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The Few, the Proud, the Carry-on Only Safari-goers: How Did You Do It?

The Few, the Proud, the Carry-on Only Safari-goers: How Did You Do It?

Feb 11th, 2010, 05:11 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 8,583
The Few, the Proud, the Carry-on Only Safari-goers: How Did You Do It?

Hi everyone,

I did a search but couldn't pull up what I wanted. Please feel free to direct me to links about this. I love Lynda's packing list but I would never take that much stuff.

On my past two safaris, I carried on a small bag with a few essentials and checked a larger duffel. My traveling companion did the same, and between the two of us we managed to carry on the most important items. This time I will be going solo, so no cross-packing. I'd sort of like to do carry-on only. I'm flying Delta, KLM and KQ: SFO-ATL-AMS-NBO-KGL. And back again. Trip involves time in Rwanda gorilla trekking, maybe a walk in DRC if things are okay, some time in Tsavo, time in the Mara, time in Nairobi, and time in Amsterdam. Not to mention a lot of time in airports.

I'm not a photographer, so I will not have multiple lenses, etc., but I will of course have a not-very-compact super-zoom, batteries, charger, probably some other random stuff like that, binoculars, DEET and sunscreen, and other gear. Plus clothes. What is the minimum I can get away with taking? Am I forgetting anything? And is there anyone who has flown recently who could let me know the carry-on policies? (TigerPhotog?)

I will also be flying to/from the Mara in Kenya, if that makes a difference.

I appreciate any and all advice. I haven't been on safari in several years and seem to have forgotten all crucial information.

Thank you!
Leely2 is offline  
Feb 11th, 2010, 06:00 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,440
But can we do it anymore with even tighter restrictions and stricter weights?

I did not carry on all my belongings when primate treks were involved. The footwear alone (2 pairs of boots) prohibited it.

Maybe a walk in DRC? Please tell me more on that!

This will not help your goal of one bag, but I made sure I would have happy feet for the treks. Granted I did a dozen trips up the big hills so there was more potential for problems.

-Feet first
Even though boots may be well broken in over decades, the stress and friction on your feet caused by traversing the steep, vine-covered hills of Rwanda and Uganda may irritate parts of your feet that normally feel fine. So I brought a variety of insoles, hiking socks, wicking socks, liner socks, mole skin with mini scissors to cut it, (toe)nail clippers, Dr. Sholes callous and corn pads, and anti-fungal/anti-athlete’s foot spray.

I took two pairs of boots in case something happened to one pair and to have the luxury of switching between pairs from day to day. In case of the dreaded turned ankle, I brought two kinds of supportive ankle wraps, which I fortunately brought home unused.

When I think back to my first gorilla visits in 1995 when the porters were barefoot, the above seems ridiculous.

-Staying well for the gorillas
I decided to gargle daily with salt water as an added prevention against a sore throat that might hinder my gorilla visits. I packed numerous little restaurant packets of salt. (I would not recommend dumping salt in a ziplock as it could be mistaken for something else.) I also packed more than the usual in the way of upper respiratory medications such as a chapstick-size Vick’s inhaler, saline nose drops, and decongestant, all because if you are blowing your nose and coughing you may be denied a visit to the gorillas. None of it was needed.

You may want some garden gloves for the stinging nettles. I found the gloves most helpful on the final approach to the gorillas. That's when you gave up your walking stick and had your camera(s) around your neck. The terrain between you and the gorillas could be some of the toughest to negotiate. All this contributed to some awkwardness and imbalance where you might need to grab onto vegetation or steady yourself with your hands. If you grabbed nettles at this point, you'd have stinging hands just in time for the viewing and photgraphy. So it was at this point I needed the gloves a time or two.
atravelynn is offline  
Feb 11th, 2010, 06:04 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,877
We did carry on only last year after having delayed luggage on the previous 2 trips and realizing how little we actually needed. We also had a stopover in Amsterdam (of course, it helped that it wasn't the middle of winter ). We each had a carry on plus a personal item. In my case a rollaboard (I like wheels) and a small messenger type bag and Mark had a duffle and camera bag (which I'm no longer allowed to carry after leaving it at a boarding gate ). If I was traveling by myself, I could've combined the contents of the 2 personal items into a slightly bigger bag. It helps that we don't have serious photo equipment, my Canon S5, a compact back up camera, video camera, gps and 2 pairs of binos plus assorted chargers and batteries go into the camera bag. You really need very little in the way of clothing (think layerable) though I still managed 3 pairs of shoes plus bought 3 more pairs of sandals while I was there if I can do it, you can!
Patty is offline  
Feb 11th, 2010, 06:39 PM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 5,285
This is the list I made for a friend when she went on safari for the first time last year:

