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BEST Luggage for Digital Nomads (SMART Suitcases + Backpacks)

BEST Luggage for Digital Nomads (SMART Suitcases + Backpacks)

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So you’ve decided to blast off on a digital nomad adventure — WOOT WOOT!

There’s only one thing that stands in your way…

Digital nomad luggage.

See, nomad professionals like you have unique needs. And not just any old suitcase is gonna cut it.

I’ve been nomading around the globe for over 6 years now, and I’ve discovered some proven ways to make life on the road easier — many involving the luggage you choose. 

In this guide, we’ll cover:

✔️ The absolute best luggage for digital nomads (for all budgets and travel styles).
✔️ Who should use a digital nomad backpack, and who should use a suitcase.
✔️ Awesome features your digital nomad luggage must-have.
✔️ Extra digital nomad accessories that make life 10x easier.

These recommendations are based on years of personal experience and roughly eleventy-million hours of research (plus data from trustworthy experiments by Wirecutter experts). 

Let’s dive in!

Digital Nomad Suitcase VS. Backpack: Which is Better?

girl lifting her digital nomad luggage

It’s the age-old digital nomad question — How and what do I pack?

And the answer is — Where are you going, and what will you be doing when you’re not working?

Every digital nomad has a reason for living this lifestyle. Some people like to stay on the slopes. Others want to chill on the beach. Some like Europe. While others traipse around SE Asia or South America. Each of these nomads should pack differently. 

So it’s not a matter of which one is better, it’s a matter of which one is right for you as an individual.

If you plan to go off the beaten path or to destinations with crappy sidewalks, dragging around a heavy-wheeled suitcase isn’t practical. There are plenty of places in the world where the roads are still dirt. Old cities in Europe still have cobblestone streets that make pulling luggage a bumpy hassle.

However, if you’re the type of digital nomad that stays around their office or co-working space, stick to large metro areas — maybe even with fancy dress clothes and such — then a tough rolling suitcase might work fine.

I personally only use backpacks. They’re more versatile, and I feel more secure carrying an expensive laptop close to me on my back than knocking it along on the floor. But to each their own.

Due to my personal preference, we’ll start with the best digital nomad backpacks.

What to Look for in a Digital Nomad Travel Bag

Size

Digital nomads have two main packing strategies:

#1.) Digital Nomad Carry-on + Personal Item Only. This requires light packing but can save time and money on flights. Smaller luggage is also simply easier to carry and manage. Just don’t read my guide on unique souvenir ideas, because you won’t have room for them. 😉

#2.) “Normal” Checked Bag + Digital Personal Item. This setup gives you a bit more breathing room space-wise, which is important if you have a lot of gear. But if you fly often, the cost of checked bags can add up (and sometimes cost more than the ticket itself). 

Since your important gear always stays with you, your personal item is the bag that needs to be digital nomad-friendly. Your main checked bag won’t house your laptop or anything, so any high-quality backpack or suitcase that fits your fancy will do.

With this in mind, we’re going to focus this guide on digital nomad luggage that you can carry on. 

Organization

You also want to pay attention to compartmentalization. How many various pockets does this piece of luggage have? Will I use them all? What can I put in them? 

Plan it all out in your mind. Visualize your luggage, what you’re putting in it, and how you’re going to make everything fit.

pile of stuff to fit into a backpack for digital nomads

More pockets mean more organization. But at a certain point, it becomes overkill. And if you don’t pack carefully, it may even make things harder to find. 

On the other hand, too few compartments isn’t necessarily a bad thing either. Some people prefer to organize their things in external pouches (like packing cubes) than with built-in compartments. 

It all comes down to personal preference. 

Compressibility

If you’re traveling carry-on only, you need to maximize every inch of space possible. Some bags come with built-in compression straps to squeeze out excess air, freeing up space. 

Backpacks with external compressions straps also help keep the weight closer to your body, preventing backaches. 

