Tag Archives: pack light

Digital Nomad Kit List 2017: What’s in the bag? (Video + rationale)

I’m always trying to improve my one-bag-travel set up. I obsess about clothing vs music kit. It’s a constant struggle to get the right balance. This is the only time in my life when how many clothes I carry is directly linked to how productively creative I can be. More clothing = less music kit so less creativity. Less clothing = more music stuff so constant laundry issues. Lots of clothes AND music kit = bag too heavy.

Alternatively if I had loads of money I could buy lightweight versions of everything I’m currently carrying… ok forget that.

So, what are my aims for my ultimate setup? Well, as teenager I really enjoyed the freedom of weekends. I’d ball underwear and a toothbrush into a pair of socks each Friday morning and drop it in my school bag, so I could end up anywhere on Friday night, and usually did: road trips, nights out, sleeping on random friend’s floors and sofas. My main subject was art and my sketchbook filled up on these adventures, making it seem like I’d gone to exciting locations to do “extra coursework”. I loved the freedom of having a little ninja package with me that had me ready to say yes to opportunities.

Guess that’s what I’m seeking now: to be able to be freely creative on the road. Trouble is, as a digital nomad and musician, I need lot more kit than I did as a sketching artist.

Previously I’ve tried I’ve travelling with a 19ltr backpack and guitar, or even just a laptop bag (no guitar). The effect: I don’t have enough stuff either clothing-wise or creative-wise; definitely not enough for semi-permanent travel. There’s no room for snacks / my jacket, plus travelling without a guitar is unacceptable. When I carry my 30ltr backpack I have almost enough stuff, but it’s too heavy for comfort.

My solution to all this problems is: to increase my luggage (shock, horror)!!

Ol’ faithful next to shiny new shiny-ness

I’ve just bought the Osprey Farpoint 40 (litres): the only “Digital Nomad” backpack I could try on in a shop. It’s brilliant: more space than my old 30ltr 1970s hiking backpack, plus a much better strap system so more weight doesn’t really feel heavy. When you live out of a bag, changing the bag could change your life.

Now what to put in it?

This is the functionality I’d like from my kit:

For my body:

  • Clean, weather and occasion appropriate clothes every day.
  • Toiletries
  • Snacks and drinks

For my work and creative mind:

  • Kit to make and upload decent quality video for YouTube (and photos too)
  • Kit to record and produce high quality audio.
  • The electronics needed for my Digital Nomad teaching role.
  • Pens and paper for notes and sketches.
  • Enough instruments to keep me happy: will settle for guitar, penny-whistle and kazoo (if it’s a really good kazoo)

Ideal Weight limit =10kg

Turns out:

A: It’s not possible to keep it under 10kg

B: I can live with that

In the end managed to get down to 12kg (minus snacks and drinks), 2kg over target. I can try it for a while and over time, decide what to shed, or where to invest money in order to lighten the load. Plus, my next few months will be a mix of van living and travelling van free, so for short trips away from the van I could take less. The kicker is my recording studio kit (3kg) but it would cost over £1000 to buy a lighter version of that, so sod that!

In my experience, yes, 12kg will affect my independence a little, but it’s workable. With guitar added, that’s 16kg, so I’d find myself wanting to get a locker or take the bus rather than walk. That’s a shame, but it’s a work in progress.


Also check out the Symphony For Happines Vlog

… and connect with me @:


Music @:



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Filed under alternative lifestyle, Digital Nomad, self employed, travel

How To Pack Light For A Week’s Travel


Nope, can’t imagine doing this…

I’ve always been interested in packing light, probably because as a musician I’m inevitably carrying a heavy instrument as well. My guitar weighs 6kg, so adding much more restricts my freedom and makes it hard to squeeze into trains, or run for busses.

After each trip I do by train/bus/plane, I evaluate what I took. Was my enjoyment hampered by not bringing something? Or, did I spend 4 days waiting for my shoulders to un-knot because I carried too much?

