Gear Diary’s 2021 Back to School Gift Guide

It’s that time of year again! As students of all ages head back to their schools and universities, whether they are attending down the block or across the country, we’ve prepared a list of back to school items that will help make the transition go more smoothly.

Gear Diary's Back-to-School Gift Guide

Fujitsu ScanSnap iX 1600 Scanner

Fujitsu ScanSnap iX 1600 Scanner

ScanSnap’s latest and greatest scanner is a great way for any student to get and stay organized. The latest generation of Fujitsu scanners, the $399.99 ScanSnap iX 1600, connects to their mobile device wirelessly, works seamlessly with various cloud services, and gives clean, clear scans in mere seconds. Once they get one, they’ll wonder how they ever stayed organized without it.

Whether you use it for school or work, the ScanSnap iX 1600 Scanner is the right tool for the task.

Bite Away

Bite Away

The last thing that should get in the way of kids enjoying time outside when they aren’t studying is itchy bug bites. If traditional anti-itch creams and sprays just haven’t been cutting it, bite away may just be the solution!  Using advanced, heat-based technology, bite away instantly eliminates the itch and pain from common insect bites and stings, such as mosquito bites and bee stings.

A 3-5 second pulse of heat prompts a response from the body to reduce bug bite symptoms, allowing you to enjoy your final outdoor Summer moments itch-free. Zero chemicals, zero mess, and zero odor – just fast relief with the press of a button!

At $29.99, bite away is currently 25% off at Lowes – just in time for back to school and the upcoming Labor Day Weekend celebrations!


MyBevi Stainless Steel Tumbler

The perfect way to stay hydrated, MyBevi is a must-have back to school item! You’ll love their collection of stainless steel tumblers that are made to endure all weather conditions and activities. Your favorite student can get a coffee fix for the day or quench their thirst with ice-cold water.

Eco-conscious consumers will be glad to know that this small family business is doing its part to provide sustainable solutions for a healthier future for our planet. MyBevi makes it easy to reduce waste and mindfully adhere to an eco-friendly lifestyle that becomes a part of your everyday routine with reasonably priced tumblers, bottles, and canteens.

Incipio SureView for iPad 10.2″ (8th & 7th Generation)

Incipio SureView for iPad 10.2" (7th & 8th Generation)

If you’re sending your student back to school with a 10.2″ 7th or 8th generation iPad, you’re going to want to make sure that pricy bit of tech is safe and accessible. Look no further than the $44.99 Incipio SureView!

It has a magnetic cover that activates the screen to wake when opened or sleep when closed. When it’s folded back, it provides maximum viewing angle stability with magnetic notches that secure the stand into place at 4 angles ranging from 40° to 70°.

The Incipio SureView has sound channels to reroute sound towards your student for more enjoyable movie-viewing and game-playing, ahem, I mean reading assignments. It also offers 4-foot drop protection with its full wraparound polycarbonate case and extended folio corners. There’s even a built-in Apple Pencil/stylus holder.

Google Pixel Buds A-Series

Google Pixel Buds A-Series

If you’re sending someone back to school, they will need a great set of wireless earbuds so they can listen to music and connect to their smartphone hands-free while commuting or driving. The $99 Google Pixel Buds A-Series are designed to bring great sound and Google Assistant integration at an affordable price.

Travis reviewed them; he loved how comfortable they were, their integration with Google Assistant, how easy they are to operate, and most importantly —  that they sound amazing! He reported that they have a great bass response mixed with clean mids and crisp highs. Even though there is no active noise canceling, he said that he found the bud’s seal in his ears blocked out ambient sound just fine.



The TCL 20S.

TCL Mobile has some major back to school discounts on its all-new TCL 20S and TCL 20 SE smartphones. They are also offering the TCL MOVEAUDIO S150 true wireless earbuds on Amazon for half-off.

Available from Monday, August 23 through Sunday, August 29, 2021:

  • TCL 20S will be priced at only $212.99 (After a 15% off coupon)

  • TCL 20 SE will be priced at only $161.99 (After a 15% off coupon)

  • TCL MOVEAUDIO S150 will be only $19.99 (After a 50% off coupon)

Withings Move ($69.95)

Withings Move

If your student wants to track how many steps they’re putting in walking across their sprawling campus, you can help them do that with the $69.95 Withings Move.

