From inexpensive essentials to fun gadgets, this list covers our top picks for tech that’ll help you trick out your dorm room and prepare you for life at college without busting your wallet.
Worried about a dry dorm room wreaking havoc on your sinuses? Need to freshen up the atmosphere after your roommate makes their second bowl of ramen of the night? This humidifier/oil diffuser combo has you covered on both fronts. Its compact size and quiet operation means it’ll keep your room smelling fresh without even interrupting your latest Netflix binge.
Speaking of Netflix, keeping up with all the latest digital distractions (not to mention keeping your life in order with calendars, email, messaging, etc.) can be a real drain on your mobile device’s battery. Make sure your phone or tablet is always juiced up when you need it with a mobile USB battery pack. Charge it up, throw it in your backpack (along with a phone charging cable) and you’re set. Plus, the 12,000 mAh capacity of this particular model means that even the beefiest phones will get at least a few full charges before your battery pack needs to be plugged in again.
You just can’t have too many charging cables for your mobile devices. And if you choose to loft your bed, the 3-foot cable that’s standard with most smartphones definitely won’t cut it by itself. Pick up a cheap pack of durable nylon braided charging cables in a variety of sizes and rest easy knowing that you’ve got your bases covered no matter if you’re 10 inches or 10 feet from the nearest outlet.
One of the best parts about living in a residence hall is finding ways to make your space your own and adding your own lighting is one of the easiest ways to do that. These LED strips are cheap, have an adhesive backing and can be conveniently controlled with the included remote. Nobody wants to live by harsh, fluorescent overhead lighting alone, so personalize your space and add a little functionality at once with an LED lighting strip or two.
Adjusting to college life means learning to carve out a little personal space. Need to focus on homework while your roommate’s catching up on “Game of Thrones”? Throw on a pair of decent Bluetooth headphones and create a little distance from the distractions of dorm life without even leaving your desk. We cheated a bit on this entry (Amazon’s current price for the pictured model is $64.99 at the time of writing), but this is an accessory that’s going to see a lot of mileage and comfort makes a huge difference so we think it’s worth the extra investment.
Headphones are great for personal use but what about when you want to share your tunes with the rest of the world? This inexpensive, waterproof Bluetooth speaker can follow you anywhere so you and your floormates can jam out to “Despacito” whether you’re in the shower, your room or your residence hall’s common areas. As long as it’s not quiet hours, anyway.
The Tile Mate might be the most practical entry on this list. Worried about losing track of your gear? This small Bluetooth tracker helps put those fears to rest. Attach it to your keychain or any other item you don’t want to lose and you’re set. Use your smartphone to make the Tile Mate ring when it’s nearby but out of sight or see it’s last recorded location on the Tile app.
Along with the charging cables and battery bank in this list, a reliable surge protector may be more practical than fun but it can be a lifesaver in the event of electrical failure. Plus, a couple great features like the articulating cable and fast charge USB ports set this APC power strip/surge protector apart from the pack. Don’t need USB ports on your power strip? Save a few bucks and try Belkin’s reliable 12-port surge protector instead. Either way, be sure to send in the registration to qualify for each company’s respective device coverage.
College academics are demanding enough as it is; save yourself the hassle and heartbreak of losing a paper or homework assignment due to computer failure. Making regular backups of your data is one of the easiest things you can do to prevent technological headaches in the future. At $57.99 at the time of writing, we’re breaking our own rules again for this particular portable hard drive but we think the reliability of the Seagate brand and the ease of use of its backup software is worth the price of admission.
Bonus: Consider adding a case from Amazon’s Basics line so you don’t have to worry about creating a backup for your backup.
Whether you’re bingeing through the last seven seasons of “Game of Thrones” or hosting a movie night for you and your floormates, this portable projector from Artlii is definitely the display you’ve been looking for. Easily project from a laptop, smartphone, tablet or any HDMI capable device. Don’t have a plug-in nearby? Use a power bank (like the second item on this list) to power this projector on the go.
It’s a projector. It’s compact and portable. It’s under $50. How neat is that?
That’s pretty neat.
Small refrigerator (4.5 cu. ft. and 1.5 amps or less)
Microwave (1200 watts or less)
While some of the items on this list are more fun than necessary, there are a few essentials that no dorm room should be without. A minifridge and microwave probably won’t be the most exciting gadgets in your room and you probably won’t find them for under $50 unless you explore some secondhand options, but they are must-haves – just make sure whatever you bring is compliant with Residence Life guidelines.
Eric Lillehaugen '11 is a content specialist and CMS administrator for Concordia College.