Ever wonder what I carry in my suitcase? Traveling around the world indefinitely with just a backpack or a suitcase is not easy, but you definitely learn some things along the way to make it easier. I have a few key items or products that I never go without. Some are practical, some are comforting, and some are absolute necessities. Here's a peek inside my suitcase, and the products I love, as well as a few other really cool travel gadgets that will make digital nomad life a little bit easier.
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Bags and Backpacks
First things first, my backpack. I've gotten to where I do a lot more slow travel these days, and during those times I'll bring a suitcase and then travel from wherever I base out of with a smaller "weekend" type bag (like the picture at the top of this post). But when I'm on a backpacking trip or just bouncing around a lot, a good backpack is essential. I use a Teton Sports Scout 3400 (55 liter) backpack. It's about the maximum I can physically carry for my body size, and it still qualifies as a carryon. (Disclaimer: the pic on the right makes it look a little smaller than it actually is)
You'll also want to consider a small compactible day bag or hiking backpack, computer or camera bag, fanny pack or money belt, and packing cubes. Packing cubes are one of my ABSOLUTE favorite travel necessities. They make organizing your belongings SO much easier. I would 100% recommend them whether you are using a suitcase or backpack, but I have to say they are even more essential with backpacks so you don't have to "explode" your clothes everywhere before you can find what you're looking for (guilty). I use eBags, but they are a bit pricey (I got them at a discount store). If you don't want to spend a ton of money on these, you could try a cheaper option, like this set below (but I can't attest to its quality).
My Travel Must-Haves
Unless you're going on a quick few-day trip where you'll never leave the hotel, a travel towel is absolutely necessary. Get yourself one of these super-thin microfiber towels that dries in way less time than an ordinary towel, and hardly takes up any space. I use mine ALL the time, even if I'm not staying in hostels (where it will be a definite must).
Water Bottle and Travel Mug
These are two things where I'm gonna say the brand matters. I am absolutely in love with my Nomader water bottle. It is completely leak-proof, and also rolls up when it's empty! Having your own water bottle is not only responsible, but will save you money everywhere (think: $5 airport bottled water).
My Contigo travel mug is more of a luxury, but for someone who drinks coffee constantly, it is one of the things I always try to make room for if I can. Again, it is 100% leak-proof (like SERIOUSLY leak-proof) and keeps my coffee super hot. A lot of other travel mugs have tried and failed. And obviously it comes in handy for any other on-the-go beverages. Mine may or may not have seen a margarita once or twice.
If you are a coffee addict like me, or are doing a lot of camping, you may also like this 2-in-1 French press tumbler I came across!
Make Travel More Comfortable
Over the years I've learned that if I'm going to take the overnight bus or sleep in an airport in order to save a buck, I'm gonna at least be comfortable. So some of the next items are going to be very practical... and others are REALLY not necessities, but they put a smile on my face, and at the end of the day we all just want to smile, don't we?
My personal comfort kit includes a travel blanket, earplugs, eyemask, headphones, and my Colombia hoodie, which I'll write more about below. If I have the room, I also bring one of these cool massage rollers! These are things that I've collected over the years, but if you're starting from scratch, here are some suggestions:
I also just added these to the collection, and I am obsessed with them. The first is an inflatable travel pillow, but this is NOT any ordinary travel pillow! I mean look at this thing! I don't care how ridiculous I'm going to look - I am pretty tall and always incredibly uncomfortable trying to sleep on airplanes and this is going to be a gamechanger. And these aren't just cute socks - they're compression socks. So on top of looking adorable and keeping my feet warm, they will help with circulation when stuck on those long flights. (I have these exact ones, but they have plenty of "normal" ones if you want to be a little less flamboyant!)
Other Travel Necessities
There's a few more doo-dads that I keep around that you may want to consider - they may be something you'll need or maybe not, depending on the specifics of your trip. 1. First off, a lock IS necessary - Preferably a combination lock, so there's no key to worry about. You'll need it for luggage, safes, or lockers. 2. Travel sewing kit - Honestly, I use mine ALL the time and it is the tiniest thing. 3. Money belt - Up to you if you think this is necessary. I always bring mine, but I usually just wear it when I'm on sketchy public transport, or if I'll be sleeping (like an overnight bus or train). 4. Pepper spray - If you are worried about safety, you will be happy to know that it IS okay to travel with pepper spray! However you definitely cannot take it in a carryon, and it still needs to be less than 4 ounces . You'll also want to check the laws regarding this in your specific destination (many pepper sprays contain tear gas and bear mace as well so be sure to check all of these).
I've got a few things that I would not deem essential, but I do love them and they're pretty much always in my bag, so I figured I'd share them as well.
First up is my combination curler / straightening iron. It's travel size and dual-purpose, and come on, even if you're backpacking sometimes you like to spruce up a bit!
Next is my luggage scale. ESPECIALLY if I'm doing the slow-travel thing with my big suitcase, this is so so handy. I tend to pick up things here and there, and if I've got the room in my suitcase, well, I fill it! But just because I can fit it, doesn't mean it is below the weight limit, and I would much rather figure that out before reaching the airport. (There are digital versions of these as well if you prefer that.)
