Digital Nomad Packing List
The ultimate packing list for traveling the world as a digital nomad with a backpack. From clothes to tech to toiletries and more, we cover it all.
One Backpack. One Laptop. Unlimited Potential.
Welcome to the Digital Nomad Packing List. If you’re a frequent Pack Hacker visitor, you probably already know what a digital nomad is. If not, here’s a definition from Wikipedia: “Digital Nomads are a type of people who use telecommunications technologies to earn a living and, more generally, conduct their lives in a nomadic manner.
While a little jargony, that definition certainly fits the bill. This list has everything you need to travel the world while working remotely. (Something that many of us on the Pack Hacker team are either currently or intermittently doing.)
We’re here to guide you through the ordeal that is preparing for such a journey. We’ve done the research, we’ve done the testing, we’ve done the traveling, and we’ve distilled it all down into one list with everything you need to succeed.
Now, we should clarify one thing. While you’re welcome to buy everything on this list and head to the airport tomorrow like a seasoned remote worker, you certainly don’t need to. We’ve created this list for you to use as a jumping-off point. This is how we like to travel the world as a digital nomad, but it is by no means the only way to travel the world as a digital nomad.
Be sure to subscribe to Pack Hacker on YouTube and never miss a video.
So whether you’re currently traveling the world as a digital nomad, planning to, or wishing you could—it is our hope that this list will not only help you prepare for your trip, but give you the confidence to know that it isn’t nearly as stressful as you might think. Let’s get packing.
Editor’s note: We’re working on testing some women-specific gear to create a women’s version of this list. Stay tuned for more info, and if you have specific questions related to women’s gear, feel free to drop us a line.
Standalone Bag & Organizers
These are the big hitter bags and organizers that are going to be used to carry everything on this list. At the end of the day, these are the items you’re going to be physically carrying onto the plane. In this particular packing list, we’re opting for a one bag travel method—so this section is short and sweet. All the items on this list can fit into the main travel pack, although we usually opt to pull out the sling for air travel.
This is where it all begins.
This is one of our favorite travel packs of all time. The Aer Travel Pack 2 can function well as a one bag travel pack for perpetual travel, but it can also compress down to daypack-size when you’re out and about in a new city. With a solid list of materials, this thing is durable, functional, and we barely have anything bad to say about it. This holds everything.
A simple, durable sling that offers a whole lot of functionality in a small package. It’s got some organization, a hidden zippered exterior pocket, and a few lash straps for attaching carabiners and other items to the outside. In this list, it’s going to function as our personal item for air travel and days out on the town.
Clothing & Accessories
Well, you need to wear stuff, right? In this wardrobe, we’re focused on versatile clothing with a monochromatic color scheme (AKA, all black). In addition to being undeniably badass, all black works well because you can use it in a wide variety of environments—from formal to casual and everything in between. It also helps conceal stains and allows you to easily swap and mix items as they get dirty or smelly.
Did we go a little overboard on the all black thing? Maybe. But come on, it’s the first Pack Hacker packing list. We couldn’t not go all black.
These are some of the most “high tech” packing cubes we’ve tested to date. They’ve got some innovative quick access zippers, they can compress, and they’re highly durable. They might be a tad heavier than other packing cubes we’ve tested, but the trade-off is worth it in our eyes.
Some of the most comfortable Merino briefs out there. These are black with small colored accents that allow you to easily tell them apart from one another. Good for keeping track of what’s dirty or clean and ensuring you’re not wearing one pair longer than you—or anyone else—would like.
Comfortable, durable Merino wool socks with a lifetime warranty? We’ll take it. These are a solid pair of everyday socks that aren’t too warm but offer a bit more durability and cushion than your average cotton sock. Plus, they won’t smell after multiple wears. 3 pairs. It’s all you need.
These pants are made with breathable, thinner fabric that has just the right amount of stretch to make them comfortable and adventure-worthy while still looking like a regular pair of pants. Plus, they dry extremely quickly. Great for travel.
