Planning and packing
Trip Start Jun 11, 2011
19Trip End Jun 26, 2011
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Five weeks in Thailand was easy to pack for. I only needed small, light clothing and even with my widescreen laptop crammed down the length of my back, there was still plenty of space leftover. A month in Ghana was not much different, even with the addition of a sleeping bag and mosquito net but minus the laptop and continuously disappearing underwear - towards the end I was doing laundry daily in the shower because of those darn thieving geckos. Even 16 days backpacking in Greece and Turkey with limited laundry time was not very challenging, other than figuring out how to get my wide-brim hat in my pack.
But now, Tanzania has proven to be a packing challenge I have failed
I did a trial packing once I had all the things I think I needed, and could barely close the zipper on my pack. Normally, it is only 1/2 - 3/4 full before I begin a trip, leaving lots of space for anything I may pick up on the journey. This list may be modified before I leave - it may have to be!
Deciding what to pack (and therefore what to buy) was not the only pre-departure expense we had. I have also included extra insurance we had to buy (we bought travel medical and diving insurance for the year), our international and internal flights and our visas, though we haven't actually paid them yet. We will do it at the airport on arrival, but since it is part of the preparation I decided to include them in the pre-departure expenses, and we have already set aside the cash we will need for those.
What's not included in pre-departure expenses are some things we have prepaid, like hotel stays and our safari tour
For the planning of this trip, the shopping was a lot of fun. There are so many options for cool gear these days! After several hours of researching consumer reviews, product testing and professional reports, followed by online price comparisons, and several shopping trips to Germany, here is what I ended up with for myself, including a few shared purchases (i.e. first aid kit medications). I used an asterisk to identify which items are new purchases so you can see what correlates to the expenses in the chart.
Clothing and shoes:
I always seem to wear out a pair of shoes when traveling so tend to buy a pair for every trip. This time I went with North Face Ultra 105 GTX trail runners, which are a bit heavy but since we will be doing more sitting than walking on this trip I went for durability instead of lightness. They also have good ventilation which I hope is enough for the African climate.
Last year I found the Vibram FiveFingers Sprint on National Geographic Adventure's Gear of the Year list (in fact its the Bikila model on the list) and fell in love at first sight
I'm also bringing a pair of flip-flops because they are light and easy to pack and always useful (yes, this may well be one of my never used items if I truly love the FiveFingers).
Save for one pair of pants, the swim wear and a few underthings, everything in this list is new, which is why you can see in my pre-departure expenses that the clothes category is huge. The good news is we started preparing for this trip several months ago so it wasn't one big, nasty chunk of cash out of my pocket. I was really determined to have light, easy to wash, quick dry, mosquito-resistant, colored to deter tse-tse flies, breathable clothing so I probably bought more than the average person would. I want to be comfortable and not live in fear of malaria and sleeping sickness. So, no blue or bright colors here, only boring khakis and olives. At least I should blend in with the lions.
Here follows the exhaustive list:
- 2 long pants, one of those being zip-offs (hey, the zip-offs aren't as ugly as you think, I'm in the African bush for crying out loud, and this way I don't have to pack any shorts)
- 1 skirt
- 2 swimsuits
- 3 short-sleeved shirts
- 1 long-sleeved shirt
- 1 wind/waterproof jacket with hood
- 1 fleece for those cool nights on the crater
- 1 fabulous Tilley organic cotton hat
- 7 underwear (including 2 new Tilley Coolmax)
- 7 pairs socks (4 new, 3 of those from Tilley)
Backpack and day pack
I'm still using my Eagle Creek women's Fit LT, a 50L pack + 20L daypack that attaches to the main pack. The whole thing can be converted to a duffle bag with the rain cover, which is great when I have to check it in on flights. However it is small enough that, if the daypack is more or less empty, I can carry it on international flights. This baby has been around the world with me and still has red African dirt stains on the rain cover that won't wash out.
I am borrowing a small Leatherman pocket knife from the man so I can cut my own clothesline string.
Another gadget I found on the 2010 Gear of the Year list, the Petzl Tikka XP2 is the headlamp I had in Ghana until someone "borrowed" it and never brought it back to me. Being pitch-black and without a lamp I had no way to find them and had to stumble back to my hut blind. I doubt I will stray far from my replacement headlamp this time. Anyway, until that unfortunate event I loved my headlamp which works just as well as a flashlight and was great for nesting turtle spotting - hopefully I don't encounter anything more threatening on this trip.
This one took a lot of work. We read several recommendations that on a safari each person should have his or her own pair of binoculars and I agree. First, our adjustments and settings are unique and second, though arguably more important, nobody wants to waste time squabbling with a significant other when a lion hunt is in progress and your better half is hogging the viewing equipment. We ended up buying the same pair of binoculars, the Nikon Monarch ATB 8x42, after much research on the best set for a safari. Incidentally, there was no clear winner, but these Nikon binoculars offered excellent quality at a price we were willing to pay.
Camcorder + charging cables + two new extra batteries*
Camera + plug adapter + battery chargers + extra batteries
GPS logger (for photos) + charging cable
Snorkel and mask
African wildlife field guide
Journal and pen
Small dry bag for wet clothes*
If I can squeeze it in - primarily as a photo backup and storage/charging of the GPS log during the safari.
Sleeping and toiletries:
I'll be using the Equatorial bag that I picked up at MEC before going to Ghana, and a sleeping bag liner for cooler nights.
The free-standing kind. I know everywhere we will stay will have built-in nets, but if I find a hole I will reinforce the protection with this net. This may be considered over-packing but it is small enough and important enough to me to add it to my pack.
We bought these compressible pillows that so far don't feel very comfortable, but I haven't actually tried sleeping on one. I may end up sleeping on a pile of clothes.
We picked up our "giant" size Lifeventure trek towels in a small outdoor shop in Edinburgh. They are made with soft fibre and are "permanently" anti-bacterial. I always find these fast-drying towels a very strange texture especially once you have used it and it has re-dried, but they are small and easy to pack.
All in one, biodegradable soap*
First aid kit
We both had first aid kits already, so when we combined the unexpired contents we only had a few bits left to buy like blister packs (definitely going to use that one). In addition, I got some prescriptions for paracetamol, Ciprofloxacin, and anti-malaria medication. The expenses here also include DEET for skin and DEET for clothes.
A note about the anti-malaria tablets:I took Malarone while living in Ghana and had no side effects at all, absolutely loved it, but also had insurance cover the cost. This time I was on my own to pay for it and my doctor recommended Doxcyclin. I am a bit fearful of the threat of thrush but it is significantly cheaper and I hope I will only need it during the safari. If I arrive on Zanzibar with no bites, I can stop taking it then. Fingers crossed on that one. I don't want to hear horror stories but if you have taken both what's your preference?
That's it, that is more or less everything I am trying to squeeze into 50 litres. Our pre-departure expenses are now here and will hopefully prove helpful to one or two of you when planning your own safari.
One question: I have not yet bought or packed anything to sleep in. I was thinking of just wearing my cleanest clothes, as I don't really have room to spare in my pack. I can't sleep naked, of course, as we're with a tour group and if a hippo attacks our tent at night I don't want to be the one streaking through the camp just as God made me. Is it better to bring specific sleep clothes? What are your recommendations?