The 5 best odor eliminators to spring clean your home in 2021, with guidance from the American Cleaning Institute

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • A quality odor eliminator will remove or cover up odors while freshening up your space.
  • We spoke with an expert from the American Cleaning Institute to best explain how they work.
  • Hamilton Beach is our top pick because it uses three carbon filters to eliminate odors.

Whether you’re cooking up a new concoction in your kitchen, pet-sitting your neighbor’s dog, or stumbled upon stinky gym shoes left behind, household odors are inevitable. To combat these unpleasant aromas from circulating, an odor eliminator will work wonders to remove wonky smells.

Malodors come from a variety of sources including bacteria (spoiled food and body odor), fungus (mold and mildew), and volatile organic compounds or VOCs (paint fumes).

While scented cleaning sprays may mask smells, Brian Sansoni, SVP of communication at the American Cleaning Institute, said that if you really want to remove an odor from your home, you have to eliminate the bacteria or germs at the source.

“Fragrances that cover an odor might be used alongside an odor absorber or a product that kills odor-causing bacteria,” he said.

Sansoni said that odor-eliminating sprays use chemical compounds like cyclodextrins to trap odor molecules, but you can also use baking soda to absorb odors. Odor eliminators are safe to use on upholstery, curtains, and carpets to neutralize any smells, while surface cleaners with antimicrobial ingredients will help to kill odor-causing bacteria. Be sure to check your product label to ensure it’s recommended on certain surfaces.

Here are the best odor eliminators of 2021

The best overall

Hamilton Beach odor remover

The Hamilton Beach TrueAir Room Odor Eliminator will automatically neutralize odors in a room for up to three months and comes with replaceable filters.

Pros: Continuous odor elimination, can be used with or without fragrance filter, low wattage, quiet, covers 100 square feet, replaceable filters

Cons: Replacement filters not readily available in all mass-market stores

The Hamilton Beach TrueAir Room Odor Eliminator is only a small 8-inch cube, but it’s a mighty tool for removing odors. Simply plug it in and the TrueAir fan pulls in air, pushes it through three carbon filters, and traps dust and malodors to leave your room smelling fresh. There are two settings and I keep it on low, which makes very little noise. You can increase the speed to tackle tougher smells — like tobacco smoke or pet odors — too.

The product claims to cover a 10-by-10-square-foot room for three months. After that, the filters should be replaced. Changing the filters is very simple and if you don’t use them all the time, the filters are effective for more than three months. It also comes with a fragrance cartridge, Green Meadow, that you can use or skip. 

I’ve been using the device for several months and my home is less dusty and smells fresh. It’s powerful, effective, and you can store it in a closet when it’s not in use for easy storage.

Best for pet odors

Anti Icky Poo odor remover

If you want to keep the pet but not the smells, Mister Max Anti-Icky-Poo is your best bet.

Pros: Eliminates tough pet odors, environmentally safe to use around humans and pets, 100% money-back guarantee

Cons: Doesn’t remove visible stains, not readily available in most mass-market stores.

Pets have accidents but even if you thoroughly clean after them, the odor often lingers in the carpet, upholstery, tile grout, and hardwood floors. And once the animal catches a whiff of that spot, it will return to the scene of the crime. Enter Mister Max Anti-Icky-Poo — the cleaning agent that will have your home smelling fresh and void of lingering pet smells.

I have a precious rescue pup that tends to urinate when startled or when she feels threatened. When accidents happen, I simply grab Mister Max and give the area a good spray. Live bacteria and enzymes in the formula destroy the odor molecules, so there is no residual stench remaining.

Safe to use on all types of floors (it even penetrates concrete), carpets, and fabrics, the nontoxic Mister Max comes in a light scent or an unscented formula, and features a 100% satisfaction guarantee if it’s not up to par for your household.

Best for carpets

Arm and Hammer odor remover

Arm & Hammer’s Extra Strength Carpet Odor Eliminator only takes a light sprinkle and a good vacuum to freshen up your room. 

Pros: Eliminates odor from carpet and upholstery, contains baking soda to fight tough stains 

Cons: Scent can be overpowering if too much is used

Soft surfaces like carpets, area rugs, and upholstery are magnets for odor molecules. The fibers grab hold of the molecules and simply won’t let them go. This is particularly true for natural fibers like wool that are barbed, and synthetic fibers made from petroleum products that like to hold onto greasy molecules.

To get the most benefit from this product, I sprinkle a very light dusting of Arm & Hammer’s Extra Strength Carpet Odor Eliminator and then use a slightly damp sponge mop to work it into the carpet fibers (use a damp sponge when cleaning upholstery) and then step away for an hour or so. When I come back and give the area a good vacuuming, it’s amazing to see how much soil is trapped in the powder.

Best for small spaces

Moso natural odor remover

When your closet, car, or even the inside of your sneakers is less than fresh, toss in a Moso Natural Air Purifying Bag to effectively absorb odors.

Pros: Nontoxic, natural product containing no petroleum-based chemicals, available in a variety of colors and sizes, reusable for two years

Cons: Doesn’t remove odors immediately, takes several hours for effects to kick in

Small spaces packed with lots of clothes, shoes, or linens can begin to smell stale, and the last thing you need is another strong scent layered on top. Luckily, the Moso Natural Air Purifying Bag contains 200 grams of bamboo charcoal to absorb odors, hassle-free.

Moso bags come in several sizes to fit any space and will last up to two years. They can be “recharged” by placing them in the sun for one hour per month. This helps remove the moisture that has accumulated in the charcoal. Since this is a natural product, after two years the charcoal can be composted for the garden, making it a sustainable product to have on hand.

I love that the bags come in several colors and I use them to freshen clothes and linens in every closet, in the laundry room near the dog’s crate, and in my car to keep it fresh.

Best air freshener

Renuzit odor removers

Renuzit Snuggle Super Fresh Air Freshener provides continuous odor elimination, thanks to its long-lasting gel formula.

Pros: Biodegradable gel, no batteries needed, scent level is adjustable

Cons: None

There are dozens of air fresheners in the market, and they’re available in various forms — from sprays and oil diffusers to plug-ins and gels. The problem with almost all of them is that they only add fragrance to the air and don’t eliminate odor. For an air freshener that actually gets rid of odors, I use the Renuzit Snuggle Super Fresh Air Freshener

The science is similar to that in fabric refresher sprays, where offensive odor molecules are trapped by ring-shaped cyclodextrin molecules (imperceptible to the human nose). The 98% biodegradable gel in the formula traps malodor molecules and eliminates odors.

Housed in a contemporary-looking container, the air freshener can be opened as much or as little as you’d like to release the Snuggle fragrance. There’s no need for batteries or an outlet, either. I’ve been using this gel for many months and the bathroom still smells fresh and clean even when it has had plenty of traffic. 

Our testing methodology

I have more than 40 years of experience testing cleaning products. Our picks are based on hands-on testing and use. We also interviewed Brian Sansoni, SVP of communication at the American Cleaning Institute, on what to look for in an odor eliminator.

In making our picks, we looked at the following criteria:

  • Efficacy: We looked at how well each odor eliminator removed odors from household areas. This involves how quickly the scent was removed, how long it took to make the living area smell great, and if it was consistent over time.
  • Ease of use: We looked at how easy each machine, spray, or stationary product was to use.
  • Good value: We looked at how closely efficacy and ease of use corresponded to price. While price wasn’t the primary consideration, we found that you don’t have to spend a lot to get good performance. 

Check out our other cleaning guides

GettyImages 1217595821
Read the original article on Business Insider

The 5 best floor cleaners of 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Even if most of your home has wall-to-wall carpeting, some floors require more than just vacuuming.
  • We rounded up the best floor cleaners specially designed for different floor types below.

Taking care of hard surface floors is a never-ending job. Sweeping or vacuuming will capture much of the loose dirt and hair, but eventually, stuck-on messes will need to be cleaned with a mop and a good cleaner.

I don’t have carpeting in my home except for area rugs, so I’ve learned to care for hardwood, ceramic tile, and stone floors on a weekly basis to keep them looking clean and fresh. I’ve also tested floor cleaners, vacuums, brooms, and mops for many years as a home economist, so looking for products that are most effective, easy to use, and of great value is second nature to me.

