The Ultimate Digital Nomad Ladies Pack List
I’ll be real: this is not my first, or second, time writing a pack list. After 7 years as a nomad, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve packed and repacked. My packing has evolved as my travel style changes and I’ve managed to finally feel like a bit of a pro when it comes to packing.
Finding the right amount to pack
It has always been my goal to get everything I need to fit into 2 carry-on sized bags; a main bag + personal item. And, friends, I can tell you it is definitely possible to pack less and still appear put together and feel prepared.
I have seen pack lists far more minimalist than mine, however because of my job and my desire to look clean and put together, I shy away from being too sparse. I will admit there are definitely times when my bags are bursting at the seams or when I need to give Jim a few things to hold. Nobody’s perfect.
Whether you’re a digital nomad, full-time traveler or a backpacker who prefers to not look like a backpacker, here is my ultimate guide to packing for a long trip!
Tip: Choose your colors strategically. Buy neutral bottoms and coordinating neutral sweaters/layers in black, beige, shades of grey. This way with tops, I choose some brighter colors and know that won’t clash–I personally like coral, teal, and red.
When it comes to clothing, keywords are lightweight and versatile. I like natural, cotton blends and extra-light merino wool blends. I want everything to be cute yet practical; neutral and easy to mix & match. My favorite versatile brands are Athleta and Prana because they make great packable clothes–that can easily take you anywhere from a nice restaurant to a trail and they hold up extremely well. I also tend to buy a large amount of my clothing from second hand stores around the world. You’d be surprised by what you can find that fits your criteria.
Warm or Tropical Climates
Coastal Central America
Tip: Pick the heaviest items to wear for flying days. Using items from the following list, I might wear a t-shirt with light pants and my chambray shirt or cardigan on top, with my heaviest shoes.
4 tank tops;
One loose solid colored bright
I love this one that packs up TINY and looks great tucked into shorts or as a tunic with leggings.
One “dressy” or trendy or patterned
This is a great brand for travel
One appropriate for exercise, hiking, or extra active city days.
One basic light
One “work” shirt to wear when I’m teaching online
1 cardigan/light zip up in neutral color–I like light blue, grey and beige.
1 Chambray Shirt–matches everything I own! This one is great!
1 neutral basic short–in dark grey, beige or navy. I like something high waisted and loose with a sash belt; as its comfortable and travels well yet looks a bit nicer.
1 active short-
Cute enough to take hiking or when exploring a city
1 ¾ legging in black or dark grey
1 hybrid light pant–in beige or grey.
These are great for long travel days, lounging, evenings out when it's a bit cooler, or to wear to temples in Southeast Asia.
1 neutral skirt–black : Super cute, super versatile and super packable. If in a country with a conservative dress code for entering temples, pack a long/maxi skirt instead.
1 cute floral or fun patterned
1 Basic, cotton, comfortable- something that can be dressed up or down depending on accessories
1 Lightweight LBD
TIP: Instead of buying new, bring things you already have! You can always ditch them along the way when you find a worthy replacement.
Mixed Altitudes in South America, Europe or Northern Africa
Europe, China, Japan in Spring/Fall
South America or Asia:
1 Packable, lightweight jean. There is no better jean for travel.
1 hybrid hiking pant- Long gone are the days of wearing dorky, masculine zip off hiking pants. Now, there are better options! Athleta is genius for hybrid hiking pants that look nice enough to wear to an office but are built for hiking/movement.
1 pair long leggings: These are great for hiking, fitness, or wearing under dresses in cooler climates. You can use the hidden pockets to store cash under your dress on travel days in sketchy places.
Basic tanks - 1 black 1 neutral
Neutral comfortable v-neck (merino wool blend)
Cute, more stylish top
1 “work” shirt
Longer length t or tank that could be worn with leggings or tucked into pants
4 long sleeve
Micro Fleece Jacket or wool zip up: I really like Helly Hansen fleeces because they are slim and lightweight. I also have a warm, but lightweight, Mountain Hardware wool zip up, given to me by a friend, that I love for travel.
1 black leggings ideal for travel.
Wind & Wet:
Rain jacket: Great choice for South America or Asia.
Nice looking warm jacket
Dressier jacket for winter in Europe/US:
TIP: If you’re going to be moving between moderate and cold climates, buy something when you need it. Going to be in South America? Take advantage of cheap, comfy alpaca wool sweaters. In Asia; pop over to Uniqlo and buy a packable down jacket or thermal sweater. Or buy a knock-off brand name fleece or shell in Southeast Asia. In Vietnam? Get a custom-made wool jacket made.
Typically, I bring 3 pairs of shoes; these change, of course, depending on the climate and the type of trip we are taking. But typically I bring:
1 pair for running/walking/exercise
1 pair “everyday” shoes that match everything I wear
1 that can be dressed up or down.
South America, Southeast Asia:
Everyday shoes: Cairn active sandal; my favorite active sandal. For city, wilderness, wet places and more. So lightweight and easy to pack. I’ve walked hundreds of miles in these babies and they show no signs of stopping. Buy them in turquoise for a fun pop.
Alternative: I’ve bought these before I discovered Cairn, and really liked them. They are cute and light and match most outfits. They aren’t quite as durable, but they are a great option and they are light and pack well.
Ultralight, comfy flipflops. I’ve had them for years and they still look good. And can usually easily be squeezed into any bag. Extra useful in Southeast Asia
Exercise shoes: Black “fancy” tennis shoes
Everyday shoes: Leather walking sandals
Can be dress up or down: Slip-on leather loafers
More cultural/city stuff:
Can be dressed up or down: Low suede boot: I bought these over 3 years ago and still wear them. I have them in “putty suede” and they match everything and make me feel polished. I still get compliments on them all the time. I wore them on a long trip to Europe and another trip in Mexico and Colombia.
