I assume most of you know what to bring when you go on a weekend trip or a short-term holiday somewhere. But what do you need to bring, when you want to work while traveling? Especially, when you will be on the road for a few months or even years? Check out the following digital nomad packing list to find out, what you need to pack for your new lifestyle and the things you can leave behind.
What Kind Of Trip Are You Planning For?
Ok, first things first. You can’t pack for every single occasion. You can’t bring clothing for hot beachy regions, equipment for a hike up to the Mount Everest AND your electronics to work online with you. No one can carry all that!
When you are about to leave for your new digital nomad lifestyle, you’ll probably still have way too many things. A good idea is to either sell what you don’t need or store it somewhere for the time being.
I’ve sold most of my stuff, too, before I left my old home. The rest I’ve stored at my parents’ place, for example, thick winter coats or boots. When I go and visit them every now and then, I usually take some of it with me or exchange stuff.
Consider the following digital nomad packing list as a guide and get inspirations for what you can bring.
Extra Tip: I’ve wrote a another blog post specifically on carry-on luggage for digital nomads. Check it out, too, to know what to pack in your cabin bag!
Digital Nomad Packing List For Beginners
The list is categorized in:
Backpack: Of course, you could also go for a suitcase. It depends on the way you want to spend your travel parts and where you want to go. Whereas it’s absolutely no problem to roll your suitcase in modern cities with great pavements, it will be a nightmare in more rural areas without proper roads. I usually go for a backpack and try to keep it as light as possible (max. 13 kg). I’ve listed my top 5 recommendations for digital nomad backpacks in the linked post. See if there is anything that could work for you, too!
Hand Luggage: Many people prefer to take a laptop bag. Some women want to bring a fashionable handbag. I strongly recommend a backpack with a laptop compartment. Why? It keeps your laptop safe and you have enough room for all of your other carry-on stuff. Once you’ve settled somewhere, it makes a great day bag for hiking trips or weekend excursions, where you can’t bring your big backpack. A great choice is the Jester backpack by North Face.
Tip #1: If you buy a bigger bag, you’ll pack more. Seriously, it always fills up, no matter what size. So go for a smaller one.
Shirts: Bring lightweight, comfy, durable shirts with you, that are mostly crease-resistant. Take different styles (t-shirts, tank tops, etc.) and materials with you. Make sure you can combine the colors easily with the rest of your wardrobe. Being a girl here, but it’s really frustrating when you drag a super cute shirt with you for months but have absolutely nothing to wear it with.
Sweatshirt: Bring a sweatshirt and/or fleece and/or shell with you. I always go for several layers, instead of one really big and warm hoodie. With layers, you have more options for different weather conditions and can combine it more easily.
Rain Jacket: Some swear on it; others don’t bring it at all. If it’s heavy monsoon rain, you’ll get wet no matter what. If it’s just a bit of rain, you’ll dry soon anyway. However, they are usually very cheap to get and don’t weigh much. Personal preference.
Travel Pants: By that, I mean pants that you can easily go on hiking trips and such with. You can go for convertible pants for men or these trail pants for women. Or do it like me and use fitness clothing, such as leggings or board shorts. They are durable and comfy, but often smaller to carry and look more fashionable.
Pants / Dresses: A long fashionable pair of pants you can wear during flights (cold aircon) and some shorts and skirts or dresses for your everyday life. Don’t bring too many, though. You can find clothing like that on every corner.
Underwear / Swimsuits: Nothing special. Some socks, briefs, panties and (sport) bras. And, of course, swimsuits.
Compression Socks: For medical reasons, I have to wear compression socks for every long-haul flight or long-distance bus rides. But even if you don’t have to use them, I highly recommend them. It makes a huge difference. Your legs feel much better when wearing them. Trust me.
Shoes: The one pair of shoes that I always take with me is shower flip-flops. So really basic, water-resistant flip-flops you wear when you get to a place where you don’t want to step in the shower barefoot. A pair of nice-looking sandals for your everyday life.
