After five years of working location independently and traveling the world as a digital nomad I have tried a lot of gadgets, talked to a lot of people and lived with a lot of other remote workers that had all kinds of technical gear. This is my personal favorite after a lot of trial and error, buying stuff and then reselling it because I actually didn’t need it. It keeps changing and adjusting, also depending on the location and how long I stay, but I would say these really are the essentials I take with me as a digital nomad.
Side note: I am a digital nomad who is traveling to kitesurfing destinations, which might not have as good of an infrastructure as other Digital Nomad hotspots. I am also really into the healthy lifestyle and a foodie plus coffee lover so some of my choices might not be your first choice. If you are in doubt whether you will need an item I recommend, first try it without it 😉 (Minimalism for the win!) Plus, I am not the digital nomad that travels hand-luggage only (say hello to 25+ kg of kite luggage only)! So this is only partly for the amazing people out there that travel around the world hand luggage only (I don’t know how you do it but you deeply impress me)!
[This article may contain affiliate links. This means that if you decide to purchase some of these resources, I earn a small commission at no additional cost for you. I only recommend selected products that I’m convinced about and that I would buy (or already did buy) myself.]
Part 1: Must-have gadgets for digital nomads
A classic. Got lazy of buying an adapter for every country I travel to. I like that this one has the extra plug-in with the two USB slots (I still take the USB Multi-Plug that I recommend in the next paragraph because I have a lot of devices)
Every place you stay is different, some have loads of electrical plugs, some don’t. Make your life easy and just plug all your devices in one plug. I might also be a heavy user so maybe one with two USB slots or three might already enough so consider how many devices you have and actually use at the same time.
I am just taking 2-3 of those with me wherever I go, no more „single“ cables. I have both short and long ones (only the long ones are linked here), depending on where I use them and how far the plug is away. Depending on how many devices you use, just one cable might be enough, too – for me it is iPhone, iPad (+Pencil for it), Airpods, Kindle, Power Bank. Of course you don’t charge everything at once but I just don’t like having to think about it at all. Be aware that these are not data cables though (so if you want to transfer data from your iPhone to your Mac you will need a data cable).
One of the best inventions everrrr! Whether it’s for your long haul flight, busy Coworking spaces, cafes or you’re working from your apartment with a noisy neighbour or surprise construction site next door – there is nothing like noise-cancelling headphones!
The minimalist favorite: Airpods Pro
If you are a person with „normal“ ears and don’t mind having in-ear headphones I totally recommend the Airpods Pro – their noise-cancelling is absolutely impressive. Only that my little ear canals (hello surfer’s ear) had so many problems with them that I actually had to sell the AirPods Pro and go back to the normal Airpods Airpods(which don’t have noise-cancelling obviously but are still a game-changer without those cables, love to use them for workouts and running as well!)
The classic: Bose Quiet Comfort 35
Option B for noise cancelling headphones are the Bose Quiet Comfort 35 (no cable) – which also work great if you are in a Coworking Space where you are constantly disturbed and want to send a non-verbal signal that you need your own space. Also I feel like they put you in kind of a bubble – or maybe my brain is just trained to switch into work mode whenever I put them on.
One of the thing I missed and miss most is reading paperback books. Took me a long time to finally give the kindle a go but no I love it. One of the main advantages, next to having this tiny devices with as many books as you wish, is that you can mark text parts and then easily flip through what you marked (it’s a bit more complicated with a real book, isn’t it?)
Wifi Extender to boost your wifi signal
I can’t even count the times when we rented an apartment and the wifi would be good in the e.g. the living room, but if you wanted to have a Zoom call in your room the signal would already be too weak. Very happy about this wifi extender – not the prettiest, not the smallest, but worth it!
> Get the Wifi Extender here
Power Bank/Portable Charger
Even if you’re not in load shedding-prone Cape Town, a Power Bank is always a good idea, even if you have the newest iPhone. As a heavy phone user (using my phone for photos, music/putting it on speaker in the apartment, audiobooks, navigation etc) my iPhone battery tends to become weak pretty quickly and won’t last the day. Especially when traveling or being out in the city I love to carry this one with me.
