Tom’s thoughts on packing as a digital nomad. (A sock-lovers guide)
Packing as a digital nomad can be a confusing matter, do you travel light and rely on finding places to wash your clothes and buy your toiletries, or do you cram it all in and end up lugging a mountain of possessions all over the world? There really isn’t a conclusive answer, it’s all down to personal preference after all but it can be easier to decide with a little forward planning.
How big is your bag?
A suitable bag is your first port of call. Whether you stick to cabin luggage only or not, baggage limits are strictly enforced on airlines and anything over those limits will be subject to ridiculous charges. A steep unexpected baggage fee or a mad throw out and repack at the airport are not great ways to start your adventure! These considerations can limit your choices for packing quite considerably so it’s important to make the most of the space you have. Pack the essentials first!
What are the essentials?
Personally, for me the main essentials consist of underwear and socks. It’s a good staple to take 5 pairs of each, they won’t take up to much room and will allow you ample time to find somewhere to wash them in between use. Socks can be a great aid in the comfort of a backpacking digital nomad, so it is important you have some quality pairs! If you spend a little bit on high quality socks it’ll go a long way! Ergonomic running socks and hiking socks can offer great support underfoot and may make your treks that little bit easier. You wouldn’t take a fur lined parka to Morocco in the summer and you wouldn’t wear shorts to Norway in the winter, the same applies to socks. Make sure you take the climate into account when choosing. Underwear can be doubled up as sleep wear and if you’re happy to do this it is highly recommended, say goodbye to the dressing gown!
Shoes pose a bit of a conundrum here. It is understandable to take just one pair as they can be bulky and difficult to pack, but ideally I would take two pairs as you can easily get away with wearing trainers/boots and stuffing a tidier, trendier pair of canvas shoes or equivalent in your bag with little room lost.
Clothing is subjective and therefore a bit hard for me to tell you what to take. As a guide, it is advisable to take 5-8 items of top half clothing including a mix of shirts, t-shirts and jumpers which are suitable for casual daily wear and also smart enough for any big nights out . Darker colours will hide any stains or marks if washing is a chore, and a strict rotation policy will help them last a few times between washes. For your bottom half it’s important not to over pack. Jeans are a universally safe option, and can be worn almost continuously for a week, maybe even two without washing. Other trousers are available and you may wish to consider canvas trousers, cargo shorts, or skirts and dresses for the ladies.
Depending on your destination you may require a coat. If you have a specific, favourite coat that may not be overly practical, no problem. Take it and consider investing in a rain proof poncho or water proof jacket that folds up into a bag you can hang off your own bag. They are ideal for the traveller as they are cheap, easy to use and easier to replace.
Everyone likes a fashionable turn here or there so why not accessorise with practicality, and include items like a scarf, hat, or sunglasses. All are easy enough to pack or wear on the plane/train/boat, and will serve a useful purpose wherever you end up, whilst making you look stylish.
Do I take toiletries?
Given the limits imposed by airlines on liquids and other similar items, it would probably be advisable to purchase your products in small amounts as you go, if you intend to fly often. You also might want to to invest in a decent toiletries bag and many travellers recommend the hanging variety for ease of use. The only products you really need to travel with are any required for your own specific needs such as medication etc. All other products will be available in pretty much any place you’re traveling to, and if nothing else, will give you the chance to try out new and exotic products!
There are many products aimed at the digital nomad regarding security, and again it’s really personal choice as to what you are comfortable with. A decent lock would be a good start but many hostels now provide lockers or other secure areas for any baggage, so further security measures may just be an expensive waste of time, and might even draw unwanted attention to your gear. Money belts are useful should you be travelling in slightly more dubious parts of the planet and can be picked up very cheaply online.
Miscellaneous travel items can be seen as something of a luxury, but providing you don’t overdo it on the essentials there is no reason you can’t take a few, selected miscellaneous items. I like to include:
- Quick drying travel towel
- Eye mask
- Note pad and pens
- Key ring flashlight/torch
- Soft or flexible water bottle
This list is by no means comprehensive, and all packing will ultimately depend on where you’re going, how long for and where you’re staying. Hopefully though this can give you a nudge in the right direction and convince you not to take the proverbial kitchen sink.