The mere mention of the word “packing” can cause people to sweat or induce anxiety. Packing as a digital nomad or remote worker going overseas during a global health crisis can be even more daunting. After all, you are fitting your whole life into a suitcase or backpack. You need to make sure to bring all the digital nomad essential, lest it negatively affect your long-term life on the road.
As a seasoned digital nomad, I’ve learned a lot about packing after visiting over 50 countries. From what to pack to what I can just leave at home, I’m going to share what I think you should consider bringing on the road.
Ok, so here’s my packing list for traveling the world as a digital nomad or remote worker:
Digital Nomad Essentials Packing Checklist
A Premium VPN
Every digital nomad needs a virtual private network (or VPN). VPNs are useful for security purposes, watching Netflix libraries from home or other countries, and for masking your location. OF COURSE we’re definitely, totally, 100%, for sure not saying you should ever intentionally hide your location from an employer 😉 …. but, if someone theoretically did want to hide their location, a high quality premium VPN is the best way to do it.
Just make sure you get a quality premium VPN and know how to use it, to avoid a common situation we often see in frantic posts in digital nomad and remote worker Facebook groups. Don’t end up like the poor remote worker in the above screenshot, whose employer busted her working from Mexico without permission!
Travel Lemming uses and recommends Express VPN for digital nomads. It offers 24 server locations in the United States, and 160 around the world. They have the fastest servers in the USA, consistently get super high ratings from users, and offer very affordable plans. You can even get 3 months free when you sign up with our link.
👉 Pro tip: Be sure to get a VPN with a good “kill switch,” lest you end up like the above nomad! Express VPN offers a very solid kill switch that has worked well in our real-world testing.
Bag (Backpack or Suitcase)
You can definitely tell that the Setout was designed by travelers. Its perfect organization lets you can pack everything you need for Europe into one bag. Plus, the super durable construction and timeless style means this bag is built to last. If we could only choose one bag, this would be it.
No digital nomad packing list would be complete without a great bag – and the first decision you have to make is whether to go with a backpack or a suitcase. For backpacks, the Tortuga Setout Backpack made the top of our list of best backpacks for travel. Even though it’s more expensive, it falls into the category of “You get what you pay for”. It’s made with high-quality materials and designed to last for several trips. We think it’s the perfect digital nomad backpack.
Another popular choice for the best digital nomad backpack is the Nomatic Travel Bag, which is a backpack specifically designed for nomadic remote workers. If you’re the hyper-organized type, you’ll love its many pockets and features.
This is the suitcase Travel Lemming's founder Nate has used and loved for the past two years of digital nomad life. Solid construction, spinner wheels, and an expandable zipper for when you can't fit it all inside anymore.
Prefer to pack a suitcase instead? You won’t be alone – our founder Nate switched from a backpack to a suitcase halfway through his journey to becoming a digital nomad. Nate uses the Delsey Paris Titanium 25 and absolutely loves this suitcase for digital nomads. It’s got a solid construction, enough pockets but not too many, a sleek look, and shockingly affordable considering the quality of the build.
You will definitely need a separate backpack for your day trips as a digital nomad. You will need something to hold snacks, water bottles, camera gear, and more. I use the Osprey Daylite Backpack, and it’s great digital nomad backpack .At 13L, it can hold a lot including my drone and laptop. It’s water-resistant and includes a hip strap to ease the weight off your back. Oh, and it has a lifetime guarantee!
The clothing on a packing list for digital nomads is obviously going to depend on where you plan on traveling in your location-independent life. You probably don’t need a thick winter coat on your prep list if you are headed to Bali during high season, but you would probably want it if you are going to Antarctica.
Here is a recommended clothing packing list for digital nomads:
- 5-7 Shirts (A mix of short sleeve and long sleeve)
- 1 Pair of Jeans
- 1 Pair of Workout Clothes (Athletic Shirt and Pants)
- 1-2 Pairs of Shorts
- 1-2 Bathing Suits
- 1 Rain Jacket
- 1 Casual Jacket
- 1 Sweater or Sweatshirt
- 1 pair of flip flops
- 1 or 2 pairs of shoes
I would recommend getting a hanging toiletry bag if you plan on staying in hostels at any point in your trip. It’s essential gear for digital nomads that helps you avoid getting your stuff wet from cramped bathrooms. It’s also an easy way to keep track of your toiletries and keep them separate from your other belongings. Here’s a highly rated toiletry bag to consider.
