Digital Nomad Packing List

What follows is some supreme digital nomad geekery. I’ve done a few videos before, but I’ve never stopped to talk about how I travel in blog form.

In the past three years, the longest I’ve been one place is 5 1/2 months. I’ve set up some kind of residence in 4 countries, set up offices and hired employees in 3, and have been fortunate enough to find the time to visit over 10 new countries. I’ve done my share of travel adventures, but I’m not really a traveler. I slowly work my way from country to country. I try to stay in each place long enough to set up shop and make real friends. Most people I know aren’t that hot on this type of living, but I absolutely love it.

I love owning very few things. I’m especially interested in reading the epic descriptions of other people who live and travel this way. I am always game for discussing item choice and packing philosophy. Tynan’s 2009 gear still stands as one of my favorite blog posts ever.

Traveling is much easier when you are hyper light for obvious reasons. I never feel inconvenienced because I own too few things. I like being able to gather up all the things I own in under 2 minutes. I like carefully considering each purchase I make. I enjoy finding gadgets and clothing that serve a variety of purposes.

There have been two major shifts in my nomadic career. As a fairly frequent traveler in the United States during my corporate years I always preferred a standard square suitcase with wheels and handle that was rated for carry on. In Asia that no longer cut it. I needed a set up that worked on both motorcycles and small boats.

The first major move I made was deciding to travel 100% from a day pack. The main way you do this is reduce the clothing you pack. I can launder my clothing myself in the shower in the evening, hang it over a chair, and be ready to wear it in the morning. I used the best backpack in the world, in my opinion, the The North Face Surge Backpack

I traveled this way for a year and advocated it to Sean from the 1st semester of the Tropical MBA. Then around 11 months ago I decided to add a laptop satchel bag to my set up. I’ve found the addition of the laptop bag has been 100% positive. I’ve got a lot more space to carry some luxury items, and it’s a lot more convenient for me to have all my work stuff in one place.

I’ve run in to a few other experienced digital nomads on the road here in Asia that have had the same exact set up. We all agreed its the highest evolution of functionality ;)

That's It :D

Generally Day Pack Staps In Front of the Seat (Works on Scooters, Motorcylces and Underbones), I wear the Laptop Bag When Driving

Incidentally, since I’ve taken on this set up I’ve lived in one apartment in the US for 6 months. I ramped up a few things: golf clubs, guitar, amplifier, and a few pairs of jeans. All of which I sold or donated when I hit the road again. Since I’m a guitar player, I’ll often buy a guitar in a location I’m planning on staying for a while and then donate it to somebody when I leave. Outside of that, I don’t miss any “stuff.”

Only the products I strongly recommend are hyperlinked to an landing page. Ok, my travel geeks are still with me? Let’s get moving…

Laptop Bag

WHY: Business first. Drop your day pack in your condo/hotel room, and hit up the cafes. There absolutely needs to be a good layer of padding between your baby and the ground. This pack could be improved by top zipper access, water proofing, and a better strap. I don’t recommend this particular design and brand.

The North Face Surge Backpack

WHY: You need some place to put your stuff! You can see that this old guy has been with me since the beginning. It’s build quality is excellent. It features a great hip strap, mesh outer pockets, a great quick-access pouch, and well-designed compression straps. Best of all, if you are really hardcore this bag features a padded laptop pouch good for a 15″ machine. I wouldn’t recommend going that way anymore because it’s tough on your laptop screen, unless of course you have an aluminum laptop ;)

Tech Toys: iPhone 3GS, Nokia C5 Phone, Smart BRO Wireless Service, FLIP HD Camera, 2nd Gen Kindle

WHY: This most critical item here is the iPhone by far. Its the ultimate travel tool. Chock-o-block full of podcasts, music, and books via the surprisingly usable Kindle reader application. Its a compass, its maps, its a flashlight, it’s your second computer. My Nokia C5 Unlocked Phone has a speedy OS and is an excellent little phone for texting and calling. I got a Flip HD camera to take beautiful videos but I wouldn’t recommend this model. The Smart BRO wireless fob lets me access the internet anywhere in the Philippines for about .40 cents an hour. Kindle is the biggest thing to happen to travel in a long time. I used to struggle to find, buy, carry, and donate books. Now I carry a library with me everywhere. My brain just exploded thinking about that.

Macbook Pro 15″

WHY: I’ve played around with a lot of computers in my day, and this is hands down the best one I’ve ever touched. A few people have called my decision to go Mac “fanboyish” or “trendy.” Those people all have one thing in common– they have never used a Macbook Pro.

First it’s got a super sturdy solid aluminum body, brilliant screen that has no glare problems due to its incredible brightness, great battery life (literally has changed the way I work as a nomad), and I’m just getting started…

As a guitarist who misses being in a band back home, Garageband is worth the price of admission. I can jam with a virtual band from anywhere on the planet! If you have ambition to make cool videos and movies, I believe iMovie video editing software is also is worth the extra cost of the laptop. I could write a whole post on how incredible that software is.

