Which electrical items should you bring to university? Aside from your phone and laptop, there are a few small appliances that could seriously improve your life. We’ve come up with a list of the essentials to bring with you to university, along with the best, budget-friendly models to buy.
Before you buy
Before you buy anything, check with your university which items they allow. They’ll send you guidance or direct you to information online. But for a general guide, check out our explainer on which appliances you can take to university.
Make sure that anything you take has a CE mark and is in good working condition.
Capsule coffee machine
If you can afford something a bit better than a jar of instant, invest in a budget-friendly capsule coffee maker and reap the benefits of better quality wake-up juice.
In most universities, kettles are banned in rooms. However, you may be allowed a small capsule coffee maker. (Forget about a larger machine like a drip coffee maker, as it won’t be permitted.)
You can find out more about it in our review but the short version is that you can use it to make barista-style coffee drinks (cappuccinos, lattes, espressos and more) and you won’t need to add milk separately, making it ideal to keep in your room.
Dolce Gusto machines are simple to use and some of the cheapest around. The branded pods cost around 19p each, although you can often find deals on both branded and compatible pods to bring the cost down. What makes them even more clean and convenient is that you can also buy milk pods to make blended drinks like cappuccinos.
If you’re more of an espresso drinker and you have a bit room in your budget, we’ve spotted a great deal on the Nespresso Vertuo Plus, which is usually £130-£150 but is available from Currys for a limited time for £79.99. You can find out more about its features in our review but it’s a compact machine that’s fully automated for ease of use.
Bear in mind that some halls won’t let you use a coffee maker in your room, so do check before you buy.
Depending on your halls, you may be allowed to bring a mini fridge to keep and use in your room. If you’re allowed, the maximum permitted dimensions will be approximately 515mm high by 500mm wide.
We’d recommend the Russell Hobbs 14 litre mini fridge. Its dimensions are 424 x 323 x 325mm and it’s portable, with a carry handle on top and a weight of only 6.2kg.
If you’re considering buying one, don’t forget that fridges make a constant humming sound and you’ll be sleeping in the same room, so it may get annoying. This one is quiet, however, at 35dB. To find out more about it, read our review.
If that seems a bit pricey and you only want a mini fridge to keep a few cans cold, you could opt for the 4 litre version, which costs just £44.99 from Currys and will give you enough space to store six 330ml cans.
This would also be a good option if you need to store medication in your room. However, if your university won’t allow you to bring your own fridge and you need one, they should provide one for your use if you contact them in advance.
A desk fan is really useful to have, not only for keeping you cool and airing out your room but for helping you stay awake and feel refreshed when you’re studying for long periods.
It has a footprint of only 14cm, so it won’t take up half of your desk space. It’s efficient and unobtrusive and also has a night light. The fan has four speeds and it’ll run for up to 14 hours on a single charge.
You won’t be allowed to bring an iron to university, although there may be one you can use. In any case, a small, handheld garment steamer is a much better bet as it’s quick, easy to use and versatile.
Steamers are handy for sprucing up clothes as they’ll kill off odours and bacteria at the same time that they’re removing wrinkles. Using a steamer is a good way of getting another wear out of a shirt that’s not quite ready for the wash. (And that kind of economy is basically the essence of university.) You can also use them on pillows and hand towels and to disinfect items.
You can buy the Swan garment steamer from Amazon for £25. What’s nice about this device is that you can use it on flat clothes like you would an iron, as well as on hanging garments. Just fill it up with water and run it over your clothes.
You won’t be able to keep it in your room but buy a rice cooker and you’ll get another way to cook in your shared kitchen if the hobs are in use (or covered in congealed pasta sauce). Rice is a cheap and versatile ingredient and a rice cooker will ensure it comes out perfectly every time.
You should be able to get a decent rice cooker for around £20-£30. Our recommendation would be this Russell Hobbs 1.8 litre rice cooker, which doubles as a vegetable or fish steamer. It comes with a spatula and measuring cup and costs £29.98 from Amazon.