I don’t bring hiking boots since they are very heavy and I prefer lightweight shoes for hiking anyway. Instead, I bring a pair of runners with me (I’m a massive fan of Asics). If you still have space in your backpack, you could bring another pair of very comfy and casual shoes.
Tip #2: You won’t wear 50% of what you are planning to pack. Don’t bring it.
Laptop: What would a digital nomad packing list be without a laptop? I’d always advise going for an ultrabook, simply because they are small, light and super powerful. A big portion of all digital nomads goes for a MacBook Air. For those who are on a smaller budget or simply prefer Windows, I’ve made some great experiences with Asus ZenBook and Acer Swift.
Features and software strongly depend on what kind of remote job you are going to do. A virtual assistant will have other needs than a video editor. My demands are very basic: online communication, minor image editing, office package. That’s it.
So to me, it is most important that my laptop is small (13.3 inches) and light (not more than 2.6 lbs) and has a long battery duration (at least 10 hours).
Check out this list to find a suitable laptop for digital nomads that fits every budget!
Smartphone: The same. Strongly depends on what you need to do with it for business. Many go for an iPhone 7 or Samsung Galaxy S8. But honestly, if you only need the basic apps for traveling and working online and only do little photo and video jobs with it, you can also go for one of the Chinese competitors, such as the Xiaomi or Huawei. Way cheaper, but still decent quality and reliable from my experience.
Also, make sure that your smartphone is unlocked. When you are going to a new country and stay for a while you’ll probably buy a SIM card there.
Camera: With the good quality smartphones cameras today, many nomads don’t have an extra camera with them. If you still want to bring one (or earn you money with it), I’m a big fan of my Sony Alpha a5000. It’s a compact camera without a mirror, which makes it smaller and lighter. But it still takes amazing photos and videos.
Action Camera: That’s a nice little extra, easy to carry and a great way to document all of your small adventures during your new unconventional lifestyle. The classic is, of course, the GoPro Hero 5. If you are on a smaller budget and still want to bring a decent quality action cam, go for an Apeman 4K.
EBook Reader: Although, I LOVE “normal” paper-based books, I have to say that an eBook reader has more advantages when traveling (smaller, lighter, hundreds of books in one). The Kindle Paperwhite is my personal favorite.
Headset: Don’t forget to bring reliable headphones. Noise-canceling headphones are such a game-changer when you are trying to work from a busy airport or café. A good-quality integrated microphone is also essential since you are very likely going to make tons of calls with your clients, business partners, family, and friends.
Headlamp: Not exactly for work, but great for trekking, hiking, early morning walks to see the sunrise, festivals and so on.
Charging Cables: Of course, you need to bring all of your little charging cables. Test if some electronics have the same ones, e.g. the eBook reader and your smartphone, so you don’t have to bring too many.
Powerbank: If you want to work from a café or on long train rides, it is always a great idea to bring an external backup battery charger. In case your phone’s battery dies, you still get to do a bit of work or listen to music while on the road.
Universal plug adapter: You can either buy them on pretty much every international airport or bring a universal plug adapter with you which works in several countries.
For all of the following documents: Take pictures of it and keep them somewhere, where you can access them anytime, like your email inbox or upload them in Google Drive. You can also bring a print-out version of the pages with you. I case something gets lost or stolen, you’ll have it handy.
Passport / (Flight) Tickets / Visa / Health Insurance / Credit Card / International Driving Licence
Tip #3: Always carry a pen with you when you travel. You always have to fill out forms. Always.
5. Bathroom Kit
Toothbrush / Paste / Floss: Not much to say to this. If you bring an electric toothbrush, make sure you can get the brush heads everywhere.
Shampoo / Conditioner / Soap / Deodorant: You can get that stuff everywhere in the world. You’ll be fine just bringing small bottles of it and buy new stuff once you stay somewhere for a while. Even better: bring bar soap and bar shampoo. It’s allowed in your carry on luggage, lasts longer and won’t leak.
