An updated guide featuring 15 simple but essential things everybody should add to their digital nomad packing list in 2023.
Did you leave that desk job behind to be stressing about a million things you’ll need to pack?
Living a remote lifestyle is all about appreciating the important things in life. That’s why I’ve created this short, simple, but highly useful digital nomad packing list guide. From long-haul flights to working in coffee shops, this list will make your life easier and more enjoyable.
After living on the road full-time as a digital nomad for over five years, I’ve learned a few things and picked up a few tips on the way. But, without getting into my life story, here’s the short version; featuring 15 things every digital nomad shouldn’t live without!
- The Ultimate Digital Nomad Packing List: 15 Essential Items
- 1. 100W USB C-PD GaN Charger (International)
- 2. AirTags
- 3. Packing Cubes
- 4. Grayl – the Ultimate Reusable Water Bottle (Filter)
- 5. Safetywing Remote Health (Digital Nomad Insurance)
- 6. Wacaco Picopresso & NanoFoamer V2 – Portable Pro Coffee
- 7. Universal Travel Adapter
- 8. High-Wattage Battery Bank – Anker 737 PowerCore
- 9. Google TV – A Digital Nomad Essential
- 10. Helmetlok & Bike Lock System
- 11. “Wise” International Debit Card & killer of Credit Cards
- 12. Apple Airpods Pro 2nd Generation
- 13. SSD or Durable External Hard Drive
- 14. Lowepro GearUp Organizer
- 15. A Great Day Pack or Digital Nomad Backpack
- Other Useful Digital Nomad Hacks
- More Digital Nomad Gear Guides & Packing Lists
The Ultimate Digital Nomad Packing List: 15 Essential Items
Don't take product advice from someone who doesn't use them.
Here are 15 digital nomad accessories and other useful pieces of gear that I personally use every day, and that'll make your life simpler (and better) too.
1. 100W USB C-PD GaN Charger (International)
Ga-what? GaN is a new technology short for Gallium nitride, a material that's only just starting to be used for semiconductors in chargers. These Gan Chargers can be 1/3 the size of conventional chargers, while still offering crazy wattage outputs.
While you might not have heard much about this yet, some companies are already ahead of the curve. To save you the trouble of researching the best ones (trust me, I've spent hours on this), I'll give you the three best picks below.
I personally use the MINIX 100 USB C-PD GaN charger (formerly Heymix). This has 3x USC C ports and one USB A port. This charger is half the size of my old Macbook Air charger, has four times the ports, and double the power! It can even fast charge my MacbookPro at 100W!
There's a reason I put this first. If I had to pick one piece of tech gear to add to anybody's digital nomad gear list, it'd be this. I now have one charger for my camera gear, iPad, phone, and drone, and I can fast charge them all at once!
The best part is, the US plugs fold in and the charger even comes with universal adapters to use around the world as you travel. Okay, it sounds like I'm really selling this. But the truth is, this is one thing I couldn't live without, and I really want to get the word out.
This is another piece of minimalist and relatively inexpensive gear that is a true lifesaver for those of us living a digital nomad lifestyle. Best of all, they cost less than $30 (or $99 for a four-pack).
You've probably already heard of Apple AirTags. If you haven't they're basically a tiny tracking chip that pings a location to the cloud each time an Apple device passes its proximity (pretty much every square foot on earth).
But, why do digital nomads need them?
I pop one of these AirTags into every piece of checked luggage. This allows me to check that my bag is loaded on long-haul flights. Or, in the frustrating instance that the bag doesn't make it onto the flight, locating it is super easy.
I found out the amazing convenience of these little chips after a recent flight to Mexico.
By checking the app, I knew my bags never made it on board, even before I disembarked the plane! I checked the Find My app when I landed, and my backpack tag had pinged seven minutes ago– 1600 miles away back at JFK!
This made dealing with airline staff much easier because I had the upper hand. There was no excuse for their laziness. I could pinpoint exactly where the bag was. Safe to say, my bag was on the next flight to Mexico.
Don't Miss These 2023 Gift Ideas for Travelers
There's still time! Read my detailed guide to the best travel gift ideas in 2023 for the best inspiration!
3. Packing Cubes
Yeah, yeah... Every digital nomad packing list on the internet includes packing cubes.
But, seriously, they make living out of a backpack or suitcase so much easier. The benefits are pretty self-explanatory, so I'll save the sales pitch this time.
