Safari Shirt Guide
If you are not sure which features to look for in a safari shirt, then you have come to the right place. In this article we discuss the safari shirt features which are important for all safari shirts - and provide a visual summary of the most important safari shirt features - plus we chat about the additional safari shirt features which add to your comfort & enjoyment of the outdoors. After all, while our safari shirts are made for Africa, they are also the best performing outdoor & lifestyle shirts too. We also answer your frequently asked safari shirt questions, tell you a little bit more about why we are best placed to offer you advice & the best safari shirts, and provide a guide to the best safari shirts based on client reviews. We also then list our full range of expedition-tested™ safari shirts further down this page for you to choose from. Shop confident in the fact that you are buying the best.
Safari Shirt Introduction: Safari shirts are definitely the most important safari clothing essential for all safari - and outdoor - activities.
The following advice is true for men's safari shirts, women's safari shirts, and children's safari shirts.
What features should a safari shirt have?
- Keep you cool: First and foremost a safari shirt must keep you cool when it gets hot - and offer high-level protection from the sun and insects.
- Modern fabric with Wicking: The best safari shirts are made from lightweight, modern fabrics which wick moisture away from your skin to assist in the cooling of your body as the temperature rises. Wicking also aids in the quick release of wrinkles caused by packing your safari shirts into a bag. It also makes washing and drying your shirt that much faster so that you are able to re-use the same shirt on the same day - or even within hours - of washing. BUGTech™ & MaraTech™ fabrics both wick moisture five times faster than natural fabrics such as cotton. This wicking - or quick dry action - also explains why modern fabrics only need to be hung up after washing and can be worn without ironing, whereas natural fabrics hold much more water which need heat to literally iron out and remove wrinkles caused by the retention of moisture. This explains why steam irons are more effective at removing wrinkles as they add water to the garment and then quickly remove - or wick - the moisture away.
- Insect protection: A safari shirt should also provide insect protection - which is proven to work - and which becomes a part of your insect protection strategy. A great example of high level protection are safari shirts made from BUGTech™ fabrics. Always use a very good insect repellent for the highest level of protection.
- Sun protection: Safari shirts must also protect you from the sun and have at least a rating of UPF50+ for maximum protection. Safari shirts made from either BUGTech™ or MaraTech™ fabrics offer this high sun protection factor. Get added protection by using a sunscreen which is proven to work in the hot sun.
- Long sleeves: As your first choice opt for safari shirts with long sleeves over short sleeves. This enables you to roll your safari shirt sleeves down: 1. to protect your forearms from sunburn; 2. to, conversely, keep you a little warmer when it is cooler in the early mornings and evenings; and 3. to use the built-in anti-insect finish as part of your strategy to protect you from biting insects at night. You would simply roll your sleeves up once you have applied sunscreen should you feel a bit too hot and during active safaris - when walking, paddling, horse riding or mountain biking. Short sleeve safari shirts & safari t-shirts are great to take with you too, but use your discretion when wearing them and be sure to cover up your arms and neck with insect repellent & sunscreen.
- Safari-suitable colour: Safari shirt colour is key and so your safari shirt should be made from fabrics which have neutral, natural tones which blend in more easily with the African bush. The more you blend in, the better your viewing of wildlife will be - especially of larger species such as elephant and rhino. These large species have pretty poor eyesight when compared to the big cats and plains game - and so they are less likely to spot you if you blend in, than if you are wearing a highly conspicuous colour such as white. For colours think of safaris shirts made from darker shades of stone, olive, sand, brown, green, and of course of the classic safari favourite: khaki. The added upside for this is that safari colours are always in fashion and so you will happily use your safari shirt for just about any other outdoor activity.
- Collar: The best safari shirts also have a collar so that you neck is protected from the sun - and if your safari shirt has built-in insect protection then your neck will have another layer of protection against biting insects. Always spray a very good insect repellent & sunscreen onto your neck for added protection.
- Tested to work: Only use safari shirts which have actually been proven to work in Africa. Our full range of women's safari shirts, men's safari shirts, and kids' safari shirts have been used time and again by our clients on safari - and, better yet, we have expedition tested & safari tested our full range. As we like to say when we develop and test our safari shirts: we sweat so that you do not have.
