How to Build a Digital Nomad Capsule Wardrobe

Megan Lee

There are enough daily decisions to make when you’re on the road as a digital nomad. Which gelato flavor should I pick? Should I work with pants on today? What time of day will I get most exposure and momentum for this Facebook post? Where can I find the fastest internet connection to upload my big project?

What to wear and how to best pack shouldn’t be two more. Don’t add fuel to the fire by overstuffing your Homebase backpack & duffle case with too many clothes and the wrong kinds. Stick to this capsule wardrobe list for travel and you can kiss your decision-fatigue goodbye (well, almost. It is tough to pick a flavor of gelato…).

Best Practices 

Building a capsule wardrobe that suits your digital nomad life is simple, once you’ve adopted the best practices and begin to think critically about your wardrobe, work, and travel styles. Choosing a core wardrobe of clothing, intentionally, sets you apart as a professional, even when your office is thousands of miles from the “office.”

Focus on the Purpose

The purpose of a capsule wardrobe as a digital nomad is three-fold: 

  • To reduce decision making and packing stress
  • To ensure that your clothing is flexible enough that you look great, no matter where your travels take you
  • To save time and money in shopping for, packing, and maintaining clothing

Make Updates

The concept of the capsule wardrobe is rooted in quarterly updates to your most-loved pieces. This means downsizing and rotating outfits within a three month period. Once you’ve passed the 90 day mark, you can swap out the old for a few new seasonal items. Or, you might want to spice up your basics with choice selections discovered on your journey. 

Pick a Pallette

Starting from scratch makes this a bit easier, but it is worth going through your closet and “auditing” it for which colors you tend to rock most frequently. The more inter-changeable the colors and patterns, the better. So, separate the red polka dots from the green stripes. Some digital nomads swear by neutrals, but you can ultimately make the call for what suits you and your travel style. Remember that the ability to mix and match is vital to the success of your packing list.

Go Low Maintenance

Aim for clothes that are easy to maintain. Seriously — doing laundry on the road, you don’t have time to iron that fancy material or take high maintenance fabrics to the dry cleaners, unless you’re based only in urban environments with a full service laundry just around the corner. There are industries to disrupt and social media posts to publish, and of course you’re traveling, so go explore!

Capsule Wardrobe Essentials

This is a very generic list of travel items to include in your digital nomad capsule wardrobe. It’s possible to trim this down even further, as you’ll be living out of your luggage, but since you’re traveling for a living, not a holiday, you also might choose to have a little more in your wardrobe than the average traveler. It’s your call. The Homebase collection has plenty of room for a few extras, because we know how it is.

Clothes

  • 3 bottoms — at least one of which can be dressed up and down
  • 1 long sleeved top (preferably lightweight)
  • 3 comfortable, casual tops
  • 2 nice tops
  • One “going out” outfit
  • Exercise outfit
  • Sleepwear
  • 5-7 pairs of quick dry underwear
  • 2-3 bras (sports bra & everyday)
  • 5-7 pairs of socks
  • Swimwear and cover up

Outerwear

  • 1 sweater or fleece
  • 1 jacket
  • 1 scarf
  • Gloves
  • Hat — for cold or warm weather
  • Sunglasses 

Footwear

  • 1 pair of multi-use shoes for walking and casual everyday use
  • 1 pair of “nice” shoes (flats, booties, fancy sandals, etc.)
  • Perhaps 1 pair of exercise shoes (if you can’t do without them)

Adjustments to Make if You…

Spend Most of Your Time Working Outside of Home

As a fellow caffiend, I understand the desire to get out of your pajama bottoms and face the world. Whether in search of the world’s cutest cafe, the desire to feel like a “regular,” or increasing your odds of a chance-meeting with a cutie, digital nomads who hang out at coffee shops should adjust their capsule wardrobes accordingly:

  • Choose trendier clothes instead of lounge wear
  • Add one extra layering piece, or a sarong scarf — the perfect cure to cafe drafts
  • Add a pair of headphones, not strictly a wardrobe item, but certainly part of the uniform

Spend Most of Your Time Working Inside Your Home

Maybe you are staying in the Airbnb of your dreams or you found an incredible, spacious rental with the perfect corner for you to crank out a few hours of work. If your Wifi connection is too reliable at home to face the nearby cafe internet gamble, here’s how you should modify your capsule wardrobe list for travel:

  • Favor comfier “at home” pieces
  • Add one pair of cozy socks

Spend as Much Time Playing as Working

You didn’t uproot your life for the road to spend all of your time tap-tap-tapping away at your laptop, did you? Gather some great content for your website or keep your adventurous side alive by balancing work and play… and by balance, we mean letting it tip a little bit towards the fun stuff.

  • Choose one or two outfits that fit your travel style (adventure, dancing, volunteering, etc.)
  • Make sure your footwear aligns with your hobbies

Prefer Luxury Travel and City Living

If you’d rather die than be caught in Chacos, make sure your mobile closet aligns with how you have fun. Dress it up or dress it down with these changes to the classic capsule wardrobe list.

  • Choose two pieces that can be dressed up into nice “going out” outfits
  • Include a dress and/or a button down
  • Include a pair of dark denim jeans
  • Pack jewelry and other essential accessories
  • Upgrade your sunglasses and case
  • Choose one pair of shoes you love and that look great

Have a Lot of Meetings

If your style of remote work includes regular meetings, in person or online, then you might want to consider the following:

  • Button down or collared dress shirt
  • Travel blazer that can be dressed up or down
  • Shoes that go from work to play

Dig Off the Beaten Path Travel

If immersion is the name of your game, here are some edits to your travel capsule wardrobe essentials. 

  • Consider actual travel pants, quick dry and zip-off to add versatility
  • Add a pair of gloves
  • Make sure your footwear is adventure-friendly
  • Bring a lightweight SPF 30+ long sleeved shirt
  • Trade in tank tops for something more conservative
  • Ensure bottoms are at least knee length

TL;DR

Adopting the mindset of the travel capsule wardrobe essentials not only frees your pack from exploding seams and you from late-night fights with a zipper, it also frees your mind to focus on what’s important: making a living — on your terms — anywhere in the world. This digital nomad capsule wardrobe is just the ROI you’ve been looking for!