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Living out of a backpack is a skill. One I’d like to think I have down to an art nowadays.
But I’m still learning, changing, adapting and adding things to by packing list. But these are the travel essentials that go with me everywhere, no matter the destination.
I’ve always travelled fairly light. My first trip of 3 months was with a 55L backpack and a small day bag. As this was back in 2010, I also took 4 large books as well as a Lonely Planet Guide to Malaysia which weighed a lot. I’ve never read so quickly in my life!
But now I am a working online as a digital nomad (I hate that term but oh well), I still try and pack as light as possible. This isn’t an exhaustive packing list but just what I couldn’t travel without. I actually change what I travel with fairly frequently, depending on where I’m going and for how long I’ll be away.
My Personal Digital Nomad Packing List
I use an Osprey Fairpoint 40L backpack as the bag I travel with. It’s right at the very limit of what is considered carry on and I have yet to check it in when travelling on major airlines. There are so many things to love about this bag I don’t know where to start.
Firstly, it can be worn as a backpack. The shoulder straps are comfy and it even has a hip belt for those times you want to change the load up. It doesn’t quite provide the support for a full hike up mountains but I’ve walked around a city for an hour it’s still comfy. However, if you want to look sophisticated and have a true holdall style bag, you can pull out the back panel and zip the shoulder straps away.
It also has one large compartment that opens up in the clamshell design which means it’s easy to get to everything I need. I have used a top loaded backpack before and trust me when I say this is soooo much easier when looking for that one item.
There’s also a smaller pocket at the front which contains my laptop and other small bits and pieces.
All in all, this bag looks great, has great pocket spaces, has a very large compartment for all your belongings and fits well as a backpack.
Most of the time, my day bag actually goes inside my main backpack so I am purely a one bag traveller. I use the Macpac Pack-It-Pack which is only 250g but folds up into its own pocket. It’s sturdy enough to use as a day bag that can be carried around a city all day and used as an actual day bag.
It’s also big enough to hold my laptop and everything I may need for work for when I leave my large backpack in my AirBnB. As it has no internal structure, if it is only half full, it can be squashed down to fit any small space, such as under the seat in front of you on a plane or bus.
There are definitely smaller and lighter bags that pack down a lot more but there are also bags that are a lot bigger. I have occasionally taken another separate day bag with me and would consider it again depending on the destination.
I will always take a jacket with me. I hate the cold so even if I was to climb a mountain and it might get chilly at the top, I might want it.
As size and weight are everything to me, I have the Kathmandu Heli 600 Down jacket. It’s super lightweight and again folds up into its own pocket for easy packing. It also weighs in at under 400g, keeping everything as light as possible. When it is packed away, it also makes a great pillow if you are camping or on a bus. Talk about killing two birds with one stone!
The only downside to this jacket is I wish it would be warmer. It’s great to use as a layer that will keep you warm when it’s getting cold, but don’t be expecting to survive in minus degrees with just this jacket.
I wear jeans.
I even wear jeans when lazing around the house. Yes, I’m one of those people.
Some people may be aghast with that as most packing lists say that jeans are big, heavy and take forever to dry.
Well yes that is true but in my current lifestyle, I don’t travel every few days. I live in a place for a while at a time. And a good pair of Levi’s can be worn to the only good bar in town, look fine for walking around a city and aren’t as thick and bulky as other jeans can be. They do fit in my backpack if I wanted them to but I normally wear them when travelling.
I travel with just one pair of shoes and a pair of flip flops.
I want a shoe that is versatile, fits with almost all the clothes I own and can be worn in any situation. I normally go for a pair of black running shoes.
- They are comfy enough for me to walk around a city all day.
- They allow me to exercise if I’m able to
- They can be used on some easy hikes
- Being plain black, they can be worn when going somewhere slightly nicer
Other travellers I know have had just one pair of vans, or included a pair of hiking boots. I think it really is up to personal preference here doing what feels right for you and what you like getting up to.
For me, having the option of jogging an exercising is far more important to me than the extra support a hiking boot would give on the rare occasion I go up a mountain.
My main laptop and main source of income is the MacBook Air. I got the latest model in 2021 just before I left on my travels again.
It’s super lightweight, quick and syncs well with my other Apple products I owe.
I got the iPhone SE (2020) when the pandemic started. I believed their hype about wanting the fingerprint scanner as we’ll all be wearing masks forever more and face ID won’t work. Now I wish I got a model with a better camera as that is something I use my phone for a lot. Maybe next year…
I travel with the GoPro Hero 9. The picture quality is amazing and the timelapse capabilities are incredible. I really haven’t used it to its full potential but it still comes everywhere with me just in case I need to use it when near water, use the extendable selfie stick or want some video in 4k with image stabilistation. Yes the quality is that good!
As I work online, a mouse is essential to me to be able to do my job so much quicker than using the trackpad on the MacBook. I also have the Jabra Elite 75t earbuds which are amazing for taking work calls, cancelling out background noise whilst watching movies and for listening to music whilst I workout.
I also carry my laptop in a laptop sleeve that then doubles as a stand. The Nillkin sleeve is one of the best things I have as it looks professional but is also super convenient as it folds up to prop my laptop up for me. No need for an additional stand, just this amazing case, with its two height options for your laptop. I have even had people come up to me whilst I’m working asking for the name of the product as they want it themselves and I have to recommend it.
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This is by no means an exhaustive list but just the essentials you will always find in my bag. As I travel light, my clothing changes as I change country and weather, but I will still always have my jeans and a jacket with me, just in case!
Because I work online, my tech is essential but won’t be necessary if you just go on a short trip.
Was this what you were expecting? What’s in your bag when you travel?
Dan is an avid traveller from London. His first big adventure was in 2010 living in Malaysia for 3 months and becoming a divemaster. He has been on the road almost constantly since 2015 travelling to destinations that aren’t on the mainstream tourist trail.