The 4 best exercise balls we tested in 2021

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  • An exercise ball is perfect for working on stability and flexibility and makes bodyweight exercises harder.
  • The best exercise balls have a durable exterior, are mild flexibility, and retain air well.
  • Our top pick, the TheraBand Exercise and Stability Ball, has thick walls and holds air even if punctured.

Exercise balls might seem like a boring piece of workout equipment that sits in the corner of the gym with no one using it. But that’s only because it’s an overlooked dark horse – the benefits of adding one to your workout far outweigh any perceived dullness. In fact, as a part of a home gym setup, an exercise ball has the ability to greatly improve one’s core strength while also helping hone balance and flexibility.

Whether it accompanies a daily workout routine or becomes the central focal point, an exercise ball can be an important part of anyone’s plan to keep fit and healthy. (For what it’s worth, while many used to think using an exercise ball in lieu of your home office chair was better for your spine, experts actually recommend against it now.)

To find the best exercise balls worth using, I tested an assortment of models from brands like TheraBand, DynaPro, and Wacces. The goal was to find those that fit a variety of use cases, like being portable or constructed of a thicker material that increases its durability. After spending the last several months using exercise balls as both my office chair and main workout partner, I narrowed the list down to my four favorites listed below.

At the end of this guide, I’ve also included some insight into what to look for in a quality ball, the exact benefits of using one, and why they’re an important part of anyone’s home gym setup.

Here are the best exercise balls:

The best exercise ball overall

exercise ball

The TheraBand Exercise and Stability Ball holds air better than most exercise balls — even if it’s punctured.

Pros: Maintains its shape and holds air better than other exercise balls, includes a slow deflate technology if the ball is punctured, extremely firm, has a good surface for just the right amount of grip, offered in four sizes

Cons: Takes a long time to inflate, no inflation pump included, only one color per size

One common complaint among exercise ball fans is the inability of the ball to hold air over time. As air leaks out of the ball, it loses its firmness and becomes difficult to use. The TheraBand Exercise and Stability Ball, though, is one of the thickest-walled balls you can buy, and it holds air longer than most of the competition.

Even if it’s punctured, the ball will deflate very slowly, allowing you to finish your workout. Because the Theraband Exercise Ball retains air so well, you won’t have to reinflate it that often, which is a very good thing because this ball does take quite a bit of time to inflate in the first place.

The exercise ball is available in four sizes from 45 cm to 75 cm and it comes in a few colors.

The best portable exercise ball

DynaPro Exercise Ball

The DynaPro Exercise Ball is extremely durable and will hold its air pressure nicely, but it’s also portable, thanks to its easy-to-carry hand pump.

Pros: Good price point, easy to fill while on the go because of an included hand pump, very durable material in the ball, prevents fast leaks when it suffers a puncture, available in four sizes and four different colors

Cons: Cannot fully inflate the ball the first time you use it, firmness level of the ball seems below average

When you’re looking for an exercise ball you can take with you anywhere, the DynaPro Exercise Ball is a good idea. It ships with a hand pump and inflates faster than many other balls, so you can be ready to use it within several minutes.

The ball is available in four sizes, ranging from 45 cm to 75 cm, and it features slight ribs around the circumference of the ball to ensure a steady grip. You can get it in a few fun colors, including pink, blue, silver, gray, and black.

Like many exercise balls, you can also use it for active seating in your office. Unlike most exercise balls, it’s available in gray or black, which fits in better with an office setting than a brightly colored ball. 

This is a tough, durable exercise ball, featuring a 2,000-pound burst rating. The ball also slowly deflates if it ever suffers a puncture, allowing you to finish your workout safely.

However, the ball cannot be inflated fully the first time you use it. You’ll have to inflate it fully after it’s had 2-3 days to stretch out.

The best exercise ball for bigger bodies

tall man exercise ball

The Live Infinitely Exercise Ball receives high marks for its durability and ability to stand up to tough workouts.

Pros: Excellent price point, durable and tough exercise ball that can withstand 2,200 pounds of weight, available in as large as 95 cm diameter, five color and five size options, includes a large library of online exercise guides

Cons: There is no 45 cm diameter size option in this model, difficult to fully inflate this ball

We’re not here to say what an average-sized body is or who is bigger-than-average. But if you’ve ever sat on an exercise ball before and felt like it couldn’t support your height, width, weight, or frame for whatever reason, you need a ball that is bigger and more durable so you aren’t worrying about it popping or slipping out from under you.

In fact, you want your exercise ball to correspond to your size for a few reasons: When you’re sitting on it, you want it to be durable enough to hold your weight and wide enough to hold your buttocks. When you put it underfoot in plank or, say, Bulgarian split squats, the height of the ball influences your form; too small of a ball and your feet are below your hips which can compromise the integrity of your movements, for example.

Because of this, a ball that’s right for someone who’s 5’3 isn’t going to fit someone who’s 6’8, and someone who is 350lbs needs a more durable construction than someone who is 150lbs. (Learn more about What to look for in an exercise ball.)

The Live Infinitely Exercise Ball is one of the few options that comes in five sizes ranging from 55 cm to 95 cm. You can also choose between five colors, including blue, green, gray, purple, and silver.

What’s more, it can hold up to 2,200 pounds of pressure. So while we doubt you’ll ever max out its capabilities, the Live Infinitely Exercise Ball allows you to feel comfortable and secure putting all your weight and force onto it, regardless of your size.

The best budget exercise ball

exercise ball 5

If you want an affordable exercise ball that’s also durable, the Wacces Fitness and Exercise ball is a great option.

Pros: Extremely low price point, good build quality versus similarly priced exercise balls, surface has just enough grip to prevent slippage, ribs around circumference of ball provide extra grip, offered in eight colors

Cons: Only available in three sizes, difficult to fully inflate it first time you use it, doesn’t hold air pressure as well as some models

With some low-priced exercise balls, you may feel wary about placing your full weight on them for fear of an exploding ball that leaves you crashing onto the floor. But the durability of the Wacces Fitness and Exercise Ball gives you the peace of mind you’ll need to use this inexpensive ball to its fullest.

Even though it’s less expensive than other options, this ball is still quite durable and has a good grippy surface. The biggest downside is that it doesn’t support as much weight as more high-end exercise balls.

You can pick between three different sizes, ranging from 55 cm to 75 cm. It’s also available in eight colors, including black, blue, gray, green, pink, purple, red, or yellow.

What to look for in an exercise ball

Yes, an exercise ball is a simple, large round ball that looks like every other exercise ball at first glance. There are still several key differences you can pay attention to when looking to find the right exercise ball to meet your needs.

  • Ease of adding air: Some exercise balls include an air pump, however, most of these pumps work very slowly. If you want a faster option, you should be able to use almost any type of pump to inflate your exercise ball, such as an air mattress pump, a bicycle tire pump, or even an air compressor. To determine when the ball is properly filled with air, measure its diameter.
  • Extras: Depending on the model of exercise ball you pick, you may find the ball ships with an air pump, exercise bands, a stability ring, stability legs, a measuring tape, an exercise tip guide, or handles built into the ball. 
  • Size: The size of a stability ball is determined by its diameter. Common sizes of exercise balls range from 45 cm to 85 cm in 10 cm intervals. (Ten centimeters is roughly 4 inches.) People shorter than 5 feet will have the best results with sitting on a 45 cm ball, 6-feet-tall people will want a 65 cm ball, and those 6-foot-8 and taller will want an 85 cm ball. 
  • Supported weight: Exercise balls should offer supported weight limits for static weight and body weight. Static weight refers to the weight the ball supports without bursting when the user is not moving. Bodyweight refers to the weight it can support when the user is exercising. High-end balls may support static weight limits of 2,200 pounds and body weights of 500 pounds. A stability ball placed under too much weight or stress could burst.

Exercise ball benefits

man family exercise ball

People use an exercise ball for two main reasons: to workout with and to sit on. While we fully support using this accessory in your workout, most chiropractors and physical therapists actually recommend you don’t trade your office chair for a ball. Studies have found it not only makes prolonged sitting more uncomfortable, but it doesn’t actually activate your muscles better and may in fact contribute to spinal shrinkage (aka slumping). This is all because you must keep your core engaged for optimal spinal alignment, and it’s incredibly hard to maintain perfect posture when sitting for a long time.

That being said, an exercise ball is safe and a great challenge to your body during a workout, where you’re only stabilizing against it for a few minutes at a time. Here are some of the primary benefits exercise balls provide during a workout:

  • Improved balance: You’ll naturally strengthen your abs and back muscles while using an exercise ball because you must subtly shift your weight to remain balanced. As these muscles strengthen, your overall balance improves.
  • Core strength: Athletes constantly talk about the importance of having core strength in the body, as it gives you great balance and coordination. Using an exercise ball increases core strength.
  • Muscle work: Because you have to continually adjust your weight slightly to maintain your balance on the ball, you’ll be using different muscle groups, which benefits your whole body.
  • Rehabilitation and flexibility: You’ll stretch muscles and joints while moving around. Physical therapists sometimes assign a set of exercises using an exercise ball for people to follow as part of rehabilitating a specific joint or muscle group to gain more range of motion.
  • Specific exercises: If you enjoy exercises like Pilates or yoga, you’ll gain some additional benefits by incorporating an exercise ball into the routine.

Why exercise balls are an important part of a home gym

Despite their inherent value, exercise balls aren’t typically the first piece of gear you think of when piecing together a home gym. The truth is in the application, as they work for a host of exercises requiring flexible support. Even though an exercise ball is round, it gives you a base that’s more solid than you might think and provides impressive stability.  

The balls compress when weight is put on them to create a flatter, more stable edge. It won’t be as stable as a normal chair but it’s far more solid than you’d expect — which is what makes them great for everything from active seating to working out.

An exercise ball is an amazing addition to any ab workout, as you can hold it between your feet to bump the challenge of leg raises or prop your feet on the ball during plank for more of a core challenge. You can also sit on the ball instead of a bench to activate your core during simple exercises like chest flys and overhead presses. (Learn more from our guide on the best at-home exercise ball routines.)

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The 5 best soft coolers we tested in 2021 that actually keep drinks cold

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  • Soft cooler bags are easier to carry than hard coolers, but it’s harder to find one that stays cold.
  • The best soft cooler is big enough for drinks and food, comfortable to carry, and keeps ice for days.
  • Our top pick, the Yeti Hopper M30, is large, stays cold, and is durable enough to last years.

Whether you’re going camping, to the beach, or to a picnic in the park, you need a reliable cooler. Though there’s still a time and place for a traditional cooler, soft cooler bags are a rising commodity – and for good reason. The best soft-sided coolers are lighter and easier to carry than their hard, rotomolded brethren. But they also don’t hold the cold for as long, and can’t fit as much as a bigger, hard cooler.