👉 Pro tip: If you find your luggage is too heavy or full for your next trip, get rid of your toiletries. You can buy new toiletries at the next location.
Mesh Laundry Bag
Doing laundry as a digital nomad means putting your clothes through a lot, and subjecting them to the rigors of all sorts of foreigner machines. This is where mesh laundry bags come in – they are used to prevent damage to fabrics. This one by Gogooda is affordable and even doubles as an organizer.
👉 Pro Tip: I typically use mesh laundry bags to hold dirty laundry until I have access to a laundromat. It’s a simple way to keep track of what needs to be washed without carrying around a plastic bag.
A stylish and practical way to keep everything organized on the road. Packing cubes are a must for all digital nomads.
Packing cubes are the holy grail of maximizing space in your luggage, so are a must on any digital nomad packing list. You can get different sizes and organize your clothes into separate cubes. It compresses and keeps your clothes clean while in your luggage.
Rain can happen anywhere at any time even if you are going to a place where it doesn’t normally rain. You should be prepared for these weather events and bring an umbrella. Umbrellas can be bulky, but I found the Rain-Mate Umbrella to be the perfect solution. It’s small and compact which can easily fit into a side pocket of a backpack or in a purse.
Oh, and if you’re really into figuring out the best umbrella for that long term trip, read our full article on the best umbrella for travel.
The normal towels that you have at home aren’t ideal for traveling. They take up a lot of space and take forever to dry if you don’t have access to a dryer. Quick-dry towels like this one are a great solution. The microfiber fabric makes them highly absorbent and prevents mildew odors. In case you haven’t guessed by the name yet, they are also quick to dry. It also works as a perfect towel for lounging on the beach or taking a shower.
A laptop is the cornerstone of any digital nomad packing list. At this point in your life, you probably already have a laptop at home to bring traveling with you. However, if you plan on buying a new laptop, then I would consider the weight of the laptop before purchasing it. If you take it in your carry-on, it can affect the weight which some airlines measure.
You have to keep your laptop protected from damage. There is nothing worse than having laptop issues while traveling since you might not find a reliable computer shop. A laptop sleeve will help protect against minor bumps and also prevent dust and debris from getting in contact with your laptop.
Smart Phone (and An International Plan)
A regular backpacker may go fine without a phone, but a digital nomad needs access to the Internet and the ability to call and text. Look into what your current phone provider offers for international plans and see if they are a good fit for you.
We love Google Fi as a phone carrier for digital nomads because it offers LTE coverage around the world on a single SIM. Click here to get $20 towards your first month of Google Fi. Another option is to get your phone unlocked and purchase local SIM cards in the country that you are visiting.
Universal Travel Adaptor
There are two things to consider when choosing a universal travel adaptor. First, you need to determine if you are bringing any devices that don’t have dual voltage. This means if they can handle both electrical currents, 120V and 220V. If they can, then you can get a regular universal adapter that can adapt your plug to the world’s different plugs. This Newvanga universal adaptor is a great option if you’re looking for an affordable adapter with stellar reviews, and you don’t need to convert electrical currents.
If you do need to convert electrical currents, then you need to get a universal adaptor that can also handle converting electrical currents like this Bonazza Travel Adaptor and Converter Combo. Otherwise, you risk having your devices damaged.
The second thing to consider is how many devices do you plan on bringing with you. You may want to consider a power strip to have the option to charge multiple devices at once. The Bestek Universal Travel Adaptor and Converter let you charge up to 7 devices with 3 plugs and 4 USB ports.
External Power Bank
Working from the beach and need an outlet? No problem with this solar-powered portable charger!
Have you ever boarded a plane or bus and realized they didn’t have a USB plug to charge your devices? It’s the worst feeling especially if you know that you will be traveling for several hours. An external power bank can help keep your devices charged throughout the day and is a must-carry item on any packing list for digital nomads. It’s also handy for day trips where you know that you will be taking a lot of pictures and will need to keep your phone charged.
