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Ultimate Packing List for Digital Nomads

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Becoming a digital nomad is equal parts exciting and nerve-wracking. At least at the beginning.

One of the first hurdles is knowing what you should pack when you finally hit the road.

Fortunately for you, after a decade of traveling and learning things the hard way, we’ve come up with this ultimate packing list for digital nomads.

Creating the Perfect Digital Nomad Packing List

No two digital nomads are the same. So, it goes without saying that no two packing lists will be exactly the same.

One major difference is gender; some things that are essential to female nomads obviously won’t be relevant to males, and vice versa.

Another factor is the type of work you do as a digital nomad. A content writer can get away with bare-bones equipment, while a photographer will probably need to carry a lot more. However, there’s plenty of nomad gear that is pretty much universal.

With that in mind, the following packing list focuses primarily on universal and unisex items, though we’ll suggest multiple options in some sections.

Carry-on Vs. Checked Luggage

Carry-on Bag vs Checken Luggage
What kind of luggage should you bring?

Before you can seriously put together your ultimate packing list, you need to know how much space you’re working with. This leads us to the question: do you travel light or go all out?

The vast majority of digital nomads use air travel to reach their ‘offices’ in far-flung corners of the world.

So, do you stick with just your carry-on bag or bring checked luggage as well? Let’s analyze the benefits of each type of baggage.

Benefits of Carry-on Luggage

Easier to keep safe: as you keep it with you, carry-on luggage is far less likely to get lost or damaged in transit.
Quicker: you spend less time at the airport. There is no need to wait for your luggage when you arrive, and when flying out, you can head straight for departures.
More comfortable to carry: it goes without saying that it’s easier to carry one smaller piece of luggage than several larger pieces. If your projects don’t require a lot of equipment, simplify your life and go for a carry-on only.
You can save money: not all airlines offer checked luggage for free, and it can be quite expensive to add it. Also, you won’t have to invest in an additional piece of luggage.

Benefits of Checked Luggage

You can pack more: this is a must for digital nomads that need a lot of equipment (cameras, multiple screens, etc.). It’s also useful if you’re away for a long time, or traveling as a couple or group. Those traveling to colder climates may also benefit from the extra space.
You can pack anything: prohibited items and liquids do not restrict you, so you can pack your favorite shampoo (great if you have allergies or sensitive skin) or bring gifts home much more easily.

The Best Digital Nomad Backpacks

Whether you choose to travel light or bring checked luggage as well, every digital nomad needs a good bag. We’ve reviewed a lot of great backpacks and can recommend the following top choices:

Pelican ProGreat S100 Sport Elite Laptop Backpack

The Pelican ProGreat is a top choice for digital nomads, spacious enough to fit a 15″ laptop, crush-proof and water-resistant, and extremely comfortable to wear. It’s ideal for anything from climbing a mountain to exploring the city as well as long-distance travel.

Nomatic 40L Travel Bag

Extremely versatile, this backpack complies with carry-on regulations around the world and doubles up as a duffle bag. You can easily store all your best travel items as well as a 15” laptop, while numerous pockets and compartments keep everything safe.

Osprey Porter 46

A personal favorite and great value for money, while this Osprey backpack looks small, it certainly holds its own. Comfortable to wear even when full, it can house a 15″ laptop in a lockable panel, while compression straps keep everything safe.

The Best Checked Luggage for Digital Nomads

It’s essential to choose the most functional and comfortable luggage you can find if you decide to travel with checked baggage. Fortunately, we’ve taken a look at some of the best on the market. Here are some of our top picks:

Osprey Farpoint 65 Men’s Wheeled Luggage

Strong and durable, this luggage can be worn as a backpack, carried as a suitcase, or rolled on oversized wheels. Adjustable compression straps keep your valuables packed in safe and secure, while a lifetime warranty sweetens the deal.

Nomatic Check-In

Sleek and stylish, this polycarbonate wheeled luggage boasts a capacity of 78 liters, plus an extra 12 liters when you unzip the expansion compartment. Extra strong wheels and handles compliment the hard, long-lasting case, while a lifetime warranty adds additional peace of mind.

Thule Subterra Luggage 30”

This rolling luggage is in fact two spacious bags in one; the rolling main compartment can be unzipped to reveal a roomy duffle bag. Great for couples and those who need to carry a lot, the 90-liter capacity can be split into a variety of compartments for unrivaled organization.

Travel Essentials for Digital Nomads

With your backpack and any additional luggage sorted, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty of filling them up. We’ll go over the main travel essentials that should feature on any digital nomad packing list, from must-have technology to handy tools.

