Ultimate College Packing List for Guys: Dorm Room Essentials

two young men setting up their college dorm room

Packing up and moving to a college campus for the first time can be overwhelming, especially if you’re not sure about what to bring. And most places won’t come with a curated list of things college students should have with them. However, with a little bit of thought, you can transform your college dorm room into your very own sanctuary. A just-graduated college student gives his best advice on dorm room essentials and other things to add to your packing list.

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Freshman year marks the beginning stages of your experience as a college student and opens the door for self-discovery. This is the perfect time to uncover what your interests are and experiment with your style. Personalizing your dorm room is a great way to do this and make your space more – you!

General Dorm Room Décor

Contrary to what you might believe, decorating your dorm is not exclusive to college girls. There are many ways to upgrade your living space as a guy in college. A good place to start your packing list is with these dorm decorating ideas for guys.

Wall & Window Décor

For example, hanging posters on your walls is such a creative, yet easy way to liven up your dorm room. In my room, I hung posters of my favorite album covers. To elevate the look even further, I found frames on Amazon that were the same dimensions as the posters and hung them on the walls.

If you’re worried about damaging the walls, stress no longer because command strips work perfectly for this. This was great, not only for my own enjoyment but as great conversation starters with my roommates.

College students who like it really dark when they sleep may want to add blackout curtains to their packing list. Depending where a room is located, street lights or light from other buildings may shine in. Or students who like to stay up late and book later morning classes may just want to keep their rooms dark after the sun comes up.

These blackout shades can be cut to custom fit a window and adhere with velcro dots.


Another great way to personalize your room with décor is lights. Sometimes the overhead lighting can be a bit too harsh, especially when you are trying to relax. LED lights are great because you can change the energy of your room with just the click of a button, and they are unbelievably easy to install.

If LED lights just aren’t your vibe, then try decorating your dorm with a fun floor lamp or desk lamp.

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Finally, I think one of my favorite ways to upgrade my space was adding plants to my room. There are very few better ways to liven up your dorm room than with some good greenery.

Of course, plants aren’t the first thing that comes to mind when considering your college packing checklist, but they sure are a great option.

Most universities allow students to keep plants in their dorm rooms as a part of their housing contract. Etsy offers all kinds of plant pots, from basketballs to Pokèmon-shaped pots.

Sometimes messes happen and you may spill some soil, so it might not be a bad idea to have a small vacuum handy.

Dorm Room Essentials

Making sure your room looks nice is an important part of curating the perfect dorm room experience, however it is probably a good idea to have practical items on hand to make dorm life easier.


Once you start moving your things in, you’ll quickly realize how small college dorm rooms can really be, especially if you are sharing your space with a roommate. With an assortment of different dorm items, things can get messy fast.

It is a great idea to organize your room with – well, organizers. You can easily make your small space less cluttered by putting your dorm essentials in organizers.

Utilizing organizers in your room also means reducing clutter and maximizing space! Residence halls don’t provide a ton of space for all of your Dick’s Sporting Goods or Old Navy clothes. Under-bed storage bins are the perfect solution to creating more space where there is none.

They are perfect for storing extra clothes that won’t fit in the dorm room closets. These storage bins also work great for storing miscellaneous items, you just can’t find a home for.

Of course, you will need to consider how to organize all of your school supplies for the school year. There are loads of great options for keeping your desk area well kept. Check out these desk organizers that are great for keeping all your most important school supplies sorted.

It also can be hard making it to the dining halls and using meal plans every meal of every day, so it’s great idea to keep some snacks around. In some cases, you may not have enough room in your dorm for an entire mini fridge.

These rolling storage carts from Amazon make the perfect storage space for keeping your food items nice and neat.


Your size twin xl bed will likely take up most of the space inside your dorm, so it’s important that you choose bedding you like. There are tons of ways to customize your space with how you dress your bed.

One simple way to elevate your dorm room bed is by using bed risers. These cubes go underneath the legs of your bed to raise the height of it, creating more space for storage.

Additionally, I remember not feeling supported on my mattress for a while when I was living in the dorms in college. Discovering mattress toppers changed that for me forever. Having a mattress pad with an extra layer of cushion to sleep on really makes a world of difference in terms of comfortability.

This gel-infused mattress topper from Sleepyhead is designed to regulate your body temperature and ease your body’s pressure points. This brand is seriously a major go-to for college students.

Last but definitely not least, the actual bedding you use will set the tone for the rest of your living space. Use Etsy as inspiration for your sheets and duvet covers. You may like what you find. Add some personality to your bed with funny pillows.

Personal Items

Your first time in college can be overwhelming, and knowing which of your personal items to bring with you can be stressful. Here is a list of items that you may want to consider bringing with you for practical use and just for your own leisure.

Aside from enhancing comfort and functionality, including the right items in your list of college essentials also can help you create a sense of home.

You need to make sure you include your bathroom essentials in your list of things to bring. This may seem obvious, but these items may go overlooked if you aren’t careful.

