I am a commuter student and last year was my first year of college. It was tougher on me than the students who lived on campus. I had to keep all my things with me all day because I couldn’t just hop over to my dorm if I had forgotten something. I wasn’t a commuter who could drive, I don’t even have a license so I took the bus each day. I had a lot less flexibility and I had to be more conscious of what I had to do each day. I learned a lot about what I had to bring and how to organize my bag each day. I don’t want people to get frustrated so here are some tips!
1) Have a sturdy backpack
I suggest you get one with lots of pockets and space. Pockets help! Also get a backpack with two straps. Shoulder bags dig into your shoulder if they’re too heavy (and they will be). With a backpack the weight is more evenly distributed and it saves you a lot of back pain. I have an Eddie Bauer backpack. Large hiking backpacks are great, and this brand actually has a life time guarantee so if anything happens to it I can return it and get a new one for free (though it has to be the same model).
2) Laptop pockets
Most backpacks have them now but if yours doesn’t have a laptop sleeve to protect your baby. And always have your laptop to the back of your backpack (i.e. closer to you). The front is the place where it can be abused easier. It is bumped more, it bends, that’s where you rest your feet during lectures, and where you have your books and notebooks. Closer is safer.
Fill your bag with your needed books and supplies with your heaviest closer to you. Books and binders closer to you and folders and notebooks towards the front (away from you). you don’t want to topple over.
Know your schedule! You won’t have all your classes everyday so you can lessen your load on some days and save your back!
4) Outside pockets
Water Bottle! Stay Hydrated! And try to keep containers away from your laptop and papers. Water bottles tend to sweat.
Since I commuted it was scarier when my phone would die when I was on campus. My chargers would tangle if I left them loose in my bag. I would lose them also. Use some sort of bag to keep them in one place.
Use some sort of bag to keep them in one place like a ziplock bag or a small zipper pencil bag. Anything will do if the cords are contained. Make sure it is big enough for all your cords (phone charger, computer charger, ipod and its charger, earbuds, etc…)
6) Front Pocket
You keep all your pens and pencils in here just like any other grade. Although if you don’t consistently maintain it you’ll lose everything or it will get horribly messy. These pockets are your friends.
Also if you keep it clean you have room for your charger bag. I had enough room to put in that and a small toiletries bag. If you can’t, don’t sweat it. that can go in the main pocket.
Keep small snacks, a pocket umbrella, and your wallet and/or a lanyard in here. Be careful about the wallet though. People can unzip your pocket and take things. Also it could fall out if you leave it unzipped accidentally. I had a lanyard to hold my bus pass for easy access. When I didn’t wear it I had it in here.
In your wallet keep at least ten dollars in cash with you even if you have a credit/debit card. It could help you if your card is declined or if you are stranded somewhere or whatever.
I also have a small first aid kit. It is the Altoids can and it only has bandaids in it. While on campus it is very unlikely that you’ll be injured badly or at all on a daily basis besides paper cuts. Unless you forget that it is not good to ride your bike/skateboard in the snow. (This does not cover assault wounds. Call an ambulance or campus security immediately.)
7) Toiletry bag
Most girls have this down but I’ll still explain the best things to bring along. You’ll need a small bag, about the size of the charger bag, for this. Below are some general stuff and some specifics but your bag will be tailored to you and your needs.
5) chap stick
6 )gum/ breath mints
1) Pads/ tampons
2) makeup for touch ups
4) hand lotion
5) any needed medications (prescription or topical)
Like I said if it doesn’t fit in the front pocket put it in the main pocket with your books.
8) Zipper accessories
This one you can ignore if you want to. I find it aesthetically pleasing and it individualizes your bag to fit you. Also it is easier to grab your zippers and open them when you need to. You can use anything that can clip on to your zippers.
You will probably have a set of keys by now so you probably have a carabiner. If you don’t you can get them cheap at Walmart. I keep my keys clipped on the outside of my bag so i always know where they are. Clip them to the straps if you have the little plastic D-rings but if your straps are naked you can clip your keys to the handle on the top of your backpack.
On my carabiner I have my house key, bike key, accessories, and pepper spray. I suggest this for everyone no matter who you are. Knives are good but in a confrontation they can be taken from you. If you have long days away and a long commute like me you’ll probably be getting home in the dark. Better safe than sorry. I got mine from Target.
That’s really all I have to share about how to pack your backpack for commuter students. This can be adapted for anyone and for anything. You can use this same concept for trips, high school, overnight stays, or anything. I hope this helped and I hope you all have the best of luck in school!