Summary of safari shirt key features:
Your safari shirt should be made from fabric which wicks away moisture and offers high-level UPF50+ sun protection
Choose a safari shirt which has built-in anti-insect protection
Select safari shirts made in safari-suitable colours
Ideally a safari shirt should also have a collar, long sleeves - and of course be expedition field-tested & proven to keep you cool.
Other safari shirt features which provide those simple little touches which make a difference to your days on safari:
- Roll-up sleecve tabs: Safari shirts that have roll-up sleeve tabs on the sleeves. We are often asked why these are necessary. The answer lies in the fact that the best shirts for safari are made from lighter, thinner technical fabrics which are not as thick or rigid as fabrics like cotton. Once rolled up, these modern, advanced fabrics do not stay in place as easily as thicker, hotter fabrics. Roll-up sleeve tabs take care of this for you using a tab and button to simply convert a long-sleeve shirt into a shorter-sleeved shirt by holding the rolled-up sleeve in place. We have also added a second roll-up sleeve tab to some of our shirts - for example, the Men's Explorer & Women's Pioneer shirts - as, in our expedition-testing, we found that only one sleeve tab was not ideal when shirts got wet or on active safaris. Two tabs are definitely better than one.
- Sunglass loops: Sunglass loops on the placket of your safari shirt are very useful. The placket is where the button and button holes are located down the front of the safari shirt. How many times have you put your favourite/expensive/only pair of sunglasses into the 'v' formed by the opening of your shirt, only to forget they are there, bend over to pick something up, leaving your sunglasses scratched and ruined when they fall to the ground - or lost altogether if you do not notice? Sunglass loops are hidden little gems which help to prevent this from happening.
- Smelling fresh: Shirts that have a built-in anti-microbial finish do keep your safari shirt wearable - and you smelling fresher - for longer. Safari shirts with an anti-microbial finish usually use small amounts of silver built into the finish of the fabric. This silver creates microscopic currents which help to keep bacteria build-up at bay - and it is bacteria which causes body odour.
- Optional security pocket: Zipped security pockets are useful for keeping essentials safe and on your person. Usually only men's safari shirts have chest pockets which are large enough for security pockets - and so, very often, women's safari shirts do not have security pockets simply as they are styled to be smaller. We see zipped security pockets as a nice-to-have and not a must-have as often you will either have a small safari bag with you, or will be wearing trousers with pockets.
- Safari style: Shirts with classic safari style to match their outdoor performance. There is no reason for your safari shirt to resemble a hot, heavy, shapeless canvas safari tent. Select safari shirts which also offer classic cuts to suit your style. Think rugged sophistication for men and feminine lines for women. You may as well look good - and feel comfortable - in your favourite safari shirt.
- Mix & match: Pack a few men's and women's safari t-shirts to help you mix and match your safari style. On cooler days, some of our clients prefer to wear a safari t-shirt as a base layer, with a long-sleeve safari shirt worn over their t-shirt as a lightweight outer layer which also offers all the protection listed above. This is a very popular way to dress boys & girls on safari too. It also looks great - although, for really hot weather, we would always recommend only wearing a lightweight, long-sleeved safari shirt as they offer the best performance and protection.
Safari shirt questions & answers
We provide answers to questions we are frequently asked about safari shirts
How many safari shirts should I pack for my safari?
Up to 4-day safari: x 2 safari shirts; Up to 8-day safari: x 4 safari shirts; Up to 12-day safari: x 6 safari shirt
Note: This includes a mix of long sleeve safari shirts & t-shirt type safari shirts. So for example for the 8-day safari we would pack 2 long-sleeve safari shirts & 2 t-shirt safari shirts. The number of times when you are able to wash your safari shirts also makes a difference, plus of course whether or not you pack other shirts too or only pack safari shirts.
Can I wear white safari shirts on safari?
The short answer to that is "no". From a game viewing perspective white and black are the two most conspicuous colours on safari and so are best avoided. Your guide may not allow you to go on a walk if you are wearing white. From a practical perspective white gets dirty quickly and can be ruined by the dust & mud on a safari. Around the lodge you may of course wear white shirts - and we actually love to do just that as there is nothing better than having a hot shower after a long day on safari and then dressing in a crisp white shirt.