The Hiluckey Solar Charger is the ultimate external power bank option. It’s solar-powered so you don’t even need electricity to use it. This is a great choice for overnight trips or camping.
External Hard Drive
If you’re bringing any camera or video gear, then you need to save that footage into something besides your computer. Laptops can get stolen or damaged, so backing up your content onto an external hard drive will help prevent losing it all. However, if you want to save yourself some luggage space, then you may want to consider investing in cloud storage like DropBox or Google Drive. Even still, a backup hard drive is one of those digital nomad travel accessories that comes in handy when your WiFi connection is less than stable.
If you’re used to working with a mouse or simply hate your laptop’s touchpad, then consider getting an external mouse to bring with you. I would recommend a wireless mouse to save yourself the hassle of wires. This folding mouse by TeckNet is highly reviewed and super compact – perfect for digital nomads!
Books are a great way to pass the time, especially on rainy days when you can’t go outside or on long trips between destinations. Unfortunately, books are heavy and take up a lot of space, so they don’t make a great addition to your digital nomad packing list.
The solution? Getting an e-reader like the Kindle will save you room and keep your bags light. It’s also great because you can get a variety of books instead of only reading 1 or 2 options. It’s definitely essential tech gear for any digital nomad bookworms out there!
Headphones are necessary for listening to music or watching Netflix. I would recommend getting these noise-canceling headphones. They prevent ambient sounds from interfering with the sound quality. It can also block out sound when you are trying to sleep.
📚 Related Reading: What do you get when you pack a cruise ship with digital nomads? Read Nate’s Nomad Cruise Review to find out!
Sleep masks are one of those easily-forgotten digital nomad accessories. Light can be a huge disrupter for sleeping, so having an eye mask can help you fall asleep faster. You’ll find lots of different fabric options from cashmere to silk. There are also sleep masks that have raised eye pads so that the mask itself doesn’t touch your eyelids and blocks light better.
Travel Neck Pillow
Neck pillows tend to be another big item that you need to figure out how to pack. However, the Trtl Super Soft Pillow won me over by being easily foldable. It’s more like a scarf or neck brace than a pillow, but it still has the same function of keeping your head upright while sleeping on airplanes. No wonder this pillow came out on top when we tested out several of the best travel neck pillows.
Purifying Water Bottles
Investing in a premium filtration water pays off in the long run, plus helps you be more environmentally conscious as a digital nomad.
If you are in a location where the water isn’t safe to drink, then I recommend putting a filtered water bottle on your digital nomad packing list.
The LifeStraw is a popular choice amongst travelers, but Travel Lemming’s writer Taylor recently reviewed the Grayl Geopress and found that it’s an even better option. It helps save the environment since you won’t need to buy hundreds of plastic bottles. Instead, you can drink the tap water with this filter system that makes it safe to drink.
If you are planning on staying in hostels, then you will want to bring your own padlock for the lockers. Some hostels rent or sell padlocks, but it’s more affordable in the long-run to get your own before you travel. Here’s a cheap one to add to your digital nomad packing list.
Earplugs are a great way to help you block out noise while you sleep, and are an essential item for your digital nomad packing list if you are a light sleeper. It’s perfect for situations like someone snoring in your hostel dorm or leaving a window open during the night. Earplugs range from memory foam to wax to silicone. You should experiment to find which are a better fit for you, but these ones are highly rated.
Travel Insurance for Digital Nomads
Look, no one wants to think that the worst will happen on their trip – but risk is an inherent part of life as a digital nomad. So no packing list for digital nomads would be complete without mentioning the importance of buying travel insurance as a digital nomad. Travel Lemming’s top recommended provider is World Nomads, but you should always compare prices (Aardy is a great website for comparing cheap quotes).
A FlexJobs Membership
Still need a remote job to live that digital nomad life? Your best bet for finding one is signing up for FlexJobs. You can read our full FlexJobs Review here, but just know it’s the #1 site on the internet for finding remote-friendly jobs.
👉 Pro Tip: sign up for FlexJobs through this link and use the promo code “FLEXLIFE“, you’ll get 30% off!
