Nomad Packing 101: Packing Tips for Digital Nomads

Living the digital nomad life means you can work from a hammock in Bali, a café in Paris, or a beach-side bar in Mexico, as long as there’s Wi-Fi. But before you jet off to your next dream location, there’s a skill every nomad should master: packing.

In this post, we’ll dive into everything from selecting the right travel insurance to choosing versatile clothing and organizing your luggage efficiently. We’ll cover the pros and cons of different packing strategies, essential wardrobe tips, and the best tech gear for on-the-go professionals.

packing tips for digital nomads
  • Save
Say goodbye to the dread of packing with our tips and tricks

First things first, one thing that reduces stress and we never leave home without is travel medical insurance. We use and love SafetyWing. It covers us in case of medical and travel emergencies in more than 185 countries.

Having SafetyWing travel medical insurance helped get us home from Colombia when the entire world shut down a few years ago. They’ll also cover lost baggage up to $3000, which is great when you travel with nearly everything you own.

Just as having reliable travel medical insurance like SafetyWing provides peace of mind in unexpected situations, mastering the art of packing ensures that you’re prepared and mobile, no matter where your travels take you.

So whether you’re a seasoned nomad or just starting out, mastering the art of packing – and securing travel medical insurance – is your first step towards a life of adventure and productivity on the go. Let’s get into the other packing tips for digital nomads that will help you travel smarter, not harder.

Packing Strategies: Best Backpacks for Digital Nomads

Your packing strategy will vary based on the length of your journey and your travel style. We’ve done both carry-on-only style travel and longer adventures with big backpacks.

Since becoming digital nomads in 2016, our approach to packing has evolved and changed. We’ve always stored our belongings at our parents’ houses, swapping out different clothes and gear whenever we swing by for a visit.

During the first few years of our nomadic life, we were always on the move, hopping from one location to another each month, for up to seven months straight. Then we’d sit still for about six months in one spot.

This constant change meant we needed a packing strategy that could handle multiple climates and a variety of social and professional settings without the chance to switch things out.

The 65L Osprey Ariel bag is my go-to for a long-term, versatile packing strategy.

best backpacks for digital nomads osprey ariel
  • Save
The Osprey Ariel has taken me to many places

The world locking down changed travel for many of us. Since then, we’ve shifted towards shorter trips of 3-4 months while spending more time closer to home. We try to go carry-on only for these trips and the Osprey 46L Sojourn Porter is perfect.

Let’s dig into the pros and cons of going carry-on only and using a bigger backpack.

rachel with her osprey backpack
  • Save
The Osprey Sojourn Porter 46L is perfect for carry-on only travel

Carry-on Only

Pros – The beauty of traveling with just a carry-on is mobility. You skip long waits at baggage claims, save on fees, and avoid the hassle of lost luggage. It forces you to prioritize essentials, keeping your load light and manageable.

Cons – The space is tight, and you’ll often find yourself playing Tetris with your belongings. Adhering to airline regulations on size and weight can also be tricky, so always check the guidelines before flying.

Bigger Backpacks (or Suitcases)

Pros – More room means more options. A bigger backpack is ideal for long-term trips where you face diverse weather conditions or need a mix of casual and business attire (or music festival outfits, in our case).

Cons – It’s heavier and bulkier. Navigating crowded streets and public transport can feel like a workout, and carrying it for long periods is a literal pain in the back.

Assembling Your Wardrobe

Crafting the perfect nomadic wardrobe is all about balancing function with style. Let’s explore the most efficient ways to do this.

Essentials vs. Non-Essentials

When it comes to assembling your wardrobe as a digital nomad, it’s about striking the perfect balance between essentials and extras and choosing pieces that are both versatile and stylish. Here’s how you can determine what’s essential and what’s not while staying true to your unique style.

Start by thinking about your destinations and activities. Will you be hiking the hills of Hong Kong or attending business meetings in Berlin? This will guide you on what’s essential. For example, if you’re not going to any formal or professional events, that fancy dress or suit might not make the cut. Instead, focus on clothes that can handle multiple scenarios.

nomad packing assemble your clothing
  • Save
Pack versatile pieces that can be used in multiple outfits

My best tip for assembling your wardrobe is to have versatile clothing options. I make sure to have multiple tops that go with one pair of jeans, shorts, or a skirt.

