The philosophy of a nomadic life stems from a preference for authentic experiences in place of materialism. This of course affects the typical DN’s lifestyle when it comes to dragging belongings back and forth. There’s so many things to consider for such an adventure, and so little space. Yes, because as a digital nomad, you’ll want to be as light as possible while traveling. Some make it work with only a backpack (read our best backpacks for digital nomads guide), others opt for an extra carry-on. And to me, that’s all you should rely on.
“But how, if I have a snorkeling session on Tuesday, a mountain hiking on Sunday and a fancy dinner with George W.Bush the week after?”. All pro digital nomads prepare for any kind of occasion: it’s not about packing little, but packing smart. I like to think of it as a revisited version of my grandma’s “onion strategy” – back when I was a kid and she layered clothes on me as I had to live through all 4 seasons in a single day.
Too many times I’ve looked at the spare clothes in my bag asking myself ‘why did I even bring that in the first place?’. So, many mistakes and regrets later, here I am ready to help you out. Without further ado, let’s go through the ideal travel packing list for digital nomads!
I feel like this is always the hardest to tick. You might end up in many different climates and environments, and participate in diverse activities. And don’t think you’ll have it easier if you plan to travel to only one location. What if the weather acts silly? What if you get invited to unexpected excursions?
So my first tip is, regardless of your destination and season of departure, pack for any climate and occasion. Having this level of preparation will assure maximum comfort – and remember that you’ll be living there. So abandon what I’d call “the tourist mindset” and don’t simply bring tons of Hawaiian shirts and bikini with you.
- 3 short-sleeved shirts: They work great for tropical weather, as well as underneath clothes for colder places. Choose simple shirts, unicolor and causal and you’ll have so many choices of use.
- 1 pair of jeans: I don’t know about you, but jeans are so versatile and such a must in my life. They go with everything, literally.
- 1 sweater or hoodie / 1 cardigan: Layer up boy! Yes, even if it’ll be 40° C, I’m telling you. Sweaters and hoodies are casual, comfy and great to wear on coldish flights as well. Cardigans are nice outer layers for fancier occasions.
- 1, 2 more formal options: Depending on your taste, I’d suggest that you bring either a nice pair of trousers paired with a couple of blouses, or a slightly elegant dress. Enjoy your presidential dinner with style.
- 1 pair of shorts: Pretty much like jeans, shorts are super versatile. As a plus, they’re small to pack.
- Activewear: We talked about this in a previous post. Activewear is a must for comfortable desk jobs, sweaty adventures and exercising. A pair of leggings, athletic shorts and a sporty top/shirt will easily fit in your bag.
- Underwear: No need for anything fancy, but 5 pairs of panties will do.
- 4 pair of socks: Four is a good amount, it’ll give you enough time to wash and dry the dirty ones in-between usages.
- 2 bathing suits: Maybe 1 will be enough if you’re going amidst the snow; nevertheless, they’re quite tiny so have no fear and pack them up.
- A good jacket: Don’t go cheap on the jacket. If you can, get one that will keep you warm, as well as protect from the wind and rain – a sort of all-included package.
- 3 pairs of shoes:
– 1 pair of trainers, for everyday situations and adventures.
– 1 pair of formal shoes, for fancy meetings
– 1 pair of flip flops or sandals
Considering you’ll have one pair of shoes already on upon leaving, it won’t take too much space.
- In case you’re a lady: An extra precaution for all us nomad ladies: pick comfy bras for your travel. You’ll be grateful for this warning!
- Raincoat/Waterproof jacket: if your jacket is not rainproof or you’re going to an especially wet destination, consider bringing a waterproof jacket with you. There are very light and foldable models on the market.
- Hats: A beanie against the wind, a baseball cap against the sun. They’re not to be taken for granted, but if you don’t have space you might just buy them once you land
- Sunglasses: They can be quite important as well, and since they’re not that intrusive, if you have a preferred pair home, take it with you.