Because there’s so much variability, we tested the best soft coolers, including YETI soft coolers, on hikes, camping trips, fishing outings, and casual trips to the park. The best soft coolers can keep ice (and beer) cold for at least two days (realistically, if you’re opening it regularly), are comfortable to carry, and have enough room to fit all the snacks and drinks you want to take with you.

With dozens of hours spent testing, the following guide features our five favorites, all classified into categories they particularly excelled at – save for the Yeti soft cooler, which is our favorite soft cooler bag overall.

Here are the best soft coolers:

How we tested

hopperm30

Each soft cooler in this guide went through a series of tests across hikes, camping trips, fishing outings, and casual trips to the park to assess how well they stood up across these four categories: 

  • Capacity: The best soft cooler needs to have room for both all your drinks and food, as well as for the ice to keep everything cold. Some soft coolers come in dedicated sizes, which makes their capacity rating easier to judge, and also makes the shopping process simple: If you need more space, buy a bigger cooler. We also looked at how if the soft coolers offered storage for other essentials like smartphones, car keys, dry food, etc. 
  • Ice retention: A cooler bag is hardly reliable if it doesn’t live up to its namesake and keep ice for longer than a few hours. Thankfully, most modern coolers feature insulation technology that allows them to hold ice for several days — though we still put these claims to the test to see just how reliable each cooler’s ice retention actually was.
  • Portability: One of the hallmarks of a soft cooler is its portability. Be it via backpack-like straps, a pair of comfortable handles, or even a shoulder strap, it should be easy to haul around (even when full of ice, food, and drinks).
  • Value: Coolers of any variety can be expensive, and soft coolers are no different. However, the value of a soft cooler is more than just its sticker price and more so a combination of the three categories above and if it’s worth the investment. We always feel that it’s better to spend a little more on something that’s designed to last than to spend less more often on an inferior product. 

The best soft cooler overall

yetim30

YETI’s Hopper M30 tote-style soft cooler is the most durable cooler I tested (it will last years), plus it’s comfortable to carry, keeps ice frozen, and has a huge storage capacity. 

Pros: Sturdy, sleek, airtight

Cons: Heavy compared with some other picks (but that’s due to the quality insulation), stiff, expensive, may be overkill for casual day use

Some say Yeti coolers are overbuilt, and if you’re just looking for something to carry drinks to the beach a few days a year, you definitely don’t need to pay for this superior construction. But if you’ll be hauling the cooler on all sorts of outdoor adventurers, some of which will be multi-day, the higher price tag is worth it for Yeti’s durability and design.

Yes, it’s expensive, but before you scoff at the price tag of the Yeti soft cooler, let’s get something straight: Cheap soft cooler bags will keep your ice frozen but most fall apart after a few months. The Yeti Hopper M30 lasts literally years and years. 

The durability is real: I threw this cooler down a grip tape-lined set of stairs thinking it would lead to at least one abrasion. Nothing. I tipped it upside-down and left it that way for hours. Not a drip. I yanked, ripped, and pulled at the zipper in every wrong way with all my might. Not even the hint of a budge, and it was still airtight afterward.

What’s more, the brand offers a three-year warranty on Yeti soft coolers where many other manufacturers only offer one.

Aside from its durability, the Hopper also does an excellent job of keeping what’s stored inside chilled throughout the day, even in warm weather. Featuring the brand’s patented closed-cell foam, Coldcell Insulation, you can expect upwards of 15 to 20 hours of kept ice — give or take a few hours depending on how often you open and close it, if it’s left open for any amount of time, or if it’s sitting in direct sunlight.

Capacity-wise, it’s able to hold a surprising amount of both food and drink. Even when I stocked it with more cans my crew would need for a day out, there was still enough room to throw in a few sandwiches and some additional snacks. Its padded shoulder strap came is a lovely addition, making it more comfortable to carry when it’s full up and I was walking from car to campsite, hauling it down to the beach, or slinging it on my back while biking to the park. 

The bag itself is also fairly rigid and the zipper is quite tight if you’re not used to Yeti’s heavily-designed waterproof technology — so much so that you need two hands to do anything with it, which is the only remaining downside of the Hopper.

Read our full review of the Yeti Hopper M30.

The best soft cooler on a budget

aocooler

AO Coolers are less than a third of the price of our top picks, but they are still excellent at keeping food and drinks cold.

Pros: Affordable, thick insulation, durable exterior lining

Cons: Cheap zipper, inconsistencies in stitching

Budget coolers tend to have inferior insulation, weak stitching, or leakage issues, so we generally avoid recommending them. But AO Coolers buck the trend by offering relatively well-constructed options that are also affordable.

What makes its coolers particularly impressive is its 3/4-inch insulation and durable exterior lining, whether you choose the canvas, vinyl, or woven vinyl model. It’s worth noting that during testing, I could sometimes feel cool air escaping, but it wasn’t enough to cause my ice to melt at an alarming rate.

The AO Cooler size and capacity are best-suited for shorter outings like day hikes or picnics, so ice melt becomes less of an issue. That being said, if you take it on a weekend camping trip, you’ll probably need to replenish the ice once or twice — in my testing, this was especially true on hotter days.  

The stitching throughout isn’t the best and, out of the box, I noticed a few loose threads. These wouldn’t spell the end of the cooler even if they did go, but these inconsistencies and loose stitches, as well as the basic YKK zipper, do put it in a significantly lower category of durability than the Yeti soft cooler. At this price range, however, it’s the best soft cooler bag we’ve found.

If you’re just looking for a soft-sided cooler to keep sandwiches and drinks cool on your way to the beach or a picnic, this AO Cooler is the most worth your money.

The most versatile soft cooler

OtterboxTrooper

The OtterBox Trooper LT 30 is a sort of customizable Swiss Army knife of soft coolers, coming standard with an accessory mounting system while also offering a 30-quart capacity and insulation designed to keep ice for up to three days.

Pros: 30-quart capacity can hold plenty of ice and drinks for 2-4 people, padded shoulder straps make for easy transport, rugged and durable construction, accessory points allow for a wide variety of customization

Cons: May be bulky for on-the-go transport

From the brand well-known for its durable phone cases, OtterBox also makes a line of seriously impressive coolers, including a highly versatile soft cooler called the Trooper LT 30. Outfitted with accessory hooks that allow you to put everything on it from a bottle opener or dry box to tie-down loops or a hook for more gear, the Trooper LT is great for a wide variety of use cases. 

Following the brand’s standard approach for indestructible construction, the Trooper LT features a wide base that allows the soft cooler to stand on its own, a TPU-coated nylon exterior that’s puncture-proof, and a reliable clasp system that’s durable and leak-proof to trap the temperature in. The interior has a capacity of 30 quarts, which, during my testing, held a little more than a bag of ice (there’s even an ice-fill line drawn on, which I loved) plus a 12-pack of soda or beer, and a few chilled snacks. 

In my experience, carrying the Trooper LT was easy, even when full, as it comes with two padded backpack-like straps on the rear which can also turn into a shoulder strap if need be. Two exterior pockets can hold bottle openers or even a smartphone and have water-tight zippers for added security.

OtterBox lists the cooler as being able to hold ice for up to three days, which I found to be a close assessment. On a two-day camp trip, I was able to purchase just one bag of ice and it held up the entire trip, and on single-day hikes, there was very little water to drain after a few hours on the trail. 

Though I mostly used this on car camping trips or while hiking, its versatility allows it to work well while fishing, biking, or just hanging out in your backyard. It’s not exactly cheap, but this cooler isn’t going anywhere anytime soon and figures to be a durable addition to your outdoor kit for years. — Rick Stella, Health & Fitness Editor

The best soft cooler backpack

icemuleprocanvas

The IceMule Pro is lightweight, compactable, essentially waterproof, and it won’t break the bank.

Pros: Lightweight, fairly priced, stowable, features a burping valve to let out excess air, easy to clean

Cons: Insulation could be better

IceMule’s wonderfully-designed dry-bag-style coolers are insulated to the point of being just sufficiently padded to wear as a backpack without having precariously packed beer bottles digging into you. They’re also completely airtight thanks to the roll-top design, which eliminates the fail point of a zipper.

The IceMule soft cooler line has received a good deal of praise despite a few early hiccups with design, including torn inner lining, water getting between the exterior and interior linings, and a cheap, beach-ball-like air release valve.

As far as I can tell, all of these issues have been addressed and resolved, and having an IceMule Pro to zip back and forth between the dock and the apartment for fishing trips has been an absolute delight. And, when you’re not using it, it folds flat and stores easily. It also doubles well as a regular backpack.

The IceMule Pro soft cooler comes in either vinyl or canvas, and after having tested both, I feel a little more confident in and comfortable wearing the canvas. On the other hand, the canvas only comes in black, which may not be the best color for a cooler. 

Its insulation does leave a bit to be desired, though a lot of that can be attributed to how often I’d open or close the bag. IceMule rates the Pro as able to hold ice for up to 24 hours (and cold temperatures for as many as two days), but judging by how quickly the ice would melt while I used it, 24 hours seemed like a stretch. What this means is a little more water in the bag after a day’s use, and the need to re-up ice on days two and three if you’re camping.

The best multi-purpose soft cooler

REI Cooler Pack

REI’s Cool Trail Split Pack offers ample storage space for both chilled and dry food and beverages, making it the perfect day hike companion. 

Pros: An area for both chilled and dry goods, padded shoulder straps and back panel make for comfortable transport, features REI’s tried-and-true durable construction

Cons: Lacks the capacity of most dedicated soft coolers

Most soft coolers offer one area for storing and chilling your food and drinks. REI Co-op’s Cool Trail Split Pack blends the best of both worlds by featuring the ability to house both chilled and dry goods at the same time. 

It does this by splitting the pack into two sections: a cooler-like bottom for storing ice and anything that needs to be cold and a dry top for everything else (i.e. food, change of layers, smartphone, car keys, etc.). 

Because of that design, the Cool Trail Split Pack looks like a sort of boxy backpack, featuring padded shoulder straps, as well as a chest strap and a padded back panel for added comfort — something that was much appreciated while testing this on multi-mile hikes and longer-than-expected bike rides. The pack is manufactured out of recycled ripstop nylon (like what you’d find in REI’s tents) and a polyester interior, making it highly durable both inside and out.

In terms of performance, the pack was able to keep everything stored in the cooler section chilled for an entire day spent hiking or hanging at the park in the middle of summer. Ice would begin to melt throughout the day, and especially so when the cooler section was left open while taking a short break, but I never experienced any leakage, even if the pack was laid on its side or jostling around on my back. 

One minor drawback would be that the pack is good enough for nourishing maybe two or three people as its capacity is far smaller than others on this list. But with how much it makes up for that lack of capacity by offering a spot for dry good, it’s well worth the investment. — Rick Stella, Health & Fitness Editor

How to shop for a soft cooler

The best soft cooler for you is entirely dependent on how often you’ll use it and what you’ll use it for the most. If you’re just transporting your lunch to the office or bringing snacks to your kids soccer game, you don’t need to drop more than $100 and your main areas of consideration are ease of opening, size capacity, and comfort while carrying. 

