The Ultimate Packing List for Digital Nomads

by | Jul 17, 2022 | Travel

You’ve decided to become a digital nomad. Got a remote job or business lined up, sold all your stuff, and picked your first destination. Now you’ve got to decide on what to pack for your digital nomad adventure. The mere thought of this decision, though, is now causing you to break out in hives.

You’re packing not just for vacation but also for remote work, so it’s even more important that you pack the right stuff. You also don’t want to overpack. If you do it right, your digital nomad life will be much more enjoyable and stress-free than if you do it wrong.

That’s why I’m sharing with you my own minimalist digital nomad packing list. I’ll tell you how I’ve managed to get all of my tech gear, clothes, toiletries, camera gear, and first-aid stuff into one 40L backpack, a daypack, and a purse. The packing list is based on my experience working remotely in Southeast Asia, Mexico, and Central America for over 1.5 years and living in China for 8 years.

I’ve divided this digital nomad packing list into 9 categories. Just jump to the section that you’re most interested in. Or if you want, read all the way through.

  1. Luggage
  2. Tech gear
  3. Clothes
  4. Shoes
  5. Toiletries
  6. First-aid Kit
  7. Documents
  8. Miscellaneous stuff

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links.  As an Amazon Associate and a Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.  Please see this website’s Disclosure for more info.

a laptop sitting on a yellow picnic table at the beach
Working in Caye Caulker, Belize

Digital Nomad packing List – Luggage

One of the most important decisions you’ll need to make as a digital nomad is what kind of luggage to use. You’ve got your main bag. Plus there’s the day pack, purse, wallet, toiletry bag, and so on to consider.

This is the luggage that I suggest a digital nomad gets for their life overseas:

1.      Backpack or Suitcase?

Do you want a backpack or a rolling suitcase?

I went with a backpack because the places I was traveling to had a lot of cobblestoned roads and uneven or nonexistent sidewalks.  I also knew there would be few elevators, so I’d have to climb a lot of stairs. Better with a backpack than a suitcase.

Because I’m short and I have problems with my knees and feet, I knew I wanted around a 40L Backpack with good support.

I also wanted front-loading over top-loading. It’s easier to pack and unpack your stuff from a front-loading backpack.

I hemmed and hawed between getting an Osprey Fairview 40L and a Kelty Redwing 44L.

In the end, I bought the Kelty because it felt sturdier and more comfortable than the Osprey. At 44 liters, the Kelty is also slightly bigger than the 40-liter Osprey.

You can read about my review of the Kelty and its comparison with the Osprey 40L.

However, both backpacks are good. Both backpacks also have bigger sizes as well. The Osprey has a 55L and the Kelty a 50L.

For those who prefer a rolling suitcase

If you’re the type of digital nomad who has a bad back or plans to stay longer in one place than I do, you might want to consider using a rolling suitcase instead.

As my knees get worse and worse and my camera gear grows, I’m seriously tempted to change from a backpack to a rolling suitcase.

My friend uses the DELSEY Paris Titanium suitcase and she loves it.

2. Day Backpack

The next thing packing decision that a digital nomad needs to make is what kind of day backpack to use. You need something to carry your stuff around during the day as well as carry your electronics like your laptop and perhaps camera gear.

Don’t skimp on your daypack. You want something sturdy, that has lots of pockets and is hard for thieves to access.

Unfortunately, I had the hardest time finding the perfect day pack for me. I brought several home from the store or ordered them on Amazon. Packed all my stuff in them. Walked around the house. Then sent the ones I didn’t want back to the store. In the end, I still wasn’t 100% satisfied.

The daypack I use:

I have lots of camera gear, so I need a small backpack that can hold my camera stuff, laptop, and essentials that I need for a day out touring a city like insect repellant, sunscreen, bandaids, a waterproof backpack cover, and other items.

I have the Brevite Jumper Backpack, and I really like it. I’ll be honest with you, though. I don’t love it.

It can hold my laptop, computer accessories, camera, 3 lenses, tripod, water bottle, and other odds and ends.

It’s the perfect size for my small frame, so even though I’ve got a camera, 3 lenses, a tripod, and some other stuff, it doesn’t feel heavy.

I love that it has lots of different pockets as well.

There are 2 things I don’t like about it:

  • it’s not waterproof or water-resistant.
  • the divider between the top and bottom compartment falls so that the stuff in the top part invades the bottom part’s space.

What if you don’t need a camera bag?

Before I had so much camera gear, I used the Patagonia Refugio 26L backpack and loved it. They no longer make the same style as I had, however.

Their new one has a different setup. You can purchase it easily at REI stores or through the Patagonia website.

3. Raincover for Your Backpacks

Living outside of North America, you’re probably going to need to get around on foot or take public transportation, so you’ll need protection for your bag. A rain cover for your backpack is necessary.

Get one for both your daypack and if you went with a backpack for your main luggage, for that as well.

4.      Purse

The third bag decision a female digital nomad might need to make is what kind of purse to get.

You want something that is going to be hard for thieves to get into but it should also be comfortable and useful.

A crossbody purse is supposed to be harder for thieves to steal.

I have the Travelon Anti-Theft Crossbody Purse.

I’m about 75% happy with this purse. I love that the zippers can “lock” making it harder for thieves to open my bag. The body panels are supposed to be slash-resistant as well. The pockets and slots for credit cards are RFID-blocking.

It’s also the perfect size for my stuff and the multiple pockets allow me to organize my money, phone, Kindle, and other things. I use one pocket for my phone and another for the money I’m going to use daily. For important items like credit cards or items I rarely take out, I put them in pockets that I rarely open during the day.