These have become a staple for most of our one bag travel loadouts. The slim dungarees are a bit thicker than the Passage Pants, but they still retain that breathability and stretch you want in a pair of travel pants. Also, they’re highly durable (and we don’t say that lightly).
This is one pair of shorts that can do it all. They wear and feel like regular shorts, but they’re also submergible and dry decently quickly. Technically, all shorts are submergible—but these really are great for the beach or pool. You could even get away with wearing them as workout shorts in a pinch.
This isn’t necessarily a travel belt, and to be honest, we’re not entirely sure what a “travel belt” consists of. You could probably go super minimal or add some sneaky pockets or something—but we like this one. When we inevitably find that travel belt, we’ll be sure to let you know.
A simple, super soft, thinner fabric shirt that’s good for working out, exploring, and everything in between. It’s the most breathable shirt on this list, with a 50% polyester 50% Merino wool blend that keeps it flexible, durable, and odor-resistant.
This is another t-shirt that looks fairly ordinary. We like the heathered look with the pocket, as it adds some variety compared to the rest of the all-black ensemble in this list. It feels like a bit of a step up from an ordinary tee, and it’s got those magical Merino properties we love.
This is a great, versatile sweater/shirt that can be worn as a base layer on colder days or as a standalone long-sleeved t-shirt. It’s got just the right amount of thickness to provide warmth when you need it, but not too much when you don’t.
A shirt so light it almost floats on your body. The Albini Merino Wool button up from Outlier has a nice cut and a more “drape-y” feel that looks polished while still feeling relaxed and casual. We always like having at least one semi-formal option in our travel wardrobe. This is it.
These are super versatile, minimalistic shoes. They’re extremely lightweight, perform well on off-the-beaten-path adventures, and they look nice enough to wear to dinner with the other clothing on this list. The high top is a bonus for keeping sand and dirt out of your shoes in addition to offering a bit of protection as you’re exploring.
Super minimalistic sandals for daily use and working out. These things basically stick to your feet. To be honest, you do need a bit of confidence to pull off these bad boys as they can look a little odd, but the benefits are worth it. (Also, you might want to think about grabbing the nail clippers we mention in the toiletries section to keep those toes looking fresh and groomed.)
One of the smallest and thinnest headbands we’ve seen. You can easily stash this thing away in your toiletry kit—it takes up practically no space—and pop it out to use while working out or going for a run. (If you’re into that kind of thing.)
A customizable hat from one of our favorite companies. It’s got some mesh for ventilation, plus you can toss on & swap a velcro patch of your choosing for some added FLAIR!
This is a synthetic down jacket with a great warmth-to-weight ratio and a stylish look (at least, we think so). With any down jacket, you’re going to need to baby it a bit as the lightweight material can rip easily—but we think the pros vastly outweigh that one con. Pro tip: Grab some Tenacious Tape to repair small tears or blemishes.
A key component in the layering process, this Merino hoodie is super soft, comfortable, and breathable while still keeping you warm. It has a somewhat athletic cut, which may or may not be your thing.
Ultra compressible and lightweight, the Storm Racer is a simple rain jacket/windbreaker that disappears into your bag when you don’t need it and easily deploys when you do. Good for inclement weather or as an outer layer for your down jacket.
We’re big fans of buffs because they just might be the most versatile travel item—or clothing item—out there. This one is made of Merino wool, and you can use it as a scarf, beanie, sleeping mask, or nearly a million other uses.
We love these fingerless Merino wool gloves because they’re comfortable and flexible enough to operate a phone outside on a cold day. They’re also great for typing on your laptop when you’re in a chilly coworking space, although people might look at you a little weird. (But who cares?)
Foldable, strong sunglasses—some of the smallest we’ve come across. There’s no curve in the lenses, which makes it a little odd for your eyesight, but overall these get the job done in a really small form factor. Comes with a simple silicon case.