I used to use cheap packing cubes but recently swapped to the compressible cubes by Nomatic. They cost a bit more than say, the standard Amazon Basics cubes, but they are seriously a step ahead in terms of quality and durability.
If you're searching for alternatives, just remember; packing cubes don't need to be fancy or have loads of features. But, they should be light and durable.
4. Grayl - the Ultimate Reusable Water Bottle (Filter)
Move aside Nalgene, the holy GRAYL of water bottles has arrived.
If you're going to invest in one bottle for life, make it the GRAYL GeoPress. This isn't a regular bottle, it's also a press filter that removes 99.99% of bacteria, viruses, and protozoa.
Basically, what this means is that it turns sh** water into fresh, clean drinking water.
The reason why every digital nomad needs this is that it allows you to drink tap water in every city in the world. This saves thousands of plastic bottles from landfill and saves you money as well.
I've used this thing to drink tap water from a $3-a-night hostel in Mumbai! I'm not afraid to say that I use this even when in countries where I don't really have to. It removes gross chemicals like chlorine and benzene, as well as micro-plastics and even heavy metals like lead, arsenic, and chromium.
The filter cartridges last for over 300 presses and are recyclable, cheap, and easy to replace.
More: Comparing the 10 Best Water Bottle Filters for Travel
5. Safetywing Remote Health (Digital Nomad Insurance)
Isn't it funny that if you work a conventional job, you're forced into taking out dozens of insurances that can total thousands of dollars every single month?
But, if you work online as a digital nomad, you can reduce that to just $42 a month with SafetyWing.
This company revolutionizes long-term travel insurance for people like us who travel full-time. For less than $50 a month, I'm covered for everything including:
- Medical: sudden accidents or falling sick and need medical attention.
- Travel: trip interruptions, travel delay, lost checked baggage, emergency evacuations.
Best of all, you're even covered for short trips to your home country. So, it's safe to say you can comfortably scrap all the other insurances and just narrow them down to one policy.
For semi-digital nomads who spend a lot of time in their home country and usually only depart on short trips, Safetywing also offers a Remote Health policy, which is a very solid health insurance policy without borders.
Related: Safetywing vs World Nomads
6. Wacaco Picopresso & NanoFoamer V2 - Portable Pro Coffee
Love living on the road but miss that perfect morning brew? The answer is Wacaco's new Picopresso, one of the best inventions I've ever seen in the coffee space.
Somehow, Wacaco has been able to take the heart of the commercial espresso machines and transformed it into an espresso machine that fits in the palm of your hand.
This is the world's smallest and most portable specialty coffee machine. If you've been disappointed by similar offerings in the past, let me tell you, the quality of the espresso shots pulled on this thing is incredible.
I pair this with the travel-friendly Exagrind coffee grinder and the NanoFoamer V2 foamer from Subminimal to create a portable latte machine with professional results. This milk frother is also very portable and charges by USB-C, making it a great addition to this portable travel coffee setup.
The quality of brew this combo creates definitely gets some heads turning in the co-work spaces and hostels!
7. Universal Travel Adapter
If you're going to pick up the same 65W international GaN charger I recommend above, then this next digital nomad accessory might seem pointless.
Unfortunately, not all portable electronic devices are USB-chargeable. That's why we still need to carry international or universal travel adapters.
I try to avoid the really cheap ones you find at airports. Instead, I prefer to invest in one that isn't going to roast my laptop or phone. Furthermore, there are plenty of decent adapters these days that include multiple USB ports and even USB C PD fast charging ports on the side.
I've been using the same trusty blue universal travel adapter for a while now. However, this universal adapter looks like a much more revamped version with great reviews and it features a surge protector.
8. High-Wattage Battery Bank - Anker 737 PowerCore
Whether you're working in stingy coffee shops without outlets or on a plane during a long-distance flight, you'll want to add a battery bank to your digital nomad packing list.
A battery pack, battery bank, power bank, portable charger whatever you want to call them– they're a serious digital nomad essential item.
However, don't make the mistake of buying a cheap power bank with only enough juice to charge your phone at the airport. This is especially true now that there are high-wattage power banks like the Anker 737 is out there and capable of fast-charging beasts like the Macbook Pro 16 inch.
Generally speaking, anything about 80W will charge a laptop while you're not using it. However, if you want a battery bank that can revive your laptop while using it, you'll be looking at at least 100W+.