For 3 – 14 day safari

Pants – 2 (1 could be the zip-off variety)
Shorts – 1
Short Sleeved Shirts – 3
Long Sleeved Shirt – 1
Silk underwear top – 1 (it was a lifesaver)
Cashmere or light wool sweater – 1
Something nice - a nice scarf or cheap necklace to wear to dinner if there's something to celebrate, or just because
Fleece Jacket - 1 (better if wind resistant)
Sweats and slippers to hang out in (a must for me)
Socks – 4-5
Undies – 4-5
Bras – 2
Sun Hat – 1
Walking shoes – 2 (wear the boots on the plane if you must!!) (I managed to fit in a pair of sandals, too, but I didn't wear them much)
Extra insoles if you use them
Bathing suit
Ear Muffs or hat, gloves
Glasses or contacts (and all the stuff you need for contacts)
Sunglasses w/neck strap
Back up glasses
Back up sunglasses
Thank you notes (for tips)
Deodorant (unscented, small)
Conditioner (shampoo and body lotion provided everywhere)
Face goo - small with SPF 15 minimum
Sunscreen – 3 oz goes a long way, but take two if you think you need them
Lip sunscreen
Tide packets – 2-4
Handi Wipes – just a few, about 1 per day is enough
Bug Spray – small as most places have it
Tampons/pads as needed
Any meds you take/vitamins/Malarone
Camera stuff with lots of extra memory and backup battery w/charger and adapters - in your personal bag, not the carry-on in case they gate check you. Smaller memory is better in case you lose one (OMG!!)
Binoculars – I leave mine in the box for protection
Flashlight – a small powerful one - I use a small (not teeny) Maglight
Pepto pills (we take them every day whenever we travel)
Aspirin/cold tabs/Antiseptic cream/Bandaids/powder
Needle, thread, duct tape wrapped around a small pencil or pen
Something that has the time on it (I can’t sleep if I don’t know what time it is)
Rain pouch poncho
A small backpack or tote to hold your stuff on safari (this is my purse – I use a smallish backpack)
Bird/mammal book, southern stars book, diary

Put everything that needs to go in the 1 quart baggie into a 1 gallon baggie after you go through security (in case anything leaks). Always use freezer bags!!
Wear all the heaviest stuff on the airplane – the fleece jacket makes a great blanket and/or pillow
Use a duffle bag to pack – you can always beat it up to fit into the little box they use to see if it fits to qualify as carry-on. I use a bigger duffle than necessary so I can fill it with my purchases on the way home and check it if needed.

Do laundry on the first day that you get to your second camp - it will give it all a chance to dry. Put your laundry in a towel and wring it as hard as you can to make things dry quicker (or have the staff do your laundry)

I’m always surprised when we can fit it all in.

We were only allowed to take 15Kg on our safari flights, so we had to get it all to fit in a pretty small duffle anyway. You may as well carry-on!! The biggest problem you'll have is the quart baggie. Use a freezer baggie - it's a little bigger and much stronger, and when it doesn't all fit, weed out what you might not need!! 3.3 oz is actually plenty for every liquid/gel you need to bring, and bigger than you need for most things.

Good luck - I hope it's helpful.
christabir is offline  
Feb 11th, 2010, 07:20 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
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Patty, Was the duffle left at the gate returned safely to you?
atravelynn is offline  
Feb 11th, 2010, 07:27 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,877
It was the camera bag that I left at the boarding gate and yes, it was returned to me before I even realized I left it. Someone turned it into a gate agent, the gate agent gave it to a flight attendant and the flight attendant brought it to me!
Patty is offline  
Feb 11th, 2010, 08:00 PM
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Thanks, gang.

Christa, there are several items on your list I had forgotten all about! And smaller memory for the camera--good idea. I can forgo conditioner because I have but one hairstyle on safari. It's called Ponytail Under Hat.

Lynn, in your feet- and throat-healthy list, what did you make sure to carry on--all of it? Also, how cold is Kinigi Guest House at night? Do I need warm pj's? The DRC thing is just going over to Goma, "situation permitting." I'd like to go. When I bought the Rwanda Bradt, I came across a company that does gorilla tours mainly in DRC. Wouldn't it be great if someday that was a sure thing?