Here’s what I’ve concluded:

  1. Being without something you need just plain sucks – I don’t subscribe to the buy-it-when-you-get-there plan, since I’ve often found I can’t.
  2. You can pack pretty light and still have everything you need, with some clever planning.
  3. Travelling with a light pack seriously improves everything. Getting it right can literally be the difference between loving a trip and hating it.

Guitar, 20 backpack and handbag

Last week I travelled to the UK (from France) for 8 days, and took less luggage than ever before. Rather than my usual 35L hiking backpack, I took a 20L rucksack plus small handbag.

In a nutshell, here’s what I had.

  • Essentials (Wallet, passport hidden in a notebook, keys, tickets)
  • 3 changes of clothes (including what I wore to travel) and a thin raincoat. It’s June (15-23 degrees C) so light clothes only.
  • Laptop (+ cables)
  • Phone (+ cables & power bar)
  • Toiletries (minimal – toothbrush & paste, floss, mooncup, almond oil)
  • Portable office (computer glasses, headphones, bluetooth keyboard and spare batteries, usb mouse, usb sticks [to back up])
  • Comforts (meditation stuff, sunglasses, sewing kit, penny whistle, flip flops, notebooks & pens.
  • Guitar

Every item has been considered, and I’ve tried travelling with or without it. You can get by with less clothing, unless something goes wrong and you having to wear wet trousers till they dry. Sunglasses and flip-flops make life a lot more comfortable. I think better writing longhand, so I bring notebooks. The office accessories give me a much better experience of working on the road.

The whole lot weighs 5-6kg, and leave plenty of room in the rucksack to bring my own food to save money, plus fit in a gift for my hosts (adding another 2kg, at least until after lunch)


Learning a new piano piece en-route.

What I like about this set up:

  1. I can access the handbag whilst walking along, instead of having to stop and unzip a backpack.
  2. The laptop, flip-flops and 2 packing cubes can be neatly laid out when I arrive. This 10 second unpack leaves the rucksack empty for use as a daypack.
  3. As I recently “went paperless”, my minimal luggage now includes all my books, music and sheet music.
  4. A lighter and smaller rucksack is much more comfortable on the shoulders.

Finally, here are some things I don’t travel with:

  • Towel or travel towel – there’s always my scarf. Did you know that you can also use a square scarf as a bag?
  • Books – digitised
  • Kindle – reading on a smartphone is fine
  • High tech clothes – For now, I’d like to see if this can be done with normal clothes.
  • Laptop stand – I balance it on my pack to raise it to eye hight.
  • Travel pillow – I use my rolled up jacket.
  • Eyemask – I use a buff, since it doubles as a tube scarf. An eyemask doesn’t double as anything.
  • Exercise stuff – actually, I never used to bring exercise stuff, I just didn’t exercise. Since I’ve learned to work out with no equipment, and can do it on the road to unstiffen after long hours in transit.

So, how did it go? Well, it was fantastic to navigate trains, tubes and busses with so little luggage, especially if I had to run, or squeeze into a packed metro. I used every single item I packed, so only could have packed lighter if the items themselves were lighter.

I craved more clothing, as the 3 sets I’d brought were all for different temperatures and the wrong set always seemed dirty on the wrong day.

At the same time, I still felt I had too much to carry and avoided walking for more than 30mins at a time. The same load might have been easier with a better backpack, but it was mainly the weight of the guitar that got me. I’m glad I brought it though. I played it every day and even managed a sing-along on one train, and gave a guitar lesson on another.

My denim jacket was another matter. It’s got 8 secret pockets, which will be awesome for winter travel, but this time I carried it more than I wore it, and should have packed a light jumper instead.

I wonder what I’d add if I was travelling full time but was limited to this setup. Probably two more cubes of clothes, a multitool (?), and two external hard drives. All that would still fit in the little backpack. If I went back to the 35L bag I could add my portable recording studio too. I’d also like someone to invent a super-lightweight guitar flight-case.


Also check out the Symphony For Happines Vlog on youtube

… and connect with me @:


Music @:




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