This is about the 50th Digital Nomad packing list out there, however, I have yet to find one that actually makes sense. There are lists for photographers and writers. People that live out of a backpack and wear the same pair of pants everyday. Girls that seem to seriously overpack (hairdryers? really?) but still somehow survive.
So what do you really need before hitting the road? If you just want the list, no explanation needed, check out the printable digital nomad packing list now. And if you’re interested, here are the details of the “why” behind my best attempt at doing it reasonably, in one carry on suitcase, without a whole bunch of specialized equipment most people don’t need.
Electronics: Stay Connected, not Tethered
Surprisingly, electronics seems to be where most lists justify overpacking. It’s probably because this is how most successful digital nomads make a living on the road, but you still don’t really need most of that stuff. Now, our list covers the options, but don’t feel like you have to bring all of them. Some things to consider ditching:
To start, I’m going to advocate for one “luxury” item if you have lots of other electronics with you: a travel router. It’s great to be connected, but also a huge pain to actually get set up. If you’re moving places week after week, connecting 5 devices to a new network every time can get annoying real quick. A small travel router means you only have to connect one device, and everything else will get online automatically. Phew.
Notice, I said camera, not cameraS. Unless you’re a serious photographer, this is a bulky luxury item that I won’t advocate for. Nowadays most phone cameras are not just good enough, but actually good. Really think about if you’re going to get something more out of a “real” camera before you lug the thing along. If you insist, try a mirrorless digital camera like the Sony Alpha a5000 to save on space without sacrificing quality. And extra lenses? You better really know what you’re doing with a camera before I see you carrying those.
This is probably the most controversial item we’re going to discuss. Yes, it’s included on the list. HOWEVER… if you’re a mac user, you probably don’t need it. Pretty much everything outside of a computer can be charged via USB these days. So take advantage, get a simple adapter for your computer, and let everything else make use of those USB ports.
Toiletries: Don’t be a Hot Mess… or a Diva
Toiletries can also be controversial, especially for us Americans that are a little too picky for our own good. Now don’t overdo it, please still shower. But just remember, is “your” brand really worth extra weight, money, and time to check your luggage? Cause you’ll have to.
Gentlemen, I apologize since you probably don’t have most of these problems.
Leave these at home
First, anything you can buy at your destination, you probably should. This includes all kinds of soap (shampoo, toothpaste, mouthwash etc.) and backups (e.g. new toothbrush). I’ll let you bring your own deodorant since it’s a bar (no liquid limit problems) and it’ll last quite a while (plus you never want to be next to that smelly person on the plane).
Next, and ladies I’m looking at you, every electronic beauty device you can think of should never enter that suitcase. Hairdryers, straighteners, etc. are just absurd. Yes, they make travel versions, but that’s not justification for the large amount of space they take up, travel size or not. Embrace the natural state of your hair and bring a few extra hair ties if you must. If you’re headed anywhere tropical, it’ll be tied up or wet the whole time anyway.
Last, and this should go without saying, please only bring a bare bones makeup regime with you. Please. You can get a real tan now instead of painting one onto your face!
In packing for life out of a suitcase, smaller is better. Same goes for toiletries, but luckily there are plenty of options for that. For example, ditch your brush and bring a comb instead. It takes up significantly less space but also happens to be better for your hair. Also, look at bar soap alternatives. They make shampoo, conditioner, etc. in bar form so you don’t have to buy a new one at every stop (or keep filling up those tiny bottles).
Things you’ll regret forgetting
Now for the MUST bring items. Trust me, you don’t want to find yourself in some foreign land, unable to speak the language, and trying to track this stuff down. First, and this should go without saying, your prescription items. There is no guarantee you’ll be able to find the same on the road, so make sure you have enough. This includes contacts unless you’re comfortable being blind everyday (if you have perfect vision, don’t talk to me).
Next, for all those gross moments, bring your own mini-stockpile of over the counter medication. If you get a headache, you won’t want to suffer through until you magically find some Advil. Also, many countries popular with Digital Nomads aren’t so kind to our stomachs, and you definitely don’t want to figure out how to say “the runs” it another language.
Last, the lady stuff. Gentlemen, just go ahead and skip to the next section, it’s ok. There are lots of reusable period solutions these days. If you’re bold enough to try them, check out Diva Cup or Thinx. There are lots of great reviews for these out there, but if you’re still a little wary like I am, plan ahead and stock up on your preferred products when you find them. Just remember, not every country will have that same exact kind of Tampax, so be at least a little bit flexible and remember, planning is key! Also one last note: don’t forget to consider longer term forms of birth control before you hit the road. Pills are convenient, when you can refill them once a month. Ask your doctor about alternatives available to you and what will work best!
Clothing: The Hard Part
Ok, time for the bulk of the goods, our clothing. Most lists are one extreme or the other: one or two outfits you wash overnight or so much stuff you end up carrying an apartment with you. Assuming you only want to do laundry about once a week and still use a carry on, it’s time to get practical.
Multipurpose is King
Bringing items that have more than one use will save you SO much pain. Want a dress you can wear out at night? Find something you can also wear to the beach. Trying to stay healthy on the road? No reason PJs and workout clothes can’t be the same (just please sleep then workout, not the reverse. Oh, and shower after k?). Anything that goes in your suitcase should be usable in at least 3 outfits.
Be Climate Conscious
Somehow, we always feel the need to prepare for everything. However, you probably have an idea of what types of places (and weather) you’re really interested in. Commit to a temperature “zone” and you won’t have to plan for every case. Going somewhere tropical? You probably shouldn’t bring pants, and definitely not more than one pair. The tundra more your style? Use under-layers to keep bulkier sweaters clean for days.
Do a Reality Check and Remember: Laundry
Creating is much harder than editing, so go ahead and start freely. Put together a preliminary pile of items you want to bring and trim it down from there. Assuming laundry once a week, if you have more than 7 shirts, time to cut back. Yes, underwear is small, but do you really need 12 pairs? I’ve had days where I don’t even put on shoes, so you definitely don’t need that many pairs of socks. Plus all those little items are really easy to wash in a sink and reuse day after day. Clothing should be the last thing that goes in your suitcase, and don’t feel the need to use up every last inch of space. You’ll thank me later.
How’d it Go?
So, did I miss anything? What’s the one thing you couldn’t live without? As most Digital Nomads will tell you, it seems like a big adjustment at the beginning, but once you’re on the road, you’ll probably wish you had even less stuff. At the end of the day, with your passport and a credit card, everything else is a nice to have, so try not to stress out too much, and enjoy the journey!
Remember to check out our printable digital nomad packing list and let us know if you disagree!