Gear List for a Digital Nomad

This has been a daunting post I’ve wanted to write for almost a year. Maneesh asked for it yesterday, so I figured I’d do it up!

I had a bigger pack and a lot more gear from Dec 07 – May 08. Here’s a list of gear that I’ve been traveling with since May 08. It currently weighs about 33lbs, if I’m sticking to my three-book limit.

Bags

MEI Voyageur

MEI Voyageur
I did a ton of research about a bag, and came to the conclusion that if you’re not going with a psycho-small bag like the Life Nomadic guys, but still want to carry on your bag, the MEI Voyageur is the way to go.

I can’t say enough good things about this bag. It’s the maximum dimensions allowed for a carry-on, and can be worn as a backpack or regular bag (the backpack straps zip into the bag when not being used). It’s super durable. I’ve carried it by its handle while it was stuffed to the gills and I was never concerned that it would rip because of the weight. It has one big compartment which is a lot better to pack and find stuff than a bag with lots of little compartments.

I’ve never had concerns carrying this on, even when stuffed. Though I did pack poorly once and had to check it because it wouldn’t fit into the overhead compartment on a small ATR-82 propeller plane in India.

This is the review that sold me, and there are other good MEI Voyageur reviews here.

I lock it with a Lewis and Clark travel lock (not all locks will fit this bag as the holes on the zippers are pretty thin). I also have a retractable cable lock and Pelilock which have come in handy to, for example, lock my bag in a closet in a sketchy hostel.

Kiva Keychain Backpack

KivaKeychainBackpack
I use this for day trips to the beach, grocery store, etc. It’s can fit a couple of towels, books, and bottles of water when it’s a backpack, and packs up to a tiny keychain-sized pack when not in use.

Plus, look at the smile you’ll be sporting when wearing it! I challenge you to spend 10 bucks in a better way.

Kelty Daypack

This is the daypack from my old, overly-complex pack. I brought it along because my computer fits into it like a glove and it can be folded up and easily stashed in my Voyageur if necessary. It’s also great for carrying on stuff I want to be accessible during long flights (laptop, book, water, rhinestone-studded eye mask, etc) so I don’t have to dig through the Voyageur.

Clothes

Four Icebreaker T-Shirts

IcebreakerHopper190TShirt
Icebreaker shirts are a must-have for anybody living with a small wardrobe. They are pricey wool t-shirts, but they can be worn many times before smelling of something other than deodorant. I’ve done Crossfit workouts in them where the shirt has been soaked, and the next day it doesn’t smell like it’s even been worn (the lack of smell has been independently verified by multiple parties). Plus, because they’re wool, they are breathable and keep you cool in the summer and warmer than a cotton shirt in winter. And if they get wet, they’re much more comfortable than cotton.

I could probably ditch one shirt, maybe two. But I like having a little variety.

Can’t say enough about these shirts or the company. Two of them had random holes appear in them, and Icebreaker even offered to ship me two new ones to rural India! I’m an Icebreaker convert.

Long Sleeve Icebreaker U-Turn T-Shirt

Icebreaker's 190 weight UTurn Long Sleeve T-Shirt
In retrospect I probably would have gotten a different colour – this shirt looks like a pyjama top. But it’s a great layer to have.

Icebreaker Nomad Hoodie

Icebreaker's Nomad - a 320 weight wool hoodie
I really like hoodies, and wanted to bring something warm with me. A week before leaving, I was telling my friend Becky that I didn’t think a cotton hoodie was a good idea. Bring awesome, she suggested (of course) an Icebreaker hoodie.

So I picked up this 320 weight wool hoodie, fittingly named the Nomad. It has the added bonus of making me look like a speedskater when wearing the hood up. It’s super warm, packs way better than a cotton hoodie, and has all the associated Icebreakery goodness I wrote about earlier.

Jeans

GapJeans

They’re heavy and fairly impractical for travel, but I didn’t want to feel like a synthetic-pants wearing douchebag when living in a city for 3 months. Also, I’m not schlepping my bag around every day so I am less impacted by their weight.

Cloudveil Cool Convertible pants

CloudveilCoolConvertiblePants
Lightweight, breathable, zips into shorts, and waaay nicer to wear in hot climates than jeans.

Quiksilver Board Shorts

These shorts have got to be close to 7 years old, but I can play sports, do crossfit, and swim in ‘em. They’re still in great shape so no need to replace them.

