What to wear on a horseback safari: tips from a traveller

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  • Heading on a horseback safari holiday? Lucky you – it’s definitely high up on many horsey bucket lists! I took a gap year following university and, as part of that, did a three-month safari placement in South Africa. Once you’ve decided you’re going on a horseback safari trip, I know one of your first questions will be what to wear.

    Here’s a list of the essentials you’ll need to pack for the riding parts of the holiday. I’ve included some specific suggestions of items I was grateful I took with me, plus some things I wish I’d thought of or known about before I went.

    What to wear on a horseback safari holiday

    Riding hat

    The most important thing you’ll need to wear on a horseback safari is a correctly fitted riding hat. To ensure that you’re covered by your insurance you’ll need one that’s up to standard.

    If you’re looking to get a new one especially for your trip, consider a helmet that is lightweight and well ventilated as you’ll be in the saddle for long periods of time in the heat. A wide peak may also offer additional protection from the sun. The Uvex Exxential II (which you can view here) would be a popular choice for this type of riding.

    Uvex Exxential II
    Available in a range of colours, this adjustable helmet weighs just 400g, is ventilated and meets the European VG1 standard.

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    You’ll want something really comfy as it’s likely you’ll be spending a long time in the saddle. Even though your best long riding boots probably fit like a glove, it would be best to leave these at home and invest in an alternative for your trip so that they’re not damaged when you’re riding through the bush.

    Short boots and chaps are a good option. Many riders who ride long distances prefer riding boots that are more similar in style to trainers or walking boots – and the bonus of these is they’ll double up for any walking activities you might go on too. The Ariat Terrain boots (which you can view here) tick all these boxes and are waterproof, too. If you’d prefer a more sporty style that you can wear with half chaps, I’d look at the Ariat Ascent short boots and matching half chaps.

    Ariat Terrain Waterproof Boots
    These boots are ready to meet any challenge and are designed for all-day comfort and durability.

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    Ariat Ascent Paddock Boots And Half Chaps
    These boots and chaps are comfortable and lightweight, which is exactly what you need for long hours in the saddle.

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    While the weather is usually good throughout the day, it’s likely you’ll have early starts and it can be quite chilly before the sun comes up. A technical long-sleeved shirt is perfect for offering a bit of warmth in the morning and keeping the sun off your skin later in the day – with technical materials you won’t get too hot even with sleeves and the Ariat VentTek shirt (which you can view here) is a great example.

    Ariat VentTek Shirt
    Available in a range of colours, this shirt offers UV protection, wicks away sweat and has a hidden sunglasses wipe in the hem.

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    If you’d like a short-sleeved option, a short-sleeved base layer or polo shirt will be good as long as they’re of the technical type in order to help keep you cool. Where possible opt for bush colours (think beige or khaki) to blend in, or lighter colours, which don’t absorb heat and are less likely to attract flies.

    Shires Aubrion Energise T-shirt
    This lightweight and highly breathable technical T-shirt will keep you comfortable with a looser fit.

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    Ariat Ascent Crew T-Shirt
    This cutting edge technical base layer offers UPF 50 protection, helps support posture and is the perfect colour for safari.

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    Shires Aubrion Poise Polo
    This technical polo is lightweight and breathable, which will keep you cool. Also available in sleeveless style.

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    I’d also suggest taking a warmer zip-up top, particularly if your trip is in the cooler winter months between May and August. A zip-up layer is easier to take off in the saddle – and you can do so without removing your hat.


    A pair of the best riding tights or leggings would make the perfect choice for horseback safari. They’re lightweight and comfortable, so are ideal for spending hours in the saddle in the sunshine.

    LeMieux Naomi Pull On Breeches
    These riding tights are H&H Approved and come in a great range of colours so you’ll find something perfect for safari.

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    If you prefer to ride in gloves then you’ll benefit from a pair of the best summer riding gloves for your trip. You could opt for a pair that has wicking properties or mesh sections – and you can even find gloves that allow you to tan the back of your hands to avoid tan lines. You’ll definitely want a pair with touchscreen compatible fingers if you’re planning to take photos on your phone.

    Uvex Summair Gloves
    These touchscreen compatible gloves are designed for high-intensity conditions with non-slip on the palm and breathable mesh on the topside.

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    Roeckl Laila Gloves
    The back of these gloves is made of a special lightweight, cool fabric that allows tanning to take place through it, so your hands can tan at the same rate as your wrists and arms.

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    Ariat Cool Grip Gloves
    These touchscreen compatible gloves have a synthetic palm and cooling fabric on the topside.

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    LeMieux Soleil Gloves
    These gloves are made from a lightweight, breathable mesh material with four-way stretch to provide close-fitting contact for good feel on the reins.

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    It’s going to be hot, so you’ll appreciate breathable and wicking riding socks more than you realise. Don’t be tempted to take an everyday pair of socks because you’ll end up with wet and sweaty feet.

    WeatherBeeta Stocking Socks

    These socks are described as “ultra-lightweight yet hardworking”. They’ve got a thin and stretchy calf, and the cotton foot section is breathable with a cushioned panel for added protection and comfort.

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    There will likely be breaks for breakfast, lunch and other refreshments and you’ll want to give your head a moment to breathe. If you’re like me, you’ll want to hide your hat hair, so a cap that can attach to your saddle is the perfect solution. More importantly, a cap will also keep the sun off your head, which will help prevent heat stroke.

    Ariat Tri Factor Cap
    This cap has cooling fabric in the headband and perforated rear panels for breathability. The strap at the back also undoes so you can attach it to your saddle when riding.

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    Sunglasses are a must, but it’s best to opt for a pair that are safe ride in and won’t shatter and cause you injury in a fall. Glasses designed for riding will also fit nicely under your helmet.

    Beacool Sport Glasses
    Available in a wide range of colours, these sport-specific glasses are made of a shatterproof material. You can pick up a pair for around £20.

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    A bandana or Buff will help protect you from the sun, but you can also pull it up over your mouth and nose if it’s particularly dry and dusty.

    Buff Coolnet UV
    This lightweight and comfortable tube scarf is 95% recycled, offers UPF 50 protection helps with sweat management.

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    Riding hat camera

    You can, of course, take a phone or digital camera with you to document your trip, but if you’d like to keep both hands on the reins, it would be worth checking out one of the best riding hat cameras. The Cambox V4 Pro is super-lightweight, and discreet so won’t stand out in your photos, while the Techalogic DC2-Pro has a really long battery life.

    Cambox V4 Pro
    This camera attaches under the peak of your hat or above your brow line on the underside of a jockey skull. You can hardly feel it’s there and is easy to use.

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    Techalogic DC-2 Pro
    This camera is aimed at riders who hack on the roads as it records front and back simultaneously, however, it has a really long battery life so could be just what you need on a safari.

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    Bum bag

    They might look like they’ve stepped out of the nineties, but you can’t deny how handy a bumbag will be on this sort of trip. You’ll have easy access to your phone or camera, some sun cream and I highly recommend packing a lip balm with SPF (like this one on Amazon).

    This water-resistant bumbag has three separate compartments and an adjustable strap. And it’s available in a wide range of colours.

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