Planning an outdoor adventure trip? A trip where you’ll be tracking animals in the African savanna, hiking the national parks, or cycling through another country? You are surely excited about your plans, have a packing list begun, and daydreaming about your new adventure. But don’t go without reading these secret travel tips for outdoor travelers. Preparing your travel gear and clothing, as well as your expectations, will go a long way towards making your adventure travel a success.
Read on for the secrets the guidebook doesn’t tell you about preparing for camp living, river rafting trips, and what to know before going on an African safari.
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Essential tips for your outdoor adventure travel clothing
Secret Tip #1 – You can make any clothing insect repellent.
No need to buy expensive pretreated clothing, just apply a spray containing permethrin to your clothing a week or so before travel and the items should repel most bugs through your trip. NOTE: not for delicate fabrics, test a small corner if you’re unsure.
- Set up a drying rack outdoors (we have used sawhorses and lawn chairs)
- Coat each piece of clothing thoroughly
- Allow to dry outdoors – at least two hours
I’ll add a caution here that’s listed on the bottle (that would seem obvious…) – don’t apply to clothing while you’re wearing it!
No time or space for treating your clothing? Look for sales on Exofficio BugsAway, L.L Bean No Fly Zone, and similar brands.
Secret Tip #2 – Don’t count on your treated clothing to repel all insects
The permethrin treated clothing will not keep mosquitoes away from areas not covered by the clothing, and may not stop the mosquito before it has time to bite you. (For more information read Consumer Reports Can Permethrin Treated Clothing Help You Avoid Mosquito Bites)
Bring and use bug spray, or more accurately an insect repellent stick or towelettes containing Deet. Mosquitoes carry malaria in Africa, and ticks carry a host of diseases in the U.S. Better to over-prepare than suffer one of these illnesses.
Insect diseases in Africa – malaria is carried by the mosquito and is found widely in East Africa. Take precautions against a bite, but also take medication while you are in the area. Though only 95% effective, the medication will lessen the effect of the disease if you do contract it. Sleeping sickness is carried by the tsetse fly in East Africa. These flies are attracted to bright blue and black clothing, so stick to light neutrals to deter them.
South America and the Caribbean – mosquitoes carry the zika virus, which has been associated with birth defects.
Tick diseases in the U.S. – Lyme disease is on the rise in New England, and is difficult to treat unless caught early. The deer tick that carries the disease is about the size of a poppy seed so it’s tough to see. When hiking or camping in the Northeast U.S., tuck your pant cuffs into your socks to keep ticks off. And do a good full body check everyday.
Rocky mountain spotted fever is carried by ticks in the west. Follow the same precautions as above to improve your chances of deterring these insects.
Grand Canyon – good news! No bugs!
Secret Tip #3 – Avoid cotton clothing
Cotton is heavy and retains moisture. Instead choose clothing that is lightweight, quick-drying and odor resistant. There are lots of technical fabrics that work well for outdoor adventure travel, or invest in some merino wool. You can get several days of wear from one merino wool tee shirt between washings.
Secret Tip #4 – You won’t be dressing for dinner
This might seem obvious, but it’s easy to imagine you’ll return from your game drive, or a day cycling, will wash off the days’ dust and dress in something, maybe not fancy, but attractive for dinner. You won’t. And no one will judge you for it. Bring a sundress or skirt if you like, but you won’t need it in your campsite, at the game lodge, or on a canal barge.
On a luxury safari, I do carry a multi-use shawl which can dress up any outfit. Just slip it on over your safari tee shirt and you’re ready for dinner. [note: some people will dress for dinner in the fancier game lodges. Bring a nice outfit if you’d enjoy doing this. But no worries if you don’t. You won’t be along in your basics.]
Secret Tip #5 – Don’t wear flip flops
Many articles and packing lists suggest bringing a pair of flip flops for evenings around the campfire. We’d suggest packing a sturdier sport sandal. It will be heavier in your bag, but far more versatile. Your feet can slip in a flip flop. By wearing a sport sandal you will have more stability to navigate sand, river beds, and the ladders on a canal barge. And a solid foot bed will protect you from thorns and rocks.
Prepare your gear and gadgets for your outdoor adventure travel
Secret Tip #6 – Protect your gear from the elements on an outdoor adventure
Carry a dust cover for your camera and other gear. A shower cap works well for this and is easy to pack. Minimize lens changes while on the road, or eliminate them entirely by carrying a second camera body. We bring a pocket sized waterproof camera on all our travels, using it when in wet environments, but also as a second camera when we have long lenses on our dSLR.
Leave your best luggage at home. Though dust and damp may not damage your bags, you will be happier to see an inexpensive duffel or backpack thrown around than your new fancy pack.
Secret Tip #7 – Practice your photography before your trip
Learn how to use that new go-pro, or how to focus quickly on wildlife with your long lens. Don’t miss that great shot because you’re reading the manual! And make sure to inspect your practice images. We returned from a big trip once to find that the focus on one of our lenses hadn’t been sharp. Fuzzy pictures are no fun.
Secret Tip #8 – Load a kindle with library books
Free of charge and they’ll stay on your kindle if it’s in Airplane mode. We always preload a selection of books, including guidebooks. The Paperwhite Kindle holds a charge for up to 2 weeks, and allows you to read without disturbing your tent-mate.
Don’t overlook the Kindle Free books for Prime members either! There are some wonderful titles from new authors that’ll get you through a long flight or a quiet day at camp.
Essential planning tips for the outdoor travelers themselves
Secret Tip #10 – Africa, the Grand Canyon and National Parks of the American Southwest are hot, dry and dusty
Bring lotion, eye drops, and a saline nasal spray if you’re prone to nosebleeds. It might seem counter-intuitive that you’ll be dry on a rafting trip, but the constantly dampness removes natural oils and leads to chapped, dry skin. A solid lotion, like these from Honey House, will be your favorite toiletry item.
Secret Tip #11 – What the guidebook doesn’t tell you: How to go to the toilet outdoors
Every park and reserve will have guidelines for wilderness toileting. For basic info read this Hygiene and Sanitation post from REI. That said…
Women, prepare for no restrooms.
Men have a distinct advantage here. But women can solve the bathroom dilemma by buying a female urination device. Venus to Mars lets you pee like the guys without having to squat. This is really helpful on game drives or stops on a river rafting trip. Practice at home before the trip to find what works best for you.
Essential tip for ALL outdoor adventure travel
Secret Tip #12 – Get Travel Insurance!
A no-brainer for taking an expensive and exotic trip like an African safari, but also a good idea for any outdoor travel overseas. Active adventures carry risks. It’s best to be prepared in case your insurance doesn’t cover medical treatment in another country or evacuation from a wilderness site.
Being outside, enjoying wildlife, is our favorite kind of trip. I hope this guide will help you enjoy some incredible wilderness adventures of your own!
Let us know in the comments below if there are other tips you’d suggest for outdoor adventuring!