5. Money Belt

Another essential item for a digital nomad packing list is a money belt that you can wear under your clothes. I know lots of people think they’re not really that secure.

I still think they’re useful in that pickpockets are going to have a harder time getting at your money and passport under your clothes than in the front pocket of your jeans or your purse.

My go-to money belt is the one that runners use.

A runner’s money belt is more comfortable and less bulky than the traditional travel ones; hence, less obvious.

However, once you’ve worn it a few times, it can start to smell, so you’ve got to wash it every once in a while.

6. Compression Cubes

Lots of experienced travelers recommend packing cubes. I also think they’re essential travel gear for digital nomads.

However, I’m not a big fan of regular packing cubes. Sometimes they’re the wrong size and shape. They’re either too big or too small or they’re too wide and not narrow enough for backpacks. I didn’t think they saved me much space. So, I stopped using them.

But then…

I found compression packing cubes. I fell instantly in love.

By compressing my clothes, they save me a lot of space in my luggage.

The ones I have are more narrow than most other packing cubes, so they fit in my backpack like a glove.

Along with 4 small and medium-sized bags (I only use 3 of them), my set of cubes also came with a shoe bag and an incredibly useful laundry bag.

Here are some tips for purchasing packing cubes:

  • Long and narrow cubes work better for backpacks since it is also usually long and narrow.
  • Get medium-sized and small cubes. Don’t get ones that are too big.

7. Laundry bag

You might not have even thought about adding a laundry bag to your digital nomad packing list because it doesn’t seem like something that’s all that important before you start traveling.


Having a laundry bag was a game-changer for me.

I used to use plastic bags or garbage bags to put my dirty clothes in while traveling, but I’d misplace the bag or it would tear. Then I’d have to look for a new bag that’s big enough for my clothes. Harder than you think.

Then I ordered compression bags (see above) that came with a laundry bag with a drawstring. My dirty clothes problem was solved. Now I can easily separate my dirty and clean clothes. I also have something to take with me to the lavanderias in Central America and Mexico to get my clothes washed.

The laundry bag also has a drawstring so it can hang from doorknobs and hangers. Wonderful!

8. Cloth bag for groceries

Another packing list item you might not think is essential is a cloth grocery bag.

However, in lots of countries grocery stores charge for plastic bags. Even Walmart in Mexico charges for bags.

Plus, bringing a reusable bag is good for the environment.

I just use one that I bought for US$1 at a Walmart in Mexico.

9. Dry Bag

I admit that a dry bag is not an essential item to add to your digital nomad packing list; however, it has come in handy for me in Southeast Asia, Mexico, and Central America, so I highly recommend getting one.

I use mine when I go to the beach, lakes, and waterfalls. I take it with me on snorkeling trips. It just keeps my stuff from getting wet.

Sometimes you need to get to another place by boat and the weather’s not good. It’s raining and the water is choppy. You and all your stuff are going to get soaked. This happened to me in Costa Rica, the Philippines, and Nicaragua. But because I put my laptop and all my important electronic gear inside my dry bag, they stayed dry.

Make sure to get a dry bag that is big enough to store your tech gear. I recommend getting the 40L or 55L size.

Make sure to get a dry bag with straps so that you can carry it on your back. My first bag had no straps and it was a pain to carry.

TRAVEL TIP: Before checking your luggage at the airport, take a photo of it in case it doesn’t arrive at your destination. It’s sometimes hard to remember exactly what your bag looks like and it’s sometimes hard to describe to an airline employee. This is especially so when you arrive in a foreign country alone at 2:00 am after flying and waiting in airports for 24 hours.

Digital Nomad Packing List – Tech Gear

Here is a list of the tech gear that you might need to add to your packing list. Some of these items you might have already thought of, while others you haven’t.

I’m of the mindset that when it comes to your job or your business, time is of the essence. If something breaks, you don’t want to waste your time looking for a replacement. So, it’s always good to have a spare power cord or battery with you.

Another thing is to check if your brand of computer is sold in the country you’re going to. For example, my brand of laptop is not sold in the region I’m currently living in (Central America), so I packed a spare power cord in case my first one stopped working, which did happen.

Here’s a quick list of suggested tech gear to add to your digital nomad packing list:

  1. laptop
  2. laptop case
  3. extra charger
  4. USB and USB-C docking station
  5. external hard drive
  6. extra cable for hard drive
  7. Micro SD Card
  8. wireless mouse
  9. laptop stand
  10. Kindle reader or Kindle Fire
  11. smartphone
  12. smartphone case
  13. power bank
  14. plug adaptor
  15. headphones
  16. carrying case for your electronic accessories

1. Laptop

You probably already have a laptop. You can’t really be a digital nomad without one.

However, there are things you should consider when deciding on which laptop to bring with you overseas:

  • Make sure your laptop is lightweight and not too big.
  • Get a new laptop if your current one is old and not working well. This happened to me before I went out on my first digital nomad trip.
  • Is your brand of computer sold in the country you are going to? My brand of computer is not, so getting it fixed is difficult. Plus, if you need a new power cord, your only option is to have a new one shipped through a freight forwarder and pay a high import tax.

I have the Microsoft Surface Pro.

Despite it not being sold in Central America, I love it for its speed and weight. It’s a combination laptop/tablet. You can separate the keyboard from the screen and use it as a tablet. Put the two together and it’s just like any other laptop.

The Surface Pro is probably the lightest laptop on the market.

