The Men’s Guide to Back to School Essentials

back to school essentials

There’s nothing worse than arriving at your new dorm or off-campus apartment where you take hours to unpack all your gear only to realize you neglected to pack (or buy) some key back to school essentials. Whether it’s an alarm clock left on your childhood bedside table or something as necessary as a clean towel, it’s almost a guarantee you’ll be without an item you absolutely need. So we’ve put together this handy guide to all the back to school essentials you won’t want to be without. Some of the gear on this list might be above the average college student’s price point, but that doesn’t mean you can’t dream. And for those of you who have moved beyond higher-education into the realm of the real world, this list can double as a starter-apartment must-haves buying guide. Without further ado, The Manual’s Guide to Back to School Essentials. What’s on your list?

Related: Are These Adult Dorms?


Yeelight Bedside Lamp, $59

yee light, back to school essentialsHave you ever fallen asleep while reading, only to wake up to the agonizing chore of reaching out of your warm, comfortable bed to turn off your bedside lamp? Now you don’t have to with Yeelight. Not only is Yeelight Blue-tooth enabled, allowing you to turn the lamp on and off from your smartphone, it also has a sleep timer, and brightness adjustments that increase incrementally from the subdued yellow light equivalent of a single match, up to a pure-white fluorescent. The  top of the lamp serves as a touchscreen, when your phone’s not quite handy. The lamp also has a range of 16 million different color combinations–it’s like your own in-home color therapist or professional mood-lighter.

Alarm Clock

Kikkerland, $15

kikkerland alarm clock

Sure, you could use your phone for an alarm, but silencing a digital tone by swiping isn’t nearly as satisfying as waking up to a small clock you can slam your hand down onto to. This clock does not feature a snooze option, so you’re going to have to hold yourself accountable and get out of bed the first time around.

Electric Tea Kettle

Molla Púro Cordless Glass Electric Water Kettle, $70

mollo electric tea kettle

If you need your coffee ASAP, this is the electric tea kettle for you. Boil water in only five minutes without the need for a stove or microwave. Nearly silent, with a slow open lid, and an automatic shut off, this tea kettle is a must-have for java and instant ramen lovers alike.


Otto Fan, Bamboo, $200

otto fan, bamboo

If you’re lucky enough to have been placed in a dorm with air conditioning, congratulations, you’re doing better than the majority of college students. If you happen to have been stuck in a south-facing dorm with no respite from the glaring sun, this small bamboo wrapped fan by Otto, will surely keep you cool while also looking it. While this fan may be a little on the expensive side for most college students, the construction and styling means it will last well into your first real world job and beyond.


Montauk Turkish Towel, $35

montauk towerl

Go ahead and stock up on rough, ugly towels. They do the job and can be tossed or re-purposed once they start to go threadbare. However, when company is coming (read: your mom) or you’re looking to relax on the beach while looking put-together, this towel is the answer to your waterside prayers.


GroveMade Walnut Speakers & Amp, $600

grovemade wooden speakers

We get it. These speakers are expensive. But they’re also worth it. Not only does GroveMade make amazing audio equipment, but they do it one at a time. Each speaker and amp is hand-made in Portland, Oregon, using a combination of modern milling and hand-forming techniques, resulting in some awesome audio. If these are a little too pricey for your pockets, try the iHome iBT35 portable speaker. Rugged and waterproof, the iBT35 can go everywhere, from your place or to the pool.

Travel Mug

Stanley Classic One-Hand Vacuum Mug, $21

stanley one-hand vacuum mug

Obviously good for keeping cold drinks cold and hot things hot, the Stanley One-Hand vacuum mug is also a truly no-spill situation. Design features include a one-hand accessible button that opens the lip of the mug, a throw-back painted metal exterior, and some seriously good insulation. And, since the button has to be pressed for any liquid to come out, this mug won’t randomly spill in your lap or in your bag. This mug is great for when you’re on the go–whether you’re cycling, skateboarding, or simply crossing campus by foot. You’ll never have to worry about a shirt-front full of coffee again.


