Anthony "Ant" Williams is the Editor of African Fisherman, the world's leading sportsman safari publications. Ant offers some helpful travel tips for those seeking to journey to the wild continent.
Do you Really Need an Africa Packing List?
I'm not sure you can compile a comprehensive enough packing list that's really useful and specific to Red Oxx products. And while I know that Mr. Joe Public can be incredibly stupid sometimes, it's only likely to be a nice gimmick, rather than something you can't live without. Besides which, I think individual needs dictate that the list will always be lacking. Nice as a guideline, but I would put your efforts into more functional ideas. I recommend you give this some thought.
Even Thieves Understand Quality
Hearing about luggage disintegrating in the middle of nowhere makes me smile. However, one of the major pitfalls to using Red Oxx products is that you can lose it entirely. While on the fishing Safari with Red Oxx CEO Jim Markel and President Perry Jones in Zimbabwe, the lodge we stayed at had a burglary. Against the advice of our hosts, I left the security gate open on my up-stairs bungalow while I slept, and the intruders waltzed in and helped themselves to my three bags - one Red Oxx Duffel, a camera bag and a tackle bag.
In the cold light of day, we found my camera and lenses had been stolen but the some-name-brand bag left behind, my tackle gone and all my clothing strewn over the Zambezi Valley. My Red Oxx bag made a worthwhile prize it seems, while my sized 28 waist jeans (I was under-nourished back then) did not. The buggers had stolen just my bag and left pretty much everything else! We laughed, but I had to cart my luggage back in some discarded grocery packets... a sharp comedown to one's image after arriving using Red Oxx products!
This problem is not isolated to peasant thieves in the darkest Africa though. The first time I flew internationally with my Red Oxx, the Claw shoulder strap with its shiny stainless steel clips was stolen off the bag. Jim replaced it for me while I was in the USA, and I have never made the same mistake again, always removing the straps before I check my luggage. I suspect the captain of the 747 fancied it for his personal parachute... an item of gear I am sure they wear, but we never see.
Why a "Hard Case" is Not the Right Choice
On a more serious note though, there is no beating a soft bag over the hard case when it comes to travel in Africa. Ivan Carter (of Tracks Across Africa fame) can vouch for its application in the bush better than I can I'm sure, but I can tell you that when you watch Africans pack (to overloaded!) a safari vehicle for a six to eight hour trek into the wilderness, complete with provisions for a 10 day trip and a small kitchen sink, your hard case is the one thing that keeps getting shuffled to the back of the line of stuff to be loaded. It's a pain, and fits nowhere! But beware, if your soft bag is not built to withstand the rigors of life on safari, it will take some strain and probably break with the way it will be handled - especially when packed into a space half its actual size on the back of a Land Cruiser.
Soft-sided Bags Preferred by Bush Pilots
As a private bush pilot for many years, I also know the challenges pilots face when loading a light aircraft (also usually to "overloaded"). Aside from the additional weight of hard cases, they are difficult to cram into your average Cessna. I now mostly fly micro lights, or ultra lights as they are also known, and space is even more of an issue with luggage.
I like my Red Oxx bags as they seemed to have been designed by people who enjoy adventure travel. Yes, I know this is a claim made by Jim and the crew, but its truth lies in the functionality of Red Oxx. My Red Oxx Tri-fold Shaving Kit always fits into my main bag, no matter which one I use - there is a pocket to accommodate it. The additional clever and prolific pockets and pouches which adorn even the smaller duffel bags which are ideal for air travel, means even if I am packing tight, I can organize stuff for easy location later.
The Ideal Bug-out Bag
I always leave one Red Oxx bag packed with the basics for a fishing, merely adding specific stuff I think I might need before I leave. Kind of my wardrobe on the go, simply because I can organize it efficiently. Even my shaving bag has become a multi-purpose bag doing more than it was designed to do. In it I've incorporated a medical kit of sorts, into which I crammed everything from tooth picks to water purification chemicals, so if I have to grab and run, I know it's all there. Even some after-shave in case I spot a sexy buffalo along the journey.
Speaking of bugging out... Check out the Bug Out Bag article put together by our Minister of Information here! ~ Jim Markel CEO