When you’re traveling as a digital nomad, space in your bag is incredibly valuable and every item counts. Considering that you could be working from just about anywhere – a Bali beach or a bustling metropolis like Bangkok – you need to be prepared for a variety of settings and situations. Your digital nomad packing list needs to have you ready for anything.
At the same time, what sets digital nomads apart from other remote workers is the ability to move around and travel freely. As a working nomad, you can’t afford to be weighed down by unnecessary chords, cables, boots, and shirts that you may only wear twice. Besides, what good is saving money on cheap flights when you end up paying extra for bag fees?
If that sounds like a lot to consider, don’t worry. We’ve consulted Dollar Flight Club’s resident digital nomads to help create the ultimate digital nomad packing list for you.
Bags and Packs
The right digital nomad backpack can make or break a trip. You want your backpack to have enough room to fit essentials. At the same time, you need to be sure it won’t be a hassle to carry when your taxi drops you off several blocks away from your Hanoi hotel in the summer (trust me, been there).
1. Osprey Farpoint
The number one reason I recommend Osprey packs more than any others is because of their All Mighty Guarantee. Osprey will repair any damage or defect for any reason free of charge. Knowing that I planned on putting a lot of miles on my digital nomad backpack, I chose to go with Osprey a few years ago and never looked back.
In addition to Osprey’s commitment to quality, the Farpoint is an amazing travel backpack for two reasons. The first is that it has a detachable daypack, which is perfect for laptops, documents, electronics, books, clothes, and anything else you’d want to keep close when traveling.
The other game-changing feature on the Farpoint is its clamshell opening. Now, this might not sound like much. But when you’re at the airport and trying to reach the wallet that you left in the pants at the bottom of your bag, unpacking everything you own just to get to it can be a nightmare, to say the least.
The Farpoint 70 is a bit larger than some might feel is necessary but it carries its weight well and doesn’t feel oversized at all. However, if you absolutely need a smaller size, we recommend the Farpoint 55, the Aura for women, or Aether for men as longer-term digital nomad backpack alternatives.
2. Packing Cubes
Packing cubes might seem like an unnecessary luxury until you use them. Then you’ll wonder how you ever traveled the world without them. If packing cubes weren’t so useful when traveling the world, they wouldn’t be on this digital nomad packing list.
Packing cubes are a working nomad’s best friend because in you can find exactly what you need when you need it. You can simply throw your shirts in one bag, your underwear in another, and your pants in yet another. Now, when you need easy access to a change of clothes, you don’t need to unpack your entire bag for one outfit. Plus, these packing cubes from Eagle Creek have a mesh screen so that you can see exactly what’s in each bag before you open it.
It seems like every packing list for long-term travel suggests buying specific clothes that were designed for travelers. The issue with that idea is that, for the most part, this isn’t clothing that we’d ever want to wear while at home. So why would we want it with us when we’re on the road? Instead of focusing on single-purpose clothing, pack things that are comfortable, light, and breathable (depending on the climate).
Of course, you want to be presentable in the event of skype meetings or rooftop bars with a dress code. But when you’re working on the road, you also want to be comfortable and feeling like your best self. It’s hard to do that when you’re wearing an ill-fitting hiking shirt and zip-off pants.
The clothes portion of your digital nomad packing list should look something like this:
2 bathing suits
4 pairs of shorts
Between 5-7 T-shirts or casual shirts
- These should be solid, neutral colors whenever possible for easy mix-and-matching.
long sleeve shirt or light sweater
- These are good for layering and even if you’re traveling to a tropical destination, the air conditioning on those airplanes can be cold!
1 pair of jeans or pants
- These are essential for places with dress codes, such as religious temples or upscale bars and restaurants. Again, also good for cold airplanes.
3 pairs of shoes
- You may not need it. But they pack down so small that the benefit of having them on your digital nomad packing list makes them a worthy addition.
Underwear and socks
- 3-5 pairs of socks
- 8 pairs of underwear
- This is the one item on your digital nomad packing list that we recommend packing more than you think you’ll need. Between daily use, misplaced items, tropical heat, and god knows what else, we say better safe than sorry.
Tech and Electronics
Having the right tech makes all the difference when working remotely. As digital nomads, we rely heavily on technology. But that doesn’t mean your digital nomad packing list needs to include all the latest gadgets. It just needs to include the right gear.
1. Laptops for Digital Nomads
Odds are that you already have a laptop that you plan to use for your new life as a digital nomad.
If you don’t, make sure you consider the size and weight of your laptop. Many digital nomads swear by the Macbook Air for travel thanks to its sleek frame and the fact that it is extremely lightweight. For those who prefer Windows, try the Asus Zen Book as a suitable alternative.
There may be no worse feeling than to sit down on a long-haul flight only to realize that you’ve forgotten your headphones. And the feeling of needing them and not having them in a noisy cafe or a busy coworking space isn’t much better.
You do need a solid pair of headphones. As for what kind? Well, that’s where we disagree with a long of digital nomad packing lists out there.
