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3rd WORLD TRAVEL GEAR: The Safari Vest – A Timeless Classic

An old picture of James G in the Middle East wearing Safari vest #2 on one of his first overseas gigs

One of my favorite pieces of adventure gear for when I am traveling around the world chasing fortune and glory is the timeless Adventurers vest. Back when I was a kid looking at pictures of famous explorers one of the things I always took note of was what they were wearing.

I thought the [mostly British] explorers looked Pimp wearing their lapelled safari shirts, leather boots and safari vests posing for photos with spear-wielding natives – sometimes adding a double-barreled Holland and Holland slung over their shoulder just to complete the Professional Adventurer look.

As I got a little older and started following modern day explorers, foreign correspondents, mercenaries and adventurers [both real and fictional] I kept seeing these men of action wearing the same timeless Adventurers Vests.

I imagined the numerous pockets stuffed with wads of foreign currencies, a half drunken flask, packs of Lucky Strike non-filters, a scratched up Leica camera and an inch thick passport while concealing a Browning hi-power.

So when I grew-up and finally started traveling the world seeking the adventure, fortune, glory and women of questionable morals I had always dreamed about one of the first things I bought was a Safari Vest – in khaki of course.

James G + Safari Vest after some Douchebag Local ran him off the road in the Middle East.

I bought my first Safari vest in a stinky shop that sold cheap leather jackets, postcards and coin purses to tourists in Paris. I actually went in to get one of the leather jackets but after trying on a few and having my ear talked off by the Algerian dude who owned the place I was ready to leave. As I was making a bee-line for the street, suddenly, I saw a lone khaki Safari Vest stuffed in-between some bright red leather jackets.

160 Francs later I was the proud owner of my first Safari vest. Being young and not knowing that wearing a Safari Vest in the city would make me look like… well, some dude wearing a Safari Vest in the city – I threw on my brand new Safari Vest and walked around Paris while cute Parisian gals giggled at me.

Fast forward a few years…

After forgetting to pack that vest when I went on my first gig in the Middle East I ended up finding my next Safari Vest in a small shop in the gold Souk run by a funny Indian guy [I was actually looking to score some black market booze].

That vest ended up being my constant traveling partner while running around the world for the next 10 years. No matter where I was – Tromping through triple canopied jungles, following camel tracks in the desert, hanging out in dodgy expat bars in exotic cities or working on a contractor gig, my trusty Safari Vest always had my back and carried all my shit.

But after 10 years and 50 countries of wear and tear my Safari Vest has pretty much had it, it was actually sort of depressing to retire my old vest. I will probably end up doing something cheesy like framing it like a super bowl jersey and throwing it up on the wall in the Team DVM HQ.

James G’s now retired #2 Safari vest

So again I found myself in need of a Safari vest, after looking around at the various brands of Safari Vests I ended up getting my hands on a Royal Robbins [5.11] Safari vest [pictured below].

James G’s New Safari Vest [yep, I am wearing the 5.11 tuxedo – getting laid be-damned!

I didn’t choose that brand for any other reason other than I got it for free from a buddy who runs the supply room for one of the big contractors here in Iraq. He owed me a favor so I let him get square with me in clothing and boots. It seems like a solid vest, lots of pockets and such; I especially like the vents in the back.

I hope this one [and my much abused liver] lasts me another 10 years of adventures…

Safari Vest wearing DVM Foreign Correspondent Rob Krott hanging out with some Pakistani Pashtuns

Krott + Safari Vest looking at some Paki AK’s

10.00 to 100 bucks Has a Big Selection >>>


~James G
Founder – Editor in Chief

James G is a Veteran Civilian Contractor who has worked in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for way too long; he has traveled to over 50 countries chasing fortune and glory. He spends his off time in Indonesia and Virginia getting drunk, shooting guns, writing poorly written articles and being the only guy at the range using iron sights. James G. on FACEBOOK


  1. HA- Cross-draw 9-mil in an old mag pouch bitches!

    And the white scarf is pimp (who here know who in what conflict that is from?)

    ~James G

    • Yemen?

    • Jeez, reading is fundamental…how about Alain Delon in “Le Samourai”?

      • No – but the nationality is right

        ~James G

        • Did he have a French battle cap named after him?

          • Nope

            Here is a hint – You see them on the directors cut of a famous war movie

            ~James G

            • The French holdouts in Apocalypse Now.

              What do I win? 😉

              • Ha! My hint about the movie made it too easy – But I am surprised someone figured it out, good one bro!

                You win the “Smartest Guy Today On DVM” Award

                ~James G

  2. During my latest trip to South America I really fell in love with the 5.11 Shirts. I could pack my documents in a waterproof plastic bag and store stuff like maps in the big pockets. No metal pieces used so that there will be no rust on them. I had a vest but it was way to warm for me. During the night or in moderate climate a vest can be a nice piece of gear but then I tend to wear the best piece of gear ever invented by the British: The smock. Since camo is a bad idea in Africa and parts of South America (even for tourists) I had a hard time to get one not in DPM. It will easily conceal a level III vest and provide tons of space to improve your first line load out.

