The Digital Nomad Starter Packing List

The Digital Nomad Starter Packing List

I’ve traveled full-time for five years.

Basics | Tech | Unexpected and Helpful


I use a 28L backpack as my one bag. It has enough room to fit all of my belongings in it. Yet, it looks a lot smaller than its capacity. I haven’t been flagged by a budget airline’s flight gate attendant to measure or weight it.

Fingers crossed it stays that way.

An ideal backpack has a back-system and hip pads to keep your back dry and the pack’s weight evenly distributed. Taking care of your back is vital for life-long health. Don’t kill your back with a duffle or a one-shoulder bag. You are literally hauling everything on your back. Save your future self from the pains and strains.

You will need a bigger bag if you have more gear or need sheets for nights at a hostel.

Picking clothes is a balance between long term comfort and what you will need for short trips. Merino wool products will keep you dry and warm as well as your bag a bit more stink-free.


If you are going overseas for a long time, you need to set up a real mobile phone number.

You need a non-VOIP number. Google Voice is great for texting and talking to friends and family back home, but their phone numbers are listed as VOIP number. VOIP phone numbers are usually blocked from registering with some online accounts or services. Also, Google Voice will occasionally force you to verify your real phone number.

Maintaining a contract account in the US can be very expensive. But, there is a simple solution available for Americans… FreedomPop. They have free to low-cost monthly plans. I especially like that they have an app, which doesn’t require their SIM card to use the texting feature. I use this app for SMS verification.

To use your US phone overseas, you need an unlocked phone.

If you are currently renting your cell phone (you might call this a “payment plan”) from your provider, you will need to pay off the balance or purchase a new unlocked phone.

You need the unlocked phone to use local SIM cards around the world.
A local SIM card is the cheapest phone plan option while you are abroad.

We also recommend owning an international SIM card. This is the card you use to stay connected as you move from place to place. Purchase this before you leave the US because you will most likely need to use one once you arrive.

Our phones house a lot of data and are essential to our daily lives.

Pickpockets also target phones. So… if you want to keep your essential phone safe, we recommend buying an affordable secondary phone.

You can go with a basic phone or upgrade to an inexpensive smartphone with a dual SIM card phone. I purchased a medium-priced smartphone with an excellent camera that I can easily replace.

No matter where you are headed, you need a travel adapter. A universal travel adapter works around the world.

Spend the extra money on this item because you do not want one that will easily break. Also, it’s useful to get one with a surge protector and USB slot to quickly charge your devices.

I own one that is also has a phone charger in it. Where I travel, finding a publically available plug is nearly impossible. With an extra battery, I never need to worry about my phone dying.

Unexpected and Helpful

When packing light, you will want most of your outerwear and gear to be waterproof. Save the space you are considering to use for rain pants if you will not be regularly trekking in the rainforest or a wet city. Buy two cans of waterproofing spray to cover anything that will be exposed while catching the train or switching apartments. Reapply about once a year.

Carabiners are a handy bag accessory. I keep mine on my bag at all times. I use it to hang my bag in bathrooms or secure my bag to a chair at a cafe. Occasionally, I also need it to hang my water bottle or something off of my backpack. They are great for several uses… well almost anything… do not use for climbing… unless you purchased climbing carabiners.

Altoids tins are durable and reliable containers that can be repurposed after you finish the mints. They make excellent sewing kits, first aid kits, and storing little items. I own a few of the regular ones and a mini-size. I collect little pebbles for my niece and keep them in the mini-size.

The key to packing light is buying items that are multi-purpose. A t-shirt can be a towel if you need it to be.

My ex-roommate insisted on buying a tea brewing pot. I thought that was crazy because we own a coffee pot. Just because something is called by one name, it doesn’t mean it can’t be used for a secondary… or tertiary purpose.

Onward my friend to life on the road! 🙂

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