I thought there would be some adjustment period moving from Windows to OSX but, and I’m not screwing with you, I was faster on my Macbook within 1 hour of using it. I couldn’t recommend this product more, its easily the best consumer product I’ve ever purchased. A lot of travelers opt for the 13″ model, which I can understand because the wide screen format makes it feel like a 15″ computer (a lot of people assume I’m working on a 17″ machine), but to me the only advantage of the 13″ is cost as its only marginally larger/heavier and it’s the most important item you own.

I concede that there are other machines and operating systems on the market that are a better value for certain individuals– but as a generalist who works with a broad range of media forms and programs on a daily basis, I haven’t encountered a better all around package than the Macbook Pro… and it’s not just a little bit better, it’s lightyears ahead… it makes the price difference from most PCs look like a rounding error.

Cheap Ass Sunglasses

WHY: I’ll break these within 2 weeks. I think its a self-fulfilling prophecy for me. I’ve gone though 15+ pairs in the last few years.

Hair Trimmer

WHY: Manscaping and homemade hair cuts. This is a luxury item I was able to add after I added a second bag to my set up.

Shirts – 1 Fancy Black, 1 Official Issue Army Shirt, 1 Nike Golf Polo, 2 Black Tank Tops (1 Not Pictured)

WHY: These shirts all dry fast. I can clean them myself.

Underwear, 3 Pairs, 1 Not Pictured, 1 Pair of Socks

WHY: ExOfficio brand underwear are the best I’ve owned. I’d recommend boxer briefs a little on the large side. Having a little extra breathing room is more comfortable and allows them to double as swimming trunks. All my underwear are made from synthetic materials that don’t smell and dry fast. The socks are smart wool.

Shorts, 2 Dickies Cotton Shorts w/Stitched Belt (1 Not Pictured), 1 Nike Athletic Tennis Shorts

WHY: I’ve rocked traveler’s style nylon shorts in the past and recommend them, but right now I’m going 100% cotton Dickies brand shorts. They are heavy-duty and more comfortable for me. They’ve also got built in belts which is an unexpected delight (I HATE switching belts!). I really trust the snap down pockets with my valuables. The Nike shorts are great all-around shorts and I use them for swimming.

Toiletries / First Aid

WHY: I used to carry very few toiletries, but this is one of the areas I splurged on when I got a second bag. I’ve got all kinds of goodies in there!

Running Shoes

WHY: Good for sports and flying on planes. Outside of those two situations, I never wear them. They aren’t the most efficient to pack but I’ve got so much extra space it doesn’t really matter.

Phrase Book

WHY: Ang aklat na ito ay malaking tulong sa pagaaral ng salating tagalog. Ang pinakamahirap na parte dito ay lahat ay marunong magsalita ng english. Pero mas maganda parin ang matuto ng kahit kaunting salita.

That means, I think, it’s tough to learn Tagalog here because so many people speak English in the Philippines. It’s nice to know some basic words though.

Tiny Tripod with iPhone Adapter

WHY: I spent a lot of money on Amazon for this thing. I’m not sure I’d recommend it. I use the adapter to protect my iPhone in everyday use and I haven’t thrown away the tripod yet because that shaz was expensive.

Large Sketch Pads and Pens

WHY: Brainstorming.


WHY: Need the passport and thanks sis for the Amazon gift card! You know your way to my heart :)

Crocs Flip Flops

WHY: I used to wear regular Crocs full time until a pretty girl sat me down and told me they made her cringe. I’ve kept brand loyalty and went with the new flip flop model and I couldn’t be happier. I wear them 99% of the time. The treads, which are significant, are getting a little worn out after almost 7 months now. Next time I walk by a Crocs store I’ll exchange these bad boys for a new pair. In my experience, flip flops are more versatile travel shoes than sandals. Sandals don’t dry as fast and tend to have odor. They also take longer to put on and aren’t as comfortable. The enhanced “performance” they give you isn’t really needed, and I’ve got shoes if I need to take a run.


Some Things That Many Travelers Bring That I Don’t – All This Stuff is Easy to Get if You Need It

  • Camera (every photo on my blog is from my iPhone)
  • Security Stuff
  • Rain Gear
  • Books
  • Adapters
  • Medicine
  • Mosquito Nets
  • Knife/Multi-tool
  • Pillows
  • Towels
  • Flashlights
  • Jackets / Long Sleeve Shirts
  • Boots

Thanks for following me this far. If you ever make a packing list of your own, I hope you’ll remember me and drop me a line. I’d love to check it out and/or hear your feedback on any of the items on the list above.



I tweet a lot: @TropicalMBA