Digital nomad packing list: What I’m travelling with in 2017

I hate packing. It sounds a little strange coming from someone who has been living and traveling internationally these last 8 years but it’s true. Packing sucks. I really need to get my digital nomad packing list sorted.

So far I’ve got 5 trips abroad planned this year, and the thing that I dread most is getting organized.

Now I’m definitely not a minimalist traveler, but I try to keep things as light as I can. It’s also probably why I scramble before every flight making sure I’ve got everything.

But with one of my resolutions being “to get yourself together,” I spent some time thinking about what I’d be taking on the next trip. We’re going to spend some time in Australia and New Zealand, which should be a nice change from the heat I’ve been living through in Asia.

That being said, here’s everything in my digital nomad packing list.

My 2017 digital nomad packing list

Daypack Laptop Toothbrush
Suitcase Smartphone Toothpaste
Shoes / Sandals Kindle Face wash
Socks & Underwear Earbuds / Headphones Body wash
Singlets Mouse Shampoo & Conditioner
Swimming shorts Keyboard Razor
Shorts / Jeans Laptop Stand Vitamins
T-Shirts & Polo shirts Camera Nail clippers
Hoodie / Sweater Bluetooth speaker Hair wax
Light raincoat External hard drive Deodorant
Beach towel USB stick Body lotion
Sunglasses WiFi router Melatonin
Cap Travel adapter Sewing kit
Important documents HDMI cable First aid basics

Right. Now let’s get into the details of what actually makes up my digital nomad packing list.

Gear and clothing for digital nomads

Daypack. I love the Venturesafe anti-theft one from Pacsafe.

Mine’s black. Mostly because it hides the dirt, and 25L was far big enough for me. Click here to check the price and see more information.

But what this digital nomad backpack really does best is the anti-theft technology. There are steel wires in the straps and mesh within the fabric so no bag-slashers are going to be able to cut in or take your bag from you. Oh, and the zippers even hook into these little tabs that make it just a bit harder for someone to unzip your bag without your knowledge.

Inside is a sleeve that fits up to a 15 inch MacBook, and the back of the pack contours nicely to your body. I stuff this daypack full of all of my electronic gear whenever I travel, but be careful. It’s a bit too small to use as your only bag, which is why I also bring a suitcase. But that’s why I like it, as I don’t want to be lugging everything I own on my back when I’m exploring a new town.

Suitcase. The one I’m using now is the Samsonite24″ Omni spinner.

Built out of polycarbonate, it’s strong, durable, and has lasted many trips on trains, buses, and chucked in the back of taxis. I just love it. Click to check the price.

Now I get many minimalist travelers want to go with a carry-on only, but that’s just not my style. Ever since they released spinner suitcases that are just so easy to roll around an airport, I ditched my big backpack for one of these.

The trick is to get something easy enough to carry, that’s not too big so you bring too many clothes. Trust me. When you’re tackling cobblestones in Europe or endless flights of stairs on the Japanese subway, you’ll be glad you picked a smaller suitcase. I find there’s plenty of room for all of my clothing and toiletries, which is also super easy to just drop off at my accommodation before heading out to explore the city.

Get a decent pair of shoes and sandals.

Right now I’ve only got a single pair of shoes that I take. They’re a casual-looking black leather, so they work whether I’m rocking shorts or heading out to a nice dinner with a button up and jeans. All I really recommend here is to take a pair that you can get dual use out of, so you don’t need to bring a pair of dress shoes. I opted for the K-Swiss black sneakers, and they’ve been good to me so far.

For sandals, pick whatever is most comfortable for you. I love the HippoBloo sandals, as they’re just so damn comfortable to wear. The rubber is soft and easy to walk around on all day, and they’re simple to keep clean. The only downside is they can get a little slippery if you get your feet wet, but that’s a downside you’ll have with rubber thongs no matter what.

Have at least 5 to 7 pairs of socks and underwear.

I hope this one is self-explanatory, but the more changes you have the longer you need to go between doing laundry runs. Just make sure you don’t get lazy and forget, as “smells good enough” is definitely not clean. Just pick the ones you’re comfortable wearing.

Tacky holiday singlets.

I love these. I know it screams tourist, but they’re thin and comfortable and perfect for wearing to the beach, the gym, or when you’re relaxing at home. If you’re going out anywhere that’s semi-respectable, wear a T-Shirt, please. I’ll bring a couple of these with me on every trip and usually, buy a couple more as souvenirs from wherever I’m traveling to.

