What to take
This is difficult advice to give, as it depends upon how you travel and your own personality. If you intend to do a lot of hitching or backpacking, then you should plan carefully what you take in an attempt to keep things as light as possible. If you have a vehicle for your whole trip, then weight and bulk will not be such an issue.
Most of your days you will want light, loose-fitting clothing. Cotton (or a cotton-rich mix) is cooler and more absorbent than synthetic fibres. For men, shorts (long ones) are usually fine, but long trousers are more socially acceptable in towns and especially in rural settlements and villages. For women, knee-length skirts or culottes are best. Namibia has a generally conservative dress code. Revealing or scruffy clothing isn't respected or appreciated by most Namibians.
For the evenings, especially for chilling rides in the back of safari vehicles, you will need something warm. Night-time temperatures in the winter months can be very low, especially in desert areas. If possible, dress in layers, taking along a light sweater (polar-fleeces are ideal) and a long-sleeved jacket, or a tracksuit, and a light but waterproof anorak. Note that some excellent cotton safari-wear is produced and sold locally. Try the department stores in Windhoek.
Finally, don't forget a squashable sun-hat. Cotton is perfect. Bring one for safety's sake, even if you hate hats, as it will greatly reduce the chance of your getting sunstroke when out walking.
Other useful items
See Camping and walking in the bush for a discussion on what type of camping equipment to take. In addition, here are a few of my own favourites and essentials, just to jog your memory.
• sunblock and lipsalve for vital protection from the sun
• sunglasses – essential – ideally dark with a high UV absorption.
• insect repellent, especially if travelling to the north or during the rains
• 'Leatherman' multi-purpose tool. Never go into the bush without one of these amazing assistants
• electrical insulating tape – remarkably useful for general repairs
• binoculars – essential for watching game and birds
• camera, film and long lenses
• basic sewing kit, with at least some really strong thread for repairs
• cheap waterproof watch (leave expensive ones, and jewellery, at home)
• couple of paperback novels
• large plastic 'bin-liner' (garbage) bags, for protecting your luggage from dust
• simple medical kit
• magnifying glass, for looking at some of the smaller attractions
And for backpackers, useful extras might include:
• concentrated, biodegradable washing powder
• long-life candles
• nylon paracord (20m) for emergencies and washing lines
• good compass and a whistle
• more comprehensive medical kit
• universal plug
Maps and navigation
A reasonable selection of maps is available in Europe and the USA from specialised outlets. The Michelin map of East and southern Africa (sheet 995) sets the standard for the whole subcontinent, but is not really detailed enough for Namibia. The Freytag & Berndt map of Namibia looks good, though adds little to the free map issued by the tourist board.
Imported maps are obtainable in Europe from Stanfords, London (tel: 020 7836 1321) or Geocenter, Stuttgart, Germany (tel: 711 788 9340). In the USA try Map Link, Santa Barbara, California (tel: 805 965 4402).
Namibia has an excellent range of detailed 'Ordnance Survey' type maps available cheaply in Windhoek, from the Surveyor General's office on Robert Mugabe Avenue. If you are planning a 4WD expedition, then you may need to buy some of these before you head out into the bush. Expeditions to Kaokoland should also pick up a copy of the Shell map of Kaokoland. It's better than anything else to that area, and does have good general information about the area in the back.
However, for most normal visitors on self-drive or guided trips, all the Ordnance Survey maps are far too detailed and unwieldy to use. Much better is the map distributed by the tourist board, which is perfect for self-drive trips using Namibia's roads. It really is the best map available, and has a useful distance table, and a street plan of Windhoek. It is available free at most tourist centres and information offices in Namibia. Overseas, most Namibian tourist offices will supply them, as will some of the better specialist tour operators.GPS systems
If you are heading into the more remote parts in your own vehicle, then consider investing in a small GPS: a Global Positioning System. Under an open, unobstructed sky, these can fix your latitude, longitude and elevation to within about 100m, using 24 American military satellites that constantly pass in the skies overhead. They will work anywhere in the world.
Commercial units now cost from around £100/US$160 in Europe or the USA, although their prices are falling (and features improving) as the technology matures. Even the less expensive models will store 'waypoints', enabling you to build up an electronic picture of an area, as well as working out basic latitude, longitude and elevation. So, for example, you can store the position of your camp, and the nearest road, enabling you to leave with confidence and be reasonably sure of navigating back. This is invaluable in remote areas where there are few landmarks.
Beware though: a GPS isn't a substitute for good map-work and navigation. Do not come to rely on it, or you will be unable to cope if it fails. Used correctly, a GPS will help you to recognise minor errors before they are amplified into major problems. Finally, note that all these units use lots of battery power, so bring spares with you and/or a cigarette-lighter adaptor.