The 22 Best Dorm Room Essentials to Buy in 2018

Shop the essentials every college student needs before heading back to school

Two young women sitting on bed in student dormitory, facing each other

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When it comes to dorm room living, square footage is extremely limited, so the last thing you want to do is to bring a lot of stuff you’ll never use. If you want to make the most of your small space, first, check out your school’s official packing guide. It will suggest essential items, and just as important, share what’s not allowed in your residence hall.

Does your college permit appliances like mini fridges and microwaves? No dorm room needs two of everything, so another way you can avoid dorm room clutter is to coordinate with your roommate on big-ticket items.

Another good to know, most schools provide residents with a twin-size bed. But you shouldn’t assume that the one in your room is standard size. Many residence halls are stocked with twin XL mattresses, which are five inches longer to better accommodate students of all heights.

Need a little help with dorm room shopping? We got your back. Here are the top 21 products every college student needs.

  • 01 of 22

    Best Bed Topper: DreamFoam 2" Gel Swirl Memory Foam Topper

    Real talk: The thin mattress in your dorm room is not very comfortable. Luckily, this two-inch thick topper will make your bed cushy. It’s available in every mattress size including twin Xl and short queen.

    The gel infused memory foam will cradle your body with cooling comfort. Worried about off gassing? Getting a good night’s sleep shouldn’t involve breathing dangerous chemicals that can harm your health and the environment. This topper will help you rest easy because it’s CertiPUR-US certified, meaning it’s low VOC.

  • 02 of 22

    Best Hangers: AmazonBasics Velvet Hangers


    Courtesy of Amazon

     These hangers combine a non-slip velvet surface with notched shoulders to stop clothing from sagging or falling. Unlike thick plastic hangers, these take up less closet space because of their slim profile. But don't interpret their thin design as flimsy because each one can hold up to 10 whopping pounds. The hangers are available in packs of 30, 50 and 100.

  • 03 of 22

    Best Vacuum: Dirt Devil Simpli-Stik Bagless Corded Stick and Handheld Vacuum

    Don’t be that roommate who breeds dust bunnies. This lightweight stick vacuum by Dirt Devil sucks up dirt and crumbs two ways. You can use it in the upright position like a canister vacuum or you can detach the cleaning unit for use as a hand vacuum.

    Either way, its 16 foot electrical cord will provide enough leeway for your dorm room cleaning needs.

  • 04 of 22

    Best Bedding: Amazon Basics 5-Piece Bed-In-A-Bag

     Show off your unique style while making your dorm room extra cozy with beautiful bedding. This five- piece set available in full/queen and twin/twin XL is made of incredibly soft, polyester microfiber that’s machine washable. It includes a flat sheet, fitted sheet, comforter, pillowcase, and sham. Not a fan of blue? It’s also available in teal, purple floral, and gray leaf

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  • 05 of 22

    Best Shower Flip Flops: Crocs Unisex Athens Flip Flops

    Make the trek to the community showers with the Crocs Unisex Athens Flip Flops on your feet and you won’t have to worry about picking up germs or slipping and sliding.

    The Athens Flip Flop by Crocs combines a cushioned footbed with a minimal design that lets water run off your feet and down the drain. The textured sole is anti-slip and the grippy footbed will keep your foot in place. While there are no drain holes in the footbed of these sandals, they’re made of lightweight and quick-drying dense foam material.

    Available in several different colors and men’s and women’s sizes, pick up a pair of Crocs Athens Flip Flops and hit the showers! 

  • 06 of 22

    Best First Aid Kit: Home First Aid Kit, 72-Pieces

    Boo-boos happen. This 72-piece first aid kit is the total package that includes more than just bandages and antiseptic cleansing wipes. Inside the water resistant, canvas bag you’ll find gear for medical emergencies from tweezers to a resuscitation mouth to mouth mask. FYI, the latter could be a lifesaver while waiting for paramedics. 

  • 07 of 22

    Best Surge Protector: Cable Matters 6-Outlet Wall Mount Surge Protector

    Turn a standard electrical outlet in your dorm room into a charging station with this handy surge protector. It installs quickly into a vertical grounded AC outlet. The two USB ports, which are compatible with both Android and Windows phones banish the need for proprietary chargers. The four electrical outlets increase your powering options while protecting your electronics from voltage spikes. Not sure if it’s working? A green LED strip at the top of this device verifies surge suppression at a glance. 

  • 08 of 22

    Best Picture Frame: Umbra Hangit Photo Display

    Decorate your dorm room wall with this cute display by Umbra called Hangit. It will turn all of your favorite cards, sketches, and printed photos into a one-of-kind piece of art.