Swimming shorts

If you’re staying somewhere that has a pool, or you’re going to be anywhere near a beach, you need your swimsuit. I have at least two pairs I always bring, because I hate putting on wet clothes. Late night swims are always fun, but putting on damp shorts for your snorkeling trip the next day just isn’t nice.

Don’t forget your pants

Two pairs of shorts and two pairs of jeans are plenty. I’ve been a Levi’s kid forever now, as they just fit right, and last forever. Remember your goal is to find clothing that’ll match with everything else, so you might want to avoid jeans that look like they’ve been fed through a wood-chipper.

All of your shirts

My go-to is usually 3 or 4 plain tees, with a few polo shirts thrown in and maybe a dress shirt or two. That’s plenty for you to mix and match, and ensure you’ve always got something clean to wear that suits the occasion.

Your favorite hoodie

It seems like something you wouldn’t need, especially traveling around tropical South East Asia, but believe me, it’ll come in handy. Overnight buses, long-haul flights, and pretty much anywhere that’s got the AC turned to max gets insanely cold in about an hour. Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t sleep if I’m cold, and having a hoodie helps me to get cozy, block out the world, and get a decent sleep so I can wake up in a fun new destination.

Something to keep the rain off

I used to have a nifty little traveling umbrella that was indestructible, but that, unfortunately, got left in a restaurant somewhere in Croatia. The one’s I’ve bought since all tend to break, especially if you’re buying cheap, or live somewhere that’s got monsoonal weather. Now I just have a light raincoat that comes everywhere with me. It’s small enough to roll-up in my daypack when it’s the rainy season, and make sure you get one with a hood to keep the water from running down your neck if you’re unlucky enough to get caught in a downpour.

My super-amazing Australian beach towel

Another tacky one, and after 8 years traveling I’m now on either my fourth or fifth one. The others were either forgotten, gifted on, or just got past their use-by date. I normally just buy a new one every time I’m in a tourist store in Australia, as it’s a little piece of home I love taking with me. It works for the beach, as a backup if you get into a terrible Airbnb with no linen, or you want to put something down and lay out in the park. Plus it’s a good conversation starter when you want to meet other travelers.

The best damn sunglasses you can buy

Your eyes are important. Mine have just started getting a little bit fuzzy, the optometrist says too many days straining in front of my computer. Damn. But that aside, it’s important to protect your eyes from the sun, especially if you’re going to be out exploring new cities, on the water, or roaming around like we digital nomads are known to do. My advice, pick a pair with a dark tint and make sure they’re polarized. No, that’s not the pair you can buy at the local market for $3. You want something like a pair of wayfarers. It’s worth it. Trust me.

A hat to keep the sun off

Even though it’s starting to fade I love my basic truckers hat. It’s a band one I picked up at a concert (of one of my favorite bands) and it’s been my go-to for the last two years now. It’s probably time to get a new one, but not just yet. Soon, but not yet.

Backups of all your important documents

This is important, especially if you have your daypack stolen. Knock on wood this hasn’t happened to me yet, but it’s critical you’ve got a backup, just in case. I’ve got a copy of all my important paperwork that’s stored in a water-tight ziplock bag in my suitcase, and I’ve also scanned and uploaded these into the cloud. No matter where I go, I’ll always have a way to access these.

Digital nomad electronic gear

Your trusty laptop

It goes without saying you’ll need to bring your laptop along on the trip if you want any hope to get some work done. Just don’t forget your charger. I’ve got two now as my last trip to Japan I completely forgot to pack mine. At the moment my laptop is a simple Dell workhorse. It was cheap, and it gets the job done because I don’t need all the bells and whistles of a Macbook. That being said, I’ll probably upgrade to a Mac once this computer packs it in, only because they’re so damn reliable.

An unlocked smartphone

Choose your poison. Some people are android all the way, while others love the iPhone. I’m running an iPhone 6S Plus at the moment and absolutely love it. The screen size is big enough to watch a movie on if you’re desperate, but it’s not that unwieldy that you can’t fit it in your pocket. Oh, but do grab one of those little sticker patches with a ring for the back of it. Then you can prop it up when you’re watching, well, whatever it is you’re watching.

