The Ultimate Long Term Travel & Digital Nomad Packing List for Women

Curious what goes into a digital nomad’s backpack? We’ve got you covered with the ultimate long term travel and digital nomad packing list (carry-on approved!).

Recently, I shared a video on our Instagram showing everything I’m currently traveling with, for a year-long (at least!) world trip.

And our followers couldn’t believe it when I added this little piece of info…

It all fits in a carry-on backpack!

If you’ve found your way to our website, after watching some of our social media content – welcome, and thanks for stopping by!

I hope you find value here 🙏

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Why Carry-On Only?

After going on an epic international solo backpacking trip in my mid-20s, where ease of movement was a necessity, I very quickly realized that carry-on luggage was the only way for me to travel.

Whether it was walking over cobblestone bricks in Italy, cramming myself into a chicken-filled bus in Peru, or tossing my bag on the back of a scooter and cruising through the streets of SE Asia, there was always a need for fewer items and better mobility. 

And let’s not forget the other benefits: no checked baggage fees, less waiting time after a flight, and no worrying if your belongings will actually show up. 

So for me, carry-on was (and still is) the way to go. 

Scared you won’t be able to fit it all into one bag? Don’t worry, I’ll show you how in this article.

Does the backpack matter?

To me? Yes, yes , 100% yes.

Others may disagree, but I think a strategically-shaped backpack with minimal pockets and large packing space is a game changer.

Buying the right packing cubes and knowing how to use them is the cherry on top of an efficiently shaped cake! They make the packing process so much more simple and easy.

I’ve tried a few backpacks over the years, and my simple Osprey Porter 46L always gets the job done. It’s just at the limit of carry-on capacity (40-46L is the sweet spot for travel). Click here to see an upgraded model of my current backpack.

Earlier this month, we published an article packed full of tips to help you choose the right backpack – it runs through everything I wish I knew before choosing my first carry-on backpack.

Give it a read and you’ll certainly understand!

Can I use a suitcase?

Yes, you can.

Personally, I prefer a backpack for all the moments when you need to carry your bag in trickier situations – for example, up the stairs to your adorable Airbnb in Positano or towards the campgrounds at the Yosemite National Park.

But either will work. 

The same principles apply. A large space for organizing packing cubes, a model that isn’t too heavy (ease of movement), and something small enough that fits overhead on an aeroplane.

What about packing for different climates?

While this packing list is primarily suited to warmer climates (as that’s usually the goal when traveling long term), you can modify it to add additional ‘winter’ items if needed. 

When I packed for 2 months in European summer and fall, followed by a quick trip to Iceland, I added a huge puffy down jacket, 1-2 scarfs, 1-2 long sleeved tops, 1-2 pairs of thick socks, and packed them all using an airtight vacuum bag (no pump needed), then kept them at the bottom of my backpack until I arrived in Iceland. 

How can you fit THAT many clothes in a carry-on bag?

Remember, you’re not packing for weeks, months or even years.

You’re usually packing one week’s worth of clothes, doing your laundry as needed, and using a capsule wardrobe to easily mix-and-match items to create a range of styles and outfits. 

It’s often harder for me to pack for four days than it is for four weeks or months, as there’s so much more variety in a long term capsule wardrobe. 

Digital Nomad Packing List for Women
I'm about to show you how I fit all this in a carry-on backpack!

What’s in My Bag (and why I’d suggest a different packing list)

I have to admit, while I have a carry-on backpack, I have seriously overpacked. 

Note that I am using an Osprey Porter 46L backpack, three eBags (discontinued) packing cubes, and I am a petite 5’2 (159 cm) female traveling in mostly warm climates.

My partner is a 6’1 (186 cm) male and obviously cannot pack as many items into his backpack as I can, since his clothes are nearly double the size! 

In a desperate desire to cling onto recently purchased clothing, I’m lugging around way more than I need to.

So, over the next few weeks and months, I will begin to condense this bag to match the packing list that I’ve shared below.

My Current Backpack Contents (not the packing list)

Remember, this is not my suggested packing list, but rather a complete list of what’s currently in my bag as well as how I would change it. 

I like to hand wash my clothing and still have spare outfits to wear – for example, if I’m washing a bathing suit or pair of leggings, I still have another if I choose to go to the beach or workout.

For this reason, I may have more items listed than others prefer. 

