The most common questions I get asked through this blog are; what’s on my digital nomad packing list, what backpack do I use, and what gear do I use to work remotely.
So I’ve put together my personal digital nomad packing list and recommendations – including pretty much everything I travel with and what gear I use when I work which should answer all of those questions in one guide, put together from eight years of nomad experience.
Is this packing list right for you? Maybe, maybe not.
- I’m a slow traveller – I find staying around one to three months per place is good for me to understand a place and benefit from economies of scale.
- I do not travel lightly. I was never a one-bag cabin bag type of person, I don’t think that’s an enjoyable way to live, but even when I started out I would check a 15kg bag.
- Over the years I’ve started packing things that I’ve found I can’t live without and just because I find it easier to just have a wardrobe rather than having to buy clothes when needed.
There seems to be lots of focus within the digital nomad scene on minimal luggage, flying carry-on only, buying travel clothing you don’t need to wash (Urgh), and flight hacking (probably not worth your time). I don’t dick about with any of that stuff, I consider most of it a massive waste of time or money or opportunity cost.
My Digital Nomad Packing List
- Remote Work Gear
- Travel Clothes
- Abandoned Items
- Travel Insurance
My Digital Nomad Packing List
Baggage / Luggage
I travel slowly and I like to travel in relative luxury – I am not trying to take just “carry on” and I’m happy to pay extra to stick a 20Kg bag in the hold of a plane. When I turn up to a new place, I am 100% taking a taxi to my destination, so I’ve never needed to walk somewhere with all my bags. Once I’m in a place, I just use a day bag.
Main bag: Away Medium Suitcase
I was looking for a new suitcase for a long time – at Samsonite (quality has really gone down hill), Rimowa (seemed just too expensive to me) and July (if their distribution was better I’d maybe have purchased), but the Away brand caught my eye as it offered a lifetime warranty, and they had a shop in central London so I could go and check them out before hand. The case is really high quality, fits all I need and the lifetime warranty gives real peace of mind. Remember to buy AirTags for all your bags, again, just peace of mind if the bag gets lost.
Also Recommended: Osprey Sojourn 80L Rolling Backpack Case
The Osprey Sojourn is rugged, looks great and has heavy-duty wheels. It also has a secret compartment that holds some straps which transforms it in to a backpack. I owned this bag for 7 years and it did me really well – so well I sold it on eBay as a second hand item and got 50% of the purchase price back. In the 7 years I had it I only ever used it twice as a backpack, but it’s cool to have the option. Yes, it’s an 80L bag, fully packed it tends to weight around 15-18Kg, but I’m not overly focused on packing lightly. There is also a 60L version available if you want to make sure you’re under the 15Kg hold luggage weight limit sometimes seen out in Asia. This is a sturdy bag and highly recommended if you want something more rugged than a suitcase.
Cabin Bag: Away Cabin Suitcase
A small cabin bag is useful to have so I can 1) keep some basics with me even when putting my main luggage in the hold, and 2) means I can do beach/city trips whenever I want and then only fly carry-on, and 3) a small rolling cabin bag means I can put my laptop bag on top of it so no need to carry it through the airport. Definitely worth having.
Backpack / Laptop Bag / Day Bag
I am totally over using backpacks – they make me hot, I rarely wear them properly (shout to the one shoulder crew who now have problems when they are old), and to my understanding of the world nothing shouts “TOURIST” more than a backpack. So instead I use a messenger laptop bag.
Day bag: Belkin Laptop Messenger Bag
I love this bag from Belkin and I am pretty happy with it. I can sling it over my head when I need to, carry it like a sports bag or just have it on my shoulder. It has easy access to the laptop so super simple to whip out the laptop at the airport, it has plenty of pockets for documents and cables and overall I’d definitely recommend this over a backpack.
An amazing time saver and a great way to keep stuff together and pack/unpack in seconds, as well as compress clothes and generally keep organised. They were a travelling game changer for me.
Packing cubes: Away Packing Cubes
I got these to match my bags, but honestly even the cheapest packing cubes on Amazon do a great job. It doesn’t really matter what color or material the bags are, I would just avoid ones with big chunky handles as you will likely never need to use them.
Cables Bag / Accessory Bag
I never realised how much of a pain cables were until I bought this bag and realised how organised it made me. All my cables, spare chargers, and tiny things together in one spot, easy to move, easy to travel with. Brilliant.
Cable Bag: UGreen Double Layer Cable Accessories Bag
The “medium” size is perfect for all my gadgets (I don’t put my iPad Mini in there, maybe you would).
I have previously mentioned my amazement of how good the M1 and M2 Apple MacBook Pros are. And now you have the new MacBook Air range too with the same chips. They are all pure fire. Anyone who says “What is the best laptop for a digital nomad” the answer is 100% a MacBook with an M1 or M2 chip. They just work, you can get them repaired everywhere, and you can find replacement accessories everywhere (yes, you will lose your MacBook charger one day).
