My backpack was well stocked when I was in college and yours should be too. Having everything you need with you and at your fingertips will save you time and money. You’ll always be prepared for whatever is required and needed.
I’ve lost count of the times fellow students needed a pen, pencil, highlighter, stapler, or even a snack from me.
Before anything else, preparation is the key to success — Alexander Graham Bell.
Here is a list of backpack essentials for everyday use.
It may not be necessary to carry your laptop every day. But when you do be sure that it is compact and lightweight. If your professor allows you to record the lecture, you can use your laptop to record the audio from class to listen to later. Also, get with a few classmates and take notes in Google Docs. Taking notes together, in real-time, using the same Google Doc is a great way to share your notes. This also makes it easy to communicate to your classmates which areas of the class you understood and the areas you don’t. Then you can work together to fill in the missing pieces.
I didn’t take notes on my laptop, I preferred to take them by hand. Even if you don’t want to use your laptop for notes or audio recording, you can use it between classes to work on homework assignments and projects. This is an efficient way to utilize your time in between your classes if you have any breaks in your daily schedule.
Here are two super affordable laptops. They are not fancy but they will get the job done and you won’t go broke buying them.
The ASUS L203MA. This laptop is designed to help you be productive all day — even when you’re on the move. This compact and lightweight 11.6-inch laptop is powered by the latest Intel processor and provides long-lasting battery life
SAMSUNG Galaxy Chromebook 4. This laptop is 11.6-inches. Its all-new light and compact design lets you stream, work, create and play on a fast, secure device designed to take everywhere. You can download and save content and work with others using Google suite. Built with a long-lasting battery.
2. Class Textbook
Textbooks are an essential item. However, not every professor will require you to bring it to class. Wait and see what your professor requires, you don’t want to have to carry around any necessary weight. Also, I suggest you wait at least a week to buy your textbooks. The professor will tell you if you need the book and if older editions will work.
If you want to save money on textbooks, check out this guide, How To Save Money In College By Renting Textbooks. Renting textbooks is now becoming the new norm. It’s affordable, easy to do, and super convenient.
3. Notebooks, Folders, Or Binders
Being organized will reduce stress and allow you to study and do work efficiently because you will not be wasting time. Buy a planner and write in all your classes, assignments, and tests. Buy separate binders, notebooks, and folders for each class. They are easy to reach for on the days you have class, and you won’t have to search for what you need.
It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. I always bought Mead notebooks. They are affordable and of good quality.
Mead Spiral Notebooks. 6 Pack, 1 Subject, College Ruled Paper, 100 Sheets, 11 x 8-1/2 inches, Assorted Colors, 6 Pack.
Oxford Spiral Notebook. 6 Pack, 1 Subject, College Ruled Paper, 8 x 10-1/2 Inch.
4. Pens And Pencils
I recommend having both pens and pencils in your backpack. Pencils are perfect for math notes and problems where you may do a lot of erasing. They are also good for classes like biology where you will do a lot of labeling. And of course, you need a number 2 pencil for scantron tests and essays. I used a good gliding pen for most of my class notes.
Take notes physically even if your class allows computers or recorders. Physically writing something down keeps a student engaged as it forces you to pay attention to what is being taught. You learn as you are writing, and you can use the notes to study later. They can help you remember important information for exams and assignments. Handwritten notes are one of the Secrets To Getting Good Grades In College.
I can’t count how many times a professor would mention, “This will be on the test” or “This information is on tonight’s homework”. When this would happen, I would pay special attention to that content, and maybe even ask for clarification or additional information just to be sure I understood it correctly.
BIC Glide Bold Retractable Ball Pen. Bold Point (1.6mm), Blue, Comfortable Grip for Smooth Writing, 36-Count.
BIC Round Stic Xtra Life Ballpoint Pen. Medium Point (1.0mm), Black, Flexible Round Barrel For Writing Comfort, 60-Count.
Sharpie S-Gel, Gel Pens. Medium Point (0.7mm), Black Ink Gel Pen, 12 Count (Pack of 1), Black.
Amazon Basics Woodcased #2 Pencils. Pre-sharpened, HB Lead, Box of 30.
BIC Xtra-Precision Mechanical Pencils With Erasers. Fine Point (0.5mm), 24-Count Pack, Mechanical Drafting Pencil Set.
5. Water Bottle
Always have water handy, staying hydrated is vital. Many campuses have water bottle fillers at each of their water fountains making it easy to refill throughout your day. Most backpacks have a convenient pocket on the side for a water bottle which makes it easily accessible.
Here are some great water bottle options.
Thermoflask. Double Stainless Steel Insulated Water Bottle with Two Lids, 40 Ounce, Black.
Iron Flask Sports Water Bottle. 40 Oz, 3 Lids (Straw Lid), Leak Proof, Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel, Double Walled, Thermo Mug, Metal Canteen.
Ello Syndicate. Glass Water Bottle with One-Touch Flip Lid.
6. Scientific, Graphing, or Financial Calculator
At some point, all students will have to take a math class so you will need at the very minimum a basic calculator. If your degree is in math or science, or any other STEM field, you will need a calculator that is specially designed to solve problems in science, engineering, mathematics, statistics, and finance.
Don’t rely on your phone calculator as most professors don’t allow you to use a phone during quizzes and tests. Your professor will specify which calculator you need. Math is hard, make it easier on yourself and get the required equipment. If you are struggling in math here’s a great article on, How To Pass Your Math Class.
Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus. Graphics Calculator, Black. (This is the one I personally used all through college).
Texas Instruments TI-34. MultiView Scientific Calculator.
Casio MS-80B. Standard Function Desktop Calculator.
7. Phone Charger
There’s nothing worse than realizing your phone is about to die and you have no phone charger. Keep an extra wall charger in your backpack. You can sit close to an outlet and charge it if necessary.
Multi Charging Cable YOUSAMS. 2Pack 4FT 4 in 1 Nylon Braided Multiple USB Fast Charging Cord Adapter Type C Micro USB Port Connectors Compatible Cell Phones Tablets and More.
Multi Charging Cable. 2Pack 4FT Nylon Braided Universal 4 in 1 Multiple USB Cable Fast Charging Cord Adapter with Type-C, Micro USB Port Connectors for Cell Phones Tablets and More.
Trust me you are going to need it. I don’t know what it is about classrooms, but they are either really cold or really hot. Your lips will get super dry and tight. Having chapstick or any lip balm will help ease cracked or dry lips. Pop a stick in the front zipper pocket of your backpack to keep your lips moist.
ChapStick Moisturizer Original Lip Balm Tubes. SPF 15 and Skin Protectant – 0.15 Oz (Pack of 3).
Cliganic USDA Organic Lip Balm Set. 6 Flavors – 100% Natural Moisturizer for Cracked & Dry Lips.
Burt’s Bees Lip Balm, Moisturizing Lip Care. 100% Natural, Original Beeswax with Vitamin E & Peppermint Oil (2 Pack).
I always carried gum in my backpack. I used gum for many reasons. It especially came in handy if I had to work with a partner or in a group and had bad breath. I would also offer it to those that had bad breath.
A piece of gum can stave off hunger pains when you’re in class so you can focus on the lecture and not your rumbling stomach. Chewing gum also helps with boredom, passing the time more quickly. Additionally, recent studies suggest that chewing gum helps test performance by getting the blood to flow and stimulating the brain. Make sure it’s sugar-free.
EXTRA. Spearmint Sugarfree Chewing Gum, 15 Pieces (Pack of 10).
Trident. Original Flavor Sugarfree Gum, 14 Pieces (Pack of 24).
10. Healthy Snacks
Healthy snacks should be in every student’s backpack. Eating well in college is vital to staying healthy, focused, and having energy. It’s important to have healthful snacks handy for your convenience. I always kept nutritious snacks and water in my backpack that I could reach for when I was hungry, or when a craving would strike.
Nuts, seeds, trail mix, granola bars, and some energy bars contain good nutrition and travel well. Toss in some fresh fruit and veggies that travel well, like apples, bananas, oranges, mandarins, baby carrots, celery sticks, and cherry tomatoes.