While some cleaners are interchangeable, what’s needed to clean the grout in ceramic tile floors isn’t the same as what’s used to keep hardwoods gleaming. That said, we provided five options best for cleaning wood, laminate, vinyl, ceramic, and stone floors so you’ll have a pristine clean.

Here are the best floor cleaners of 2021

The best for wood

Bona Hardwood floor cleaner

With Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner Spray, you can protect your expensive wood floors and keep them shining for years to come.

Pros:  Simple-to-use spray bottle, no rinsing, leaves no streaks, dries quickly, large bottles available for refills, low VOCs

Cons: Cannot be used on floors that have been oiled or waxed with paste wax

The majority of wood floors in homes are sealed with polyurethane or polyacrylic urethane finish. Harsh cleaning chemicals can permanently dull this finish and leave streaks. So, when it’s time to clean spills and muddy footprints, the Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner Spray is your best bet, as it’s specifically formulated for wood floors.

After sweeping away loose dirt, I do a quick spritz with this water-based formula and follow through with a clean mop, and my floors look fabulous. There’s no rinsing needed and it never leaves any streaks.

Bona is Greenguard Gold-Certified and produces low volatile organic compounds (VOC). The spray bottle can be refilled from the larger gallon size or you can use it to fill the built-in cleaner container of some mops.

The best for laminate

black diamond slide

To swiftly clean engineered wood, the Black Diamond Stoneworks Wood & Laminate Floor Cleaner is an eco-friendly spray to sustain your floor.

Pros: Works for hardwood and laminate flooring, hypoallergenic, no rinsing required, safe to use around children and pets

Cons: None

Laminate floors don’t require as potent of cleaner and nearly as much maintenance compared to expensive hardwood. Sometimes, using a wood-only cleaner leaves laminate floors full of streaks and water spots. To combat this, the Black Diamond Stoneworks Wood & Laminate Floor Cleaner is fit for your next deep clean.

Though it’s usable on wood, this hypoallergenic formula will tackle stains, dust, and oil on bamboo, cork, Pergo, Armstrong, and Mohawk floor types. No rinsing is required and it’s safe to use around children and pets — just spray and wipe.

The best for vinyl

Rejuvenate floor cleaner

Rejuvenate All Floors Cleaner will remove old wax buildup and stuck-on grime to restore the shine of your vinyl floor.

Pros: Cleans floors with no rinsing needed, restores shine, non-toxic and fragrance-free, the spray bottle is reusable, fresh lemon scent

Cons: Not readily available in all mass-market stores

Vinyl floors are built to take lots of abuse. That’s why they end up in kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and mudrooms. Rejuvenate All Floors Cleaner is the best cleaner for removing messes and stains with a streak-free finish and no rinsing required.

It works well when sprayed on the floor and cleaned with a microfiber mop. Because the formula is pH-balanced to neutralize contaminants and contains ingredients that will remove old wax buildup and grime, it left the floor looking great. I didn’t have to rinse or repeat the mopping. The lemon-scented formula is also non-toxic, fragrance-free, and Greenguard Gold-Certified with low chemical emissions.

The Rejuvenate Restorer fills in scratches, helps prevent sun-fading, and improves traction. I used Rejuvenate on a friend’s dingy, scratched vinyl floors and it improved the look so drastically she changed her mind about wanting to replace them.

The best for ceramic tile

Hoover grout floor cleaner

Ceramic tile floors are easy to clean except for all those grout lines, but the Hoover Renewal Tile & Grout Cleaning Formula works wonders.

Pros: Concentrated so you use less, biodegradable, effectively cleans tile and grout, septic-safe, can be used with electric floor cleaner or with a mop, performs well, lightly scented

Cons: Not readily available in mass-market stores

Taking care of ceramic tile floors should be a breeze because the tile is stain-resistant, doesn’t scratch easily, and lasts for decades. Howevergrout, if left unsealed, will absorb stains, attract dirt, and can be damaged by strong cleaners. Luckily, the Hoover Renewal Tile & Grout Cleaning Formula makes maintaining ceramic a breeze.

It’s highly concentrated, so read the directions to learn how much to mix with water. Be careful not to use too much of the product, or you’ll have to do some extra rinsing. The cleaner can be used in both an electric floor cleaner or with a good mop. The key to successfully getting the grout back to its natural color is using hot water with the cleaner to help cut through the grime.

I was thrilled with how easily it cleaned the floor and only a couple of tough spots needed a bit of extra scrubbing with a brush. The scent is clean and not overpowering, and it will have your tile and grout looking fabulous when used regularly. 

The best for stone

stonetech slide

If you have expensive slate, granite, or marble floors, the StoneTech All-Purpose Daily Cleaner for Stone & Tile will help make your investment last and look great. 

Pros: Gentle on stone floors but tough on dirt and grime, nontoxic, two light scents available, refillable container

Cons: Not readily available in mass-market stores

I once attended a party at a home with gleaming marble floors in the vast entrance. Because it’s my job, I just had to ask the homeowners how they kept the floor looking so grand. The answer was StoneTech All-Purpose Daily Cleaner for Stone & Tile.

While stone floors may seem indestructible, they’re pretty sensitive to products, stains, and spills that contain acids. Any spills that contain wine, citrus juice, or vinegar should be cleaned up immediately because they can etch even sealed stone floors. Harsh chemicals like chlorine bleach or ammonia can be quite destructive to such an expanse of flooring.

StoneTech helps the sealant last longer and maintains the natural beauty of the stone with its citrus or cucumber scent. You can purchase it ready to use or in a concentrated formula to add to water. The ready-to-use formula is available in a spray bottle as well as a gallon jug for refills. To clean your floors, simply spray a small area and clean with a microfiber mop. No rinsing or drying is necessary. The cleaner is non-toxic and biodegradable, too.

Tips for cleaning your floors

Cleaning your floors doesn’t have to be difficult if you have a good floor cleaner, the right type of mop, and the time in your week to regularly tend to such surfaces. 

Start by sweeping or vacuuming to remove loose soil and hair. If you don’t, you’ll just be swishing it around and often leaving it behind. Use a clean mop head or disposable pad to prevent soil from re-depositing, and remember to allow plenty of time for the floor to dry before tracking in more dirt.

Take a minute to read the instructions on the back of the floor cleaner bottle. Some products go directly on the floor, while some need to be mixed with water; some require rinsing, but some don’t. Following the directions can help you be more successful.

Check out our other cleaning guides

Man cleaning house mopping mop chores housework
Read the original article on Business Insider

The 5 best airline-friendly cat carriers in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • An airline-friendly cat carrier is a must if you’re traveling with your pet in cabin.
  • The Sleepypod Air In-Cabin Pet Carrier offers an unbeatable combination of quality, durability, pet comfort, and safety features.

If you are traveling by plane, then you’ll need to purchase a pet carrier that meets a particular airline’s regulations, both in terms of size and design. We evaluated cat carriers that are suitable for in-cabin travel based on a number of factors, including durability, size, ventilation, security, and comfort, as well as feedback from experts and our testing results.

While these cat carriers are generally acceptable for use in airplane cabins, check your airline’s requirements before purchasing. Different airlines have different rules and regulations. For instance, United Airlines requires that a soft-sided carrier be no larger than 18-inches long by 11-inches wide by 11-inches high. However, Southwest Airlines allows a slightly larger maximum size of 18.5-inches long, 8.5-inches high, and 13.5-inches wide, while Delta Airlines has varying requirements according to the specific flight that you’re on.

You should also research an airline’s general rules for pets before you book, and be sure to have documentation that the airline might require. Your pet may need a veterinary examination and particular vaccines to fly, and if necessary, schedule an appointment with your vet to ensure your travel plans go smoothly.

Here are the 5 best airline-friendly cat carriers in 2021

The best airline-friendly carrier overall

sleepypod air in cabin pet carrier

The Sleepypod Air offers the durability and comfort your cat needs for frequent travel.

Pros: Compresses to fit under plane seats, durable construction, straps can anchor to a car seat belt, crash-tested

Cons: Heavier than other soft-sided carriers

The Sleepypod Air in-cabin pet carrier offers an ideal blend of a highly durable exterior and a soft, comfortable interior to keep your cat both comfortable and safe during travel. The exterior is made of luggage-grade ballistic nylon for strength, and tear-resistant mesh makes this carrier a long-lasting choice.