Productivity & Tech
All the gear you need to rock a complete mobile office on the road. For the true digital nomad, this section is critical. Between all the cords, dongles, and different inputs you need for everyday work—this stuff gets real confusing real quick. But that’s why you have us, right?
We’ve gone ahead and simplified everything by keeping it all to one standard Micro USB cable. This is good for redundancies and still offers some great speed. Plus, there are small adapters for everything else. You need to be prepared for anything, and this will cover it all.
One large, one small. The small pouch is going to store our tiny dongles, flash drive, and mini tech accessories. The larger pouch will hold larger dongles, cables, our mouse, and some other knick-knacks. Once you’ve got them both packed up, you can even toss the small pouch into the large one to keep everything in one place.
We are huge proponents of laptop sleeves. Even if you’ve got some solid padding in your backpack, you can never be too careful. As a digital nomad, your laptop is your livelihood—so you should do everything you can to keep it safe. This will help.
This is a convenient little neoprene pouch—similar to the Incase laptop sleeve—that will protect your keyboard in transit. We like having this because a naked keyboard in a backpack can scratch up the rest of your tech gear or even cause some abrasions on the pack itself. Also, it’ll keep your keyboard nice and safe (obviously).
We tend to opt for the classic MacBook Pro, but any laptop will work. This is one of the heaviest items in your bag, so if you can get away with not bringing a laptop, we’d highly recommend it. Most digital nomads can’t make this sacrifice, in our experience.
This is one of our favorite accessories for working remotely and pretty much a must if you’re going to be working on a laptop for long periods of time. The Roost is compact and foldable, making it packable, but it can still elevate your laptop nicely when in use. You and your lack of future chiropractor bills will thank you. Comes with a carrying case.
This is a pretty standard keyboard—we mainly like it because it’s small, wireless, you can recharge it via a lightning cable, and it integrates nicely with a MacBook. Swap out for your desired keyboard, although we recommend going wireless and keeping it small.
We’re not quite ready to say this mouse is actually magical, but it is pretty functional, minimal, and it sure looks good with a bunch of other Mac gear. No scroll wheel, but you can still “magically” draw your finger down the middle to scroll. Feel free to swap out whatever mouse you prefer here.
Thousands of books in the palm of your hand, all at a similar weight to a single paperback? This thing is key for any avid readers, and it’s even small enough to keep around for the occasional reader. We’ve got an Origami case on ours that lets you stand it up on its own. If you couldn’t tell, we’re big fans of eBooks over here.
A simple notebook built for use on the go. We love the dot grid on ours because it provides some structure for writing and drawing detailed sketches, while still offering a pretty-much-blank canvas for everything else. The small size is ideal for travel, although you may want to bring a couple if you’re planning on doing a lot of writing.
A small pen that will work for all of your adventures. Literally, it will work for every single adventure you could possibly imagine. This thing actually works in space, in addition to working underwater, upside down, over grease, and in extreme temperatures. (Yeah, we weren’t kidding.) It also has a keychain, which we like.
One of the smallest, most useful tripods we’ve found for mobile phones. It’s not going to take the place of your larger tripod, but it gets pretty darn close in a dramatically smaller size. The flexible legs also let you grab some shots you wouldn’t be able to otherwise.
These surprisingly-small Bluetooth headphones are great for travel. They block out the noise well, which is great for the plane, and they pack down into a tiny carrying case that’s easy to throw in a small pouch. They also have a pass-through audio feature, which uses external microphones to filter in noise so you can still hear yourself talk if you’re on a call. Super functional.
This tiny battery bank will charge your phone to full between 2 and 4 times on one charge. It’s also got a tiny LED where you can see just how much juice is left. The “charge stuff” port is USB-A, while the “recharge the battery bank” port is a Micro USB. It’ll even charge your laptop in a pinch (if you have a laptop that can charge via USB-C).
This can be whatever phone you’d like, really. iPhones take pretty great photos, so this can also play the role of your camera on the road if you’d like it to. The world is really your oyster here.
