2018 Gear Guide for Remote Workers
Our friends at Tortuga share the top gear that you'll need to be a successful remote worker, no matter where in the world you are.
Working on the road sounds exotic and adventurous, but the truth is, it can be really hard. Remote workers often get bogged down by little snags like looking for high-speed Wi-Fi, keeping devices charged, managing their international cell phone plan, and finding a good locale for happy hour that it’s hard to, you know, get work done.
Remove all the little barriers that can waste your time and money on the road by preparing ahead of time with the perfect remote work gear. Here’s a list of everything you need to successfully work remotely without completely breaking the bank (or your carry on bag).
Remote Office Setup
The core of your remote office setup will be your laptop, your phone, and your earphones. With those three items, you can get work done. Will you flesh that out with accessories? Probably, but choose this core suite carefully.
MacBook Air ($999): For Bloggers and Remote Workers
If you’re a writer or you work remotely as a digital assistant or customer service rep, the MacBook Air is more than enough machine for you. And, with the lowest price tag in the entire line of Mac laptops, it’s the obvious budget-friendly choice.
I’ve used a 2011 MacBook Air for a while now, and it gets the job done for any text-based projects. It can even handle some light video editing and heavier loads. But, if you’re a videographer or heavy user, the lighter specs will cut your efficiency down to subpar levels. There’s nothing worse than waiting for a render.
13” MacBook Pro ($1299): For Videographers and Heavy Users
The MacBook Pro is the best computer available in the Apple lineup, and t’s the preferred set up for almost all of these remote workers. The 13” MacBook Pro weighs the same as the MacBook Air, is actually a little bit slimmer (0.59” vs 0.68”) and has better specs and storage capacity. The only thing that would keep me from using this computer as my main workspace on the road is budget (the base model MacBook Pro is $300 more than the Air).
Have an honest conversation with yourself. You honestly don’t need an overspec’d beast with top-of-the-line processors, graphics cards, and flashy gimmicks like touchpad menus to write blog posts. You just don’t. The functional differences between the two computers are narrow—unless you’re editing photos and video. If you have the budget and want to future-proof your computer for the long haul with better storage and specs, opt for the MacBook Pro.
If you’re reading this, you have a smartphone. Everyone does. Phones are easily the most useful travel gadget you can own. They’re your camera, computer, social media hub, GPS, map, hotel booker, guidebook, entertainment, alarm clock, and 1,000 other things. That’s why I recommend investing in the best smartphone you can.
A few years back my buddy balked at the price of a new smartphone. He wasn’t sure it was worth the extra $100 to upgrade to a better model phone with more storage, a better camera, and increased speed. Cost is a reasonable concern, and I don’t advocate updating everything just for the sake of getting a shiny new phone, but to help him make his decision I asked him one question:
What else in your life do you use every single day?
You will use your phone every day when you travel—especially if you’re working. Capturing video and photos of your trip, connecting with friends, looking up driving directions, booking travel, and killing time on flights with interesting podcasts, as well as taking calls, messaging clients, and playing Pokemon Go. Remember when that was popular?
Why wouldn’t you invest in the one thing you’re going to use all the time? When you look at it in that light, a $100 upgrade is essentially paying $0.27/day for a better do-everything machine. To me, that’s worth every penny.
I used a Mophie battery pack phone case on my trip through India, and it was a life-saver. Because we used our phones for videos, Whatsapp, GPS, games, and booking rooms, we needed the extra juice. With the Mophie battery pack, our phones never once came close to dying thanks to the extra 2750mAh of power in this compact little case. That’s practically double the battery life of any phone on the market.
The ease of not having to actually hook your phone up to a battery pack is key when you’re traveling, let alone using your phone for work on-the-go. I can’t recommend Mophie cases enough.
Best Wireless Headphones: AirPods ($159)
I know they’re expensive, and they’re cliché, and this gear roundup is looking like an Apple fanboy article, but the AirPods are just plain awesome for remote workers. They’re compact, sound great, travel well, and the built-in mic just plain works (if you have an iPhone). They cost a pretty penny, but they’re game changers.
Runner-up: Abedi Y2 Bluetooth Earbuds ($11)
Best Noise Cancelling Headphones: Sony WH1000XM2 Noise Cancelling Wireless Headphones ($298)
If you’re all about getting into the zone, Sony is the way to go. The sound quality is incredible. The 30-hour battery life is easily the best around, which lets the dynamic noise cancelling actually work, unlike so many other headphones that have to trade battery life for noise cancelling tech.
If you have the means, go for it this pair.
Mobile Hotspots vs. Wi-Fi USB Sticks
Remote work starts and ends with the internet. Sure, it’s nice that you can “work offline” in Google Drive, but none of that matters if you can’t deliver on a deadline. Wi-Fi can be hard to find on the road, so skip the crappy connection at the café and bring your own mobile Wi-Fi hotspot.
There are two types of mobile Wi-Fi devices—sticks and hotspots. They both provide Wi-Fi, but each has pros and cons.