    Each DIY kit comes with everything need to get started including 40 mini clothespins and hanging hardware. Hangit is available in four colors: Black, mint, natural and white. When fully assembled it measures: 30 inches x 26 inches. Psst, not allowed to bolt stuff to the walls? Pick up a pack of Command Picture and Frame Hanging Strips

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  • 09 of 22

    Best Shower Caddy: Attmu Mesh Shower Caddy

    Make getting in and out of the dorm showers easier with this rustproof shower caddy made of durable, quick drying mesh. It’s available in five different colors: black, blue, pink, green and orange and features nine separate compartments for keeping your products and gear organized. For easy carrying and hanging, the lightweight caddy comes equipped with a handle. Even better, if you’re not 100 percent thrilled with this item, it comes with a 30-day money back guarantee. 

  • 10 of 22

    Best Hamper: PRO-MART DAZZ Deluxe Mesh Pop-Up Laundry Hamper

    Washing clothes is drudgery -- But this pop-up hamper that holds up to two loads makes the job a little easier because it’s also an easy to carry laundry bag. It’s available in four colors: black, blue, pink and white.

    The durable mesh frame can hold up to 50 pounds thanks to a unique patented design. Side pockets for laundry products add to this bag’s convenience. When the hamper is empty, it folds flat for easy storage.

  • 11 of 22

    Best Storage: Zober Flexible Zippered Underbed Storage Bags

    Granted, spending money on under-the-bed storage isn’t exactly fun. But when it comes to saving space, it’s a practical purchase you’ll never regret. Sold in packs of two, these breathable polypropylene storage bags that are also both puncture and tear resistant are perfect for keeping seasonal items, like your expedition parka or down comforter, out of sight and clean until the temperature drops. So you don’t forget what you stored, they have a clear vinyl top for visibility. The bags are available in your choice of black or java.

    Expanded measurements: Length: 42 inches, Width: 18 inches, Height: 6 inches.

  • 12 of 22

    Best Towels: Pinzon Blended Egyptian Cotton 6 Piece Towel Set

    Dry off with these incredibly affordable and wonderfully soft, 100 percent cotton towels. They don't skimp on absorbency or durability since they're a blend of heavyweight, Egyptian cotton. Of course, they’re machine washable and dryable. FYI, the manufacturer suggests doing both before using.

    The towels come in a set of six that includes: two 30 inch x 56 inch bath towels, two 18 inch x 30 inch hand towels, and two 13 inch x 13 inch washcloths. Are you looking for a particular color? Sets are available in 10 different shades: White, navy, cream, cocoa, cranberry, plum, Wedgewood blue, gray, moss and driftwood.

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  • 13 of 22

    Best Lap Desk: LapGear Lap Desk MyDesk

    Make using your computer while sitting without a desk more comfortable with this handy lap desk. It features soft, curved edges and cushions covered with microfiber that makes balancing a laptop up to 15 inches on your lap comfy. If your computer runs hot, this little desk will help keep things cool with its built-in airflow channel. It also has two deep storage trays for your smartphone and pens. The lap desk is available in four different colors: Aqua, black, pink and purple. 

  • 14 of 22

    Best Microwave: Westinghouse Counter Top Microwave Oven

    This compact microwave is the perfect size for heating up dorm room meals like ramen noodles or mac and cheese. It has six, one-touch cooking options including settings for pizza and popcorn that take the guesswork out of heating some of your favorites foods. There is also a speed defrost, and 10 different power levels that offer more cooking flexibility — Just set the timer and heat. The appliance’s LED display, which doubles as a digital clock, will chime when time runs out.

  • 15 of 22

    Best Fan: Vornado FIT Personal Air Circulator Fan

    Keep cool while creating a little white noise that masks annoying sounds with this compact fan by Vornado. It has a two-speed setting and an adjustable base for directing airflow. Its sleek design is available in your choice of aqua or pink. When this little fan is not needed, you can fold it flat for easy storage or travel. If you’re not happy with this appliance’s performance and quiet operation, it’s backed by a three-year customer satisfaction guarantee.

  • 16 of 22

    Best Tool Set: Allied Tools 25-Piece Tri-Fold Mini Tool Set

     Even if you don’t know the difference between a flathead screwdriver and slotted screwdriver a mini tool kit is a good thing to own, particularly when assembling furniture for your dorm room. This kit includes both standard size and precision screwdrivers. The latter is perfect for opening up electronic equipment like your PC and tightening those tiny screws on eyewear.

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  • 17 of 22

    Best To-Go: YETI Stainless Steel Vacuum Insulated Tumbler

     Fill this tumbler up with a hot or cold beverage from the dining hall and your drink will still be at ideal temperature by the time you get to class. How is that possible, you may be wondering? The YETI Rambler combines a stainless exterior with two walls of inner insulation for keeping liquids piping hot or icy cold. The cup also has a no-sweat design that keeps your hands dry and a crystal clear lid that’s both dishwasher safe, and shatter resistant. The 20-ounce travel tumbler is available in four different colors: Black, olive, sea foam and stainless steel.

