So many people (myself included) have been telling you all the things you have to bring to college to survive. But, I wanted to make sure that you ALSO know what to do with all of this stuff once you’re there.
If you’ve seen my dorm room packing list, you know that it said to bring a backpack to college. Duh, that’s a no-brainer, of course you’ll need a backpack for school! BUT, that packing list didn’t mention what you should be keeping in your backpack.
That’s where this article comes in! I am sharing with you the NINETEEN college backpack essentials that you NEED to be carrying at all times!
But before we get into that, I’ve got some tips on how to pick the perfect backpack for school!
Note: There are affiliate links included in this article. Check out my disclosure policy for any questions.
What backpack should you use in college?
There are hundreds of backpacks online all claiming to be “the best college backpack.” Because of this, it can be hard to actually pick something that really is a good bag for college.
Speaking from experience, the only backpack I’ve ever used is the Vera Bradley Campus Backpack. For me, this has worked perfectly in school because it has a laptop sleeve, large pocket, 2 water bottle pockets, and a few smaller pockets.
This bag also comes in an XL size if you are looking for something bigger, as well as a bunch of different colors and patterns.
How do you choose a backpack for college?
Like I said, choosing a bag for college is tough because there are so many options. When you are going about picking one, try to think about what you are going to need it for.
Are you going to be carrying a lunch everyday? How many binders and textbooks will you have? Do you usually carry a water bottle?
Ask yourself these types of questions to figure out what requirements you need for your backpack. If it makes it easier for you, make a list of everything you want in a backpack. Maybe it’s a laptop sleeve or extra pockets. Whatever it may be, write it down and make sure that whatever bag you find has everything you are looking for!
What should you have in your backpack?
Now onto the college backpack essentials. Just to preface, you might not need to carry ALL of these items ALL of the time. They are just basic necessities that can come in handy if you have them on you. That being said, this is also not EVERYTHING you are going to need to carry. Depending on where you are going or what you need, you are of course going to need to add other items to your bag as well.
With all that said, let’s get onto the college backpack essentials!
1. Personal items (phone, wallet, keys, id)
These items are a no-brainer on a college backpack essentials list. But, they are basically the most important things you need in your backpack so they are number 1 on the list.
You never want to forget your phone, wallet, keys, and ID. Because quite honestly, who wouldn’t be completely lost without their phone?!
As far as ID, you should of course have your license or other form of ID. But, also remember to bring your student ID if you are on campus and need it for access into certain buildings.
2. Laptop & laptop charger
Another important essential is your laptop. Depending on your backpack, you may or may not have a laptop sleeve built in. If not, I would HIGHLY recommend buying a laptop sleeve to protect your computer.
You also do NOT want to forget your laptop charger. It may seem annoying to have to carry around, but if it can save your computer from dying even once, it’s worth it.
3. Portable charger
This is another super important backpack essential! You never know where you are going to be when your phone decides to die on you.
Invest in a quality portable charger so you are always covered if you don’t happen to be near an outlet. You can also buy a charging case if you don’t want to have to carry something extra.
Whether it be earbuds or air-pods, bring some sort of headphones along with you in your backpack. Even if you don’t think you are going to be listening to anything, you never know when you might be in the mood for some music or a podcast.
5. Reusable water bottle
Always always ALWAYS carry water with you. And, save the environment and buy yourself a reuseable water bottle. I love using insulated bottles like Swell or HydroFlask so the water stays nice and cold for a while.
If you are someone like me who always has water on hand, make sure you pick a backpack that has a water bottle pocket!
6. School books (binders, notebooks, folders)
Of course, of all the college backpack essentials on this list, this one will depend on the school, person, and the day. Before you leave your room or apartment for the day, plan what binders, notebooks, folders, or other school essentials you are going to need for that day.
I know it’s annoying to carry, but don’t forget about your textbooks with your other school books!
If you are using a paper planner, remember to put it in your bag every morning. I cannot live without my planner during a day of school!
If you need help picking a planner, I’ve got the 10 Best College Planners For Every Type of Student!
9. Pencil case
It’s best to have a separate pencil case with all of the essentials that mostly stays in your backpack so you always have school supplies when you need it. You’re the judge of what supplies you want and need, but here are some basics you should always try to have:
- pencils (mechanical are the easiest)
- white out
There are a million more supplies you can carry around if you want, but that’s completely up to you!
Depending on your classes, you may or may not need to carry a calculator with you. If you do, make sure you have the right model for the class.
Also, don’t forget your calculator charger if you need it!
11. Snacks, gum, & mints
You can never have enough snacks in your backpack. Keep some essentials like granola bars on hand at all times in case you get hungry. You may also want to keep a pack of gum or mints in your bag too.
12. Spare change
Throw a few quarters in a small pocket in your bag in case you are ever in need of some money for a vending machine!
13. Hand sanitizer
A mini or travel sized hand sanitizer is great to have in your bag whenever you need it.
14. Hand lotion
Likewise, a travel sized hand lotion is also another important essential to keep in the front pocket of your bag if you are someone that uses lotion.
15. Cosmetic bag
If you have a smaller or front pocket in your bag, try to keep a small cosmetic case in there. This should be something that only stays in your backpack with some basic essentials.
- band aids
- hair ties
- tampons and pads
- pain medicine (Tylenol, Motrin, Advil, etc)
- stain stick
- chap stick
Most of the items on this list come in travel sizes, so they are super small and easy to carry. Having all of this stuff is perfect for any emergencies!
16. Cold weather essentials
If your school is somewhere cold, have some cold weather essentials in your bag at all times.
- hand warmers
17. Warm weather essentials
Likewise, if you are in a warmer environment, don’t forget to keep warm weather essentials in your bag too.
Regardless of the location, check the weather before you leave in the morning and make sure to throw an umbrella in your bag if it looks like rain. The last thing you want is to get caught without one!
19. Emergency money
Have some emergency money in your bag at all times, just in case. $20 is perfect to keep in a front pocket. If you happen to need and use this money, just remember to always restock it so you have something in case you need it.
Now that you know everything that you should have in your bag, it’s time to go gather it all and organize it in your bag! Is there anything else you always keep in your backpack?! (let me know in the comments!)