well to avoid the sand getting inside.
Soft shell travel bags rather than hard shell suitcases
Whether you travel to Africa on a group tour, take a small airplane, or make an individual road trip, you are better off taking soft-sided travel bags rather than hard shell suitcases. They take less space and offer more flexibility when loading bags in a trunk, on top of that they are more durable. Group tours and small airplanes always advice against hard shell luggage.
What else to pack for a Namibia trip – small, but important
- Locks for your luggage for when you leave it in the room or in the car
- Sun hat, sun glasses, and sunscreen
- Body cream, hand cream, lip balm. You will need those all the time as it’s very dry in Namibia
- Most hotels and lodges have all kinds of toiletries provided, but to be on the safe side, you can always take some soap and a small bottle of shampoo with you
- Big trash bags to cover your baggage (otherwise they will be covered with sand, even in the trunk)
- Small trash bags are also very handy. You can use them as motion sickness bags, to separate dirty laundry, or as trash bags in your car
- Small brush (like a hand brush, or a scrub brush) to clean your shoes and bags. There will be sand all over your stuff
- Toilet paper (to have in the car), tissues, and sanitising hand wipes
- Safety pins and a sewing kit
- Clothesline and a laundry detergent – if you need to do some laundry or just to dry your swimwear
What kind of clothes to pack for Namibia for July or August…
You don’t really need smart clothing in Namibia and you’ll probably hardly ever wear it. If you stay at the luxury lodges then you may want to take one or two smart outfits for in the evening, but jeans and a shirt is also fine. During the day you will only need casual clothes.
Most people travel to Namibia in dry season (May-October). While it’s very warm and you can wear shorts and t-shirts during the day, take into account that it’s the colder season and that you will need warm clothes for when the sun goes down or before it rises. Most safari rides go early in the morning or late in the evening and you will definitely need warm clothing – sweater, jacket, long pants… The same for the whale watching tours, watching sunrise in the dunes, and some other activities.
Here is a short list of what we packed for our 4-week trip to Namibia in July:
Our 4-week Namibia road trip clothing packing list
- Windproof jacket
- 1-2 sweaters or a fleece pullover (it dries fast if you need to wash it)
- 2 pairs long pants, can also be jeans, but light trekking pants are probably more convenient
- 2 pairs of shorts
- 10-12 t-shirts or light cotton shirts (can be with long sleeves)
- 10-12 sets of underwear and socks
- Swimsuit (only the kids used them – swimming pools are not heated in Namibia and the water is very cold in winter)
- A buff or a scarf. For the children we also took a cap and gloves and we used them on several occasions
- A pair of old socks – you will use those when climbing the sand dunes and throw them away afterwards
Do you need neutral colour clothing on safari in Africa
It is, indeed, advisable not to wear bright colours on safari, but in my experience it doesn’t matter that much if you are sitting in a car or an open jeep all the time. If you have a choice between a bright red fleece or a grey one, go for the latter. If you have to buy something new for the trip, better go for the neutral colour clothing in light brown, grey, or similar colours. If, however, the only windproof jacket you own happens to be bright green, I’d say save your money and pack what you have.
What kind of shoes do you need in Namibia
Per person we took a pair of hiking sandals, flip flops, and walking shoes. We only used sandals on a few occasions, but found flip-flops very useful for in the hotel room or at a pool.
It’s best to wear closed shoes in Namibia. You don’t really need hiking shoes (unless you plan on doing lots of hiking), but low hiking shoes are advisable. In principle, one pair of shoes is sufficient if you want to travel light, but if I were to travel to Namibia again, I’d probably pack the same: hiking shoes, sandals, and flip flops.
What to pack when camping in Namibia
If you plan on camping in Namibia you will need camping-specific items and a lot will depend on how you camp (individually or in a group), whether your tent and cooking utensils are provided, etc.
If camping in winter (June-August), make sure to take a really warm sleeping bag (it can be freezing at night) and an inflatable camping mat. Our friends took Vaude Sioux sleeping bags with them and said they were just great for the Namibian winter.
If you go camping, you should get a headlamp – I heard this advice from many people and they all said that a headlamp is one of the camping essentials. It keeps your hands free in a tent, while cooking, etc.
Also think of taking a quick-drying towel, slippers for in the shower, and clothes that can be washed and dried quickly if necessary… The rest depends on your specific situation.
What to pack to Namibia when traveling with children
When traveling with children you are quickly tempted to overpack. This is completely unnecessary. Here is what we packed for our kids (+ the clothing, of course):
- 1 small cuddly toy to sleep with
- Twistable crayons and paper
- Kid’s binoculars. We bought small binoculars for each of our kids and it kept them busy and engaged during the whole trip. Don’t buy toy binoculars as they are useless. There are plenty of small binoculars with decent magnification which are not necessarily more expensive.
- Children’s booster seat– we always take our Trunki BoostApak. Actually, we take three of them and you can easily place them next to each other on the back seat.
- A tablet with a couple of children’s movies and games. We take our Kindle Fire for the kids as it’s probably the best price-quality tablet you can get.
- MP3 player that can be connected in the car (with USB connection) with children’s stories or music.
What not to pack to Namibia
- Don’t take too many electrical appliances with you. Take only what you really need. Unless you really need a laptop, leave it at home. Smartphone and eventually a small tablet is more than sufficient.
- As already mentioned, smart clothes are really not necessary in Namibia.
- High heel shoes, women’s sandals, ballet flats – you can leave all of these at home. They are completely useless in the Namibian desert.
- Don’t take your newest suitcase or travel bag with you as the bags will be covered with sand every day you drive on the gravel roads. Pack an old travel bag or a backpack instead and make sure it’s well closed.
- Unless you are really attached to it, leave your jewellery at home.
- Don’t take too many toys for your children. Let your kids explore – roll down the sand dunes, climb the rocks, look for animals, play with sand and stones… If you really want to take something, take a small ball or a frisbee.
If you are in Europe, you can find some safari clothing ideas here.
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