Commuting to campus this semester? Here are 15 absolute essentials for college commuter students that you need to pack in your backpack or car.
This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my link, at no extra cost to you. Learn more: Affiliate Disclaimer.
Being a commuter student is a little bit trickier than living on campus.
You can’t just run to your dorm quick if you forget to put on deodorant or pack an umbrella. Commuting to college means you need to be prepared for just about any scenario.
I was a commuter student for two years in college, and I definitely learned what I needed to have in my car and backpack to get through the day.
That’s why I put together this list of 15 essentials for college commuter students.
Top Essentials For College Commuter Students
As a college commuter, the right essentials can make your campus days smoother and more productive.
Here are the items you need to ensure you’re well-prepared:
1. Sturdy Backpack
A sturdy and comfortable backpack is essential for a commuter student.
It should have plenty of space to carry all your day’s necessities, including electronics, books, and personal items.
Look for one with padded straps for comfort and multiple compartments for organization.
I had an Osprey brand backpack when I commuted in college and it was PERFECT. Osprey makes really good backpacks and if anything breaks, they will repair it for free.
Their Proxima backpack is perfect for college commuters because it has a ton of space, a built in laptop sleeve, and tons of internal organization.
2. Laptop or Tablet
Most college work is online, so a laptop or tablet is a must-have in my opinion.
You’ll use it all the time for taking notes, researching, and completing assignments.
Get one that’s lightweight and has a good battery life for convenience on campus.
If you don’t have access to a laptop, don’t worry too much. Most colleges will have communal computers that are available for use in the student union or library.
The WORST feeling is driving all the way to campus and realizing your phone or laptop is on low battery.
Make sure you’re always carrying chargers for your phone and laptop/tablet.
As a backup, I would also recommend always having a portable charger in your backpack.
This one is my all-time favorite because all of the necessary cords and plugs are built-in. And the battery life on it lasts for SO long!
4. Planner or Calendar
A planner is so crucial for keeping track of your schedule, assignments, exams, and social commitments.
It helps in managing your time effectively, which is a key skill for any student, but especially a commuter student.
If you’re an all-digital kind of person, Google calendar works great for managing your schedule and to-do list.
If you prefer a paper planner, this is a really good affordable option from Amazon.
5. Spare Cash
It’s always smart to have some emergency cash with you when you’re on campus.
You never know when you’ll run out of gas, have to pay for parking, or you forget your lunch and need to buy something.
If you don’t like carrying around cash, you could also carry a pre-paid debit card or emergency credit card.
6. Rain Gear
Be prepared for unpredictable weather. An umbrella or a compact raincoat can save the day when unexpected rain hits.
This compact umbrella from Amazon folds down SUPER small so it’ll fit perfectly in your backpack.
I also recommend keeping rain or snow boots in your car if you live somewhere where the weather is unpredictable.
Trudging through snowy sidewalks in between classes is NOT fun when you’re wearing tennis shoes.
7. Emergency Car Kit
If you’re commuting to campus in a car, you absolutely need an emergency car kit.
Honestly, everyone should have this in their car even if they’re not a commuter. It has just about everything you’d need in case of a car emergency.
If you’d rather buy everything separately, make sure you at least have jumper cables, a flashlight, and an emergency thermal blanket.
To maintain energy and save money, bring snacks or a packed lunch. Opt for healthy options like fruits, nuts, or sandwiches that are easy to eat on the go.
If you’re a commuter student, you’re probably not on a campus meal plan.
A lot of commuter students end up paying for food on campus, which can get SO expensive.
When I was a commuter student, I would always try to save money by packing my own food for the day.
I also recommend keeping a few granola bars, fruit snacks, nuts, etc. in your car or backpack for days when you forget to pack a lunch.
9. Water Bottle
It can be easy to forget to drink water when you’re running around to classes.
Having a water bottle with you at all times encourages you to drink more water. Plus, you won’t have to waste money on plastic water bottles every single day.
Owala water bottles are SUPER popular right now because they’re leakproof, durable, and come in tons of cute colors.
10. Parking Pass
Getting a ticket because you forgot your parking pass at home is NOT fun.
Keep your parking pass in your car at all times so you don’t end up without it.
It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on the expiration date. Sometimes your parking pass will expire in the middle of the semester and you’ll be left with nowhere to park.
11. Extra Clothes
Have you ever driven all the way to campus and then spilled your entire mug of coffee on yourself?
I can tell you from experience – it’s not fun!
I really wish I had put an extra set of clothes in my car for fashion emergencies like that. So learn from my mistakes and keep an extra outfit in your car at all times.
Headphones are essential for listening to lectures, music, or podcasts between classes.
Between walking to class, hitting the gym, and studying in the library, I used my headphones pretty much all day every day.
Noise-canceling headphones can also be a lifesaver when you’re trying to study in noisy environments.
13. Travel-Sized Toiletries
Packing some smaller toiletries in your backpack is a good idea for commuter students.
You can’t just run to your dorm room quickly and put on deodorant or change your contact lenses. So it’s important to keep your essential toiletries with you.
Here are some of the most important toiletry essentials for college commuter students:
- Menstrual products
- Lip balm
- Contact solution & glasses
- Hand lotion
14. Extra Layers
Campus buildings can vary a LOT in temperature. And the weather can change throughout the day.
Keeping an extra layer of clothing with you is always a good idea.
I recommend stashing a sweatshirt or light jacket in your car so that you’re always prepared.
15. All Of Your Textbooks
If you forget a textbook at home, you probably won’t have the time (or gas money) to drive all the way home to get it.
It’s a good idea to just keep ALL of your textbooks in the car with you every day.
Plus, you may have some extra time in between lectures. You can use that time to study or do homework for your other classes.
Hopefully this list of college commuter essentials gave you some ideas of what items you need to bring for your days on campus!