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What to Wear in Uganda? 10 Essential Things You Should Bring With You

Find out what to wear on safari in Uganda. Learn about what you should bring on a Uganda safari to ensure your comfort and safety. Find out what to pack for a Uganda safari if you are a city person. Discover safari packing list essentials for a trip to East Africa.
Note: We visited Uganda in December 2016 and these posts are a reflection on the trip at that time. It is now 2024 and the political situation in the region has evolved. Please check the U.S. State Department website or information provided by other governmental organizations around the world for up to date information to determine whether it is considered safe to travel to Uganda.

What items should be on your safari packing list for a trip to Uganda? 

I've written a lot about our perfect Uganda safari itinerary over the last few weeks including gorilla tracking, chimpanzee trekking and watching hippos frolick on the Kazinga Channel not to mention all those amazing Uganda birds including the impressive shoebilled stork

What to wear on safari in Uganda is one topic I haven’t covered so far. We're naturally city people and are more comfortable trekking on the sidewalks of European capitals rather than tracking mountain gorillas. 

We wanted to make sure we were well-prepared for our once-in-a-lifetime road trip in East Africa. 

Here are our picks for Uganda packing list essentials that will make you feel more comfortable and at home while on safari even if you are feeling totally out of your usual urban element.

What to wear on safari in Uganda: Gaiters are a packing list essential

The Ultimate Packing List Essentials for a Uganda Safari

1. Sturdy Hiking Shoes

The most important thing to wear on a safari in Uganda is a sturdy pair of hiking boots. I bought KEEN Women's Targhee Mid WP Hiking Boot and broke them in over a 2 week period in Ireland before embarking on our East African adventure. 

I like KEEN because the toe box tends to be extra wide thus limiting pinching. The boot also offered sturdy ankle support to ensure we kept our footing on tough terrain. 

I twisted my ankle along the Kazinga Channel in Queen Elizabeth National Park 2-days before we were scheduled to track gorillas in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. My KEEN hiking boots were a life-saver and gave me enough ankle support to carry on with the wildlife trek despite my minor injury.

2. Insect Proof and Sun Blocking Safari Clothes

Even though Uganda is on the equator, there were surprisingly few bugs in most places due to the country's elevation. 

However, we found insect proof safari clothing was helpful for hot and humid days in Entebbe and for protecting against creepy crawlies when crashing through the brush to track chimpanzees in Kibale National Forest. 

I like Craghopper's Nosilife safari pants. I recommend avoiding short sleeve shirts; I exclusively wore long sleeve shirts in Uganda (some infused with insect repellent) to protect my skin from both bugs and thorny brush.

Even though you'll spend a lot of time in your safari vehicle on game drives, don't overlook the need for sun protection. We brought at least one safari shirt and pants with sunblock built in.

3. Rechargeable Flashlight/Torch and a Lantern

The lodges in Uganda are often remote and dark which can be unnerving for city folks used to constant light and sound. In many cases, the accommodation was powered by solar energy which means there is limited light at night. 

When there is no solar, generators are often turned down overnight while people are sleeping. With this in mind, a strong lantern and torch is essential to include on your Uganda packing list.

We brought a couple of flashlights with us to Uganda but found that the light they cast was still not enough to keep us from feeling claustrophobic at night in our tent. 

We were fortunate to find a strong lantern in a local grocery store in Kabale, a mid-sized town on the road between Queen Elizabeth National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. 

Don't leave this to chance, however, and make sure you pack enough sources of light, preferably with solar or hand-crank charging. 

4. A Local SIM Card

It didn't occur to us until we were tucked away in the Kibale Forest Lodge that we were really far away from the nearest urban center. We were in Uganda, in a forest alive with monkeys, elephants, and other creatures. 

If something went wrong or one of us got sick, we didn't have an easy way to get in touch with anyone other than to run out of our tent for help. 

This was an unnerving prospect in the dark. After this realization, we asked our guide to stop in a town and help us procure a Uganda SIM card for our phones.

We knew that a local SIM could come in handy if we needed to call for help in the middle of the night (we immediately programmed our guide Geoffrey's number into our phone). We also knew it could be helpful if the car broke down. 

I know I was extremely thankful to have our local Uganda SIM card when we were sitting in a leaky boat in the middle of Lake Victoria with the sun setting fast and the outboard motor was struggling to start up. I was able to keep calm by reassuring myself that we could call for help if needed.

We never needed to use the SIM to call for help in Uganda but it was incredibly reassuring to know we could easily use our phones if needed. We also opted for a data plan which reassured us further since we knew we could look stuff up if we weren't feeling well or ran into trouble in Uganda.