Ruggedness

As a digital nomad, your backpack (or suitcase) is like your house. You need it to be sturdy. You can’t have it falling apart on you in the middle of nowhere. Imagine your bag busting on a remote island where there are no replacements. Carrying all your things would be a nightmare.

An easy way to judge ruggedness is to look for the warranty. The longer the warranty, the more confident the manufacturer is that it won’t break on you. Some recommendations on this list — like the Tortuga Outbreaker, Nomatic Travel Bag, and Osprey Farpoint 40 — have lifetime guarantees. 

The Best Luggage for Digital Nomads that Travel Smart

Alrighty, time to break down the absolute best backpacks and suitcases for digital nomads — plus which type of digital nomad each piece is best suited for. 

We’ll start with carry-on backpacks. 

(If you’re 100% sure you don’t want a backpack, go ahead and jump to the suitcase recommendations).

Best Digital Nomad Carry-On Bags

1. Tortuga Outbreaker 45L – Best Overall Digital Nomad Carry-On

tortuga outbreaker 45L - the best luggage for digital nomads

The Tortuga Outbreaker 45L takes home the title of best digital nomad luggage. It even got a shoutout from Wirecutter as one of the overall best carry-on backpacks.

It’s tough as nails and designed to maximize your carry-on packing without losing an inch of space. 

Inside the Outbreaker, you get the perfect amount of organization — there’s a place for all your digital nomad packing needs, but it’s not overwhelming like some other options.

There’s a place for everything. This includes a special TSA-friendly “digital nomad” compartment that protects your laptop and organizes all your cables, chargers, and other paraphernalia. 

All of this is wrapped in a VX21 waterproof sailcloth (material used for sails of racing boats) exterior with lockable compartments. 

The bag itself is a stylish black that looks great in both a city or rugged environment. That said, you probably won’t want to trek through Patagonia using the Outbreaker —that’s not what it was built for. It does, however, have more of a rugged feel than most other digital nomad backpacks on the list (except for #5). 

The price can also be a bit much to swallow for beginner digital nomads. But with the Outbreaker, you’re paying for the best. 

If there’s one thing a digital nomad shouldn’t feel guilty about splurging on (other than their laptop), it’s luggage. After all, when you live out of a backpack, it’s basically your house. Plus, with a lifetime Common Decency Warranty, it may be the last bag you ever buy.

Nomad-friendly features: 
☑️ Waterproof sailcloth exterior that’ll protect your electronics during unexpected downpours.
☑️ Front-loading suitcase-style main compartment for easy packing and unpacking.
☑️ Lockable pockets to keep your gear secure.
☑️ Perfect amount of organization allows you to find whatever you need in seconds.
☑️ Hip straps that take weight off your shoulders for comfortable walking.
☑️ Height-adjustable suspension to custom-fit your size.
☑️ Maximizes your carry-on space so you can save money on checked luggage.
☑️ Lifetime warranty

Dimensions: 22” x 14” x 9″
Weight: 5.1 lbs 
Price: $$$$

(Other options: Amazon)

2. Standard Luggage Co. Carry-On

standard luggage co. carry-on

This is the budget-friendly version of the Outbreaker. While the Outbreaker is the best of the best, not all new nomads have that kind of cash to plop down on a backpack — especially if you have to buy tons of other gear, like a digital nomad laptop

That’s where the Standard Luggage Co. Carry-On comes in.

Here’s a quick video I made testing it out:

As you can see, it shares a lot of design features with the Outbreaker. 

This bad boy is 35 liters, with an expansion zipper that gives 45 liters. This is handy in case you’re ever on an airline with weirdly strict carry-on rules (like some budget intra-Europe airlines). 

It’s made of water-resistant material, which isn’t quite as protective as the Outbreaker’s waterproof exterior. But it does include a rain cover, so as long as you slip it on before it starts pouring, you should be safe. 