    • Where did u find a non-camo Smock? I’ve been looking for an OD colored one awhile. Very hard to find.

  3. Man, for me it was the safari jacket. The wrinkled khaki with the sleeves rolled up and the belt hanging loose was always the indicator of adventure and/or violence soon to ensue! Great article!

  4. I’ve got one from Banana Republic, no shit. It’s lasted me for years, and during my excursion to Tanzania it pretty much carried all the shit I needed without me having to use a backpack on day trips. Funny that you added velcro, I did the same thing. Great minds think hook and loop LOL

    • Back when Banana Republic (and it’s rich cousin, Abercrombie & Fitch) actually sold real clothes?

      • I hate to say it, but my vest is from……Ivy Crew. Please don’t tell anyone.

  5. This was pretty timely for me as I just revived my Safari vest, or photographers vest as we always called them, for a cover to shoot IDPA with. Mine to had seen a lot of the world and had been retired to the back of the closet for newer “hi tech” gear. It had become somewhat of an indicator in my mind not unlike the modern 5.11 tux. The fact everytime I saw someone wearing one I though, I wonder who he works for.

    Since they have been out of the spotlight for a while now maybe it’s time to bring it back. Nothing more comfotable or useable with a bit of old school flair added in. I also agree it almost screams to be worn with a high power!

  6. Hey Been a long time reader here. First post. Great stuff. Check out a company called “Filson” They make a sweet safari vest. I own several of their products, all top notch quality. I am in no way connected with this company

    • Hey Been a long time reader here. First post. Great stuff. Check out a company called “Filson” They make a sweet safari vest. I own several of their products, all top notch quality. I am in no way connected with this company  

      Just returned recently from a central south american country and was very pleased to have had my filson vest. I have had that filson vest for a good while and you can zip it into filson’s other jackets and it looks like you only have on a jacket. When it gets warm just zip it out of the jacket. Well made stuff.

  7. Mines an Eddie Bauer from 1993. Great piece of kit, has held up better than GI issue crap.

  8. Ah damn you James, I’m currently working on an article regarding using the safari vest for SAR work! Haha nevermind, cool article about a great bit of gear.

    ~Alex S

  9. Mine is black, they did’nt have a khaki that would fit 2X. Had it for about 15 yrs and still going strong.

    Used to have a Hi-Power but it now holds a Glock 22.
    Holds a lot of shit and begs for more.

    Truely one of the best pieces of kit ever thought of by Big Game Hunters and their guides.

  10. I sport a 20 year old Domke Photogs vest both on the job and off. Of course, since I work as a photojournalist, no one expects any different when they see me wearing the ratty old beast. Even though it is starting to show it’s age, the vest still does the job of concealing my carry weapon and carrying my everyday shit. Don’t care what the haters say about photo vests, mine’s here to stay.

  11. Agreed, they are great to have.
    But due to their frequent use for covering a carry piece, a few years back they started calling them “Shoot Me First” vests…

  12. A word of warning for those looking to wear one in Europe.
    As James G has already touched on, nobody wheres vests like this day to day. You are either looking at a photographer, fly fisherman or a not particuarly clever EP gentleman. I tend to look for such types as clothing along with a lot of the tacticool stuff as a potential trouble indicator especially in urban areas.

    However, no one blinks at the various mountain or climbing attire jackets that are functionally very similar. North Face make a couple of good ones if you don’t mind made in China.

  13. The original Banana Republic (from when they were a Safari store) ones are still the best Safari Vests. You can still find them on Ebay somewhat often.

  14. I got 2 of those 5.11s safari vests. Those babies are sweet!! Wear them every time I hit the casinos in AC, NJ!!

  15. As you can see by the pics of me James added to this article, i used to rock the Safari vest regularly in the 90s… yes it was de rigeur for the photo-journo set all over the world … I always thought the safari jacket and vests were “toolish” but changed my mind when I first wore one on a hop to Thailand in 96 … i was flying on an uber-cheap ticket as an “Air Courier” (which meant i was limited to carry on only – my bags and extra baggage fee allowance were used to ship cargo)… so with the biggest ruck i could take on the flight and my safari jacket stuffed full of gear (it probably weighed 30 pounds itself) I was good to go… I had a whole change of clothes stuffed in the game bag type compartment in the back! yeah, i looked like Michelin man, but I only threw it on for boarding and then stowed it… Found it was useful in various environments where i couldn’t wear LBE and didn’t want to worry about a knapsack…i put all my E&E and survival gear in the pockets and i had a ready made BOB / GOD bag on my back…

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