It may look like an ordinary wristwatch, but the Withings Move will not only tell time — it also seamlessly tracks walking, running, sleeping, swimming, and much more, plus it features connected GPS. The watch syncs with the free Withings Health Mate app so they can view and track their sleep and fitness activities.

Beyerdynamic PHONUM


beyerdynamic phonum
If you anticipate your student having to do a lot of group calls or Zoom calls in their room because some of their classes or meetings will still be held virtually, you might want to look into the $219.99 beyerdynamic PHONUM.

This speakerphone connects via Bluetooth to a phone, tablet, or computer (you can also use USB). It offers optimum sound quality for listening to calls and excellent voice transmission using Gecko 360º technology and a special microphone arrangement. The PHONUM works well whether there is only one person in the room or there are multiple people in the same room participating on one end of the call.

While it may look like the speaker is on top under the grille, that’s actually where the microphones are; the speaker is directed down so that sound can radiate 360º around their room. PHONUM’s battery lasts for up to 12 hours of operating time, and it includes a zippered hard travel case, so it’s a great portable option for anyone who doesn’t always do their calls in one particular place.

Anker Nano II 65W GaN USB-C Charger

Anker Nano II 65W GaN USB-C Charger

There’s no need to send your kid back to school with the brick that came with their USB-C laptop! The $44.99 Anker Nano II can handle it, and it can also fast charge their phone or tablet!

It can charge a 2020 MacBook Air in less than 2 hours, a MacBook Pro 13″ at full speed, an iPhone 12 up to 3× faster than an original 5W charger, and charge the latest Samsung phones at full speed with Samsung Super Fast Charging.

Measuring just 1.65″ tall by 1.42″ wide by 1.74″ long with a convenient foldable plug, the Anker Nano II doesn’t take up a lot of room, so it is perfect for carrying in a backpack or purse.

invisaWear Smart Jewelry

invisaWear Smart Jewelry

Wouldn’t you feel safer knowing that while your child was away from home and on campus, they could easily send a text message to up to five pre-selected emergency contacts to notify them when they needed help complete with a link to their location?

With invisiWear Smart Jewelry, there’s no need to fumble their phone out of their pocket or bag to make a call or open an app if they need help — all they have to do is double-tap their invisiWear and send an alert; the company also offers a free and optional contact 9-1-1 feature.

InvisiWear disguises the fact that it’s actually a personal safety device because it is camouflaged as a pretty necklace, bracelet, keychain, or even as a hair scrunchie or athletic band. InvisiWear Smart Jewelry prices regularly range from $129 to $249, depending upon the selected style. With their Back to School pricing, you can get up to 25% off the entire site —the discounts are applied automatically at checkout.

Want even more protection? InvisiWear Premium, at $19.99 per month, gives your child 24/7 access to trained ADT agents; if your child ever feels unsafe, they can call, and an agent will stay on the phone with them as they are being live-tracked with GPS; ADT can even call 9-1-1 if needed. There’s also an option to text an ADT agent if your child figures out that they are on a date with a creep, for instance, and they need help quickly before a situation escalates.

InvisiWear Premium also includes complimentary access to virtual self-defense classes, which are hosted once a quarter so they can learn how to stop an attacker and how to defend themselves in an emergency.

The Edge Desk

The Edge Desk

Standing is only one of several “alternative positions” one might consider when working in front of a computer for hours on end. If your student has room for it, they might want to consider the $399 Edge Desk.

It’s a great desk for work and a superb way to have flexibility with regard to where they work; it can be easily moved, and it fully supports proper posture while being used.

Amazfit T-Rex Pro
Amazfit T-Rex Pro 

If your student is super active, they’ll appreciate the rough and ready $179.99 Amazfit T-Rex Pro. Billed as a “high-level exploration partner.” the T-Rex Pro supports four Global Navigation Satellite Systems, and it has 10 ATM water-resistance.

It includes a blood-oxygen saturation measurement system, a weather tracker, a sunrise and sunset monitor, a current moon phase display, a compass, and a barometric altimeter.

The T-Rex Pro also has a 24/7 heart rate monitor, over 100 different sports modes, sleep-tracking, incoming call notifications, message notifications, and it gets up to 18-days of battery life.

Anker Nebula Capsule II R2-D2 Smart Mini Projector

Anker Nebula Capsule II R2-D2 Edition

Space can be a concern in first apartments and dorm rooms, but movie nights that everyone can enjoy are still possible with the $599.99 Anker Nebula Capsule II R2-D2 Smart Mini Projector. Slightly larger than a soda can, this portable projector runs Android TV natively, or they can cast content to it from their Android phone with Chromecast.