Patty, your feet are no doubt much smaller than mine. That's probably how you squeezed in three pairs. But good idea re: getting sandals in Kenya. I'll wear my hiking boots on the plane (how very comfortable).

I need to get some extra pages for my passport!

I'm pretty excited. I hope I don't get hit by a bus before this trip.
Leely2 is offline  
Feb 12th, 2010, 09:01 AM
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 2,619
I carried on everything last year for a three week safari, including boots for chimp treks. I was fortunate to have a business class FF ticket, though, and had a little more leeway. I use the Rick Steves' convertible carry-on bag. It's the correct carry-on size, only weighs 3 lbs and holds a lot of stuff. I usually just check it for the return home. If you're using a duffel, make sure that it doesn't exceed the measurements allowed: 22" x 14" x 9". Duffels are often thicker than 9".

It may all depend on who's at the gate as to whether or not you'll be able to carry both bags on. My camera bag is fairly large, (camera and camcorder with gear), so I had my RS bag grabbed by Swiss Air in Chicago one year and gate-checked (on an economy class ticket). I had no problems carrying it on in Portland, but Swiss had other ideas as to what a "personal bag" was and didn't think that the camera bag was small enough to qualify. Try to make your personal bag as small and light as possible so that they will allow it onboard. In case one of your bags is gate-checked, have a lock or cable tie handy to slap on it before you turn loose of the bag. AMS is especially bad about thefts out of baggage. I took a Kindle for reading materials last year. They now have updated their PDF feature, so I have all my camera manuals downloaded on it as PDF files. I did the same with guidebook info, itineraries, etc. That saved a lot of weight and space. Wear your boots, but take them off once you're onboard. I carry a large pair of socks that I slip over my regular ones to wear around the plane. Wear your jacket, stuff the pockets, and go for it!
ShayTay is offline  
Feb 12th, 2010, 11:55 AM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 8,675
You gals are great... actually amazing
I can't imagine doing a trip anywhere with only a carry-on.

And, nowadays when they check everything in carry-ons, and nothing ever again fits as neatly as you initially packed... it's a pain in the butt!

Sometimes it's not even the size of bag, but the weight. I recall at AMS there is a scale below the luggage sizer and if too heavy... too bad. Gotta check!

So, be sure to have luggage ties (and a separate nail clipper to cut) or lock, if at last minute they insist on "a gate check" for you!

Leely, if you can... go for it!
sandi is offline  
Feb 12th, 2010, 12:15 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 1,182
Great ideas! Christabir thank you so much for the wonderful list. I can't quite believe all of that can fit as carry-on but I'm going to follow it to a 't' and see how I do.
Leslie_S is offline  
Feb 12th, 2010, 12:54 PM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 5,285
Really - use a duffle bag bigger than you need so you can squish it into that sizer thing at the airport. I also pack a travel cart in my duffle so I don't have to drag my bag around the airport:


It works great! I just thought if I included that in my original list, you might all just freak out. I bought it on sale so if I ever have to leave it behind at an airport I won't be too unhapyy.

I got this list to work, and my friend did, too. Just remember - a few of everything, not a whole pile. Keep in mind, I spent 4 days in London on our last trip before S Africa and I still managed to carry-on and took a few "nice-ish" things for dinner out! I swear it's doable!! You are wearing some of it, so there's less than you think.

Let me know how you do.
christabir is offline  
Feb 12th, 2010, 01:04 PM
Join Date: Jun 2006
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Leely, I also hope you don't get hit by a bus! Too funny -- I thought I was the only thinking things like that before a big trip!

I haven't managed to do all carry-on since the liquids restrictions, so I'm not great for advice here. (We had to bring more things with us last trip than usual, since we were volunteers and didn't get things like free shampoo, and also had to bring our own water bottles and lots of warm clothes for winter.) I haven't figured out how to get 3 weeks' worth of liquids (contact solutions, especially, but also sunscreen, shampoo, conditioner, lotion... how do people do it?) into the sandwich baggie. Speaking of shampoo... to my memory, you don't get anything like that at Kinigi Guest House, but I'm sure you can always buy things when you get to Rwanda if you don't have room to bring what you need with you. There's an enormous 24-hour multi-story shopping mall in Kigali. Our other big challenge with carry-ons is the camera and video equipment, but it sounds like you don't have too much to deal with there.