A Housesitting Website Membership
Ok, so this isn’t exactly a physical item to add to your digital nomad packing list, but we want to mention it because you can save soooo much on accommodation costs by exchanging pet and home care for free stays in wonderful homes all around the world. The go-to site for finding home sits is definitely Trusted Housesitters, which has thousands of homes just waiting for a sitters all around the world.
Read out guide to House Sitting in 9 Steps for more details on how to get started with house sitting today!
✈️ Headed to Mexico? We have a separate Mexico packing checklist specifically designed just for Mexico travel!
Packing Tips for Digital Nomads
Now that we’ve covered what you should add to your digital nomad packing list, let’s go over a few tips on how to pack all of that into your bag:
Digital Nomad Packing Tip #1: Pack what you need, not what you think you might need.
If you’re bringing something for a “Just in case” situation, then you probably don’t actually need to bring it. This is especially true if it’s possible to find it on the road.
An example of this is how many shirts to bring. If you’re not sure you brought enough, you can take comfort knowing that shirts are easily available.
You can also Marie Kondo the items that you are bringing and see if it “sparks joy”. If it doesn’t, then put it aside. The biggest takeaway is to be mindful of what you bring and ensure everything has at least one important purpose.
Digital Nomad Packing Tip #2: Limit the number of shoes you bring.
Shoes are bulky and are often deemed as a necessity, so it’s hard to let go of the idea that you need to bring them all.
The truth is that you can most likely get away with only bringing two; a pair of athletic shoes and a pair of sandals.
Digital Nomad Packing Tip #3: Wear it on the plane.
Bulky clothing items like sweatshirts or coats are hard to fit in a suitcase. If you can, wear it on the plane instead of packing it. Planes can get cold anyway, so you’ll probably be grateful for the extra warmth.
Digital Nomad Packing Tip #4: Choose the right fabrics
Do yourself a favor and don’t pack anything that can get wrinkly. It’s not always easy to iron your clothes while traveling. Pick fabrics that are hard to wrinkle like wool, denim, or a synthetic blend of polyester and cotton.
Digital Nomad Packing Tip #5: Simplify your color palette
Pack clothes that can easily match each other. It makes it easier to create multiple outfits from a small collection of clothes. You don’t necessarily need to stick to only neutral colors like black, white, and grey. Just consider if your brightly-colored pants match all of the shirt options that you want to bring with you. If it does, then great!
👉 Need help staying productive on the road? Check out our best productivity tips for nomads.
How do you pack like a nomad?
To pack as a digital nomad, first consider which essential items you need to bring and the amount of luggage you wish to carry. Generally, less is more when it comes to packing. See our recommended digital nomad clothing checklist for more specifics.
How much money do you need to be a digital nomad?
Generally speaking, a typical digital nomad cost of living ranges from as little as $1,000 per month up to $5,000 per month or more, depending upon your lifestyle and where you are going. You should plan to save enough money for at least six months of expenses before becoming a digital nomad, or have a steady income that can cover your expenses.
How can I pack my luggage to save space?
You can use packing cubesto save space in your luggage. They are an efficient way to organize your clothes, and packing cubes can help compress your clothes to give you more space. Some other popular space-saving packing tips include:
Putting items into your shoes
Planning your itinerary ahead of time so you know what you need to pack
Is it better to roll or fold clothes in a suitcase?
It is better to roll your clothes if you are looking to maximize space in a suitcase. In my experience, rolled clothes don’t take up as much space as folded clothes.
Can you pack more with packing cubes?
Generally speaking, you can pack more with packing cubes, especially if you roll your clothes. Even though packing cubes can help compress clothes, it can only do so much. Especially for clothing items like coats or sweatshirts. Regardless, it’s undeniable that packing cubes will help you stay organized while traveling.
Packing with a long-term strategy can be hard, but I hope this digital nomad packing list helps you avoid the common pitfalls and remember all the digital nomad essentials. Planning your remote worker life is fun, and packing can also be fun once you get the hang of it.
Anyway, hope you enjoyed this digital nomad packing list!
Have a question or tip of your own for how to pack as a digital nomad? Scroll down and leave a comment on this post!