Built-in ports on the back include 3.5mm AUX-out if they want to add another speaker, HDMI so they can project movies they have on their laptop, Type-A USB for movies on a flash drive, and a Type-C for PD charging.

It’s an all-in-one solution that includes a built-in 8W 360º speaker, so he can set it on a flat surface or use its tripod mount to project bright and crisp 720p movies up to 100 inches diagonally onto any flat surface — including the side of a tent or a wall on the back of the house.

If there’s no power source nearby, it’s no problem! The Anker Nebula Capsule II R2-D2 Edition Smart Mini Projector’s internal battery lasts up to two-and-a-half hours, so it’s perfect for a movie night virtually anywhere!

It doesn’t just look like R2-D2, though; when they turn it on, R2’s iconic robotic chirps will greet them. The Anker Nebula Capsule II R2-D2 Edition Smart Mini Projector’s internal battery lasts up to two-and-a-half hours, so it’s perfect for a movie night virtually anywhere!

GUNNAR Optiks Kids Blue Light Glasses

GUNNAR Optics Kids Blue Light Glasses

GUNNAR Optiks, the leader in gaming and computer glasses, has the perfect blue light blocking solution for children and teens who are going to be sitting in front of computers during school hours. GUNNAR’s patented lens technology, which blocks blue light, reduces glare and helps prevent dry eyes.  Prices range from $29.99 to $49.99 for a non-prescription pair, but they can also do prescription glasses!

Even if your child isn’t doing online classes, if they are gaming on their computer during downtime, they can still benefit from wearing these the all-new ESL Blade Lite; they’re the first-ever gaming glasses specifically designed for teens ages 12+ and the ultimate gaming glasses for teens. Based on the GUNNAR adult frame ESL Blade, ESL Blade Lite allows teens the same performance and protection while playing and competing at any level.

The ESL Bladelite was created in partnership with ESL, featuring a sleek, stainless steel white frame design featuring ESL’s signature camo pattern in complementary white. These glasses are $49.99 for a non-prescription pair.

Eco Lips Pure & Simple Lip Balm

Eco Lips Pure & Simple Lip Balm

Don’t make your back to schooler deal with chapped and cracking lips — get them a $21.99 9-pack of Eco Lips Pure & Simple lip balm!

The 9-pack includes enough tobes that they should be set for a while. It comes with three each of Eco Lips Pure & Simple Raspberry, Coconut, and Vanilla flavored lip balms. Their ingredients (sunflower oil, beeswax, Vitamin E, and flavoring) are certified organic, food-grade, Leaping Bunny Certified (Cruelty-Free), and 100% edible.

Eco Lips is a Fair Trade company, so by supporting them, you’re not only getting a great product, but you’re also supporting a responsible company, one that empowers farmers, workers, and fishers, while protecting the environment.

Since we all want to do our part, you’ll also appreciate that Plant Pod tubes used in all Eco Lips balms are the first plant-based, 100% plastic-free lip balm tube that fully functions as a regular tube. Be sure to check out their other products, too!

BuddyPhones Headphones

BuddyPhones Play+ Headphones

Check out BuddyPhones headphones if you’re interested in a safe way for your younger kids to enjoy quietly watching their shows, listen to music, or do schoolwork without worrying about whether they might damage their hearing.

BuddyPhones headphones are super durable because they are made for children. The $49.95 BuddyPhones Play+ (shown in the photo) can be used wired (helpful when kids forget to recharge them) or wirelessly with up to 20 hours of battery life! They have a built-in mic for when it’s needed, and most importantly, they have three volume-limiting levels (75/85/94dB) for parents to choose from.

Buddyphone’s StudyMode makes them great for online classes or supplemental online learning because it helps isolate voices from other sounds. When the headphones aren’t being used, your child can keep them in their storage bag. The headphones even come with a selection of stickers so that your child can personalize them!

Incipio Kate Spade New York Protective Hardshell Case for MagSafe for iPhone 12 & iPhone 12 Pro

Incipio Kate Spade New York Protective Hardshell Case for MagSafe for iPhone 12 & iPhone 12 Pro

Are you sending your kid back to school with an iPhone 12? Maybe they’d something other than the typical black or blue protective phone case. If that’s so, take a look at the $49.99 Incipio Kate Spade New York Protective Hardshell Case for MagSafe for iPhone 12 & iPhone 12 Pro.