Lastly, my Eagles Nest Outfitters double-nest hammock. If you're planning to do a good deal of camping, hiking, or backpacking in general, this is fantastic. Even though it's super thin, it does take up some space, so it's only practical if you're really going to use it. But I've slept in this thing on a number of occasions, and I absolutely love it.
Digital Nomad Essentials
Of course you'll need a good laptop before anything else. I have an Asus Vivobook, and I think it's the perfect size and it's super lightweight.
If you do plan on spending a lot of time on your laptop, there are some super compact laptop stands that'll keep you from overheating, and I'd also recommend a good pair of comfortable foldable headphones, like these noise-cancelling bluetooth headphones.
Depending on how much gear you're planning on bringing, you may want a whole bag dedicated to either your camera or laptop. For me, I keep pretty much all my electronics in my "personal item" bag because I want it with me at all times. I can usually manage to do this plus add anything else I want handy for long journeys (snacks, books). This anti-theft laptop backpack with a charging port is amazing. It has a million pockets, lockable zippers, counts as a personal item on flights, and it's one of my favorite travel items.
Photography and Vlogging
If photography or vlogging is your jam, whether it's just for fun or more serious, you'll need just a few more additions. Be sure to bring all your charging cables, memory cards, and an external hard drive. You'll probably also want a tripod (with a bluetooth clicker, if you're a solo traveler like me!), and possibly a windscreen and/or ring light. I just purchased this vlog kit below!
Online Teaching / Zoom Meetings
This might be a bit specific for most, but a lot of it can apply for most typical online meetings.
Zoom has some great features for backgrounds/green screen, but I do also carry a physical map background that I like for my kiddos. It's cloth and super compact and I just like to have it on hand. If I have more space, I also really love this collapsible green screen that fits over the back of your chair. You'll also want to have good lighting, so a small USB ring light is worth considering. And if you are a teacher, be sure that most of the props you plan on bringing are 2-dimensional. My mobile "classroom" hardly takes up any space.
My Travel Wardrobe
This one isn't so standard because of course it's going to heavily rely on my destination, time of year, activities I plan on doing, and how long I'll be traveling. (There's a lot of resources for this on Pinterest that can help you with your specifics if you need a detailed packing list.)
Saying that, there are definitely times when I head off for new adventures and have no idea how long I'll stay gone or where I might end up, so it's good to have a few staple items in my wardrobe. So this is the base of my travel wardrobe (but of course it is not all I pack to wear).
Travel Wardrobe Basics
For your basics, you need to think versatility, comfort, and practicality. I always have a bunch of neutral things that I can mix and match, as well as layer. I pretty much always pack black or grey leggings - you can wear them as normal clothes, workout/hiking clothes, sleep clothes, or as an underlayer. One pair of flip flops and one pair of either sneakers or hiking shoes. I love my Salomon hiking shoes and Inkkas for walking around town.
Next is a few tank tops and camisoles, a few pairs of leggings, a couple of plain t-shirts, and one or two long-sleeved shirts for layering. Sports bras or bralettes are great - comfortable and versatile. Also, I don't care WHERE I'm going, or how likely I am to go swimming, but I always always always pack a swimsuit. In fact, I have a bit of a swimsuit problem, but that's another story.
Then lastly my Columbia hoodie. You can probably tell from my photos that I love this thing and it has been a clear staple in my wardrobe for a while (like 8 years you guys). It's super cozy and warm, but also thin if I want to pack it, and it's got an extra large hood for those times when I'm catching a snooze in the airport.
*I couldn't find this exact one to link, which means it might be discontinued (noooooooo), but Columbia is a great brand for this kind of stuff in general, so I'd suggest starting here and perusing around until you find something that suits your taste.
And while you're at it, pack a few sarongs. These are the simplest, most versatile item you can pack, they take up no space, and they come in SO handy. Of course this is more ideal for warmer destinations, but they can be used as a skirt, a dress, a coverup for legs or shoulders in temples, a headscarf for mosques, a neck scarf if it gets chilly, a thin blanket, a towel, a beach throw, and even a bag. Seriously, pack a sarong. (I have used one as literally all of these examples.)
Unfortunately, I prefer physical books to a Kindle, which means a heavier bag and more space taken up, but it is what it is! If you don't mind a Kindle though, by all means go that route! There are tons of eBooks available on Amazon, including the ones I'm gonna mention below. (Click here for a free trial)
My favorite book of all time, and one I'm currently re-reading is Tales of a Female Nomad. It's a little Eat Pray Love -esque, but in my opinion, MUCH better. I'm also enjoying The Buddha Walks into a Bar, which is a modern take on practical Buddhism.
I'm also quite into puzzle books, and I'm not afraid to admit - adult coloring books too. If you find yourself with no power, no cell signal, and no data (perhaps on purpose!), it's always good to have something like these around to pass the time.
And that just about does it! Narrowing down what I can bring is my least favorite part of packing, but at least with my tried-and-true go-to items, I have a pretty good head start.
What are your absolute musts when packing for a trip? Have you found any travel products that you just can't live without? Let me know down below!