> Get the Power Bank here
Cloud Storage like Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud
Five years ago I would had and External Hard Drive (which is the next point on this list) only – until I once lost my hard drive in the train (at least I hope I lost it and nobody stole it). 2TB of data. Gone. I had a partial backup but not everything. It took me months of nightmares to actually overcome this and at some point I did the only right thing: upload all my data to the cloud which literally took me months. I sleep better now and have another External Hard Drive so that I don’t always have to download massive amounts of data when I need them.
Options for Cloud Based Storage
Please note that these are only the two biggest ones. Also I am using both of them because I am lazy and don’t want to optimize my whole system 😉
Dropbox: I am still using this one as a lot of people I work with design-wise share Dropbox folders with me. However it “only” has 2TB of data and you need to pay extra to get more.
Google Workspace: I have mainly chosen Google Drive because it will show me the folders even if they are not downloaded onto my laptop (which Dropbox doesn’t do) so that I can see the folders I am looking for at any time, even if they are only online.
External Hard Drive
I love to drop things so the only thing that made sense was this rugged Hard Drive. I travel with one and leave the other one backed up at home. I had started with 2TB but now travel with the 4TB one. There are of course a lot of other options with slimmer/smaller ones and less storage so pick one that fits your needs – however make sure it is drop-proof 😉
A Data eSim Card that works all around the world: Dent
A Sim Card that works when you arrive in a foreign country to at least be able to call an Uber or find your way to the airbnb for the first days. Then I will get a local sim card with a good data deal (which I usually already research before so I know where to go and what to get). With Dent you have Internet in 60 countries worldwide, you can simply buy a package (e.g. 2 GB) which you can use anywhere and will last you 365 days.
> Check out Dent here
There are other options as well of course like Google Fi. I know quite a lot of nomads use it. It depends a bit whether you really are traveling a lot and constantly changing location and how much data you need. I found that I change locations much slower than others and prefer just getting Dent for the first days, then changing to local sim cards.
Sim Card Case and Pin
Whoever invented this is a genius. Such a small cost, such a big difference! This was the best, smallest investment I made in order not to lose my Sim cards (again!). It’s small and fits in your wallet. (The product doesn’t seem to be available everywhere though)
Laptop Cleaning Cloth
If you’re traveling to sandy and windy locations constantly like I do, you won’t get around having this cloth. I did the mistake of not using it in the beginning and since I worked for 3 months in the tiny beach town Jeri in Brazil (with lots and lots of sand), my keyboard engraved into part of my screen, it scratched it and my brand new MacBook had a nice mark from the beach.
Digital Luggage Scale
Because when traveling I love to buy new stuff when something else breaks or I need another hoodie because it is colder or I find something I like. Plus kitesurf luggage is unfortunately so much heavier when you had to squeeze in a last-minute session before your flight and your wetsuit and harness are still soaked in water. It’s easier to load your hand luggage before the stewardess checks you – rather than her watching you repack 4 kg of luggage into your hand luggage and then letting you weigh the hand luggage which will pretty much be too heavy. If you travel with handluggage only you can obviously ignore this item 😉
> Get your Travel Luggage Scale here
Mesh Wash Bags or Packing Cubes
I used to travel with Packing Cubes but now I prefer these simple, breathable, even more lightweight mesh wash bags. Plus, you guessed it, you can put items you want to take extra care of when washing, in there and use it for their originally intended use. I also usually leave my socks and underwear in their bags so they don’t mix around my other laundry, since the mesh bags are super breathable the stuff that stays in there doesn’t start smelling (unlike in the packing cubes).