Laptop: Apple MacBook Pro M2 Max 14″
I can work for nearly two days solid on one battery charge on the M2. Unbelievable. I had a basic M1 MacBook Pro 13″ before and it handled almost everything I threw at it (and I do some heavy stuff) so a basic model machine should be good enough for 80% of readers. I have now upgraded to a serious machine (I don’t want to upgrade for a while!) and my current M2 is the best laptop I’ve ever used.
Keyboard: Apple Magic Keyboard
Essential for good posture and well worth the extra weight in your bag. No other keyboard gives me the same experience with the same levels of compatibility and battery life. Plus its rechargeble so no need to find batteries in a random Japanese city just to start work.
Mouse: Apple Magic Mouse
Not everyones favourite mouse, but for compatibility and instant connection with the Mac, it can’t really be beaten. I’ve never found another Bluetooth mouse that comes even close. The “Magic” version is rechargeable and should be the only version you buy.
Laptop Stand: Roost Laptop Stand
Always thought they were over-priced junk until I needed physio from being hunched over my laptop. 6 months of £50 physio sessions meant that the Roost price seemed cheap in comparison. Do yourself a favour of a lifetime and buy one today (or buy the extremely similar NexStand), but definitely buy something to stop you becoming a hunchback.
Mouse mat: 3M Precise Ultra Thin Mouse Mat
A slight extravagance for the price, but it works well and doesn’t annoy my wrist or get sticky etc and is super thin.
Headphones (Wireless): Apple AirPods Pro
The AirPod Pro’s sound awesome, work for a few hours in cable-free distraction-free bliss, but then die. I remember to charge them frequently when grabbing a coffee or lunch, but I still find they run out of battery too often to be all day reliable.
Headphones (Wired): Apple EarPods
The standard Apple EarPods are light, work perfectly for music and calls and are reliable. I still travel with them as the AirPods run out of battery too often.
This is a waterproof, shockproof, and other things proof external SSD, super light weight, about the size of an old iPhone, super portable and great to just plugin to your MacBook and backup, or use to dump media files on to.
My trusty iPhone is probably the device I spend the most time on every day. Every where you travel people understand it, it can be fixed easily, and you can find accessories for it in the darkest corners of the globe. Now the phones are all waterproof, this is so good as I have missed many photo opportunities with older models as I was worried about my phone getting wet. Now also iPhone with eSim has meant the the need of going all the way to Hong Kong to buy a dual sim iPhone is a distant memory.
Also Recommended: Nokia 106 Dual Sim Phone
If you don’t like eSIM or don’t have iPhone you need a burner so you can keep your number from back home. This will make sure things like bank and credit cards have a way to contact you. Until I started using eSIM on iPhone I travelled with this phone everywhere and I used it to receive authorisation texts from my bank and keep old SIMs alive. This Nokia is a dual SIM phone, lasts around 30 days on a single charge, has USB charging, and is super light. I don’t think you can get much better for a real burner phone! Also checkout the more advanced “color screen” option for a fiver more.
A travel game-changer. Now you suddenly know where all your shit is. Buy the set of 4. One in each of your bags, and one spare for your apartment keycard, scooter or push bike. So convenient, and great peace of mind when checking bags or leaving bags in a hotel.
Over the last few years I’ve started reading more trash fiction books and found myself signed up to Kindle Unlimited. I was then using my iPad Mini or iPhone to read books on, but recently decided to try and improve my sleep (yeah yeah blue light or whatever) so went for a Kindle Paperwhite. If you don’t use Kindle Unlimited I’d probably recommend an iPad Mini and iBooks.
To keep my fitness in check and minimise my use of the iPhone, I’ve invested in an Apple Watch. It’s many levels up from a Fitbit or Xiaomi MiBand, and the heart rate monitoring is amazing. I highly recommend getting one.
Everything I travel with is USB charged now so no extra bulky adaptors are needed. This has 3 changeable plugs to cover most countries, and 4 USB ports, so can charge phone, shaver, iPad, Watch all at the same time from 1 socket. Sorted.
A tiny little battery pack that is surprisingly amazing at keeping a charge for weeks on end at the bottom of my backpack, and has saved me a few times when stuck in the middle of nowhere. If this ever stops working maybe I buy something like an EMNT.
If you are travelling to Europe or Thailand, it’s worth buying a 2-pin EU adaptor extension cable for your MacBook charger. Having this is a true hack, while others are searching for a travel adaptor to get juice, you’re connected and working. These are hard to find in the UK, check eBay or Google.
I used to use my AirPods but found they would fall out sometimes, so purchased these clip over the ear waterproof Bluetooth headphones for the gym.
A simple armband case for the iPhone. I like the Belkin one, but it’s not the cheapest and probably not the best.
I have a weak shoulder and I use this when I can to help strengthen it. But its generally pretty good for general exercise and folds up super small.
Yes, I love coffee enough to travel with a full coffee setup ready to go.
Good enough and small enough to make coffee pretty much anywhere. Throw in hand luggage or your case, easy.