The Sleepypod Air’s unique design allows you to expand or compress the carrier’s size. When you’re in the car or the airport, your pet can enjoy increased space. Then, compress the carrier when you board so it meets your airline’s requirements and fits underneath a seat.  

A large opening provides easy entry, and there are zipper pockets on both sides for ample storage. Straps on both sides of the carrier can secure to a car seat belt for increased travel safety. This carrier also passed crash-testing conducted by the Center for Pet Safety

The best expandable airline-friendly carrier

mr peanuts gold expandable cat carrier

The Mr. Peanut’s Gold Series Expandable Carrier is compact enough to meet most airlines’ size regulations, but also expands to offer your pet extra space.

Pros: Expandable panel for extra room, two entry doors, folds flat for storage, washable interior bed, lightweight

Cons: Hand-wash only, no warranty

To comply with airline regulations, most pet carriers are small and offer limited space. The Mr. Peanut’s Gold Series Expandable Carrier solves the issue with a side flap that folds out — just unzip and, voila, your pet has extra space to stretch out while staying securely inside the carrier.

Top and front entrances make it easy to load and unload your cat and a privacy flap can help keep cats calm. The luggage sleeve and comfortable shoulder strap are particularly beneficial when you have to carry your pet long distances through the airport.

The carrier is made from durable nylon and includes a sturdy but lightweight plywood base. An interior fleece bed is removable and hand-washable. When not in use, the carrier folds completely flat for easy storage. 

The best hard-shell airline-friendly carrier

frisco hard shell kennel

Affordable and easy to assemble, the Frisco Two-Door Top-Load Kennel offers extra protection.

Pros: Sturdy hard shell, ventilation on all sides, easy assembly

Cons: Only two color options, low weight limit, may be too large for some airlines

The Frisco Two-Door Top-Load Kennel offers your cat the extra protection and spaciousness of a hard-shell carrier in a size that meets most airlines’ regulations. Thanks to the plastic kennel’s durable construction, you don’t have to worry about the occasional bump or nudge to your cat.

There are secure wire mesh doors on both the front and top of the carrier and ventilation openings on all sides. The doors latch securely and the top-mounted handle is strong.

It arrives in two pieces and requires assembly with the included bolts. The carrier is available in a larger 24-inch size, but it’s likely it won’t meet airlines’ regulations.

The best wheeled airline-friendly carrier

katziela rolling carrier

The Katziela Luxury Rider Pet Carrier is easy to pull through the airport and removable wheels ensure it meets size regulations.

Pros: Removable wheels, mesh top can be compressed to fit under a seat, carrying handle and shoulder strap for convenience

Cons: Can tip over if wheels aren’t properly centered, may be too large for some airlines

With the Katziela Luxury Rider Pet Carrier, you can pull the carrier with a telescopic handle, or opt for the handle or shoulder strap. Whichever way you choose to transport your cat, this carrier makes traveling with pets easier.

Six wheels give the carrier extra support, but they’re also easily removable to keep the carrier within the size limit of most airlines.  You can also squish down the top of the carrier to make it fit under a plane seat.

A mesh top and windows give your cat plenty of ventilation. Pockets can hold small supplies, a name tag attached to the handle allows for easy identification, and zippers can be locked to prevent your cat from opening the side flap and escaping. Just make sure you can unlock it, in case of an emergency.

The best budget airline-friendly carrier

frisco travel pet carrier

Affordable and appropriately sized, the Frisco Travel Carrier is a practical option for the occasional trip.

Pros: Front- and top-loading, secure luggage strap, washable interior bed, folds flat for storage, one-year warranty

Cons: Less ventilation, shoulder strap is uncomfortable for shorter individuals

For an affordable option, the Frisco Travel Carrier offers a combination of comfort, durability, and features to make traveling with a pet easier for cats up to 16 pounds.

The durable nylon bag includes doors at top and front and includes privacy flaps. Along with a shoulder strap, there is a luggage sleeve and convenient carrying handles. The removable interior mat provides your cat a soft place to rest.

The downsides: This bag’s ventilation is more limited than that of our top picks. We also found that the shoulder stap lacks padding and can be uncomfortable to carry.

What we’re looking forward to

We’re testing additional airline-friendly carriers for an update to this guide, including the following:

Read the original article on Business Insider

24 of the best Amazon gag gifts to give as pranks

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

Amazon gag gifts

  • We’ve singled out 24 of our favorite gag gifts from Amazon, most of which your recipient will actually want to keep.
  • With the right delivery, the memory and the laughs just might last.
  • Looking for more gift ideas? Check out all Insider Reviews gift guides here.

There are hundreds of pages of prank gifts on Amazon, but perhaps you’re looking for something other than fart jokes and boxer briefs. After all, gag gifts don’t have to be too gross or absurdly frightening. They’re really meant for prompting laughter and fun memories, whether it be with your family, friends, or colleagues.

Perhaps an ice cream lock from Ben and Jerry’s could help teach your sneaky roommate a lesson. Or, maybe your friend can’t stop yammering about her affinity for puzzles. You might finally catch her flummoxed by giving her an impossible-to-solve blank white jigsaw. And that’s only the beginning. Amazon has countless ways to go about making practical jokes and general tomfoolery. From screaming goats to tiny violins, we’ve found some of the best gag gifts you could possibly give.

Shop all 24 gag gifts from Amazon:

A pillow they may be scared to use

white elephant gifts

Jasen DIY Sequin Pillow Cover, $10.99

For those who love his work, or those who really don’t. 

For Jeff Goldblum fans, you’re going to want to head here.

A (loudly) screaming goat figurine and booklet

screaminggoat

“The Screaming Goat” book and figure, $9.95

If they still can’t get enough of that Screaming Goat video on YouTube, this is as blood-curdling — and annoying — as you might imagine. Trust me, I have one on my desk. My colleagues love me.

For the person in your life who isn’t quite car-savvy

blinker fluid

Blinker Fluid, $10.95

Send them to the mechanic with this bottle and wait for their reaction. 

The world’s smallest violin

violin

3-Inch Miniature Violin Replica (with case), $11

Sorry, no pony this year, either, kiddo. Play it, momma.

A mock video game to drop the hint that it’s time they pull their weight around the house

extremechores

Extreme Chores: Motion Controlled Video Game (empty box), $7.99

For little Lord Fauntleroy. Yeah, maybe coal didn’t quite get the message across, but this ought to do the trick. Note that this box comes empty, so you can also fill it with coal, if you so please.

Your face on a pair of socks

facesocks

Custom Photo Face Socks, $15.59

Put the mug of their best friend (or worst enemy) on a pair of socks. Either way, they’ll wear them. Trust us.

For those who ask too many questions

'what if? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions'

“What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions,” from $11.16

Great coffee table (or commode) material for the coveter of useless information.

Help them slow that little tyke down

toddler tamer gag

Toddler Tamers (gag kit), $7.98

Parents, rejoice!

An ice cream lock, so they’ll stop blaming you for being the culprit

icecreamlock

Ben & Jerry’s Euphori-Lock Ice Cream Lock, $23.53

For the stingy one who’ll never share their ice cream.

Poems by cats about what cats do best

icouldpeeonthis

“I Could Pee on This: And Other Poems by Cats,” $10.78

For your friend, family member, or housemate who’s just a little too in love with their feline and could stand a reality check.

A parody book for the young professional

81uhDmJVYIL

Oh, The Meetings You’ll Go To!: A Parody, $12.68

Hopefully, they’ll laugh, though they might also cry.

An apron to gear them up for the barbecue to end all barbecues

grillseargent

Grill Sergeant BBQ Apron, $24.99

For the… Well, you know who this is for.

One dozen rattlesnake eggs (keep warm for best results)

rattlesnakeeggs

(Fake) Rattlesnake Eggs, $7.99

Best delivered incubator-warm.

A bag of “the world’s strongest coffee”

deathwishcoffee

Death Wish Coffee Co. Coffee, $19.96

We only hope they’ll get this is a gag. 

An impossible-to-solve puzzle

ravensburgerpuzzle

Ravensburger Puzzle, $19.49

Something to finally stump that very special whiz kid you know.