Quiksilver Khaki Shorts

These might be overkill as the Cloudveils zip-off into shorts too. But these hang lower, feel more comfortable, and have more zippered pockets, so I brought them.

Three Pairs Ex-Officio Boxers

ExOfficioBoxers
The official boxer of the long-term traveler, 3 pairs suited me well (one to wear, one drying from being washed in the shower that morning, and one because mom advised me to always have a backup plan).

They dry quickly and breathe well. I don’t think about them, which is what I look for from my boxers.

Vasque Mantra XCR Shoes

VasqueMantraXCRWaterproofShoes
“Equally suited for trolling the farmers market or day hiking your favorite trail, the sleek new Vibram® Ananasi bottom package is built for the trail and all-day comfort. An attractive leather and airmesh upper assures you will look good no matter what you’re doing.”

Shazam! These shoes kick serious ass. They’re light, are GoreTEXed and thus waterproof (my feet were kept bone-dry in Buenos Aires downpours, which don’t mess around) and equally at home in the office, at the beach, or canoodling with supermodels at the hottest clubs in Buenos Aires and London. Love ‘em.

Mountain Hardware Typhoon

MountainHardwearTyphoonJacket

Love this jacket. It’s 15oz, can scrunch into a tiny ball, has GORE-TEX PACLITE and is waterproof, has pit zips to cool down when the weather gets unexpectedly hotter, and makes for a great outer layer. I rocked it over my hoodie in the worst London snowstorm in the past 18 years and I was dry and warm.

Rainbow Hemp Double-Stack Flip-Flops

RainbowHempDoubleStackSandals

Hipsters love these things. They’re hemp and don’t smell, but I’ve worn them for about 8 months and they’re practically destroyed. I’ll be going back to Gravis flip-flops for my next pair, which have been way more durable since I started wearing them earlier this millenium.


Icebreaker Long Underwear


IcebreakerLongUnderwear
Super warm long underwear for 10 days in Antarctica. I schlepped them for 3 months, then sent them home, even though they make my pecs look awesome.

Two pairs Smartwool Socks

SmartwoolAdrenalineMicroSocks
I’m pretty anti-sock and pro-flip-flops, but figured a couple pairs to do Crossfit in or travel in on cool days were a good idea. People rave about Smartwool – quick drying, not totally uncomfortable when wet, last forever, no blisters, etc. For me, they’re like boxers – I put em on and don’t have to think about em.

One pair Heavy Smartwool Socks

SmartwoolTrekkingHeavyCrewSock
The super warm version of the above.

One pair Heavy Icebreaker Socks

IcebreakerTrekkerSocks
Last picture of socks, promise. At the last minute, I decided to bring a second pair of socks and went with Icebreaker. Good thing, because at times in Antarctica I wore all four pairs of socks and my feet were only just warm enough.


MEC Yukon Gore-Tex Mittens


MECYukonGoreTEXMittens

I needed some badass waterproof and warm mittens for Antarctica. These fit the bill nicely and were sent home when I got back from the White Continent.

MEC Windpro 2 Gloves

MECWindPro2Gloves

Super light, decently warm, and resistant to all things wind, these stayed with me post-Antarctica and thank goodness – my hands would’ve been icy bricks if I didn’t have them in the London storm.


Oakley A-Wires


OakleyAWires

9 years old and still kicking, I thought these would be fine… until I went trekking in Patagonia and had burning eyes at the end of the day. Seems the scratched lenses couldn’t keep out the UV light. Not wanting to deal with crispy eyeballs thanks to the reflective snow in Antarctica, I sent these home and bought a pair of Rusty sunglasses. At least I think they’re Rusty, though I can’t find *any* Rusty sunglasses on the web to link to. Oh well, at least my eyeballs don’t hurt anymore.

Two Toques

Or beanies, for American readers. One cotton toque and one alpaca toque that was a gift from a friend. Two were a good idea to bring to Antarctica as wearing a wet toque during the afternoon landing wouldn’t be pleasant. I sent the alpaca one home after Antarctica.

Electronics

Macbook

AppleMacbook

I thought about buying a Macbook Air to cut 40% off my computer weight but figured I’d be less paranoid about losing or breaking a three-year old computer than a brand-new one.

I’ve upgraded this with 2GB of RAM and a fast (7200 RPM) 200GB hard drive and it performs like a champ.

Brenthaven Eclipse I Macbook Sleeve

BrenthavenEclipseIMacbookSleeve

I wanted something durable but small to protect my Macbook when it was packed away in the Voyageur or Kelty bag, and this fit the bill perfectly. It’s snug but my Macbook is very well padded without having to use a considerably larger sleeve.