Many digital nomad packing lists recommend expensive over-ear headphones for digital nomads. While these are great to have, they require more space and are far from essential. You’ll be fine with the headphones that came with your phone, as long as they have a microphone for Skype calls.
But if you have the room or require good headphones to do your best work, members of our team recommend the Sony WH-1000XM3 or Bose Quiet Comfort 35 II noise-canceling headphones. We've thoroughly tested (and approved) both in coworking spaces from Bali to Barcelona.
3. Unlocked Smartphone
This might sound obvious for a digital nomad packing list, but the emphasis here is on ‘unlocked’. Before moving abroad, make sure that your smartphone is unlocked and can be used on different carriers.
When you arrive in a new country, you’ll want to buy a local SIM card so that you can use data for things like maps, messaging apps, and uploading those sweet, sweet Instagram pictures. If your phone isn’t unlocked, you won’t be able to use local SIM cards and will be relying on wifi for your entire time abroad (or until you get a new phone).
4. Universal Travel Adapter
Take it from us. It isn’t exactly fun to arrive at your hotel late at night, with a nearly dead phone, only to realize that your charger doesn’t fit the local outlets.
Adding a multi-country wall plug adapter to your digital nomad packing list will save you time, headaches, money, and bag space.
5. External Battery Pack
Compared to other items on this digital nomad packing list, this one could probably fall under the ‘nice to have’ category. But on long travel days, it’s easy to completely drain your phone battery without even realizing it. Having an external battery pack ensures that you’re never stuck without a ride from the airport or without music on a long bus ride.
If you need a portable charger with enough juice to charge your laptop, this battery pack from Anker is an absolute powerhouse.
This is one part of your digital nomad packing list that will be shorter than you might expect. You can buy most toiletries and medicines abroad. While you should keep enough toothpaste to last you on overnight trips or long-haul flights, there’s no need to weigh down your backpack with things you can easily find at your destination.
Of course, there are exceptions for things like:
- Any prescribed medications (bring a doctor’s note for airport security!)
- Essential Daily vitamins or supplements (if you have room)
- These can be quite expensive and can vary in quality and potency around the world.
- You can find this throughout the world but it can be quite expensive, especially in Southeast Asia.
In addition to the above, I always travel with my own little makeshift first aid kit. You can find most of these around the world but I either have brands I prefer or simply would rather have it on hand for when I need it.
- Antidiarrheal or upset stomach medication
- Because when you need it, you don’t want to be scrambling to find a pharmacy. I prefer Pepto Bismol because it treats a variety of symptoms and can be taken before a meal to lessen the chance of traveler’s diarrhea. But any brand will do.
- Pain Relievers
- Antidiarrheal or upset stomach medication
Nice to Haves and Luxury Items
This part of your digital nomad packing list is where we’ll list anything that isn’t essential but could make life a lot easier as you’re traveling around the world.
1. Reusable Water Bottle
Tap water isn’t safe to drink in some parts of the world, including many places that are popular with digital nomads. In these places, plastic waste from single-use water bottles is a real problem.
If you’re going to be traveling long-term or to a place where you’ll need to rely on bottled water, consider buying a reusable water bottle. Personally, I’ve loved having my Hyrdoflask while living in Southeast Asia. It’s incredibly durable and keeps water ice cold for hours, even when it’s insanely hot outside (which it often is).
If you’ll be spending more time traveling than working on the road or if you just like another layer of protection, consider the Lifestraw Go bottle.
2. Travel Towel
These are nice to have for communal showers, hostels with questionable hygiene, and days at the beach or pool. If you’re going to be traveling, make sure your travel towel is quick-dry and lightweight.
3. Cable and Electronics Organizer
As you’ve seen from our digital nomad packing list, working nomads require quite a few electronics. In the same spirit as the packing cubes that we mentioned earlier, a cable and electronics organizer like this one from BUBM could save you the frustration of a misplaced battery pack or a tangled web of charging cables.
These are especially helpful if you have a digital nomad job as an online English teacher or just carrying a lot of electronics, as other digital nomads like Nicola from SeeNicWander swear by them
4. Roost Laptop Stand or Nexstand
If you’ve ever been to any coworking space around the world, and even some coffee shops, you’ve probably seen the famous Roost laptop stand in the wild.
As digital nomads, we spend hours hunched over our computers, which is terrible for our posture in the long run. If you’re hoping to avoid back pain later, you may want to consider adding a laptop stand to your digital nomad packing list now.
We’ve put this digital nomad packing list together based on our experiences as digital nomads but, as with anything else, your perfect digital nomad packing list is up to you! Just don’t forget that the best digital nomad cities in the world are popular precisely because they have everything you need to succeed as a digital nomad.
So if you have skincare products that you just can’t live without or a hoodie that will make you feel comfortable while you’re out working on the road, we say go for it. Just watch out for those bag fees!
BY: ZACH ANDERSON, CONTENT MARKETING & FLIGHT EXPERT
Zach is a digital marketer, copywriter, and flight deal expert at Dollar Flight Club where he helps 1 million people travel more. As a digital nomad, he is deeply passionate about location independence, Thai food, and helping others see the world affordably.