A mug in which to serve them a steaming hot pile of … coffee

Amazon gag gifts toilet mug

Fairly Odd Novelties Toilet Mug, $14.99

A gift that’s heavily representative of this entire year. 

A personal cleansing wheel (in lieu of the bidet they keep asking for)

rotowipe

Roto Wipe Personal Cleansing Wheel, $7.99

So they’ll finally stop pestering you for that exorbitant bidet thing they all love so much over in Europe. (Note: This is just an empty box in which to wrap your real gift.)

Instructions for gracefully approaching (and achieving) senescence

crotchety

“How Not to Become a Crotchety Old Man,” $8.89

Dear Dad (or Grandpa)…

Snot (and tear) mittens, for those who work outdoors, or just won’t stop wiping their nose on their sleeve

snittens

Snittens, The Original Snot Mittens, $19.99

One side for snot, the other for tears. Maybe after receiving this, they’ll stop wiping their nose on their sleeve, or their bare hands. Probably not. Either way, they actually work!

A practice putting green for the bathroom

toiletgolf

Toilet Golf, $10.95

If their Golf Digest subscription just isn’t cutting it on long trips to the john anymore, they can always stand to work on their short game.

A tortilla blanket

Burrito blanket

Giant Flour Tortilla Throw Blanket, $20.99

For the avid snuggler or tortilla aficionado in your life, this double-sided throw blanket wraps you up like a warm burrito. 

A notepad for the quick-tempered

Paper Tantrum

Paper Tantrum Nifty Note, $5.95

This notepad can help your family member, partner, or even coworker blow off steam in a productive yet humorous way.

A miniature weightlifting set

Finger Weight Lifting

Finger Weightlifting, $9.95

Give an authentic gym experience to your friend who keeps saying they need to work out. They can exercise their fingers with barbells, resistance bands, and more – and all from the comfort of their desk.

A pizza box filled with socks

Pepperoni Pizza Socks Box  4 pairs

Pizza Socks Box, $25.99

If they love pizza, they’ll savor this fake pizza box filled with socks that resemble pizza slices. They’ll be in for a fun surprise and tasty new additions to their socks collection. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 5 best women’s hiking pants and leggings, perfect for day hikes and backpacking trips

  • Wearing hiking pants instead of jeans offers protection against the elements and moisture management.
  • The best hiking pants are stretchy, have a gusseted crotch for movement, and handle dirt and sweat.
  • Our top pick, the Columbia Saturday Trail Pant, is durable and versatile with zip-off legs.

If you’re headed out for an easy day hike, throw on a pair of hiking boots and whatever shorts or leggings you have lying around and just get out there. But if you’re off on a technical hike with the sun blasting down on your and rock scrambles, or on an overnight backpacking trip, you’ll be a lot happier if you wear hiking-specific pants.

Read more: 10 hiking essentials for spring

Women’s hiking pants are made for movement and comfort, with many featuring stretchy fabric and a gusseted crotch so you can stretch, reach, and twist without restriction. What’s more, most pairs have features that protect against the elements, like UPF to offer sun protection for your skin, DWR finishes to repel water, and abrasion-resistant patches so you won’t tear the fabric as you scoot over big rocks.

Hiking-specific pants are also designed to be worn with a backpack, meaning you won’t typically find excess fabric or unnecessary belt loops on the waistband capable of causing pressure points or becoming uncomfortable. The best hiking pants aren’t just for hiking, either, but perform well enough for you to wear while traveling or running errands around town.

You’ll also want to find a pair that’s sun-, dirt-, and water-resistant, even if you hike in an area that doesn’t always encounter intense elements or weather changes. And finally, fit is a vital consideration, and not just how it feels around your waist. Some pants come in a variety of lengths and its always better to have excess coverage and roll up your pant legs as opposed to not fully protecting your lower legs.

To help you sift through the growing market of hiking pants, we rounded up a few pairs of our favorites from brands like The North Face, Columbia Sportswear, and Eddie Bauer. At the end of this guide, we go into more detail on how we tested the picks.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Here are the best women’s hiking pants:

Best hiking pants overall

Columbia Saturday Trail Convertible Pant

Tough, abrasion-resistant stretch nylon fabric makes the Columbia Sportswear Saturday Trail Convertible Pant a great option for women looking for one garment that does it all.

Pros: Zip-off legs, gusseted crotch, made of stretch fabric that repels water

Cons: They run small so it’s smart to size up

Size range: 2-16 in short, regular, and long

Hikers will love that the legs on these zip off, adding an extra layer of versatility, allowing you to switch to shorts if need be. When worn as pants, a subtle flap covers the zipper to avoid snagging on anything as you hike.

A gusseted crotch allows for full freedom of movement and the pant’s articulated knees won’t pull up or feel binding when you’re stepping up or down. Side-zip security pockets safely hold an ID or credit card while leg hem cinches keep out bugs and debris. The fabric is rated for UPF 50, meaning you’re able to wear these in the sun without having to worry about getting burned, too.

The comfortable stretch fabric repels water and resists stains while breathing and wicking moisture away from your skin to keep you dry and comfortable. These pants feature a mid-rise design, come in three different lengths, and have enough give in the fabric to fit a variety of body shapes and sizes. Consider sizing up, though; they run small. 

Best wear-anywhere

PrAna Briann Pant

The Prana Briann Pant pant is able to do it all, from trekking through the backcountry to remaining comfortable around the house for daily use.

Pros: Stretch fabric is perfect for a variety of use cases, features SPF 50+ protection, repels water, available in three length choices

Cons: The fitted, skinny leg style may not be suitable for everyone

Size range: 00-14 in short and regular

These stretchy, slim fit pants don’t scream technical trail attire and are perfect as a travel pant, allowing you to wear them at a city tour, a hike, or while out to dinner with friends.

Stretchy and water repellent, the Briann stays comfortable no matter if you’ve been in them for hours or days, and they won’t look saggy or worn down. Made from durable, abrasion-resistant stretch nylon, the pants quick-dry moisture, offer SPF 50+ protecting, and repel water. They’re designed as a mid-rise pant with belt loops and a button closure. Prana offers the Briann in three length choices and seven different colorways.

Best capri-style

The North Face Aphrodite 2.0 Capri

The Aphrodite 2.0 Capri from The North Face features oversized leg openings, making them cool in hot weather without leaving you as exposed as a pair of shorts.

Pros: Capri style keeps you cool in hot weather without completely exposing your legs, adjustable drawcord allows for a custom fit

Cons: Fit runs big

Size range: XS-3X

The waistband is two inches wide, so it won’t dig or chafe, even when you’re huffing up a steep incline or hauling a heavy backpack. An adjustable drawcord at the waist lets you easily cinch the pants for a customized fit.

The North Face manufactured the Aphrodite from durable, breathable fabric that quickly wicks and dries, allowing them to stay comfortable whether you’re hiking in the rain or breaking a sweat. A concealed zippered compartment inside the hand pocket secures valuables like car keys and its triple-stitched seams can endure miles of hard use. The shirring on the legs adds flair, so you could throw these on over your yoga tights en route to class if you don’t feel like walking around in Lycra.

Best for mountaineering

Eddie Bauer Women's Guide Pro Pants

Made for professional mountain guides, the Eddie Bauer Women’s Guide Pro Pants are lightweight, packable, and constructed from a stretchy fabric that lasts for years of hard use.

Pros: Features UPF 50+ protection, highly durable, zippered pockets able to hold plenty of loose gear like phones, wallets, etc.

Cons: Sizing can be a little tricky

Size range: 0-16

These pants are rugged and durable enough to survive anything the outdoors throws at you, and feature a treated water-repelling finish and UPF 50+ protection.

The Guide Pro Pants offer a style reminiscent of a pair of stretch jeans and feature two hand pockets, a button waist, and belt loops. Zippered pockets on the thighs are big enough to hold a phone, wallet, or ID, too. They’re styled as a mid-rise pant and come in seven different colors.

Eddie Bauer designed these for women with a somewhat curvy figure, so check the sizing guide before choosing which pair to buy.

Best leggings

abisko trekking tight_long

The Fjällräven Abisko Women’s Trekking Tights are very comfortable with stretch fabric, a very flattering fit, and reinforced at the knees and butt for durability and protection if you fall, slide, or need to scoot.