Hair Brush / Hair Ties / Bobby Pins: No clue how, but ties and pins get lost all the time. Bring a few.
Sunscreen: You can get that in most places, too, but it can be surprisingly expensive.
Contact Lenses: Don’t forget to bring enough contact solution, too. It can be hard to get in many regions.
Razor / Beard Trimmer: Personal choice here, whatever you prefer.
Tampons / Pads / Moon Cup: The cheapest, most hassle-free and environmental-friendly option is the moon cup. But again, bring whatever you prefer.
Wet Wipes: Especially handy for when traveling a lot.
Tweezers / Nail Clippers / Nail File: Just a basic kit will do.
6. Medical Kit
There are more pharmacies in the world than you can possibly imagine. You can buy most of the things when you need them, therefore I don’t want to include all of the potential items on this digital nomad packing list, but it might be a good idea to bring a few pills and packs of the following:
Pain Killers / Anti-Diarrhea Tablets / Stomach Tablets / Band-Aids
Personal Medications: Any allergy treatments or birth control or whatever you need on a daily basis or in case of emergency (e.g. asthma spray).
Supplements: Any type of supplements you usually take, e.g. vitamin B complex.
Tip #4: If you have to bring big amounts of pills or special injections with you, it might be worth getting doctors’ certificate. Just in case airport security gets sceptical about it.
Speed Jump Rope: Maybe I’m the only person in the world carrying a jump rope around. But honestly, it doesn’t take up much space and is lightweight. A great workout tool to burn an incredible amount of calories and stay fit while traveling.
Water Bottle: I’m not going anywhere without my hydro flask water bottle. Seriously. One of my most important accessories.
Travel Towel: I hated the feel of travel towels in the beginning. But they are so much better for traveling. Light, small and quick to dry.
Sarong: Sarongs are incredibly flexible. Use them as a towel, picnic or beach mat, as scarf or dress, or use them to keep you warm on flights. They are super handy and should be part of every digital nomad packing list.
Sunglasses: Since I have terrible luck when it comes to sunglasses (I broke/lost 9 of them within the last 12 months), I only go for cheap ones you can buy on every street corner. If you aren’t as clumsy as me, I recommend these wooden ones, simply because they look awesome.
Backpack Rain Cover: I got mine with the backpack. It doesn’t only protect your bag when you are walking in the rain, but also in muddy compartments of local buses. Plus, I always put it on during flights because you can hide away all of the straps and bands. If they get stuck somewhere on the conveyor, it can cause your bag to get lost or delayed (been there, done that).
Sleeping Bag Liner: Just in case you end up in an accommodation, where you don’t really want to sleep on the bedsheets (I’ve had plenty of them back in my budget backpacking days). This sleeping bag liner, for example, is small, light and durable.
Padlock / Steel Cable: No need to say much about it. It’s just very handy when you can lock things up or away.
The Biggest Rule
Pack less! The best thing you can do is travel with carry-on luggage only. If I go on a trip for a few weeks or 2-3 months, I only take a small backpack of max. 40L with me. It will save you money since you won’t have to pay for check-in luggage, and time, because you won’t have to wait at the baggage claim.
You can simply put it under the seat in buses and flights and thus, can always control it. Day tours, hotels, public transport…simply grab your bag and off you go. That makes things SO much easier!
Ready To Pack?
Of course, you could extend this digital nomad packing list and add stuff like a laptop stand, a wireless keyboard or an inflatable neck pillow. But this is all more or less personal preference.
I hope this digital nomad packing list gave you some ideas, inspirations, and advice on what you can and need to bring when you’re about to start your new lifestyle. In any case, don’t stress out too much. As long as you have your passport, money and credit card with you, you will probably be able to get the rest somewhere along the way.
You should also check out which apps are great to have as a digital nomad. Most of them are for free and help you organize and improve your travel and working experience a lot
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