The Casper Pillow, $75

casper pillow

Sweet dreams are made from this pillow. Seriously. The Casper pillow features a specially made supportive core that keeps you sound asleep no matter your position. Also designed to allow for ample air circulation and all-night comfort, both sides of this pillow are the cool side, so you’ll never have to flip your pillow ever again.


Eyebuydirect with Eyezen Lenses, $6+

eyezen eyewear from eyebuydirect

Did you know that your eyes are being bombarded with blue light from every screen you encounter? Whether it’s a TV, computer screen, or your smartphone, your eyes are constantly battling very deeply penetrating blue light. While that may not sound scary to you now, over time, blue light can lead to permanent damage to your eyes, resulting in poor vision and even further eye strain. Prevent this common academic problem with these lenses. Available in prescription or just blue-light blocking lenses, Eyebuydirect spectacles will ease your eye strain and preserve your visual acuity. You might even notice a reduction in tension headaches.

Art & Decor

Vintage National Parks Posters, $40

national parks poster

Every dorm deserves a good poster. And since you’re reading The Manual, we assume you’re aesthetically a step above Bob Marley and “babe posters.” So, if you’re looking for a little art and class, we suggest these reprints of vintage National Parks Posters. As much a conversation starter as artwork, we guarantee you’ll be receiving compliments on this dorm room decor. Bonus points if you find a frame!


Casper Glow in the Dark Penny Board, $100

calypso 22" penny board

What good is an apartment or dorm if you don’t have the means to escape it every once in a while? Sail around the quad in style with this 22″ Casper glow in the dark Penny skateboard. Small enough to fit into a back pack or carry under your arm, this board is the perfect form of transportation for zipping to and from class, work, or the gym. This bad boy also glows in the dark, which is great for pretending you’re a UFO.

Related: Tailgate Clothing Stores Give College Towns Extra Credit

Shinola Runwell Bicycle, $2,950

shinola runwell bicycle

This is your bicycle for life. Though spendy, it is well worth it. Built in Detroit from a lugged steel frame, the Runwell features a Shimano Alfine 11-speed internal hub that keeps the gear mechanism sheltered from wind and water, making this bike practically maintenance free. Internal cable routing also, according to Shinola, keeps the cables “out of sight and out of the elements,” preventing any random shifting snafus. Use the Runwell as a commuter, errand-runner, or just for cruising around. Careful though, this bike is so beautiful you might need more than one bike lock.


Kosmos Pen, €49

kosmos pen

It’s hard to improve upon something as everyday and utilitarian as the humble pen. But, stilform’s Kosmos pen has done just that. The Kosmos pen more closely resembles a precision space instrument than it does your stereotypical pen. Machined from a solid block of aluminum alloy commonly used in aerospace engineering, stilform has designed this pen to last. Beyond its streamlined, modern look, the Kosmos has completely changed the way our pens work. Rather than a click-pen or a simple removable cap, stilform designed the Kosmos with a magnetic mechanism that allows for one-handed opening and closing. Simple push the cap toward the body and watch as the pen nib juts out. Do the reverse to see the nib disappear into it’s metal cavern. Not only does this make the pen extremely fun to handle and play with, it also elevates the pen’s status from writing instrument to art-piece. Check out Kosmos’ Kickstarter for videos and to learn how to back this exciting new addition to the writing  world.


BACtrack Trace Professional Breathalyzer, $80

BACtrack breathalyzer

We all know how important it is to drink responsibly. But, honestly, who does that in college? We were all Freshman once and so we understand that sometimes things can get a little carried away. What we cannot and will not condone, however, is drunk driving. So, when you and your friends have finished your pre-gaming and its time to hit the road and the clubs, whip out this professional breathalyzer from BACtrack and ask your posse to blow. Anybody under .08 wins and you just found your designated driver. We also, do not suggest comparing blood alcohol levels. That’s a game no one wins in the end.