16 Surprising Items to Pack for College This Year

You'll be surprised how often you'll use #10.

college packing list: woman packing
Photo: Getty

With the effects of coronavirus being felt around the country, college this fall is going to look very different. While some colleges are continuing virtually, others are starting to welcome students back to campus for in-person classes. There's bound to be some anxiety about returning to society post-quarantine, but being equipped with the right items will give you (and Mom and Dad) more peace of mind and make your college habitat a safer and homier place to be.

Aside from the obvious checklist (clothes, bedding, school supplies, etc.), here are some items that never seem to make the to-pack list—but are bound to be something you wish you have in your dorm room.

01 of 16

Face masks


Wearing a face mask is enforced in a lot of public areas, and even if it's not, you're going to want to have one on hand when you go out to crowded spaces. Face masks need to be washed, and since you don't know how often you can do laundry on campus, it's best to pack several masks so you can have a clean one available at all times.

To buy: $25 for 10; oldnavy.com.

02 of 16

Disinfectant wipes


Disinfectant wipes are always good to have on hand—but it's especially necessary now. Use it on your desk before class starts, or wipe down your school supplies once you return to your dorm room.

To buy: $5; homedepot.com.

03 of 16

UV light box


UV light has been proven to kill the coronavirus. Invest in a good machine with germicidal UV-C bulbs to sanitize your belongings. If you're dealing with something that can be damaged with alcohol inside disinfectant wipes, toss it into this Coral UV box instead. It's large enough to fit all your belongings and you can blast them together in one run.

To buy: $149; amazon.com.

04 of 16

Non-contact door opener


In addition to hand sanitizer, which should be a new essential item in your purse, add a non-contact keychain and door opener to your going-out arsenal. The stylus point can be used to press buttons on pin pads, elevators, and light switches, and the hook offers a better way to open doors without having to touch germy surfaces around campus.

To buy: $13; amazon.com.

05 of 16

Water filter


Whether it's for drinking water or spontaneous ramen meals, you're going to want to make sure you have some clean water available. Plastic water bottles take up a lot of pace (and are terrible for the environment) so invest in a filtered carafe to stay hydrated.

To buy: $24; hydroslife.com.

06 of 16

Stain-Removing or Bleach Pens


Since dirty or stained clothing often hits the hamper (and stays there for a bit), having a tool to tackle immediate spots will save soiled garments.

To buy: $4; walgreens.com.

07 of 16

Adhesive hooks and strips


Most dorms don't allow you to drill into the walls. A quick solution to satiate your decorating desires? Adhesive strips! These will let you secure posters and other flexible objects to walls without damaging the surface.

To buy: $8; target.com.

08 of 16

Dish Soap


After just one week at school, it'll seem like all of your dishes are in need of a rinsing. Sigh. Having a small bottle of dish soap in a room will make the dirty work a little easier (and more likely to happen).

To buy: $3; walgreens.com.

09 of 16

Business Casual Attire


Class presentations, job fairs, interviews—there are a number of reasons and occasions that will require a student to break out the pencil skirt or tie.

To buy: $168; jcrew.com.

10 of 16

Rain Gear


Unfortunately, classes do not stop due to rain, and when the weather gets rough, an umbrella just won't cut it. Pack a rain jacket with a hood and wellies, which can be worn year-round.

To buy: $150; hunterboots.com.

11 of 16

Cold Gear


Be prepared for snow or just reallly cold temperatures. Don't forget to pack a solid parka—and a pair of gloves, scarf, and hat that actually covers the ears.

To buy: $179; thenorthface.com.

12 of 16

Measuring Cup


Cooking in a cramped dorm room can be challenging, but having the right tools can make mealtime prep easier. A measuring cup will also come in handy for boiling water in the winter for tea or hot cocoa.

To buy: $12; target.com.

13 of 16

Wrinkle Remover Spray


Refuse to sacrifice space for the iron and ironing board? Fair enough. Pack a bottle of wrinkle remover spray, which will come in handy on those hectic mornings.

To buy: $7; target.com.

14 of 16

Extra Blanket


Whether tossed on the bed for extra warmth or spread out on the dorm room floor for a soft cushion, this extra layer will often come in handy. Bonus points if it's weighted to help with stress levels.

To buy: $25; target.com.

15 of 16

Over-the-Door Storage Units


Dorm rooms are cramped so you're going to want all the space you can get. Optimize hidden vertical space with these over-the-door units that let you store all the shoes you bring from home.

To buy: $15; containertstore.com.

16 of 16

Stamps and Stationery


Stashing a book of stamps and some blank note cards in a spare desk drawer will come in handy when least expected, like sending a thank-you note for a job interview or birthday gift.

To buy: $19; bloomingdales.com.

Updated by
Victoria Mechler

Victoria Mechler is a former editorial intern at Real Simple. Since interning, she has gone on to work at Cowboys & Indians Magazine. Highlights: * Teaching assistant at Missouri School of Journalism * Director of brand marketing at Lucchese Bootmaker

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