Four different fun styles are made with premium signature Kate Spade New York graphic prints and colors; each is a lightweight, co-molded hard shell case with a shock-resistant bumper for drop protection. Best of all, they are wireless charging compatible and MagSafe compatible.


Edifier TWS NB2 Pro

The Edifier TWS NB2 Pro with active noise cancellation.

From August 9th to August 30th, Edifier will be offering 25% off storewide with the promo code EFANCOOL. Some of the products worth taking a look at include the $79.99 TWS NB2 Pro earbuds, the $59.99 TWS 330NB earbuds, the $59.99 W820NB wireless headphones, and the $89.00 Hecate GX wired gaming headset. Go check out the savings, and go back to school with some great products!

Refurbished Samsung Deals on eBay

Refurbished Samsung Deals on eBay

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra

If you need to get a mobile device for someone heading back to school, take a look at the deals Samsung is offering through eBay’s Certified Refurbished program.

All of the items are like-new and already up to 50% off; through August 8th, you can get an additional 15% off on all Samsung tech through the Certified Refurbished program by using code B2SCRSAVING.

Some of the top picks include:

You can visit to check out even more products; all of them meet Samsung’s certified pre-owned condition criteria, are guaranteed to look and work like new, and are backed by a two-year industry-leading warranty.

Nest Hub (2nd Gen)

Nest Hub (2nd generation)

The Nest Hub was already an excellent, small, smart speaker with a touchscreen. While not as responsive as Amazon’s Alexa devices, the Nest Hub has always been a great way to bring Google Assistant to your night table or desk.

The $99.99 second-generation Nest Hub was released a few months ago. It looks similar to the original version, but it has some key improvements to its internals that make it more responsive, better sounding, and better able to listen and respond.

Perhaps the biggest change is that the new Nest Hub can now track your sleep. No, it doesn’t do as deep a dive as specialized sleep watches do, but it is an excellent way to keep an eye on sleep patterns and get a decent sound in your dorm room.

Incase Commuter Backpack w/BIONIC
Incase Commuter Backpack w/BIONIC

If buying eco-friendly items is important to you, you’re going to love Incases’s new collection designed with BIONIC yarn; BIONIC yarn is a durable material created from recovered plastic pollution found in marine and coastal environments. Case in point, the $99.95 Incase Commuter Backpack is made with BIONIC  ripstop material made from recycled coastal plastics.

This lightweight backpack has detailed internal organization, a large main compartment, can protect up to a 16″ MacBook Pro, and it includes an external magnetic-snap closure water bottle pocket. Each bag is made with the equivalent of twenty-six plastic bottles that have been recovered from marine & coastal environments.

L’ange Le Volume 60mm 2-in-1 Volumizing Hair Brush Dryer

L'ange Le Volume 60mm 2-in-1 Volumizing Hair Brush Dryer

If you’re sending a kid back to college who complains about how long it takes to dry and style their hair every morning, and regular blow-outs aren’t in the budget, then both of you are going to love the L’ange Le Volume 60mm 2-in-1 Volumizing Hair Brush Dryer.

I have one of these, and it blows my mind every time I use it because it not only cuts out the need to try to work a round brush and a blowdryer at the same time for a salon-worthy blowout, it also massively cuts down on styling time because there’s no need to follow-up with a hair straightener or a curling iron.

It’s the only tool I use on my hair anymore, and I can go from damp hair to fully styled hair in less than 20 minutes versus the 45 or more it used to take. It’s also great for refreshing hair that has been slept on so it looks freshly styled again.

The L’ange Le Volume’s tug-resistant bristles grip hair, giving just the right amount of tension to create smooth styles with lots of body and lift. There are customizable settings so you can control the Le Volume’s heat and airflow, and the result is shiny, frizz-free hair that looks as if it was done professionally. My hair is shoulder length, so the 60MM size is perfect for me, but a larger 75mm version is also for those with longer locks.

Brydge Stone Pro Thunderbolt 3 Multiport Hub

Brydge Stone Pro Thunderbolt 3 Multiport Hub

Perfect for heading back to school, the $249.99 Brydge Stone Pro Thunderbolt 3 Multiport Hub works with both macOS and Windows, and it lets you connect two 4K displays at the same time. That is, however, just the beginning. It has 11 different ports and delivers up to Thunderbolt 3 speeds.

