Digital Nomad Packing List – Essential Travel Items

Showing off your travel gear is a bit of a thing at the moment so I thought I’d add my own collection and show you what’s in my backpack. I’ve been travelling for over 25 years and more or less follow a digital nomad lifestyle these days (but I’m 100% not tied to it). I’ve gone through phases of minimalist backpack to fully-prepared and everything in between.

Right now I like to think I am not extreme in my choice of packing list, but simply practical. These essential travel items are reliable and perform well.

For me the most important things to get right in the packing list are:

  • Includes equipment I need for work (Macbook, hard drive, etc)
  • Includes sports apparel and equipment. I have to be able to run, hit the gym, swim, perform mobility exercises, and do yoga.

The Digital Nomad Packing List Notes:

  • I recommend the items on this list to my friends but I’m not trying to sway anyone’s opinion on, say Mac vs PC laptops, or Sony vs Sennheiser headphones. I’ve tried hundreds of different headphones, backpacks, and other products for use on the road. These are the ones I currently use.
  • I haven’t listed things like toothbrushes, socks, and nail clippers. The exact quantity of toothpaste I travel with is not that interesting to anyone (or is it? let me know please) so I only detail the stuff that’s different/important/interesting.
  • I use, vouch for, and endorse, all of these products. There are no paid reviews in this article (or anywhere on this website). Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means that I may receive a small commission if you click on the links and order the products. This does not increase the cost to you in any way.
  • The list can change depending on the journey, of course, but for any trip over a couple of weeks, this is my go-to travel-packing list.

Carry On Backpack

The quest to find the best carry on backpack is a never-ending one among travellers. Digital nomads and professional vagabonds are often quite passionate about choosing the right backpack or carry-on bag for the job. The goal, much of the time, is to pack everything you need into one bag and avoid having to deal with a checked bag.

The advantages are financial and practical. Nobody wants to pay extra luggage fees and standing at the luggage carousel is boring and tedious. I mostly subscribe to the one-bag-only rule but sometimes it’s not practical. Travelling light is, however, much more liberating.

My carry-on bag these days is an Osprey bag isn’t the hippest looking but it’s extremely well built, with no weak points and has plenty of space. I also use a small Deuter day pack for my macbook, charger, headphones, etc.

osprey backpack
A photo of my backpack before I ripped off the tags and started using it for travel

External Hard Drive For Travel

The Western Digital (WD) Elements external drive range is stylish and practical. I’ve owned 3 of these at various stages. One I dropped from a height (R.I.P.), one is a backup of a backup and the last is my main external drive.

The WD elements portable drive is the one I’m using now.

Of course, you can always store your photos and other data in the cloud. But what happens if you need to back up your data in some remote location with no wifi, or a simply bad wifi connection? And cloud storage comes with a yearly recurring cost.

With the staggering quantity of photos we collectively take every day a 500GB drive might not be enough to meet our individual photo backup requirements, especially if you keep high-quality copies. This drive has a massive 2TB of storage.

Travel Coffee Maker

The best coffee maker on the market also happens to be the lightest and the cheapest. That’s music to the ears of travelling coffee addicts. I bought my AeroPress Coffee Maker about 3 years ago and I’m wondering why I didn’t before. I now own two of these little travel coffee presses.

For the cost of a few fancy coffees in Starbucks, you can buy your own coffee grinder and coffee press. The combination of freshly ground coffee and the AeroPress produces a fine-tasting elixir, unlike anything those coffee chains can offer. I actually prefer to use a hand grinder and a V60 these days but the Aeropress is a great backup.

The Aeropress builds on the notion that the pressure applied to the hot water as it passes through the coffee grains is what produces the best-tasting coffee. The most expensive part of a coffee machine is the pump. Your own arm strength is a pretty good source of pump power. All you need then is hot water and some plastic to hold the liquid. Thus was born the Aeropress. Get one today and never be without a delicious cup of Joe ever again.

Roost Stand – Travel Laptop Stand

I’m big into ergonomics and anything that can help to improve my posture. If you work all day on a computer, as many of us do now, you might have experienced shoulder and neck soreness, back pain, and eyestrain. These are all symptoms of the modern laptop lifestyle.

12+ hours a day sitting will ruin your body. I use a standing desk when I have a base location and an adjustable height monitor.

Roost Stand laptop stand with Macbook

I ordered a Roost when it was still in its Kickstarter funding phase. After a long delay, the extremely lightweight and sturdy laptop stand arrived. It’s a really nicely designed piece of kit and surprisingly solid considering its low weight.

The weight is barely noticeable (5.8oz or 165g) and it packs down into a thin packable unit (1.2 x 13 x 1.3 inches) that you can slot into your backpack. An essential piece of equipment.

A great alternative (cheaper but just as good) is the NEXSTAND. This is my backup option and what many of my friends are using now. Here’s a comparison of the two laptop stands.

Travel Yoga Mat

Exercise is not just important, it’s essential. The human body was designed for movement, not sitting on aeroplanes and lounging in cafes. After a long flight, a spot of yoga or simple stretching is just the thing for reviving tired bodies and stretching out muscles that have been stuck in one position for too long.

Carrying a full-size mat is not an option so I regularly bring a travel mat with me. The Eko Superlite Travel Mat is a good quality super-light mat that packs away in your case. I used one of these every day on the dusty sweaty floor of my apartment in Buenos Aires in the heat of summer.

I used one of these every day on the dusty sweaty floor of my apartment in Buenos Aires in the heat of summer.

What’s In Your Digital Nomad Packing List?

So there you have it. A list of items that I choose from every time I take a trip. In most cases, I will take 90% of these things with me. What’s on your packing list?

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3 thoughts on “Digital Nomad Packing List – Essential Travel Items”

    1. keith travel writer and blogger

      I guess I left out camera equipment because it’s a rabbit hole I didn’t want to get into. And I’m not the best person to ask about this.
      I use a Gorilla tripod for my camera and my Pixel 2. Works really well.

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