I spent half a year watching bagpack reviews on YouTube, reading travel & digital nomad blogs and beeing obsessed with Indiegogo and Kickstarter travel gadgets so you don’t have to.

Oh boy, I bought a lot of stuff and after 2 months of living as a digital nomad I would love to sell everything and completely start over again. Welcome to the ultimate minimalist digital nomad travel gear and pack list that will make your life much easier.

By the way: I’m not getting paid for this. The products in this list are just awesome in my humble opinion.

The bag

Most important: the bag. There are three things that are really important considering the choice of a travel bag: size, waterproof, anti-theft / lockable.

You don’t want to check in your baggage, unless you have too. You can save a lot of time that you would otherwise spend on dropping your bag and waiting for it on arrival. And there’s always a risk that it gets delayed or lost. Choose a bag that fits international carry on sizes and take it on board. When flying with budget airlines like Ryanair, Jetstar oder Eurowings (to name a few) it’s even much cheaper. Most people go with 35-45L, but with this list you can do it with only 20-25L.

I own a bag with a rain coat. That’s pretty handy and helps you in most of the wet situations you get into. But the killer feature of a bag is beeing really waterproof like a dry bag. Rain? Cmon. River crossing or swimming with your bag? Sure, why not? Say goodbye to problems like this: “Yeah, we can hike the rainforest / go surfing / go snorkeling / walk to the next town, but first I have to store my laptop in a dry place. Are there any lockers around here?”

I love YHA hostels because they often offer a free locker inside dorms. Just bring your own lock and that’s it. But what if you want to go to the beach with your bag? Imagine that there are no lockers around… Our laptop or camera are the most valuable things right after our passport and credit card. So wee need to keep them safe. A theft-proof and lockable bag makes your life easy and relaxed. It can be attached to nearly everthing: your bed in the hostel, a palm tree at the beach or a table at your favourite coworking spac… ehhmm… I mean cafe.

You end up beeing so versatile that you can do whatever the fuck you want whenever you want it - without having to care about your valuables all the time: because they are water & weatherproof, locked and secure. This is the first time when you start to feel the real freedom of travelling.

Here are three bags that could fit this needs:

1. Code 10 - Waterproof, Lockable Backpacks

© Charles Kelly, indiegogo

25L, 99USD - Get it here

  • [+] carry on size
  • [+] complete waterproof
  • [+] theft proof & lockable
  • [+] removable sleeve to organize your tech (laptop/tablet)
  • [+] additional pockets for briefcase, credit card, water bottle
  • [+] shoulder straps can be hidden in case of checking in
  • [+] transform it to a tote bag
  • [-] general organization could be better
  • [-] top opening only
  • [-] fabric can be cut through, you need a Packsafe Travelsafe inside

2. Pacsafe Venturesafe X30

© pacsafe.com

30L, ~190EUR - Get it here

  • [+] carry on size
  • [+] water resistent with rain cover
  • [+] every anti theft feature you can think of & lockable
  • [+] different compartments for easy organization
  • [+] padded laptop and tablet sleeve
  • [+] wide opening front compartment
  • [+] hip belt
  • [+] shoulder straps can be removed
  • [-] not complete waterproof, you still need a Dry Bag inside
  • [-] pretty secure but for maximum security, you still need a Packsafe Travelsafe inside

3. Boreas Echo Pack

© boreasgear.com

25L, 120EUR - Get it here

  • [+] carry on size
  • [+] complete waterproof
  • [+] tuck-away shoulder straps
  • [+] padded laptop and tablet sleeve
  • [+] side pockets for quick access
  • [-] not theft proof or lockable, you need a Packsafe Travelsafe inside
  • [-] top opening only
  • [-] organization could be better

The laptop

Choosing the right laptop - or what I call it: workhorse - is difficult and depends heavily on what you actually do, what software do you use and what operating system you are used to. I own a 15” MacBook Retina from 2013 and it’s simply too big and heavy for travelling. 13” and below should be your goal. But I encourge you to take a look around and don’t choose Mac because everyone else does.

I wanted to switch from Mac to Linux Mint years ago but I needed the Adobe Software, so I was stuck with Mac. Windows 10 now offers native bash support (this is a gamechanger in the IT sector) and the Microsoft hardware is a real alternative for all you Mac users out there. If you’re a developer or you just browse the web, write mails and do office work: a convenient Linux distro like Ubuntu might be even a better and cheaper alternative.

Keep in mind that passive cooling sounds quite good in your climate zone but it doesn’t work out in the tropics. The fans of my MacBook for example are spinning like crazy in the tropical summer and sometimes even this is not enough and it shuts down the dedicated graphics card to prevent overheating.

