Living Out of a Suitcase – Travel Packing List

As passionate travelers we know the always emerging problem before every next adventure. What to pack and how to fit everything in my suitcase? This travel packing list for nomads helps Us prepare for long travel journeys.

From experience I know that there are two ways to live the life of a digital nomad. We will explain in this article how your choice of life style affects your travel packing list.

Jump to the travel packing list that sounds more like yours:

1. Light Travelling from a Secondary Home Base
2. Nomadic Lifestyle Packing

Nomadic with a Base

First, I would like to touch on the option of living a nomadic life while having a secondary home base. This may be a place of  your own, your mom and dad’s house, a friend’s or partner’s flat. If you are only returning to this place in between longer travel periods this lifestyle choice can still be nomadic.

The advantage of the half-nomadic option is that you can travel very light and very cheap. Thankfully, European budget airlines have increased their number of daily flights enormously over the last few years. The trick with these sometimes ridiculously cheap flights is not to bring any checked baggage.

The challenge is on. Can you fit all your clothes and equipment in a carry-on sized bag or suitcase? With a piece of luggage no bigger than 20 x 15 x 10 cm, you can travel on a very low budget. Keep in mind that each airline has their own restrictions, so you might want to check the fine print.

Huge is also the fact that by packing light, you can carry all your most important belongings close to you. Which means you can keep an eye on it. I have gone through the hassle of lost luggage before and it is not fun. I was very happy that the bag I had lost only contained clothes, no camera equipment, medicine or wallet.

Light Travel Packing List

What we would pack when traveling light within Europe:

1. Clothes: one pair of shorts, 3 T-Shirts, underwear and bathing-suit, Socks and (depending on the time of the year and the destination) one pair of long pants and one warm sweater.
2. Shoes: One pair of Sandals or other light summer shoes in which you can still walk for a while
3. Wash or Cosmetic-Bag: Preferably see-through, containing only liquids (lotion, shampoo etc.) under 100ml and no scissors
4. Handbag or Daypack: Ideally you should be able to fit that one into your carry-on sized bag, because some airlines (Easyjet!!) are very strict with allowing you to take only ONE PIECE.
5. Laptop, Camera, Phone and other important electronic equipment: For us Digital Nomads this usually takes up the most space. Not to speak of all the chargers and hard drives that need to come with it. If you are not flying Easyjet, you might get away with stuffing these in your daypack/ handbag and still bring the carry-on suitcase.
6. Wallet with money, credit cards, passport etc. (and copies of everything in a separate place!)

Useful advice: Wear as many clothes as possible on your body. Even if it might get a little hot underneath your rain jacket, you’ll need the space in your bag(s) for other stuff. I have made the experience that most planes are freezingly cold and that I usually appreciate an extra jacket during the flight.
Also, wear sneakers when boarding, as you won’t have to take them off at the security control. Of course, they also take up more space than your sandals.

Let us now continue with the wishful case that you don’t have a base to come back to in between trips. Or even better, that you simply don’t want to. Don’t we all love to be lost in the right direction?

Choosing the Digital Nomad Lifestyle

The length of your trip does surprisingly not really matter. Stay away for a week, two months or 3 years, you will need the same amount of clothes and equipment.

When backpacking, a backpack with good back support is key. In that case, living out of a suitcase to living out of a backpack. The latter is easier to carry around, but makes it harder to keep your stuff clean and neatly ordered. But as backpackers, we don’t focus on that too much anyway, right?!

My longest trip so far lasted 11 months and took me around Australia. I used my Deuter Backpack as a loyal companion through all ups and downs of the trip. Greg has done far more time on the road, but he would hardly travel with more than a backpack and a day-pack either.

Nomadic Travel Packing List

Preparing for our next big trip to Canada and Central America, starting in September (2017), we are already organizing our bags. Here is an overview of the things we can’t leave behind.

1. Clothes: Basically a bit of everything and enough pieces to tie us over for a couple of weeks without a washing machine. Light clothes have to come along as well as some warm sweaters and socks, but it is important to choose pieces that don’t get dirty too quickly (no whit clothes!) and are easy to wash and not too expensive (preferably no cashmere pullover).
2. Shoes: Again, sandals and sneakers (which I would wear on the plane), maybe hiking boots
3. Wash or Cosmetic-Bag: Can be a little bigger and contain scissors, but shouldn’t take up too much space, as shampoo etc. can easily be bought on the road.
4. Working equipment/ electronics (see above). A portable power bank and/or cigarette lighter adapter for the car can be very useful.

Greg’s Gear Travel Packing List

5. Wallet with money, credit cards, passport etc. I can also recommend having a little notebook with handwritten information, phone numbers, ID details and whatever could be useful in the likely case your batteries go flat or your wallet gets stolen.
6. Camping/Outdoors Equipment: sleeping bag, hiking boots, mosquito repellent and a headlamp. A Swiss Army Knife also comes with me on every longer trip.
7. A book or sketching book, whatever entertains you apart from your phone.

You see that in total, the long stay travel list is not much heavier than the hand luggage option. The trick is to reduce your essentials to a minimum and to leave things behind and collect new things as you go.
This should be about it. I will update this travel packing list whenever I have stumbled over more useful equipment for our nomadic travel lifestyle . Equally, I would like to encourage you to leave thoughts, ideas and comments on this checklist!

Read this long term travel checklist on what else you should take into account before leaving your home for good and check out Gregs Vlog to stay tuned about our upcoming trip!

Happy packing,