Similar to the Outbreaker, it has a dedicated “digital nomad” pocket for laptop and electronics organization. It also has an attachable strap you can clip on to transform the backpack into a duffel bag. I can’t imagine many nomads using this though, so you’ll probably end up leaving them behind to save space.

The Standard Luggage bag really shines when you pair it with their other accessories. They offer packing cubes designed to fit into the exact dimensions of the bag. This helps you use every square inch of your packing space. Even cooler, these packing cubes velcro together, so you can turn them into a hanging closet.

They also have a nifty 2-in-1 daypack that doubles as an extra packing cube. I highly recommend adding in these extra accessories if you can swing it. Even with the accessories, it should still be cheaper than the Outbreaker. 

The downside to the Standard Luggage Co. is you can tell the quality and workmanship isn’t quite up to par with the Outbreaker or Nomatic. For example, the colored leather handles attached to the zippers fell off within a week. The zippers themselves still work fine without the leather straps, but it’s kind of annoying.

That said, they do offer a lifetime warranty and satisfaction guarantee, so if anything goes wrong, they’ll take care of you.

Nomad-friendly features: 
☑️ Lockable TSA-friendly laptop and electronics sleeve.
☑️ Clever accessories like custom-fit hanging packing cubes and 2-in-1 daypack make carry-on travel easier.
☑️ Raincover to protect your valuables from the elements. 
☑️ Front-loading lockable zippers that make packing a cinch.
☑️ Detachable hip-belt helps with load distribution (but not as padded as Outbreaker).
☑️ Lifetime warranty

Dimensions: 21.5” x 13.5” x 7.5”
Weight: 3.7 lbs
Price: $$

(Other buying options: Amazon)

3. Nomatic Travel Pack – Best Mid-Range Carry-On For Digital Nomads

nomatic travel backpack for digital nomads

The Nomatic Travel Pack is like the Goldilocks of digital nomad carry-ons — falling right between the Outbreaker and Standard Luggage in terms of features and price. 

It comes in at 40 liters, which is slightly less than the Outbreaker, but Nomatic tries to make up for this with their unmatched organization system.

They pride themselves on having “a pocket for EVERYTHING” — underwear, shoes, electronics, dirty clothes, passport…you name it.

That said, sometimes it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. Some nomads feel the bag has so many intricately-designed organizational compartments that you actually lose flexibility. 

For example, if you pack something outside of its designated compartment, it could throw the whole bag out of whack. 

On the other hand, if you’re an organization freak, this may be just what you need. With all the clever compartments and sleek black exterior design, the Nomatic bag literally makes you feel like a spy. Seriously, check out the video on this page to see the 20+ innovative features built into it.

They literally thought of everything.

One feature that people seem to either love or hate is that it is a backloading backpack. That means the zipper to open the main compartment is flush against your back, so you have to take it off every time you want to open it. 

This can be inconvenient, but it’s also more secure. If you’re on public transport, for example, you don’t have to worry about sticky fingers slipping into your bag and snatching your stuff.

Similar to the other top two bags, Nomatic offers a lifetime warranty — although some claim their customer service isn’t as easy to work with as Tortuga.

Nomad-friendly features: 
☑️ Designed by nomads with 20+ innovative features you don’t see on most bags (see video), including a cool dirty laundry bag.
☑️ Fine-tuned organization system lets you pack more into less space — without everything mushing together.
☑️ TSA-ready laptop sleeve and electronics compartment to keep work stuff together.
☑️ Hidden pockets to stash cash and other valuables. 
☑️ Hidden duffel bag straps for multiple carrying options
☑️ Water resistant material keeps your valuables safe
☑️ Backloading design combats pickpockets (although some think it’s inconvenient)
☑️ Lifetime warranty

Dimensions: 16″ x 10.5″ x 1.5″
Weight: 4.16 lbs
Price: $$$

(Other buying options: Amazon)

4. Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP45 Anti-Theft Backpack – Most Secure Digital Nomad Backpack

NOTE: If you like the Pacsafe security but prefer a different bag on this list, another option is to buy this Travelsafe or bag protector. Both of these options fit inside your luggage. I personally use the Travelsafe to lock up our laptops. 

