My Digital Nomad Carry
(Note: I’ve written this over quite a period of time, never quite getting to publish it. Better now than never)
I’ve become quite fond of my digital nomad carry. A balance of having the tools that you need and also fitting everything into one bag.
My expectations when I started travelling in 2018 led me to pack a collection of items that I wouldn’t end up needing. It’s frustrating to carry items you don’t use and disposing of them makes you feel wasteful.
Digital nomads can be difficult to define. For some it’s the ultra cheap living, and the ability to work fewer hours. This might mean living in SE Asia on a tiny budget. For others, it’s about seeing how others live. Exploring the world in a fresh way.
This might not mean keeping to a painfully low budget. You’re going to want different things in this case. Both spend a lot of time carrying belongings around.
Whether you’re trying to fit it in carry-on or not, you’re still going to be limited in what you can lift. My personal backpack, the Osprey Porter 46, has been serving me well for over 2 years now.
These items are in no particular order.
Roost Laptop Stand
I’ve been carrying the Roost Laptop Stand around for 2 years now. Paired with a keyboard, discussed later, it makes for a much more ergonomic experience. Most often you won’t have access to an external monitor, so having a way of raising your laptop screen is important.
The Roost has been extremely reliable. It’s light enough that it barely adds any weight to the carry.
Keychron K1 Keyboard (and case)
The first keyboard I started carrying was a cheap bluetooth keyboard bought from Curry’s PC World in the UK. It was a good device. Far better than the device I eventually decided to replace it with. While at home in Australia I decided to splash out on the Magic Keyboard 2. The bluetooth keyboard was a little bit compact and my reasoning that having the longer keyboard would make for a better experience didn’t pan out.
The Magic Keyboard 2 lasted all of 6 months (compared to the 18 months for the cheap one) before it started acting up. Sure it was under warranty, but by that point we were mid pandemic. To replace it I opted for the Keychron K1, based off recommendations from friends.
The Keychron K1 keyboard is a little heavier, but the typing experience is fantastic. The biggest problem I’ve had with the Keychron so far is that the keys were prone to snagging on items in my bag and falling off. To protect the keyboard a little I bought a keyboard case by Markstore. It fits the keyboard well.
So far I’ve been using the Keychron K1 for 6 months and it’s a superb keyboard, with none of the problems that the Magic Keyboard 2 exhibited.
MX Anywhere 2 mouse
My 15” MacBook Pro is filled with dongles. I opted to get the MX Anywhere 2 over other mice because it wouldn’t add to this problem. Many of the mice I looked at had USB-A dongles. The MX Anywhere 2 has been comfortable to use, though it can occasionally emit a high-pitched noise when I’m clicking playing games.
Speaking of dongles. I can’t seem to fit all the data I need on my MacBook 500GB SSD. Doubly annoying, there is no upgrading it because Apple has decided to solder it to the motherboard. Why I’m still using Apple laptops is beyond me. Hence I now carry around a 1TB SanDisk SSD for all the overflow content.
It’s works, it barely takes any space or adds any weight to my carry, so it’s hard not to love it.
Anker Soundcore Liberty Neo instead of the Bose QC35
In 2018 one of the things I made sure to pack were my Bose QC35 headphones. I reasoned that while they were large they would be a big part of travelling all the time. Little did I know that digital nomads tend to fly less than one would expect.
Eventually it became clear that I just wasn’t getting good value from them. To be clear, they’re great headphones, but the key feature of being noise cancelling isn’t really that useful. It’s very rare to hop on a long international flight.
After doing some research I decided to replace them with the Anker Soundcore Liberty Neo in-ear headphones. They have been superb headphones for the price point. I’m not an Audiophile so I’ll leave the sound quality reviews to other people, but they’re reliable and small.
Traditionally I haven’t enjoyed in-ear headphones, however the Anker headphones sit really nicely. My one complaint is how they handle pairing to multiple devices. I like to use them with my computer and with my phone. It often results in un-pairing and pairing again to get it all working.
I’ve been carrying the Osprey Porter 46L since I left home in 2018. It’s a great bag. It’s suitable for Carry on, though TBH I rarely carry it on, mostly because it’s nice not to have to lug it around in the terminal. The ability to carry it on if necessary is a nice feature though.
It’s fairly distinctive when looking for your bag at baggage claim. Only once have I picked up the wrong bag, realised the other bag was too clean to be mine and put it back. Following that I decided to stick some embroidered nerd merit badges to the outside of the bag to make sure that didn’t happen again.
If and when it dies I’ll almost certainly replace it with another Osprey bag.
On the smaller side, it’s worth having a bag that you can carry your laptop in. For a long while that was the Crumpler LDM-012 Light Delight messenger bag. It was small enough that I could put it inside the Porter. While it lacked any sort of padding for the laptop it expanded out to carry quite a bit.
Unfortunately you can’t buy these any more, so I’m currently looking for a replacement. Crumpler has some weird international ownership, so it was only ever created in the European franchise. While Crumpler makes other messenger bags, none are as light or compact as the LDM-012.
Update: I managed to get another one shipped from Prague. It won’t solve the problem long-term, but I can worry about that in 2-3 years.