There’s a bit of a dilemma with buying gifts for digital nomads. Subscribers to the nomadic lifestyle, nomad movement or whatever you want to call it, tend to live minimalistic lives. They generally buy less “stuff” than most people. Their laptop is their most important possession. Sometimes their phone takes the role of primary business and communication tool. Buying a gift for a digital nomad can be a bit of a minefield. But I’ve created a list of items that you can safely choose from.
So what can you buy for the person that eschews material goods, travels light, and needs nothing other than income and the freedom to roam?
Well, no matter how minimalist one gets, there are always a few essentials. And there are always items that are not on the essential list, but few can resist. Who can refuse a well-considered, practical, and stylish gift that can help improve the digital nomad lifestyle?
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Physical gifts for digital nomads.
If you’re buying for someone he travels frequently, the goal should be to buy both practical and lightweight physical products.
Backpack – The Essential Item
Ever seen a digital nomad without a backpack? Me neither. Location independent entrepreneurs and workers need something for their MacBook, phone, water bottle, journal and whatever else they need for the day. Highly mobile people need to move from apartment to coworking space and from city to airport with the minimum of fuss. Ideally, the perfect backpack is compact, easy to organise, offers easy access to contents, and is waterproof.
A backpack might even be the perfect gift for a digital nomad.
The Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack is a great backpack from a well-established company known for delivering quality products.
Alternatively, check out the Nomatic backpack, a very popular pack that’s not exactly cheap, but it should last for a long time. Note that Nomatic gets 4/5 stars on Amazon as there have been some issues with quality. However, the returns policy covers any issues.
Water Bottle – Stay Hydrated, Save the Planet, And Massage Yourself.
Water bottle? Yes, I know. It’s a bit of a boring present. But the thing is, everybody needs a water bottle. And conscientious digital nomads know that plastic is killing the world, plastic water bottles are choking up the seas and polluting the atmosphere. Reusable water bottles can, well, be reused and are often made from recyclable materials.
The MAKERSLAND Stainless Steel Vacuum Insulated water bottle for travel is a solid performer and is made from food-grade, BPA-free, recyclable materials. It will keep water hot or cold for hours and is tough enough to withstand plenty of abuse.
I found a second use for metal, aluminium or hard plastic water bottles. I like to use mine as a foam roller to help get rid of those knots in my shoulders and back from a long haul journey or from working at the computer. They can also help massage tired legs after a day hiking or walking around a new city.
Noise-cancelling Headphones – A Gift For Everyone
Noise-cancelling headphones have many practical applications:
- Removing the noise of screaming kids on planes and other forms of transport
- Creating a cone of silence in a noisy cafe or coworking space
- Helping travellers catch up on podcasts and audiobooks while travelling, commuting, or training at the gym.
- Helping with producing the increasingly popular medium of podcasting. Every podcaster needs headphones.
I recently bought aa pair of Sony WH-CH700N Wireless Bluetooth Noise Cancelling Headphones and they are great. These headphones are not the most expensive on the market. They could even be considered budget headphones but they pack a punch in terms of features that sound quality.
A little tip. Use Krisp to block out the noise of people chatting, dogs barking, kids screaming, and even traffic noise as you chat walking down the street. Krisp is an AI tool that understands when to deliver your voice and when to remove the background noise. The difference is amazing and it will make your podcasts shine, your meetings easier to listen to, and your conversation partner happier.
Blue Light Blockers – Sleep Better
Blue light blocking glasses are going to be so hot in 2020. Why? Because people are finally figuring out that sleep is one of the most important factors for health and productivity. Forget about seeing your regular doctor. Make a date with “doctor sleep” and change your life. At least, this what you can say to the receiver of the gift.
But thanks to our current (over) use of screens, especially before bed, we’re actually sleeping less than our parents, certainly less than our ancestors. The blue light from the screens of laptops and mobile phones is causing havoc with our sleep patterns. But help is at hand in the form of blue light blocking glasses. Yes, there is a way to continue watching Netflix on your phone before bed (although I don’t recommend it) without all the negative effects.
These glasses are also great for people that travel a lot, like digital nomads. They can help to avoid blue light at strategic times. Especially helpful when you’re transitioning to a new time zone.
Packing Cubes – Boring But Badass
I’ll admit that packing cubes are not specifically for digital nomads and could be a gift for any traveller. However, many nomads like to pack the bare minimum (it’s a bit of a nomad-y thing to do) and they like to make the best use of the resources they have. The best way to conserve space in your day pack is to roll your clothes, stuff them into packing cubes, to put those cubes in your carry on or checked luggage. Packing this way also helps for easier access later on. I’ve also found small packing cubes very useful for storing cables, of which I have many.