3D Sleep Mask (adjustable, lightweight)
I love to sleep in the complete dark, however most apartments have blinds that still let light in – if at all. I am always taking a sleep mask with me and it has been a life saver for deeper sleep and waking up rested for a productive day of work. After some trial and error I can personally recommend the Sleeping Mask I linked here – if you want to experiment on my own I recomend getting one with 3D shape (otherwise the light gets in where your nose is), get one with velcro fastener (adjustable and unlike the one with the metal part it doesn’t disturb you when you lie on it). I personally don’t like the one with extra padding around the eyes, so this is simply a 3D one with padding.
Bluelight Blocking Glasses
This is a nerdy one but if you work a lot in front of the computer it makes total sense to have bluelight blocking glasses. If you are with another online working partner, get them the same one as well 😉
> Get some Bluelight Blocking Glasses here
Additionally to Bluelight Blocking glasses: f.lux filter
“f.lux makes your computer screen look like the room you’re in, all the time. When the sun sets, it makes your computer look like your indoor lights. In the morning, it makes things look like sunlight again.” A filter for your Laptop that gets more yellowish/orange the darker it gets, automatically. Whenever you shift time zones and travel somewhere else it will also ask you to adapt. > Get f.lux here (free for Mac)
Obviously this one is only for coffee enthusiasts. This one seriously depends on A) the locations you usually travel to and their availability of good cafes nearby (as a kitesurfer I also often travel to small towns so prefer to come prepared) and B) your addiction to good coffee and whether you prefer to drink coffee at home first thing in the morning or don’t mind going out to have it. This comes from my travels to more remote kite spots in Brazil, Dominican Republic, Venezuela and other countries where good coffee is not always around the corner 😉
Best coffee machine for travelling Espresso lovers:
I’ve tried a lot of different options here as well over the past decade. My personal favorite as an Espresso lover who doesn’t want to use capsules for eco and health reasons is the Nanopresso with the extra Barista Kit (in the Barista Kit you have the double espresso shot insert as well as a bigger water tank, which I added after I had tried the Nanopresso for 3 months and felt I needed the upgrade). I love using this one both for when I travel and work as well as in my campervan! They have many fancy colors and special editions as well, I simply went for the classic black one. > Get the Nanopresso here | Get the Barista Kit here
[just one last note, one of the reasons why I chose a big brand like this and not some kind of Amazon cheap makeover brand was that you can also order spare parts with them. So far, after 2 years of daily use, I have managed to loose only a tiny part and nothing broke, so I didn’t really have to make use of it but I feel it’s always better to buy from a brand that you will know is still there in a year and won’t disappear on Amazon 😉 ]
Best coffee machine for travelling coffee lovers:
The well established Classic Aeropress: If you are more of a “filter coffee person” (American coffee) or love cold brew coffee then go for the Aeropress. This brand has bin on the market for a long time. It does say it makes Espresso as well but I personally would still go for the Nanopresso if you want Espresso only 😉 > Get the Aeropress Go here
The cheap starter option: If you are not quite sure and don’t want to spend the money on the Aeropress Go but still start traveling knowing your morning cup of glory is safe, you could also use a resuable Coffee filter made from stainless steel (and yup even if you might not believe it, I have tried this one as well during the five years of my digital nomad journey). You don’t need an extra coffee filter, this is already the coffee filter itself and fits over almost any cup. Make sure you clean it right after every use as I heard people had problems that it would run slower and slower overtime (I didn’t but I cleaned it right away every time). > Get a Coffee Drip Over Filter here
Reusable Thermal Mug
By now you might have realized I am a bit addicted to tea/coffee/hot beverages. I love traveling with my thermal mug as this way I can refill the whole thing on long haul flights (simply ask the stewardess, they are usually happy to refill the whole thing), I don’t use one-way cups and whenever I arrive in a new apartment and they have (once again) only the tiny coffee cups of 200ml I am happy to have my 500ml Thermal Mug (ok it’s 16 oz so almost 500ml) in which I brew my tea in. I’ve chosen the one from Klean Kanteen as again, you can order spare parts if anything should break. They have many different colors and models, I like the one with the wide opening as it’s easy to clean. > Get the Klean Kanteen Wide here
Travel Tea Filter for loose tea that fits all cups
If you’re a loose tea addict like me I can highly recommend this tea filter that folds down small and is easy to travel with. Btw if you were wondering: my top tips are organic Green tea with Jasmin, organic Earl Grey, organic Genmaicha (I call it popcorn tea) and organic Roibos Tea.