Pros: Stretchy, reinforced in key areas, wide waistband, gusseted, flatlock seams reduce chafing, interior drawcord for better fit, gear loops, phone pocket

Cons: Expensive, limited sizing, too long for short folks, can get hot during sunny summer hikes

Size range: XS-XL

Like most millennials, I prefer to wear leggings over pants in pretty much every situation, especially during exercise. The Fjällräven Abisko Women’s Trekking Tights are ideal if you want a close-to-body feel and flattering fit on a more technical hike. 

Made from 82% nylon and 18% elastane, these tights are the perfect balance of stretchy and durable. They’re breathable and sweat-wicking, though they’re a little too thick for hot summer hikes. The best part about these tights are the reinforced knees and butt areas, which offer abrasion-resistance on the areas you’re most likely to scrape against the ground slipping, sliding, or scooting.

They also have a convenient phone pocket for quick pics on your hike, and an interior drawcord for a tighter fit around the waist if you need.

The downside is they’re quite pricey. But if you hike a lot or are heading out for a big trip where you need reliable, durable bottoms, the splurge may be worth it. –Rachael Schultz

How we test

Each of the hiking pants featured in this guide went through a series of on-trail tests to see how well they compared based on these four categories: Fit, function, versatility, and value. Here’s how each category factored into which hiking pants I ultimately included:

  • Fit: A hiking pant’s fit is perhaps the single most important category when assessing whether it’s worth spending money on or not. When testing, I looked for everything from how it felt to wear casually, how it held up on both casual and technical hikes, and whether it remained comfortable enough to wear post-trail. 
  • Function: There is plenty of women-designed outdoor apparel that skimps when it comes to including functional pockets (or any kind of storage), so this was a key consideration. Even if you tend to hike with a pack, there’s still a need for being able to store a smartphone or your keys in a pant pocket, instead of fishing them out of your bag all day. 
  • Versatility: Being able to wear a pair of hiking pants outside of its singular intended purpose is important for a couple of reasons: You don’t always have the time or space to change right after a hike and if you’re investing in quality pants, you should be able to put them to use in other scenarios.
  • Value: Value is less the final sticker price as much as it’s the combination of the three categories above as well as how much it costs. I often subscribe to the idea that it’s better to spend more on something that’s built to last than to spend less, more often on an inferior product. 
Read the original article on Business Insider

The 2 best smart light strips of 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Best light strips Govee

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

  • Smart light strips bring illumination and color to dim spots, like under kitchen cabinets.
  • They also work as night lights or as mood lights.
  • Smart light strips can be controlled from your phone and by voice-activated assistants like Alexa.

Light strips can transform the look of your home. With adhesive backing that enables them to stick virtually anywhere the only limitation is the need for a power outlet. They are designed to be concealed under cabinets or shelves, and behind TVs or panels, so that you only see the light they emit.  

The latest smart light strips can integrate with your smart home, enabling you to schedule or automate different kinds of lighting, select new lighting scenes from your phone, and use voice assistants like Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant to change your lighting. 

We have tested several different smart light strips in the home to see how they perform, and we’ve bolstered that testing with research into the most trusted brands and highly reviewed products. We also sought advice from lighting designer Anna Ames who explained the importance of color temperature measured in units of Kelvin (K) and brightness measured in lumens.

Here are the best smart light strips you can buy:

Govee Wi-Fi Dreamcolor LED Light Strip

best light strip govee Dreamcolor

Affordable, versatile, and easy to use, the Govee Wi-Fi Dreamcolor LED Light Strip is an irresistible bargain for anyone with a limited budget.

Perhaps the most prominent purveyor of budget light strips, Govee offers a wide range of smart lighting. It updates its product line frequently, which can make it a little confusing. I tested a few different models, but the one I’m recommending is the H6163 model. At $33.99 for the 16-foot light strip, this is the cheapest option we tested. 

The Govee Wi-Fi Dreamcolor LED Light Strip comes with a power unit attached that has a button to turn it on or off and one to cycle through colors. There’s also a button to activate the sound-reactive mode, which lights up and changes colors based on the music or other sounds in the room. This is ideal if you’re placing the strip in a child’s bedroom or guest room and don’t want to use a phone to control it. You can also connect to the strip via the Govee app, though you do have to sign up for an account. 

The app connects the strip directly to your Wi-Fi and offers additional features, such as a timer, sliders for brightness and color temperature, and a selection of scenes, including animated multicolored scenes. You can also select colors individually for different segments of the strip and you can create your own scenes via the DIY option. This light strip also supports Alexa and Google Assistant for voice control.

The Govee Wi-Fi Dreamcolor LED Light Strip worked flawlessly during my testing. I’m very impressed by the full range of features on offer for such a low price. It works beautifully as a night light and for background mood lighting, but with a color temperature range of around 3,000 to 5,000 K and a maximum brightness of 800 lumens, it’s not suitable as a main light source. The ability to display multiple colors in different segments simultaneously is the main thing that differentiates this strip from some of Govee’s cheaper models that only display a single color at a time, like the Model H6188, which I also tested and liked. 

The H6163 version 16.4 feet long with an adhesive backing and was easy to install. I stuck these light strips on the underside of a wooden bed frame and behind a large cabinet without any issues. You can cut it if you need to, but you can’t extend it. 

Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance Light Strip Plus

Best Light Strip Philips Hue

With lots of features in the easy-to-use Hue app, the Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance Light Strip Plus is ideal for anyone who has already invested in Philips Hue lighting. 

As the leading smart-lighting manufacturer, Philips knows how to make great lights. The Hue range is its best but also its most expensive. The Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance Lightstrip Plus costs $79.99. 

The Hue app is very straightforward and reliable. You can change the brightness, color, and color temperature of your strip; choose different scenes; and create routines. If you want to schedule your light strip to come on or turn off automatically, control it when you’re not at home, add additional accessories like motion sensors or smart switches, or sync with music, you need a Philips Hue Bridge. The bridge also makes for a faster and more reliable connection than Bluetooth.  

At a maximum of 1,600 lumens, this is one of the brightest light strips we tested, and it has a fairly wide color temperature range of 2,000 to 6,500 K, but it is limited to a single color at a time. The basic Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance Lightstrip Plus is 2 meters (6.6 feet) long, and you can buy one-meter extensions that slot into the end for $24.99. It’s quite thick and feels very durable, but it’s very difficult to bend and I had to tape the end with duct tape because it kept peeling away from the back of my TV.

The high brightness and durable covering make this a good choice for the kitchen and other environments where you want plenty of light. Although it doesn’t come with any power button or controls, you can configure it to work with a Hue Dimmer Switch (even without a Hue Bridge), but that’s an additional cost on what is already a pricey product. For people who have a Hue system with a bridge already, or people who need that high brightness level, this could be the best option.

Setup is a breeze via the excellent Hue app, but I made a mess of the installation, as part of the adhesive peeled away from the back of the strip. Philips has also chosen to cut the backing you peel off into sections, which makes it even more fiddly to remove and leaves a mess behind. Once you move the strip to a new location, you’ll need to find a new way of attaching it, as the adhesive doesn’t stay sticky.

How to choose a smart light strip

Here’s a brief explainer of some common terms and things to keep in mind when you’re looking for smart lighting. We also share some advice from lighting designer Anna Ames, who designs lighting for buildings in New York and beyond. As an early adopter, Ames has been using smart lighting in her home for several years now.

Placement: Light strips can bring a futuristic feel or add accent lighting to lots of spaces around your home, but you must consider placement very carefully as they can be difficult to remove. Because light strips tend to look quite ugly, Ames says they should not be directly visible. You can stick them under shelves and cabinets, in recessed areas, or behind furniture. Consider how the light will be reflected; the closer the light strip is to a surface the more intense the light will appear there. Always measure to see what length you require and remember that you need an accessible power outlet to plug the strip into. Some light strips can be cut, and some can be extended, but follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter to avoid problems. Bear in mind that the portion you cut off usually can’t be reused. It’s easy enough to place a light strip in a straight line, but corners and right angles can prove tricky. Be careful not to bend too tightly, or you may damage the strip.