2. Laptop Case

You’ll also need a good laptop case to protect your computer from bumps, dust, and debris. The worst thing that can happen to a digital nomad in a foreign country is having to fix one’s laptop.

I use the one that came with my previous laptop, Asus Zenbook. But you can easily find inexpensive and good-quality ones on Amazon.

3. Extra Laptop Charger

An extra charger for your laptop is probably not something you would think initially about adding to your digital nomad packing list. But from my experience, it’s essential.

As a digital nomad, you’re going to end up moving your laptop from place to place, plugging and unplugging the power cord, and wrapping it up and unwrapping it. This decreases the lifespan of the cord.

When I lived in the U.S., I was buying a new power cord every year. As a digital nomad, I’ve had to get a new one at least once after being on the road for 8 months.

Some laptops can only use specific power cords, and you sometimes can’t find the one you need in a country. For example, when I was in Belize, I needed a new Surface Pro charger after my original one stopped working. I asked where to buy one on a Belize Ex-pat Facebook Group. Luckily, someone who works at Microsoft and lives in Belize was on there and gave me her extra one for free. Wow!

Little did I realize at the time how lucky that was as Microsoft doesn’t sell Surface Pros in Central America, so finding a new charger there just wasn’t going to work. Having one shipped was going to be expensive and difficult if perhaps impossible.

You can buy third-party Surface Pro chargers on Amazon for around US$25, but they don’t always work. So, in the end, I splurged and bought a real Microsoft-made charger from Best Buy for 3 times as much when I recently returned briefly to the U.S.

4. USB-C and USB Docking Station

When you’ve got a small laptop and you need to plug in a lot of peripherals at the same time having a handy docking station is necessary tech gear for digital nomads.

Mine has USB, USB-C, micro SD card, and SD card ports.

5. External Hard Drive

Another important item to add to your digital nomad packing list is a rugged and portable hard drive with a lot of storage space (4 to 5 TBs minimum).

You think that you can save everything on the Cloud. However, in lots of countries, you’re going to run into issues with internet speed and stability. You won’t be able to download at all or it’ll take too long.

There were times in the Philippines, Mexico, and Guatemala when uploading 200 photos onto Google Drive was going to take 20 to 50 to 100+ hours.

Even if you have one already, you may want to buy one that is specifically geared for travel. These are ones with really good anti-shock protection. It needs to be strongly made and can withstand rough handling and being dropped on the floor. Ideally, try to find one that is water-resistant.

Transcend has one with a rugged exterior that protects the drive if you drop it. Another popular one is the Lacie brand of hard drive.

I also have a 4 TB one because I download tons of photos and it’s easier carrying around one hard drive than several.

6. Extra USB 3.0 Cable for Hard Drive

Along with the hard drive, bring an extra USB 3.0 cable with you in case yours stops working. When you think your hard drive is dying, it’s sometimes the cable that needs replacing.

7. Micro SD Card

Another storage item you might want to add to your digital nomad packing list is a micro SD card. My laptop has a built-in slot for one. which is an awesome and safer way to store data than an external hard drive (so I’ve been told).

The only problem is that the maximum storage size for cards is 1 terabyte and they’re quite pricey. The one I have is 256 GB and it’s nearly full.

8. Wireless Mouse

One tech gear that you might consider adding to your digital nomad packing list is a wireless mouse.

Using a mouse is faster than using your touchpad, and it just feels ergonomically better on your wrist and hands.

Get a vertical wireless mouse. It’s supposedly even better for your wrist than a traditional mouse.

I use one because my touchpad stopped working while in El Salvador. Luckily, I found one at a stationery store a block from my hotel.

9. Laptop Stand

Another addition to your digital nomad packing list is a laptop stand.

I don’t use one myself, but after working at a table in Costa Rica that is way too low, I’m seriously considering investing in a laptop stand.

I know lots of remote workers who swear by them.

A stand raises the laptop to eye level preventing neck, shoulder, and back strain. It also reduces stress on your wrists when typing.

Another reason you might consider one is that it can lengthen the longevity of your laptop. Because the stand elevates your laptop, your computer gets more ventilation, encouraging greater airflow. Thus, your laptop is less likely to get overheated and freeze up.

Luckily, you can buy laptop stands that fit easily into a backpack.

10. Kindle E-Reader or Kindle Fire

You’re going to find yourself with some downtime and you’ll want to relax and unwind. A Kindle e-reader or Kindle Fire is perfect for a digital nomad.

I like the Fire because you can use it for both reading books and watching Netflix.

I recommend getting the latest version and not going smaller than an 8” and with 32 GB of storage. They come in all sorts of colors. Getting a red or blue one makes it easy to find in your bag.

The only downside is that it can be hard to see the screen on a sunny day at the beach.

11. Smartphone

A smartphone is a no-brainer item for any digital nomad packing list. You need access to the internet and you need to call or text.

I have a Samsung Ultra S23 and love it, especially the camera. It’s got both telephoto wide-angle zoom lenses Plus the video camera is pretty good.

If you’re from the U.S., make sure the phone is unlocked so that you can use local SIM cards. That’s what I always do when I travel.

I don’t have a traditional phone plan either. Along with a local SIM card, I also use Google Voice, which allows me to make calls and texts using the internet. I only paid US$20 to transfer my old phone number over to Google Voice. I pay no monthly fees. If my bank needs to send a code, they send it to Google Voice.

A popular alternative for digital nomads is Google Fi, which does have monthly fees.