Provides Wi-Fi to multiple devices (phones, tablets, computers)
No special software, just connect, enter the password and go
Great for teams and heavy phone users
Yet another device to charge and carry around
Up to 20% latency speed vs USB direct device
USB Wi-Fi Device
Smaller & lighter
No battery or charge to worry about, just plug and play
Requires special software on your laptop
Only provides Wi-Fi for one device (computer)
Aside from size (hotspots are bigger and heavier) and battery life (USB sticks don’t need to charge or plug into anything other than your laptop), the biggest difference is how many devices you can use on the same signal. A Wi-Fi hotspot can support a bunch of devices at once (although it slows down with each phone or laptop on the network), while a USB stick is just for your computer. It’s an obvious distinction, but worth mentioning, especially considering how much we do with our phones.
If you’re old-school and do all the heavy lifting on your laptop, a USB Wi-Fi device will do the trick. They’re smaller, easier to use, and inexpensive. If you and your team need to get online with laptops, tablets, and phones (and you don’t have the T-Mobile International Plan), a hotspot is your best choice. Here are some great mobile hotspot devices:
AT&T has been the gold standard for mobile Wi-Fi for years. This device continues the legacy.
AT&T’s LTE network is robust, the battery life is fantastic (18 hours), and it works. Splash-resistant and light (6.3 oz), this hotspot will let you get the job done.
If you want to combine the speed of a travel router with a portable battery, the HooToo Wireless Router & 10400mAH travel charger ($39) is awesome. It’s a great travel router with a massive travel charger that holds 10400mAh of power (that’s enough for five iphone charges) and lets you choose from three different Wi-Fi modes:
AP (ethernet cable)
Router (connect to a modem)
Bridge (split a wireless connection into a safe channel)
Cloud Storage: Google Drive
Nothing is easier to pack than cloud storage. Shifting your workflow from the physical world to the cloud is a game changer for remote workers in terms of efficiency, security, and ease. A 2TB hard drive is great for backing up my video footage on-the-go, but cloud storage is the ultimate backup to my backup—and I don’t have to carry it around every day.
Every Google account comes with some free cloud storage, but honestly, it’s not much. However, you can upgrade your storage plan to 100GB for just $1.99/month. 100GB is plenty of space for sharing files and articles, and even backing up a trip’s worth of photos. I regularly organize and clean out my Google Drive storage for long trips, but the built-in functionality with my main workflow tool (Gmail), makes Drive storage a home run. Upgrade your storage for $2/month - you won’t regret it.
Leave the Moleskin behind and embrace the power of the cloud with Evernote. Evernote is more than a note-taking app. This powerful idea storage tool is packed with features and tech that can make working on the road a breeze.
Evernote was already great for notes on the go, but they recently added insane functionality like keyword searchable notes, image to text transcription, geotags, and timestamps to help you keep everything in order no matter how you work. What that means is that you can take a picture of some hand-written notes you jotted down on a napkin in Paris last year and Evernote can tell you where you were when you took that picture, and even translate the words on that napkin into keyword searchable text.
That’s a game changer. Leave the paper and pen behind and keep all your ideas, photos, and travel history in one easy to search digital repository.
For less than $20 you can have a hard copy of every single thing you write on the road. 64GB is a shocking amount of space, and solid peace of mind for writers and bloggers who travel. Plus, it’s a lot lighter than an external hard drive, doesn’t require an extra power source or charging cable, and can take a beating in your backpack.
I’ve used my thumb drive (or jump drive if you’re one of those) countless times to transfer files, backup stories, or just keep some of my favorite videos and pictures doubly safe while traveling. A thumb drive is a worthy inclusion to your remote work gear kit for almost no money and even less space.
Packing for the Remote Worker: The Capsule Wardrobe
Building a capsule wardrobe that suits your remote work lifestyle is simple once you’ve adopted best practices and begin to think critically about your wardrobe, work, and travel styles. Choosing an intentional core wardrobe of clothing 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 remote worker 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
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 while on your journey.
Pick a Palette
Starting from scratch makes this a bit easier, but it’s worth going through your closet and “auditing” for which colors you tend to rock most frequently. The more interchangeable the colors and patterns, the better. Separate the red polka dots from the green stripes. Some remote workers 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 — when you’re 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 exclusively in urban environments with a full service laundry just around the corner. There are industries to disrupt and social media posts to publish, and, since you’re traveling, you should go explore!
Capsule Wardrobe Essentials
This is a very generic list of travel items to include in your remote work 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 might choose to have a little more in your wardrobe than the average traveler. It’s your call!
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
5-7 pairs of quick dry underwear
2-3 bras (sports bra & everyday)
5-7 pairs of socks
Swimwear and cover up
1 sweater or fleece
Hat — for cold or warm weather
1 pair of multi-use shoes for walking and casual everyday use
1 pair of “nice” shoes (flats, booties, fancy sandals, loafers, dress shoes, etc.)