What type of safari shirts should I avoid?
Please do not pack thick, heavy, safari shirts made from heavier weights of cotton and other fabrics. You will be hot, sweaty, and uncomfortable on safari. As a general rule cotton also performs way worse than modern fabrics and does not keep you cool through high-level wicking - which explains why you get big sweat patches when wearing cotton as moisture is not moving away from your skin fast enough to keep you cool. Shirts made from cotton - and other thick fabrics - do not provide built-in insect protection, nor do they have built-in anti-bacterial properties. Wearing thick cotton versus wearing modern manmade fabrics is pretty much the same as using an old typewriter to write a letter rather than a modern laptop.
What weight should the fabric used to make my safari shirt be?
We recommend safari shirts made from fabric which is between 80 and 130 grammes per square meter (gsm). Any heavier and the shirt will be too hot and bulky. Most of the safari shirts we stock are made from fabric which is 83 gsm - such as the Mens's Explorer & Everything Shirts; and the Women's Pioneer & Everything shirts.
Can I look stylish on safari?
Absolutely yes. Gone are the days of tent-shaped shirts for men and women. Our modern safari shirts use cuts & fabric which combine timeless safari-style and high-level outdoor performance to make sure that you always look good and are comfortable on safari. What is more, safari colours never go out of fashion and are often at the forefront of colours chosen by fashion designers. For women our safari shirts use designs which are cut to flatter. Smaller sizes are more fitted to accentuate the body, while larger sizes use a straighter cut for added comfort. For men rugged explorer designs are combined with subtle finishes which are in keeping with today's fashion trends. The best part about our safari shirts is that they really do combine fashion and functionality to ensure that you are able to wear your safari shirt in the city, the countryside, and on safari in the Serengeti.
Are safari shirts good for the outdoors too?
With Africa as our testing ground - and expeditions our preferred testing method - our safari shirts have passed the ultimate testing regime with flying colours. All the technical features listed above ensure that our shirts are the best you can buy for general outdoor & adventure wear too. In fact well known explorers - such as Steve Backshall - have been spotted wearing our safari shirts just about everywhere: from the English countryside to the forests of Venezuela.
Our safari shirt advice is advice you can trust. Our safari shirts are designed & expedition-tested to be the best
Our main reason for existing - and the very reason why Steve founded The Safari Store - is to improve the enjoyment for all our clients of the safari & outdoor experience. To achieve this we are constantly testing and trying new designs, ideas - and make it our primary focus to study new technologies and apply them through clever garment engineering in the products we make for your next adventure. Our process can be summarized as: research, design, sample, discuss & expedition test, refine sampling, wearer test for comfort, and then make and stock ready for your next adventure.
We also have a unique understanding of safari. We have experienced Africa & Safari not only from birth - as we were all born & raised in Africa - but also on every level. Steve spends two to three months of each year camped in a tent under a tree with his partner Claire - with no back-up or facilities - in the wildest places he can find in Africa just to live in our clothing and gear. This provides another layer of lifestyle & comfort testing for our products and it is an invaluable part of our process. We have also done it all: from grassroots sweating it out on expeditions to staying at the finest lodges. We have broken down, got lost, been stuck in mud/sand, had tyres puncture, walked our way out of car trouble, paddled, walked, ridden bicycles and horses, climbed sand dunes and mountains - just to understand Africa and the outdoors better. We have needed cotton wool to stop bleeding from cuts and scrapes on expedition, and experienced what it is like to be treated like cotton wool by luxury lodges. This grass roots to gold taps understanding of safari is what sets us apart. We apply all this knowledge into creating quite simply the best products and providing unbiased, well thought out advice. We sweat, so that you don't have to.
A selection of the best safari shirts based on client reviews:
We value all our client reviews highly, and use them to guide us as we tweak existing products, and create new products. They are also a great way for you to see what other clients have thought about our safari shirts. Here is a selecttion of our safari shirts which have been highly-rated in client reviews
Men's Explorer Anti-Insect Safari Shirt
Review by client David: "I bought 2 of these shirts in 2011. They are still in regular use, though coming to the end of their life. They were bought for the ease of washing/drying. I had not expected them to last this long. I use them at least twice a week every week on a ranch in Kenya."
View all reviews for this safari shirt
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