For many digital nomads, their laptop is a communication device, a workstation, and a channel for socializing. It’s worth protecting with a quality padded sleeve.
If you’ve got an expensive MacBook or laptop PC laptop you really need a good high-quality padded laptop sleeve or case to protect the most important gadget you’ve got in your bag.
Laptop sleeves get damaged and get lost, so they can be great replacement gifts that don’t weigh much and are practical at the same time (remember how nomads like to be practical?)
I recommend the TomToc 360 Protective Laptop Sleeve. I’ve got one of these for my 15-inch MacBook and 13-inch MacBook too.
Roost Stand – Ergonomics & Health
When we spend most of our day and a laptop or hunched over a computer, our bodies tend to suffer a bit. More people are beginning to understand that the laptop lifestyle is not exactly healthy for your spine or posture. But there are things we can do to improve our situation. The roost stand is a simple but well-designed mini laptop stand that moves your screen up to eye level. We can then look directly ahead while working. Traditional laptop setup forces us to look down. It’s one of the best ways to reduce neck and eye strain, and prevent rounded shoulders and back pain.
The Roost stand is also ultra-compact and super light. You won’t even notice it in your backpack. An essential item for digital nomads.
Cable Organizer – Smart Gadget Management
I mentioned earlier that packing cubes also make ghetto table organisers but if you want to buy the presents that not only looks good but it really practical and perfect for digital nomads try cable organiser. They’re inexpensive lightweight and stylish.
ProCase offers some really cool organisers that I couldn’t resist adding to my collection of travel tools.
ProCase Accessories Bag Organizer lets you neatly pack away cables, USB chargers, SD cards, batteries, hard drives, headphones, and more. It’s one place for all accessories. Never waste time again fishing in the bottom of your backpack for that cable you’re not even sure you brought.
Digital gifts for digital nomads.
Owning lots of physical things is not what most nomads strive for. Nomads seek experiences and non-materialistic things (this is a bit of a generalisation but you get the idea).
So physical gift doesn’t sound like the best idea, why not a digital gift?
Audible Subscription: Listen To Books
Listening to books is becoming a very popular way of consuming ideas and for researching and learning. Well personally I prefer to read a book, books in audio format to be useful for several reasons
1. Sometimes it’s not possible to read a book because of poor light, physical limitations or simply the fact that you forgot to bring a good book.
2. Listening to a book on your noise-cancelling headphones can be a great way of relaxing or filtering out noisy transport or neighbourhoods.
These days, most written books are also released with audio versions, which you can generally find on Audible.com
Audible is a digital subscription service, so it makes a great gift that won’t use up any space in your luggage.
Tripit Pro – Trip Planning Genius App
Tripit is an awesome web and mobile app to help you organise and stay on top of your travel plans.
It works like this: When you receive a travel booking confirmation such as a flight ticket or hotel reservation, forward it to a special email address at tripit.com. The app automagically converts the email into an itinerary. The software understands that some dates overlap and allows for this. It also understands the difference between hotel bookings and flight bookings. The master itinerary is a logical list of every flight hotel and travel plan for the next year. To explain it better, I’ve written a full review of Tripit Pro but I recommend you fire up the free version which is very comprehensive. The Pro version offers some really great features designed to support frequent travellers such as a seat tracker, fare tracker, check-in reminders, and airport maps.
A must-have app and a perfect gift for the frequently flying digital nomad.
Tuts+ Subscription: Learn New Skills
As a digital nomad keeping up-to-date with the latest skills is very important. Developers need to keep up with the latest trends. Photographers are always using new tools to improve their photos. Freelancers need to know how to manage their business. Writers want to get better at writing. And there are courses for all of these skills and more.
In fact, there’s no shortage of online course platforms, course providers, and free YouTube videos that can help anyone learn a skill. But nobody wants to waste their time following a course that doesn’t deliver quality material.
One of the best providers of course materials is Tuts+ from Envato which comes as part of the Envato Elements package. You can pay a monthly fee or save some cash and gift somebody an entire year (with a big discount). It’s 100% worth it.
The Envato Elements subscription is also great for freelancers and web developers. Anyone with a website or web presence, really. A subscription gets you (or your digital nomad friend) access to millions of royalty-free photographs, music, WordPress themes, WordPress plugins, and stock video.
Speaking of writers, check out this gift guide for writers.