The world of digital nomadism is becoming increasingly popular. Whether you believe in working remotely or not, if it’s something you aspire towards, no doubt everyone wants to become their boss and work from anywhere around the world.
Just mentioning the word “packing” causes people to sweat or induce fear. Going abroad as a digital nomad or remote worker during a global health crisis like I did can be even more daunting than packing for a trip. But it doesn’t have to be that way!
In this article, I’ll share my tips and tricks on how to pack light while still having all the nomad essentials you need in your bag.
After all, I left Singapore in October 2020 and have been on the road since – over 2 years now!
This is not an exhaustive digital nomad packing guide but rather a starting point of what works best for me. If there are any other things you’d like to add, please let me know in the comments!
- Nomad Essentials – Tips On Packing Light
- Packing Tips for Digital Nomads
- My Digital Nomad Packing List
- Miscellaneous Gadgets
- Digital Nomad Apparel
- Digital Nomad Toiletries
- Digital Nomad Backpacks and Packable Cases
- Miscellaneous Nomad Products
- FAQ About Packing As A Digital Nomad
Nomad Essentials – Tips On Packing Light
I’m going to start with some general advice about travelling light:
1. Pack what you need, not what you think you might need.
If you don’t use it, leave it home. It’s better to have a few extra less items than to feel obligated to carry all kinds of random junk just because you had them when you started packing.
Also, not everything you want to pack is actually allowed to bring with you – for instance, vapes are illegal in Singapore, while gas-powered curling irons are prohibited in checked luggage. So, before you start packing, it would be best to check vaping regulations and banned or restricted goods in your destination country.
2. Go minimalist.
Do you need 20 t-shirts that are hanging in your closet? Or 10 pairs of jeans? How many pairs of underwear can you fit in a drawer? The point here isn’t necessarily to go completely bare. Just make sure there are only essential items that allow you to function effectively.
3. Bring only essentials when travelling.
What does that mean? Well, first off, your digital nomad essentials, apart from the technical equipment like your laptop, should always include toiletries and essential hygiene products such as soap, deodorant, hand sanitisers, tissues, cotton balls, band-aids, antiseptic cream, sunscreen lotion, lip balm, eye drops etc.
These are all essential items which you won’t find easily at foreign supermarkets. So unless you plan to visit local pharmacies, these must come with you.
Next comes clothing. When choosing clothes, think about where you’re going and whether you’ll be wearing shorts/skirts/dresses year-round.
Will you wear long sleeves in summer? Do you prefer loose-fitting shirts or buttoned-down collars? Think about what kind of weather conditions you might encounter.
Are you planning to go hiking? Or maybe just walking through city streets? How hot is it likely to be? Is it humid? All these factors affect what type of clothing you choose.
Then there are also accessories. A good pair of comfortable shoes, sunglasses, earphones, chargers, USB cables, power banks, phone cases, pens, notebooks, maps, books, snacks, drinks, umbrellas, raincoats, jackets, scarves, hats, gloves, socks, toothbrushes, toothpaste, hair ties, combs, shavers, razors, shaving gel, moisturiser, body wash, shampoo, conditioner, face masks, makeup brushes.
4. Keep it under 10 kg.
There’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to fit all your digital nomad essentials into a digital nomad backpack weighing 10 kg max. You want to keep it to 10 kg because that’s the usual weight limit when you’re bringing a carry on up the plane. Anything more and you’ll have to check in, which isn’t ideal because you don’t want your nomad tech gear to be thrown about in the check-in process.
However, if you feel the urge to bring something else, do so by all means. Just remember that every extra item adds additional weight to your bag and makes it harder to carry.
5. Try to use reusable items whenever possible.
For example, instead of buying plastic water bottles, bring along stainless steel ones. They’re lighter and last longer. Also, consider bringing cloth shopping bags instead of paper ones.
The latter take up space and get thrown away after one single use. And if you do buy them, avoid using those made from recycled materials because they tend to disintegrate quickly.
Packing Tips for Digital Nomads
Now that we’ve gone over how to pack minimally in your digital nomad packing list, let’s cover some tips on packing everything into your bag.
Before putting anything inside your luggage, you need to lay down the ground rules. Here are my top 3:
1) No liquids. Liquids take up too much room and weigh way too much.
2) Keep things light. This includes materials that weigh heavy. Don’t overload yourself by bringing heavy stuff.
3) Be smart about what goes in your bag. Make sure you know exactly what each piece of clothing/equipment is capable of doing and that it has multi purposes.