Hardware and Tech

Pack Electronics
Tech is essential for a digital nomad.

The specific hardware that you bring with you will vary depending on the type of work you do. However, the following list covers all the basics.

Laptop

As a digital nomad, your laptop is your best friend, so this obviously tops our list. If you haven’t gotten yours yet, or need an upgrade, you can check out some of the best travel laptops here. The specific model you choose largely depends on the type of work you do, but for a good all-rounder, check out the ASUS ZenBook 13.

Laptop and Phone Chargers

There’s no point in bringing a laptop or phone if you forget the charger. While you can typically find replacements in cities around the world, it can be pretty expensive. If you have a bulky charger, try sourcing a smaller version.

Spare Cables

It’s always worth carrying spare cables with you when you travel, in particular HDMI, Ethernet, and USB. Fortunately, you can find great retractable cables, such as these from Cable Matters, that pack up small and prevent damage. Make sure you have all the cables you need to keep your devices connected.

External Storage

It’s worth bringing some USB sticks, SD cards, or even an external hard disk. These can be useful for storing anything from movies and books, to backups of your operating system in case you need to reformat.

Adaptors

An excellent universal adaptor is a travel essential that no digital nomad should be without. It’ll ensure you can plug in wherever you are in the world. Try to find one with USB ports so that you can charge your phone or laptop even if you forget your regular charger. If you’re carrying a lot of hardware, it might be worth buying two.

Powerbank

Sometimes you just can’t find a power socket, especially when your phone or laptop is almost out of juice (Murphy’s Law!). This doesn’t have to be a problem, though. The Anker PowerCore+ is a top choice. Unlike other models, it has the power delivery to charge your laptop via the USB port quickly. It can also charge most phones up to 6 or 7 times.

WiFi Hotspot

As a digital nomad, you’ll likely need the internet to get your work done. With a portable WiFi hotspot, you’ll never have to worry about not getting a good signal again. The Skyroam Solis International WiFi Hotspot is one of the most popular choices. This sim-free, 4G LTE hotspot works in over 130 countries around the world, providing a secure internet connection wherever there’s a phone signal.

Noise-Cancelling Headphones

Whether it’s for important phone calls, listening to music, enjoying a movie, traveling in silence, noise-canceling headphones are extremely useful. The Bose QuietComfort 35 II Wireless Bluetooth Headphones are a top choice. Linked to an app, they work seamlessly with your phone and can be voice-activated. I cannot imagine traveling on a plane without them anymore!

Clothes

Pack Clothing
Pack as little clothing as possible at the highest quality you can afford.

Life on the road has taught me that I can get by with a minimal wardrobe as long as I can do laundry regularly. I also learned that quality clothes are worth the investment. For example, Merino wool beats cotton hands down in terms of comfort and durability. The climate of your destination will impact the exact clothes you take.

Underwear

It’s worth taking 3 to 5 pairs of underwear with you. However, if you don’t anticipate doing your laundry regularly, try to squeeze a few more pairs in. Women’s underwear generally packs up smaller than men’s, so there’s no harm in packing extra. Merino Wool boxers, thongs, or period panties are incredibly comfortable and long-lasting.

Socks

This depends on where you’re traveling. In hot climates, you might only need one pair of socks, while you might need several in colder climates. Again, Merino Wool offers comfort and durability. Darn Tough makes a wide selection of socks for men and women, in various sizes. They may be pricey, but their lifetime guarantee makes them well worth it.

Casual Wear

T-shirts pack up small when rolled, so I would recommend taking around three. WURU makes some great long and short-sleeved Merino Wool tees. Shorts and pants are slightly bulkier, but you can generally get away with packing two or three pairs of light pants or shorts. If that doesn’t sound like many, remember you’ll be wearing a set of clothes as well. If you’re heading somewhere colder, it’s worth also packing a light sweater or hoody. Throw-away casual wear can typically be picked up cheaply at secondhand stores around the world if you need extras.

Jacket

The jacket you choose to take should pack up small when you don’t need it and keep you warm and dry. Marmot makes a great, affordable lightweight jacket for men and women that offers protection against the wind and rain. For extra warmth, seek out Patagonia’s Nano Puff Jacket, or North Face’s Thermoball Jacket, which are down jackets that pack up small.

Swimwear

Even if you don’t anticipate doing a lot of swimming, it’s worth packing at least one pair of trunks or a swimming costume. They double up as clothes that you can work out in and come in handy for beach or spa days.

Footwear

A pair of sturdy boots should normally be on your feet during travel, but it’s nice to have a pair of lightweight shoes as well. It’s good to find a pair that fulfills numerous roles, from smart meetings to wandering on the beach. The Vivobarefoot Gobi all-purpose desert boot range isn’t the most attractive choice but practical for both men and women.

