Here are some tools and resources that I consider Must-Haves while being on the go as Digital Nomad. This list is loosely sorted in order of importance and subjective value-gained from a specific tool.
While these tools and resources are useful don’t be held up getting started traveling without these. Iterate on the go and don’t buy things you will never use (see my list of things I did not use much below).
- Carry-On Luggage – A 40l Travel Pack
Whenever possible I fly with carry-on luggage only, it saves my time, money and potentially nerves. First, you can check-in online and are able to come to the airport with less time to spare. There are no luggage fees for carry-on for many airlines so your ticket is more affordable as well.
Second, you can use travel hacks that are only possible with carry-on luggage such as combining multiple short-haul flights of different airlines (you can search for these on Kiwi.com).
Third, you never need to wait for your luggage at arrival. It can not be delayed or lost. Get out of the flights, enter through customs and you are ready to explore. It simply travels better with lighter baggage.
A good backpack is at the top of my list because it is that important. Do not rely on cheap discount mountain hiking backpacks. There are worlds of comfort between front- and top-load backpacks. If you plan to zip through airports and not mountain ranges your gear requirements differ from people going out in the wild.
I am using Osprey Farpoint 40 Backpack, which I purchased for 80 EUR in 2021. This is a quality backpack that is used by many travelers and digital nomads due to its excellent price-value ratio.
Any 40l backpack fits the carry-on requirements of most airlines. Even where it technically exceeded these requirements I did not have issues or had to pay extra fees.
2. A Day Pack that rolls up into your travel backpack
Once you’ve arrived at your destination you won’t want to carry your travel pack around. For daily needs you need a Day Pack.
I have found my ideal choice in the Decathlon Backpack NH Escape 100 17L. This is a Decathlon pack that does not scream hiking or look like a Decathlon bag. It is thin and light; and can be rolled or folded to fit into your travel backpack if required.
It qualifies as “personal item” on airlines (if they have a carry-on + personal item policy) and you can throw it in the washing machine with your clothes.
2. Packing Cubes to organize belongings
Packing Cubes are a must to keep your luggage organized. Keep clothing apart from other things floating around your luggage. If you do not have packing cubes you can start out with simple plastic or zip-lock bags first.
I am using Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Cubes (1x Size S, 5 Liter ; 1x Size M 10.5 Liter). So far they have held up well and are in great shape. I don’t think that there is much of a difference between brands for packing cubes, pick packing cubes that are easily available.
3. A single USB-C Charger to charge Macbook Air and Phone
For chargers my goal is to be able to charge all of my devices through USB-C, this way I can carry a single charger to charge all devices.
I am using an Anker Powerport III Travel Charger with 2x USB-C Ports. Since it has up to 60W power delivery I can use it to charge my MacBook Air M1 (it only needs 35W) as well as phone or other devices.
A Great Digital Nomad Tool – This Anker Charger comes with a set of travel adapters; so far it worked in all places I went
The only downside is the bright blue light at the front, it illuminates an otherwise dark room at night, but it is nothing a piece of tape can’t fix in case it is too bright for you.
4. Apple Airpods Pro
I am using these daily and can highly recommend them due to active noise cancelling. It is incredibly helpful to block out environmental noise. Be it while working in a cafe, commuting or in a busy departure hall. Your ears will be grateful since you won’t need to turn up the volume as much.
Additionally, Airpods Pro take up much less space than traditional overhead earphones. This makes them an ideal travel companion.
5. Local and Online Cloud Backups for your Files
Keep a backup of your trip photos or files. Both On- and Offline Backups will be helpful. An offline backup will save you if your laptop breaks down, but not if your bag including hard drive gets stolen. For Offline Backups I am using a Sandisk Extreme PRO Portable SSD with 1TB space. For Online Back-Up, you can use any cloud storage; I am very satisfied with the Microsoft OneDrive storage that comes free with a Microsoft 365 Subscription (+ 60 Phone Minutes per month through Skype).
6. Laptop Stand, Keyboard and Mouse
A laptop stand, keyboard and mouse are must-haves for ergonomic working.
My laptop stand of choice is the Nexstand K2. This stand is incredible versatile and light. It folds up and does not take much space.
For keyboard and mouse there are many choices: I started out with a second hand Apple Magic Keyboard (20 EUR), this worked perfectly except that it was powered on batteries. I have since switched over to a newer version that charges through a lightning cable.
As a mouse I am using a no-name Bluetooth mouse I’ve bought on Amazon, it has been working without issues for years.
7. Uniqlo Ultra Light Down + a Rain Jacket
If you will be traveling in colder climates a thin down jacket can help to keep you warm. This jacket will easily fit in your pack and compresses down to very little space. Since it is not made to withstand rain, you need an additional light rain jacket or umbrella in rainy places.
8. Decathlon Outdoor Cutlery Set
A plastic cutlery set originally made for outdoor camping; I use it for take-out meals in hotel rooms to save wasting single use plastic. Prevents you from having to ask for cutlery when ordering food or having to eat with hands in case your food comes without cutlery.
Since it is made from plastic, there are no issues of carrying these with you at the airport.
List of Things I Thought I Need But do Not Use (much)
There are some things that I’ve previously taken on trips that I ended up not using much or not deriving much value from.
- Travel towel – Think about it: Most hotels or hostels offer towels unless you go with ultra-low budget options in Southeast Asia.
- 100ml refillable soap / shampoo travel bottles – I did not use these much since I did not carry a big bottle with me to refill them on the go.
- DSLR Camera – While I love the feeling of having a camera with me to take fantastic shots; I did not use it much compared to the amount of space it takes up.