1. Microsoft Surface - for creatives and everyone else

© microsoft.com

Surface Book starting at 1400EUR - Get it here
Surface Pro starting at 800EUR - Get it here
Surface Dial 180EUR - Get it here

Microsoft is bulding some really cool hardware products right now, including the Surface Pro and the Surface Book. Windows 10 developed into a pretty neat and stable operating system with good touch support. Both come equipped with a touch screen, a good battery life and cool additional hardware like pens or this super awesome wheel thing called Surface Dial.

Creatives: You will love the pen and dial. And it’s basically a tablet too, you get the best of both worlds.

Developers: Windows 10 features real bash with apt-get on top of a native ubuntu build. Isn’t that cool?

Video Editors: The hardware can be bumped up to get you happy at least if you’re using Adobe Premiere or Avid. If you get used to the pen you badly won’t use a mouse or Wacom ever again.

Photographers: SD card reader! And pen! And dial! And tablet!

Marketing/Bloggers: The Surface Books hinge looks cool.

2. Apple MacBook (Pro) - the classic

© apple.com

MacBook starting at 1600EUR - Get it here
MacBook Pro starting at 2000EUR - Get it here

Everyone uses MacBooks for a reason: the OS is slick, stable and works pretty well with other Apple hardware. The 2016 MacBook generation only has USB-C ports and no SD card reader, keep that in mind if you plan to bring your camera too. Get the 12” or 13” variants, the 15” one is too big and heavy.

3. Dell XPS 13 - Developer edition

© dell.com

starting at 1200EUR - Get it here

Cool hardware, slim, light, a lot of power and can be shipped with Ubuntu instead of Windows10, yay. It’s actually the smallest 13” laptop of the world.

The daypack

Well, if you travel with a light 20-30L bagpack you might not need a dedicated daypack. If you want to have one I would recommend something light with a small pack size that can be stowed away inside your main bag. Here are 2 cool options that you should consider:

1. Drybag

© TOMSHOO

13EUR - Get it here

The traditional dry bag makes a pretty cool and cheap day pack. Waterproof, light, small pack size and straps to wear it on your bag. But keep in mind that most laptops won’t fit in there.

2. Fjallräven Totepack

© FJallräven

starting at 90EUR - Get it here

This is the bag I’m actually using right now. It’s so versatile: you can use it as a tote bag, grab the handles and just hold it or turn it into a bagpack. There are 2 compartments and a small pocket for your valuables inside the main compartment. The G1000 fabric is water resistent and durable. You literally can’t destroy this bag. The No. 1 fits laptops up to 13”, the slightly bigger No. 2 fits laptops up to 15”. My whole life fits actually in this bag. I leave my bigger bagpack in the locker and keep the stuff I use all the time in this little boy.

Gadgets & other useful stuff

There are some gadgets that you should bring for sure and there are optional ones. You should decide yourself if it fits in your bag and if you really need it. I got all of them. ;)

1. Smartphone

© motorola.com

It doesn’t really matter what phone you bring but if you plan to buy a new one, here are some things that are really useful:

  • No simlock. Buy the phone directly via Amazon or another retailer, so you can use local sim cards or unlock your existing phone.
  • IP67/IP68 - meaning waterproof and dustproof. Take your phone snorkelling and get some cool shots of the underwater wildlife.
  • Shatterproof display. Motorola started to produce phones with shatterproof displays a while ago. Say goodbye to the spidernet app. Saved my phones screen a couple of times now.
  • Good battery life, obviously.

2. Powerbank

© anker

22EUR - Get it here

Since I got this thing I don’t leave the house without it anymore. This one is light, compact and fits easily in every pocket. 10000 mAh will charge the average phone a couple of times.

3. Power Adapter

© SKROSS Switzerland

19EUR - Get it here

Small and fits for 150+ countries. Save time and money by bringing a universal adapter instead of buying cheap ones at the airport.

4. Sarong

Get it here

Skip the travel towel. Bring a sarong: you can use it as a (beach) towel, a scarf, bed linen, mosquito protection, as a sarong (obviously) for temple visits, roll it to a pillow, curtains, it dries fast, smaller pack size than a towel, etc. It’s one of the most useful things you can have on your travels.

5. Compression sac

© eagle creek

18EUR - Get it here

Compress your clothes, save space and prevent dirty clothes from smelling.

5. Water bottle

© nalgene

13EUR - Get it here

Needless to say this is among the most useful things you can bring. Nearly every bagpack has a separate pocket for a water bottle. There are water dispensers or fountains everywhere to refill it: in your hotel or hostel, at the airport, in public places around cities or towns… Why spend money on water bottles, when you can refill for free? Make sure to empty it before going through security at the airport. After that, just refill it again. Don’t use tap water when you’re travelling Asia or at least double check if it’s suitable for drinking. I just got a nasty diarrhea a few days ago because of tap water ice cubes…

7. Inflatable neck pillow

© cocoon

22EUR - Get it here

This is pure luxury. But even a minimalist needs some luxury from time to time. This thing was a real life saver on all the overnight bus trips because I couldn’t sleep without it. If it fits in you bag: get it.

