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A student on the bus commuting to UBC campus
July 30, 2019
3 mins read

How to pack for your commute

The UBC Life Commuter Guide

Imagine this: it’s your first day of first year. You’re waiting at the bus stop, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to begin your future. On your shoulders—a backpack the size of Mars. 

If you’re a commuter student at UBC, you’ll have no choice but to embrace the #backpacklyfe.

Our campus is big (420 acres!) and sprawling. Plus, its location, while beautiful, is far away from a lot of other parts of the city. Whether you’re wandering in from Point Grey or making the trek down from Coquitlam, you’re going to have to be prepared. 

After 5 years as a UBC student, 4 of which were spent commuting from a variety of locations around Vancouver, I’ve learned a thing or two about what’s worth carrying and what will only bring you pain (shoulder pain, that is).

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you pack your bag for the day:

What’s the weather like?

Anyone who has ever lived in Vancouver will tell you that the weather here is a fickle beast. You might wake up to a beach day and end your evening soaked to the skin, or leave home wrapped in 10 sweaters and return dripping in sweat. That means layers are key. 

It’s best practice to carry an umbrella (one of those small, collapsible ones) at all times, or wear something with a hood on you throughout most of the year. It’s well worth the small amount of space it takes up!

What do I need for these classes specifically?

About halfway through my 2nd year, I made a life-changing addition to my routine: every night, I emptied my backpack. 

Before bed, I would take everything out (yes, including that bottom layer of snack wrappers, scrap paper, and hair elastics) and only replace what I knew I needed for my next day of classes. Goodbye, hardcover copy of Jane Eyre; hello, inadvisably fragile stack of psych notes! 

Not only will this lighten your load, but it also helps keep you organized by forcing you to come face to face with all of your junk and question whether or not it’s necessary. Have you actually used those heavy running shoes you lug to school every day? If it’s a no, maybe they’re not worth the weight.

How can I make sustainable choices?

Vancouver is one of the greenest cities on Earth and UBC was ranked #1 in climate change action—in other words, sustainability is a big part of our culture.

That means single-use plastic generally isn’t available on campus. There's still the compostable stuff, of course, but consider bringing your own utensils (and your trendy reusable straw) from home! Most UBC food vendors will also be happy to give you your food and drinks in your reusable containers.

Don’t want to carry your travel mug around all day? Check out the UBC Mugshare program

How hungry am I?

I don’t know about you, but I identify strongly as a snacker. I rarely go more than a few hours without munching on something (and get seriously cranky if I do), which means I am constantly carrying around small portions of crackers, nuts, or veggies and dip.

Before you hoof it to the bus in the morning, pack yourself a few snacks for the day (in addition to your lunch). There’s food available on campus, of course, but a daily habit can add up quickly and your bank account might take more of a hit than you’d expect. 

How will I stay entertained?

If you have a long commute or long breaks between classes, I recommend having a collection of podcasts, downloaded albums (don’t want to waste that data!), and reading materials ready to go. You never know when you’ll have some time to kill.

Right now, I’m enjoying Armchair Expert on my morning bus ride, or Wait There’s More if I want to catch up on what’s going on in the world. 

Over the course of your time here at UBC, you’re sure to pick up your own packing tips and tricks based on what’s important to you.

If you find yourself carrying more than seems reasonable, consider renting a locker—they’re available in UBC Recreation locations and in most faculty buildings.