My second wife (otherwise known as my kindle)

It’s going on four years old now but my trusty kindle hasn’t missed a beat. For anyone that spends far too long in airport lounges, on overnight trains, or wanting to simply get a little downtime no matter where you are? Get a kindle. I’ve got about a thousand books on mine at the moment, so I’ve always got something to read.

Proper noise canceling headphones

I actually went with earbuds, and they’re a godsend. Expensive yes, but worth every penny as they do exactly what they promise. Get rid of all the outside noise so I can concentrate (or sleep). My Bose earbuds are one of the things that I simply cannot travel without.

All of my hardware

When you’re working for hours and hours each day, it’s laughable to think you can get it done with just a laptop. I use the roost laptop stand to ensure I’m not actually sitting on my butt all say (it converts a desk into a standing desk) and or course I have my Bluetooth mouse and keyboard.

A really nice camera

Well, it was when I bought it. I still use the Canon 500D, which is a pretty robust camera for anyone wanting to get started in photography. It helps me to take great travel shots when I’m traveling about, and there’s plenty of manual settings for me to play around with.

Bluetooth speaker for the beats

You will go crazy if you’re locked up working in your apartment all day. I couldn’t do it without the radio (i.e. Triple J), which also helps me to stay up-to-date on all that’s happening back home. It just syncs up with my phone, and I’ve got it on in the background, for the most part of every day. My pick is the Fuguu, but really any speaker you like is going to be better than the tinny little ones in your laptop.

External hard drive to back up everything

You’ve probably cottoned on to the fact I like having backups in place. I’ve been traveling for long enough that I’ve come to a big realization. Things will go wrong. Your laptop will get bricked because you drop it. You’ll get something stolen. Maybe it’s your passport. Maybe it’s just your wallet. Maybe it’s your camera and the five thousand pictures that were on the SD card (don’t ask). Set up a regular backup process to a good quality external hard drive, and back up everything. It gives you a second level of support, and if you’re particularly worried, you could also do a third backup to the cloud.

WiFi router

I mention this one in another post, but I’m really happy with my Xiaomi ZMI mobile router (and power bank). It takes a SIM card and turns it into a mobile hotspot, that you can connect all your devices to. So you’re not draining the power on your iPhone by running a personal hotspot, and if you ever need a charge, you can use the battery pack included to power your devices.

A portable USB stick

For swapping files, or what I’ve been using it for most recently is to play .mp4 files on the television in my room. It means you can put on some mindless television shows and still get some work done on your laptop. The Lacie Xtremkey I bought is virutally indestructible. Check it out here.

HDMI cable

When I want to watch something on a bigger screen and the USB doesn’t work, it’s time to crank out the HDMI cable. You’ll be able to plug it into most new models, I’ve only been to one hotel in the last five years that didn’t have the right connection to get this to work.

Travel adapter

This is important, especially if it’s your first digital nomad adventure abroad. Different countries have different power sockets. You need an adapter if you want any hope of being able to power your devices. I rely on my ability to connect to the internet to get my work done, and a dead laptop is no good to me, so I bought one with a built-in surge protector too, just in case.

Everything else in my digital nomad packing list

I won’t go into these in too much detail, but essentially you just need a basic set of toiletries, with enough soap, shampoo, and whatnot to keep you going for a couple of days once you arrive. After you’ve checked in wherever you’re staying, you can pick up things like body wash or extra toothpaste really easily, at pretty much every supermarket in the world.

I do advise bringing some general multivitamins to keep you healthy, and I always pack melatonin to help me sleep and adjust to any changes in the new time zone. I cover the benefits of melatonin (for me) in detail in this post, let’s just say it’s one of the things I always take with me, no matter what.

Then it’s just a matter of grabbing a few basic pieces of first aid gear, like antiseptic cream and a few band aids, Tylenol, and some Immodium, and of course any prescription medication you need. Oh and a small sewing kit will come in handy, as you’ll lose buttons or need to make minor repairs to your clothes, and it’s a good feeling just to be able to do it.

And that’s it. Everything that I take with me when I travel. It used to be far, far more, and while I’m far from a “minimalistic traveling digital nomad” this packing list is a result of my years on the road. It’s everything I need to spend a couple of months in a new country, and I hope this digital nomad packing list will come in handy when you’re planning your next trip.

Is there anything else you’d add to the list?


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