12. Phone Protector

The last thing you want is for your phone to stop working, so having a good case for your phone is a necessary item for digital nomads.

I’ve been pretty happy with this phone protector. It’s easy to put on and take off. I’ve dropped my phone several times over the last year and the phone hasn’t been damaged once.

13. Power Bank

No digital nomad packing list would be complete without mentioning a portable power bank. You’ll need one if you ever find yourself on a long bus journey or a long hike.

You have 2 choices for the type of power bank:

  • A power bank that can recharge your phone and Kindle
  • A power bank that can recharge your laptop

Power Banks for Phones

I love my Mophie Power Bank. I used to buy only Anker Power Banks, but they don’t have one that can recharge my Samsung phone using a USB-C power cord.

When buying a power bank, make sure it has USB-C deliver power output capabilities and not just input capabilities. I bought an Anker one that only had input capabilities. That means it can’t charge devices that require USB-C cables to recharge.

Power Banks for Laptops

If you want to recharge not just your phone but also your laptop, tablet, drone, etc., then you’ll need to go with a larger, more expensive, and more powerful power bank.

I don’t have this type of power bank, but I wish I did. It would give me so much flexibility in where I can work and how long I can work.

I think it’s the perfect tech gear for a digital nomad.

14. Plug Adaptor

Depending on where you travel, you might find that you can’t plug your electronic device into the wall outlet. This happens for example if you’re an American traveling in Asia or a European traveling in Central America.

This type of plug adaptor doesn’t convert the voltage. It ONLY changes the prongs from say squared ones to round ones so that the cord for your electronic gear will fit into the outlet.

If you need something that changes the voltage from 220v to 110v or vice versa for your hair dryer, then you need a converter, which is not what this is.

15. Headphones

No digital nomad packing list is complete without headphones. They’re necessary for Zoom calls and for blocking out the noise in coworking spaces.

My headphones are not expensive, but they work well. When I’m on a Zoom call, the person on the other end doesn’t hear the noise around me.

16. Carrying Case for Electronic Accessories

A good carrying case for electronic accessories is a must-item on any digital nomad packing list. Get one big enough to store your power cord, hard drive, and all your cables.

But make sure it fits in your carry-on.

I like the one made by sisma. It has lots of different pockets and dividers, the material is high quality, and it’s customizable.

I’m too embarrassed to tell you what I was using when I first started as a digital nomad. Luckily, I recognized my mistake early on in my remote work career, and while in the Philippines in 2020, I bought a case that I still use today. However, I do wish it were a bit bigger and had more individual pockets.

a laptop sitting on a table facing a window
Working in Costa Rica

Digital Nomad Packing List – Clothes

What clothing does a digital nomad need to pack?

This is probably the part of your packing list that is the most personal.

I will tell you what clothes I have in my backpack, and you can use this example to help you decide what to include in your digital nomad packing list.

Here are my guidelines for deciding what and how many clothes to pack for long-term travel:

  • pack enough for 7 days
  • if a place is hot and humid, wash your clothes once a week; if the weather is mild, wash your clothes once every 2 weeks
  • pack lightweight clothes
  • pack clothes that can dry quickly
  • wash clothes in the shower or sink if you need to

Here is a suggested list of the clothes to pack:

  1. short-sleeved shirts
  2. pants, shorts, or skirts
  3. long-sleeved shirts
  4. fleece
  5. rain jacket
  6. sleepwear
  7. socks
  8. underwear
  9. bras
  10. swimsuit
  11. hat
  12. jacket for winter

1. 7 Short-sleeved or sleeveless shirts

Most digital nomads base themselves in climates that are warm to hot all year round, so short-sleeved or sleeveless shirts are the way to go.

There are 4 rules for packing shirts:

  • Pack 7 short-sleeved shirts; in other words, pack a week’s worth.
  • Make sure all 7 tops can go with any of your pants, shorts, and skirts.
  • Get tops that you won’t be too sad about ruining – Most of the time you’re working remotely in places that are hot and humid. That means your tops won’t last that long. I’ve had to replenish all of my tops twice since I started working remotely 14 months ago.
  • If you need to dress more formally for Zoom calls, pack 5 casual tops and 2 dressier tops that won’t wrinkle too much
  • Your tops should be lightweight and breathable.

I get 7 very basic tops in mostly muted colors like black, grey, or dark blue. They’re from Target or Amazon.

The best tops I bought actually came from Walmart in Mexico. They were a Fruit-of-the-Loom brand and cost only US$3. They lasted longer than any of the Target or Amazon ones.

What about when you need to be on a Zoom call?

I teach on Zoom. During those times, I wear a black shirt. Plus, my camera usually only catches my shoulders, so it doesn’t matter much what top I wear.

But if you need something dressier, then substitute a more casual shirt for one that is more suitable for a formal Zoom call.

2.      7 Pants, Shorts, and Skirts

Because you’re working online, you don’t need to get fancy pants or skirts. Just get something that’s comfortable, breathable, lightweight, and dries quickly.

Here are my basic rules for buying pants

  • Dry easily
  • Lightweight
  • Usually, they’re called “travel pants” or “hiking pants”
  • Comfortable
  • I can mix and match them with all of my tops
  • Lots of pockets especially with zippers
  • Stretchy material
  • Have drawstrings
  • Avoid needing to wear a belt
  • Have at least 1 pair that looks dressy

You can get some good quality and inexpensive travel/hiking pants on Amazon. REI also has good quality clothes that last a long time, but they’re pricier.

