The Ultimate Back to School Gift Guide

Your one-stop shopping list for the coming year

With the best technology around, a bit of decoration, and these home products, heading back to school won't be quite as brutal. (Jacob Ammentorp Lund / iStock)

School gets easier and more fun when you have the right tech, supplies, and toys. 

Tech

You don't need to go overboard with the gadgets, but a few key items can make a big difference.

Livescribe 3 Smart Pen ($180) 

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(Courtesy of Livescribe)

This Bluetooth pen transcribes everything you write and sends those digital notes to your iOS or Android devices, making them easy to organize and share. 

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Roku Streaming Stick ($40) 

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(Courtesy of Roku)

With the Roku, you can have Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon wherever you spend the night.

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UE ROLL 2 Speaker ($100) 

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(Courtesy of Ultimate Ears)

Small, shockproof, and waterproof, this speaker straps to your handlebars or backpack so you can have tunes whenever an impromptu dance party breaks out. 

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TomTom Spark 3 Activity Tracker ($250)

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(Courtesy of TomTom)

Stay in shape with this activity tracker, which counts steps and calories burned, but also comes with a built-in heart monitor, onboard GPS, and storage for 500 songs (Bluetooth headphones are included). Pair it with your Android or iOS device to see your stats. 

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Vandra Pack ($115) 

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(Courtesy of Vandra)

This smart backpack is built for busy gadget-lovers, with padded sleeves for all your tech, a built-in USB charging port, and location tracking if the bag goes missing. We also like the reflective hits for the bike ride home. 

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TarDisk 128GB Storage Device ($130)

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(Courtesy of Tardisk)

Laptops don't come with much internal storage and tend to fill up fast, especially if you're a photographer or graphic designer. The TarDisk slips into the memory card slot on your PC laptop and boots with your computer, instantly doubling the onboard storage. 

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Dorm Room

Here are eight products that will make your room feel a little more like home. 

Philips Hue Starter Kit ($200)

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(Courtesy of Philips Hue)

This kit comes with two, Philips Hue third-generation LED smart bulbs, and a bridge, allowing you to control the intensity and color of the lights from your phone. You can even sync the lights to your music. 

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Scratch the World Map ($40)

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(Courtesy of Amazon)

You could adorn your wall with a poster of John Belushi in his college sweatshirt, or you could hang up this map, which lets you scratch off the countries and states you’ve visited.

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Chillbo Baggins 2.0 Inflatable Couch ($50) 

In most applications, these inflatable couches are obnoxious. But in a dorm room, when you need seating one minute, but then room for a game of beer pong the next, an inflatable couch makes perfect sense. 

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Mr. Coffee Pour Brew Go Coffee Maker ($40) 

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(Courtesy of Mr. Coffee)

Coffee will fuel your college experience, but space is tight in the dorm room, so consider the Pour Brew Go, a single-serve coffee maker that comes with its own travel cup and brews loose grounds so it isn’t reliant on expensive pods.

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Pursteam Fabric Steamer ($20)

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(Courtesy of Puresteam)

Pro tip: instead of a dryer, use a steamer to neaten your clothes. This one is BPA-free and safe to use on any type of fabric. 

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'A Short History of Nearly Everything' ($30)

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(Courtesy of Random House)

Consider this book your cheat sheet to history class. Bill Bryson, one of Outside's favorite writers, tracks history from the big bang to the present moment in succinct and easy to understand anecdotes. 

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Decibullz Custom Molded Earplugs ($25)

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(Decibullz)

Never underestimate the power of good earplugs, especially when you have roommates. To create a custom fit you heat the Decibullz thermoplastic plugs in boiling water, let them cool for a bit, and shape them to your ears.

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Moleskine Calendar Notebook ($15)

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(Moleskine)

Keep organized, or mostly organized, with this leather-bound planner. Each day has its own page, and there are 50 pages in the back for notes. 

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Active 

Ward off the freshman fifteen with a little exercise. This gear will help. 