Throw away the paper filters that come with AeroPress, get this metal filter so you never need to run around Bangkok trying to find a shop that sells paper filters, sweating your arse off (been there, done that).
It’s an OK little grinder, and amazingly it fits inside the AeroPress, so reduced the space this travelling setup takes. The actual grinding takes a while and is a little uncomfortable. There’s a ton of these now.
For weighing coffee and food. I’ve not found a great set of scales yet, I’ve replaced these a few times with cheap models.
I stopped using a traditional toothbrush years ago, much to the delight of my dentist and hygenist. The Philips Sonicare is a top brush and really cleans the teeth well. It also has the funkiest coolest travel case (which is also the charging unit with a USB connection) I’ve ever seen. I don’t use the weird charging glass that also comes with it. This brush that I got is now hard to get hold of and there are a ton of variations, make sure you get one with a USB charging case.
One of only a handful of USB beard trimmers available, but be quick, as this looks to have already been replaced with a newer model (not USB). Watch out for buying trimmers/shavers with fitted plugs and charging units, they are super bulky.
I don’t recommend any particular clothing as I think a lot of travel clothing is a complete waste of money. Merino wool, compact ultra-thin clothing, specialist travel pants; you really don’t need it. Take what you want, takes less than you need, you can buy stuff anywhere you go. You won’t wear 50% of what you take anyway. Job done.
These are the things I typically pack if you really need a list – but I might remove some things if I know I won’t need them (i.e. jumpers when going to Asia aren’t needed, but are needed for Europe in Winter).
- Coat x 1 (try to get one that folds up very small)
- Jeans x 2
- Jumpers x 2
- Scarf x 1
- Gym Shorts x 2
- Gym T-Shirts x 2
- Beach Shorts x 1
- Day Shorts x 2
- T-Shirts x 5
- Shirts x 3
- Underwear x 7
- Socks x 7
- Trainer Socks x 3
- Pyjama Bottoms x 1
- Jogging Bottoms x 1
- Trainers x 1
- Flip Flops x 1
- Dress Shoes x 1 (sometimes, often for European cities etc)
- Belt x 1
J-Pillow / A travel pillow
Designed for long-haul flights to bend around your neck and let you sleep, its pretty good at what it does, but one of those pillows you can buy at the airport does just as good a job. I don’t really fly enough to justify its space so it gone.
I wanted a small daypack for trips when I didn’t take my laptop. This was one of the better foldable bags I’ve found – it just about fits my frame, it has 2 decent straps, and has multiple pockets. This replaced the terribly awful Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Backpack which you should avoid at all costs. But then I got rid of this bag too as honestly it was fucking awful, better off just buying a proper hiking backpack if you really must have one.
My go-to for reading books until I got sucked in to Kindle. The iBooks app is beautiful, and if you don’t read Kindle books you should probably buy one.
I love music and I was previously travelling with the Anker Ultra Portable Pocket Size Mini Wireless Bluetooth Speaker for five years. As reliable as it was, I felt there should be something better – something with multiple Bluetooth connections, possibly with something like Siri. I did a lot of research and ended up choosing the Bose SoundLink Micro, which is a 400g small waterproof speaker. However I just didn’t use it enough and the extra weight it bought means it didn’t make the cut.
I wanted a backpack with a padded laptop pocket, water bottle holder on outside, and that was waterproof (to a certain degree) and this was a quick fix thats lasted me well. But ultimately, I hate backpacks so got rid of it.
Travel insurance is important to have – to protect all your stuff but also for giving peace of mind to your loved ones back home. Make sure your travel insurance includes covering accidents and repatriation. You should book insurance as soon as you have booked your flights!
Just starting out on your journey? You’re in the best place to “backpacker insurance” which will cover you for 1-2 years depending on where you get it from. This will likely be low cost when compared with longer term insurance. I have used Alpha Travel Insurance which is a great deal if you’re just setting out. They have a 18 month Long Stay / Backpacker insurance package for around £150.
Note: Alpha Travel Insurance Longstay cannot be renewed without spending 6 months in the UK first!
If you want something that will be geared up to long term immediately I also recommend Safety Wing and World Nomads. World Nomads and SafetyWing are some of the only insurance policies out there who cover long term travel.
Top tip: Be wary of any credit card/bank account that offers “free” travel insurance, its likely limited to a 21 days max length of trip and the trip must have been booked with the credit card/account.
Top tip: Don’t bother trying to get your phone and laptop covered by travel insurance (or any insurance), the costs are crazy; just look after them.
Do you ever need a second screen or thought about buying a portable monitor?
I use a second monitor pretty much wherever I go. I normally buy a Dell which can rotate so it’s vertical, and then either sell it before I leave the place, or just leave it there for next time (I think I own 5 of them now in different places around the world). I’ve considered buying an iPad as a second monitor, and I’ve looked at the travel monitors for MacBooks, but I just don’t travel enough to warrant buying these and prefer the extra space a monitor gives.