Right now I’m packing too many pairs of pants, shorts, and skirts. I’ve got 8 with me, but you can get by with 6 or 7. Unlike my shirts, which I’ve had to replace twice, most of my pants, shorts, and skirts have been with me for years.

This is a sample of my wardrobe to give you an idea of what to pack for your digital nomad life.

  • 2 shorts
  • 1 black pants
  • 1 grey pants from REI – my go-to pants for airplanes because they’re dressier, have great pockets, and heavier
  • 3 capris
  • 1 wrap skirt – mainly wear at the beach; I bought mine from Rip Skirt Hawaii – they come in different lengths

3. Long-Sleeved Shirts

Your decision to add long-sleeved shirts to your digital nomad packing list depends on where you’ll be traveling. You can always just buy some along the way as well. Plus, you can always wear layers.

Initially, I didn’t pack any long-sleeved shirts at all. It wasn’t until I was on my way to Guatemala that I needed to buy some in Mexico.

Now I have 2 long-sleeved shirts in my backpack (I originally had 3 in Guatemala). When I get to somewhere colder, then I’ll buy more or just wear layers.

4. Fleece

No digital nomad packing list is complete without a nice warm fleece.

A fleece jacket is the best item for layering.

My fleece is the one thing on this list of clothes that I would literally cry over if I left it behind somewhere. I love this thing.

The only problem is that I don’t have room in my backpack for it, so when I move from city to city, I need to wear it or wrap it around my waist.

REI has the best fleeces, but Amazon has loads of brands, including Columbia.

5. Rain Jacket

Ideally, you want to pack a lightweight rain jacket.

REI has beautiful ones but they cost an arm and a leg.

I usually just buy a Columbia rain jacket. Before buying one, though, make sure you can scrunch it up so small that it will fit in a small space in your day pack. The lined ones tend to be too bulky for travel.

6. Sleepwear / Pajamas

Pack something for sleeping in.

I have 2 different sleepwear items, but you don’t need that many. I’ve got shorts and a tank top for when it’s really hot, and then more formal pajamas when the weather is mild or when I’m staying in a hostel dorm.

If it’s really cold, I’ll put on one of my long-sleeved shirts and my fleece.

7. Socks

How many pairs of socks do you need to add to your packing list?

I have 4 pairs of socks. This includes 3 pairs of basic white socks and 1 pair of compression socks. The latter are socks for people with plantar fasciitis.

If you run out of socks before the end of the week, you can always wash them in the shower or sink and air dry them in your room. I recommend air drying by hanging them over a towel, which soaks up the water.

8. Underwear

Ideally, how many pairs of underwear do you need to pack?

I’m going to say 7 to 10 pairs. If you need to, you can always wash your underwear in the shower or sink. Again, hang them over a towel for quicker drying and to prevent water from dripping on the floor.

9. Bras

I have 3 bras. You might be able to get away with 2 bras if you wash them frequently in the shower or sink.

10. Swimsuit

I know travelers who pack 3, but I just have 1 swimsuit.

What do you do if you need to buy a swimsuit overseas?

When I was in the Philippines, I needed to buy a new swimsuit as the fabric on mine became damaged. Nowhere in the small shops in El Nido could I find swimsuits that fit my bra size.

Then I went to a fancy resort and they had a store that sold swimsuits that would fit foreign women. So, my point is that if you’re ever in a bind like I was and you can’t find a swimsuit that fits, try going to an expensive resort.

11. Hat

Because of the dangers of skin cancer, you’ll want to include a hat on your packing list.

12. Jacket for Cold Weather

The last item you might consider adding to your digital nomad packing list is a winter jacket for cold weather.

You can now find winter jackets that you can roll up and squish until they’re so small that they can fit into a small bag.

I don’t have one right now. I plan to just buy a winter jacket when I get somewhere cold.

Digital Nomad Packing List – Shoes

The best piece of packing advice I can give a digital nomad is this: only take a maximum of 2 pairs of shoes.

Yeah, I know. Sounds crazy, right?

But, here me out:

Shoes take up a lot of real estate in your bag. Plus, they’re heavy.

You need to learn to live minimally and limit the number of shoes you’re wearing.

Worried about style? I’ll tell you about an awesome pair of sneakers that are both stylish and great for being on your feet all day as well as hiking or walking on cobblestoned streets.

These are the shoes and accessories that I own while on the road.

  1. Sneakers
  2. Flip-Flops
  3. Water Shoes

1. Sneakers

Bring at least one good pair of sneakers that you can use to walk around all day in and that you can wear when out hiking.

Don’t go cheap on them.

Get a high-quality pair.

I paid the price later in life by only buying cheap shoes.

I have plantar fasciitis and bunions, so I need wide shoes with good support. Only one pair of shoes works for me and that’s the Brooks Adrenaline GTS. I get either wide or extra wide.

You can order from Amazon, but I recommend buying from Fleet Feet. They often have more sizes in stock.

Another brand I recommend that has excellent support is the Cloudflyer shoes from On. They are so stylish looking that I used to wear them with dress pants and skirts when I was teaching in a classroom. Unfortunately, they don’t come in wide or extra wide.

2. Flip Flops or Sandals

You’ll need something you can wear inside your accommodations and to the beach. You could go with 1 pair for both places or 2 separate pairs of flip-flops.

I wear just 1 pair of cheap flip-flops for both places. I just don’t have enough room in my bag for more than one and it’s been fine for 1.5 years of being a digital nomad.

You can also find flip-flops pretty much anywhere in the world.

In the past, I would bring a pair of sandals called Chacos, but they’re just way too heavy.

