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The Guys’ Guide to Dorm Room Essentials | What he really needs!


I originally wrote this post when my oldest was heading off to college after polling all my nieces, nephews and friends of the family. Now Peter is going into his junior year of college and his sister is heading into sophomore year, so I’ve modified these college dorm guides to reflect what they really used!!

(Dorm rooms, they all look the same, don’t they??)

In my informal polling, it’s interesting to me what are dorm room concerns to the gentlemen vs. the ladies. The guys – a comfy bed and a place for food. The ladies – that the room feels organized and aesthetically pleasing. No statement about man vs. woman here, but what it all boils down to as far as I can tell is that everyone wants their dorm room to have the comforts of home!

If you are heading to college or shipping off your kid sometime soon, here’s the guy’s function-over-form list we’ve culled together with our college-aged advisors. Check out the women’s dorm room essentials here!

What guys really need for a dorm room - mostly, a comfy bed and food storage.

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Pillows – you’ll need at least two for sleeping and lounging; keep in mind a dorm room is also a living room and those cinder block walls are not so comfy to lean against, so a big square Euro style pillow might be good for when the bed is a couch.

Mattress Encasement  – because how many people have slept on that mattress?? Bedbugs and other used mattress-grossness, eeew. I’m not a germaphobe, but seriously, zip that thing right up in impenetrable vinyl, thankyouverymuch.

Memory Foam Topper – dorm mattresses are not purchased for their comfortability, that is for sure. A foam topper will go a loooong way to making that skinny, hard mattress it little more comfy.

Mattress Pad – a deep-pocket mattress pad (15″+) will cover the encased mattress and the memory foam topper. It’s not necessary with the mattress encasement, but it does extend the life of the foam topper and unlike the foam, is washable. It also keeps the foam from sliding out of place and makes the memory foam a little cooler to sleep on.

Twin XL Sheet Sets – look for sheets with deep pockets to cover the mattress and topper. Some people find microfiber to be hot to sleep on, but generally speaking it doesn’t get pilly and holds up well. Make sure to get Twin XL sheets for most dorm beds, which are 5″ longer than regular twins.

Twin Quilt – we opted for a the quilt + comforter combination because Peter is going to school in Vermont and it’s all about layering in the four seasons of New England. This quilt is 100% cotton and a nice quality that will hopefully take lots of washes over the next few years.

Twin Lightweight Down Comforter – A good down comforter can be washed many times and makes a fall or winter bed so comfy and cozy!!

Twin Duvet Cover & Sham – there are so many pretty duvets out there for the ladies. A million. For guys, not so much. I looked for a darker or patterned one that could handle the occasional spill of Ramen noodles or cocoa until it makes it’s way into the wash (which I’m sure will not be frequent).

Note –I bought TWIN sized and not TWIN XL for the quilt, comforter and duvet because as opposed to sheets, here those few inches don’t matter, and you have so many more options with the basic twin size.

A few more great quilts and duvets for dorm living….



This topic turned out to be quite a conversation starter amongst my kids and their friends and cousins! These are their top recommendations.

Hand-Held Clothes Steamer – smaller and easier to store, and does the trick. Both my college kids are forgoing the iron this year and taking steamers with them back to school. 

Peter’s favorite de-wrinkler that he uses literally every day….

Downy Wrinkle Releaser! – it also makes clothes smell a little fresher which in the case of a college male is definitely a MUST!

If your college kids is a traditionalist and likes a nice crisp shirt go with the tried and true method…

Iron and Tabletop (or more likely, floor!) Ironing Board – because burn marks on your dorm room floor from the iron is so not good.


Rug* – probably will have to be thrown out within a year or two so this is a good place to not spend a lot of $$$. This one is indoor/outdoor and can take a beating.

Pop Up Hamper With Handles – the mesh, breathable kind. 

Shower Caddy – gotta have one for shampoo/conditioner/soap/etc.

