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Tide To-Go Sticks (And Other Backpack Essentials)

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at PSU chapter.

You cannot prevent everything you can experience in a day on a college campus, but here is a list of items that have proven successful in my experience with all too common minor inconveniences.  

Tide To-Go Sticks 

If backpack supplies were the United States, Tide To-Go sticks would be the president. They will be the first answer you get from anyone if you ask what you should always have in your bag.

And rightfully so — Tide To-Go Sticks are unique in that you don’t need them until you really need them. It’s better to be safe than sorry and keep one of these in your bag.  

Medicine/First Aid
Medicine including Tylenol, Emergen-C, Off-brand Dayquil and Nyquil, etc.
Original photo by Shannon Tanczos

You can always choose to use a complete mini first aid kit, but something I’ve always found more reasonable is a bottle of Ibuprofen, a few Band-Aids and any other medication you deem useful in a pinch.

In high school, my classmates referred to my backpack as “The Pharmacy,” as I had medications for a variety of issues on me: Ibuprofen, Excedrin Migraine, Tums, Midol, and more. All over the counter, all incredibly useful in their purposes.

Even if you forget about it in the bottom of your bag, that one day you have a headache while you’re out, you will thank your preparation skill. 


There is quite nothing more suspenseful than sitting in class and feeling the first drip of your nose about to start running, and you have nothing to stop it but the discreet lift of your sleeve (*shiver*). It is in these times we imagine most the serene blessing of Kleenex and kick ourselves for not grabbing a few on the way out the door.

Especially with allergy season underway, having a pack of tissues on you has the possibility of saving much embarrassment. 


Chapsticks come in packs, but how often do we keep track of them? Most of us choose one Chapstick at a time, hoping every day the small cylinder would not roll away and get lost forever.

To prevent this, dedicate one Chapstick to your backpack. Too often I rely on fishing through the pockets of every jacket in search of one, but this way, you won’t have to worry about forgetting it at home! 


A prominent way of making friends and a breath freshener, right in your front zipper! A minty flavor in the middle of the day can help keep you alert, almost as well as a $5 coffee.

If you need quick motivation, give yourself something to chew on while you chew on your studies.  

Beanie/hair tie 

The wind and bad weather are the antagonists to wearing your hair down or trying a new hairstyle. Suddenly, you’re in class, and while the last thing you should be thinking about is how you look, it is something many of us stress about.

Keeping a hat, hair clip or hair ties in your bag can help you quickly recover from wondering what you look like and keep you more focused on what you are out to do.

Pads and tampons 

Personally, I remember every person who has ever lent me one of these when I didn’t have one. Not only are you looking out for yourself, but having both options on you could help someone else.

Getting your period in public when you are not prepared for it can turn your day into a trainwreck, so being prepared with these items has the potential to be beneficial for all. You will be a lifesaver yourself. 

A t-shirt 

Sometimes, we don’t check the weather on days we want to wear a sweater or a crewneck. It’s 27 degrees in the morning, but by 1:30 it’s 55 and sunny, and you can feel the felt of your hoodie soaking with sweat. Sometimes, a travel-sized deodorant is not enough.

With this transition from winter to spring, the weather does not always allow us to stay in one outfit all day. On busy days, it is useful to have a t-shirt to change into to feel a bit fresher.  

Headphones with a wire 

I have not used headphones with a wire since I got AirPods. That is until they died one time too many when I was not expecting them to, and on particularly stressful days, it is enough to send me over the edge.

The AirPods can still be the main headphones, but that extra reassurance that you don’t have to worry if you forgot to charge them eliminates the threat of a 20-minute walk to class in silence.

We are slowly but surely reaching a point where wired headphones are “retro,” so you’ll look interesting, like the movie character you pretend to be walking from class to class. 

There are plenty of things to keep college kids stressed and on edge, but preparing for the little mishaps is one step to feeling more in control.  

Sarah Corrigan is a junior at Pennsylvania State University with a major in public relations and a minor in creative writing. She is a writer and a hobbyist photographer with a passion for the arts and a love for her cats, dogs, and bearded dragon.