This is a pretty niche item. It’s a little brick covered in buttons that lets you make some beats on the road. If you’re into music—especially electronic drum kinda stuff—it’s worth checking out as it can be a lot of fun. If you’re not into music, you’re really not going to care about or need this thing.
Pretty self-explanatory. You’re going to want to keep your laptop charged, and this will help. We always opt to take the longer cord with us while we travel, because you never know what kind of space you’re going to be dealing with.
This little (or not-so-little) gadget keeps your MacBook charger nice and tidy. While we love the idea, we have to say that this has been somewhat mediocre in practice. It’s a bit heavy, bulky, and the more we use it the harder it is to pull the cables through. But it’s still handy and much better than an unwieldy cable salad.
This is one bad mama jama. It’s a very crucial piece that handles charging and data transfer for virtually all of the tech gear on this list. This connects to your computer via one USB-C input and it has 3 USB-A ports, an ethernet port, and an HDMI port. We really cannot understate how ridiculously handy this dongle is, especially if you have a newer MacBook with only USB-C ports.
With the aforementioned USB-C Hub, you’re going to need some cables to tie everything together (pun intended). We opted for two very small USB-A to Micro-USB cables from Anker (our go-to for all things cables). With these two cables and the associated dongles, you can charge everything on this list through your computer.
For anything lightning, Apple is typically ideal—it’s their proprietary system and we’ve found this little converter to be of better quality than the generic brands. You’ll pay a bit more, but if you want to charge your phone and transfer data without a hiccup, spend the extra cash on the real deal.
This is a very small and very simple USB-C to Female Micro USB converter. Pretty self-explanatory. It’s great for plugging directly into a MacBook.
Some redundancy in converters is good, and sometimes you want sleek conversion without needing to bust out a large dongle. This thing also has a USB indicator on it for power, and it’s one of the smallest USB-C to USB-A converters we’ve tested. Seeing as most of the world still runs on USB-A, it’s something you’ll find yourself using often.
This thing is almost comically small, and it’s actually pretty easy to lose if you’re not careful. But that also makes it perfect for travel. This is a great backup to have on hand when things like mobile boarding passes and wireless printers inevitably malfunction. Also, 256GB in a piece of plastic the size of a pea?! What a time to be alive.
If your rental car doesn’t have a USB car charger, this little guy will keep you juiced up. Even if you don’t plan on using a car, there may still be some fringe cases where this could come in handy.
Yes, there are a lot of dongles in this packing list. No, we didn’t think about naming it “The Dongle Packing List.” The reality is that even with wireless headphones, you still want a backup. This lets you grab a cheap pair of earbuds at your destination or in the airport if your wireless headphones are out of commission for whatever reason. We also think its one of the cuter dongles out there, so there’s that. This is, of course, only needed for iPhone users.
An oldie but a goodie. This is still one of the most compact universal outlet adapters on the market. It can handle any outlet you might throw at it, plus it has the added bonus of feeling like a little Transformer toy.
You don’t need an ethernet cable until you really need an ethernet cable. Whether you’re on a cruise ship or at a hotel with subpar WiFi—or even worse, no WiFi—this thing is great for manually plugging in and getting some sweet, sweet internet. The retractable-ness is great for tossing in your pack, too.
Depending on your travel style, you may or may not need one of these. But as we all know, the one time you don’t bring it is the one time you need it. So, best to bring it along. Great for hooking your laptop up to a hotel TV for some Netflix or conducting an impromptu presentation at a coworking space.
A small brick that splits one outlet into three, this is the longest-lasting, most durable splitter we’ve tested yet. Each outlet is on a different side, so it can accommodate larger plugs than your average power strip, which is super convenient. Everyone will love you when you whip this bad boy out and free up two additional slots at a coworking space or coffee shop.
Toiletries & Personal Care
Staying fresh, clean, and well-groomed on the road is an essential part of being a digital nomad (or just being a civilized person in general). If you’re hitting up new coworking spaces, conducting video conferences, or just going out to dinner—you want to look presentable. Plus, you want to make sure all your stuff is carry-on compliant so you can stick with a single carry-on bag.