1 pair of exercise shoes
1 pair of sandals (for warm locations)
Luggage & Accessories
Working remotely while traveling requires great gear, built for the task, addressing the specific needs of remote workers. What are those needs? Your luggage needs to be lightweight, versatile, accommodating of the office setup that you’ll carry, sturdy enough to weather the rigors of whatever your travels throw at it, and, above all, practical. Your luggage becomes your home, and it should add joy to your journey, not be an albatross around your neck.
Traveling with checked baggage as a remote worker adds risk and expense to your life. Every time you check a bag, you’re going to pay a fee. That adds up if you are moving often, which is a common practice among remote workers..
Traveling with carry on luggage is often the best answer. It gives you control over your gear, the ability to adjust on the fly, and reduces the likelihood of your important items being lost or damaged in transit. Travel backpacks that are carry on-sized and built for urban travel, with remote workers in mind, are ideal. You’ll never struggle with broken-wheeled luggage on uneven surfaces again, and you’ll always have everything you need close by.
I’m a big fan of the Tortuga Setout backpack. It’s the perfect size for me, and has just the right combination of space and organization to keep me lean and organized on the road. You don’t want to waste time every day sifting through a top-loading backpack for a spare adapter piece. Trust me.
Tortuga Setout Backpack
The Outbreaker is another great option if you crave even more internal organization features. It’s ideal for photographers, videographers, and people who travel with tons of hard drives, cables, and SD cards. . You know who you are. It’s made of waterproof sail cloth so that a little rain is no big deal for what’s inside your bag.
The Homebase backpack was designed specifically for digital nomads, combining travel and remote work, for light packers. In less than ten seconds it converts from a travel backpack to an office and around town bag. It’s made of waterproof sailcloth, so you won’t have to worry about your office gear getting wet, and it’s really light.
Tortuga Homebase Backpack
Which one is right for you? Compare them side by side.
Other Gear for Remote Work
You need a daypack to live and work on the road. Something small and compact that rolls up into your primary backpack, but you can use in your day-to-day. I’ve been loving the Setout packable daypack for trips to the coffee shop to get work done, mostly thanks to the little stash pocket in the front. It’s perfect for keeping snacks separate from my headphones or passport when I’m traveling. It’s also just a great day bag to load up and go exploring, because of the lightweight feel, super-soft straps, and overall “smashability” of the bag. You can beat it up and it’s fine, but it’s not designed to carry a laptop.
If you’re carrying a laptop, the Outbeaker daypack is perfect as an everyday office bag while you’re traveling.
Water Purifier Bottle: The Grayl Ultalight Purifier Bottle ($60)
Grayl is my purifier water bottle of choice — sleek, sexy, and with a purifying method akin to a French press (which creates my other favorite beverage of choice).
Fill up the interior of this bottle with water, any water at all, slowly press down for 15 seconds, and ta-da, you have purified and filtered water.
No need to carry an extra water filter and pour your water over it, then wait, while you’re dying of thirst. Grayl is a complete system in a design that looks a lot like a to-go coffee mug.
The full-spectrum filter is 99.9999% effective against viruses, bacteria, and protozoan cysts. And if you get the purifying cartridge, it filters the water of sediments, so you don’t have to start off with clear water. Fill ‘er up from a stream or murky water source, press and drink.
Each cartridge is good for 40 gallons or 150L.
The only downside is the water bottle’s small capacity. The Grayl is a one-person-only water purifier and filtration bottle, but that’s easy to fix.Pair the Grayl with a 32-ounce or larger water bottle to store your clean water — like the Klean Kanteen — and you’ve got a winning combo.
Universal Travel Adapter
If you work abroad you need electricity. You can wait ’til you land to pick up an adapter, but depending on where you are, how long you’re there, what time you land, your transportation options, currency exchange, and how much work you have to do on the move, getting a teeny tiny adapter that has to be recharged can be a huge pain. Skip the drama and just pack your own.
If you want to keep it lean and mean, this is the only travel adapter for you. It works in 150 countries, converts on the fly, and takes up less space than your current iPhone usb charger.
This one is a must for minimalist remote workers.
Mophie Powerstation Mini ($29)
The Mophie mini is under $30, weighs 3 oz, and holds 3000mAh of power, which is about one full phone charge on practically any device.
It’s slim, well-made, perfectly designed for travel, and even comes in custom color options.
If you need to recharge every night or work all day, this power strip features two independent USB ports on the side and a unique swivel design with four locking positions. The Belkin 3-outlet surge protector is compact and durable enough to keep your expensive gear safe in any socket. At only $17.50, it’s worth it.
If you have the resources to upgrade your remote work setup, by all means go for it. But don’t buy stuff just because it’s the new thing or the people you follow are promoting it. Choose what’s right for your remote business. Invest in yourself, but remember—all you need is a second-hand laptop, a plane ticket, and the ability to work remotely to take your show on the road. Now, go get something done!