The number one mistake I see newbie digital nomads make is overpacking. You don’t need to stuff your whole life inside your 40L backpack (although I know you’ll try!).
When you make the decision to become a digital nomad, you learn that part of the process involves renting/selling what you don’t need and packing only the essentials. The same mindset and system apply to your digital nomad packing list. You don’t need everything, just as long as you have the must-haves before you begin globetrotting.
In this packing list for digital nomads, I’ll show you exactly what goes into my digital nomad backpack and laptop bag. This handy checklist is what I’ve consistently used to pack and prepare for my digital nomad lifestyle abroad nearly a dozen times.
Here’s my ultimate packing list for digital nomads!
The Ultimate Digital Nomad Packing Checklist
Digital Nomad Starter Pack
What do you need to start your digital nomad journey? Without getting too philosophical here, I’d say you really only need your 1.) passport 2.) wallet 3.) laptop 4.) any essential visas, medication, or ID. The rest you could technically buy abroad when you arrive.
Butttt… Then it wouldn’t be much of a “starter pack” then, would it?
The things you truly need to begin your adventures as a digital nomad are the items you cannot replace or buy internationally. For commodities like toiletries and clothes, that’s obviously easy to find anywhere you go.
But big electronics – like your Macbook Pro or your drone – or something that’s hard to ship abroad – like your favorite brand of shoes (in my case, BANGS) – or even small items like a biodegradable Pela phone case, are going to be considered your essentials because those items will either be:
- More expensive outside your home country (especially for Apple products if you’re from the US).
- Annoying and expensive to replace because of shipping and/or import tax.
As a going-on long-time digital nomad, I now try to “stock up” on all my digital nomad essentials (aka things that make my work life easier and more productive/efficient) while I’m in the US, rather than tempting to find a replacement abroad.
For example, right now I’m a digital nomad in Mexico (have been for nearly 3 years), and I am waiting to return to the US just so I can purchase a new laptop because I’m not eligible to buy from the Apple Mexico store with my credit card’s US billing address (you got to consider taxes!), and it’s around $300-400 dollars more expensive even if I could.
That said, think of your digital nomad starter pack as just that – what you need to get started. Leave the rest behind. You will learn more about yourself and your needs as a nomad with more experience. Then, your planning and packing process will become more efficient with each trip.
To succeed at efficient packing, abide by the capsule wardrobe technique which means packing/wearing only basic, functional clothing that you can mix and match time and time again. This helps you pack lighter and smarter because everything you pack is reusable and has a purpose (not like that really pretty dress you pack “just in case” of a special occasion).
Do you need a suitcase as a digital nomad?
There are people who travel full-time with suitcases, but I don’t think this is necessary. Packing as a digital nomad means packing light. You want to be as unburdened as possible by your stuff, so you can easily get about and move around.
Whether you’re traveling by plane, car, bus, or train, packing and traveling light will always be more suitable for your nomadic lifestyle. Now, does that mean you can’t carry checked luggage at all? No, but then again it all depends on your needs, lifestyle, and what you would call your essentials.
Below is what I would consider as the digital nomad must-haves.
Digital Nomad Clothing Checklist
As a female digital nomad, my travel packing list might look a little different if you are a male but I think you can still get the gist of what to pack in order to keep the essential clothes you may need while you travel.
- 7x undies
- 4x bras (2x comfy, 2x sports)
- 3x pairs of socks
- 2x bathing suit
- 2x leggings (1x long, 1x capri)
- 2x skirts (1x long, 1x short)
- 1x dress
- 1x jumpsuit or romper
- 2x sweaters (1x cardigan, 1x pull-over)
- 1x light denim jacket
- 2x pants (1x jeans, 1x flowy)
- 1x denim shorts
- 2x loose sleep shirts
- 5x neutral or printed tees
- 1x light rain jacket
- 1x hat
- 3x shoes (1x flip flops or walking sandals, 1x Allbirds running shoes, 1x BANGS adventure footwear)
- All of the above, plus…
- 1x beanie
- 1-2x scarves
- 1x big coat
- 1x adventure hiking boots
- + 1x more pants
- + 2x socks
My Essential Toiletries & Accessories
- Menstrual cup
- Travel water bottle
- Tweezers & nail clippers
- Mini jewelry bag
- Electric toothbrush
- Eco-friendly deodorant
- Packing cube (optional)
- Money belt (optional)
Additional items, like a travel pillow or sleep eye mask, are optional. I never carry things like this because it takes up too much space and/or I don’t use them often enough.