However, fishermen, frequent campers, and hikers will probably want to look for a soft-sided cooler with these three features, plus one that will last a long time (read: durable) and is well-built to keep ice frozen longer. After all, a reliable soft cooler bag is the difference between grabbing a cold beer or soda instead of a lukewarm swill; having safely-chilled meat to grill up on a camping trip; or bringing home freshly-caught fillets or those that have spoiled in the heat on your boat.

Most often, anyone looking to buy a soft cooler wants closed-cell insulation. Open-cell insulation is basically polyurethane packaging foam; it’s lightweight, airy, and the air bubbles that form the insulation are loosely arranged, which isn’t terribly effective. Closed-cell, on the other hand, is a bit heavier and pricier, since the construction has individual air bubbles that insulate far better. But it’s the best design to keep ice (and whatever else is inside) cold. This is partly what makes coolers in the Yeti and Rtic tiers so much more expensive. Of course, we can’t deny that you’re paying for the name, too.

Check out our other cooler buying guides

yeti

The best backpack coolers


The best coolers


The best lunch boxes and lunch bags


The best water bottles

 

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The 7 best bike lights of 2021 for better visibility while cycling at night

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  • Bike lights keep you visible in low-light conditions, alerting oncoming traffic or anyone else on the road.
  • The best should be easy to take off and put on and have a battery capable of lasting for hours of riding.
  • Our top pick, the Cygolite Streak 450 Hotshot SL, comes with a headlight and taillight and has several light modes.

Being safe while riding your bike requires more than just putting on a helmet and riding within your means – you’ll also want to guarantee you’re highly visible to those around you with a quality set of bike lights. Even if you don’t plan on riding at dusk or when it’s completely dark, bike lights are one of the most important cycling accessories to have and it’s better to have them and not use them to not have them at all.

According to a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “the time period with the largest frequency of pedalcyclist fatalities overall is 6 pm to 8:59 pm (21%), followed by 9 pm to 11:59 pm (17%).” Although the study was conducted year-round, and it may not have always been entirely dark around 6 pm, those numbers do paint a stark picture. The fact most of those time frames take place in low or no lighting suggests visibility was one of the main factors.

As a resident of New York City, and with my go-to mode of transportation being my bike, there aren’t many days during the spring and summer that I don’t spend at least a little bit of time pedaling around my neighborhood. I ride during all hours of the day, too, be it commuting to work or getting in a ride on the weekends, and I find myself biking in low or no light conditions often.

But just as I’d never leave my apartment without a helmet, I always make sure to pack along a set of bike lights – no matter how long I plan on being out. It doesn’t take an in-depth study to know that bike lights are an indispensable part of any cycling kit and something that can very well save your life.

Throughout my years of cycling, I’ve learned firsthand the immense value of a quality set of bike lights (and how dangerous a poor set can be). I’ve also come across my fair share of bike light variety; there are some designed to be highly portable and easy to install, while others are intended for trail riding.

Below, I’ve rounded up seven of my favorites from brands like Malker, NiteRider, and MPowerd. I’ve also included some tips on how to show for a bike light, as well as insight into the testing methodology I used in deciding which lights ultimately made the cut.

Here are the best bike lights:

How we test bike lights

Best Bike Lights Pattern 4x3

Each of the bike lights featured in this guide went through a series of tests to determine how well they compared across these four categories: Brightness, ease of use, versatility, and value. Here’s how each category specifically factored into deciding which lights made this guide:

Brightness: Judging a bike light’s brightness isn’t just about its lumen output or its actual brightness, but more so the quality of the light and what kind of settings it offers. As mentioned in the section on how to shop for a bike light, quality bike lights can vary in lumen output between 200 to 1,000 lumens, though this depends on where you plan on riding. To test for this, we looked at how effective the light was at making us visible without blinding oncoming traffic, while also providing some illumination of our surroundings. 

Ease of use: A bike light that’s hard to install, or even difficult to turn on and switch between its light settings, isn’t one that’s going to be particularly thrilling to use over and over again. If the light is easy to use, you’ll be more inclined to use it. Plain and simple. It’s also preferred that a light doesn’t require much toggling while you’re riding (or, at the very least, is easy to use).

Versatility: Being able to use a single set of bike lights on multiple bikes isn’t exactly a dealbreaker but it is nice to have that flexibility if need be. Additionally, a light that offers multiple brightness settings or a variety of light modes makes it far more valuable than just a standard, single beam light. 

Value: A bike light’s value isn’t just what its sticker price says but more so a combination of the three categories above, and how that compares to what it costs. There are plenty of valuable lights in the $15-$40 range, capable of fitting a range of budgets without sacrificing much quality. 

The best bike light overall

cygolite

For a reasonable price, the Cygolite Streak 450 Hotshot SL Bike Light Combo Set includes a bright headlight and taillight to make your early morning or late night commutes safer.

Pros: Incredibly bright, long battery life, easy to mount, several useful lighting modes

Cons: Uses Mini USB (rather than the more common Micro USB)

The Cygolite Streak 450 Hotshot SL Bike Light Combo Set comes with the Streak 450 Lumen headlight, which lasts for up to 100 hours on a single charge, and the Hotshot SL 50 Lumen taillight, which lasts for 200 hours on a single charge.

The lights charge using a Mini USB cord that you can plug into your computer or a cube. Since many electronics these days rely on Micro USB (not mini), you may want to keep a Mini USB cord with you on your rides so you aren’t stranded with dead lights. Or, if you see the low battery indicator turn on, be sure to charge the light before you go out.

The headlight has seven lighting modes: boost, high, medium, low, steady pulse, walking, and daylighting, which consists of powerful flashes that make you stand out in broad daylight. The taillight also has a lightning mode as well as five other modes of varying flash tempo and brightness. — James Brains, home & kitchen reporter

The best easy install bike light

bike light

If you’re looking for a light that’s just as easy to install as it is to take off your bike, consider picking up the surprisingly well-built and bright TeamObsidian Bike Light Set.

Pros: Affordable, adjustable beam width, lifetime guarantee

Cons: Doesn’t come with batteries, not designed for trail riding

One of the benefits you sacrifice with the low cost of the TeamObsidian Bike Light Set is usability out of the box. Batteries aren’t included. Despite having to buy five AAA batteries (I recommend getting rechargeable versions), there’s a lot to like about this set.

The headlamp produces 200 lumens of light. Both lights have three lighting modes — high, dimmed, and flashing — and are designed to withstand water, snow, heat, and dust. Installation is effortless and tool-free. And, the lights have quick-release mounts so you can take them with you and avoid potential thefts.

TeamObsidian stands behind the quality of its bike lights by offering a “100% no-hassle lifetime guarantee.” The company specifically states that it will refund your money if you’re dissatisfied for any reason. And, if the lights break, it will send you new ones. — James Brains, home & kitchen reporter

The best budget bike light

MalkerLights1

Malker’s bike lights are a great budget buy for anyone looking for a set of easy-to-install front and taillights — they even have a variety of light settings which add to their versatility. 

Pros: Easy to strap onto a bike’s handlebars and seatpost, comes with front and rear lights, has multiple light settings including a strobe function

Cons: Light modes can be hard to toggle, not robust enough for all riding conditions

These LED lights from Malker have been a go-to of mine for several years, as they’re extremely easy to put on and take off and incredibly cost-effective — I often see them on sale for under $10. The fact they come as a set of four (two standard, front-facing lights, and two red, rear-facing lights) only adds to their utility. 

Aside from their price and ease of use, what I like about these lights from Malker is how lightweight they are. I’m able to stash them in my backpack before I head out for a ride, but can also just leave them attached to my bike and they don’t take up too much space or get in the way of anything while I bike.

If I lock my bike up, their strap-on style makes it easy to just unhook them and put them back in my bag (or even a pant pocket), though it is worth noting to make sure the lights are completely off when stashing them. Several times I thought I’ve turned them off, only to find them still on but on a different light setting next time I go to use them (or the battery would just be completely sapped). 

The best bike light for trail riding

niterider

If you prefer to take your mountain bike off-road at night and you have a little extra to spend, consider the NiteRider Pro 1800 Race Light.

Pros: 1800 lumens output, long distance beam that maintains uniformity, excellent for trail riding at night

Cons: Expensive, hard to remove

What sets the NiteRider Pro 1800 Race Light apart from the other lights in our guide is that it gets brighter than your average car headlight. There are five modes: high, medium, low, walk, and flash.

The light is designed to stand up to the elements with Dupont fiberglass reinforced nylon housings and a borosilicate glass lens, which is resistant to extreme temperature changes. The eight-step power gauge tells you how much battery power is left, and you can easily swap out batteries so you aren’t left in the dark while you wait for your light to charge.

The best solar-powered bike light

LuciLight

MPowerd’s Luci Solar Bike Light is a convenient, versatile light that runs for upwards of 15 hours on a single charge and is easy to install almost anywhere on a bike’s frame.

Pros: Recharges via solar power, close to around 15 hours of use on a single charge, easy to attach all over a bike, lightweight, offers four different light modes, comes with a rear light

Cons: Full solar recharge takes close to 8 hours

It’s easy to see the versatility of MPowerd’s Luci Solar Bike Light; not only does it deliver more than enough capacity for even the longest of day rides but its ability to recharge while I ride is a wonderful perk. Add in the fact that this kit also comes with a solar-powered taillight, and this bike light package is quite intriguing.

Both lights are easy to attach via an adjustable silicone strap that works well on just about any part of a bike’s frame. The straps keep them snug, too, as I never felt as though the light would fall off, even if I was riding off-road or on a particularly bumpy street. I did think that the light’s magnetic clasp into the solar charger would come apart, but it stayed secure the entire time. 

Output-wise, the front light delivers 100 lumens while the taillight provides 40 lumens. Each has multiple light modes including a flashing option or different brightness levels, and a built-in battery level indicator lets you know when it’s time to recharge it. The lights also have a Micro-USB slot, so they aren’t only dependent on solar power for juice. 

Its $65 price tag is on the higher end for bike lights, but I do feel as though its versatility as solar-powered light makes it worth the investment — this is something that’s designed to last for several years while also being able to save you heaps of money on replacement batteries.

The best rear bike light

LezyneLight

The Femto Tail Light from Lezyne is a lightweight, easy-to-use tail light that helps dramatically improve nighttime visibility, both behind your bike and on the sides. 

Pros: USB rechargeable, easy to install, lightweight enough to pack in a backpack when not in use, 270 degrees of visibility

Cons: Strap isn’t very durable

Front bike lights are important, of course, but it can be just as vital to have something on the back of your bike to improve your visibility, as well. The Femto from Lezyne is one of the best I’ve used, as it’s light weight enough to not take up much space in my backpack when not in use and easy to install when it starts to get dark out (I can even pop it on without having to fully get off my bike). 

