What to pack for Kenya will vary according to the trip style you have chosen and when you are travelling. Kenya is a big country and the climate varies a lot between the mountainous areas like Mount Kenya and Ngong Hills and coastal cities like Mombasa and Lamu. Whether you're going on safari in Serengeti National Park or you're heading on an overland adventure through the heartland of the Maasai, here are some essential items to pack. 

We recommend you pack as lightly as possible so you can carry and lift your own luggage and walk with it for short distances. Most travellers find a backpack is more practical than a suitcase, but an overnight bag with a shoulder strap will do if you travel lightly. Backpacks with wheels are convenient, although we recommend your bag has carry straps. You'll also need a day bag to carry water, a camera, snacks and other essentials for day trips.

What is the dress code in Kenya?

Similar to many other African countries, Kenyans dress conservatively so it's important that you do the same to respect the local culture and customs. Dressing conservatively doesn't mean you need to cover yourself from head to toe, but you should wear long, loose-fitting clothing that covers your knees, shoulders, midriff and chest. Long layers are also more effective in keeping you cool and protecting your skin from the sun and insects.

Kenya packing essentials

1. Closed in walking boots

If your Kenya trip includes camping or bushwalking we highly recommend you bring a pair of comfortable, closed-toe walking boots. Walking boots will give you more cushioning, protect your ankles and prevent cuts and scratches when walking through bush and grasslands. They also act as a barrier against bites or stings from insects.

2. Light, loose clothing

You'll need a mixture of lightweight clothing that you can layer up or down. Knee-length shorts, long pants and long-sleeved shirts are ideal for warmer weather, but they'll also protect your skin against the sun and mosquitoes. You'll also need some warm items for the evening. Aim for breathable fabrics like linen and cotton, and avoid nylon and other synthetics which can be very uncomfortable in hot weather. Ex-military or military-style clothing is not recommended.

3. Smart casual outfits 

You might also want to bring a couple of smart-casual outfits in case you go out for evening drinks or dinner. A pair of jeans and a shirt or blouse will do just fine. 

4. Sandals

As well as hiking shoes, you'll also need a pair of sandals or thongs to throw on where you're relaxing at your accommodation, heading out for a meal or going for a casual stroll. They're not as clunky and are easy to throw on and off.

5. Warm fleece and a beanie

The days are warm throughout the year, but you'll definitely want a warm fleece or jumper and a beanie to pop on for early morning starts and evening game drives as the temperature drops when the sun goes down. 

6. Sun protection

Kenya is located on the equator and the sun is strong all ear-round. A wide-brimmed sunhat, sunscreen and sunglasses (ideally polarised) are essential. Aim for water-resistant and high SPF sunscreen to protect your skin while you're out exploring. 

7. Travel towel

A quick-dry towel is lightweight and dries in no time. It's way more practical for camping and showering on the go and won't take up too much space in your bag.

8. Waterproof toiletry bag

A waterproof toiletry bag is a more practical option than a soft toiletry bag as you can hang it in the shower and keep your clothes dry - very useful if you're staying at camps with basic shower structures. 

9. Headlamp

A high-beam headlamp or torch is very handy for walking around a campsite at night. Some camps have limited lighting and are powered by generators that switch off at a certain time. Although trucks carry lamps for mealtimes, it’s a good idea to bring a headlamp to navigate the campsites and go to the bathroom at night.

10. Personal medical kit

Your guides will carry a large first aid kit but we recommend bringing a mini kit with you to ensure you're prepared for any minor scratches, insect bites, blisters sunburn. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, but a pack of antibacterial wet wipes, a small bottle of antiseptic ointment, a packet of bandaids, some tweezers and soothing calamine lotion or aloe vera gel should do the job. You might also want to bring a pack of mild pain killers, electrolytes and anti-diarrhoea tablets for any upset tummy issues.

11. Insect repellent

Mosquitoes (and the diseases they carry like malaria) are prevalent in Kenya, and even more so during the wet seasons. Bring a big bottle of insect repellent to spray generously over your skin to prevent pesky bites, especially around your ankles and places that might not be covered by your clothes. 

12. Water bottle

We recommend bringing a bottle with at least a 1.5 litre capacity. Not only does the sale of single-use bottles contribute to a huge environmental problem around the world, but the majority of Kenya is hot all year round so it's important to stay hydrated. 

13. Camera

When you're going to Kenya, a camera is a no brainer. You'll see so many incredible sights and wildlife that it'll be hard to put your camera down! Most smartphones nowadays have brilliant cameras, but if you want to turn your photography game up a notch, it might be worth bringing a proper camera. Make sure you also bring a spare battery or charger to top up the juice throughout your trip.

14. Waterproof/windproof jacket

Some parts of Kenya experience one or two wet seasons every year, so depending on when you visit, you might also need a lightweight waterproof jacket. It can also keep you warm in the early mornings or evenings when it's cool or slightly windy.

Nice-to-haves

1. Binoculars 

Binoculars aren't essential like clothes and footwear, but if you're going on safari in Kenya it's a different story. From lions to elephants to wildebeest, Kenya is jam-packed with incredible wildlife. We hope you'll get to see the wildlife relatively close from the safety of your jeep, but if they're a little too far to see well with your naked eye, a trusted pair of binoculars will give you a helping hand eye.

2. Sleep sheet

If you're travelling during the hot season you may want to pack a sleep sheet. It's not essential, but it does help you to stay comfortable no matter what the weather is like.

3. Thermarest

While most accommodations (including campsites) will provide a basic mattress, you might also like to bring a thermarest to add an extra comfy double layer and get a good night's sleep.

4. Earplugs

You never know if you'll be sharing a room with a snoring mate. Earplugs will help you get a good night’s sleep even if there are some disturbances. You’ll be so tired at the end of each day that you’ll probably fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow, but it might still be worth bringing a pair of earplugs just in case. 

5. A good book, journal or earphones 

You'll be doing a fair bit of driving on your Kenya trip. A good book, travel journal and/or pair of earphones to listen to music or podcasts will help you pass the time. It's also a good idea to bring one of these items in case you fancy some downtime in the evening away from your group. A travel journal is also an awesome way to jot down memories, funny things that happen, stories you hear, or the names of places or things you eat on your trip.

6. Travel pillow

A travel pillow is your neck's best friend.  A lightweight travel pillow will help you avoid any unwanted neck pain after travelling from A to B (and avoid nodding off on your neighbour's shoulder!).

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