Installation: Smart light strips usually have adhesive that runs their length. You simply peel the backing off and stick them onto the desired surface. Be very careful when you peel the backing off, as it’s easy to accidentally peel the adhesive off with it. If you want the light strip to stay in place, take the time to clean the surface thoroughly first. If you’re fitting a long light strip, it’s also a good idea to get help from someone. In our experience, the adhesive sticks better to some surfaces than others and you may need additional clips or brackets. Bear in mind that the adhesive may leave a mark if you remove the light strip.

Controls: While smart light strips can be controlled from your smartphone, that’s not always convenient. Some smart light strips have simple power switches attached, and even a button that cycles through scenes or colors. A few come with their own remote controls. This is very useful if you’re installing them in a common area or a kid’s bedroom, for example. 

White or color: If you just want the ability to dim lights and schedule or remotely control them, then white light strips will give you everything you need. Color light strips are always more expensive, though they obviously give you much greater versatility. For most people, a mix will work best. Ames recommends sticking with white in certain rooms, like the kitchen or bathroom, but using color in the living room or bedroom to help you relax. She also suggests using more blue in your lights during the day and switching to warmer, yellow tones at night to stay in tune with natural circadian rhythms. When buying color light strips, it’s important to note that some strips can only display one color at a time. Others can display multiple colors along their length. 

Brightness: This is measured in lumens. A standard 60W light bulb, for example, gives out around 800 lumens. Most smart light strips state a lumen count for brightness, but in some cases, you may need to ask the manufacturer. The brightness you need from your light strip will depend on the room and its existing lighting. You can find guides online, such as this one at Home Depot, offering advice on how many lumens different rooms require and a formula for calculating based on the size of a room.

Color temperature: Measured in Kelvins (K), the color temperature of a light dictates how warm or cool it will appear. A range should be given for each light. For example, the Philips Hue Color Ambiance Light Strip goes from 2,000 K up to 6,500 K. Light appears more yellow at 2,000 K and a bluish white at 6,000 K. Ames’ top tip is to aim for a color temperature of 2,700 K for use in most of the home, as this gives a nice, relaxing, warm light. You may want a higher temperature in areas like the kitchen.

Scenes: These are specific brightness, color temperature, and color settings that come as presets or that you create and save for future use. Sometimes scenes can include animations that cycle through different colors. Settings like Daylight or Relax are a quick way to change your lights for a particular mood or activity. 

Connectivity: Smart light strips can connect directly to your control device (usually your phone) through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi or indirectly through a hub (which mostly use the Zigbee standard). There are various trade-offs here. Bluetooth uses less power and doesn’t require a hub, but the control range is limited to around 33 feet and it’s slower to react than Wi-Fi. With a hub or Wi-Fi, you can potentially control your lights from anywhere, provided you have an internet connection. They tend to connect more reliably and respond faster, as well. While a separate hub means plugging a device into your router and a power outlet, it can also help reduce congestion on your home Wi-Fi network, which can prove helpful if your Wi-Fi bandwidth is limited. While hubs are a higher up-front cost, they are easier to swap out than replacing a ton of bulbs around the house if you want to upgrade to a new technology. 

Smart-home integration: There are lots of different services and standards related to smart-home setups, so make sure your chosen lights work with your preferred services. If you want to use Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant to control your smart light strips, for example, then look for the relevant logo on the box or in the product details online. If you aren’t sure what you might want to add later, go for a product with more connectivity options. 

Longevity: Smart light strips should last for years. You’ll often see their lifetime listed in tens of thousands of hours. As smart light strips contain many small LEDs, sometimes a single LED or section of LEDs will fail or refuse to display a specific color. This can happen if you physically damage the strip by bending or twisting, so be careful when installing your strip. Unfortunately, there’s no easy fix if this happens and you may need to replace the entire light strip.

What we are looking forward to testing

Kasa Smart LED Strip Light ($54.99): We are keen to try this light strip, as it has a well-rounded spec sheet. This is a multicolored light strip that boasts 16 color zones, and it comes with an app featuring animated lighting effects. There’s also Alexa and Google Home support and no need for a hub. It’s supposed to be easy to cut, bend, and extend. TP-Link’s Kasa smart home range is growing, and we like the smart plugs, so this could be a great product.

Sylvania Smart+ Zigbee light strip ($53.85): A fairly low price and support for the Zigbee standard makes this light strip an interesting prospect. It offers good smart-home integration, lots of colors, and a nice color temperature range (2,700 to 6,500 K), though it is limited to one color at a time and you need a Zigbee hub. The fact that you can cut, bend, and extend this light strip makes it more tempting, and we plan to check it out soon.

Sengled Element Light Strip ($39.99): This light strip has a similar feature set to some of the light strips we’ve tested or plan to test soon, including tunable light (2,000 to 6,500 K), Alexa and Google Assistant support, a wide range of colors and scenes, and brightness of 1,400 lumens. It’s also quite cheap, though you do need a hub. We also like the IFTTT support and the option of the Sengled Smart Switch.

C by GE LED Strip Light ($45.99): With millions of colors, tunable color temperature, and scheduling support the C by GE light strip looks promising. There’s also voice control via Alexa or Google Assistant, and you can select various scenes for different moods. It connects directly to Wi-Fi and you can add out of home control with a C by GE smart plug or smart switch. 

What else we considered

Yeelight Lightstrip 1S ($48.63): This is an affordable light strip from Yeelight, which is part of Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi’s ecosystem. I found it easy to set up and use. It has a physical power button, with a wider range of options in the app where you can tweak the color, brightness, color temperature, select scenes, and set a schedule. It misses out on the list because we prefer the Govee light strip, but one thing Yeelight has that Govee lacks is extensibility, with 1-meter extensions for $12.99.

Philips Hue White & Color Ambiance Outdoor Light Strip ($76): If you want a light strip that’s safe to use outdoors, then your options are limited. This Philips Hue light strip, rated at IP67, is well worth a look. It offers the same features as the rest of the Philips Hue range, but you do need a Bridge to get the best from it. We go into more detail in our Philips Hue Outdoor Light Strip review. The problem is that stock seems to be dwindling. There is also another version of this strip, which is rated at IP44, but neither is currently listed on the US Philips website.

Lifx Z Light Strip ($89.99): Lifx’s light strip is one the most versatile we tested. This light strip has eight addressable color zones, so it can display multiple colors at once. Performance is very reliable, and it has a maximum brightness of 1,400 lumens, which is plenty to light a small bedroom. It’s one of our favorite light strips that we’ve reviewed. Unfortunately, it’s out of stock and only available for pre-order at the moment. 

Nanoleaf Essentials Light Strip ($49.95): With the highest peak brightness we’ve tested and a reasonable price tag, there’s a lot to like with the Nanoleaf Essentials Light Strip. It’s 2,200 lumens at max brightness. It can only display one color at a time and doesn’t support scenes, but at $50 for a two-meter (6.6 feet) starter kit, it’s an attractive option. However, the starter kit isn’t available at the moment. While the one-meter extensions are still for sale, they won’t work if you don’t have the starter kit with the controller. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

The best Nintendo Switch accessories

Like the Wii before it, the Nintendo Switch is one of the most innovative game consoles of the past decade, not to mention popular. It’s versatile, allowing you to play on the big screen in your living room or on the go. There are plenty of excellent games for it, and now there’s a portable-only model that’s less expensive, the Switch Lite.

As fun as this system may be, as any gamer will tell you, the experience can only get better with the help of some must-have accessories.

There are hundreds of accessories for the Nintendo Switch, but they’re not all created equal. In our list, we’ve narrowed down the essential Nintendo Switch accessories that will take your game to the next level.

Here are the best Nintendo Switch accessories:

Updated on 12/23/2020 by Nathaniel Mott: Added a new pick and category for best Nintendo Switch wired internet adapter.

The best controller

8bit pro

The 8BitDo SN30 Pro+ is the best controller for playing Switch games on a TV.

Pros: Well-designed, cheaper than Nintendo’s official Pro controller, D-Pad and analog trigger make some games more enjoyable to play

Cons: Lack of NFC for Amiibo, weaker rumble and motion controls.

While the Switch’s included Joy-Con controllers are ideal for handheld gaming in portable mode, they can be cumbersome when used in console mode — when the Switch is connected to the TV with its dock— due to their tiny size. For big screen gaming you should opt for the 8BitDo SN30 Pro+, which is a full-size controller that is solidly built and has clicky and responsive buttons.