Although tail lights may seem like a dime a dozen (there are plenty available via Amazon), this one from Lezyne nabs this spot thanks to its wide range of visibility (270 degrees) and decent price point (I often find it for under $20). Tack on its easy-to-use mounting strap that lets you attach it almost anywhere, and you have a highly versatile rear bike light that can be used on everything from commuters and road bikes to mountain bikes and cruisers.

It’s also USB chargeable which I found to be quite useful as I could just plug these in after a few sessions of riding with them instead of looking around my apartment for or buying batteries.

The best waterproof bike light

urban bike light

The Light and Motion Urban 500 Headlight keeps you visible from the front and sides with its powerful headlight and helpful sidelights.

Pros: Has sidelights, 500 lumens, lightweight and compact, easy to remove, two-year warranty

Cons: USB port cover falls off easily

When mounted just right, the Light and Motion Urban 500 Headlight has two amber safety sidelights that make you visible to drivers on your sides. There are four light modes: high (500 lumens), medium, low, and pulse.

On high, the battery lasts for about 90 minutes, and on pulse, it lasts for up to 12 hours. The light mounts right onto your handlebars and has a quick release feature so you can take your light with you. It charges using a Micro USB charging cable. And, Light and Motion backs the quality of this product with a two-year warranty.

How to shop for a bike lights

When choosing a bike light, look at the number of lumens it’s capable of producing, as this tells you how bright the light is. Many models give you this number right in their name and, based on our testing, the advertised lumens rating is accurate for the best units, though the brightness may dwindle as the battery loses juice.

For headlights, the number of lumens you need depends on where you’ll be cycling. For riding trails at night, you need at least 1,000 lumens. For urban roads where there are streetlights, 200 lumens will do. And, taillights should produce between 40 and 100 lumens of output since they are mainly there so others can see you.

Do be careful not to use extremely bright flashing headlights while cycling, too. This can disorient drivers and make it harder for them to see you.

Also, anything above 300 lumens could potentially blind oncoming traffic. So, consider dropping down to a dimmer setting when cars are coming — much like you might use the high beams on your car. If you’re concerned about drivers seeing you from behind, consider installing two rear lights: One that flashes and one that remains steady.

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The 9 best dehumidifiers in 2021

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white frigidaire dehumidifier in a living room between an armchair and coffee table
  • Dehumidifiers help remove excess moisture from the air to prevent mold and remove allergens.
  • The best dehumidifiers are from Frigidaire, HomeLabs, and Honeywell.
  • We also include budget-friendly, portable, and small-space options.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

The purpose of a dehumidifier is to remove excess humidity from the air, keeping your room dry and helping prevent mold and mildew growth.

You might need a dehumidifier if:

  • Your room feels stuffy and humid
  • You see mold and mildew, and the area smells musty
  • There are wet spots or condensation on the windows and walls
  • You or your fellow inhabitants experience upper respiratory problems like sneezing and coughing

You can also use a hygrometer to directly measure humidity levels in your house. “We recommend keeping the relative humidity in your home between 30-50%. High humidity can increase ground-ozone levels, dust mites, and mold – all of which can be allergy or asthma trigger[s],” said Kenneth Mendez, president and CEO of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).

We found the best dehumidifiers for rooms of various sizes and different needs. See the FAQs section for information on how to shop for a dehumidifier, how to clean your unit, and more.

Here are the best dehumidifiers of 2021

Our methodology

white homelabs dehumidifier on the ground next to a bicycle

In our first major rewrite of this guide, we consulted allergy, skincare, and HVAC experts to learn more about how a dehumidifier can help your health and what features to look for. We spoke to Kenneth Mendez, president and CEO of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA); John McKeon, CEO and founder of Allergy Standards Limited (ASL); Jeanine Downie, MD, FAAD, Director of Image Dermatology PC; and a spokesperson for The Home Depot

Using their insights, along with our own research and knowledge of the space, we picked a few dehumidifier options per category. Down the line, we plan to personally test these dehumidifiers to choose one best pick per category.

The best dehumidifiers overall

white frigidaire dehumidifier in a living room between an armchair and coffee table

Our best dehumidifiers are quiet, efficient, Energy-Star certified, and look sleek rather than clunky.

High-Efficiency 50-Pint Dehumidifier with Built-In Pump (medium)Dehumidifier (medium)TP50WK Dehumidifier (30-pint) (medium)
The best dehumidifiers for small spaces

small vremi compact dehumidifier on top of a table next to vases

Whether you have a closet or small bathroom that smells musty, small dehumidifiers can efficiently remove moisture from the air without taking up too much space.

Small Dehumidifier (medium)Compact Dehumidifier (medium)
The best dehumidifiers for large spaces

ivation large-capacity dehumidifier on the floor next to an armchair

Large basements and living rooms will benefit from the following dehumidifiers. Large dehumidifiers also often have the perk of more advanced features like custom settings or auto-shutoff.

70-Pint Energy Star Dehumidifier (medium)70-Pint Dehumidifier (medium)
The best portable dehumidifiers

small white eva-dry wireless mini dehumidifier in a cabinet in front of spices

“For smaller spaces or rental units, I recommend including portable dehumidifiers to keep the space feeling fresh,” said a spokesperson for The Home Depot. Portable dehumidifiers are also great for small closets, cabinets, traveling, and gym bags.

Wireless Mini Dehumidifier (medium)Mini Dehumidifier (medium)
FAQs

Why do you need a dehumidifier? 

A dehumidifier helps maintain the optimal level of humidity in your room so it’s not too humid. It reduces the growth and incidence of mold, mildew, and dust mites.


Dehumidifier vs. humidifier: what’s the difference and which do you need? 

A dehumidifier removes moisture from the air, while a humidifier adds moisture to the air. 

If your room feels stuffy and you see condensation or mold, you need a dehumidifier. It’s commonly used in bathrooms, basements, closets, boats, and RVs, but you can use it anywhere else in the house, too. 

If your room feels dry and your skin is irritated, you need a humidifier. We tested the best humidifiers here.


What to consider when buying a dehumidifier 

Dampness level: Dehumidifiers come in different sizes depending on how much moisture they can remove in 24 hours. Here’s what size to buy based on how humid your room is:

Dampness level Characteristics Dehumidifier size Room size
Moderately damp Musty aroma in the area during humid weather 25-39 pint capacity Small (closets, small bathrooms)
Extremely damp Always damp in the area regardless of season 40-59 pint capacity Medium (bedrooms, small basements, large closets)
Wet Visible condensation on ceilings and walls 60+ pint capacity Large (large basements)

How the unit removes moisture: It will either have a built-in pump or a direct drain. “A dehumidifier with a built-in pump allows you to run the drain hose up to a window, sink or elevated drain. A unit with a direct drain will funnel the water directly into a sink or basement drain,” said a spokesperson from The Home Depot. 

Energy performance: To get maximum efficiency out of a unit, look for those that are Energy Star-certified.

Automatic or useful features: Look for a unit with an adjustable humidistat, which will automatically turn your unit on and off to maintain the preset humidity level. Other useful features, according to The Home Depot, include:

  • Automatic shutoff: Turns your unit off once the tank is full 
  • Digital display: Shows the relative humidity level and other settings
  • Filter sensor/indicator: Tells you when it’s time to replace the filter
  • Programmable timer: Lets you run the unit only at certain times of the day
  • Auto-defrost: Keeps your unit from freezing in cold temperatures 

It’s also worth pointing out that many AC units have built-in dehumidifiers. If your AC unit is in your desired room, check first to see if it has a dehumidifier and whether it works well. We tested the best air conditioners here.


How does a dehumidifier work? 

A dehumidifier works by blowing moist air over coolant-filled coils, causing the moisture to condense into water droplets. The condensation then drips from the coils into a receptacle. The collected water is directly drained out or pumped into another area like a sink, depending on the unit you have.


Is a dehumidifier good for your skin?

“Dehumidifiers decrease the incidence of dry skin,” said Jeanine Downie, MD, FAAD, Director of Image Dermatology PC. They also reduce irritation due to allergens like dust mites and mold. If your dehumidifier removes too much humidity from the air, however, it may dry out your skin. 

“It’s important to note that if the humidity starts to drop below 30% it can have a negative impact on health, including drying out of the eyes and mucous membranes,” said McKeon. “Very dry air can also result in dry skin, worsening of eczema, and irritation of the airways.” You should continue to monitor humidity levels and how your skin feels as you use your dehumidifier.


How do you clean a dehumidifier? 

There are two parts to focus your attention on: the air filter and the tank. Clean the air filter under your faucet often (once a week). Wipe down and dry out the tank after every use to reduce mold and mildew growth within your dehumidifier.

Check out our other home-climate-control guides

best air purifier 2021 lead
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The 5 best gaming mice of 2021

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6 of the gaming mice we tested laid out on a mouse pad
  • Wireless gaming mice have become technogically sophisticated and accurate enough to live to their steep prices.
  • Wired gaming mice can be had for a reasonable price, however, and are largely unmatched in terms of response time.
  • Our pick for the best gaming mouse is the Razer Viper Ultimate.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

For decades, computers (PCs) have been powerful and fun tools, and for just as long we have wanted to play games on them. From games that are uniquely suited to PC to those best realized on robust hardware, PC gaming covers a broad range, and it attracts all kinds of players.

While game controllers are still prevalent at esport events, it’s the computer mouse that continues to let the best players excel as they vie for dominance in games like League of Legends, Overwatch, Starcraft, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

The domain of gaming mice isn’t limited to just PCs either, as console games like Fortnite and Call of Duty now allow players to use mouse and keyboard setups-let me say, the advantage is real. It’s completely worth becoming a keyboard and mouse user for multiplayer games that support them on both PlayStation and Xbox consoles.

As a former game designer, I can tell you that most games are born and developed on PCs. The whole idea of aiming a weapon in a game, of selecting units, building defenses, and clicking on a target are PC and mouse centric. Accuracy, response time, muscle memory, reflex, etc. – these tend to make the difference between playing well and losing, and it all gets funneled from the player and into the game via the mouse.

Below are the best gaming mice I’ve tested for 2021 so far, broken down by subcategory and led by a pick for the best gaming mouse overall.

Here are the best gaming mice of 2021

The best gaming mouse overall

The Razer Viper Ultimate mouse on a white background

The Razer Viper Ultimate is wireless and has the best mix of sensitivity, grip, weight, look, and feel.

Pros: The feel when moving, lightweight (74g), enduring battery life, subtle but cool look (with RGB), truly ambidextrous shape, surface texture, color options

Cons: Unnecessary charging dock, bloated Razer software suite, high price

My current favorite gaming mouse is the Razer Viper Ultimate, and aside from a few small qualms (like the pushy software), it offers a premium gaming mouse experience while still hitting a nice weight at 74g to provide an overall responsive and enjoyable feel. 