8. Neopren wrap

© jjc

13EUR - Get it here

If you want to bring your camera: skip additional bags. Buy this piece of awesomeness, wrap your camera in it, and throw it in whatever bag you have. Done.

Clothing

Yeah, that’s right: clothing is the ultimate travel hack. I’m travelling with clothes for 10 days right now. That works out pretty well, but it takes a lot of space (& money for laundry services) and can be further optimized:

1. cloth choices and quantity

  • Bring clothes that are basic, in one color and that you can wear for every occasion: dark grey, black or white. Skip the light grey, espacially in the tropics it will look weird with all your sweat.
  • Pack less underwear and socks (2-3 pairs should be enough) and wash dirty ones in the shower with soap or showering gel. Let them dry overnight.
  • One pair of trousers and a zipper/sweater should be enough if you plan to visit cooler climate zones. Wash it in the shower and let it dry overnight.
  • If you don’t bring a sweater, use your towel on the plane/bus to warm yourself on overnight trips or when the air conditioning is freaking out.
  • Wear one pair of everyday sneakers like the classic Vans or Chucks and bring good sandals.

2. merino wool clothes

© Unbound, indiegogo

starting at 55USD - Get it here

Merino wool doesn’t smell, is antibacterial, odor resistant, dries fast, doesn’t wrinkle and regulates your body temperature. You will need only two shirts & two pairs of underwear & socks for two weeks of travel. (But it’s unfortunately not vegan)

3. fast drying shorts

© Quiksilver

starting at 33EUR - Get it here

Skip the swimmers, bring a thin and fast drying short for everyday usage and swimming. Or skip the swimmers completely and swim naked or in your underwear when it’s appropiate.

4. versatile jacket

© Jack Wolfskin

160EUR - Get it here

A good and versatile jacket is the must on every trip. Windproof, waterproof, breathable, fast drying, compact pack size (when compressed). A real life saver when you spontanously decide to do the mountain hike. Just wear 2 or 3 shirts under the jacket and it gets winterproof.

Hygene and health care

You can buy sunscreen everywhere you go: even on remote islands. So keep your sunscreen at home and buy it after arrival.

1. Medicine

Keep it simple:

  • Ibuprofen for pain, fever and colds
  • Antiseptic to prevent infections of small wounds in the tropics
  • If you’re leaving the civilization for multiple days I would bring some water purification pills as well. They come in handy espacially when hiking
  • Seasick pills, if you need them

You don’t need diarrhea pills. If you get it, it’s even better to not take the pills: The bad food should leave your body as quickly as possible and pills will slow that process down. Just buy some water crackers and keep yourself hydrated. Ionized drinks and cola will help as well. Download some movies/series to your phone using Amazon Prime Video and watch them in bed and on the toilet. Saved my life.

2. Soap

© Dr. Bronners

10EUR - Get it here

Skip showering gel, shampoo, conditioner and all the rest. Use a soap for your face, skin and hair that contains some natural oils and doesn’t drain your skin - like the Dr. Bronners Magical Soaps. You can find soaps like this on your whole trip. I’ve even found a handmade soap with lemon and olive oil in a small village in Bali, Indonesia. It lasts a couple of weeks (depends on your usage), it’s fine for airport security and compact compared to all the liquid things you can buy.

3. Inset repellent

30-40EUR - Get it here

I’m using this for a couple of weeks now. It helps keeping mozzies away with natural essential oils, evaporating from the wrist band. Most of the time you’ll don’t need to do anything else, just wear the wrist band and it’s fine. If you go to the bush/rainforest or other areas of very high mosquito population you should use an additional insect repellent that contains DEET. For the best protection wear long clothes that cover your body. Take mosquito protection seriously, especially in the tropics: mozzies can a real threat to your health.

Fun and entertainment

1. Kindle Paperwhite

120EUR - Get it here

As a kid I was reading all the time. When I grew up this slowly disappeared and as a working adult I was reading roughly one book a year. That changed dramatically when I started travelling. I finished the Harry Potter saga in 4 days (stopped at book 5 as a kid), read all three The Hungergames books in one week and I’m continuing to use Amazon Primes free book a month. The Humble Bundle is also a good source for graphic novels and books about software, travelling and the rest of the world. The Kindle Paperwhite turned out to be one of the most useful things in my bag. Especially when travelling alone.

2. Longboard

140EUR - Get it here

Get a small cruiser longboard or skateboard. You can take it on board as a carry on item on many flights. If you travel with budget airlines you either have to check it in or wrap it on your bag using foil - sometimes it’s okay if you put the trunks in your bag and just carry the board itself. Just ask the agent at the check in desk, they can help you with that. It’s so much fun to cruise the streets and you don’t need to rent a bicycle. It won’t work on the beach though.


So, that’s it: the ultimate gear and pack list for digital nomads. Did I miss anything cool/important? Give me a hint in the comments. Travel safe!