Here’s what’s in my bag:

  • 3 long pants (cargo, jeans, black) – you only need 1, maybe 2 if you’re in cold climate.
  • 4 jean shorts (2 white, 2 denim) – if you love shorts, keep 3.
  • 2 comfy shorts (pjs / casual) – 1 is enough and you’ll just miss it on laundry day. 
  • 2 skirts (1 denim, 1 linen) – I don’t dress very feminine but I like both of these.
  • 1 little black dress – perfect for me, maybe add a maxi dress or sundress. 
  • 2 long sleeve shirts (1 sport, 1 nicer) – this works. 
  • 5 short sleeve cropped t-shirtscut to 3 at most. 
  • 7 fitted tank tops + 2 ‘going out’ shirtscut to 4 tanks + 1 going out shirt.
  • 5 loose shirts (3 shirts, 2 tanks) – keep 1 pj shirt, 1 comfy tank, 1 gym shirt. 
  • 3 leggings (workout / travel) + 2 gym shorts – cut to 2 leggings + 1 shorts. 
  • 5 sports bras, 1 bralette, 1 real braI actually like this but you can do less. 
  • 1 tall hiking sock, 6 mid/ankle socks, 5 no show socks1 hiking sock + 6 socks (small).
  • 1 packing cube of undies (maybe 14??) – the more the merrier for me. 
  • 4 bikini tops, 4 bikini bottoms – cut to 2-3 bikinis.
  • 1 surf suit – can skip if you don’t surf regularly. 
  • 4 sarongs – cut to 2-3 at most. 
  • 2 hats + 2 buff bands1 hat + 1 buff (unless this is your jam).
  • 1 cardigan, 1 zipped hoodie I like this. 
  • 1 waterproof jacket, 1 full body ponchoI like this. 
  • 1 black purse, 1 white purse, 1 bum bagI like this, they pack small. 
  • 1 packable backpack, 1 tote bag, 1 crossbody bagI like this, they also pack small. 
  • 1 accessories pouch, 1 waterproof phone holderI also like this. 
  • 1 electronics bag, 1 toiletries bagThis is good. 
  • 1 sneakers/trainers, 1 Vans1 sport shoe, 1 optional fold flat shoe (I love my Vans).
  • 2 flip flops, 1 waterproof birks – can do 1 flip flop, love the waterproof birks but they don’t pack well.
  • 1 blow dryer, 1 straightener – can skip.
  • 1 neck pillowlove!
  • Not pictured (but also fits): gym gloves, jump rope, cards, misc makeup, meds, first aid kit, eye mask, ear plugs, toiletries, chargers, electronics, plastic bags to cover shoes, packing cubes – I could ditch the jump rope.

Notes About My Current Items

While it’s great that all of this fits inside, I honestly don’t wear most of it and as you can see from my notes, there are a lot of areas where I could half the items and still have more than enough. 

So, let’s get to it… the ultimate long term travel and digital nomad packing list…

This is my trusty Osprey Porter 46L

The Ultimate Long Term Travel & Digital Nomad Packing List

Having taken many trips around the world with just a carry-on, here’s the changes I’d make to create the ultimate long term travel and digital nomad packing list

Remember, this is based on the requirements for a petite female traveling in mostly warm climates.

I’ve included links to any suitable products that come to mind, too.

Clothing

  • 1-2 long pants (depending on cold climates)
  • 2-3 jean shorts (3 if you love them)
  • 1 comfy shorts (pjs / casual)
  • 1-2 skirts (denim/linen/cotton) 
  • 1-3 dresses (1 little black dress, 1 sundress, 1 maxi) – you may want more
  • 1-2 long sleeve shirts (1 sport, 1 nicer)
  • 3 short sleeve cute cropped t-shirts (helps to protect shoulders in the sun)
  • 4-5 fitted tank tops + 1 ‘going out’ shirt (depends if you go out)
  • 3 loose comfy shirts (1 pj shirt, 1 tank, 1 gym shirt)
  • 1-2 leggings (workout / travel) + 1 gym shorts  
  • 3 sports bras, 1 bralette, 1 real bra 
  • 1 tall hiking sock, 6 mid/ankle socks
  • 1 packing cube of undies (maybe 14??) 
  • 2-3 bikini tops, 2-3 bikini bottoms 
  • 2-3 sarongs 
  • 1 hat + 1 buff band
  • 1 cardigan, 1 zipped hoodie 
  • 1 waterproof jacket, 1 full body poncho

Bags & Shoes

  • 1 black purse, 1 white purse, 1 fanny pack / bum bag (slim + packable versions only)
  • 1 packable backpack, 1 tote bag, 1 crossbody bag (slim + packable versions only)
  • 1 accessories pouch, 1 waterproof phone holder 
  • 1 electronics bag, 1 hanging toiletries bag 
  • 1 sneakers/trainers, 1 optional Vans (shoes that fold flat)
  • 1-2 flip flops, 1 waterproof birks (the birks don’t pack well)

Toiletries

  • Medicine + first aid kit: multivitamin, probiotic, bandaids, antiseptic, headache tablets, stomach medicine, activated charcoal, etc. (you can purchase medicine in most countries) 
  • Toiletries: shampoo, conditioner, soap, razor, hairbrush, hair ties / clips, toothbrush, toothpaste, face wipes, hand sanitizer, lotion, nail file, small mirror, qtips, tiger balm, sunscreen, insect repellant, tampons/menstrual cup, dry shampoo, perfume, essential oils
  • Makeup
  • Jewelry 
  • Sunglasses 
  • Small sewing kit
  • Extra toilet paper or tissue when traveling (just in case)