200GB Hitachi Travelstar HD + Case

HitachiTravelstar200GBHardDrive

This drive is fast, quiet, and had lots of space. I have one in my Macbook and one in an external case that is a mirror image of my Macbook drive. In case the Macbook HD gets damaged, I can pop this one into the computer and lose at most 24 hours of data. It was $160 when I bought two in May to replace the Seagate that broke when my laptop fell off a table in Ireland. It’s now 75 bucks at Amazon, which is nothing to pay for peace of mind.

Aegis Mini

AegisMini120GBhardDrive

The Aegis Mini USB 120GB hard drive is tiny and beautiful. I only use it as a backup for movies, music, and photos but it’s so small that it’d be silly not to bring it along.

Canon SD800

Plus extra battery, case, charger, and 12GB SD memory

CanonSD800

I’ve had this badboy for coming up on four years now and it has the battle scars to prove it. It fits my two criteria for a camera: it’s small and takes great photos and video. I brought lots of extra SD memory because the video file sizes are huge.

Eye-Fi SD Card

EyeFiExploreSDCard

This is one of the coolest things I’ve bought recently. When you take a picture with it in your camera, it uses Skyhook’s wifi network to determine your latitude and longitude and adds it to the photo’s EXIF data (Skyhook is the same network the first iPhone uses to determine where you are). That means when you upload your photos to, say, Flickr, the photo appears on a world map in the city that you took it. Freaking awesome.

The one downside is that Skyhook’s coverage map isn’t that large outside of North America, so at times this is just a massively overpriced SD card.

Audio Technica ANC3 Noise Cancelling Ear Buds

AudioTechnicaATHANC3EarBuds

I’m a headphone nerd. I was going to travel with the Audio Technica full-sized noise canceling headphones, which I love. Then I realized that would be stupid because they’re huge. So I bought these based on the Audio Technica name without researching them at all (which I *never* do).

I was not disappointed. These are amazing. They’re tiny, block out a ton of noise with the noise canceling enabled, and even work in regular mode when the battery dies and the noise canceling doesn’t work (a lot of competitors’ earbuds stop working at all when the battery dies). They also work well when Skyping (using the microphone on my Macbook).

The only downside is that the eartips can be replaced with different sizes and thus pop off the headphones. Which means they sometimes pop off accidentally, and you can lose them, thus effectively turning these into a paperweight. Which I did on a flight from Buenos Aires to Cape Town. I only lost one, which sucked. But to Audio Technica’s credit, they offered to send me a complimentary replacement pair of eartips to India.

Either way, these are awesome. Just be sure to bring a spare pair of eartips with you when you go.

Monster Outlets To Go Power Strip

MonsterOutletsToGoPowerStrip

Super useful when you need to plug in multiple devices, this is less than 8 inches long and well-designed.

Blackberry Pearl

UnlockedBlackberryPearl

My Pearl is unlocked and I pick up a local SIM wherever I go. They range from cheap ($2 in Argentina) to rip-off ($35 in Canada). But it gives me a local number to call and text from, and to forward Skype calls to (more on that soon).


8GB 2G iPod Nano


iPodNano2B

This is 3 years old and did the job admirably. I recently replaced it with…

1st Generation iPod Touch

iPodTouch

I bought this to have wifi access without having to whip out my laptop. In Buenos Aires this is especially useful – there are multiple open wifi points on every corner.

Conair Power Adapter

ConairTravelPowerAdapter
This is compact and contains the most common plug configurations. This worked everywhere except for parts of India and South Africa, where I had to buy a separate adapter. It’s not a transformer, so make sure the device you’re plugging in can support the voltage of the country you’re in, otherwise you’ll fry it. A simple way to check this: look at the sticker on the device and if it supports 110/220 volts (most laptops, video cameras, battery chargers, etc do), you’ll be fine.

Ziplinq Cables

ZipLinqCable
These are great because you never have tangled wires to sort through to use a cable, and they’re smaller than a regular cable. I brought an ethernet cable, mini-USB cable for charging my Blackberry and for transferring photos from my camera, and an iPod cable.

Princeton Tec Fuel Headlamp

PrincetonTecfFuelHeadlamp
Immensely dorky, yet so useful to have your hands free when looking for stuff with a flashlight. Plus, it’s the best way to eat yogurt before 4a game drives!

