UPDATE 2013: I’ve finally written a complete digital nomad packing list. If you’d like to see EVERYTHING we bring with us to live, work and play anywhere in the world check it out!
When I posted this picture of me with my pack, I got a lot of questions about how I can pack so little. This is a pretty common question, but I get especially grilled by my fellow females. How can a girl travel with so little?
Packing is an art form, and I’ll do a post soon on everything I bring with me as a digital nomad – laptop, iPhone, dehydration salts – the works! But for now I want to focus on clothes.
I enjoy fashion. And I don’t enjoy looking like a scrub as I traverse the globe (OK – sometimes I do, but not always). I want to be able to hit the beach in the morning, a nice restaurant in the evening, and drinks in the city at night. And I don’t want to be wearing my North Face all-weather zip-off pants while I do it. I’m a backpacker at heart, but it doesn’t mean I always want to look like it. But it also doesn’t mean having to lug 40 lbs of clothes in a rolling bag across Europe (yes I have traveled with someone who did this).
My opinion is not the be-all-and-end-all of packing rules. There are tons of ways to pack, and as long as you can carry your own luggage then more power to you! But here is my humble wardrobe for your inspection. It fits in that small pack with room for my laptop, makeup, toiletries, meds, and all sorts of goodies. It’s the ever-changing compilation of my two years of continuous travel, and I think it’s pretty great.
So without further ado, I present Kit’s closet!
This is my absolute go-to outfit: a simple dress over leggings. You can see me wearing this exact outfit in about 80% of my pictures on Flickr because I love it so much. You look at home in the city or at the beach, and can throw it on over a bathing suit without looking awkward. Plus it’s super comfy, which means it’s great for a full day of exploring a new city on foot. In cooler weather I switch out cropped leggings for full-length ones. You can also throw a light sweater on over it if it’s chilly. Worn with flip-flops normally, but flats can class it up.
What about the hard-core travel stuff? Hiking, maybe running on the beach, or just plain bumming around? Voila! These sweats are a relatively new addition to the wardrobe ($15 from Target) and are super-duper comfy. I get sweat, sand and dirt all over them and they hold up. Worn over bathing suit, sports bra or regular bra depending on the day’s activities. I feel good in it, and in any non-city setting you still look pretty normal. Even in a city you just look like you’re heading to a workout. I’m also holding my two other tees that go with this outfit, blue and orange/red.
When I need a slightly nicer outfit for dinner out, or just cuz I feel like it, I pull out this dress (this & the blue one are the only ones I bring, but the blue one will die soon – it’s from Forever21 in 2007!) Add flats and earrings and the pretty dress will get you in anywhere. Can also be worn over leggings for a day of exploring. This dress was $50 from ModCloth.
When meeting people for lunch or going out for drinks in the city, you don’t want to be wearing beachy gear, so I pack a pair of jeans (this current pair is jeggings, again from Forever21) and a fancier tee (this one with shoulder studs from Banana Republic, about $20 on sale I think). I feel chic and would happily been seen in this in any city.
Right now I’m in the Caribbean, so I don’t get cold much, but I have a long-sleeve tee in the bag for when it’s a bit brisk. Can be layered over any of the 5 tees I bring for different looks. (Shirt was $30ish from The Gap)
And if it’s ever raining, which it has been here in St. Lucia for days, I’ve got the best raincoat in the universe to throw over whatever I’m wearing – the Marmot Whisperlite. It’s GORE-TEX and keeps me super-dry. It’s also only 8 ounces and rolls up small, so it’s a dream to pack. It’s expensive so I asked for it for my birthday, thanks Nick’s mom!
Finally, we have the simple swimsuit & my well-known sarong. The swimsuit’s from Target in 2007 (I can’t believe it’s still holding up!) and the sarong from a stall in Bali.
And that’s all my clothes! Seriously, you just saw everything except my underwear (8 pairs, plus a few socks, one nude bra, one gray bra, one sports bra). Obviously this wardrobe is for temperate to hot climates. When it’s cold, like the month I spent in Boston this winter, I ditch the tees, bathing suit and light dresses and pack long underwear and a couple sweaters. Yes it still fits in the tiny backpack.
I have always packed like this (that picture of my backpack is from 2009), but this past Christmas I got something that makes it even easier: vacuum packs! I use one small and one medium Eagle Creek Pack-It Compression bag, and EVERYTHING fits in them (ok, I forgot to put the raincoat in when I took this pic, but it does fit)! Its amazing! Here’s what all my clothes look like when they’re packed:
There you have it! That’s how I travel ultralite while still feeling like a woman.
At the end of the day what I’m wearing is pretty unimportant. When I’m staring at the pyramids or lazing on a Caribbean beach, it’s the last thing I’m thinking about. But when you live on the road, or just simply like to feel nice once in a while, putting in a few good pieces can go a long way to making you not feel like a backpacker all the time.
What’s in your pack? Am I crazy for packing so little? Have any suggestions to make my wardrobe even better? Let me know in the comments!