3. Water Shoes

Water shoes are not an essential item on a packing list for digital nomads.

However, loads of you will be based in places near the ocean. Having a pair of water shoes is great protection for walking on rocky beaches, around slippery waterfalls, or on boats.

They also prevent you from getting hookworms on dirty beaches.

I always bring a pair of water shoes with me. They’re lightweight and inexpensive, and they don’t take up much space.

Digital Nomad Packing List – Toiletries

Here’s a list of the typical toiletry stuff that you’ll most likely pack:

  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste – you can get American brands easily overseas
  • Dental floss – not commonly used in some countries but you can usually find at least one brand in the stores
  • Mouthwash – usually you can find bottles of Listerine
  • Soap – bars of soap are easier to find than liquid soap
  • Moisturizer for face – easy to find in most countries
  • Moisturizing lotion for the body – easy to find regular-sized bottles in most countries
  • Shampoo – you can easily find it in other countries, but it’ll be hard to find travel-sized bottles; hard to find a sulfur-free shampoo; pack bars of shampoo instead of liquid shampoo.
  • Conditioner – harder to find conditioner in some countries
  • Styling Gels and Creams – you can find but hard to find travel-sized containers; I don’t have enough room to pack all my gels and creams
  • Feminine hygiene products – tampons are sometimes hard to find; many female travelers rave about the Divi Cup
  • Razors – you can find them easily in other countries
  • Hairbrush – get a travel-sized hairbrush; easy to find in other countries
  • Cotton swabs – you can easily find them in other countries
  • Contact solution – you can find large bottles in other countries

You can most likely replenish everything you need wherever you are.

Here are some other essential toiletry must-haves for your digital nomad packing list:

  1. Main toiletry bag
  2. Secondary toiletry bags
  3. Toothbrush protector
  4. Soap container
  5. Microfiber towel
  6. Microfiber face towel
  7. Makeup

1. Main Toiletry Bag

One of the biggest purchasing struggles I’ve had to make as a digital nomad is what to buy for my main toiletry bag.

I kid you not.

I’ve bought 4 different bags in the past 1.5 years. Three of them have broken. One lasted a week and the other one for two weeks.

And I swear I don’t overpack them.

My current toiletry bag purchase was made at the last minute before I left the U.S.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t really fit in my backpack. It’s basically the wrong shape—fat and wide.

For my backpack, my toiletry bag needs to be thin and narrow in order to fit in the spot that I have carved out for it in my bag.

My main toiletry bag is where I keep the bathroom stuff that I use every day like a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, hairbrush, soap, etc.

A few things I’ve learned about toiletry bags:

  • Counter space in hotel bathrooms is limited, so get a bag with a hook that you can hang from somewhere near the sink.
  • The toothbrush (and retainer if you have one) should be in a section that is separate from your hairbrush and other liquids.
  • You should be able to zip close the section for your toothbrush (and retainer if you have one) in order to keep out ants and other creepy-crawly things that are so common in the tropics.
  • If you have a backpack, narrow toiletry bags are better than fat and wide ones.

If I could go back in time and undo all my purchasing decisions, I would get this toiletry bag from Osprey. It’s one of the few bags on Amazon that’s not big and bulky.

2. Secondary Toiletry Bags

I have 2 additional toiletry bags. One is used for my medicine and the other for stuff used to wash my hair like shampoo and conditioner.

TSA Approved Clear Travel Toiletry Bag wih Zippers Carry-on Travel Accessories Quart Size Toiletries Cosmetic Pouch Makeup Bags for Men and Women (2 pcs)

I like these two bags because they’re inexpensive and see-through. They’re TSA Approved and fit nicely in my 40L backpack.

3. Clip-on Toothbrush Protector

I found these clip-on toothbrush holders to be the most practical way to protect my toothbrush. They’re inexpensive and don’t get too dirty.

Steripod Clip-On Toothbrush Protector, Green and Blue, 2 Count

The problem is that after a while you’ll need to replace it and it’s hard to find one like it in a lot of countries. I looked everywhere I went in Central America. Costa Rica was the only place that had one.  

Two of them come in one package. Bring both so you can replace the first one with your backup one.

4. Soap container

In most countries, soap will come as a bar and not as a liquid.

kiasona Travel Soap Box,soap Bar Holder Dish Container Case with Sponge saver Drain&Silicone Band,Strong Sealing,Leak Proof,Portable,Best for Bathroom,Shower,Gym,School,Camping,Hiking,Vacation,Outdoor

Pack a plastic container to store your soap in. I love this Kaison Travel Soap Box with sponge. The sponge absorbs excess moisture, so the bottom of the container doesn’t get all yucky. There is a silicone band that goes around the case so it doesn’t accidentally open in your bag or the soap doesn’t leak all over your bag.

5. Large Microfiber Towel

When you’re packing a towel, you need to think about both space and drying ability. The towel that meets both of these requirements is a microfiber towel.

Rainleaf Microfiber Towel, 30 X 60 Inches. Purple

I love these towels because they come in all colors and sizes. I bought the largest one (30 x 60 inches) they had at the time so I can use it for the beach. I’ll take it with me on multiple-day hikes and I’ll use it in case I don’t like the towels at the hostel or hotel. It comes in its own carrying case.

6. Small Microfiber Towel for Face

A small microfiber towel for the face is another good item to pack. I would get either the 32″ x 16″ or 12″ x 24″.