In order to meet the needs of different gamers’ grips, Razer offers a variety of models (including the Basilisk and DeathAdder), and the Viper Ultimate is the company’s ambidextrous, wireless, and premium gaming mouse. It’s not only a great feel, weight, and responsiveness, but also a welcome texture that varies between the palm and sides of the mouse.

As part of the ambidextrous design, the Razer Ultimate has a two-button cluster on both sides. It also has a compartment on the underside where the USB dongle can be stored for travel and such. The battery life is good and extended smartly with a rating of up to 70 hours. 

In addition to the standard black design, a few different color options are offered (Quartz/Pink, Mercury/White, and Cyberpunk 2077/ Yellow), and Razer includes a matching Razer Mouse Dock Chroma (RGB). I think the dock is superfluous as the mouse can be charged (and used while charging) with just the USB cable, though I suppose the dock helps give the mouse a premium feel. (A cheaper version without the dock is available, but only directly from Razer.)

The standard black is like a reinvention of the classic Razer style: sedate when off, but spiffy when the Razer logo lights up and breathes on the palm wrest.

Being the best overall gaming mouse, the Viper Ultimate is at home playing a first-person shooter (FPS) or a real-time strategy (RTS), running wired or wirelessly, and even outside of games. It feels complete without any corners cut and its weight is low enough to be an ultralight without that being the central feature.

Viper Ultimate (button)
The best wired gaming mouse

Logitech G203 mouse on a white background

With its gaming-quality responsiveness, grip, buttons, and lighting, the Logitech G203 Lightsync is the essential wired gaming mouse.

Pros: The distilled shape, clicky buttons, well set scroll wheel, four available colors, low price, lightweight (85g)

Cons: G203 Lightsync adds more RGB options, but G203 Prodigy has plenty for less; plain cable for a gaming mouse

Unlike the Razer Viper Mini, which is too compact for me, the Logitech G203 manages to have a wonderful shape at a good weight. The sensor is not as fancy as many gaming mice, but the feel, glide, and wired performance are nevertheless gaming grade.

It has six buttons and a scroll wheel, with the sixth button letting the user select the mouse’s DPI sensitivity. It’s a nearly ambidextrous shape with only buttons four and five on the left side limiting its utility for left-handed gamers. 

The Lightsync part of the name refers to its prominent RGB features, and the lit G logo and light band are the flashiest aspects. But really, the G203 Prodigy seems to be the same stalwart mouse as the G203 Lightsync. Both G203 models are relatively inexpensive ways to upgrade a gaming setup. Whether you want to play online with friends leisurely, or actively spend time training your accuracy and speed, the G203 can well meet your needs.

The cable is plain and far from the nylon/paracord cables common to gaming mice, but that might only be noticed when transporting the mouse. The G203 can usually be had at a low price, and it’s a great first gaming mouse.

G203 (button)
The best budget wireless gaming mouse

Logitech G305 on a white background

The G305 Lightspeed is an excellent, AA-battery-powered, wireless gaming mouse that should please nearly everybody not concerned with RGB or weight. 

Pros: Quality shape and materials, four available colors, simple to use, great battery life

Cons: Heftier weight (99g), no RGB lighting, no internal battery or play charge option

The Razer Viper Ultimate is the best overall gaming mouse, but for a wireless gaming mouse that’s a little more straightforward and utilitarian, the cheaper Logitech G305 Lightspeed just nails it. Among wireless mice, the G305 is simple to get going and easy to use. This is also a rare case where I don’t think the software is really necessary, because the G305 is very much ready to go out of the box. DPI levels and battery life are easy to adjust and monitor without software.

Pop the G305 open, insert the included AA battery, remove the small USB dongle, and pop the cover back on. The USB dongle goes into the PC, and it’s time to flick the power switch (on the mouse’s underside) to on. What’s left then is to hit the DPI button located on the top between the great scroll wheel and the lone LED light, and dial in to the desired comfort zone via the desired DPI sensitivity. (Of course, the software is there if you need to reassign buttons or update firmware.)

From there, the G305‘s excellent shape and strong, welcoming build takes center stage. Because this mouse is so easy to set up and use, and because it lacks RGB or anything visually that screams “gaming mouse,” the G305 might not immediately stand out in a sea of gaming mice. But in use, it’s excellent all-around. The G305’s one real concession towards style is to offer blue and lilac shell colors to go with the more standard black and white.

In addition to accuracy, responsiveness with satisfying clicks, the requisite six buttons, and stalwart battery life, the G305 even promises to hold up better than most against abuse (including abuse from traveling). This mouse is perfect both as a first wireless gaming mouse (before getting into the premium territory) and for outfitting a new esports team. If there is one thing that holds the G305 back, it’s the weight, which is listed at 99g (I measured 97g). Those with a light touch, and those that often pick up the mouse may find it a touch too heavy. Then again, it’s tougher and simpler than most gaming mice.

G305 Lightspeed Wireless Gaming Mouse (button)
The best ultralight gaming mouse

Glorious Model O mouse on a white background

Glorious nailed the wired ultralight category with the Model O, a purpose-built mouse with the right amount of gaming flare.

Pros: Pleasing Pixart sensor, welcoming shape, four skates that ensure a nice glide, flair, lightweight (67g), fair price

Cons: The software is functional but needs some real TLC, side buttons are just ok

These days, the weight of a gaming mouse is a specification that is just as important as size and sensitivity. It’s almost like we are deep in the midst of the rise of the ultralight mice. It’s a trend whose merits are fairly easy to test out, as comparing two similar gaming mice that are mainly separated by 20-40g in weight will show very noticeable differences, even to the point of affecting play. 

It’s in this weight-focused zone that the wired Glorious Model O fits so well. Sure, it looks like gamer hardware with its honeycomb shell, generous RGB lines (even in the scroll wheel) and bearded Glorious logo, but it has the internals to match its looks. The 67g weight and Pixart sensor pair well together in a light and pleasing design.

It’s a good shape, the RGB is not too distracting, and the cord is a nice change from what has been standard for gaming mice. No details have been overlooked, though the software isn’t my favorite (at least the software isn’t bloated). 

With style, lightness, and solid performance in hand, what’s left to be concerned about in this ultralight category is durability. Fortunately, unlike some newer mice, the Model O has been on the market and in the hands of a demanding community long enough to inspire confidence in its build, and since it is a wired mouse, there is a lot less to worry over. (Wired mice users don’t have to deal with wireless signal strength, battery life or even a lost or broken USB dongle.)

The Model O succeeds at everything it set out to do, which helps to make it a nice alternative to some of the mice from bigger brands. I would stick with the matte black or white and avoid the glossy variants as glossy shells don’t wear as well and tend to show damage and dirt.

Model O (button)
The best MMO/MOBA gaming mouse

The Razer Naga Pro with two of it's exchangeable skins

The Razer Naga Pro takes everything great about the Naga Trinity, improves it, and makes it wireless.

Pros: Modular design of the left button cluster and number of available buttons, sensor accuracy, battery life, suitable for larger hands and some different grips

Cons: Steep price, bulky weight (117g), three hot-swappable plates can become clutter

If you’ve been looking at the other picks in this guide, then you may have noticed a few trends such as lighter designs and ambidextrous shapes. The Razer Naga Pro has neither of these characteristics. Furthermore, unlike those other category winners, the Razer Naga Pro comes as part mouse, part mouse kit. 

The mouse part of the Razer Naga Pro has the latest in Razer’s optical sensor tech as well as their wireless tech. (The Naga Trinity is the cheaper wired version.) It also has an internal battery with a battery life of up to 150 hours. It has a distinct right-handed ergonomic shape, but it’s weighty at 117g, and it’s the only mouse pick in this guide that offers a tilt scroll wheel.

It’s also the only mouse in this guide that is modular as it offers a trio of panels for its left side. On the left side, it can host two buttons, six buttons, or even twelve buttons. The twelve-button panel gives the mouse a whopping 20 buttons (including two from the tilt wheel and one on the underside), which is way too many for me but often desired in massively multiplayer online games (MMOs). 

The panels are affixed magnetically and can be changed quite easily. I prefer the multiplayer online battle arena, or MOBA-friendly, six button panel, which is reminiscent of a Logitech G604 configuration. Underneath the modular panel is where the wireless USB dongle can be stored.

The Naga Pro offers that trio of configurations, making it a truly premium, semi-modular wireless mouse. The Naga Pro supports a charging dock but it isn’t included, which is addition by subtraction in my mind as the user can still use the included cable to charge or play over a wired connection. In addition to the standard and important 2.4Ghz wireless connection available through the USB dongle, the Naga Pro also offers a Bluetooth connection for those times when mobility and battery life are more important than performance.

While the modular left side and plethora of button options set the Naga Pro apart from smaller mice, it’s also a promising option for those with larger hands, especially if they tend to rest their palm completely on the mouse.

Naga Pro Gaming Mouse (button)
What else we considered

In this guide I’ve talked a lot about wireless gaming mice, and at each turn, the weight of the gaming mice was always a concern. Thus, one category that might be missing here is the ultralight wireless gaming mouse category. Wireless ultralight mice are very much on the cutting edge, and several ultralight wireless mice have recently hit the market. Here are three that we considered and liked but ultimately did not make the cut.

SteelSeries Aerox 3 Wireless

The Aerox 3 Wireless is a snazzy wireless ultralight. It has the feel and the looks, but it’s less polished all-around than I would like. For example, it has a power-saving feature that I dislike greatly. The mouse will sleep after one to 20 minutes. This is adjustable in the software (5 minutes default, 20 minutes max) but cannot be disabled. The part that bothers me is that in order to wake the mouse, I have to click a button whereas other mice wake on being moved. 

Still, it has a fun take on RGB with a thin light ring on the bottom that comes through the holey shell, and it uses a well-designed USB-C cable. (Many mice require a proprietary micro-USB or USB-C connection while the Aerox 3 is meant to be used with other USB-C cables.) It also has an IP54 rating for dust and water protection. 

Pros: SteelSeries shape with an ultralight style and weight, impressive gaming performance, good for everyday use outside of games, supports play-charging and fast-charging, internal battery, Xbox One support, price

Cons: Various settings depend on the PC app, fresh but not necessarily distinct in look, right-handed, click to wake battery management

Logitech Pro X Superlight

The Pro X Superlight is cutting edge. It’s a wireless ultralight that pushes the extremes to get down to a rated 63g weight (closer to 61g really). It packs Logitech’s most efficient and most precise sensor without sacrificing battery life. It also manages to have a traditional mouse shell which ought to be good for anyone wanting a very light gaming mouse but also a sedate look. There is no RGB to be found on the Pro X Superlight unless you count the lone, usually dim LED on the top.

On the bottom of the mouse there is a great compartment which houses the USB dongle, and by removing the little magnetic door, the mouse can get even lighter. That said, this mouse might be too light. Parts of it feel excellent, like the scroll wheel, while other parts feel hollow, like the thin shell. I’ve also found that my main mousepad causes the Pro X Superlight to stutter. 