Next comes organisation. Picking an appropriate organisational system is crucial for maximising the amount of time you spend using your gear without spending hours trying to figure out why nothing works right now.
1. Group similar items together.
You won’t ever wear every single item from one category at once, especially during travel. So instead of haphazardly throwing different types of shoes together, separate them based on type and function. The same goes for scarves, hats or gloves. You’re not going to be wearing 2 pairs of gloves in the winter! Pack your items according to the weather conditions.
In terms of shoes, I usually stick with 2 pairs of sneakers, a pair of sandals, and maybe one casual shoe like slip-ons or flip flops. Anything else, leave it behind!
2. Choose suitable fabrics.
Cotton doesn’t breathe well. Try to keep cotton under 50% of your wardrobe. Also, avoid synthetic materials altogether. Instead, opt for breathable natural fibres like wool and silk.
3. Simplify your colour palette.
Stick to neutrals. Avoid bold colours such as red, orange, yellow, green, blue etc. They’re hard to match, they may get dirty easily, and who wants to be seen wearing bright colours while travelling?
4. Be prepared for emergencies.
Always have spare cash and credit cards handy. Carry separate photocopies of essential documents including passport, visa, flight tickets, insurance policy, birth certificate, medical records, bank statements, proof of residency, utility bills etc.
Some countries require you to present original copies upon entry.
You can read more about what to bring before travel in my pre-travel checklist.
Make sure you protect yourself against theft. Use lockable pouches and straps. If you ever lose anything valuable, contact the local police immediately. Stay safe out there!
5. Choose wisely.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, here are a few more tips on what to look for when selecting your digital nomad gear.
First off, if you decide to purchase new clothes before leaving home, aim for brands whose labels say “made in” or “fair trade.” Those companies pay their worker’s fair wages and provide better working conditions, therefore they are of high quality. You can find information on such products from reputable travel gear reviews.
Second, opt for natural fibres wherever possible. Cotton absorbs moisture and gets heavy very fast, whereas wool retains its shape despite being wet.
Third, make sure your purchases meet specific quality standards.
I recommend checking websites like Ethical Consumer or Global Organic Textile Standard, which lists certifications and ensures organic production practices.
Fourth, if you’re looking for specific types of equipment, check reviews on those travel gear. People who bought similar stuff already probably wrote detailed opinions explaining how well each product worked for them and what improvements they would suggest.
Lastly, read online user feedback forums. Often, nomad travelling enthusiasts discuss problems they had with various travel gear reviews and offer solutions others could benefit from.
6. Don’t forget to pack some memorable souvenirs while you’re away.
Depending on the country you’re visiting, you can buy postcards, magnets, stickers, key chains, flags, T-shirts, mugs, etc. They’ll remind you of your trip after months have passed.
Also, don’t forget to take pictures. It gives you peace of mind knowing you left everything behind, and it’s easier to relive memories later.
7. Finally, enjoy your adventure.
Travelling around the world has been my dream since I was little, but I never thought I’d get to experience this feeling.
The best part is not having any regrets once you return home because you did all those things you wanted to.
Instead, look forward to the next time you see the sunrise over the horizon or watch the sunset set over the ocean. Take advantage of opportunities to learn and grow. Live life passionately, love deeply and laugh often.
My Digital Nomad Packing List
Now, let’s get on with the nitty-gritty of what nomad essentials to pack in your digital nomad backpack for long-term travel. These are items I’ve come up with from travelling full-time for over a year now.
I’ve been in winter and summer conditions, so keeping in mind that I have to pack my entire closet for both extreme weather conditions, I present these absolute nomad essentials for working and travelling on the road comfortably.
Goes without saying, this is one of the most important digital nomad products. It should be an extremely lightweight laptop since it’ll be with you 24/7.
Avoid models that weigh too much and break easily. Your goal is to travel light, so you only need one good computer with you at all times.
These days, even smartphones come equipped with cameras, so why carry two?
That said, I never travel without a professional camera as it allows me to edit photos and videos in high res. Call it an occupational hazard, since I use it for my work as a travel blogger.
If you’re thinking of recording video files too, then getting a vlogging camera with a flip screen is perfect. Even if you don’t want to record videos, a vlogging camera is compact and easy to pack and carry around.
If you’re into photography or vlogging, remember to also bring extra batteries, memory card, charger, SD card reader, lens cleaning kit, tripod, mono-pod, cable and remote control just in case.
