Photo: Dan Holz/Tandemstock

Back to Campus

Shop smart for your return to school. This advice—plus curated picks for the shifting fall season—will make your dollar go a long way.

College summers always have a way of ending too soon. It’s suddenly time to pack your bags and part with that carefree season kicking around with your friends and family, traveling on the cheap, or working hard for money to buy, um, beverages (and food!) when you get back to campus.

Speaking of that hard work, money earned doesn’t always transfer to money well-spent. So, give some extra thought to your wardrobe needs. Wherever you go back to school, fall means cooler temps than you’ve been enjoying during your summer off. It’s that in-between time where mornings and evenings may be cool or downright cold, while midday could be as sunny and warm as the summer gone. You’ll need to switch to pants and long-sleeve shirts, at the least. But making the added effort to find quality items will keep you from worrying about what to wear—saving that brainpower for juggling everything else in and out of class. When making your packing picks, think: versatile, durable, usable, convertible (stick with us), sustainable, and frequently used items that will make your dollar (or at least your parents’ dollars) last a little longer. 

Start with these tips, including a few select suggestions, to help you shop smart and start your next year strong.

Think Versatility 

Spending money on one piece of clothing that can do it all—dress you up for an important meeting with a professor or dinner with your girlfriends’ parents, warm you up for a beach or camp-side bonfire, and make you look good for a party—is just smart shopping. Check out the Howler Brothers Harkers Flannel, which is super soft and simple, but reams with relaxed style and the right amount of insulation.

Consider Durability 

Goods from brands known for making hard-wearing, long-lasting apparel go a long way, like they’re meant to do. Carhartt apparel was originally made for Rust Belt construction workers before crossing into cool urban-wear. This Carhartt Relaxed Fit Canvas Jacket will likely last you through all your college years and rigors beyond, no matter how hard you are on it.

Shop for Usability 

Let’s be honest: Is there any reason to wear any other pants than insanely comfortable joggers? Probably not. For that reason and more, grab these Patagonia Terrebonne Joggers. They’re made of polyester-stretch ripstop material, so you can wear them to the climbing gym, to yoga, on a hike…but they’re refined enough that they could also pass as “nice pants” when the need to make a more professional impression arises, say, on that first day of class.

Think Convertibility 

There’s no way around the fact that you need a backpack to haul all your books, your laptop, and all the other essentials to get through both semesters. But why not buy a pack you can also use for fun adventures off-campus? Come Saturday morning, dump out all your school stuff from The North Face Surge pack for a hike or climbing session, or even use it as a weekend getaway bag. A padded laptop sleeve keeps your lifeline (computer) safe when you’re in school mode.

Choose Sustainability 

As you learn and understand your place in the world, consider buying choices that can better sustain it. Start with the items that you use every day—say, the vessel that helps you hydrate and caffeinate—notably factoring the impact of single-use plastic water bottles. Do your part and invest in an insulated Hydro Flask Wide Mouth 32 oz. Bottle with Flex Cap. Refill it with water around campus to stay hydrated (and get the attention of that environmental science major you’ve been eying). Come finals week, load it up with coffee and enjoy how well the insulation keeps your java warm.

Foresee Frequency 

Shoes are one item worth the spend, since you basically wear them every single day, and especially so given the increased miles logged on foot. You want your shoes to be comfortable for walking around campus, town, and—who knows where else you’ll end up—music festival? The Vans Ultrarange EXO blends classic old-school Vans styling with a comfy, cushy midsole and a breathable upper so your dawgs don’t get sweaty, uncomfortable, and worse, smelly (because you want your roommates to like you).

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.

MORE STORIES