Toiletries

Pack Toiletries
Pack the basic toiletries and buy the rest locally.

If you’re only bringing carry-on luggage, it’s important to remember the TSA rules on liquids. All liquids, aerosols, pastes, creams, and gels are limited to 3.4 ounces. As such, many digital nomads choose to buy locally.

Toothbrush

For an electric toothbrush that packs up small, the HIEIE Sonic Electric Toothbrush is a top choice. It doesn’t have the bulky charger that other models have, and is instead charged by USB cable. As well as the main unit, it comes with two heads, charging cable, stand, and travel box. It packs up small enough to slip into any luggage. For more info, read our guide on the best toothbrush for travelers.

Razor

If you want to bring a razor on a plane, you’ll need to make sure it’s the right type. With its faux porcelain body, this cartridge razor from Parker is solid yet smart and works for both men and women. It’s worth buying some extra cartridges. Besides Parker cartridges, it’s also compatible with Mach 3 and Gillette3 blades.

Microfiber Towel

Most accommodation will provide towels, but it’s always worth carrying a small microfiber one just in case. They’re great for outdoor use or the gym, plus they pack up small and dry quickly. These towels from 4Monster come in a range of sizes and pack up into a handy case.

Reusable Tubes and Pots

If you do want to bring your toothpaste, creams, soaps, etc. then it’s worth investing in GoToobs and GoTubbs. Humangear’s products are sized to comply with liquid restrictions around the world. Made from silicone, they’re easy to wash out and refill.

Nail Clippers

These high-quality Swiss army nail clippers from the one and only Victorinox pack up flat and small and are useful to have around. They won’t rust and should last a lifetime.

Miscellaneous Bits

Pack Wallet
Don’t forget to pack the small things that make life easier!

Here we’ll take a look at some other smaller things that are worth taking with you. These are the items that are all-too-easy to forget about until you really need them!

Wallet

Even as the world becomes increasingly cashless, it’s worth carrying a decent wallet around. It’s always a good idea to have some local currency on you just in case. This RFID wallet from Zhoma is made from genuine leather, packs up small, and has space for up to 18 cards plus bills. It also zips up, making it useful for carrying coins as well.

Passport Holder

A passport holder can double up as a wallet to save more space or simply protect your passport. This one from Venture 4th has an RFID blocker, is water-resistant and durable, and can carry numerous cards, cash, keys, and your passport.

Multitool

You never know when you might need a screwdriver or bottle opener! This handy tool from Gerber Shard ensures you’re prepared for any situation. It features two types of screwdrivers, a wire stripper, a bottle opener, and a pry bar. Made from titanium-coated stainless steel, this one-piece multitool is built to last and is small enough to attach to your keychain. Plus: many airlines allow you to bring it in your hand luggage.

Water Purifier

You might not need one of these, but they’re useful to have if you’re traveling to exotic locations. SteriPen is one of the best on the market. Ultraviolet light kills 99.9% of harmful bacteria, viruses, and protozoa, making tap or river water safe to drink.

Carabiners

Carabiners are great for hanging your things and keeping them off the ground. The HeroClip is compact, robust, and can be used to hang anything from any surface.

First Aid Kit

Another thing you don’t know you need until you need it, a first aid kit is a must. This one from Coleman packs up small and provides all the basics: a variety of bandages, antiseptic wipes, safety pins, tweezers, a razor blade, and more.

Minimalist Packing Tips

Minimalist Packing
Many digital nomads are minimalists.

If you’re looking to go minimalist on your travels, you might be wondering how you’re going to cram all that stuff in. Fortunately, after traveling the world on a motorcycle for the past decade, I’ve figured out some tips. When you’ve got no room to spare, you learn to live lightweight!

  1. Buy whatever you can locally: there’s no need to bring everything with you, so save space and get these when you arrive.
    1. Flip-flops — they’re cheap and readily available anywhere.
    2. Toiletries — as long as you’re not picky, you’ll find something that works.
    3. Secondhand clothes — in the past I’ve bought formal shirts, jackets, pants, casual wear, and even shoes.
  2. Only ever pack for one week: no matter how long you’re going away for, pack just enough to last you a week.
  3. Use packing cubes and compression bags: they keep your luggage organized while squeezing even bulky items down as much as possible.

Packing Up

Phew, that’s quite a list for those traveling light, but don’t worry, you’ll fit it all in! Since every nomad has different needs, use this comprehensive digital nomad packing list as a rough guide. You can add and omit as required, just be sure to remember the essentials!