Although I still haven’t managed to cut down my clothing to a proper capsule wardrobe (a minimalist collection of easily interchangeable items that can all mix and match to make multiple outfits), I did choose a color scheme that makes packing easier.

I love wearing bright colors so I keep my bottoms such as pants and shorts to dark colors and pair them with bright colored tops. I’m also a master at spilling things on myself so the dark colors make this less obvious.

Types of Clothes to Pack

Multipurpose clothing is your best friend. Items like reversible jackets or convertible pants that turn into shorts are super practical and major space-savers.

For women’s clothing, my favorite brand that works in the office and on the trail or at the beach is Title Nine. They make high-quality apparel that’s functional and flattering – perfect for a professional look that can take a bit of dirt.

I’ve been wearing Title Nine clothes for years and every piece is still going strong. I really do believe they make the perfect clothes for female digital nomads. Their clothing is comfortable and features things like pockets that most women’s clothing doesn’t have.

I don’t have a brand suggestion for men’s clothing. Sasha isn’t concerned with these things. He loves getting clothing from thrift stores and merch from our favorite bands. So if you have a suggestion for men’s clothing perfect for digital nomads, feel free to share it in the comments!

Many digital nomads rave about merino wool for its moisture-wicking and quick-dry qualities, but I don’t have experience with this type of clothing yet. I’ve heard about it in many digital nomad circles so it must be worth trying.

Best Shoes for Digital Nomads

Let’s talk about shoes. This is where strategic packing comes into play because shoes can take up a lot of space, limiting what else you can pack.

I always bring at least three pairs of shoes with me: sandals for beach days and hot places, workout shoes for keeping active, and fashionable tennis shoes that can go from day to night. If my travels include adventures like hiking in Cinque Terre or exploring the wilderness of Patagonia, I’ll also pack a pair of hiking boots.

digital nomad packing list best shoes patagonia
  • Save
Rocking our Xero shoes in El Calafate, Patagonia

Here’s a tip for packing shoes – always wear the bulkiest pair during travel, and pack the lighter ones. This way, you keep your load light and still have options for different activities.

When it comes to the best shoes for digital nomads, Xero Shoes gets my vote. They revolutionized my packing game a few years ago. There’s so much to love about Xero Shoes.

They offer multiple styles – from sleek sandals to sturdy hiking boots – all of which are lightweight. You can roll them up or press them flat, and they’re still super comfy. Whether I’m at a concert, hitting the gym, or taking a long city walk, these shoes are my go-to.

nomad packing best shoes xero shoes
  • Save
Xero shoes are my favorite for exercise
digital nomad packing list best shoes hiking
  • Save
And they’re perfect for easy hikes

By focusing on versatile, multi-use items like these, you can create a wardrobe that’s ready for anything the nomadic life throws at you – without lugging around a closet’s worth of gear.

Packing Tips and Tricks

Here is where we get into the fun stuff. Even though we’ve been traveling as digital nomads for 8 years, I still don’t enjoy packing. These days, it’s less of a chore than it used to be because of these tips I’m about to share with you.

I also polled the Gnomieverse (our community of readers and fellow digital nomads) for their packing tips to give you lots of different ideas.

Before we get into the individual tips, here’s my #1 tip for packing light: pack what you need for a full week. Take stock of what you wear and use in a normal week and only pack those things. If there’s something you don’t use regularly, don’t pack it. You’re not going to suddenly need it because you’re traveling. You can always do laundry on the road.

Space Saving Tips: Compression Bags vs. Packing Cubes

First up, let’s look at the ways you can pack your wardrobe and still have room for other things.

Compression Bags: Also known as vacuum seal bags, these are your best buds if you’re looking to save space. Compression bags allow you to push the air out without the need for a vacuum. By pushing the air out, they reduce the volume of your clothes, making more room for other essentials.

The downside? They can wrinkle everything but your jeans.

digital nomad packing list compression bags
  • Save
Compression bags save so much space when I need to travel carry-on only

Packing Cubes: If you prefer a bit more order in your travel chaos, packing cubes is the way to go. They keep your outfits organized by category (like tops in one, bottoms in another) and make unpacking a dream. You just pop them into drawers, and you’re done.

