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College will be back in session soon enough, which also means a new batch of freshmen will start living the dorm life. If that applies to you, we think it’s a good idea to stock up on a few essentials for your new tiny abode before you get there, especially if this is your first time away from home. We’ve got tech recommendations, of course, but not everything on this list is a gadget. That’s because we also wanted to cover the other items that will bring you the comforts of home to your dorm and hopefully make student life less stressful.
Hario V60 Electric Kettle
Whatever your morning drink of choice, an electric kettle makes it that much easier to get hot water ready quickly. The Hario V60 Electric Kettle is especially useful for those who love pour-over coffee, as its thin gooseneck spout allows for a slow and steady pour. But it also works great for tea, hot chocolate or instant ramen. We also like its stainless steel design, which makes it easy to clean. The biggest knock against it is its lack of variable temperature settings – something tea snobs may find necessary. If that’s a must-have, we recommend the Cuisinart CPK-17, which has six preset heat settings for different varieties of tea.
Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2
College life isn’t all about studying – you’ll want to party and blast your favorite music, and for that you’ll need a speaker more powerful than the one inside your smartphone. A portable Bluetooth speaker like the UE Wonderboom 2 is the best way to do that, as it offers better audio quality than your phone and the battery lasts up to 13 hours. We also like the Wonderboom 2 because it delivers big sound in a compact package that’s both cute and easy to carry around. And no worries about dropping it either, as it’s durable enough to survive a five-foot drop. It’s also IP67-rated to be dustproof and waterproof, so feel free to bring it to the beach, too.
Yamazaki Home desk organizer
You might not have a large desk in your dorm room, which makes a desk organizer all the more essential. We recommend this one from Yamazaki Home because it has a simple base tray for items like keys and coins plus a compartment for pens, pencils, sunglasses and more. You can also prop your phone against the frame, turning it into a makeshift phone stand, and hang your watch and jewelry on the arm. Its use of vertical space is particularly handy since you probably don’t have a ton of extra room to space on your small dorm desk. We also like its minimalist design, which will go well with however you style your space.
Stasher bowls and bags
Snacks are a necessity, whether it’s for late-night study sessions or binge-watching the latest Netflix show. We like these reusable silicone bags and bowls from Stasher because you can use them to store your favorite snacks. They’re also microwave safe so you can use them to heat up meals or even make popcorn. They come in a bunch of different sizes, so you can get a few that will fit your favorite snacks or even meals, if you’re into food prepping. And they’re not just for food, either. You can use them to store makeup, jewelry, small accessories and more, making them good options for travel as well.
AFROG LED desk lamp
Don’t rely on the glow from your laptop if you’re up late studying. We recommend investing in a quality desk lamp to minimize eye strain and fatigue. The AFROG multifunctional LED desk lamp is an especially useful one because it’s so versatile. It has five lighting modes and seven levels of brightness so you can dial it to your preference. There’s a 30- or 60-minute auto off timer so you can fall asleep and it’ll turn off by itself. It has a wireless charging base plus a USB charging port so you can charge your devices at the same time.
Belkin MagSafe 3-in-1 wireless charger
If you own multiple Apple products and you’re constantly detangling charging cables, we highly recommend a 3-in-1 wireless charger like the Belkin BoostCharge Pro. It has a 15W MagSafe charging base for your iPhone and charging spaces for your Apple Watch and AirPods as well. The horizontal layout lets you charge any Qi-capable phone, though at reduced speeds, or other compatible earbuds and accessories. On top of that, the flat pad format means you can easily pack it in your bag the next time you go on a trip.
Fully Cora standing desk converter
Sitting for long hours is bad for your health, but getting a standing desk on a student’s budget is probably out of the question. One good solution: a standing desk converter like Fully’s Cora. It works on any surface, and you can tuck it away when not in use. Simply press the side levers to raise the work surface from a slim 1.3 inches to a fully extended 15.7 inches. No need to worry about damaging your furniture’s surface either, as it has non-skid pads underneath.
Sony WH-CH710N headphones
Dorm life can be fun, but it can also be pretty noisy, especially if you have a roommate. If you’re the kind of person who needs peace and quiet to focus on your work, consider a pair of noise-canceling headphones. We’ve reviewed tons of them at various price points, and it can be easy to think that you need the top of the line model to get adequate silence. But that’s not always the case: Sony’s WH-CH710N is a solid choice because they’re fairly affordable and they deliver plenty of sound-blocking power thanks to the company’s dual noise sensor technology. It even has an ambient-sound option, which you can toggle on to hear what’s going on around you. We also appreciate their 35-hour battery life – depending on how often you use them, you’ll get through a bunch of study sessions before they need a power up.