As Dan said in his review, “the Stone Pro is an important accessory if you are using one of the port-limited Apple laptops. If your main work computer is a laptop you definitely need one of these.”

Lenovo Smart Clock Essential

Lenovo Smart Clock Essential

There’s no excuse for missing class if your student has the $29.99 Lenovo Smart Clock Essential; it’s the ultimate smart clock for any room. It has a big and bold display, and they use it can talk to Google to ask questions, play music, control smart home devices, and more.

The Lenovo Smart Clock Essential also features a built-in nightlight and a charging port on the back, so they’ll have a handy spot for charging another device.

Gift Cards from Raise


Let’s face it, you can’t always predict what your college student will need, so sometimes a gift card is a better option. Raise has discounted gift cards to over 4,000 different retailers that cover the range of stores and restaurants like Best Buy, Adidas, Bed Bath & Beyond, Door Dash, Office Depot, Cabelas, Fandango, and many more.

Just about any national chain that offers gift cards can be found on the site, and the cards are discounted up to 30% of what they would cost if you were paying cash for them at the store. You’ll save money, and they’ll have a gift card for whatever their needs might be.



School means lots of writing, and even though there’s no way to take the pain out of putting together something the night before it’s due, Grammarly can help ensure that it is cleanly written without a ton of hideous typos.

There’s a free version of Grammarly that will check for spelling, pronunciation, and grammar, or you can opt for the Premium Version, which gives you all of that along with clarity-focused sentence rewrites, tone adjustments, check for inclusive language, word choice, formality level, fluency, and additional advanced suggestions including a plagiarism checker — it goes for a yearly subscription of $144.

Grammarly is super easy to use — it highlights mistakes and offers corrections; when you click on the offered correction, it will update your writing instantly. It truly is one of the best ways to ensure that students (and professionals) aren’t writing and submitting mistake-ridden garbage! It works with Microsoft Office and Google Docs, and there are browser extensions for Edge, Chrome, Safari, and Firefox. I really wish it had been an option when I was still in college!

Sleep Number True Temp Mattress Layer

Sleep Number True Temp Mattress Layer

Most dorm rooms come with a Twin XL mattress, and with the $149.99 Sleep Number True Temp Mattress Layer, your student will be able to sleep comfortably and at just the right temperature with 37.5 Technology.

With 37.5 Technology, active volcanic particles move heat and humidity away, continuously adapting to help keep them comfortable throughout the night. The Sleep Number True Temp Mattress Layer has a conforming, silky-soft, cool-to-the-touch cover, and it is hypoallergenic for sensitive sleepers.


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About the Author

Judie Lipsett Stanford
Judie is the co-owner and Editor-in-Chief of Gear Diary, which she founded in September 2006. She started in 1999 writing software reviews at the now-defunct; from mid-2000 through 2006, she wrote hardware reviews for and co-edited at The Gadgeteer. A recipient of the Sigma Kappa Colby Award for Technology, Judie is best known for her device-agnostic approach, deep-dive reviews, and enjoyment of exploring the latest tech, gadgets, and gear.

10 Comments on "Gear Diary’s 2021 Back to School Gift Guide"

  1. Honestly, I don’t recall my first days of school. I was always too anxious. 😀

  2. My best first day of school memory was my first day after moving in kindergarten. I walked up to a girl on the playground and introduced myself and asked if she wanted to be my friend. Without skipping a beat she said sure and then introduced me as their new friend to another girl who walked up. We stayed close all throughout school and I’m still best friends with the second girl after almost 30 years. Life was definitely a lot simpler back then!!

  3. Kent Burnett | August 21, 2021 at 2:18 am |

    The best is when you find your three best friends are in the same class as you.

  4. Brittany Gilley | August 21, 2021 at 4:49 pm |

    catching up with friends

  5. Jason Deane | August 22, 2021 at 7:19 am |

    It’s hard to remember but making a friend on the first day was helpful.

  6. My favorite memory was going out for an ice cream cone after the first day of school each year in elementary school!

  7. my favorites are the photos of the kids’ first days of school

  8. My best first day back at school memory happened in Junior High 8th grade. I found out my good friend would be in my gym class with me and I was extremely relieved.

  9. I was one time on the news for winning a bus contest in elementary school. I remember being confused about the attention.

  10. I was always nervous by the newness of it all. I can’t remember a specific example.

Comments are closed.