Pros: Great feel, traditional shell design, impressive sensor sensitivity, supports play-charging, internal battery, long battery life

Cons: DPI adjustments are initially PC app-dependent, basic looks, finicky back thumb button, could take some getting used to, plain looks, price

Glorious Model O Wireless

The Glorious Model O Wireless is very much the wireless ultralight that Glorious has promised. Rated at 69g (I’ve got it just under 70g), it brings with it so much that was great about the wired Model O. It has a great shape that only falls short of ambidextrous due to the placement of the thumb buttons. A great lookin matte black (or matte white) with satisfying primary buttons and scroll wheel along with good thumb buttons. Happily, it does have a DPI button (up top) and a DPI light (on the underside) as well as the same, nice RGB lighting and logo placement as its wired cousin.

The new Glorious-developed BAMF sensor is different from the wired Model O, but the feel is consistently accurate. The battery life is not incredible but it’s ok, especially since it can charge while being used. The Model O Wireless is not without its quirks. The included USB-C cable has a right way up both when connecting to the mouse and when connecting to the USB-C dongle connector. There’s new software as well, the Glorious Core. It’s a step up from previous Glorious software, but it still raises an eyebrow when first run, when updating, and even when checking battery level; it’s slight roughness that I suspect will be smoothed out through updates. Still, I think Glorious delivered with the Model O Wireless. It’s great while gaming and happy doing day to day stuff. And let’s not forget the pleasing price. It’s only shortfall is that after much time spent with both mice, I prefer the more expensive Viper Ultimate’s shape.

Pros: Very purpose-focused, ultra-lightweight (67g), attractive design, the RGB lighting, the low price

Cons: Thumb button placement could be better, the software experience, the USB-C cable trident design, no storage spot in the mouse for the USB dongle

How to pick the best gaming mouse

Grip & feel: There is a lot of tech that goes into the design and manufacture of a gaming mouse, but ultimately, if gripping and moving the mouse doesn’t feel right, then look elsewhere. A brief period (from a few hours to a week) of readjustment may be necessary, but gaming mice are meant to be responsive and to glide with accuracy. Gaming mice are also meant to serve different kinds of hand sizes and grip techniques. Many gaming mice have the same sort of sensor and features, but offer a different shape. There is a range starting with the ambidextrous and symmetrical shaped mice on one end, the classic right-hand shaped mice in the middle, and the extremely hand-fitting ergonomic shaped mice on the other end. Those with larger, heavier hands may find ergonomic mice like the Razer Basilisk Ultimate to be suitable to their grip. Others will likely find themselves gravitating between the truly ambidextrous mice and the classic right-handed shape.

Of course, even with the right grip, if the buttons aren’t responsive, if the wheel isn’t consistent, if the tracking is too floaty, then it isn’t the right mouse.

Weight: A big feature for gaming mice of yore was adjustable weights. Modern trends, however, see gaming mice vying for lighter weight all around. Ultralight mice, a category of gaming mice that are under 80g in weight (and tend to be closer to 60g), are gaming mice focused on being light and responsive even at the cost of fancy features like modular buttons. But even those gaming mice that stay away from being called “ultralight” have shed weight. Weight affects the feel, and feel does affect performance as well as enjoyment. 

Wired versus wireless: Gaming mouse technology is truly amazing, and wireless gaming mice can offer just about everything that a wired mouse can without much in the way of compromise. But why opt for a wireless gaming mouse over a wired one? To be precise, it is a comfort thing. Without a cable tethering the mouse, the mouse is more comfortable to use, and less likely to take you out of the game (or even your work zone) to fuss over the cable. Of course, wired gaming mice offer great features at a much lower price and without having to worry at all about power or even the rare signal concern. What’s nice for those of us who have a hard time choosing between the two is that many wireless mice offer the ability to use the mouse while charging with a cable or even with the mouse turned off. One could use the mouse with the cable until it became irksome and then switch to wireless mode. 

Wireless power: If opting for a wireless gaming mouse, then there needs to be some consideration for how the mouse will be powered. Good wireless gaming mice are both power efficient when in use and smart about saving power when not in use. Finding that the mouse has a low battery or, even worse, a dead battery should be a rare thing, even as rare as once a month. Cheaper wireless gaming mice tend to use AA batteries while more expensive mice have internal batteries. Mice can be charged through their included cable (either micro-USB or USB-C) or in some cases through a charging cradle or even, in the case of the Logitech Powerplay, a charging mouse pad. As mentioned above, I like mice with internal batteries and the cabled play-charge option. I can go wireless until I hit low battery, plug in, and keep going.

Bluetooth vs USB dongle: Wireless gaming mice tend to use a USB dongle in order to connect via a 2.4Ghz wireless connection for maximum performance and ease of use. Often, the dongle can be stored inside the mouse to help keep it from getting lost during travel or storage. Many mice do, however, offer the ability to connect via Bluetooth. The idea here is to allow for a dongle-less connection, say to a laptop with built-in Bluetooth. This is an option when mobile, or I suppose if the dongle has been misplaced. The fancy performance of the gaming mouse will be restrained by the Bluetooth connection, but in many cases, the battery life will be extended considerably, which could be helpful when on the move.

Bundled software: Gaming mice are generally quite good at just working when connected to Windows, however, accessing and adjusting various features will typically require special software from the manufacturer. Even the Glorious line of mice uses software and should, out of box, have their firmware checked. Gaming mouse software is useful for adjusting RGB lighting and button assignments as well as power options for wireless mice. Adjusting DPI sensitivity out of the box can usually be done without software (by cycling through presets using a certain button on the mouse), but there is at least one instance I know where even that was relegated to the software. As with all such software, some apps are more focused and stable while others are more bloated and need regular updates.

Build: The mouse brands mentioned in this guide, including Logitech and Razer, have a good reputation for build quality. Just be reasonably good to a gaming mouse (don’t throw it against a wall, take it into a bathroom or to the beach), and it should provide years of excellent performance without issue. Aside from the buttons and scroll wheel, gaming mice have almost no moving parts, and the thing most likely to wear down first are the PTFE feet on the bottom that provide the glide. A mouse that gets dirty from messy food items should be cleaned and put back in service. If a button fails/is failing, the manufacturer should be contacted regardless of what the warranty states. When transporting a gaming mouse, be careful of the cable and buttons (an internal pouch on a backpack usually works).

Price: Wired gaming mice like the Logitech G203 and Razer Viper Mini are priced at $39.99 while the ultralight wired Glorious Model O is $49.99. The wireless Logitech G305 Lightspeed is $59.99, but premium wireless gaming mice with internal batteries range up to $149.99. While some people consider computer mice to be a free-with-purchase kind of thing, the $40-$150 range really isn’t bad for something that might be used all-day everyday while still lasting for years on end.

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The 5 best gaming routers of 2021

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Collage of gaming routers, including Netgear, D-Link, and TP-link on blue background 4x3
  • Having a solid wireless router is one of the most important aspects of online gaming.
  • Some of the best gaming routers offer support for the latest version of Wi-Fi, multiple bands, and more.
  • Embracing these new technologies can give you the edge in just about any online game.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Most people are content to use the routers provided by their internet service providers. Those devices rarely support the most advanced networking technologies, such as tri-band mesh and more powerful processing, however, and some can barely keep up with everyday activities such as streaming video. Anyone looking to improve their online gaming experience should probably start by replacing that ISP-provided equipment with their own gaming router.

But it can be hard to figure out what router to buy. Does it have to support the latest version of Wi-Fi? What is the most recent version of Wi-Fi, anyway? How important is the number of Ethernet ports, wireless bands, or antennas? It’s no wonder so many people end up using whatever router their ISP provides when answering all these questions can be so overwhelming.

Preference also comes into play. Someone who wants to be on the leading edge of wireless networking has very different needs from someone who just wants to have a better time gaming online without breaking the bank in the process. There is some good news, though, and it’s that there are many routers capable of serving a wide variety of needs. These are some of the best wireless routers for gaming.

Here are the best gaming routers of 2021

The best gaming router overall

Netgear Nighthawk Pro AX5400 WiFi Gaming Router (XR1000)

The Netgear NightHawk XR1000 offers high speeds, great bandwidth, and a variety of customization tools.

Pros: High data transfer speeds, extensive controls

Cons: Tedious setup, companion apps are slow to load

The Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR1000 boasts a variety of features—Wi-Fi 6 support, Quality of Service (QoS) controls, and a companion mobile app—that should allow it to appeal to PC, console, and mobile gamers alike. It’s not the most powerful router on the market, but it’s a versatile device that offers an affordable way to improve your network’s performance.

Wi-Fi 6 offers several improvements over previous generations of Wi-Fi, including longer ranges, increased bandwidth, and improved transfer speeds. In my tests, the Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR1000 stays close to the maximum 100 Mbps download speed afforded by my network from up to 45 feet away despite multiple obstructions. (It offers better Wi-Fi 5 performance than my existing router, too, which would be worth the upgrade by itself.)

Many of the Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR1000‘s features are enabled via the DumaOS 3.0 software. The QoS controls allow you to prioritize the performance of specific devices on the network, which means you could automatically limit the bandwidth someone else is using to stream Netflix while preserving the quality of your gaming PC’s connection, for example.

Netgear also offers details about connections between the Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR1000 and other devices on its network via the Netgear Nighthawk mobile app. Unfortunately that app is more of a necessary evil than a valued companion. I find it slow to load, occasionally unresponsive, and somewhat vexing, but it is also the easiest way to update the router’s firmware. 

The Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR1000 does have a few shortcomings, however, such as the inclusion of just four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports and one USB 3.0 port. This should be fine for predominantly wireless setups, but the limited number of wired connections might prove frustrating for some.

Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR1000 (button)
The best budget gaming router

D-Link DIR-867-US

The D-Link DIR-867-US is a step up from ISP-provided routers that doesn’t break the bank.

Pros: Affordable, offers basic quality-of-life features such as MU-MIMO support

Cons: Doesn’t support Wi-Fi 6, lacks USB input

The D-Link DIR-867-US is an affordable router said to offer speeds up to 1,750 Mbps when a device is connected to both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. It also boasts multi-user, multi-input, multi-output (MU-MIMO) support and Quality of Service (QoS) controls. The former provides better transfer speeds when connecting to many devices, and the latter offers controls to prioritize the traffic of some devices over others.

The DIR-867-US‘s wireless connectivity is complemented by four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports that can offer a stable wired connection to compatible devices. The router doesn’t feature any USB ports, however, which means peripherals such as printers and other office equipment will have to rely on Wi-Fi or Ethernet to join the network. That means those four Ethernet ports could fill up faster than you might have expected.

There’s no denying that other routers offer many benefits over the DIR-867-US. It doesn’t support the latest version of Wi-Fi, it’s limited to just two bands, and its wired connectivity is lacking compared to other options. But it still offers better performance than many ISP-provided routers, and its low price makes it more accessible to people who are gaming on a budget.