The downside of packing cubes is they don’t compress your clothes, so while everything’s neat, it might not save you as much space as the compression bags.

I prefer reusable compression bags. They made my life so much easier on our trip to Portugal, Spain, and Italy when having a carry-on bag was necessary to take advantage of cheap Ryan Air flights.

This brand from Target is what I use. Here is another brand on Amazon if you’re outside the USA.

Alex from the Gnomieverse agrees. When I asked for his best packing tip he said, “Vacuum seal bags! There are ones that don’t require a vacuum, you just squeeze the air out of them. They work amazingly, I was able to pack about two weeks of clothes in my carry-on for my trip abroad.”

Tips for Packing Toiletries

Here’s another tip from Alex, “Unless you have sensitive skin or use prescription skincare or bath products, don’t worry about packing that kinda thing. You can always buy some when you’re at your destination. Or, if you’re traveling with checked bags, you can put bottles over 100ml in checked bags, according to TSA.”

If you’re like me and prefer specific toiletries that you may not be able to find abroad, here’s what you can do. If you’re going carry-on only, you can get reusable bottles for liquid that follow the regulation of 100mL or less and add your preferred products.

packing tips for digital nomads how to organize
  • Save
Get everything organized before you put it in the bag

To make sure they don’t leak during the flight, I put a small piece of cling wrap over the top and screw the cap on. Then I pack these bottles in a Ziploc bag.

These days you can get everything in bar form; shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face wash, etc. I try to use bar products as much as I can because they’re lighter, take up less space, and are more eco-friendly. I especially love all the products from Eco Roots.

Organizational Tips

Life is a lot easier when you can quickly find what you’re looking for. Here are some tips that’ll hopefully prevent you from having to pull everything out to find what you need:

  • Roll instead of fold (when it makes sense) – Rolling your clothes helps save space and reduce wrinkles. I find this tip better suited for packing cubes. Folding your clothes is better for compression bags as it makes them flatter.
  • Use every nook and cranny – Stuff socks inside your shoes and underwear into the open spaces.
  • Layer smart – Place heavier items at the bottom of your bag and lighter, more delicate items on top.

Here’s what Chuck from the Gnomieverse had to say about organizing your things, “Identify the can’t-be-lost-under-any-circumstances items (passports cannot be lost; clothing can be lost as it is easily replaceable), and pack those in the carry-on, which has zero probability of being lost or damaged by baggage handlers/TSA snoopers.”

And, “Identify the most necessary items that will be used multiple times daily like a laptop, toiletries, oral hygiene, vitamins/supplements, prescription medicines, at least 1 change of clothing and pack those in the carry-on, so if worst comes to worst and your checked bag is lost or delayed in arriving, you can live a day or two just out of the carry-on.”

Tips for Packing Tech Gear

This is where things can get tricky for digital nomads. Your tech gear is essential for earning and income and supporting your lifestyle as a digital nomad. This is going to be different for everyone depending on the kind of work you do but here are some general tips to keep it light.

  • Take only what you need. If you don’t use it on a regular basis, don’t take it with you.
  • Use a dedicated tech organizer like this one or a small packing cube for your small electronics and cords. This keeps them protected and easy to find.
  • Use cloud storage for backups instead of external hard drives. It’s safer and eliminates potential damage to your dives and therefore, your data.

With these tips and tricks, you’re ready to pack like a pro. Remember, every square inch counts, so pack smart and travel smarter!

nomad packing ready to hit the road
  • Save
Ready to hit the road!

Final Thoughts: Pack Like a Pro, Travel Like a Nomad

And there you have it, your ultimate guide to packing like a seasoned digital nomad. Whether you’re a minimalist traveler with a carry-on or someone who likes a bit more wiggle room with a bigger backpack, the key is to pack smart.

Remember, versatile clothing options like reversible jackets and lightweight, rollable shoes like Xero Shoes can be your best travel buddies. Use compression bags to squash down bulky items or packing cubes to keep your threads neatly organized.

But here’s the thing – these tips are just the starting point. The real magic happens when you tweak and adjust these strategies to fit your travel style and needs.

So go ahead and experiment with these tips on your next adventure. Adapt, modify, and find what works best for you. After all, every journey is a learning curve. May yours be as light and rewarding as your neatly packed bag!

Happy Nomading,

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top
Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap