Backpack essentials for college students.

Backpack Essentials For College Students

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Before heading to college, I did what most people do and searched up everything I could about college life, including what backpack essentials I should always carry with me. However I noticed that sometimes those lists are just listing school supplies or things that I are just not practical to carry everyday. Having experienced the college life for two years now, these are the backpack essentials for college students I recommend.

Compact Wallet

The first and most obvious essential item is your wallet. However you shouldn’t carry your typical wallet with many pockets and card holders. As a college student I recommend you get a compact wallet in order to easily carry it along. This is my wallet…

I only carry the important cards, like my debt card, student ID, dorm key card, transportation card. And I prefer that my wallets have a small pouch in the middle so that I can carry some cash or loose change. Having a small compact wallet like this helps because I can carry it comfortably in my hand while also holding my phone. It won’t take much space in my backpack and when I go out somewhere, I don’t have to carry a purse since I can just put my wallet in one of my pockets.

Pencil Pouch

This item might also be another obvious one, but there are some students who don’t carry a pencil pouch in their backpack. There are even some students who don’t carry any writing tools, like a simple pen or pencil. A simple writing utensil is definitely one of the backpack essentials for college students.

You should always carry a pencil pouch with the most basic tools in your backpack. Even I, a student who does all their digital planning and notetaking on their iPad, always carry a pencil pouch. You never know when you might need a pencil or pen , like when the professor suddenly hands out a paper you need to fill out. It doesn’t leave a good impression when you are unprepared and have to ask other students for a pen or pencil.

This is what I carry in my pencil pouch…

Pencil pouch as a backpack essential for college students.

I carry :

  • small macaroon tape dispenser
  • foldable scissors that look like a polar bear
  • mini stapler and staples
  • correction tape
  • mechanical pencil and lead
  • a highlighter
  • two click pens
  • two markers
  • a set of colored pens
  • and not shown above is the paperclips I also carry

You don’t have to carry as much as me, just a small pouch with a pen, pencil, and eraser is enough.

Foldable Eco Bag

These bags are perfect when you have a full backpack but still need more space to carry something, like if you passed by a store and needed to carry your bought items. For me, it is always the case that my backpack is full with some textbooks, or when I have to carry my laptop, and I still need to pass by a store and get something. When that happens, I just take out my foldable eco bag and carry my new items in that. Plus its always good when you can prevent using a plastic bag.

Chapstick / Lip Balm

A small but mighty item. It’s good to have a chapstick to take care of those chapped lips, especially during the colder winter months. I get really distracted if I feel that my lips are really dry and flaky. So having a chapstick on me is crucial.

Your Planner

As a college student, an essential item for your productivity and good grades is a planner.

You should make it a habit to always carry your planner on you. It won’t do you any good to have a planner if you forget it at home and can’t update it or fill it out during the day.

Since I plan on my iPad using my digital student study planner, I just have to remember to carry my iPad with me, but that is easy since I also take my school notes on there.

Water Bottle

A water bottle is a must-have item when you’ll have to be walking around your campus. Instead of buy plastic water bottles every day on campus, you should get yourself a reusable water bottle.

The water bottle I use is a simple $5 metal water bottle that keeps my water cold during the whole day. I would not recommend one of those super expensive water bottles that are really popular. My sister bought one of those HydroFlask water bottles after seeing all the hype about it. She looked it up and decided it was worth investing in one, and it ended up costing her over $55. It lasted her like a month, then it fell from a table and ended up with a big dent. Overall she was not happy with that purchase.

Unless you have the money for a really expensive one, a regular budget-friendly reusable water bottle will do the trick. Just make sure to clean it every week so that there is no buildup.


I recommend carrying a small travel Kleenex pack. I use them when I go to the cafeteria and there is no napkins or for when I need a tissue for my nose or to clean something up. Carrying a small pack of tissues will do the trick.

Hand Sanitizer

Even without taking in account the current world situation, a hand sanitizer is something you should definitely carry in your backpack. You’ll need a hand sanitizer for when you have dirty hands and plan on eating something or when you just want to clean your hand in general but don’t have the opportunity to go to a sink. Now a days, carrying hand sanitizer is a necessity to keep yourself safe.

Due to the current situation it would also be a good idea to carry an extra mask. You might forget your mask in your dorm or house when you leave in the morning, so having an extra mask in your backpack for backup is a good idea.

Hair Tie / Clip

Having hair ties or hair clips comes in handy when you just need to get your hair out of your face. I always carry hair ties and hair clips to use for when I go to the library and want to pull the hair from out of my face to properly study.

Emergency Cash

You should always carry your wallet, but for that one day you forget it and something comes up, you should have some cash on you. Carrying some emergency cash, I tend to carry $10, is a good precaution for when you are unlucky and forget your wallet at home.

Pouch for Sanitary Products

Instead of just putting your sanitary products (pads or tampons) in your bag, it’s a good idea to put them all in a small pouch. It’s is better to keep them in a small pouch so that when you have to use the restroom, you can just take your pouch and not take your whole backpack.

You could also keep other things in this pouch, like a travel deodorant, breath spray, or perfume/cologne.

This is the pouch I carry

Pouch for Chargers

The essential backpack item is actually your device chargers, but that might be hard to pack everyday since you might forget to pack them. That is why I have a pouch specifically for my chargers. So every morning I remember to put them in that pouch and bring that pouch with me. And since I always carry my iPad and Apple Pencil with me, I also put my Apple Pencil accessories in that charger pouch.

This is my pouch for chargers

Travel Toothbrush Kit

This might be an odd college backpack essential item, but an essential item nonetheless. I’m not sure if carrying a toothbrush in your backpack is a thing in the US, but here in South Korea it is a classic backpack item for students.

This item is awesome for those late nights when you are studying in the library and you have coffee breath. Or after eating something smelly or something that gets caught in your teeth. It is especially good for those with braces, since I remember how food would get stuck in my braces and it was embarrassing to later notice it at home. Just whenever you need to freshen up, like after lunch, you can go to the restroom and brush your teeth.

Since they are a common thing where I live, there are easily found in stores. This is the one I carry in my backpack.


The last item in the this college backpack essentials for college students list are snacks. It is always a good idea to carry some small snacks to have a pick-me-up for those classes where you are really tired or for when you get hungry but it’s still not time for lunch. It is also good to have snacks for when you don’t have enough time to go out to the cafeteria or restaurant to get a meal.

I recommend small, but filling snacks such as granola bars, nuts, and yogurt that you pack in the morning before you leave.


These backpack essentials don’t just have to be for college students, they can also be for high school students or just any student in general. I hope this list of backpack essentials for college students helps some students pick out the items they want to carry in their backpack for the next school semester.






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