Towels – the word on the street is:  don’t bother with expensive towels or hand towels.

Facecloths – a cheap multi-pack is perfect for face washing or showering.

Removable Hooks For Towels – strong enough for a wet towel but doesn’t mark the walls.

Removable Picture Hanging Strips – so your parents don’t get charged an extra fee at the end of the year.

Liquid Laundry Detergentdetergent pods were universally disliked amongst all college students that I polled! Many people found that they didn’t dissolve in the wash or would stick to the inside of a piece of clothing and sometimes ever stain it. For liquid detergent I like this one that is inexpensive and has Oxi-Clean in it – a must for someone that doesn’t do his laundry often!

Dryer Sheets – so the laundry you left in your dorm washing machine for hours on end doesn’t smell so musty.

Clorox Wipes – for those sticky keyboards, desks and post food-fights.

Dustbuster – ditto on the food fights.

Clothes Hangers – the cheap plastic ones will do.

Power Strip – this one has 2 USB ports.

Clip Lamp – for over the bed.

Desk Lamp –  light is kinda good for late night studying.

Desk Fan – both my kids had dorm rooms that ran warm and they used their desk fans all the time!

Hanging Closet Storage – this is great for not only shoes but also rolled up towels and other storage.

Keurig* & K Cups– ditto on the late night studying.

Dorm Fridge*– for water. Obvi.

Microwave* – check with your school and roommate.

Microwave-Safe Mug big enough for late night coffee or Ramen noodles.

and last but not least, I think every kid needs one of these…

“Call Your Mom” spoon – just a little reminder when you’re stirring your coffee 🙂

Stamped spoon for a college student.

Trend Benders via Etsy


*  All things you can coordinate with your roommate. Two fridges and two microwaves are probably not necessary in one small dorm room!

For my college kids, I did a huge amount of this shopping at Amazon, because we have a Prime membership and get free shipping, plus the prices are often lower here than elsewhere, and Target, since you automatically get 5% off with the Red card.

Some current deals to take advantage of:

Target– extra 10% off with Red card

Bed, Bath & Beyond– free shipping over $29

Hayneedle– free shipping over $49

The Amazon Prime Student deal – it’s free for 6 months and then 50% off Prime membership, which can be cancelled at anytime. Like a regular Prime membership, you get free 2 day shipping, and can stream Amazon shows and movies. (We are totally hooked on Prime; the free shipping alone pays for the membership cost, especially at Christmas!!) 

If you have any essential additions to this list, please share!! Have a great day.

Check out our guide for women’s dorm room essentials here!

Women's guide to dorm room essentials and where to find them.



The real essentials for a guy's dorm room!



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Tuesday 22nd of August 2017

This is such a lovely post. Thanks for sharing.

Jane Fitch

Monday 14th of August 2017

Great post. Doing over my son's room at home and looking for a blue quilt. The one you showed is perfect! thanks


Tuesday 15th of August 2017

Jane we just received the quilt yesterday and it's a really nice light weight, great for layering!


Sunday 13th of August 2017

My son is also heading off to college this fall. I've been told by several people that a mini steamer is better than an iron/ironing board and takes up less space too! Best wishes on this next phase!


Tuesday 15th of August 2017

Oh that is great to know Susan! My daughter will be going to college next year so I'll keep that in mind for her! And maybe I need one of those for myself!! Best wishes to your son too!


Friday 11th of August 2017

Going to college is so exciting! A couple of tips, most States now require colleges to have their mattresses wrapped in vinyl. You should check with you school because then you wouldn't need the mattress encasement and could just wipe down the mattress with Clorox wipes! Also, you should get a small plate as well as the mug. In college I had a mug, both and plate set and it was perfect. The plate was great for reheating leftovers and such! Having both a mug and bowl allowed me to have coffee and cereal in the mornings to save my dining dollars for the other meals. Just some tips, I hope hey lovely college!!