Africa Packing List: essential packing tips for East Africa and Madagascar!

In this detailed Africa Packing List blog, I will tell you all about what to pack from Kenia, Uganda, Rwanda and Madagascar! Including a lot of Africa travel tips, travel essentials and what we wished we hadn’t packed for our 14 weeks travelling in East Africa!

Africa Packing List: a backpack or suitcase?

A personal choice of course, but for me really a no-brainer: my blue 65 L Slimfit Karoo Backpack from NOMAD *. Due to the thick material and the accompanying flight bag, all my belongings are well protected against dust, dirt and rain. Ries uses the slightly larger 70 L Karoo Backpack in green. My backpack weighs (packed) 11.5 kilos and my daypack 5 kilos.

The reason I prefer travelling with a backpack in Africa is that we move a lot. We travel by public transport (bus, train, taxi, boat, motorcycle taxi) and sometimes with a rented car. A backpack often fits into one of these vehicles more easily and ensures that while walking between the vehicles, you have your hands free since the backpack is on your back. This feels safer for us. A suitcase is a lot bigger, it’s also less easy to press into a small space like the back of a rented car.

Are you planning to buy a backpack? Then read this blog that tells you exactly what to look for when purchasing and gives you a handy checklist!

East Africa tips: take a daypack

In addition to my large backpack, I use the North Face Router daypack with a capacity of 35L. This is quite large for a daypack but good for me in terms of size. We travel with quite a bit of electronics and divide all this between the daypack of me and Ries. Ries uses the North Face Recon bag.

Click here for the best budget hotels in Madagascar! For every top attraction, a cool place to stay at!

Packing List: Which clothes to pack for Africa?

East Africa, only flipflops and beach dresses right? Well, no that’s not entirely the case. In Madagascar in particular, the evenings can be quite cold. So make sure to pack long pants and a sweater. Below you will find exactly which clothes to pack for Africa. **

  • long thin pants 1x
  • wide skirt 1x
  • short pants 3x
  • long sports pants 1x
  • short sports pants 1x
  • half-long jumpsuits 2x
  • bikinis 2x
  • bathing suit 1x
  • sports bra 2x
  • underwear 9x

Click here for all of our travel blogs on Rwanda!

Kenya Packing List: toiletries and first aid kit

Ries and I share a toilet bag and first aid kit. For Africa, we received a lot of medicines from the GGD as a precautionary measure. We take Lariam against malaria every week. Furthermore, fortunately, we did not need the majority of the list below!

Africa travel packing tips: First aid kit

  • travel sickness pills
  • general antibiotics
  • antibiotics cream
  • diarrhoea antibiotics for Africa
  • Paracetamol & Ibuprofen
  • Okugest

Click here for all of our travel blogs on Uganda!

Africa Packing list: Toiletries

We use this toilet bag from the Decathlon (€ 12.99), highly recommended. There is a hook with which you can hang it on in hostels and then it rolls out completely.

  • sunscreen (factor 50 and 30)
  • face sunscreen (factor 50 and 30)
  • shampoo 100ml x2 (refillable)
  • conditioner 100ml (refillable)
  • facewash 100ml x2 (refillable)
  • facial cleansing wipes
  • deet

  • deodorant
  • brush
  • nail clipper
  • face cream
  • dry shampoo 50ml
  • sewing kit
  • makeup

  • toothbrush
  • toothpaste
  • toothpicks
  • gel
  • earbuds
  • cotton buds
  • mirror

Africa travel packing tips: camera gear!

Well, this is quite subjective … for us, photography, filming and writing blogs is an important part of our travels and therefor we pack a lot of electronics. Africa is the place to photograph beautiful animals on safari and to be able to do that properly, a good camera and 100-400 MM lens are essential, according to Ries. Below all the electronics that we brought with us, however, chances are that you will need less!

In this blog, I will tell you exactly what kind of travel photography gear we use!

What's in our Camera bag?

Africa Packing List: travel essentials tips!

And then there are of course a number of other things that do not fit into the above categories. We were especially very happy with the salt shaker, mini cutlery and the folding containers. We often ate breakfast or lunch with this. An impregnated mosquito net is also indispensable in Africa. We often used this if there was no mosquito net in our room (s), or if the mosquito net present had too many holes.

 Click here for all of our travel blogs on Kenya!

Extra packing list tips for a trip through Africa

1. Camping gear: tent, sleeping bags and mats

In Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda, camping is very normal. There are many campsites in and outside safari parks, but also around the cities. We didn’t have any camping gear with us this time, but we would bring this along next time. We love camping. Please note: most campsites do not have a kitchen. If you want to cook, you must bring all your cookware and a gas burner yourself.

2. Lightweight foldable yoga mat

We have hardly encountered yoga studios, gyms or other sports options in East Africa. To keep a bit fit, we regularly download yoga classes on YouTube, which we then did on a towel in our hotel or in a park. For our next trip, I found this lightweight folding yoga mat that fits exactly in my backpack. Really recommended!

3. Dress codes for women in Africa

In advance, I expected as a woman, that I should dress well covered in Africa, out of respect for the local culture. However, it turned out that most local women in Africa are not dressed this way so it definitely wasn’t necessary. Only in Lamu, a largely Islamic island off the coast of Kenya is it desirable for a woman to cover your shoulders and knees. Furthermore, short pants and a top / T-shirt are more than sufficient.

Are you packing your suitcase or backpack for a trip through Africa and do you have questions? Or do you have tips for other travellers? Let me know via a comment!

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* NOMAD is one of our partners, but everything above is true to me and I am a huge fan of the brand!

** Since I made this packing list with my experiences, it is a bit feminine in terms of clothing ;-). As a man, the majority of the backlist is also applicable, but a little less in terms of clothing.


  1. by Teddy Nyoro on 25 September 2019  13:13 Reply

    Nice read. Loose cash is important especially when getting around the cities with public transportation

    • by Charlotte van de Sande on 26 September 2019  09:51 Reply

      Ooo very smart! Indeed, we were always traveling with cash because of the lack of ATM’s!

  2. by Lhynzie on 13 October 2021  08:53 Reply

    Wow, this is really great! Thank you for sharing this article. Looking forward to a new one.

  3. by Bridget on 10 December 2022  21:06 Reply

    Fabulous information thank you Charlotte. We are planning our trip for next year and are wondering if we need to wear khaki and muted colours?

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