Pro Tip: Tuck smaller travel essentials and toiletries that take up space, like socks or bras, into your shoe inside your backpack or luggage. Also, rolling your clothes up instead of folding and stacking them allows you to fit more inside your bag. You may also find it helpful to organize your clothes and accessories in packing cubes.
Essential Digital Nomad Gear
Again, clothes are replaceable, so the most important things to pack as a digital nomad are your electronics and tech gear.
- Laptop – Many digital nomads use a Macbook Pro (or Macbook Air, depending on your work)
- Camera (I use the Sony A7II) + cleaning kit
- Portable power bank
- Underwater/action camera
- USB-C hub
- Moft laptop stand + case
- 1 TB hard-drive for backup and extra storage
- Notebook + pen
- Noise-canceling headphones
- International travel adapter
- iPad (optional)
- Drone (optional)
- Dry bag (optional)
- And a day backpack to carry it all in!
Digital Nomad Backpacks – Which One to Choose?
There are so many types of backpacks out there that it can be hard to find the digital nomad backpack. We all have various styles/needs and so finding the “one backpack to rule them all” is tough.
As for me, I travel with 2x backpacks. One 40L backpack for packing my clothes and accessories and a smaller 20L day bag for carrying my laptop, phone, camera, and other tech gear. Both backpacks come with me on the plane. The 40L is just the limit to go overhead in-cabin while the 20L stays at my feet. I carry the big one on my back and the small one on my front when traveling and use the 20L for all my digital nomad commutes in the city/town I’m living in.
Here are some of the best digital nomad backpack brands that cater to the nomadic lifestyle.
REI backpacks: I use a 40L recycled rucksack by REI for all my multi-day hikes and for packing for long-term travel. It is just the right size for me (I’m 5’4″) and my gear. REI also has smaller day bags that are more stylish and casual for remote work trips to the cafe or coworking space in town.
NOMATIC: Nomadic is a leading brand for digital nomads who are adventurous travelers and photographers. One of my favorite travel bloggers uses this brand and I’ve been eyeing them for storing all my laptop and camera gear.
Eagle Creek: Eagle Creek is a leader in the outdoor/recreation industry and they make innovative and ergonomic travel backpacks for men and women.
Boundary Backpacks: Their much-talked about Kickstarter backpack – Errant – stole hearts as soon as it launched. This bag is designed for the stylish nomad on the go.
Tortuga Backpacks: The all-in-one Outbreaker backpack by Tortuga is one of the best backpacks for remote work and travel. It looks like a backpack but acts like a suitcase with special storage compartments.
Pro Tip: If you plan on plane-hopping a lot during your travels, make sure to check the airplane checked luggage size in case you can offload your 40-60L backpack and then just carry your small one with you with all your gear inside. Once you arrive at your destination, you won’t need your big bag again until you move or go on a multi-day adventure.
Last Packing Tips for Digital Nomads
Here are a few last packing tips to keep in mind!
- Roll, don’t fold
- Use packing cubes
- Layout your gear on the bed before packing, then reduce where possible
- Follow the digital nomad capsule wardrobe technique
- Wear your bulkiest shoes/clothes to travel so you don’t have to pack them in your bag
- Research destination-specific clothing customs and faux-pas!!
- Check off items as you pack them so you don’t forget anything
Finally, before you head out on your adventure, make sure to get covered! I use SafetyWing – a digital nomad travel insurance that allows me to buy coverage the same day I land in a new country for as little as $40/4 weeks. It’s one of the best travel insurances that’s tailormade for digital nomads. Check it out!
After 7-8 years living life as a digital nomad, I can attest to the effectiveness of keeping “simple and efficient” at the forefront of your packing checklist. You absolutely don’t need to have it all 100% optimized. In fact, you’re likely going to overpack on your first trial run, but I promise packing will become easier and faster as you learn from your mistakes.
Stick to my tips and adjust your inventory as needed to suit your lifestyle and digital nomad destination!
And if you have any questions or doubts about what to pack as a digital nomad, please don’t hesitate to drop your thoughts in the comments below. I’ll be happy to help out as I can!
LIKE IT? PIN IT!