Final tips on clothes
Consider the fabric: try to prioritize clothes that are easily washable and will dry fast. You’ll be doing a lot of laundry while living on little clothes!
Adopt the Marie Kondo technique: when in doubt between loved clothes, pick the one that “sparks joy” – do you see yourself smiling while networking with that pink sweater? There you go!
Comfort but not only: This is of course a list of essentials. But don’t feel too guilty if you want to bring an extra cute dress. It’s important to love what you wear, and that does not only account for comfort.
Toiletries and such
- Soap and shampoo: Honestly, I’ve seen guys using a bar of soap for literally everything – and if that works for you, that’s pretty much it. Alternatively, you can get those reusable bottles and fill them up with shampoo and soap every time you travel. And if you’re burdened already, you can also just buy these things at the destination!
- Skincare products: You might be feeling guilty at the thought of bringing those “luxury” items with you, as it feels out of tune with the whole philosophy. Well, you’re wrong! You don’t have to give up on a healthy skincare regimen if it’s a big part of your daily life. I personally have super sensitive skin, and only specific products work on me. If I was to get random creams or cleansers on the way, I’d have breakouts and suffer the whole journey. And that’s an avoidable nope!
- First aid kit – or some bandages, at least: You never know when your toes will hit that rock on a hiking – or the corner of a cabinet. So make sure to bring some handy things such as sanitizer, alcohol and bandages.
- Nail clipper: Sorry, it sounds nasty. But trust me, if you don’t cut your toenails, they’ll grow to the point of being giving you a huge discomfort., as they’ll push against the tip of your shoes.
- Sunscreen: No excuses here. That’s a must, for any traveler. On the plane – have you thought of how much closer you are to the sun? There you go! – and on land, the sun can be super harmful.
- Make-up and Pads: Another suggestion for us ladies. You don’t have to give up on pampering yourself! Feel free to bring a few make-up items. And don’t forget pads and tampons for that time of the month!
What gear you specifically need, only you will know. For example, if you work as a travel photographer or blogger, you might need multiple cameras, tiny tripods and whatnot on top of a good laptop. But if a laptop is all you need to work, then you’ll go easy on the camera gear.
Nevertheless, there are some essentials that all types of Digital nomads need.
- External battery: So you won’t stress over a dying phone or laptop while traveling
- Noise-canceling headphones: Indispensable for babies-packed flights and noisy job environment
- Ereader: That’s maybe not essential, but highly recommended to foster your hobby without burdening yourself with tons of books
- Universal adapter: Imagine, being unable to plug in your devices. A nightmare.
Here’s some miscellaneous yet useful items to bring with you, as a considerate traveler.
- A travel towel: the microfiber ones, very light and handy
- Condoms: some countries have it different when it comes to size, blatantly said. Also, if you have a latex allergy, be warned that in some countries it’ll be difficult to find non-latex protections.
- Sleeping kit: anything from sleeping masks, to earplugs and pillows; a smart way to enjoy a little nap on the plane
- Extra medicines: I always bring some non-threatening pills for stomach troubles. The constant roaming as well as some local food can be hard on your tummy. Headaches pills are also recommended. And please, if you do suffer from UTI, never travel without proper medications!
- A proper wallet: as we mentioned before on the blog, you should think of getting a wallet containing all your documents, so to make your life easier
Remember you’ll be doing laundry once you settle in a new location. So don’t worry about bringing too much and focus on picking the proper fabrics for your clothes!
You might not be able to iron your clothes; I always choose those items that tend not to get wrinkles.
Don’t bring too expensive clothes or extremely white ones. Apply the same logic you’d use when eating a bowl of meatball spaghetti or playing in a sandbox.
Don’t panic about fitting it all in the backpack and remember you can always buy a few things at the destination.
Did we miss any items to our travel packing list? As a digital nomad, what do you feel is most important?