The best dorm room essentials for college students

A new college year is just around the corner, which means it’s time for a new batch of freshmen to live independently for the first time. If you’re in this group, it’s a good idea to pack a few essentials that will make your dorm room feel more like a (small) second home. We’ve rounded up a few hostel-friendly items that we can safely recommend; This is Engadget, so expect a lot of tech gear, but we also have a few non-gadgets that can make student life a little less stressful.

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I resisted the smart speaker until a few months ago. after receiving Echo Dot, I now use Alexa to set alarms, play focus music, remind me about things, and keep track of the weather—all of which would be very useful at school. Sure, your phone can do a lot of this, but anything that helps you pick up your phone less is a productivity boost in itself. What’s more, the Dot works with all the major music services, and the sound quality is surprisingly good for its size. There’s more than enough to entertain a dorm room and get your studies right. — Amy Skorheim, reporter, Buying Advice

$50 on Amazon


Comfort is key to dorm living, so we recommend an oversized reading pillow this is from Linenspa. It helps to change your sitting position so you’re not always in a desk chair, and it’s more comfortable than stacking sleeping pillows against the wall. The pillow is filled with shredded memory foam so it doesn’t put too much strain on your back, plus it comes with a soft plush cover. This posture support makes it great for reading, gaming or watching TV. As a bonus, there’s also a handle on top that makes it easy to carry. – Nicole Lee, former business writer

$34 on Amazon

Twelve south

If you like to retreat to the corner of your dorm to watch shows on your tablet, this one HoverBar Duo can make viewing more comfortable. It’s one of our favorites ipad accessories, but it will work with anything in this relative size range. You can either use it as a weighted stand or swap out the base for a clamp and attach it to any bar or table edge. In other words, it can turn your desk or bed into a mini home theater (just add headphones when roommates are around). The arm is also adjustable so you can get the right viewing angle, but I was impressed with how firmly it held the tablet once you put it in place. It’s not a very complicated addition, but it makes for a more comfortable viewing experience than trying to hold your screen through multiple episodes. — AS

$42 on Amazon

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A good set of noise-canceling headphones can help you get some peace and quiet when you want to work or escape the hustle and bustle of your dorm mates. you you don’t have to spend a ton to find a quality pair: The Anker Soundcore Space A40 offers effective active noise cancellation, eight to 10 hours of battery life per charge, transparency mode, IPX4-rated water resistance, and solid sound quality for under $100 (and often even less than $80 on sale). If you don’t like their default bass sound, you can also customize the profile via the helpful companion app. Just note that these are headphones; if you prefer above the ear pair it, try it Anker Soundcore Life Q30. – Jeff Dunn, Senior Correspondent for Buying Advice

$59 on Amazon


Hostels may limit the number and types of kitchen appliances you can have, but most are fine with a simple electric kettle like this one. Zwilling Electric Kettle boils water scary fast and does not have an exposed heating element, which is not permitted by some housing codes. It also looks great, and in our tests it boiled 16 ounces of water for two minutes straight. Sure, it can help you make tea or coffee, but it’s worth it just to have a backup instant cup meals for oatmeal in the morning, cup noodles at midnight, and cravings in between. – AS

$95 on Amazon

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For when their phone speakers just don’t cut it UE Wonderboom 3 can enhance their dorm parties and cool-down sessions on the quad with powerful sound. The small, barrel-shaped speaker is compact enough to fit in a backpack, and thanks to its built-in top loop, it can be attached to the outside of a bag with a carabiner clip. We found the Wonderboom 3 to deliver the biggest sound portable Bluetooth speakers we’ve tested across its size range, and the latest model has improved battery life and wireless range. There’s no software, but it can be paired with other UE speakers for stereo sound. And if it accidentally falls off the table or takes a little knock, its IP67 rating and drop-resistant design should protect it more than enough. — Valentina Palladino, Associate Editor, Buying Advice