If security is your biggest concern when you’re on the road, look no further than this Pacsafe backpack. It may not be quite as organized or refined as the Tortuga Outbreaker or Nomatic bag, but it certainly wins in the security department. 

It has anti-slash mesh wire built into the fabric, making it extremely difficult to cut. The pockets have built-in locks. The zippers are puncture-resistant. And best of all, you can even lock the attached stainless steel anchor cable around a fixed object to secure the entire bag.

It’s basically a mobile safe.

Apart from the standout security features, it holds up to 45 liters, has plenty of organization, and is made of water-resistant 400D ECONYL regenerated nylon dobby. 

Nomad-friendly features: 
☑️ Advanced security features allow you to leave your valuables locked up in your accommodation and not worry about them.  
☑️ Designated laptop and electronics pocket.
☑️ Front-loaded suitcase-style main compartment for easy packing and organization.

Dimensions: 21.7” x 13.8” x 8.7″
Weight: 3.97 pounds
Price: $$

(Other buying options: Amazon)

5. Osprey Farpoint 40

When you want rugged durability, Osprey is a brand that tops everyone’s list. If you travel and hike and climb and go into caves and jump off waterfalls and anything else digital nomads are doing these days, chances are Osprey you’ll like the Osprey Farpoint 40.

This isn’t specifically a digital nomad backpack, per se, and isn’t loaded with fancy nomad features like the Outbreaker or Nomatic. 

But it does have a laptop sleeve. And if you’re the adventurous type and want a backpack that can double as a hiking backpack, this one’s got your name on it.

At 40 liters, it’s a bit of a tight fit for a full-time digital nomad. But for minimalists, it could certainly work.

All Osprey bags have a lifetime warranty, and it’s no joke. I once sent in a beat-up 5-year-old bag with a slight rip near a zipper, and they sent me a brand new bag!

Nomad-friendly features: 
☑️ Weight distribution system and straps make it super comfortable to carry.
☑️ Laptop and tablet sleeve in a lockable compartment to store your digital goods.
☑️ Rugged AF. These things last forever. Lifetime warranty.

Dimensions: 21” x 14” x 9”
Weight: 3.7 lbs
Price: $$

(Other buying options: Amazon)

Best Suitcases for Digital Nomads 

As mentioned, digital nomad suitcases and backpacks really only make sense if they’re small enough to carry onto a plane. You want to have your laptop and valuables with you at all times.

For heavy packers, the carry-on only strategy won’t cut it. If you plan to do the “big checked bag + smaller digital nomad luggage strategy”, the checked bag doesn’t need to be specifically designed for nomads — it can be any good travel bag.

Because of this, the following suitcases are all carry-on sized. The bag that you have with you at all times is the one that should be designed for digital nomads.

Again, I strongly prefer digital nomad backpacks over carry-on suitcases because it just feels more secure to have your expensive electronics safe against your back (vs. bumping around on the ground). But to each their own. 

6. Genius Pack Hardside – Overall Best Smart Digital Nomad Suitcase

genius pack hardside - the best digital nomad suitcase

If your heart is set on rolling luggage over a backpack, the Genius Pack is the best suitcase for digital nomads. 

It fits snugly into the overhead bins of all major airlines, and it’s built like a tank. With a 100% polycarbonate frame and scratch-resistant exterior, this bad boy is durable AF.

In fact, they even offer a 5-year limited warranty, which is longer than many suitcases (although it doesn’t compare to the lifetime warranties you get with the Tortuga Outbreaker and Nomatic Travel Bag).

Nomad-friendly features: 
☑️ Built-in TSA-friendly lock to keep your valuables safe.
☑️ Interior compartments for tech and clothes organization means you won’t have to buy additional packing cubes.
☑️ 44-liter capacity to give you every inch of carry-on space possible.
☑️ Two external USB ports for easy charging on the go.