Linenspa shredded foam pillow
Comfort is key to dorm living, which is why we recommend an oversized reading pillow like this one from Linenspa. It helps change up your seating position so you’re not in your desk chair all the time, and it’s definitely a lot more comfortable than just piling up bed pillows against the wall. The pillow is filled with shredded memory foam so it won’t put a lot of stress on your back, plus it comes with a soft velour cover. That posture support makes it great for reading, playing games or watching TV. As a bonus, there’s also a handle on the top that makes it easy to carry around.
Pure Green 100% Natural Latex mattress topper
Chances are, the bed in your dorm room isn’t very comfortable. It’s also probably not easy (or cost effective) to change the mattress. That’s why we recommend getting a mattress topper: It’s the one way to control how your bed feels without spending a lot of money. We prefer a natural latex option like this one from Pure Green because it delivers comfort and support without the sinking feeling of memory foam. It also won’t absorb much body heat, which helps keep you cool throughout the night. Pure Green sells its mattress topper in three different thicknesses — from one inch to three — to fit your particular needs. Opt for the 1- or 2-inch if you want firm or medium-firm, or spring for the 3-inch model if you prefer a something softer.
Lunya Sleep Mask
Roommate pulling an all-nighter with the lights on? Want to catch some z’s in the afternoon in between classes? Or maybe you’re just particularly sensitive to light? If you can relate to any of this, we recommend getting a sleep mask to make it easier for you to drift off into dreamland. This one from Lunya is one of our personal favorites because it completely blocks out light and feels comfortable to boot; it’s like wearing pillows on your eyes. We tend to prefer this model over masks with eye cups because it’s not quite as bulky. The Lunya’s wide elasticized band will fit most people and it even covers the ears, which helps reduce noise. It’s also machine washable, so you can easily keep it clean.
You’re probably not allowed to have an Instant Pot in your dorm room, but one kitchen appliance that almost always gets the thumbs up is a microwave. Sure, you can use it to heat up frozen dinners, but why not try it to cook actual dishes as well? Anyday’s line of microwave cookware lets you do exactly that. Everything is microwave safe, including the stainless steel rim (its smooth and curved shape prevents electrical arcing). Its primary feature is its lid, which has a knob that can vent excess steam when it is lifted. Thanks to this innovation, you can make everything from mac and cheese to a breakfast burrito using only your microwave. For college students, we recommend the medium dish set — they’re sized just right for solo diners.
Black + Decker 20V Max handheld vacuum
One of the first lessons you’ll likely learn as a college student is that you’ll have no one to clean up after you. That means doing your own laundry and yes, cleaning your own room. The easiest way to do so is with a handheld vacuum, like the Black+Decker 20V Max. It only weighs three pounds so it’s lightweight enough for you to clean your whole room without a lot of fuss. It has a pivoting nozzle which makes it ideal for getting around tight corners and hard-to-reach shelves. Its high-performance motor provides plenty of suction and its 15-ounce capacity is large enough for most dorm rooms. The bowl and filter are removable so you can give them a good wash in between uses. It’s also overall easy to use and fairly affordable, two things you can’t often say about fancy, expensive vacuums.
Playing casual board games is a great way to socialize at gatherings without the need to engage in small talk. A really popular one is called Codenames, a party game that pits two teams of spies against each other. Each “spymaster” has to get their teammates to guess hidden words (which are plotted out on a grid) using only one-word clues and a number. For example, if you wanted your team to guess the words “costume,” “web,” and “spider,” you might say “Peter, 3” to indicate that there are three clues on the board that match that word. There are also clues you have to avoid, which makes the game a little harder. The game is easy to explain and it encourages communication, which helps break the ice.
If you want a game that’s more light-hearted, we recommend Herd Mentality. It accommodates four to 20 players, which makes it perfect for parties. In it, you simply take turns flipping over a question and trying to write down what you think everyone else will answer as well. For example, if the question is “What is the best way to cook an egg?” you write “scrambled” and it turns out that is what most other players answered as well, you will get points. But beware of giving the answer that’s the odd one out, because you’ll get the dreaded Pink Cow and be in danger of losing the game – unless you can somehow trick someone else into getting it instead.