$63 on Amazon

Trip Lite

A good surge protector certainly isn’t the sexiest piece of tech you can buy, but it’s good to have around: not only will it give you enough outlets to plug in all your devices, but unlike a simple power strip, it’ll protect them from damaging power surges. The Tripp Lite TLP1208TEL should get the job done: It’s on the larger side, but it packs 12 outlets—four well-spaced plugs on one side and eight rows on the other—plus an eight-foot power cord. (There are also a few landline ports, but we doubt you’ll use them.) The Tripp Lite advertises 2,160 joules of protection, which should be plenty, and the device is officially listed by the company. UL, so it should keep your equipment safe for a long time. It will automatically turn off when worn out. And just in case something goes wrong, Tripp Lite backs it up with a lifetime warranty and $150,000. equipment protection policy. – JD

$45 on Amazon

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Nanoleaf modular smart lights allow to add identity and functional lighting for half of your room. The 90-degree “Smart” set comes with four Lines that connect at right angles, so you can create several different designs (square and X come to mind). The set is expandable and each stick has millions of colors with the ability to display two colors at once. Lines works with Alexa, HomeKit, Google Home, IFTTT and other smart home platforms, so you can set themes, create routines and control lights with your voice. But perhaps the best news for dorm-dwellers is mounting tape that won’t poke holes in your walls or piss off your RA. – AS

$100 on Amazon


When you’re too lazy to sit at your real desk, a lap desk like this one LapGear Designer it can make working from bed or couch more comfortable. The designer is softly cushioned and lightweight, with an easy-to-clean top large enough to fit a 15-inch laptop. A flap at the bottom helps prevent things from sliding around when you’re sitting at an angle, plus there’s a slot to store your phone and a handle to carry everything around. – JD

$30 on Amazon

Hulken Bag

The Hulken is a large rolling bag that makes it easy to carry a large load of laundry or groceries to the dorm. It’s not cheap, but it’s durable and has some handy straps and handles that make it easy to carry up stairs and roll around campus. Hulken said he can only weigh up to 66 pounds in a year the big version that can hold four or five grocery bags and a medium version can carry two or three. It can also be folded up when not in use, so it won’t take up too much space in a tight room. – JD

$115 in Hulken Bag

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Many hostels don’t have air conditioning, so it’s important to have a fan strong enough to cool you down in the late summer. The Vornado 630 it should do the job because it moves air around the room powerfully, but takes up little space on a desk or larger windowsill. It doesn’t swing, but its head can be tilted vertically, and the air circulation allows it to send a breeze across most of the room. A simple dial lets you switch between three speed settings, while the sturdy plastic frame is easy to clean and keeps things relatively quiet when running. Especially if you’re moving into a large dorm room. Vornado 660 is a stronger alternative. – JD

$70 at Kohl’s

Baloo Living

College life is stressful and we can all use a hug sometimes. If you want to experience that feeling without the whole “other person” part, a good sized blanket can be a soothing substitute. There are many decent blanks that may work best depending on how you sleep, however Baloo Weighted Blanket is a good thing to consider. Throws ranging from 12 to 25 pounds are available in full/queen or king sizes. Each one is filled with glass microbead pockets that gently squeeze without feeling too hot, and they all have a thin and smooth finish that looks sharp and is machine washable. It’s not a magic cure for sleep problems and anxiety, of course, but if you want to try a heavier blanket, it should be especially easy to keep comfortable. – JD

$179+ at Baloo Living

CGE Czech Games Edition

Playing casual board games is a great way to socialize in meetings without getting into small talk. It is called a really popular one Code names, a fun game that pits two teams of spies against each other. Each “spy” must force his teammates to guess the hidden words (arranged in a grid) using only one word clues and one number. For example, if you want your team to guess the words “suit,” “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 that you have to avoid, which makes the game a bit more difficult. The game is easy to explain and it encourages communication that helps break the ice. — NL

$20 on Amazon

Big Potato

If you want a lighter game, we recommend it Herd Mentality. Accommodates four to 20 players, making it perfect for parties. You simply try to turn the question around and write what you think others will answer. For example, if your question is “What is the best way to cook eggs?” you type “cooked” and it turns out that the other players have the same answer, and you’ll win points. But avoid giving an odd answer, as you’ll get the dreaded Pink Cow and risk losing the game – unless you can trick someone else instead. — NL

$25 on Amazon

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