These days, nothing comes close to matching the Anker 737's 140W max in and out charging capacity. It charges up in less than an hour when paired with a fast charger like the GaN MINIX 100W or your MacBook Pro charger and will charge your MacBook, tablet, or phone at the same speed.
And, at 24,000mAh, it's airline safe as well.
9. Google TV - A Digital Nomad Essential
Living a digital nomad lifestyle is all about being on the move and experiencing the world. But, I'll be the first to admit that sometimes I do miss the home creature comforts.
One life hack I recently discovered from a friend was this new Chromecast with Google TV. This is a tiny device that plugs into the back of a TV and turns it into a smart TV.
This is a great product that both digital nomads and ex-pats should add to their list of what to pack. It means you can use your own Netflix or Amazon Prime account on any TV with an HDMI port. No more searching for AirBnB's with Smart TVs!
10. Helmetlok & Bike Lock System
I'm going to let you in on a little security secret that I invented.
It involves using a lightweight bike lock (a Kryptolock) and an ultralight combination lock carabiner (Helmetlok). This is a super light but reliable system that I use to secure my backpack when I leave it in a hostel or hotel cupboard.
Both items stow away in my backpack very easily and are much more secure than retractable wire cables and regular padlocks.
11. "Wise" International Debit Card & killer of Credit Cards
If I had a dollar every time one of my friends asked me what the best "travel credit cards" are...
Seriously, stop paying ridiculous international transaction fees or fixed costs just to use your own money overseas.
Every single digital nomad, business traveler, backpacker, or even just weekend vacationer should have a free Wise account. This is the best banking, credit card, and payment solution I've come across for digital nomads.
With Wise (formerly TransferWise), you can set up real bank accounts in almost every currency in the world. Again, these are real bank accounts, meaning you can receive payments into them, just like with conventional banking.
Sending and receiving money is free, but you will pay a tiny transaction fee on currency conversions. Regardless, these fees are always much, much cheaper than on any other platform.
I receive payments in USD, Euro, and AUD into my Wise account from my various income streams. Then, I use my free Wise debit card to spend my money, all over the world.
Yes, it's 100% legal, but I bet the big banks wish it wasn't!
12. Apple Airpods Pro 2nd Generation
I'm going to keep this one short. Everyone has their favorite set of earphones or good headphones. Personally, I sold my old cans on eBay as soon as I first tried the AirPods Pro.
The sound quality on these things is almost as good as full-sized headphones. For me, this is a no-brainer as keeping things small, lightweight, and minimal is so important as I'm logging everything I own around the world.
Nevertheless, the main reason why these earphones are just so good for digital nomads and travelers is that they have active noise canceling– in a tiny form factor. The active canceling is really up there with top-of-the-line noise-canceling headphones, and this has improved yet again on the 2nd Generation AirPods.
This means no more screaming airplane babies ruining your favorite tunes.
13. SSD or Durable External Hard Drive
Cloud servers are great. But, if you're a creative or deal with a lot of data, you'll want some kind of physical copy or backup.
But, for those of us who are constantly traveling, we want durable drives. No, they're not all made equal.
Take it from me, I've had a whole 6 months of photography work disappear overnight when my cheap (and full) 4TB hard drive decided to stop functioning. To add insult to injury, I spent $350 USD on data recovery in Denpasar, just to find out less than 10% was recoverable.
Since then, I learned my lesson. I purchased a solid cloud backup plan and an even more solid SSD and durable hard drive.
For small data applications, an SSD like the Sandisk Extreme Pro is an excellent solution and comes in a huge 4TB version. With transfer speeds of up to 2000 mb/s in a tiny, durable, and waterproof form factor, this is a no-brainer.
Read more: Testing the Best Portable SSDs on the Market
But, for photographers and content creators, we need a bit more storage space. I highly recommend Lacie Rugged Drives. They're built to be chucked in a bag and won't quit out on you from a small drop. I use Lacie USB C 5TB Rugged drives and have never had one go corrupt (touch wood).
14. Lowepro GearUp Organizer
Looking to step up your organization game? I recently discovered some of the best, lightweight electronic organizers for travel– the LowePro GearUp range.
LowePro makes some of the best accessories and kit for photographers and I've been using some of their products for a long time. However, what's great about the GearUp range is that their products are super useful for almost everyone!
They come in various sizes, but I personally grabbed the GearUp Case for hard drives and larger chargers, the GearUp Pouch for my everyday cords and electronics, and the GearUp wrap for SD cards and other small items.