HOEAAS 2 Pack Microfiber Travel Towel, Quick Dry Towel Gym Towels Beach Towel Super Absorbent Compact Lightweight Camping Towel Workout Sports Sweat Towel for Beach, Swim, Yoga, Pool, Backpacking

I love how small it gets and how little room it takes up in my toiletry bag. Look for a towel that has its own carrying case.

7. Exfoliating Washcloth Towel

For the shower, I use an exfoliating washcloth towel.

Exfoliating Washcloth Japanese Washcloth Nylon Bath Wash Cloth Korean Exfoliating Cloth Luffah Towel Beauty Washcloth Sponge Loofah Body Scrub Back Scrubber for Shower 3 Pack by ARCH&M

It dries quickly and doesn’t take up much real estate in my toiletry bag.

8. Loofah Bath Sponge

I also pack a loofah bath sponge. They also dry quickly and don’t take up much space in my bag.

75g/pcs Bath Puffs, Large Body Exfoliating Loofah Shower Sponges for Men and Women Showering - Set of 4

9. Makeup

In order to be able to fit all of your items into your luggage, you’ll need to limit the amount of makeup you pack.

I actually stopped wearing makeup for a couple of reasons.

Most importantly, it was so hot and humid wherever I went that I would sweat so much that the makeup would run. I ended up looking scarier with makeup than without.

Second, I’ve been traveling overseas during the pandemic. Almost everywhere I’ve been, it’s the local custom and regulation to wear a facemask, so I saw no need to waste my makeup on parts of my face no one was going to see.

I’ve basically stuffed my makeup in a Ziploc plastic bag and only put it on when I have Zoom sessions with students or prospective customers.

Digital Nomad Packing List – First Aid Stuff

With COVID, monkeypox, and whatever emerging diseases we’ll see in the future, it’s essential that you pack a good first-aid kit.

A couple of tips when buying items for your first aid kit:

  • Look through all the bottles and boxes on the store shelf to find the one with the expiration date that is the farthest out.
  • Pack medicine or first aid stuff that you would need in a pinch like pain medicine or anti-itch cream.
  • Pack medicine that you need for ailments you have regularly or occasionally.
  • Research the major diseases and illnesses in the country you’ll be working from. I did my research on the top health issues in Southeast Asia and how to avoid them before I arrived there.
coronaviruses spinning around the globe
Coronavirus Asian flu ncov over Earth background and its blurry hologram. Concept of cure search and global world. 3d rendering toned image. Elements of this image furnished by NASA

My first-aid kit is probably much more extensive than the average digital nomad or long-term traveler. That’s because I have had many medical emergencies while traveling overseas. These are some of my unfortunate events:

These are the items that I have in my first-aid kit:

  1. Insect repellant
  2. Sunscreen – 50 pf
  3. Aloe Vera gel
  4. Vitamins
  5. Pain relief medicine
  6. Itch-stopping cream
  7. eye drops
  8. Antiseptic spray
  9. Antibacterial cream
  10. Band-Aids and/or gauze
  11. Immodium
  12. Cold and flu medicine
  13. Zicam
  14. Cough drops
  15. Debrox
  16. Acid reflux medicine
  17. Thermometer
  18. Oximeter
  19. Tiny scissors
  20. Fingernail clippers
  21. Tweezers
  22. Lens cleaner
  23. Lens cleaning cloths
  24. Eyeglass case
  25. Extra pair of glasses
  26. Contact lenses

NOTE: This list is what I pack for living and traveling overseas. The purpose is just to give you an idea of what a digital nomad might carry. It does not replace medical advice from a qualified doctor.

TRAVEL TIP: If you’re in a foreign country and you need to see a doctor, especially one that speaks English, join a Facebook Ex-pat group for that country. Ask for recommendations from the other group members.

Digital Nomad Packing List – Documents

As a digital nomad, you’re going to need to pack certain documents when traveling overseas. You can keep these documents in digital or paper form or both.

I recommend saving the forms to a few places: your phone, the cloud like Google Drive, and your laptop. You can also email a scanned copy of the forms to yourself.

Ideally, it’s good to keep the paper form of the documents with you as well for easy access.

Here are the documents that I make sure I have when I travel

  1. Passport and copy of passport
  2. COVID vaccine card – original and copy
  3. Yellow WHO vaccine card/booklet
  4. Health insurance information
  5. Vision prescription
  6. Extra photos for visas
  7. Credit card with no international transaction fees
  8. Debit card that reimburses ATM fees
  9. Copy of your credit and debit card information

1. Passport and a copy of your passport

Along with the original passport, make copies of its information page as well. Store it in several places.

If you happen to lose your passport or it gets stolen, a copy will help speed up the process of getting a new one and help you in filing a police report.

When you check in at a hotel, you often have to give your passport number. Instead of taking out your passport, take out a copy of it.

You might also need a copy to apply for entry into another country. I needed copies when I was entering Nicaragua by land.

2. COVID Vaccine Card

Bring proof of COVID vaccination with you in both paper and digital format.

If you only have it in digital form, print it out so that you have a paper copy available when crossing borders. Lots of borders like the one from Belize into Guatemala require proof of vaccination.

3. Yellow WHO Vaccine Booklet

Proof of vaccination status did not begin with COVID.

In fact, travelers have had to show proof of the Yellow Fever vaccine to enter certain countries for years.

When you visit a travel clinic to get a vaccine, you’re given a yellow WHO booklet, where you can record all of your vaccines.

Show the WHO booklet at immigration.

4. Health Insurance Card

Digital nomads need to carry their health insurance information with them as well.