[If you are wondering why I am so much into lose tea, this is the reason: there is a lot of sh** in the teabags these days plus it just tastes so much better if you drink lose tea. Opt for organic in order to not have all those pesticides in your tea.]
Onward flight reservation
So this is not a gadget, but rather a really practical platform where you can book real flight reservations for countries that require proof of a return flight upon entry. Most of the flights I book as a digital nomad are one-way-flights because I never know how long I want to stay or where I wanted to go next so this service is perfect for having that return ticket upon entry into the country (plus it is valid for 14 days!). They even offer hotel reservations which you might need when you apply for your visa.
Book your flight reservation using this link and you will get 10% off with the Code “WAKEUPSTOKED10”.
Part 2: optional gadgets for Remote Workers (depending on your personal preferences)
This lightweight foldable laptop stand has changed the working process for me – however you need to be aware that you need another keyboard and traction pad or mouse (as a mac user) when you are using the laptop stand as you are not typing directly on the laptop (at least I don’t) so this means some extra kind of luggage.
If you have a lot of Zoom Calls or generally give Group Calls, you will most likely need a ring light. In every apartment and at any time of day you have different lights and shadows so it really does make sense. I am not wearing glasses for my calls so frankly I have just picked a simply ring light (I am sure there are much more fancy ones but this one does the job for me).
Ok this might be a bit specific/nerdy. Traveling a lot to countries where you couldn’t drink straight from the tap I researched quite a lot. Since I don’t travel that quickly anymore and usually stay longer at various spots I always take a water filter with me wherever I go (I know, it’s big and heavy but to me personally it is so worth it).
Option A: Get a table filter
If you are moving around slower and travel with more luggage anyway, I can recommend getting the whole water filter from Alcala Quell One (plus filters, it’s a bit unpractical but to me worth it. I change the filters depending on the destinations, every 4-8 week)
> Get Alcala Quell one here (unfortunately it seems to be only available in Europe and the UK)
Option B: Get a filter bottle
I’ve researched quite a bit for my shorter trips where the table filter is too big. I got the Grayl Bottle and filter water as you go. Personally I have to say that I always prepare the big water filter but in case I have very limited luggage or am only going somewhere for a short trip, I’ll take the Grayl Bottle.
I have tried other options like the LifeStraw Bottles but didn’t really like the system. Preferred just filtering it once and then just drinking it normally.
Maybe I’m just getting old – but having had multiple occasion where I would wake up with a crooked neck and couldn’t properly move or kitesurf (nor work in a very relaxed position) for days or a week made me start traveling with this Tempur Travel size pillow. That being said I have tried various travel pillows and sold most of them. I usually ordered them when being back home, tried them, and then sold them. Initially I found the Tempur Travel Size to small but then, after trying many other travel pillows, came back to it and found that it was still the best fit for me personally.
More Resources for Digital Nomads and Location Independent Remote Workers
- Why I became a Digital Nomad
- Why being a Digital Nomad and Kitesurfer is the perfect combination
- How to find a good work-kite-balance
- Q&A about the kitesurf digital nomad lifestyle
- Favorite gadgets, apps and tools I use for my kitesurfing, travelling and digital nomad lifestyle
Favorite locations to kitesurf and work online
- Tarifa, Spain
- Cape Town, South Africa
- Cabarete, Dominican Republic
- El Gouna, Egypt
- Jericoacoara, Brazil
Join the Facebook Group Kitesurf Digital Nomads
Join the facebook group for Kitesurf Nomads which I created for (digital) nomads who kitesurf around the world – to network, exchange infos and maybe even meet up at spots.