Alternatively, you could just be a total slob. The choice is ultimately yours, although this section will focus on all the tools you need to look fresh and feel good.
We’ve chosen this medium-sized toiletry kit for a few reasons. 1) It’s super durable and made with nice materials. 2) It’s got some great organization that accommodates small and large items. And 3) it’s got a hook! Hang it up in your hotel/Airbnb bathroom and you’re good to go.
It’s tricky to find functional toiletry containers that will stand the test of time. So far, these are the best we’ve found, and we love that they carry exactly 3.4 ounces (100ml)—the maximum amount of liquid you can legally carry on to a flight. One is going to carry some Granger's Merino Wool Wash, and the other will have some toothpaste.
These convenient little tubs work well for pastes and gels, as well as solid items like pills. We’ve got three in total—a large one filled with hair pomade (specifically, some Mr Natty Dub Hair Preparation) and two small ones filled with Ibuprofen and other meds. Mix and match with whatever essentials you need!
Although it’s an official TSA rule that you need to put your liquid toiletries in a quart-sized clear plastic bag, they don’t necessarily always check it. Still, you’ll definitely want to bring along a bag in case they do. You can just grab your toiletries during security and toss them in here. We like to use a velcro strap or rubber band to keep it organized.
A small pouch with two zips and a divider, we’ve opted to use this for our first aid kit. The actual contents came from a Coleman First Aid Kit, but we’ve rearranged them in here to save space.
Fun fact: This is one of the first items we ever reviewed at Pack Hacker. It’s also still one of the smallest, best trimmers out there. It runs off of AA batteries, although they don’t last quite as long as we’d like them to. Great for keeping your scruff managed on the road. Pack two extra batteries if you’d like or just grab some wherever you are.
This is a simple comb—the main difference being that it’s made of stainless steel. We like this because it can last you a literal lifetime and because it’s solid metal you’re a lot less likely to lose it.
This thing isn’t the “best” electric toothbrush you can buy, but it is the most compact best electric toothbrush you can buy (if that makes sense). It runs on AA batteries which are easy to find almost anywhere in the world, and even if it does run out of juice it just turns into…a non-electric toothbrush.
These things are ridiculously small, they lay flat, and they’re TSA-approved. This is one of those toiletry items that you don’t necessarily need on the road, but when you’ve got a hangnail or you’re rocking some awkwardly long nails on the beach, you’ll be glad you have it. Skip these on shorter trips if you’d like, but they’re key for long-term travel.
This little first aid kit has just the bare essentials—some safety pins, tweezers, bandages, and antiseptic. We’ve deconstructed it and reorganized it in the Tom Bihn Double Pouchkin for maximum efficiency. Trust us, everyone thinks they don’t need a first aid kit UNTIL THEY NEED IT! Stay safe out there.
This is one of those “nice to have” items that is seriously nice to have. Dealing with a wet soap bar is a pain in the butt, especially when it comes to tossing it in with the rest of your toiletries. Way better than a plastic bag, this thing contains your soap bar in a hassle-free way and it even lets your soap dry while it’s inside. (We’re still not really sure how it works…but it does.)
An absolute monster of a soap bar. This thing is seriously big, and since it’s Castile soap you’re getting a boatload (tubload?) of suds for just a bit of soap. This also fits nicely into the FlatPak Soap Bar Case. If you were going super minimal or ultralight, you could chop this up to save weight/space.
This little thing comes in handy in a variety of scenarios and, if you’re a super minimalist, it can be used to towel off completely after a shower. Not ideal, but it’ll do in a pinch. It packs into a tiny form factor, and the silicone case helps it dry when compressed.
Not your average deodorant! This stuff is natural, it lasts forever, and it’s really gentle on Merino wool compared to other deodorants (especially antiperspirants). It’s also a literal rock, which is fun. That being said, it’s kind of heavy. Because it’s a literal rock.