3. Mobile Phone
An essential item no matter where you go. You’ll likely use your mobile device way more than your laptop. Get something durable, with long battery life. Apps add unnecessary bloatware, which takes up space and slows down performance, so only download the ones you need.
Remember to download offline maps ahead of time.
There’s nothing worse than travelling abroad and missing out on music you used to listen to back home. Bring headphones that sound great and fit securely into your ears.
Even if you’re not a music fan, having headphones can help block out background noise especially if you’re in confined places like the bus or in planes.
Many people also find they can sleep better when listening to white noise through their headphones rather than ambient sounds from outside. Invest in quality ones if possible.
If you plan to save photos, movies, or other vital documents, then consider getting an external hard drive. Make sure it fits comfortably inside your backpack and comes with plenty of storage capacity.
The reason many go with the brand Lacie is that it’s made for rugged travel. Its shock-resistant, dust-resistant and rain-resistant properties make it a popular choice.
A worthwhile travel item to carry! Books are always welcome anywhere but especially so while travelling alone. They allow us to relax and escape reality occasionally while also killing time. Also helpful in reading guides and sightseeing information.
Just make sure you get one that has decent lighting since there won’t be any overhead lights.
This allows you to charge devices anywhere. This is definitely indispensable, especially if you use your phone heavily for photo taking, video taking or navigation.
My original power bank drowned in water and I’ve been feeling its loss greatly whenever I’m out most days touring as I depend on my phone heavily for picture-taking and navigation.
Be careful about buying chargers online because their portability also comes with risks like losing power during shipment.
8. USB Cable
Almost every hotel room, airport and buses have charging points for various electronic devices. Having a USB cable handy whenever you’re on the road allows you to easily plug and charge wherever there are charging points.
Some countries don’t use standard plugs as North America does. Be prepared by bringing an adaptor plug converter before leaving. Otherwise, you’ll spend hours trying to figure out how to connect everything. Don’t forget adaptors when converting voltages, either.
Here we’ve listed some gadgets that aren’t necessary but do come in handy:
Plugging multiple devices together can quickly drain power. It’s therefore advisable to invest in a surge protector for each electronic device you take along.
I love this cubed-sized Anker Power Strip as it takes up less space while also allowing you to charge with a USB.
More likely than not, you may already have one lying around at home!
Take photos wherever you go with yourself, by yourself. Tripods allow you to take shots, whether indoors or outdoors.
Sturdy tripods are usually made of aluminium. When it comes to camera accessories, Manfrotto and Joby are some of the trusted brands out there.
Even though they block sound and reduce external sounds, they also provide relief from tinnitus and ear pain. While using them, switch between left and right ears to avoid hearing damage.
Having a headphone splitter allows you to share your music with your travel companion(s) and enjoy music/ movies while on the go!
You’d think it’s optional, but in between the time spent at the beach, friends’ house and chilly nights, sometimes a little music makes everything feel better. I now travel with my portable JBL Go 3 speaker which is only the size of my palm!
Digital Nomad Apparel
When it comes to digital nomad apparel, packing minimally is a requirement, not an option. Since we already carry so much digital nomad gear that takes up weight, you want to pick out essential nomad clothing that packs light and doesn’t carry much weight.
Here are some digital nomad apparel I recommend:
Denim pants are perfect for both casual and formal occasions. Lightweight jeans are suitable for hot climates, while still keeping you warm in cold weather.
Look for dark indigo jeans, so they look worn in naturally. Other options include chambray fabric, twill weave etc.
Short shorts aren’t appropriate everywhere, like in mosques, temples and other more conservative cultures, but wearing shorts in places where you’d feel comfortable otherwise is fine. I always add shorts into beach packing lists as they’re most comfortable in humid climates!
If you’re planning long trips, opt for lightweight shorts with pockets. Alternatively, wear cargo pants with zips. This allows you to keep your stuff safe and accessible. I love having my pair of Colombia shorts as it’s suitable for day trips, hikes and even a walk to town.
The best thing about wearing tees is versatility. Wear them over shorts during the day and dress them up for dinner later. Shirts should be long enough to cover your belly button.
Choose high-quality cotton shirts made of natural fibres. Avoid synthetics because they’re often machine washable and shrink.
Keep warm and cosy throughout cold-weather destinations.
Essential gear for unexpected showers. Choose a waterproof raincoat over water-resistant rain jackets. The difference in terms makes a world of difference!
Comfortable sneakers let you walk miles upon miles effortlessly. Opt for slip-resistant soles whenever possible. Your feet deserve good care!