I needed warm PJs for Kinigi Guest House (flannel pants and my fleece pullover) in late October. I'm not sure if it's always that cold, though. Walking around outdoors in the evening we needed our fleece layers, for sure. There's a nice patio there to sit outside and look at the mountains.

ShayTay uses the same method we do--wear your hiking boots on the plane, take them off as soon as you board and put some extra socks on (in case you step in something suspicious or your feet get cold). I only ever take 2 pairs of shoes with me -- the hiking boots, and my trekking sandals. I think buying sandals in Kenya is an excellent idea!

Boy, I'm excited for you. Wish I could come along.
MyDogKyle is offline  
Feb 12th, 2010, 01:05 PM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 8,675
Those luggage carts have been around for years and years. Airline crews (and then regular travelers) used them before bags came with wheels. And, you don't need to spend $50; plenty available for half that amount or less. But they do add weight to your bag and take up needed space.

I've had one of those for probably 20-30/yrs that still holds up for too many things never traveling anywhere.
sandi is offline  
Feb 12th, 2010, 01:10 PM
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 294
Check your airline, Virgin was allowing 6kg per person in 1 carry on through London last month. They didn't weigh it, but imagine they could do if they decided to.
napamatt_2 is offline  
Feb 12th, 2010, 01:54 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Delta allows 40lbs of carry on as does KLM in business (you'll be able to use a separate queue at AMS gate security). KQ is technically 10kg but I haven't had them weigh anything. As of now, the airports you're traveling through don't have specific 1 item limitations.

Good idea about the lock. I've been bringing a small combo lock since I started doing carry on only last year (I've become a carry on convert). I also keep a small, foldable bag handy just in case I need to check and transfer a few items (even a shopping bag will do in a pinch). I haven't had to resort to using either so far.

You'll need shampoo and soap for Ithumba but you can take the stuff from the Hilton or we'll be stopping at Nakumatt on the way anyway. Maybe the stuff I left last year is still there?

Having said that, we'll probably have to check a bag this year as we'll be attempting to carry on a travel sized guitar that way exceeds dimensional limitations as one of our "main" carry ons and I'm not sure we can quite manage 1 carry on for 2 people yet. Wish me luck!
Patty is offline  
Feb 12th, 2010, 05:03 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,440
I am freaking at Christabir's travel cart packed in the duffle, but I have not checked the link yet. That might settle me down.
atravelynn is offline  
Feb 12th, 2010, 06:03 PM
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 2,619
My Rick Steves bag can be converted to a backpack, so I usually carry it that way if there is any distance involved. My camera bag is carried in front and I'm good to go!
ShayTay is offline  
Feb 13th, 2010, 09:59 AM
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Thanks for the additional tips. I hadn't thought at all about the weight issue. I might check a bag with the unimportant stuff but that means I'll have to decide what's unimportant.
Leely2 is offline  
Feb 13th, 2010, 10:28 AM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,440
As restrictions increase and weights come down, I think the carryon will become more and more of a feat.
atravelynn is offline  
Feb 13th, 2010, 10:39 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,859
For 22 days in Southern Tanzania, I packed in the large size LL Bean duffel bags. They are cheap, well made, can be monogrammed with your name for ID and weigh practically nothing. Laundry was done for free in every camp. I packed enough clothes for four+ days and had laundry done along the way.

Here’s what I took (ladies).
· 2 linen long sleeve safari/camp style shirts (great for sun protection and wind in the open vehicles)
· 2 pair of the zip leg safari style pants. (They wash and dry like a dream – mine came from Lands End)
· 2 pair of very lightweight linen long pants for dinners
· 2 pair of cotton Capri length pants
· 2 skorts from Lands End in the same material as the zip leg pants. (I don’t do shorts)
· 4 very loose sleeveless tops
· 4 camis
· 2 long sleeve very lightweight tee shirts –for mosi protection.
· 1 lightweight fleece (Lands End)
· A lightweight rain parka
· 1 pair of pajamas
· My Chacos-Zongs and my Keen-Newport H2 shoes + one pair of cheap “blingy” flip flops for dressing up.
· A big, wide brimmed hat.
· A swimsuit
· 3 bras
· 4 undies
· 2 pair of socks
· A couple of bandanas

We carried our photo gear in a Lowepro Slingshot 200 Backpack. It had plenty of extra room for binoculars and carry-on items.

We had absolutely no problems with either NW or KLM on our flights from the States to AMS and then on to DAR. Security was "same ol, same ol" and no one said a word about our carry-on in Business Class.
TC is offline  

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