One of the most burning questions that aspiring remote workers ask themselves is what gear they need. What are nomad essentials, and what is luxury? After three-plus years of full-time travel, here is my ultimate digital nomad packing list.
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The Ultimate Digital Nomad Packing List: Nomad Essentials
The following is a comprehensive digital nomad packing list with luggage, electronics, and other essentials. It doesn’t include clothes, as that depends more on you as a person. Likewise, I am not going to tell you how much perfume or shampoo you need. That’s up to you.
Without further ado, here are my digital nomad travel essentials.
The Best Digital Nomad Backpack/Suitcase
First and foremost, you’ll ask yourself what kind of main luggage you should get.
The options are endless, but you’ll initially wonder whether you should go for a conventional suitcase, a large hippie backpack, or something in between. Here is my take on it.
Top Choice Digital Nomad Backpack
In 2021, getting an 80L backpack and standing out everywhere in the world is simply not sensible anymore. When I first started traveling in 2012, there weren’t many alternatives, and almost every nomad carried one of those humongous bags on their shoulders.
In this context, ask yourself: how often do you actually need a backpack? Most of the time, you’ll take your luggage from the airport to your Airbnb/hostel/hotel and leave it there. And in that case, a suitcase is much more comfortable and discrete.
If you really want a big backpack, go for a sleek minimalist bag that’s theft-proof. More importantly, buy one that opens up fully, not a top-loading model.
So, which brand? When it comes to stylish, functional bags, no one does it better than PacSafe. Their VentureSafe (available in different sizes) is one of the best on the market and has served me well for years.
When to Use a Backpack as Your Main Piece of Luggage
Using a large backpack only makes sense if you have to walk a lot in places without paved roads. If you spend your entire time in beach towns with dirt roads, a backpack is undoubtedly a great choice. In that same vein, it’s a suitable option if you have very little gear and move around a lot on small buses and other urban transport.
Today, I mostly use a 32L Victorinox Spectra. It is durable, light, stylish, expandable, and of premium Swiss quality.
I use the Spectra on most trips as main luggage, complete with a PacSafe 45L VentureSafe as carry-on. That’s a total of over 70L, but with those two light pieces of baggage, it doesn’t feel bulky. I don’t like to travel ultra-minimalist anymore, and these fit all of my belongings and some.
Apart from the Victorinox, I recently purchased a 60L Medium Away Suitcase. I’ve only taken it on a few trips so far, but I absolutely love it. It seems highly durable and well-made. I will update you guys in a few years on whether it stands the test of time.
On most trips, I travel with both carry-on and checked luggage. I need the space for my camera gear and electronics. When I fly low-cost or just go away for a few weeks, I simply use the PacSafe as my sole piece of luggage.
Rolling Duffle: The Best of Both Worlds
If you can’t decide between a backpack or a suitcase, the Osprey Sojourn Rolling Duffle is an excellent option. You can use it as a rolling duffle bag or as a backpack.
I took it around the world for years, and nowadays often lend it out to friends. As a testimony to its quality, it has survived over 20 round-the-world trips and still looks great.
For your daily activities – as well as short excursions, you need a daypack. When you don’t want to take your suitcase on a two-day hike across the jungle, you can use a smaller daypack.
Again, PacSafe is my go-to here. I have used their 25L Vibe in the rainforest, the desert, on top of Central American volcanoes, and the snowy Austrian Alps. Throughout all of these adventures, it never failed me.
Of course, some bags are better-suited for hiking, mountaineering, or other specific activities, but when it comes to digital nomad essentials, we need something that works well enough everywhere.
Digital Nomad Packing List: Electronics
Any digital nomad packing list would be incomplete without electronics. After, all it’s the bread and butter of your remote working lifestyle.
To survive as a nomad, you obviously need a laptop.
I use a Macbook Pro, but any powerful alternative will do. I bought it in 2017, and it still works like clockwork.
Now we get into iPhone vs Android territory, and I have to say that I prefer the latter. Come at me, Apple fans!
I am a photographer, so I naturally carry a lot of camera gear.
- For more info on cameras, read my article on The Best Mirrorless Cameras for Travel.
Which camera gear is part of my digital nomad packing list depends on three things:
- how long I am on the road;
- how much luggage I have;
- what region(s) I am in.
For example, I recently spent four months in Latin America, and on that trip, I didn’t want to take all of my cameras and lenses. As such, I chose a minimalist setup with just the A6400 and two lenses. When I am traveling in Europe, on the other hand, I might take two cameras and three lenses.
Optional: Gopro & Drone
I own a DJI Mavic Pro but rarely use it. It spends most of its time in storage back home. Not a great use of resources, I know.
The problem is the following: in this day and age, droning is increasingly challenging and often prohibited. Many countries will not let you take a drone out of the airport, and others – like Mexico, charge an import tax.
I don’t always wear a wristwatch, but I often use the Garmin Forerunner 245 to track my workouts and runs when I am on the road. The watch has an option to sync your Spotify playlist, which comes in handy if you’re not carrying your phone.
When you’re on the road, your devices always run the risk of dying, so strong powerbanks are digital nomad must-haves.
I use the Anker PowerCore, and it charges up to six devices (smartphone, two cameras, tablet, wristwatch, and electric shaver without going flat. As such, it’s a lifesaver for any remote worker.
External Hard Drives
To store all of your data, photos, videos, and other documents, external hard drives are nomad essentials.
In this regard, I use several Lacie 4Tb Rugged drives. They are bulky and look weird, but they are also well-made, durable, and quite affordable.
When you’re in different geographical zones, the plugs can vary, requiring an adapter.
I use the EPICKA Universal Adapter. With its four USB sockets, it’s an excellent tool to charge many devices simultaneously if you’re in a hotel room or Airbnb.
With noise-canceling headphones, gone are the days of listening to crying babies on planes or your neighbors at the coffee shop.
Portable Wifi Device
Depending on my destination, I take a portable Wifi device, as the connection can be hit or miss. In this context, the Huawei Mobile Wifi can connect up to 16 devices. Better still, its compact design makes it easy to carry around if you’re not working in one particular spot.
Digital Nomad Packing List: Miscellaneous
To complete my digital nomad packing list, here are some general items that will come in handy if you want to become a digital nomad or are already traveling.
To keep your passport, driving license, credit cards, and other documents safe, investing in an RFID-safe wallet to leave at your accommodation is a worthwhile idea.
I use the Pacsafe V150 and am perfectly happy with it.
I was always looking for a suitable toiletry bag with enough space but also a compact design. In this regard, I found the Gonex Hanging Toiletry Bag. It’s a unisex bag with many different pockets, and you can hang it from a towel rack in the bathroom.
Other Digital Nomad Gear
Finally, here are some more miscellaneous items that will complete your digital nomad packing list:
- Gonex packing cubes: save you a ton of time and effort packing;
- TSA-approved locks for your luggage;
- A microfiber towel that you can fold into a small piece.