We wish you could travel with a safety razor, but sadly, you can’t. You’re better off with a standard razor handle and some replacement cartridges. This one does the trick for us—mainly because of the “just right” form factor—but you’ve got plenty of other options here as well. This is also supplemented with some standard Gillette replacement cartridges.
Everything else! These are the little things that really take this list to the next level. If you’re perpetually traveling the world, these are the items that will help you navigate every possible situation you might encounter—and they’ll also make people think you’re a total pro (because you are).
If you’re not perpetually traveling, you’ll still be able to save the day when someone needs a bottle opener in a pinch or you just can’t be asked to walk across the airport to grab a plastic fork. Multitools, utensils, carabiners, and a whole lot more.
One of the most compact ways to travel with a water bottle. This one-liter bladder rolls up and compresses down when not in use. Leave it compressed in your bag during airport security or in transit, and fill it up as needed. You’re saving money, saving the planet, and saving your kidneys (or something). It’s a no-brainer.
Great to have when you need an eating utensil in a pinch or if you just really hate wooden chopsticks (and discarding them after you're done eating). These things stick together and compress to half their size when not in use.
This small double-sided carabiner is super versatile and convenient—it accompanies us pretty much everywhere. Great for hanging items off your bag, off of hooks in your Airbnb or hotel, or whatever else your little heart desires. The two sides make it easy to unhook something without removing the carabiner from whatever it’s attached to.
This flashlight is tiny, but it is unbelievably bright. Although you could get by with your phone flashlight, it’s nice to have a separate light source. This one is super handy because it’s small, easy to maneuver, and you can hang it in places where you need a hands-free light source. We especially like the innovative quick release keychain.
Matador makes some really nice packable gear, and these earplugs are no exception. We love the small carrying case, which keeps these earplugs together and prevents them from getting covered in dust or other debris inside (or outside) of your pack. Plus, you can attach them to a keychain for safe keeping.
A mini multitool that gets the job done with seven functions. Great for tightening that loose chair at a coffee shop, and it’s always nice to have a multitool on hand for other weird situations where you just need some sort of tool. (Like when the handle mysteriously falls off of your Airbnb bedroom door… Yes, it’s happened to us.)
The Heroclip looks like a standard carabiner, but it is so much more. Flip out the hook and you can hang this thing off of just about any surface with an edge, keeping your bag (or whatever else you want) off of the ground and out of the way. Lots of functionality and versatility in a small package—this one’s a keeper.
Super lightweight and foldable, this is a great little utensil to have when there are no other options. Also a great option for anyone looking to avoid single-use plastic utensils. As an added bonus, you can now tell everyone how great sporks are at your next cocktail party.
This is a convenient little sleeve that comes with a tiny pen and has space for a few cards, your passport, and some small documents. It’s got everything you need for when you arrive in front of that customs officer at the airport. The passport pocket is also pretty discreet, which adds a bit of security.
One of the best ways to make friends on the road, this is your average deck of cards—just miniaturized. We’ve been told they’re very cute and, quite frankly, we’d have to agree.
You probably won’t need a ton of keys on your trip, but this is good for keeping track of your house/apartment key, as well as any hotel or Airbnb keys you find yourself needing during your travels.
This little tool has a SIM card remover for your phone and enough room for 2 SIM cards, which is super handy.
Similar to the Key Organizer, this has a simple bottle opener that can also be used as a flathead screwdriver or simple boxcutter. It’s also got a small wrench device. Just a simple tool that’s nice to have on hand.
This is a super minimalist wallet (as the name implies) that is great for travel. There are multiple card partitions for each side, a see-through window for IDs, and enough space on the outside to fold your bills and put them in. Works great for any sized currency.
This is a simple hack that keeps your clothing fresh and keeps bugs away from your Merino wool. We’ve heard a lot of people use dryer sheets, and that probably works well, but we usually opt for the more natural cedar smell. Pop one of these in your clothing packing cubes and you’ll be good to go (Disclaimer: check with the country you wish to travel to in order make sure treated wood is OK to bring along).