The 8BitDo SN30 Pro+ design is a mashup of both the original Super Nintendo controller’s familiar button layout and the PlayStation 4 Dualshock controller’s comfortable grip. The old school D-Pad is a significant step up from the four separate directional buttons on the standard left Joy-Con, especially while playing platformers, or any 2D games that need precise inputs.

The 8BitDo SN30 Pro+ has a removable battery pack that lasts 20 hours on a single charge and can be charged via its USB-C port. It also offers the flexibility of using AA batteries in case you don’t have access to a power outlet.

Nintendo offers an official Pro Controller for the Switch, which is also a fine choice, but it has a few minor issues that hold it back from being our top pick. Firstly, Nintendo’s accessory has a D-Pad that is slightly spongy compared to the 8BitDo SN30 Pro+ which makes it come across as less responsive. Compared to the Pro Controller, the 8BitDo SN30 Pro+ manages to hit the sweet spot in size making it more comfortable to hold for extended gaming sessions. Finally, the biggest pro in the SN30 Pro+ column is that despite the above advantages it is $20 cheaper than Nintendo’s Pro Controller.

The SN30 Pro+ has a couple of minor downsides, the first being a lack of NFC support for Nintendo’s Amiibo toy figurines —  for this you’ll have to rely on the Joy-Cons. And lastly, its Rumble and motion control feature are a slight step down from Nintendo’s official offering. But, it’s a better value buy for most Switch users and as a bonus is compatible both with Windows 10 and macOS right out of the box. — Siladitya Ray

The best Nintendo Switch power bank

anker nintendo switch editon battery

Extend the Switch’s battery life with the Anker Powercore 13400 Nintendo Switch Edition so that your gameplay doesn’t get interrupted.

Pros: Licensed by Nintendo, compact, fast charging (USB-C Power Delivery), USB-C cable included, can be used with phones and some laptops

Cons: Pricey compared to other power banks with similar or larger capacities, no fast-charging wall adapter included

According to Nintendo, the battery life on the original Nintendo Switch (2017) is approximately 2.5 to 6.5 hours, while an updated version (2019), with more efficient power usage, yields about 4.5 to 9 hours; the Switch Lite averages between 3 to 7 hours. If you’re an avid gamer and you have all the settings on high — brightness on high and Wi-Fi enabled, for example — you should bring along a portable USB power bank to lengthen the battery life. Our pick is the Anker PowerCore 13400 Nintendo Switch Edition.

You might be thinking, can’t you use any power bank since they are all the same? No: Because of the significant amount of power the Switch draws (more so when it’s in use), you need a power bank that supports USB-C Power Delivery (PD) fast charging. As for capacity, you would want as your budget allows; 10,000 mAh should be the minimum. And, you’ll need a USB-C-to-USB-C cable.

Considering speed, capacity, and price, we like Anker’s PowerCore 13400 Nintendo Switch Edition. Switch-brand licensing aside, the battery is rated to support the full amount of power that the Switch draws. You can expect between 3 to 4 hours of playtime, depending on settings; it has a capacity of 13,400mAh. There’s no way to neatly attach the battery to the back of the Switch, but the PowerCore 13400 Nintendo Switch Edition is compact enough for travel. The power bank also works with smartphones and other portable devices and comes with a USB-C-to-USB-C cable. When used with a PD power adapter, the power bank recharges in about 4 hours, but the adapter is optional.

There aren’t many portable batteries specifically designed for the Switch. The few we found either came from unfamiliar brands or had batteries that were too small, not to mention pricey. For your money, we didn’t feel they were worth considering and you’d get more value out of a standard power bank, as they can also be used to recharge phones, tablets, and other small USB-powered devices.

We also didn’t consider power banks that use Qualcomm’s Quick Charge technology, since the Switch does not support it. We want to note that you could theoretically use a power bank you already own, but unless it supports fast charging, it may not deliver the performance that’s needed. However, it’s probably fine for recharging overnight when you’re not playing.

The big downside might be the cost. For around the same price or less, you can usually find higher-capacity USB-C PD power banks, including ones from Anker, like the PowerCore Essential 20000 PD. If the Nintendo certification doesn’t matter to you, opt for something less expensive — just use a reliable brand with a good warranty. On a positive note, Anker’s power banks tend to be value products. We have used them for years and found them to be reliable and perform well. — Les Shu

The best Nintendo Switch microSD card

Samsung memory card

The Samsung Evo Select 256GB is the best microSD card for expanding the Switch’s measly internal storage.

Pros: Great value for a high-capacity card, meets Nintendo Switch’s speed requirements for SD cards, durable

Cons: None

The Switch’s 32GB internal storage can fill up almost instantly with individual major games taking up anywhere between 10 to 20GB of space. We recommend the Samsung Evo Select 256GB microSD card as an essential purchase for any new Switch buyer.

The Samsung Evo Select 256GB microSD card adds eight-fold more storage to the Switch and should comfortably hold a large collection of AAA, retro and indie games. Samsung’s card is rated with 100MB/s read and 90MB/s write speed, which should enable shorter game load times over lower performance cards.

While you could do with a 128GB card initially, if you plan on buying mostly digital games, then you would be better served going with the larger-capacity 256GB card since it costs only slightly more and is more future proof.

SanDisk makes a Nintendo-licensed microSD card. It has specs which are similar to our pick but often retails for a higher price. Pass on this and save the money unless you really want the card with Mario art on it. — Siladitya Ray

The best Nintendo Switch carry case

Nintendo switch case

The RDS Industries Nintendo Switch Deluxe Carrying Case is a sturdy hard case with room for a Switch, Joy-Con controllers, and game cartridges.

Pros: Hard exterior, room for Switch and eight games, built in kickstand for gaming on the go

Cons: Not large enough to carry the dock and other accessories

The RDS Industries Nintendo Switch Deluxe Carrying Case is an officially licensed case that protects a Nintendo Switch and accessories with a hard, water-resistant exterior. 

The case is available in multiple designs apart from the standard black that includes artwork from Mario, Zelda and Splatoon 2. Besides the Switch with Joy-Con controllers attached, there’s room for up to eight games in two separate plastic cases, cables, two SD cards, and other small accessories. We also like that the screen-protecting cushion doubles as an adjustable kickstand for gaming while on the road. There’s also a carry-handle. — Siladitya Ray

The best Nintendo Switch headset

Steel Series Artcis 1

The SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless is the best headset for Switch gaming on the go for its price and versatility.

Pros: Comfortable, light, stellar battery life, great audio for gaming

Cons: Plastic build quality, occasional interference due to Wi-Fi signals.

SteelSeries is known for making great gaming headsets, and the Arctis 1 Wireless continues that tradition. The wireless headset comes with the same drivers that were present on our previous pick, the SteelSeries Arctis 7, offering immersive audio and a wide soundstage. The cushioned ear cups make it comfortable to use during extended gaming sessions.

The SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless comes bundled with a USB-C transmitter dongle that plugs into the Switch and allows you to connect the headphones wirelessly to the Switch. The Arctis 1 uses 2.4GHz wireless on its dongle instead of Bluetooth to connect to the Switch, which ensures that there is no noticeable lag and crystal-clear audio. While in console mode, the dongle can be connected to the Switch’s dock using an included USB-C to USB-A adapter.

Priced at $100, the SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless lacks the premium build quality that you would expect from top shelf SteelSeries headphones, but the plastic-clad device is adequately sturdy for regular use. The design aesthetic is unassuming and doesn’t scream “gamer”, making it more versatile for use with other devices, like your phone. The most impressive part is that the headset lasts for 20 to 22 hours on a single charge, which is close to three times the Switch’s average battery life.

One downside of the 2.4Ghz band used by the headset’s dongle is that you may deal with occasional choppiness in an area crowded with Wi-Fi devices, but this shouldn’t be an issue for most people. — Siladitya Ray

The best screen protector

tempered glass screen protector

The amFilm Tempered Glass screen protector protects the display from dings and bumps.

Pros: Thick, two in the box, inexpensive

Cons: Thickness makes it noticeable

As with any portable device, the screen on the Nintendo Switch can be easily scratched if it isn’t properly protected — like throwing it into a backpack. For a strong, protective screen protector, we recommend the amFilm Tempered Glass Screen Protector.