  • 18 of 22

    Best Fridge: RCA Mini Refrigerator

    This 3.2 cubic foot mini refrigerator by Igloo is small enough for a dorm room but large enough to share with a roommate. It’s available in eight eye-popping colors: Purple, lime, orange, stainless steel, red, blue, white and black. Behind its chic exterior, you’ll find a built-in can dispenser, sliding tempered glass shelves and a small freezer.  There’s even an adjustable thermostat so you can keep things chilled at optimum temperature. Need one more reason to buy? The fridge's door is reversible so it can open left or right.

  • 19 of 22

    Best Headphones: COWIN E7 Active Noise Cancelling Bluetooth Headphones

    Lock in your focus and block out the noise with these best-in-class noise cancelling headphones from Cowin.

    The Cowin E7 Bluetooth headphones are equipped with active noise reduction technology to minimize the drone of an airplane or the commotion of the student commons area. Pair the Cowin E7 with your device using either Bluetooth or NFC technology and enjoy up to 18 hours of wireless listening. The long battery life is a major plus whether you plan to take these headphones on a spring break trip or just trips back and forth from the library.

    People find the audio quality from these reasonably-priced headphones to be fantastic. When listening to music, you’ll catch every note and feel the deep bass. And if you use these headphones for voice calls, people find the conversation to be crisp and clear whether they’re talking or listening. A few people point out that the volume control button is a little awkward to use, but the overall aesthetics and build quality of the Cowin E7 headphones impresses most users. While the noise reduction and sound quality aren’t necessarily equal to the most high-end Bluetooth headphones with active noise control, these are a great affordable alternative and a definite dorm room essential.

  • 20 of 22

    Best Plate and Bowl Set: Preserve Everyday Tableware Set

    If you get tired of the cafeteria meal plan or just want to be able to enjoy a snack in your dorm, dine in style with a sturdy plate and bowl set like the Preserve Everyday Tableware Set.

    This BPA-free dishware set is made in the USA from 100-percent recycled plastic. Unlike other plastic plate sets that seem flimsy or bend easily, people find the Preserve plates to be strong and relatively durable. While you might notice some utensil marks or scratches over time, this plastic dishware is a great alternative to disposable plates. Be eco-friendly and enjoy the convenience of plastic plates with the Preserve Tableware set.

    The set comes with four plates, four bowls, and four cups—so you can invite 3 of your closest friends back to your room for dinner or eat up to 4 meals before you have to wash dishes! The plates are dishwasher-safe, but you’re more likely to be hand washing the dishes for your dorm. Don’t worry if you drop a soapy plate or bowl, the plastic is durable and less likely to break than ceramic dishes. It’s also worth noting that the packaging indicates that this set is microwave-safe despite the fact that earlier versions of the product may not have been. 

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  • 21 of 22

    Best Letter Board: Felt Like Sharing Gray Letter Board

    Express yourself in style with a felt letter board. The 10" x 10" board from Felt Like Sharing is a perfect way to give your dorm room personality.

    This felt letter board comes with 300 letters and special characters that let you create custom messages for everyone to see. Use the felt board to display an inspiring message, a note to your roommate, or a quote to share on social media. The only minor complaint some people have is the fact that it can be time-consuming to separate the plastic characters from each other when you first receive the board. But once you’ve freed each letter, symbol, and number the messaging possibilities are ready and waiting with this popular felt board!

    The Felt Like Sharing letter board comes in a ready-to-display oak frame with a sawtooth hanger on the back. Or lean it on your desk if you can’t put holes in the wall. The 300 letters and characters are easily stored in the included drawstring pouch. And if gray doesn’t fit your dorm room décor, this felt message board is available in several other colors. People love the quality and look of this board and the fact that it comes attractively packaged. It makes a great gift for a college-bound student who wants to add personality to their dorm. 

  • 22 of 22

    Best Desk Lamp: IVY LED Desk Lamp with USB Port

    Add some much-needed light to your dorm room desk with a powerful yet compact desk lamp. The IVY LED Desk Lamp with USB port is our top choice.

    This small but mighty desk lamp will put off plenty of bright light, thanks to the 7-watt LED bulb. Adjust the light with 3 different brightness levels—go from high-power task lighting to low-level ambient light with just a tap.

    What really makes this desk lamp for dorm rooms stand out is the fact that it includes a USB charger. Every college student knows that outlets can be few and far between in a dorm room, so having a lamp that doubles as a phone or tablet charger is a major plus. We also like that the super flexible neck of this lamp will allow you to angle the light just where you need it. The IVY LED Desk Lamp isn’t the fanciest desk lamp for dorms, but it is functional and the budget price makes it a must-have item on your list.