5. Gaiters for Hiking

Tracking Uganda's famous mountain gorillas or going on a chimpanzee habituation trek are strenuous hikes through dense vegetation. We went back and forth on whether to bring gaiters (knee-high waterproof coverings for our boots and trousers). 

In the end, we bought them and the gaiters turned out to be one of our most useful items on our packing list for the trip. Gaiters help protect you from fire ants that you may encounter on the trail. 

They also keep your trousers dry and clean. When you get back to the lodge, gaiters are relatively easy to clean before the next hike. 

6. Lots of DEET-based Insect Repellent

There were definitely fewer mosquitos in many parts of Uganda (Entebbe was the notable exception) than we were expecting. However, I felt better knowing that I was protected from insects potentially carrying malaria, Dengue fever or other maladies. 

Better safe than sorry was our mantra. We brought a 50% DEET spray which we applied each day before getting dressed. We also brought DEET wipes to top up our protection after sweaty hikes. 

Even at night, I felt better under my mosquito net with a citronella wrist band as an added layer to keep the bugs at bay.

7. Hand Sanitizer and Wipes

There may be times where toilets and running water are not available. We brought a copious amount of hand sanitizer with us for these occasions. Hand sanitizer gel and wipes are definitely travel essentals for a trip to Uganda.

In the Bush Lodge in Queen Elizabeth National Park, the eco-toilet was inside our tent but the sink and shower were adjacent to our tent but nonetheless outside. 

Granted, the area was surrounded by a 5 foot fence but after hearing hippos grunting nearby on their way from the Kazinga Channel to their nightly feeding grounds, there was no way I was going outside in the middle of the night to wash my hands. 

The hand sanitizer and wipes came in extremely handy in this situation.

8. Collapsible Day Pack

Travel backpacks are a must when you visit Uganda. Both of us brought backpacks on the trip but we also found that it was useful to travel with a collapsible day bag. 

We found one that functioned as a bumbag (aka a fanny pack to my American readers) for days when we had porters to help with our backpacks. The pack expanded into a backpack on days with less strenuous hikes planned.

9. Quick Dry Socks and Underwear

It's a good idea to pack light on a trip to Uganda. We changed lodges every 1-2 nights. We also learned that having laundry done is generally possible but it's taboo to send out undergarments to be washed; you're on your own here. 

We added a few pairs of quick drying underwear and socks to our Uganda packing list and washed them in the sink at Birdnest @ Bunyonyi a lodge with a larger in-room basin and running water. 

10. A First Aid/Medical Kit

A first aid and medical kit is another Uganda travel essential. We brought a variety of medicines to treat headaches, stomachaches and diarrhea. We even brought a nose spray purported to stop colds in their tracks (Boots Dual Defence) since we knew we wouldn't be allowed to track the chimps and gorillas if we were sick.

A first aid kit is also incredible useful for minor injuries on the trip. I tripped and twisted my ankle the day before we were supposed to visit Uganda's mountain gorillas. 

I didn't have a compression bandage with me (we had to stop in Kabale to get one) but I wish I had packed one. My husband, Scott, also jammed his toe on a vine when we were tracking Uganda's mountain gorillas. 

Our guide Geoffrey gave us a jar of balm with the consistency of vaseline that smelled like menthol. It worked amazingly well on both his toe and my ankle.

We also recommend making sure that your first aid kit has a tick remover. At one of the lodges, a fellow guest complained that they'd found seven ticks on their chest. 

They hypothesized that the ticks got into the sports bra that she had left on the floor. We had to use our tick remover once for a small creepy crawly that had gotten into my hair. 

Using my local SIM, I discovered that it wasn't a tick but the tick remover was definitely helpful for getting it off of me! The moral of the story is: be prepared for anything by making a comprehensive packing list for Uganda.

A Uganda safari is a once in a lifetime experience. Even if you're a city person like us, it is possible to make yourself comfortable and less anxious on the trip. Make sure to plan ahead, write-up a packing list and pack these recommended travel essentials to ensure a stress-free and enjoyable trip to East Africa.

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Africa Travel: What to wear on safari in Uganda

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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: What to Wear in Uganda? 10 Essential Things You Should Bring With You
What to Wear in Uganda? 10 Essential Things You Should Bring With You
Find out what to wear on safari in Uganda. Learn about what you should bring on a Uganda safari to ensure your comfort and safety. Find out what to pack for a Uganda safari if you are a city person. Discover safari packing list essentials for a trip to East Africa.
Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog