Travel Gear

15 Butt-Saving Tech Essentials for Digital Nomads & Tropical Freelancers

There is a ton of digital nomad gear out there, but few true essentials. Here’s our road-tested list of tech essentials — #3 & #11 saved our butts many times.

Having the right digital nomad gear is critical for getting the job done while being able to reap the benefits of a location-independent lifestyle (and there are many).

Maybe you’ve been traveling for a while and are looking for tech gear essentials to add to your digital nomad packing list?

Or, perhaps you’ve just accepted an assignment or volunteer post in a developing country for the first time?

Or, maybe it’s your third or fourth year traveling full-time and doing freelance work, and you’re looking for compact and durable tech gear to add to your packing list that can boost your productivity and peace of mind overseas?

Working remotely has its own set of unique challenges. Add travel and relocation into the mix and it can be hard to be as productive as you need to be.

Here are just a few of the technology-related challenges I’ve frequently encountered over the years working on the go in various parts of the globe:

  • Unforgiving heat, humidity and rainfall;
  • Frequent [and lengthy!] power cuts;
  • Scarcity of power outlets for charging devices;
  • Poor (or nonexistent) WiFi (A BIG ONE!);
  • Poor cellular signal or expensive roaming charges for foreign carriers;
  • Lack of decent quality (or, simply lack of) electronics or replacement accessories;
  • Lack of bookshops with books in my native language;
  • And countless others…

Personally, I often find that the added hardship and lack of certain modern conveniences we take for granted in places like North America and Western Europe can set the stage for deeper, more satisfying travel experiences.

Often traveling in rural and under-industrialized corners of the globe means less time spent with machines, more meaningful interactions with actual people, and more time and space for mindful single-tasking.

With that said, a little 21st century technology can go a long way in cutting out a lot of the crap that can easily suck up hours of your day, especially for a digital nomad whose livelihood depends on it.

So, what tech gear is considered essential for a digital nomad lifestyle? After all, you’re on the move, so you don’t want a bunch of gadgets weighing you down.

Here is the digital nomad gear Lori and I have found indispensable at one time or other in the past 10+ years.

15 Digital Nomad Gear Tech Essentials For Your Packing List

noise canceling headphones

1) Super Comfortable Noise-Canceling Headphones

Simply a must for travelers and remote-workers in the age of ZOOM and beyond.

Of all the active noise-canceling headphones out there, we highly recommend the Bose QuietComfort 35 II.

Amazing sound quality and super comfortable for long flights and long online meetings.

TIP: Looking for something more low-profile and portable, yet every bit as awesome? Check out the Apple AirPods Pro.

2) SanDisk 1 TB Dual USB / USB-C drive

Forget bulky external hard drives! If you don’t work with a ton of media (i.e. video) this little puppy may be all you’ll need.

Flips between old-fashioned USB and newer USB-C ports, so you’re covered wherever you go. 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, and even 1TB capacity! We have the 256GB version.

While transfer rates won’t blow your socks off, the ultra portability and huge capacity makes this drive an essential piece of digital nomad gear.

TIP: If you’re transferring a lot of files, plugging in your laptop to power helps speed things up!

3) NekTeck 21w Portable Solar Charger

There are so many reasons you might want to pack a portable solar charger, regardless of whether you plan to work in urban or remote areas with abundant sunshine.

A solar charger can be a critical piece of digital nomad gear in urban areas if you experience frequent power cuts, work all day on a Tablet PC with no nearby power source, or use 4G/LTE on your phone for several hours on the go.

We especially love these for keeping our phone/ GPS device charged on multi-day treks as well.

4) Alfa Signal Booster External WiFi Antenna

You grab that perfect spot with a stunning view to catch up on email only to find the WiFi signal doesn’t reach.

Plug this WiFi signal booster in and stop banging your head against the hammock post.

gsm unlocked 4g wifi hotspot digital nomad gear

5) Alcatel Unlocked GSM 4G Mobile WiFi Hotspot

Digital nomads and international freelancers quickly discover that picking up a 4G SIM for internet in most countries is a must.

If you stick around long enough, sharing your mobile phone network with your laptop gets old quick.

A well-built unlocked 4G mobile hotspot is a headache-free way to share one connection with all your devices on the road, making this one of our favorite piece of digital nomad gear.

What Makes AwayGoWe Gear Guides Different

Why trust our travel gear recommendations? All of the gear on this list has been personally road-tested by us (unless otherwise noted).

While this page contains some affiliate links, we don't do sponsored content here on AwayGoWe and we don't accept requests to peddle anyone's product.

That means that our opinions and recommendations are 100% independent and unbiased (though we will admit we have a strong bias towards useful gear that's built to last!).

laptop stand

6) Ultra-portable Laptop Stand / Standing Desk

Let’s face it, digital nomads spend a lot of time in front of our laptops.

Be kind to your neck, shoulders, and the rest of your body with a portable stand.

We personally love the Roost stands for their lightweight and durable construction, adjustability, and small collapsed size.

digital nomad gear tech essentials

7) Multiport USB-C Hub

This little puppy is something I never thought I’d need…UNTIL I got a newer Mac and discovered they’ve switched exclusively to USB-C…AND…in most cases only give you TWO ports!

The solution? A USB-C hub with 3 old school USB ports, USB-C charging port, SD/micro, HDMI, and ethernet ports, all at your fingertips.

We recommend the Satechi (which is also what Apple recommends using on their website), which should work seamlessly with most laptops with a USB-C connection.

black portable mouse

8) Logitech Compact Performance Bluetooth Mouse

A dependable cordless mouse is another item I thought I’d never need as a digital nomad.

But after several hours of “gesturing” on a modern trackpad my whole hand can feel like it got slammed in a door.

Enter the humble mouse. This is the one I currently use (and I love it!). Lightweight, compact, fast-connecting, and has a rechargeable battery that lasts forever.

Might just be the best mouse I’ve ever owned. For me, this is definitely a digital nomad gear essential.

world travel adapter kid digital nomad gear

9) Ultimate World Travel Adapter Kit

In terms of essential digital nomad gear, this is one gadget that should absolutely be on your packing list!

I searched for years for a solid, compact, and virtually universal travel adapter, and finally found it!

Features surge protection, 2x USB 3.0 ports, 2x U.S. outlets, and SIX types of international adapters.

Heads up, this adapter does not convert voltage. However, most personal electronics do this now for you. Always check your gear specs and country voltage before using!

rugged hard drive moving abroad packing checklist

10) Rugged Water Resistant Lacie 4TB External Hard Drive

Getting not just one, but TWO rugged water resistant external hard drives for storage and backup is one of the best digital nomad gear decisions I’ve made.

If you’re working on the road with your laptop, it goes without saying that you’ll want to back up all those hours of hard work.

Durability and weather-resistance are crucial considerations, particularly if you are work in the tropics like we do, where heat and humidity can wreak havoc on poorly made electronics.

If your hard drive does fail, a high-quality replacement drive might not be easily available (or cost-effective) in many countries, so best to get one that’s built like a tank from the get-go.

unlocked phone digital nomad gear

11) Unlocked GSM/CDMA Phone

Whether it’s made by Apple, Samsung, or any other top-rated brand, having a single, solid, dependable phone that you can use anywhere in the world saves time and money.

Many of the most popular smartphones on the market (such as the most recent iPhones) offer unlocked versions of their phones that will work on both GSM and CDMA networks.

You’ll be able to take advantage of prepaid call/text/data rates at local prices, which is typically way cheaper than roaming.

We have no idea what we’d do without this digital nomad gear essential.

12) Durable, High-Capacity USB Flash Drive for Your Phone

If you’re working or traveling in remote areas with a phone but no laptop, and taking a ton of pictures, this little do-hicky can be a lifesaver.

This one is for iPhone, but they make them for any phone connection under the sun.

It’s essentially a thumb drive for your phone, allowing you to back up all your data while you’re on the move.

