Packing your entire life into a suitcase is no easy task, but it's just one of those things you have to do when traveling full-time as a digital nomad. It might seem daunting at first, but it can actually be so much fun. You've probably fallen into a rabbit hole in the internet searching for the best accessories to add to your digital nomad kit, and that's why you're reading this.
This is not an ultimate packing list, but a list of nice-to-have travel-friendly items that improve your quality of life while on the road. You don't need all these, but they're so worth the money + trouble of lugging them around!
Tablet as a second screen and note-taking device
A tablet is such an amazing complementary device when paired with the right accessories. With a stylus/pen and keyboard, a tablet can replace an external monitor, sketch pad, notebook, and even a laptop - depending on the type of work you do.
No, this is not just for artists. As a developer, I use an iPad a lot!
If you're in the Apple ecosystem, the iPad works seamlessly with your Macbook. You can use your Macbook keyboard, mouse and trackpad to control your iPad through Universal Control. Samsung Galaxy tablets also have a similar feature.
Laptop stand for a more ergonomic experience
A laptop stand will elevate your laptop so that the top of the screen is at eye level, preventing your neck and back from curving and constantly looking down.
Our ancestors used to spend most of their time gathering and hunting, and now we spend most of our time hunched over our computers. If you don't have back/neck problems yet after all those hours on your laptop, then you'll have them in the future if you don't change your working habits to be more ergonomic.
There's a laptop stand for every budget. The Nexstand is readily available in Southeast Asia for less than $20. A more lightweight and pricier version is the Roost stand. And if you'd like a beautiful lightweight wooden stand, go for the Dragonfly stand. They all fold neatly into your backpack.
A laptop with all-day battery
Without a proper office space, you'll find yourself working at coffee shops (a coworking space if you're lucky). But not all cafes have outlets, or sometimes they are not at an ideal location, or somebody else is using it.
It can be quite a headache having to deal with this issue every day, so I upgraded to a laptop with a battery that lasts all day. I no longer have to worry about my battery life when going out and about, and I can freely leave my laptop charger at home.
The Macbook Air M1, Macbook Pro M1 and Dell XPS 13 laptops will give you a battery that will last you for the day. These are some of the best laptops for remote work!
Travel yoga mat that folds and fits in your backpack
Sure, you can always buy a crappy yoga mat for $10 every time you move, but for something that improves your physical and mental health, it's worth investing in a high-quality yoga mat. Bonus points if it fits into your backpack. Yes, there's such a thing. Just search for "travel yoga mat". I personally recommend Manduka Superlite Travel Yoga Mat 1.5mm.
Electronic reading device for e-books
Switching from paper books to e-books is such a time-saver, space-saver and money-saver! If you enjoy reading, this is a must-have in your digital nomad packing list.
You can get a Kindle Paperlike for under $50. It has an e-ink screen, which makes it look like a paper. There are newer version of the Kindle out there, but this classic Paperlike will do the job.
If you'd like a more versatile device, you can also go for an iPad Mini or iPad Air, but they don't have the paper-like e-ink screen.
Phone that supports e-sims
An e-sim is a digital sim that you can purchase online. You don't need to buy a physical sim and insert it into your phone anymore. This is an issue if you want to keep 2 phone numbers at the same time - one for your home country and another for your destination country.
Now, you don't have to worry about finding a sim card store, just get an e-sim from Airalo if your phone supports it. Some examples are iPhone 12 and 13 and a long list of Android phones.
A good pair of noise-cancelling headphones will be a life-saver in a number of situations you'll likely find yourself in.
Baby on the plane? No problem. Involuntarily eavesdropping a conversation from the next table and can't stop yourself? No problem. Noisy cafe and can't focus on work? Not a problem anymore!
Of course, the noise-cancelling feature varies for every headphone, and you will have to spend a few hundred bucks if you want the entire world to disappear around you. Airpods Max can do that for you but with a steep price of $600 (!!!crazy!!!). The Sony WH-1000XM4 can do an excellent job for half the price, although not as good. You can also go for the older version which is the Sony WH-1000XM3.
It sounds very expensive, but for something that you use for several hours a day, the difference between getting work done and not getting work done, or sleeping and not sleeping - it's worth the price.
Small bag to carry your essentials
You don't always need to carry your laptop with you. When going shopping, sight-seeing, chilling at a cafe or eating out, it's great to have a secure place to store your belongings that's bigger than your pocket.
A small bag lets you carry your wallet, phone, keys, a portable charger, a small camera, Kindle, headphones and sunglasses. When you get stuck somewhere due to the rain, it's really nice to have your Kindle. When you're journaling at a cafe, it's nice to have your headphones to drown out the noise.
You can go with a small backpack or purse or fanny pack.
Things to Consider When Making a Purchase
There's only so much space in your suitcase, so you have to be mindful when making a purchase. Take only what you need, and choose products that are high-quality, small and lightweight if possible.
There's a lot of overwhelming content out there that tell you that you really need all the quirky stuff like merino wool socks, laundry detergent tablets, a $500 60L backpack, and so on.. but I'm here to tell you, you really don't.
Just take a suitcase, and your everyday backpack. Life abroad is actually not that much different from life in your home country. There are laundry shops in Thailand, and you can buy a DSLR camera in Manila if you ever think you want one.
Do what makes the most sense to you financially. Don't buy what you can't afford. And most importantly, don't let not having the "ultimate digital nomad packing list" hold you back.
Happy traveling! Let me know what your favorite digital nomad equipment is in the comments below.