What I like about these Tropicfeel sneakers are that they’re light, comfortable and washes and dries easy. However, in the long run, the mesh breaks and the sole of the shoe wears out, making them slippery. So I wouldn’t recommend long-term wear.
Great for lounging about in the evenings. Not only do sweatpants offer comfort and warmth, but they also protect against mosquitoes.
Good underwear helps prevent chafed skin caused by rough clothing. Wearing cotton undergarments is preferable because they absorb moisture well.
When visiting tropical beaches, swimsuits provide warmth and protection from sunburns while also helping you look good. If you’re looking for specific beach packing items, my Hawaii packing list gives a really comprehensive overview of what to pack for the beach!
Use sunscreen even if you’ll stay inside most of the time. A small amount goes a long way.
Perfect for beach holidays or for stepping out quickly to buy some groceries. Bring flip flops for indoor activities such as museums.
SO ESSENTIAL. Whether you’re touring a new city or lounging at the beach, always protect your head from UV rays and the elements. I find if I don’t do that, I’ll end up with a terrible headache later in the day that lasts all day.
There’s nothing worse than being caught without sunglasses. It’s always good to have one handy whether in cold or warm climates. #truestory
14. Liner Gloves
Cold climates call for gloves. I carry thin, running gloves with touch screen properties in my digital nomad backpack for when I visit colder climates. They’re not truly for sub-zero conditions, but any protection helps! I like that it’s thin and doesn’t take much space.
Never leave home without scarves. Wrap them around your neck, knitting loosely enough to fit comfortably. Great for colder weather and also in planes.
I carry one in my digital nomad backpack and use them whenever I feel like being hugged. 🙂
16. Waterproof bag
Whether it’s raining cats and dogs or snowing, waterproof bags help protect valuables from bad weather. Especially useful also when going to the beach (so no sand gets stuck on your bag and other items) and doing water activities like kayaking or island-hopping.
Make sure it fits snugly to ensure no water gets in.
17. Money belt
Always carry money belts. They should sit low on your waistline and be worn underneath clothes. Avoid metal zips that could snag things.
It’s always nice to know you’ve got clean socks handy.
19. Travel blanket
One last item that you probably didn’t think of until now, I’m talking about blankets. These come in really useful when staying somewhere warm. In addition, they cut out body heat, making sleeping easier.
Digital Nomad Toiletries
Little things can sometimes weigh your luggage down the heaviest. Pack toiletries lightly, knowing that you’ll be able to restock at almost any location.
They may seem basic, but it goes without saying that you need them every day, so don’t forget it. The same rule applies when choosing other toiletry products.
You don’t need much of this product. And make sure to pack an extra roll, so you have plenty available.
Disclaimer: I actually travel without a hairdryer, but I know some who wouldn’t leave their home without one.
Small travel hair dryers are relatively commonplace now. Don’t forget your blow dryer too.
For shaving needs, get rid of your safety razors. Instead, use wet wipes or disposable razors.
A multi-tool has many uses, including opening bottles, unscrewing light bulbs, cutting through plastic sheeting etc.
Try getting tubes or travel-sized ones so they can fit within your carry on liquid limits while also taking less space. You can always buy refills later on during your digital nomad journey.
10. All-purpose soap
When washing hands and your body with soap bars, you’re kinder to the environment, use less plastic and produce less waste!
11. Mini towel
Having one of these next to the washbasin makes drying off after taking showers easy. Also, its compact size means you can take it everywhere – whether you’re staying in a hostel or going on an overnight hike!
12. Hand sanitiser
Although not 100% effective against viruses, hand sanitiser still helps prevent infections and keeps germs at bay.
From moisturisers to sunscreen lotions, skincare products help protect skin from sun damage and prevent breakouts. Invest in quality ones and in travel sizes if possible, since you’ll likely be exposing your skin to all sorts of external conditions.
14. Dental Floss
This prevents the annoying occasions when you get food particles stuck between teeth and have no other way of removing it.
15. Nail clippers
A weekly grooming is essential. Enough said.
No matter where I go, I always carry a pocket mirror in my toiletries bag, as you may not have mirrors available at all times. It’s best to check what you look like first thing in the morning so you don’t embarrass yourself!
Digital Nomad Backpacks and Packable Cases
We’ve covered most of what you should pack for your trip, but what do you want to pack your items in? Here are some options:
Packing cubes will organise everything inside them into separate compartments for more efficient storage. They can be found online or at department stores such as Target and Walmart. However, if you prefer something fancier, Ikea sells stylish luggage sets, including carrying bags and packing cubes.