Smith Maze Bike Helmet ($80)

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(Courtesy Smith)

Your commuter helmet shouldn't make you look like a track cyclist. To avoid that faux pas, go with the Maze Bike, which meets all safety standards but also looks good cruising around campus.  

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Adidas Rumble Sackpack ($25) 

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(Courtesy Adidas)

Keep your gym bag simple with the Rumble, a drawstring backpack that has a cavernous interior and two zippered pockets.  

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La Sportiva Rapid Short ($130)

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(Courtesy La Sportiva)

The Rapid shorts are made for longer weekend runs and come with Polygeine, an anti-bacterial fiber that keeps the stink down. (Because we know you’re not gonna do laundry as often as you should.) 

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State Bicycle Co. Beorn Bike ($300)

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(State Bicycle Co.)

It's not worth blowing your savings on a bike you're only going to ride a couple miles to class. Instead, check out the Beorn, an affordable but well-made single speed that comes in a variety of bright, attention-grabbing colors.

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Five Ten Spitfire Shoes ($90)

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(Courtesy FiveTen)

The Spitfires have double stitching and an ultra-sticky Stealth Rubber sole but package those performance traits in a skate shoe aesthetic.

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Otto Design Works OttoLock ($60)

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(Otto Design Works)

U-locks reign supreme for their superb locking power, but they're bulky and heavy to carry in your pack. The OttoLock, on the other hand, is made from a thin Kevlar-reinforced steel band, rolls up into the size of a fist, and stands up to bolt cutters. Trust us, we tried

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Style

Look good, feel good. These eight products will help you stand out in a crowd.

California Cowboy High Water Shirt ($135) 

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(Courtesy California Cowboy)

Yes, the Hawaiian shirt is back, but the High Water isn’t your dad’s standard floral print. It has a sunglasses loop, a waterproof pocket for your phone, a built-in bottle opener, and a koozie beer pocket, too. 

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OluKai Nohea Shoes ($95) 

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(Courtesy OluKai)

The Noheas are boat shoes but look good with a pair of jeans at the pub. We also dig the drop-down heel that turns these kicks into slip-on loafers. 

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Cotopaxi Libre Sweater ($140)

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(Courtesy of Cotopaxi)

This two-tone sweater is made from soft llama fiber and features a barely-noticeable breathable mesh back panel. That means you can go straight from class to an ultimate game in the quad. 

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Saxx Vibe Boxer Briefs ($30) 

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(Courtesy Saxx)

If you’re not worried about what your underwear looks like, you’re doing college wrong. The Vibe, which come in a variety of loud but clever prints, are made from a wicking polyester and feature Saxx's infamous ball pouch that keeps everything supported and organized.  

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United By Blue Prim Shirtdress ($110)

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The relaxed fit, pop down collar, and sleeveless style make the Prim shirtdress a versatile and fun option for any occasion. 

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Taylor Stitch Telegraph Jacket ($250) 

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(Courtesy Taylor Stitch)

The Telegraph is made from a blend of wool and linen and comes with a bit of stretch. Wear it on special occasions, or dress it down with a pair of jeans. 

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The North Face Ballard II Boot ($110)

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(The North Face)

Temperature-sensitive rubber soles and a thin layer of synthetic insulation make these boots great in the snow. They're stylish enough to wear indoors thanks to the leather laces and a coated canvas outer.

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Costa Osearch Remora Sunglasses ($170)

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(Costa)

An Outside staff favorite, the Remora's tiger shark frames are a refreshing change from the ubiquitous, all-black Wayfarers. Polarized synthetic lenses create a clear picture and keep out aggressive rays.

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Lululemon Non-Stop Bomber Jacket ($128)

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(Courtesy Lululemon)

This reversible layer offers two looks in one. Sleek and simple, it has just two pockets but is stuffed with a thin layer of PrimaLoft insulation for warmth and a DWR coating helps stymie rain.

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Duer Performance Denim Jeans ($130)

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A pair of slim, dark wash jeans will be the most versatile item in your wardrobe. We like Duer's take, which come with triple-stitched inseams and double-layered back pockets so they can take a beating.

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