It’s a little thicker than other screen protectors, at 0.3 millimeters, which makes it harder to cut through it. In the box, you get two screen protectors — if one gets damaged, there’s another one to replace it — and wet wipes and microfiber cloth to clean the screen before applying the protector.

The downside: Given the thickness, it’s more noticeable than other screen protectors. — Christian de Looper

The best controller charging dock

powera controller dock

Charging Joy-Con and Pro controllers is relatively easy with the PowerA Joy-Con and Pro Controller Charging Dock.

Pros: Charges Joy-Con and Pro Controllers, well-designed, inexpensive

Cons: Wire is flimsy

While the Joy-Con controllers can be recharged when attached to the Nintendo Switch, it’s more convenient to use the PowerA Joy-Con and Pro Controller Charging Dock. In addition, if you own the Pro Controller, it will recharge that too.

The dock is a great way to keep things organized. It looks basic, but it complements the Switch dock. It is also cheaper than many other charging docks for the Nintendo Switch, and, if you care about such things, it’s officially licensed by Nintendo.

In our test, the dock works well, but the included USB-C cable for charging the Pro Controller isn’t very strong. — Christian de Looper

The best Joy-Con alternative

Hori switch joycon

The Hori D-Pad Controller is perfect for 2D platformers, NES and SNES games while on the go.

Pros: Cheap, fairly solid design, the best way to play 2D-platformers in handheld mode

Cons: Lack of wireless, rumble and motion controls

Despite being loaded with sweet features, the Switch’s Joy-Con has one major flaw: the lack of a true D-Pad. Every single one of Nintendo’s previous consoles came with its iconic plus-shaped D-Pad, but the Switch’s unique design did not allow for the same. The Hori D-Pad Controller, which replaces the left Joy-Con, helps fix that flaw as it comes with a directional pad.

The Hori D-Pad Controller is frugal by design, and comes with no wireless connectivity, no rumble, no motion control and no battery. It only works when it’s connected to the left rail of the Switch in handheld mode. Despite these limitations, the controller is simple to use and delivers precise directional inputs.

The precision of a D-Pad is immediately evident if you play a lot of 2D side scrolling or fighting games. Games like Sonic Mania, Metal Slug, and Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap are ideal to play using the controller. The peripheral also shines when used with NES and SNES classic games that come bundled with the Switch’s online subscription. If you want to speed-run classic Mario in handheld mode, the Hori D-Pad Controller is your best weapon.

Other parts of the controller are well designed too, the analog joystick and both shoulder buttons work just as you would expect on an original Joy-Con. The assembly feels sturdy but significantly lighter than a real Joy-Con as it lacks a lot of the additional wireless, gyroscope and rumble hardware that add heft.

The Hori D-Pad Controller is officially priced at $25, which makes it significantly cheaper than the $80 Nintendo charges for a pair of new Joy-Cons. Additionally the gamepad is officially licensed by Nintendo, and is available in three separate designs; a black-and-gold Zelda version, a red Mario version and a yellow-and-black Pokemon version. [Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, some versions are currently out of stock.] — Siladitya Ray

The best Joy-Con controller handles

MoKo grip

The MoKo Grips turn your Joy-Con controllers into console-style controllers, making them easier to hold and more convenient for multiplayer games.

Pros: Comfortable, inexpensive, great for multiplayer games

Cons: Not for games that require vertical use of Joy-Con controller

The Pro Controller we recommended is more conducive to console-style gaming, but if the price is a turn-off or you just don’t want a bulky controller, stick with the Joy-Con controllers but add this affordable accessory, the MoKo Grip.

Coming in a pack of two, the grip, made of resin, is a sleeve that you wrap around a Joy-Con controller, giving it handles that make holding a Joy-Con more comfortable. It also has left and right buttons trigger buttons. There are plenty of similar products like this, but we like the MoKo because it provides a better fit.

Having tested the MoKo Grips, we find them to enhance the experience of playing multiplayer fighting games like “Super Smash Bros.” where you would want a tighter hold on the controller as you mash those buttons, as well as lengthy solo gameplay like “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.”

Where the grips don’t work are games where you need to use the controller vertically, like “Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu!” or “Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee.” Also, it’s not an improvement over the Pro Controller since they don’t offer those large buttons and analog sticks, but it’s an affordable upgrade nonetheless. — Christian de Looper

The best controller for “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate”

GameCube style switch controller

The PowerA GameCube-style Wireless Controller looks and feels like the original, but works better.

Pros: Feels like original GameCube controller, wireless, great for “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate”

Cons: Expensive, AA batteries instead of rechargeable, no rumble

“Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” is an immensely popular Nintendo Switch game, and die-hard fans swear by a controller for an old Nintendo console that actually came out in 2001: the GameCube. Nintendo took notice — so much so that it introduced a GameCube controller for the Switch specifically for “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate,” which is now hard to come by. If you don’t own an old GameCube controller (you can use it with the Switch via an adapter), you can get a third-party option, like this licensed product from PowerA, the GameCube Style Wireless Controller.

This controller looks identical to the classic GameCube controller, but it has extra buttons for the Nintendo Switch: home, plus, and minus. Apart from that, you get the large “A” and shoulder buttons that make this controller popular with gamers. Since it works over Bluetooth, no wires are required. Unlike using an original GameCube controller, this one has motion controls.

While the controller works with nearly all Switch games, it doesn’t have the rumble function. And, it’s powered by two AA batteries instead of a rechargeable one; PowerA claims 30 hours of gameplay, so either have spares handy or use rechargeable AA batteries. Another downer: It’s expensive. — Christian de Looper and Les Shu

The best Nintendo Switch wired internet adapter

Ugreen USB 2.0 Ethernet Adapter lifestyle

The UGreen USB 2.0 Ethernet Adapter is the best wired internet solution for Switch owners seeking a more reliable and faster connection while the console is docked.

Pros:  Enables a better internet connection when the Switch is docked, affordable

Cons: Requires slightly more setup than simply relying on a Wi-Fi connection

Nintendo officially recommends that Switch owners access the console’s online features via Wi-Fi. That recommendation makes sense — a wireless connection doesn’t care if the Switch is being used in TV mode, portable mode, or kickstand mode — but Wi-Fi isn’t always ideal. 

Luckily the Switch does support a wired connection when it’s docked. That is, as long as you use an Ethernet-to-USB adapter, like the UGreen 20254, to bridge the gap between the console and your network.

That extra setup can be worth the hassle, though, especially if you play a lot of games online. Wi-Fi is great when you want to be able to play no matter where you are in your home, and it complements the Switch’s versatility well. But, sometimes wireless connections are less reliable and slower than their wired counterparts. Those drawbacks can lead to increased download times as well as potentially game-breaking performance issues in online titles.

Wired connections don’t suffer from those problems, which is why Nintendo’s Masahiro Sakurai recently told “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” players that the best way to improve performance for online battles was to use an Ethernet adapter. Having a more reliable connection leads to better performance in competitive games like “Smash,” faster downloads from the Nintendo eShop, and improved experiences in games that feature significant online components.

Here’s the good news: There isn’t a significant difference between adapters. Some cost more than others, sure, but most offer similar performance. It’s kind of like buying an expensive HDMI cable. Sometimes it’s necessary, but the reality is that most people will be content with any cable that meet’s the relevant standards (USB 2.0 and Ethernet in this case). Don’t feel pressured into buying the most expensive Ethernet-to-USB adapter for your Switch.

That’s why our pick for the best Nintendo Switch wired internet adapter is the UGreen 20254. It’s an affordable and versatile adapter, with support for many other devices besides the Switch. Swapping it out if you decide you don’t need that competitive edge in “Smash” should be a cinch. Just remember that you’ll have to supply your own router and Ethernet cable as well.

Setting up the adapter is as easy as plugging an Ethernet cable into the appropriate port on your router, connecting that cable to the adapter, and then plugging the adapter’s USB 2.0 cable into the USB port on the official Nintendo Switch dock. The console should automatically switch between the wired connection when it’s docked and a Wi-Fi connection when it’s not. — Nathaniel Mott

Read the original article on Business Insider