Electronics

Other Items

  • 1 neck pillow, 1 eye mask, 1 set ear plugs
  • 2 carabiners (to clip items to backpack)
  • 2 combination locks (big bag and day bag) + optional cable (to secure bag in place if you need to walk away)
  • 1 refillable water bottle
  • Plastic bags + ziplock bags (to cover shoes, hold dirty laundry, etc)
  • Pen + paper/journal 

Important Documents

Make copies of your ID, passport, visa, and other important documents. Keep a paper copy on you and an electronic copy stored to the cloud. You can also leave a copy behind with a trusted family member or friend. 

  • ID card
  • Passport 
  • Visa 
  • Travel insurance 
  • International drivers license/permit
  • Vaccine card
  • Other health documents (home insurance, list of allergies, etc)
  • List of emergency contacts (printed)
  • Copies of credit + debit cards (optional, but be careful how you store this)

Items I Skipped

I don’t have extra electronics such as an external harddrive, camera, e-reader, or mouse/keyboard on this list, but certainly add these if it will help to create your perfect digital nomad packing list. 

I’ve also left off items such as a travel towel (since I’m not a backpacker anymore and accommodation usually has towels), head lamp, and laundry detergent.

We have a huge list of recommended items and preferred gear with links to the products we use that you can find here. This article only covers the essentials for long term travelers, digital nomads, and those traveling one-step-up from hostel style backpacking. 

What we packed for a round the world trip
What 2 people packed for a long term world trip!

My Top 6 Packing Tips

Packing cubes, the right travel-friendly accessories, and a simple one-zip backpack have been a game changer for me! 

  1. Backpack: Choose the right backpack for you and practice living out of it. My Osprey Porter 46L has kept me carry-on only for over a decade! Its shape and design allow me to perfectly pack without wasting space. There’s no fancy pockets or organization system so I can ‘Tetris’ my backpack the way I want. The right backpack will change everything for you. Here’s how to figure out what’s best for you.

  2. Packing cubes:  Use packing cubes to compress your clothes + keep your stuff organized. 

  3. Minimize items: Prioritize essentials over non-essentials, consolidate and minimize charging cords, and pack a capsule wardrobe (see below).

  4. Clothes: Consider wrinkles, sweat stains, and thickness of fabric. Choose lightweight, easy to roll/fold, wrinkle free items. A capsule wardrobe (with a similar color pallet works best for variety). Plan to do laundry more frequently. And finally, avoid white clothing. 

  5. Shoes: Choose footwear wisely. I pack Vans + flip flops, both which fold flat. I clip my sneakers to the outside of the bag and I wear my Birkenstocks. Airlines are usually okay with sneakers being clipped on.

  6. Extra bags: I swear by my foldable daytime backpack (which I use to carry my laptop and bring on the plane with me as a personal item), 2 slim ‘nicer’ handbags for evenings, 1 slim crossbody for everyday wear (I bring this on the plane), and a fanny pack/bum bag. Most airlines allow one big carry on and one personal item (smaller backpack with laptop + handbag inside). Budget airlines will sometimes ask you to squish things into one (eeeek) but it’s possible.

Will You Be Using Our Long Term Travel & Digital Nomad Packing List?

While there isn’t a ‘best’ packing list for everyone, I hope my trial and error over the years, as well as my current experience on the road, can give you enough insight to get started, choose the best backpack for you, and pick the right gear.

And be sure to check out our ‘digital nomad priorities‘ article, explaining why long term success requires more than the perfect packing list.

You can see all our latest articles by subscribing to our newsletter using the subscriber box below, or by following along on our socials (Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, YouTube). 

In the meantime, check out our recommended products and favorite gear on our resources page. 

Have a question? Leave a comment below and I’d be happy to help!

Max quit her corporate job in 2013 to take a chance building businesses online while traveling the world. Armed with an adventurous spirit and a can-do attitude, Max has traveled to more than 50 countries, embracing slow travel as a digital nomad and long-term living in places such as Thailand, India, Nepal, and Indonesia. Max currently resides in Bali where she oversees content creation for DNG as our resident travel aficionado.
Picture of Max Pankow
Max Pankow
Max quit her corporate job in 2013 to take a chance building businesses online while traveling the world. Armed with an adventurous spirit and a can-do attitude, Max has traveled to more than 50 countries, embracing slow travel as a digital nomad and long-term living in places such as Thailand, India, Nepal, and Indonesia. Max currently resides in Bali where she oversees content creation for DNG as our resident travel aficionado.

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