15. A Great Day Pack or Digital Nomad Backpack
I lived out of an Osprey backpack full-time for over 4 years (the Farpoint Trek 75). I move around a lot, so this backpack had many advantages over suitcases. However, I've recently swapped to using a rolling duffel as the amount of gear I was carrying just kept going up (sound familiar?).
However, whether you're a suitcase, backpack, or duffel kind of nomad, I think that everybody can agree on is that you need a good digital nomad backpack. This is your trusty bag you can grab at any time, whether you're heading to work in a café, meeting a client, or heading out to the mountains on your day off.
Consider it your day pack.
The most popular and well-reviewed backpack for digital nomads is made by Nomatic. The best is the Nomatic Travel Bag.
This backpack is designed for digital nomads, with pretty much every feature you could ever want from a day bag. It comes in minimalist neutral colors and looks like a regular backpack.
But, it's what's on the inside that counts. The organization in this bag is a stand-out winner, offering 22 compartments to allow easy access to all of your essential items.
Optional: Travel Backpack for Photographers & Content Creators
As a photographer, I use the F-stop Tilopa backpack to haul all my gear. This is my carry-on luggage for all flights and my go-to backpack for hiking or just generally walking around with my gear.
In my opinion, there's no better company in the world than F-Stop when it comes to adventure photography backpacks.
Other Useful Digital Nomad Hacks
That rounds up this essential digital nomad packing list! I hope you've found something new that makes your life a little easier.
Before I sign off, here are some last few digital nomad hacks you'll want to know.
The Best VPN for Digital Nomads & Expats
If you're still not using a VPN, what are you even doing? Not only should this be general security practice, but for digital nomads, the benefits are endless! From streaming movies to helping with security sign-ons overseas to finding cheaper flights, trust me, you need one!
So, what's the best VPN for Digital Nomads?
In my opinion, it's SurfShark. Why?
Firstly, their reliability and security are top-notch. Secondly, SurfShark currently has an insane deal where you get 2 years of premium VPN for less than $60. It also works across all your devices with no cap.
SurfShark is also not a Chinese-based VPN service like some other cheap alternatives, which is solid peace of mind.
Staying Safe: The Trusty Money belt
I know what you're thinking, a money belt is for nerds.
Yeah yeah, but for $15, why wouldn't you get a minimal belt in neutral colors that also could save your a** one day?
I don't wear a money belt daily, but I do put it on if I'm in a suspicious neighborhood or when I'm flying to keep my cash and Wise card safe and secure.
Stop Packing A Local Sim Card For Long-Term Travel
For years I relied on purchasing a new local sim card in every single country I came to. Don't get me wrong, this worked fine for the most part, but the whole process got a little frustrating at times. This is especially true if I'm only visiting a country for a few days.
Furthermore, some lagging banks and other services still use 2-factor authentication for a sim card. I for one don't want to pay hundreds a month in roaming charges just so that I can receive an SMS.
Enter Google Fi. This technology has completely changed the game when it comes to LTE, 5G, and sending and receiving text messages on the road. Currently, it's only available to digital nomads from the USA.
If you just want to receive and send calls and texts, then VoIP is another great option. The most popular service for those in the states is Google Voice. As soon as I landed in the US, I set this up, and now have a virtual phone number that I can use anywhere in the world.
If your home country is somewhere else in the world, I'd suggest just googling VoIP offerings for numbers from your country.
More Essential Items For Digital Nomads
Want more? Here's another quick list of other useful and essential long-term travel items.
- Kindle Paperwhite - stop carrying heavy books
- Flip flops - especially if you're living in Southeast Asia
- Macbook Pro M1 - Apple's silicon has changed the game. A day of battery life and desktop performance makes this the best laptop for digital nomads. I run this every day.
- Macbook Air M1 - An M1 chip means insane battery life and performance. This is a good travel laptop and the best lightweight alternative. It outperforms older Macbook Pros with intel chips at a fraction of the weight.
- First aid kit - one of the essential travel items everyone should carry. Get a small packable one.
- GoPro hero action cam - great camera for digital nomads that want to keep things light
More Digital Nomad Gear Guides & Packing Lists
And, that's a wrap for this ultimate digital nomad packing list! Did you find something that's changed your life on this list? Let me know in the comments.
Otherwise, check out some of my other articles to travel, photography, and living a digital nomad lifestyle below.
Tuesday 2nd of August 2022