I’m using the ones from Monarc. What I love about them is it’s sturdy and collapsible, which means that just when you think that you can’t fit anymore in the packing cube, they have a zipper that allows you to squeeze them so they reduce half in thickness.
A standard size carry-on is good enough when travelling within North America. You can check this review for a full list of the best carry on luggages.
However, when flying internationally, I would suggest investing in a big one because there are no restrictions on its maximum weight.
Depending on how long you plan to stay abroad, you might consider packing either a smaller backpack or even a shoulder bag. They’ll be useful when you’re heading to town or doing short grocery trips.
Also, remember that both types of bags take up valuable room in your overall digital nomad luggage. Therefore, try to limit the number of bags you pack per flight.
Travel duffel bags aren’t just made for storing clothes. They’re great for storing shoes, umbrellas, jackets, books, toys etc. Since they’re typically bigger compared to regular suitcases, you won’t have any trouble fitting all those items in them.
Pro tip: Backpack carrier/ straps – If you decide to buy a travel backpack instead of a regular backpack, make sure to invest in an extra set of belts so you don’t run out of ways to wear it! Some people find it easier to use two different carriers depending on whether they’re wearing jeans or shorts. It depends on your preference, though.
5. Laundry bags
I’ve found that having a laundry bag has multi-purposes. Not only can it act as a packing organizer, but you’re also bound to have a pile of dirty clothes after every few days, so it helps to separate the clean pile from the dirty ones!
When it’s full, you can simply carry this whole bag to the laundromat without having to repack anything.
6. Laptop case
Many digital nomads recommend having a small laptop case in addition to a day bag. The benefits of owning one include easy accessibility and protection against theft and privacy. Sometimes you just want to grab your laptop to work at a co-working office outside, so this is handy to just grab your laptop and go.
Some cases also come equipped with wheels, making it super convenient for getting around airports.
To go along with day bags, some travellers like to own a variety of totes, including ones that roll up compactly. The benefit of this is you can carry it along with you anywhere you go without it taking space. In case you need an extra grocery bag, you’ll be glad you brought this extra bag!
Not only does a toiletry kit help you keep organised, it’s also beneficial for keeping track of medications, shampoos, lotions, etc.
Miscellaneous Nomad Products
1. Coin purse
Coin purses can be extremely helpful for everyday use.
If, like me, you might gain prospective clients while travelling, then having a stack of business cards handy is paramount. Having business cards helps you network and build relationships throughout your trip.
If you prefer a handy wallet that can store all your important travel documents – passport, tickets, cash, etc – then consider getting a wallet that can specifically store all of that.
With all these items packed away, your bag shouldn’t weigh more than 15 kg. Anything heavier requires excellent organisation skills.
As digital nomads, you’ll be used to wearing the same clothes multiple times. That means you’ll save money AND space. Also, remember to pack a fresh set of undies for workdays, especially if you’re going to be sitting around for long periods.
FAQ About Packing As A Digital Nomad
Q: How much money do you need to be a digital nomad?
A: It varies widely. Some people live off their savings – others rely entirely on income generated online through websites. There are no set rules.
However, some basic guidelines would include making about USD 1500 per month and living comfortably wherever you happen to end up.
Q: How long will this take to get going?
A: The longer you wait, the harder it’ll become. By waiting until you’ve saved enough money to support yourself indefinitely, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Plus, by delaying starting, you risk losing momentum and motivation.
Your best bet is to start small. Start saving today; start freelancing tomorrow. As soon as you’ve got a decent income coming in, stop working full time.
Q: Is it better to roll or fold clothes in a suitcase?
A: It depends. Folded clothing takes up less room than rolled. But when rolling, you have the advantage of seeing what you want easier. It also makes it easy to see all the layers that come out of each garment.
Q: Can you pack more with packing cubes?
A: Yes! If you use packing cube liners, you should put more inside. Of course, you could always just buy bigger suitcases too.
Q: What about luggage? Shouldn’t I invest in a new bag before leaving my old life behind?
A: There’s never been a better time to upgrade your current luggage, especially since most airlines now charge extra fees for checked bags.
So why not save those costs by carrying everything in a carry-on? Most importantly, don’t worry so much about getting something fancy. Focus instead on keeping things light and simple. You won’t regret it.
So there we have it! That was our guide to the digital nomad packing list. We hope these tips help you prepare for your next big adventure.
Whatever the case may be, let us know if you found any helpful information in the comments below. Good luck with your travels!