Everyday shoes that match everything: Flat, cute, lightweight loafers that you could probably wear with ANY outfit from dresses and shorts to pants. I’ve worn these all over Latin America and Europe.
China or “cold Asia:” everyday goes-with-everything-shoes.
1 everyday nude convertible bra
1 sports bra
1 hybrid every day/active bra
4-5 pairs of socks:
A mix of light active, warm merino wool depending on the climate. Less for the tropics, more for cool climates.
Suitcases & Bags
Tip: Have a main bag that is carry-on compatible plus a small backpack as your personal item. Keep your valuables and electronics in the small backpack and check the main bag if you need to. For long bus or train rides, continue to keep your valuables on you in your backpack/purse, never letting that bag leave your sight.
40-55L; Depending on where we are going and what kind of trip it will be I sometimes travel with my Osprey Fairview 40L
OR other times, in Europe, or trips where we won’t be bouncing around as much, I travel with my Samsonite roll-behind carry-on.
1 personal item for electronics & carry-on: I bought this Patagonia water-resistant backpack before a trip to South America and I really like it. It’s nice to have something waterproof for trips to the tropics or when we were in Patagonia; plus its spacious enough to fit all my electronics and my teaching supplies.
1 packable daypack: Comes in handy on so many occasions–can carry my camera, a sweater, water bottle and more for day trips etc. Packs into the size of a small ball.
1 packable purse: This is something I will buy special when on the road. I’ve bought small handmade purses in Taiwan, Vietnam, and Mexico. It’s one of the small things I collect if I’m in a location with cool handicrafts.
1 toiletry bag + 1 makeup bag: I bought mine in Vietnam, they were handmade from a fair trade/women’s collective.
1 electronics organizer
2 clear reusable plastic bags
Packing Cubes: If you’re a frequent traveler and don’t have these...what are you waiting for? A non-negotiable. With me on every. single. trip. Game-changer and the only way I feel organized. Marie Kondo it and you’ll be on top of the world.
Toiletries & Beauty
Deodorant : Got hooked on this stuff in Thailand. It lasts forever. Its tiny and packs easily and is NOT a liquid. I’ve been using natural deodorant for a few years now, so if it’s new for you know that it may take some time to get used to and for your pits to “detox.” But it’s something I recommend all women try to do!
Bamboo Toothbrush: I switched to bamboo about a year ago and haven’t looked back:
Face wash, Serum & moisturizer
Favorite Facial Sunscreen: Love this stuff and this brand; natural sunscreen that doesn't turn my face white or cause breakouts:
Favorite natural body sunscreen-Soothing and smells nice + inexpensive. Also, its’ a reef safe SPF
Dr Bronners - For everything else…
Shampoo & Conditioner Bars: Smell great, last a long time and even come with travel containers. Nice carry on option. And great if you’re trying to minimize single-use plastic. If you find yourself near a Lush Store, pick up a few of their S&C bars; they’re the best.
Makeup: I bring these items in my makeup pouch: Mascara, under-eye concealer, brow pencil, eyeliner + tinted lip balm.
TIP: There are stores everywhere in the world. You don’t have to bring everything! We tend to buy soap or other toiletries we find we need shortly after arriving in a new country. Nobody wants to carry big bottles around–plus it’s fun to try new stuff!
2016 13” MacBook Pro (Non-Touch Bar), these have been getting a ton of flack but we both have one and love it.
A Moto G6 with Project Fi. It’s around $260 and a solid budget option for a travel friendly smart phone. Both Jim and I have Google’s phone plan, Project Fi. I recently switch and has had his for about 2 years now and it’s been great. It’s worked in every country we’ve been to except Belize. Highly recommend it as the best data plan for Digital Nomads if you’re thinking about getting the plan use this and get $20 off!
2 TB WD My passport - gotta back up all our beautiful travel photos etc.
Nexstand laptop stands - Folds into nothing and is stable enough to put my laptop in a more ergonomic position. If you work on a computer all day, do yourself (and your neck/back) a favor and get one of these. Game-changer.
Bluetooth mouse same as this one.
Kindle Paperwhite - it’s easier than carrying around dozens of books.
Camera & Lens; Recently got a mirrorless camera and I’m in love!
Camera Cover: Keep this on my camera whenever I’m not using it.
Packable Yoga Mat: Jim got me this for xmas and I LOVE it. Believe it or not, it fits well in the bottom of my suitcase. I use it almost every day to stretch or do a video on Youtube.
Reusable shopping bags: I have this set. I always keep 1-2 in my purse, one in my backpack and one in Jim's bag. And I use one as our laundry bag. This way we always have bags.
Reusable Produce Bags: This is thrown in with my reusable shopping bags. We often live places where I can shop at produce markets and these come in really handy and help me avoid using plastic bags etc.
Stainless steel water bottle: Buying bottled water is lame. And something you notice in most of the world–the tap water is not potable. So I never leave home without a reusable water bottle. This one keeps my water cooler & fresher longer:
Bamboo thermal tea thermos: I’m an avid tea drinker and I can use this thermos to make loose leaf tea wherever. I’ll also carry it with me and use it when buying juice, smoothies, and coffee from vendors to avoid plastic use. I bought mine from an organic shop in Vietnam, but this one appears exactly the same.
Supplements: I always bring Magnesium Glycinate for days when I don’t eat very healthy; I take it before bed and it relaxes me and helps me sleep deeper. I also always bring Pure Encapsulations Melatonin SR. Whenever I know I need a good night’s’ sleep, I know magnesium + Melatonin SR will help.
And that should do it! Is there anything I’m missing that you can recommend!?