  • A shower caddy: The walk from your dorm room to the communal bathroom is so much easier if you have a shower tote to hold all of your belongings.
  • Shower shoes: While you’d like to think that your shared bathroom stays 100% clean all the time, that’s just probably not the reality. Bringing Shower shoes with you to the bathroom protects you against bacterial or fungal infections.
  • Health-related items: Items like a first aid kit are super nice to have on hand when you need them. Similarly, it is a great idea to keep medicines like NyQuil or Tylenol around.
  • Shaving kit: As a guy in college, it’s probably a better idea to stay well-groomed than not. Consider bringing a trimmer and shaving cream for this.
  • Alarm clock: Many students use their phone as an alarm clock, but it can be nice to have a real alarm clock you can see from across the room. And to not depend on a phone that could be dead or missing when you need to set it.
  • Personal safe: This might sound weird, but dorm rooms get a lot of traffic and students don’t always know who is coming and going. Many students keep laptops, important documents or other valuables in a small personal safe when they aren’t in their rooms. We reviewed some of their favorite laptop safes.

Aside from the obvious, like bringing a towel and bodywash, you may also want to consider bringing some items that will improve your day-to-day while in college.


This may be one of the most important items included on this list. Music is going to be one of your best friends as a college student. Invest in some good headphones to enhance your experience in the best way.

(Pro Tip: Price does not always equal quality in headphones. Don’t be afraid to go cheap with some headphone brands, but do your homework so you know what you’re getting.)

Water Bottles

I don’t think I can stress this one enough. Bring a reusable water bottle. Sometimes your classes may be on opposite sides of campus and you’ve walked multiple miles a day before you even know it. It is important to stay hydrated, and the best way to make sure is by keeping a reusable water bottle with you. Hydroflask has insulated water bottles in all different sizes and colors.

Easy-to-Forget Clothes

You’ll obviously need daily clothes, but there are a few easy-to-forget items that are worth noting.


It’s easy to forget to pack a winter coat if you’re packing up in warm weather. The same goes for a rain jacket. Pack both, plus a small umbrella that can easily fit in a backpack for rainy days walking campus.

Professional Attire

Campus might be casual most of the time, but there are occasions that call for professional attire as well. Pack a suit or dress pants with a jacket and tie for professional events like internship and job fairs or interviews, or for dressy occasions like formals.


If you are into fitness, think about bringing some activewear with you. Most college campuses have recreational centers where you can work out and play sports. In college, athletic shorts are a guy’s best friend.


An underrated answer that I don’t think is often included in these conversations is games. Games are such a great way to socialize and meet new people during your freshman year. Bring some board games or even video games with you to your dorm. It may be a shared interest for you and your peers.

Here are a few popular games, but this master list of games for teens has even more ideas.

Laundry & Cleaning Items

Doing laundry in a college dorm can be kind of daunting, but there are some things you can bring with you to help.

Laundry baskets or hampers are a must have in the residence halls. Who knows how far your room will be from the laundry room, so it’s best to have a laundry basket to tote your clothes to and from your dorm room.

There’s is also a good chance that your school won’t provide detergent for you to use, so you should make sure you have some. I like to use Tide Pods because they just pop right into the machine without any pouring.

An iron and an ironing board are also great to have. An alternative to that is a steamer. Steamers are super easy to use and are typically pretty small. Now when it’s time to break out your suit, you don’t have to worry about showing up with wrinkles.

Don’t forget to pack general cleaning supplies as well. Things to clean spills and disinfect surfaces in the room.

School Supplies

Most professors are pretty clear about what supplies will be necessary for their course in the syllabus. The following items are for the items that won’t be as clearly laid out for you.

  • Planner: Planners are super useful for organizing assignments and keeping track of all of your duties week by week. Get a planner with a cool design – it’ll make it fun to keep track of your school tasks this way.
  • Backpack: Choosing the right backpack is more important than you think. You want to be sure that your bag has a look that you like but is still functional enough to hold your textbooks. There are tons of different backpack styles like totes, crossbody, laptop and so many more. Make sure you choose one that meets your specific needs.
  • Whiteboard: Similar to a planner, whiteboards are a great way to keep track of all the things you need to do. It also can help you and your roommate communicate with one another to create the best environment possible.
  • Laptop: Before you purchase a laptop, take a look at our article on ways to get free laptops as a college student (or deep discounts). We did a ton of research and uncovered amazing resources. Also make sure to pack a surge protector power strip.

Overall, your years in college will be some of the most transformational in your life. You won’t get every single thing right – and that’s perfectly fine.

The most important thing is to stay focused, have fun and remember that you have unlimited resources at your disposal. Everyone is here to make the college experience as helpful as possible to you.

Hopefully you feel just a little bit more prepared to have the best year ever.

Malachi Brooks

Malachi Brooks is a 2023 graduate of The Ohio State University. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in communication.

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