Dimensions: 21.5” x 14” x 9”
Weight: 6.8 lbs
Price: $$$

7. Wrangler El Dorado Luggage Set – Cheapest Digital Nomad Suitcase

If you don’t need all the bells and whistles and just want the cheapest nomad suitcase possible, the Wrangler El Dorado is a great option.

Despite its shockingly low price tag, it still has several nifty features that make digital nomad travel easier.

Nomad-friendly features: 
☑️ 3-in-1 cup holder, USB port, and phone holder help keep your hands free in the airport.
☑️ Bonus bag slides over the handle and can be used as a personal item.
☑️ Expandable to 49 liters means you can adjust your space according to your airline’s carry-on size requirements. 

Dimensions: 20” x 13.5” x 11”
Weight: 6.92 lbs
Price: $

The Coolife Carry-on is the Goldilocks of digital nomad suitcases — it’s a significant step up from the barebones El Dorado, but it’s not quite top-of-the-line like the Genius Pack.

Note that in the product title, it says “expandable”, but only the check-in size is expandable. At 38 liters, the Coolife Carry-on size is slightly smaller than other options on this list.

Nomad-friendly features: 
☑️ Built-in TSA-friendly lock to keep your valuables safe.
☑️ Spacious interior with zip pockets and compression straps to keep your life organized.
☑️ ABS+PC hard plastic shell protects your belongings from rough handling.
☑️ Two-year warranty

Dimensions: 20” x 15” x 8.5”
Weight: 6.38 lbs
Price: $

Other handy digital nomad accessories that make travel easier

Now that you’ve got your luggage picked out, don’t forget these digital nomad accessories:

Rain cover. Some backpacks come with a rain cover, and hard-sided luggage is usually waterproof. But if not, rain covers are essential to protect your gear. Even if your carry-on has a rain cover, it’s a good idea to pick one up for your day pack as well. 

Fanny pack. The hip youngsters call these hip packs or sling bags, but it’s all the same. A large fanny pack like this one is basically free luggage space. I never fly without it. 

Packing cubes. If your luggage doesn’t come with packing cubes, here are the ones I use and love.

Locks and Carabiners. Even if your luggage has built-in locks, it’s a good idea to buy some extras. That way, you can lock up your day pack or use them in hostel lockers. Buy extras — these are easy to lose. Carabiners are super handy to clip things on the outside when needed – like shoes, wet clothes, plastic bags, etc.

Luggage tags. These are only necessary if you plan to check bags. Although it never hurts to have your contact info available on all luggage in case you misplace it — especially if it’s filled with expensive stuff.

Luggage scale. If you travel carry-on only, odds are your bag will be pretty heavy. Odds are nobody is going to weigh it at the airport. But if you want to make sure you don’t get hit by expensive baggage fees, grab one of these scales. You can use a regular human scale for a rough ballpark, but it won’t be exact.

And if you still need the rest of your digital nomad gear, check out these detailed guides:
Best Budget Laptops for Working from Home (or ANYWHERE)
Best Wifi Hotspots for Digital Nomads

Mitch's Travel Recommendations:
Travel Planning Resources - Everything you need to plan your trip on one convenient page.
Safetywing Insurance - This cheap travel insurance has saved me over $15,000 in medical bills.
Booking.com - Book accommodation without adding your credit card (in case you need to cancel).
Skyscanner - Find cheap flights.
Trusted House Sitters - Take care of pets in exchange for free (sometimes luxury) accommodation.
Flexjobs - Find remote jobs without having to sift through crappy ones.
Skillshare - Free trial to take unlimited classes that teach digital nomad skills.
Anytime Mailbox - Virtual mail service that can handle your mail while you’re away.
Wise - Send and receive money abroad cheaply (great for freelancers).

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