Again, this will be one to keep in the shared kitchen, so bear in mind that other people will use it and probably leave it in a horrible state.
Still, a cheese toastie is one of the best comfort foods around and you can jazz it up with whatever other ingredients you have lying around. It will keep you going through home sickness, general sickness, late night essay writing and being too skint to buy anything but bread and a bit of cheddar.
Toastie makers are not the easiest things to keep clean, though, especially if everyone uses it. This one has non-stick plates, so once it cools, you should just be able to run over it with a damp cloth and you’re done.
However, if that still sounds like too much work, another good option is a George Foreman grill. Although it won’t seal a toastie in the same way, it’s a much more versatile appliance that you can also use to cook meat and veg.
If you’re going to cook at all – and being able to whip up a few edible dishes is key to staying healthy and saving money at university – a hand blender is just about the most useful bit of kitchen equipment you can have. You can make soups, sauces, dips and smoothies really easily, using fresh ingredients.
You don’t need an expensive hand blender if you follow two rules: use the pulse function for tough ingredients to protect the motor and don’t try to use it to crush ice.
Argos is selling the 600W Cookworks hand blender and accessory set for £28. This set has everything you need to cook anything you might fancy. It comes with a whisk (for eggs and baking), a mini chopper (for quickly dicing veg) and a tall blending beaker.
The mini chopper is an especially useful accessory as a hand blender is really only good for blending items with a high liquid content. Its blending head has to be totally immersed or it’ll fling food everywhere.
As a bonus, these blenders are really easy to keep clean. The blending head is removable so you can wash it under the tap when you’re finished.
If you’re a smoothie fanatic, or you drink a lot of protein shakes, you might want a dedicated blender.
The 0.6 litre Breville Blend Active will blend your drink straight into a plastic to-go bottle, which you can take to the gym or to lectures. It can also crush ice. It’s currently £18 from Amazon.
Electric shaver and electric toothbrush
If you’re looking for an electric shaver to pack, we’d recommend the Philips OneBlade. It’s not the cheapest razor around but it’s very versatile, so you can use it as a beard and stubble trimmer as well. We gave it a five-star review when we tested it.
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly electric toothbrush to take with you, we’d recommend one of the earlier generation Oral-B brushes, like the Oral-B Vitality, which you can get from Argos for £20.
At this price, it’s not exactly loaded with functionality but it’s a solid brush that’ll make a big different to the health of your teeth and gums. It has a two-minute timer to remind you how long to brush for and comes with two brush heads. If you can afford a bit more, go for the Oral-B Pro 3. It’s currently £38.95 on Amazon but we think it’s one of the best electric toothbrushes we’ve tested.
And don’t forget to pack…
Alongside your electrical items, you’ll need a way to charge them or plug them in. If you want to give your dumb appliances some smart features, like turning your lamp or fan on and off on a schedule or remotely, have a look at our round-up of the best smart plugs we’ve tested. You can get one for as little as a tenner.
You should also buy an extension lead. A four-socket with a long lead like this one, from Amazon (£7.99) should do the trick.
You may have a shared bathroom or one of your own. In either case, don’t count on having a two-pin shaving outlet. If you’re bringing in bathroom gadgets that charge at a shaving socket, like an electric toothbrush or shaver, you should bring a converter so you can charge them at a three-pin plug if you need to. This two-pack of converters costs £6.99 from Amazon UK.
Have you got your audio set-up sorted? A portable, budget-friendly Bluetooth speaker is a bedroom must-have. Have a look at our round-up of the best cheap Bluetooth speakers available.
For everything else you need for the autumn, check out our complete back to school section, with deals, tips and essential buys.
Emma is Home Tech Editor at Tech Advisor. She covers everything from kitchen appliances to smart home devices, from floor care to personal care to air care technology. She’s particularly interested in environmentally conscious brands and products that save people time and money.