DIR-867-US (button)
The best gaming router for enthusiasts

Asus ROG Rapture GT-AXE11000 on a white background

The ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AXE11000 is a next-gen router with support for Wi-Fi 6E, 2.5GbE, and a variety of tools meant to improve in-game performance.

Pros: Wi-Fi 6E support, optional 2.5GbE connectivity, many features

Cons: Expensive, not as many Ethernet ports as some models

The ASUS GT-AXE11000 is the best gaming router for enthusiasts because it includes support for Wi-Fi 6E, which allows the router to offer faster speeds (up to 11,000 Mbps), improved bandwidth, and increased security compared to its predecessors. The router will have to be paired with other devices that support Wi-Fi 6E to provide all these benefits, of course, but anyone looking to experience the future of wireless connectivity should appreciate this offering.

In addition to Wi-Fi 6E, the ASUS GT-AXE11000 includes four Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) ports for local networking and two options for connecting to the internet. The first option is a 2.5GbE port that’s said to unlock Wi-Fi 6E’s full potential. The second option is to use two GbE WAN ports with WAN Aggregation to achieve a similar result. (Which option is right for a given network mostly depends on the ISP.) There are also two USB 3.0 ports that can be used to connect peripherals to the network.

ASUS crammed many quality-of-life features into the GT-AXE11000 as well. It supports Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant, offers similar Quality of Service (QoS) features as other routers, and includes parental control settings. ASUS claims the router also offers “triple-level game acceleration,” which gives priority to devices connected via the dedicated gaming port, favors those devices over others on the network using adaptive QoS, and includes a 90-day free trial to the Outfox gaming network that claims to offer the fastest connection to many game servers.

ROG Rapture GT-AXE11000 (button)
The best gaming router for wired gaming

TP-Link Archer AX6000

The TP-Link Archer AX6000 is the best router for wired gaming because of its bevy of Ethernet ports and 2.5GbE WAN connection.

Pros: Offers many Ethernet ports, supports Wi-Fi 6, includes common quality-of-life features

Cons: Somewhat expensive

The TP-Link Archer AX6000 is the best router for wired gaming because it offers eight GbE (LAN) ports in addition to Wi-Fi 6 connectivity enabled by a 2.5GbE (WAN) port. Having that many Ethernet ports should make it easy to provide a wired connection – which is generally more stable than even the best wireless connection – to almost every gaming device nearby. (To say nothing of improved streaming on set-top boxes, a better Wi-Fi network enabled by multiple wireless access points, and other benefits enabled by setting up a wired connection.)

TP-Link says the Archer AX6000 offers maximum transfer speeds of up to 4,804 Mbps via the 5GHz band and 1,148 Mbps via the 2.4GHz band for a combined total of nearly 6,000 Mbps. Those are under ideal conditions, of course, and you’ll only enjoy those speeds outside your home network if your internet service provider supports them. Performance will also vary based on how many devices are connected to the network, but integrated Quality of Service (QoS) settings should make it easier to prioritize gaming hardware over other devices.

The Archer AX6000‘s other handy features include a mobile companion app called Tether that can be used to set up the router, parental control software, the Amazon Alexa virtual assistant, and built-in security tools. The router also features two USB 3.0 ports (one Type-A port and one Type-C port)that can be used to connect peripherals to the network.

All of those features, combined with the multitude of GbE ports and Wi-Fi 6 support, should make the Archer AX6000 a compelling option for people seeking reliable performance who don’t necessarily want to break the bank to buy a router with leading-edge technologies.

Archer AX6000 (button)
The best gaming router for wireless gaming

Linksys Hydra Pro

The Linksys Hydra Pro is the best router for wireless gaming because it offers Wi-Fi 6E support as well as mesh networking enabled by the company’s Velop technology.

Pros: Wi-Fi 6E support, 5GbE (WAN), mesh networking support

Cons: Expensive, limited wired connectivity

The Linksys Hydra Pro is the best router for wireless gaming because it complements its support for Wi-Fi 6E with a 5GbE port that should make it easy to take full advantage of the most powerful internet connections. Linksys says it can handle more than 55 connected devices at once with a maximum coverage area of 2,700 square feet and transfer speeds up to 6.6 Gbps. You probably won’t enjoy those speeds at the edge of the router’s coverage area, but Linksys says its Velop Intelligent Mesh technology is “designed to deliver gigabit WiFi speeds to every corner of your home or business,” so even far-flung devices should have fast connections — assuming you’ve built a network of Wi-Fi satellites.

This router’s main downside is its limited wired connections. It only offers four GbE (LAN) ports and a single USB 3.0 Type-A port. That should be enough to connect a few devices  — presumably the PC or console you’re planning to play games on — but it does mean you’ll have to be strategic about which devices will enjoy the full benefits of a wired connection. The same goes for the single USB port; whichever peripheral is connected to that slot better earn its spot. If you aren’t planning to connect very many devices to this router via Ethernet, however, its support for Wi-Fi 6E and mesh networking should more than make up for its lack of ports.

Linksys also offers a companion mobile app to manage the Hydra Pro, and the router’s security features can be used to automatically install firmware updates, manage parental control settings, and establish a guest network. With just four external antennas, the router is also less ostentatious than some of the other members of this list, which could be an added benefit for people who don’t want their networking equipment to detract from their decor.

Another considerable downside of the Linksys Hydra Pro is its price. It doesn’t cost quite as much as the ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AXE11000, but it’s pretty close, and both routers cost hundreds of dollars more than the rest of the entries on this list. Whether or not Wi-Fi 6E is currently worth the premium over Wi-Fi 6 will likely be a matter of the Wi-Fi 6E-supporting devices you have or plan to connect to the network in the near future. If you want the best wireless performance possible, however, there’s no denying that Wi-Fi 6E is the way to go.

Hydra Pro (button)

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The 6 best headlamps of 2021, for hiking, camping, or doing housework

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Headlamps offer a hands-free way of hiking or camping at night, and can also be used around the house.
  • The best headlamps should offer long battery life, fit comfortably, and have variable light modes.
  • Our top pick, BioLite’s Headlamp 330, is lightweight and comfortable, and has a sweat-wicking headband.

A headlamp is one of the most important pieces of anyone’s outdoor kit. Unlike an ordinary flashlight, which requires you to physically hold it in your hand, headlamps conveniently affix to your head to illuminate whatever’s in front of you. That could be a hiking trail, a dark campsite, or even under the hood of a car – no matter its use case, that convenience can’t be understated.

But not all headlamps are created equal. Some are designed specifically for, say, trail running, built to be lightweight on a runner’s head, while others are more robust, intended to pump out hundreds of lumens for several hours. And there are plenty more that are just useful enough to get the job done, which are perfect for stashing in a camp tote or in your car’s glove box.

As an avid camper for much of my life, I’ve long respected the value of a proper headlamp – it’s literally a night and day difference navigating a backcountry campsite in the pitch black as opposed to wearing a headlamp. But the same headlamp I use while backpacking differs from what I use while car camping, or what I grab to go biking or running. Needless to say, I’ve worn plenty of headlamps – some good, some awful, and many in between.

Just as my needs vary regarding the types of headlamps I need for the kinds of activities I enjoy, so, too, does the design and innovation native to what’s on the market. To find the best, I decided to field test a variety of headlamps from brands like BioLite and Ledlensder. Below are my six favorites, perfect for everything from camping and cycling to working around the house.

I’ve also included some tips on how to shop for a headlamp and what to keep in mind, as well as the testing methodology I used to narrow down which models ultimately made the cut.

Here are the best headlamps:

How we test headlamps

Best Headlamps (amazon; BioLite) 4x3

Each of the headlamps featured in this guide went through a number of tests to determine how well they compared across these four categories: Comfort, brightness, battery life, and value. Here’s how each category specifically factored into which headlamps made this guide:

Comfort: Since you’ll be wearing a headlamp on your head for what could be upwards of an hour or more at a time, it’s vital that the one you choose is comfortable. To test for this, we looked at the materials used in the headbands, how it felt to wear the headlamp for an extended period of time, and if it remained comfortable while doing normal tasks like setting up camp or even just walking around. 

Brightness: The best headlamps should have a number of variable brightness settings and some even allow for custom control over the size of the beam. What makes brightness settings so important is that you don’t always want a headlamp that’s on full blast the entire time you need to use it. Having the ability to toggle between a range of settings is an important feature.

Battery life: A headlamp is no good if its battery only lasts a couple of hours. Sure, you could buy one that takes batteries but you don’t want to be lugging around a bag of batteries everywhere you go with it (this is especially true for backpackers). 

Value: The exact value of a headlamp is dependent on how you intend to use it, but at the very least you should look for one that does well in the three categories above. And while there are decent budget options available (we’ve included one in our guide), buying the cheapest headlamp you find isn’t something we recommend doing. Often, it’s best to spend a little more on a product designed to last. 

The best headlamp overall

biolitelamp

No headlamp I’ve tested has been near as comfortable as the BioLite HeadLamp 330. With a balanced, comfortable fit and a sweat-wicking headband, it’s our favorite headlamp for any outdoor activity. 

Pros: Durable, moisture-wicking headband, balanced with light and battery in front and back, respectively

Cons: Doesn’t take AAA or AA batteries as backup, the lithium-ion battery is not removable (you can’t get a spare battery to take with you and swap out, but a power pack would fix that), 330 lumens is bright, but could be brighter (still, it saves on battery)

Headlamps may seem like lightweight, unrestrictive tools (or toys) but having those extra few ounces bobbing up and down on your forehead for several hours at a time takes its tolls. Not only are some of the heavier and more powerful options a literal drag, but they’re also annoying, even if you don’t realize it. I didn’t.

With the BioLite HeadLamp 330, its 330 lumens of output is a good balance between what most of us need to be able to see in the dark and how long the battery life lasts, which is a respectable 40 hours on the low setting and around 3.5 hours on high. It also makes a good reading light and avoids reflecting off the pages of your book or magazine to blind you.

I took the HeadLamp 330 fishing at night, hiking to camp, hiking just to hike, and generally just stumbling about in the dark behind my father’s woodshop, which is, for all intents and purposes, a treacherous deathtrap of wood and metal scraps. Yes, dearest reader, I take my job, and your safety, extremely seriously. I’m glad to report that, throughout the testing process, there was not a single visit to the emergency room.

In all seriousness, the best thing about the HeadLamp 330 is how well balanced it is. With the light in front and the battery pack in the back, you don’t feel the strain of a light and a battery pack dragging your forehead down.

The most notable spec about this headlamp is that the light and battery are separate, which puts a lot less weight on your forehead, and the light itself. The whole kit, I might add, weighs only 69 grams, or less than 2.5 ounces.