4a pre-game drive breakfast

Other Gear Worth Mentioning

Eagle Creek Packing Cubes

EagleCreekPackingCubes

Color code them to sort your gear and make it easier to find. Green is toiletries, blue is small electronic gear and cables, red is medicine / first aid / etc. Don’t use them to pack your clothes though. Instead, use…

Eagle Creek Compressor Sacs

EagleCreekCompressorSacs

Probably the biggest reason I’m able to use a carry-on, these vacuum bags compress the hell out of your clothes by removing all the air from between your clothes. They’re amazing for conserving space – highly recommended!

Mitsubishi Alpha Gel Pen

MitsubishiAlphaGelPen

Otherwise known as the best pen in the world. It won’t explode, feels amazing, and writes super smoothly. I got one at the Gel Conference in a gift bag in 2005, and I immediately bought 2 more from Jet Pens. I love this pen!

Sink Stopper + Clothesline

TravelSinkStopper
FlexolineClothesLine

I wasn’t sure whether to bring these, but I’m glad I did! I used them waaay more than I expected, mostly because I didn’t want to trust that I would be able to convey “hang dry please” for my Icebreaker shirts with my crappy Spanish or Hindi. They were super useful to have around and I used them at least three times a month.

Shaving Oil

ShavingOil

This stuff lasts forever (I’m less than halfway through a bottle I bought five months ago), can be carried on to a plane, provides for a smoother shave, and the bottle is tiny… unlike shaving cream. Why settle for anything less?

MSR Pack Towel

MSRPackTowel

Never really used this, though a quick-drying towel was nice to have. Plus, Douglas Adams was a well-traveled guy and why not learn from the lessons he taught? Ryan didn’t and look at the towel he had to buy in Argentina:

ryan bought a new towel

EarLove Earplugs

EarloveEarplugs

These are made by Etymotic Research (who also make good earbuds) and cancel about 20 decibels of noise. They’re great for sleeping on planes or in shared dorms at hostels. As a bonus they come with a nifty carrying case that I’ll now use to put my Audio Technica earbud tips in!

Books

I now have a three book limit because these mofos are heavy. Typically it’s a guide to the country I’m in, and two other books. Though it’s possible the new Amazon Kindle will change how many books I carry with me.

Point It

Book Cover

This is a tiny book that has pictures of all kinds of stuff. Scissors, parts of a cow, toilet paper, toothbrush, etc etc. Super useful for when you’re traveling in a place where you don’t speak or read the language.


PacSafe 55


Pacsafe55

I felt like a douche struggling to put this steel mesh on my bag in Patagonia, partially because I felt like it might be overkill, but also because I had at least three people laugh at me while doing so. Is being socially ostracized worth the risk of getting your bag slashed and losing all your stuff? Probably!

But seriously, my bag was rarely out of my sight when it wasn’t in my apartment, so this was a 1lb+ paperweight. I sent it home.


Inspiration for the stuff I brought goes to these kind people who posted their gear lists:

Life Nomadic
Andy Volk
Sarah Lane
Tim Ferriss
Art and Science of Packing Light
Travel Independent
Malena
Megan
Kelly and Quang
Nate Kurtz
Zeuscat
Lives of Wander
Boots N All
Ian OTR

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[...] Random Feed wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptThis has been a daunting post I’ve wanted to write for almost a year. Maneesh asked for it yesterday, so I figured I’d do it up! I had a bigger pack and a lot more gear from Dec 07 – May 08. Here’s a list of gear that I’ve been traveling with since May 08. It currently weighs about 33lbs, if I’m sticking to my three-book limit. Bags MEI Voyageur I did a ton of research about a bag, and came to the conclusion that if you’re not going with a psycho-small bag like the Life Nomadic guys, but s [...]

Did you find yourself doing more laundry when you were in India (assuming you were visiting family more often?)

I’m a notorious overpacker and am going to try some of these ideas out the next vacation Heidi and I take. I’ve only managed to successfully live out of a backpack when my sis and I did a little bus traveling around New Zealand. about a week. It was nice only having one bag, though. Didn’t carry a laptop, because I chose to carry a video camera + point and shoot.

Sujal

Also, how does the MEI handle water? Like walking through the rain kind of water.

Sujal

@sujal i probably did more laundry in india but only because my shirts got dirty due to all the dust and dirt, not because the shirts smelled bad. icebreaker shirts simply don’t smell, it’s incredible.

i had a rain cover that i bought with the MEI, but never had to use it. it seemed like it would do a good job at keeping the bag dry though!

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