Blue Diamond Almonds. Low Sodium Lightly Salted Snack Nuts, 40 Oz Resealable Bag
Fisher Chef’s Naturals Walnut Halves and Pieces, 10 Ounces, Unsalted, Naturally Gluten Free, No Preservatives, Non-GMO, Keto, Paleo, Vegan Friendly
Wonderful Pistachios. In-Shell, Roasted & Salted Nuts, 48oz Resealable Bag
KIND Bar Minis. Variety Pack, Dark Chocolate Nuts and Sea Salt, Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate, Caramel Almond Sea Salt, Healthy Snacks, Gluten Free, Low Calorie Snacks, Low Sugar, 30 Count
LÄRABAR. Variety Pack, Gluten Free Vegan Fruit & Nut Bars, 1.7 oz, 16 ct
11. USB Flash Drive
As a college student, I always carried a flash drive in my backpack. I liked the convenience of having my notes and projects with me. If I had to run to the library or meet with a group on a project, it was very handy. USB flash drives with 64GB of storage are a good size and are very affordable.
SanDisk. 128GB Ultra Flair USB 3.0 Flash Drive – SDCZ73-128G-G46.
JUANWE. 64GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive Slide Retractable Memory Stick 64G Pen Drive High-Speed Jump Drive Data Storage.
12. Pain Reliever
It’s no surprise that headaches occur often in college students. The stress of balancing classes, work, and family life can be a lot. Add sitting in uncomfortable seats, hunching over textbooks, and working on the computer all day that’s the perfect recipe to trigger a tension headache.
Headaches can impact your ability to think and focus, making life miserable. Having a pain reliever in your backpack can make the difference between you being able to concentrate on your studies or suffering through a class in misery.
Advil Coated Tablets. Pain Reliever and Fever Reducer, Ibuprofen 200mg, 4 x 10 Count Vial, Fast Pain Relief, Pocket Pack.
Motrin IB. Ibuprofen 200mg Tablets, Pain Reliever/Fever Reducer for Muscular Aches, Headache, Backache and Minor Arthritis Pain, Convenient for Travel & On-The-Go, 50 Packets of 2, 100 ct.
GoodSense. Extra Strength Acetaminophen Caplets 500 mg, Pain Reliever and Fever Reducer, Easy Open Cap, 100 Count.
We have all been there, going about our day and suddenly you catch a whiff of underarm odor. It can be embarrassing and can be distracting to those around you. Leave a travel-size stick in your backpack, trust me you’ll use it throughout the semester.
Native Deodorant. Natural Deodorant Aluminum Free with Baking Soda, Probiotics, Coconut Oil and Shea Butter | Eucalyptus & Mint.
Lume. Natural Deodorant – Underarms and Private Parts – Aluminum Free, Baking Soda Free, Hypoallergenic, and Safe For Sensitive Skin – 2.2 Ounce Cream Stick Two-Pack (Unscented).
Schmidt’s. Sensitive Skin Natural Deodorant Stick Travel Size oz 19.8 g, coconut pineapple, 0.7 Ounce.
Even the smallest food particles can be annoying when it’s stuck between your teeth. I’ve seen classmates use their fingernails, paper, credit card, and even a long strand of hair to try and dislodge something wedged between their teeth. Carry a small little roll of floss or even a floss pick in your backpack, you won’t have to resort to being MacGyver to work something out of your teeth.
Plackers Micro Mint Dental Flosser. Fresh Mint Flavor, Fold-Out Toothpick, Super Tuffloss, Easy Storage with Sure-Zip Seal, 150 Count.
Oral-B Glide Pro-Health Dental Floss. Deep Clean, Mint, 40m, Pack of 6.
15. Personal Items
Personal items are just that, items that are personal to you. If you have a daily medication or prescription pack some extra just in case. Pack a few allergy pills if you are susceptible to allergies. If you wear regular glasses or contact lenses, be sure to have what you need for them. Ladies, pack extra tampons/pads just in case that day sneaks up on you. Clip some hand sanitizer on your backpack.
Purell Advanced Hand Sanitizer. Variety Pack, Naturals and Refreshing Gel, 1 Fl Oz Travel Size Flip-Cap Bottle with Jelly Wrap Carrier.
If you don’t have a backpack yet or you are looking for a new one. Here are a few affordable options.
Matein Travel Laptop Backpack. Business Anti Theft Slim Durable Laptops Backpack with USB Charging Port, Water Resistant College School Computer Bag Gifts for Men & Women Fits 15.6 Inch Notebook.
JanSport. The perfect everyday backpack.