My Packing List for 2 Weeks Exploring South Africa

My wife and I are taking a two-week vacation in South Africa!

Our plans include a trip to a nature reserve to see wild animals, diving into the ocean with sharks, and sipping wine throughout the vineyards outside of Cape Town. Selecting the right clothes to bring on this trip is tricky, since we need to prepare for both urban exploration and trekking out on a safari.

Our main destinations in South Africa:
  • Sabi Sand Game Reserve
  • Cape Town
  • Grootbos Nature Reserve

I found the following articles/blogs/websites very helpful:

And as always, Google is your friend.

This is a summary of my own research and the items I've decided to bring on our trip!

General Guidelines

Stick to earth-tone colors

One of the keys to a successful safari in Africa is being able to see the big five game animals: lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard, and rhino. In order to maximize your chances, you need to blend in with the surrounding environment. This doesn't require full camouflage gear, but sticking to khaki, green, and beige will help you fit in better. Also, avoid blue and black, which attracts the tsetse fly. This bug can bite through clothing and put you at risk for something known as "sleeping sickness".

Pack lightly

It's obvious, but you always want to pack as little as you can get away with. Many of the camps on the nature reserves offer complimentary laundry service. This helps to keep you as clean as possible with what little attire you bring!

Prepare for cold weather, even in hot-climate areas

Sabi Sand in September can get hot during the day (80-degrees F), but safaris often include early-morning and late-night drives throughout the park. Naturally, it's colder during these times. Also, Cape Town can be rainy and cold this time of year. Having layers and long-sleeves not only keep you warm, but prevent bugs from biting.

Bring even the most common over-the-counter medications

Out on the nature reserves, the nearest town might be a plane-ride away. Even simple medications may be hard to find. Advil, Imodium, Tums, etc. are easy enough to get while at home, might as well bring them along for the trip. 

The REI Lookout 40

This is my go-to 40-liter travel backpack. It's lasted me 4 years. Up to this point, I've used it as a daily-carry, a day-hiking pack, and travel bag (near or far). It was good enough for my four-week trip in Europe, I'm betting it'll be good enough for South Africa.

REI Lookout 40


Long-sleeve tees, short-sleeve tees, and a single button-down. I generally like wool, but some of these are cotton or some kind of blend. Either way, they're all relatively thin and light, perfect for layering.

For the vineyards and urban wandering, some casual wear doesn't hurt.

Random Tees from Nordstrom


I decided against bringing hiking shorts. Tech pants are perfect for covering up, but being light and airy. I also opted for casual-looking pants rather than cargo, just to avoid sticking out too much as a safari tourist while in Cape Town (we'll see).

Basketball shorts and swimming trunks, for lounging around the lodges and diving with the sharks.


Although it's tempting to bring my hiking boots along with me on the safaris, it might look a bit too touristy while exploring the streets of Cape Town. Instead of going full-on outdoors, I decided with a casual "office-to-trail" shoe. For lounging around and getting my feet wet, I also grabbed a pair of Teva slippers. Both are comfortable and very lightweight.

Accessories and Electronics

I generally don't like to bring too many accessories along, but if I have some extra space, I like to bring my sunglasses, a watch, and wallet. They don't take up much room and are very handy to have, even as a daily carry.

It can also be tricky packing electronics, since batteries, tablets, and laptops can take up valuable weight and space. I decided to bring my thin and light MacBook. I'm also bringing a charging pack, just in case we find ourselves without an outlet. With two long flights (14 hours and 8 hours respectively), some headphones are also an essential item to pack!

AmazonBasics Portable Charger


All of these items brought the weight of my bag to just about 15lbs, which is the limit for carry-on luggage for Emirates, our airline. Not bad for three destinations! Questions, comments, suggestions, let me know!

Hiking Trip Report: Summit Lake

Hike Date: 07-29-2017
Distance (Roundtrip): 6 miles
Elevation Gain: 1300 ft
Highest Point: 5802 ft
Summit Lake Hiking Guide

It's hard to believe it's been almost two years since my last hike. I guess life's been busy, and I lost interest in the outdoors. Well, it's hard to stay away for too long! I decided to re-ignite my love for hiking by visiting a trail I had been meaning to hike since winter of 2009. Summit Lake is farther away than where I normally venture, but I've always wanted explore the wilderness around Mt. Rainier. A nice view of the mountain is hard to beat in the summer! Weather conditions were excellent, so it was the perfect day to finally check Summit Lake off the list!

From Seattle, it took about an hour and a half to drive down to the trailhead. After driving all the way down to Carbonado along paved roads and freeways, the turn onto USFS 7810 was rough change. The unpaved road is riddled with deep potholes and climbs steeply for seven miles up to the trailhead. Though cars are able to slowly navigate the dirt road, I highly recommend a high-clearance vehicle! There were plenty of parking spaces when I arrived at 7am. There were a few cars, but I imagine most of them were folks camping over night. There was hardly anybody on the trail.

The trail starts off with a gradual incline up along the mountain north of the parking lot. There are a couple of switchbacks under the shade of the trees and it never really gets too steep. The trail is in good shape, hardly any obstacles and very navigable. There are tree roots overgrown here and there, but nothing too crazy.

At a small, shallow pond, a sign marks the junction to Bearhead Mountain. Heading towards the left, I noticed the bugs started appearing in higher numbers. I'd recommend some bug spray if you don't like bugs flying around your face!

All along the damp areas of the trail, the bear grass is blooming! Continuing further along the southern face of the mountain, the switchbacks stop and the trail turns in to a long straightaway. Breaks in the forest canopy along the way offer sunlit openings with blooming mountain flowers (most of which I don't know the names of) and forest meadows. Glancing south, the very top of Mt. Rainier occasionally peaks through the trees.

After about 2.5 miles, the trail opens up to the meadows surrounding Summit Lake! Here, many overnight backpackers begin their search for an open spot to camp along the basin. The trail loops all the way around the lake, rising and falling along a steep peak on the south side. I followed the trail towards the right, going counter-clockwise around the lake. Here, the trail is very gradual, and mostly shaded by the canopy of the forest.

Further along the west side of the lake, the trail climbs steeper. The views are outstanding! There are several steep cliff-sides offering views of Summit Lake with Mt. Rainier in the background. A few backpackers, who arrived early, were fortunate enough to have their camps set up right along the steep, western ridge!

A steep climb further along leads to the only patch of snow left on Summit Lake. It lies nears the top of the southern peak. After following the trail to the top of the peak, the view of Mt. Rainier is absolutely stunning! On a clear day, like today, the view of the mountain range extends beyond where the eyes can see! The trees, alpine lakes, and mountain ranges surrounding Mt. Rainier add much more to its inherent beauty. If there is an "end" to the trail, it's here. Be sure not to miss it!

The trail descends steeply back to the base of Summit Lake. Slow and steady ensures no injury! With the shade of the forest and the cool water of the lake nearby, the bugs are exceptionally dense here. There were only about three or four campers set up as I made my way back to the main junction. However, as I hiked back down to the trailhead, I ran into about twenty other backpackers hiking up! I arrived at the parking lot at around 11am. By this time, it was jam-packed with cars! I'm glad I came early!

For a hike with no freeway noise, open meadows, mountain views, and an unobstructed view of Mt. Rainier, Summit Lake is the perfect destination! To find some solitude from the crowds, arrive as early as possible.

I'm glad I finally got visit Summit Lake. I'll be sure to make my way back down to Mt. Rainier for more hikes in the future!