university backpack essentials
School & Organization

University Backpack Essentials – What to Keep in Your Bag

As a university student you often spend all day on campus, sometimes with little for breaks between classes. If you need something often there isn’t time to run home or back to your dorm and get it. As a student myself I’ve figured out what things I just need to keep in my bag. From chargers to notebooks to tissues these university backpack essentials are what you need to keep in your bag at all times.

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Laptop or Tablet

Like a lot of people I take notes digitally so my tablet is the first thing to go in to my bag. I generally hand write notes on my tablet but I also type notes for some classes so I have a bluetooth keyboard so I don’t need my laptop.

However, if I am spending the rest of the day in the library I will often bring both. Alternatively I will use a library computer for a second screen.

Portable Charger

My devices used to die all the time. To the point where my friends just expect my phone to be dead. My tablet for the first few years of university also had a terrible battery life. I could get through about 2.5hours of solid use before it died. So about 2 and a half lectures. It absolutely sucks when you’re in the middle of writing notes trying to keep up with the prof and your computer just shuts off.

I swear by this belkin power bank. It’s no bigger than my phone but it holds so much charge. I can charge my iPad and my phone 2 times at least before it runs out.

Case for chargers

If you have a portable charger, you’re probably going to have multiple cords to go with it. To keep everything organized I store it all in a little pouch. I also have a small wall block and my laptop charger on the off chance my portable charger is dead.

I also recommend getting some mini charging cables like these. Its so annoying trying to charge off a power bank and you just have an endless amount of cable getting in the way. Another bonus is they take up way less space in your bag.

Emergency kit

I have another case that holds all my emergency supples. These are all the things you don’t typically need on the day to day but you don’t want to be running around campus searching for or asking all your friends for. Mine usually includes:

  • Pads / tampons
  • Bandaids
  • Advil or Tylenol ( or any other medications you need to keep with you)
  • Tide pen

I started carrying bandaids and medications in my bag after having to run to the campus pharmacy between classes a few times.

Hand Sanitizer and Moisturizer

I keep a hand sanitizer in all my bags. With the number of door handles you’ll touch or typing on library computers, you’ll want to sanitize your hands before eating your lunch.

The down side to hand sanitizer is that it drys out your hands so I also keep a small tube of moisturizer in my bag – I absolutely swear by this one! it is so good and keeping your hands from drying out.


You will definitely want to keep a mini pack of tissues in your bag. Particularly in the winter when everyone is sniffling and sneezing.

Personal Safety Alarm

A personal safety alarm is great if you are going to be walking alone on and around campus by yourself, especially at night. I have a she’s birdie alarm which I love. It has a really loud alarm and a strobe light that will go off if you pull the top pin. It’s nice and small so it doesn’t take up a much room. I usually have my in my bag during the day so I can pull it out when I’m walking around. I’ve never had it go off accidentally so you do need to worry about it accidentally going off. You can also check out my post on my top 15 tips for staying safe at uni.

You can get your she’s birdie alarm here, and you can get 10% off your order with the code MICHAELA10.


Whether or not you take digital notes I recommend always keeping a small notebook in your bag. If you are taking paper notes then I would suggest using one that you can tear the pages out of then stick into a binder. That way you are not carrying around all your notes for all your classes.

If you do take digital notes then a notebook is still a good idea. Sometimes technology fails so make sure you have a backup so that you don’t spend the entire lecture just sitting there.

Small Pencil Case

If you have a notebook you will need to have something to write with. I have a small pencil case that just holds a few things (you don’t need a million pens and highlighters during class). This mesh style one is nice because you can see what inside.

I keep a few mechanical pencils (don’t need a sharpener!), a couple black pens (labs will usually require black or blue ink), and a couple highlighters in it.


The odd class will give you handouts so it’s a good idea to have a folder where you can put them so they’re not just being shoved into your bag. They are also useful when you have to hand in a hard copy of any assignments, so you can keep it protected before you get to class.

Water Bottle

A reusable water bottle is important for staying hydrated. If I don’t have a water bottle on me, I pretty much just don’t drink any water. I love the contigo water bottles because they have their autoseal tops.


If you are studying on campus then you’ll probably want to have your headphones. I don’t bring any over the ear headphones, as they take up too much space in my bag. Instead I recommend ear buds that you can keep in the pouch with all your chargers.

Personal Items

The last few things you should have in your bag are your keys, wallet, and school ID. I know these are all pretty obvious but I wanted to make sure I included them just in case!

Optional Extras

Travel mug, if you are a tea or coffee drinker.

Glasses if you wear them. I take mine off between classes so I either wear them on a chain around my neck or stick them back in their case. I also stick a lens cloth in the case to keep on hand.

Reusable container. If you are spending long enough on campus then you should have a reusable container for bringing your lunch and some snacks. I really like the bento style ones because you can pack everything inside the container and it doesn’t take up too much space.

Planner if you use a paper one. I use a bullet journal so it doubles as my planner and spare notebook.

Calculator. In medicine we don’t really need our calculators for the day to day but I did during my undergraduate. I won’t link one because depending on you university you will have different approved calculators. I know lots of universities in Canada use Texas Instruments brand but most universities in the UK require a specific Casio one.

Small ruler. A little ruler is often useful for math courses or for drawing graphs for labs.

Things like my lab coat I keep in a separate tote bag that I can just grab on the days that I need it.

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