Ideally, have a paper copy with you as well as store it on your phone and in the Cloud. Sometimes you need proof in a pinch and have no time to look for it on your phone or laptop. Or you might be incapacitated, and someone else needs to find the card for you.

5. Vision prescription

You might not have considered packing your vision prescription with you. But it’s a good idea to always carry it with you in case you need new glasses or contacts.

6. Extra passport photos for visas

Sometimes you need photos to get a visa or enter a country. When I entered Vietnam, I got my visa at the border. To get my visa, I needed 2 passport photos.

7. Credit card with no international transaction fees

Ideally, get a credit card with no international transaction fees. It’ll save you loads of money

8. Debit card that reimburses ATM fees

Another money saver for all travelers is a debit card that reimburses ATM feed. International ATMs often charge around US$5 per withdrawal.

With some debit cards like Charles Schwab, you get your ATM fees reimbursed.

9. Copy of debit and credit card information

Digitally store the phone numbers of your banks and your credit and debit card numbers.

Even if thieves get the numbers, they still need your expiration date and the 3-digit number on the back of the card.

Digital Nomad Packing List – MISCELLANEOUs

Here is the final category of things to pack for long-term travel and for remote work overseas:

  1. mini flashlight
  2. notebook or journal
  3. pens or pencils
  4. Ziploc storage bags
  5. water bottle
  6. small padlock
  7. Zipper file bag
  8. coffee filter

1. Mini flashlight

A mini flashlight is probably one of the top 5 most important things on my digital nomad packing list. I didn’t pack it my first time going out as a digital nomad. I thought I could get by with my smartphone’s light.

Lighting EVER LED Flashlights High Lumens, Small Flashlight, Zoomable, Waterproof, Adjustable Brightness Flash Light for Outdoor, Emergency, AAA Batteries Included, Tactical & Camping Accessories

Here’s the problem with using your phone as a flashlight, though:

You’ve got to unlock it either with a code or your fingerprint. That takes time and sometimes the phone can’t read your fingerprint.

It’s better to have a mini flashlight with you. This is especially true if you’re staying at places that don’t have lamps near the bed.

Even if you have one, it’s nice to be able to turn a light on quickly in case you hear something in the middle of the night, need to use the bathroom, or want to check if there are any scorpions in your bed (seriously, this happens in Mexico and Central America).

I bought mine from Target.

2. Notebook or journal

I absolutely adore Moleskin journals. They’re thin, and lightweight, and they’re just lovely to write on.

Moleskine Cahier Journal, Soft Cover, Large (5" x 8.25") Ruled/Lined, Brisk Blue, 80 Pages (Set of 3)

I use them for journaling, planning out my travels, and writing down new Spanish words.

When I’m done with mine, I take a photo of the info I want to keep and throw the used one away.

3. Water Bottle

Definitely pack a water bottle.

Make sure it’s lightweight and not too wide so that it fits in one of your backpack’s outer pockets. You want it also to be easy to clean.

Opard Peak Water Bottle 20 Oz BPA Free Tritan Plastic Leak Proof Flip Top for School Kids Sports Gym Yoga Camping (Aqua)

Do you need a filtered water bottle?

If you get a filtered water bottle, you need to buy new filters every few months. They’re also generally heavier than non-filtered ones.

I had a Greyl water bottle that filters out bacteria and viruses. Frankly, I found them to be too much trouble to use.

Most hotels and hostels have filtered water.

4. Small padlock

A small padlock is a necessary item for any packing list. You can use it to lock two zippers together on your backpack and to lock a storage locker at a hostel.

Get a padlock with a combination lock and not the one with a key.

TSA Approved Cable Luggage Locks, Re-settable Combination with Alloy Body

5. Zipper File Bag

Pack 1 zipper file bag to hold important documents. They’re small, lightweight, and useful.

Sometimes you need to keep your documents in order when going to a government office to get your visa renewed or when crossing the border.

Make sure the zipper is of good quality. It sucks when it breaks and the documents fall out.

Zipper Pouch, Wisdompro 4 Packs Durable Letter Size Waterproof Mesh File Bag, Document Organizer - Blue

6. Coffee filter

Your own coffee filter is another optional item to add to your digital nomad packing list.

You can buy stainless steel or plastic coffee filter that you place over a cup of coffee. Fill the filter with coffee grounds and pour hot water over the grounds. The coffee drips into your cup. Get the ones that don’t require you to buy paper coffee filters.

Hanlomele Pour Over Coffee Dripper, Paperless Reusable Coffee Filter, Pour Over Coffee Maker for Single Cup Brew, Double Mesh Design of Stainless Steel Cone Filter for Perfect Extraction (1-2 Cup)

I own one, but I’m currently not traveling with one as I just don’t have space in my bags. Plus, most of the time I don’t need my own coffee filter or if I did need it, I still have no access to hot water.

Final Thoughts

Everything on this packing list (except the winter jacket, power bank for laptops, and coffee filter) is what I currently have in my 44L backpack, my daypack, and my purse.

Use it to help you put together your own packing list.

Remember you can always buy things as you travel.

Is there anything that you think I forgot to include? Is there anything on this packing list that you didn’t think of before?

Thank you!

You might be interested in these posts:

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About the Bamboo Traveler

The Bamboo Traveler

Welcome to The Bamboo Traveler, a travel blog dedicated to helping those travelers who want to dig deeply into the history, heritage, and culture of a place. Whether it’s through the pages of your passport or the pages of a book, I’ll help you travel the world and uncover the history, culture, food, architecture, and natural beauty of some of the world’s most fascinating places.

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