I’ve seen phones break, get rain-soaked, or just give up the ghost in extreme heat and humidity in the tropics and having one of these would have saved a lot of heartache. Again, great for multi-day hiking or trekking as well.

A true butt-saver that should be on every digital nomad’s packing list.

portable dvd drive developing country packing list

13) LG Ultra Slim External CD/DVD Drive

In many countries, if you want to watch movies or listen to music, particularly those produced in destination (and your laptop doesn’t already have a built-in CD/DVD drive) you can find yourself in a tough spot.

And forget about Netflix or Spotify if your internet connection sucks or you’re paying by the megabyte.

Thankfully, today’s external CD/DVD drives are tougher, more compatible across brands, and smaller and lighter than ever.

rugged laptop developing country packing checklist

14) Rugged, Dependable Laptop

I use and recommend the MacBook Pro 13″

One of the biggest digital nomad gear mistakes we ever made was moving to a remote, tropical area of Central America with a cheap laptop.

Our thinking was, if anything happened to it, we wouldn’t be out a bunch of money. Well, yes…and no.

Within weeks, multiple components failed likely due to heat and humidity, with no viable replacement within hundreds of miles.

After a long wait, a colleague from the States ferried out a replacement.

That was 7 years ago. And the Mac we replaced it with? Still cruising along.

digital nomad tech gear backpack

15) Carry-on Clamshell Backpack

So, you’ve got all this awesome digital nomad gear … now, where you should you put it all?

Enter the Tortuga Setout 45L Carry-on Travel backpack.

What makes it so great? It’s rugged and durable, has lots of pockets and compartments just the right size for digital nomad gear, it opens like a suitcase for easy access, AND it’s the full dimensions of a carry-on suitcase for maximum storage capacity without having to check your bag.

A lifesaver for all your kit and a must-have for your digital nomad packing list.

Further Considerations For Your Digital Nomad Tech Gear Packing List

I’ve listed 15 tech gadgets here that Lori and I have found incredibly useful at one point while working and traveling overseas.

While I strongly recommend adding many of these to your digital nomad packing list, I do want to stress that the gear that works for us and our circumstances may not necessarily work for you and yours, and vice versa.

Cost vs. Durability

You may have noticed that some of these items are quite pricey. Lori and I are frugal and fairly minimalist when it comes to buying stuff. When we do buy something, it’s been carefully researched and we want it to last for years.

If we invest in something, it’s for the long haul — and believe me, you are rewarded for it traveling full time or living in developing countries. 

I’ve had too many experiences in the past where I’ve bought crap and it couldn’t hold up to the daily rigors of a tropical climate, dust, public transport, or whatever. Never again.

Digital Nomad Gear Safety & Security

You might also be wondering about safety and carrying around a $1,400 laptop, etc. Personally, I’ve never had a problem (knock-knock). I know people who have, and most of them neglected to use common common sense strategies at the time.

I known more people who’ve had their laptops and phones grabbed from them at Starbucks or walking down the street in Washington, DC. than while traveling in Africa or Central America.

Don’t flaunt your stuff. Don’t walk around with it at night. Keep your stuff hidden/secure when you’re not using it. And get a good travel insurance policy. Done.

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Global Compatibility

It’s worth noting that all the items listed here either work on 110v-220v power, or plug right into your computer via USB, so you should be good to go in that respect (along with the help of a good travel adapter (see above).

Pack Smart

Finally — and most importantly — you probably don’t need all this gear. I don’t need all this gear —at least not all at once.

But I’ve used each of these items (or previous models) at one point or another in the last decade depending on the job or the living situation, many of which have boosted my productivity or made remote work way more enjoyable.

I prefer to pack as light as possible, and packing for a move overseas is hard enough without bringing a ton of unnecessary gadgetry. Add what you truly think you’ll need from our list to your digital nomad gear packing list and forget the rest.

Pack smart. Find out what works for you and what doesn’t. Then, do it better the next time.

Thanks For Reading Our Digital Nomad Gear Tech Essentials List!

Are you a digital nomad or tropical freelancer? What did you have on your packing list? Let us know in the comments below.

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