By the time you read this, I will have returned from a 10-day plains game safari in Namibia and I thought you might be interested in how to pack for such an extended overseas trip. Even if you never go on safari, packing for an extended trip is something many of us will do in our lifetime and there are some tricks to it that will make things easier.
When it comes to safari, hunting or photo, you generally don’t need a lot of clothes because daily laundry service should be part of the deal. Hunting safaris are normally done in the winter months, so you may need some warm clothes for nighttime, and also be aware if you are entering an area during their rainy season that you may need rain gear. Most of all, rely on the equipment list your PH or outfitter sends, and don’t bring anything unnecessary, or leave out something that may seem silly to you.
Once you have your clothes picked out, I use a packing method I saw on the UK’s Daily Mail that has simply changed how I pack for any trip. With it, you really can get ten pounds of shit in a five-pound bag. As you can see in the nearby sequence photos, the key is to not waste any space with unnecessary folds. A bonus is that using this method also minimizes wrinkles.
If hunting, you may need to pack your ammunition in a separate, locked, hard-sided container and your unloaded gun will need to be in a hard-sided lockable gun case. You have to comply with the regulations of your airline as well as TSA regulations, and good luck finding anyone at either place who knows anything.
For example, for this trip I needed a two-gun case. I have two–one with integral locks, and one that takes padlocks. I’ve flown with both, but one has exterior hinges that can be compromised by pushing out the hinge pins, and the other has integral locks that TSA cannot open.
TSA regulations read, “You may transport unloaded firearms in a locked hard-sided container as checked baggage only. Declare the firearm and/or ammunition to the airline when checking your bag at the ticket counter. The container must completely secure the firearm from being accessed. Locked cases that can be easily opened are not permitted. Be aware that the container the firearm was in when purchased may not adequately secure the firearm when it is transported in checked baggage.
“Contact the TSA Contact Center with questions you have regarding TSA firearm regulations and for clarification on what you may or may not transport in your carry-on or checked baggage.”
One case is “easily opened” by pushing out the hinge pins, and the other has integral, non-TSA locks, and I didn’t want TSA busting it open to inspect it and be screwed for the trip. The week before I was supposed to go, I called the TSA Contact Center and spoke with a very nice young man who kindly read to me the information that is available on the TSA website and who had absolutely no idea if either case was okay to use, so I went to the airport for answers.
Since I was flying Delta, I started there and the folks at the desk said either case was acceptable with them, and then directed me to the security line to ask TSA if there was any problem with either case from their perspective. After standing in line, I got to where they check your ID and boarding pass. Mind you, I’m in this line with two rifle cases.
As I expected, the TSA had no idea what their regulations were and kept saying to go back to Delta and ask them. I tried explaining to him that Delta was okay with the cases, but I wanted to make sure TSA was okay with them, too, and what about the locks—TSA locks, or non-TSA locks? He didn’t know, and as the line grew behind me, became less interested in trying to find out.
Bottom line, I left without my answer and decided to roll the dice the following week when I checked in. Unfortunately, the truth is that regulations are whatever the person you’re dealing with at the time thinks they are, and the folks at TSA are not paid to think. I’d be more concerned if you encounter someone from TSA who tried to grow a brain while dealing with you, so bring a spare set of padlocks and TSA locks in case they cut yours or say you need the other.
To give you an example how stupid things are, once when I was flying from Dulles Airport to the Arctic for a caribou hunt, I had Air Canada wrap my bag with tape that read “Ammunition.” As I was sitting in my seat on the plane waiting for take-off, I happened to look out on the tarmac and saw my bag. The baggage handlers had closed the cargo door, so I notified the stewardess that my bag was left on the tarmac. The pilot came back and told me it was not possible to fly with ammunition because, “if one went off, they could all go off and the plane could come down.” That was before TSA, and I tried to explain to him that FAA regulations permitted flying with up to 11 pounds of ammunition so long as it was packaged in its original packaging. I was in a tight spot because I was hunting with a wildcat cartridge I couldn’t pick up at a local sporting goods store, and the bottom line is that the pilot is God. He or she can take you off a plane for any reason.
The pilot went back to the cockpit and a little while later we ended up on the tarmac unpacking my suitcase (within feet of the turning prop) to show him how the ammunition was packed. He was an idiot, but so was Air Canada for putting that stupid “Ammunition” tape all over my bag. Thankfully, I remained calm and reasonable and got two caribou.
When it comes to firearms, then, read and follow the rules for your airline, use common sense and know that you may have to deal with people who are ignorant of their own regulations and are probably stupid. Don’t get upset. Stay professional.
Finally, one of the best tips for foreign travel is to bring an electrical adapter. Other countries use different shaped plugs. Instead of buying a bunch of adapters though, bring one (and possibly a back up) and a multi-outlet power strip. We rely on electronic devices more than ever these days, and you cannot have too many outlets. On a recent trip to Germany, I ended up sharing my power strip with Mike Schoby from Petersen’s Hunting and Karen Mehall from NRA. Both are experienced international travelers who brought their own adapters, but both, like me, had cell phones, digital cameras, video equipment, laptops, tablets and more to charge making me the most popular guy in camp that trip.
“Shooting Guns & Having Fun”
In 2008, Mayer returned to the editorial side of publishing, this time in the digital field, as Editorial Director for Guns & Ammo, Shooting Times, Handguns and Rifleshooter online magazines. After a brief stint in 2011 as the Digital Media Director for an ABC TV affiliate, Mayer returned to the outdoors industry and Safari Club International where he is currently Assistant Publisher and Multi-Media Communications Editor.