One common problem we see a lot with headlamps is that the joint where the light meets the base loses its threads or just breaks altogether, especially when the batteries are in the same pivoting unit as the light. BioLite does away with any such worry.

Speaking of pivoting, the light pivots up and down between four positions, which is, in my opinion, just enough. There’s also a red light, which makes it a lot easier for your eyes to readjust after you flick it off.

The small on/off button (gray, left of center) can be a little hard to find at first, but you’ll learn to love it because you’ll find that you won’t accidentally activate the epileptic test strobe in your hiking partner’s face, and it’s actually positioned right where you want to be (at least, if you’re adjusting it with your right hand). — Owen Burke

The best budget headlamp

Vitchelo headlamp

The Vitchelo V800 Headlamp is affordable and reliable, ready to illuminate objects both near and far even in adverse conditions.

Pros: Durable and weather-resistant, affordable price, white and red strobe functions

Cons: Easily turns on by accident, no floodlight setting

The Vitchelo V800 headlamp punches well above its weight. For a light that costs only around sixteen bucks, it has attributes you’d expect from a unit valued at double that price, or more. It has three brightness settings for its white light and a strobe feature, which can be valuable during an emergency when you want to be spotted by responders or when you’re assisting with emergency response and need to stay in touch with your team. The headlamp also has a solid and flashing red light.

Thanks to an IPX6 waterproof rating, this headlamp should be impervious to damage from rainfall or even a quick drop in a puddle or stream — just don’t wear it while you scuba dive. And at its low output setting, the white light can shine for up to 120 hours with fresh batteries, so you’ll have ample time to work, search, travel, or conduct other activities.

One reason I would not recommend this for a backpacker or camper is that the buttons are easily pressed by gear tumbling in your bag. A headlamp shining in a pack all day might mean dead batteries when you need it at night. That’s not much an issue when the unit is stashed in a nightstand or in your emergency prep kit, though — just make sure it’s not on when you close the drawer or the bag and you should be good.

The best high-power headlamp

Ledlenser H7R Signature headlamp

The H7R Signature from Ledlenser delivers up to 1200 lumens, has seven light settings, including an SOS function, and can even be controlled with Bluetooth via a smartphone.

Pros: Seven different light settings, including an SOS distress signal that blinks in Morse code, offers up to 1200 lumens, rated IP67 against water and dust, has Bluetooth capability with a compatible smartphone for custom light settings

Cons: Expensive

Just about any Ledlenser headlamp could slot into one of the categories in this guide, but the H7R Signature gets the nod thanks to its incredible light output of up to 1200 lumens. Now, of course, you likely won’t need that much power all the time, but when you do, it’s incredibly handy to have it at your disposal. 

The H7R Signature impresses across the board, too, not just regarding its power. It comes with an easy-to-adjust head strap that stays comfortable, even after prolonged use (though, it may start to feel a little heavy due to a heavy-ish, rear-mounted battery). It’s clear Ledlenser took the time to properly balance it, as well, so even if that battery is a little heavy, it never feels awkward or like your head has to tilt too far to one side.

One of the best features of the H7R is its 7 different light modes, which include Power, Low Power, Boost, Blink, Position, SOS, and Strobe. The SOS function is particularly interesting, as it flashes a strobed distress signal that sends an SOS in Morse Code when activated. Many of the other light modes, like Position and Strobe, are also designed to alert people of your position.

The H7R features a rechargeable internal battery, so you won’t have to worry about lugging any batteries along with it, and it’s also rated IP67 against dust and water. Bluetooth capability also allows the headlamp to be controlled and customized via a compatible smartphone.

Perhaps its lone downside, however, is the fact it costs $175. Though this isn’t a dealbreaker, it is a lot to spend on a headlamp. The H7R is designed to last for several years (if not upwards of a decade), so the investment is a sound one, especially if you’ll be using it often.

The best rechargeable headlamp

BioLite_HeadLamp750_Front

The Headlamp 750 from BioLite is as good as rechargeable headlamps get, offering up to 750 lumens of output, a fit that stays comfortable for hours, and a Run Forever mode that lets it operate as you charge it on-the-go.

Pros: Comfortable headband, 8 different light modes that can all be individually dimmed, Run Forever mode lets you charge it while it operates, low profile design

Cons: Expensive

The BioLite name is synonymous with quality portable lighting and its new Headlamp 750 continues that tradition in an impressive way. Much like our best overall pick, the Headlamp 330, the 750 takes traditional headlamp tech and adds more to it than you ever thought you needed. 

Want to charge it while you’re using it on-the-go? The 750 can do it. How about 8 different light modes, each with the ability to dim? It has that, too. The 750’s strength is in its versatility, and it’s the kind of headlamp that you’d want to bring with you on weekend camping trips, multi-day backpacking treks, the occasional nighttime hike, or literally anything — it works as well for getting under the sink or working on your car, too. 

As mentioned, the 750 offers up to 8 different light modes to choose from: Red flood, white spot, white flood, spot and flood, white strobe, 30-second burst, rear red flood, and rear red strobe. Not only will you be able to have complete control over what the headlamp illuminates and how it illuminates it, but you’ll also be visible to whoever’s around you. 

Then there’s its Run Forever feature that allows you to plug in a portable power bank to keep the headlamp charged even while it’s running. Though the idea of lugging around a power bank only to have it hanging off the back of your head doesn’t sound comfortable, sticking it into a backpack or opting for a lightweight battery pack is recommended. 

It’s also extremely comfortable. BioLite’s 3D SlimFit construction means the headlamp’s components are built into the band itself, reducing what can unnecessarily snag (and making it incredibly low profile in the process). The power unit built into the back of the headlamp also distributes its weight evenly to avoid it bobbing up and down on your head — something many headlamps have a hard time actually doing but the 750 seemed to do it well during our tests.

At $100, it’s certainly not a cheap headlamp but if it holds up as well as it did during our time with it, you likely won’t be spending much more on a headlamp for quite some time. It’s highly durable, comfortable wear, and packed with useful features for just about any use case. 

The best headlamp for cycling

Hleane Rechargeable LED Zoomable Headlamp

Wearing the Hleane LED Zoomable Headlamp is like strapping a headlight to your head with its maximum brightness setting of 1800 lumens.

Pros: Amazingly bright light, great price point, long operating life

Cons: Only two output settings and it’s rather heavy

The top setting of the GRDE Zoomable headlamp is so bright you won’t even use it in many situations. But when you’re on a bike at night and contending for space with cars and trucks, or while you’re pedaling your way down a mountain trail, you’ll love the awesome output power of this lamp. The 1800-lumen beam fully illuminates the trail or road far ahead of you, and it’ll be almost impossible for an oncoming motorist to miss seeing you.

This headlamp is heavier than I’d recommend for use by a climber or distance trekker but for the cyclist or for use on a shorter hike where gear weight isn’t much of an issue, it’s a great choice.

Its beam can be focused and adjusted to best suit the conditions ahead of you, though the limited brightness settings — which are high or low — are a drawback. This is not the light to strap on as you hide out in a hunting blind hoping to stay unnoticed by attentive wildlife, for example.

The GRDE headlamp can be operated using regular batteries but is also plug-in rechargeable, and can be juiced back up using a wall’s AC outlet, a car plug adapter, or a USB cable. It is rated to last for up to 100,000 hours of operating life.

The best headlamp for home projects

COAST_FL75

The Coast FL75 Focusing headlamp can throw 405 lumens of brightness but best of all, you can use its focusing ring to narrow or widen the beam. 

Pros: Bright and crisp light quality, easy to change the shape of the beam, clips for securing band to hat or helmet, extremely long beam throw

Cons: Limited brightness settings, short battery life, no strobe option

I own and often use a Coast FL75 and it’s my first choice for any project around the house I work on after dark — like cleaning the grill in the evening, checking on my scarecrow sprinkle set up, or adding some extra air to the tires of my bike.

Like all Coast lights, this headlamp creates a remarkably clear, crisp white light that makes it easy to see what you’re doing. It’s a great choice for illuminating anything that’s close at hand, though most people will likely be more interested in its long-distance throw capacity.

If you need to see objects or terrain more than 400 feet in front of you in a total darkness scenario, the Coast FL75 headlamp is a good choice. In fact, its beam is rated to stretch out 459 feet at its top 405-lumen output. Even the lowest setting of this light is still bright, rated at 53 lumens.

Here’s the thing: That’s a drawback, not an asset. This light’s low setting is far too bright for many uses, such as viewing a map or reading at night when you want to preserve your night vision and avoid disturbing others (or attracting attention to yourself). The Coast FL75 only has three output settings and they could reasonably be called Pretty Bright, Really Bright, and Whoa OK That’s Super Bright.

If you only plan to use a headlamp as you work, during power outages, or as you survey the scene of an accident as a first responder, then you probably don’t have the need for a dim setting but you do have the need for bright, crisp light. This one certainly offers that.

And, if you want something a little beefier, consider the FL85, with 615 Lumens and a 183-meter beam.

How to shop for a headlamp

First and foremost, a headlamp has to be bright enough for the task at hand. But the type of beam a light creates is every bit as important as its sheer lumen output. While the tendency is often to check the lumen rating of a headlamp and treat that like the most important metric for judging a headlamp, the type of beam is a better deciding factor than the intensity of the light alone. For example:

  • A cyclist needs a powerful lamp that throws a beam dozens of yards ahead, letting him or her see plenty of the roadway or trail.
  • Mechanic benefit from a wider beam pattern that illuminates a broad swath of the area close at hand.
  • If you’re camping, consider a headlamp with variable light settings, a red light option, and one that offers long battery life (especially for backpackers). 

You also have to consider features such as strobe effects, a red light option, battery life, and weight. The way those and other secondary attributes assist you in your hobbies or work should help you choose the headlamp best fit for you from our guide. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

The best shoe polishes to revitalize your leather footwear

When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.

Otter Wax Cream
  • Conditioner, shoe cream, and wax polish work hand-in-hand to keep leather footwear looking its best.
  • Don’t skimp on your leather-care routine if you want your shoes and boots to last.
  • Think of these leather-care products as skincare for your shoes.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

I still vividly remember the time when a TSA agent told me I needed to shine my shoes as he watched them pass through the scanner at the airport. I was mortified. I’m notoriously hard on footwear, so keeping them looking their best is a constant battle. Thankfully, there are some great products out there to help in this Sisyphean effort.

The three product categories covered in this guide are cream polish, wax polish, and conditioner. I also spoke to Tony Pecorella, the owner of Manhattan’s Modern Leather Goods, a storied leather care and repair business that’s been around since the 1940s, who explained to me what each product is good for. Conditioner and shoe cream both moisturize the leather, but the cream polish leaves a thin layer of cream that helps blend scratches and scuffs and gives the shoe a medium shine. Wax polish is the best at covering scuffs and scratches and leaves a higher shine, Pecorella said. For more on our conversation, see the FAQ section below.

To narrow down the best shoe polishes, I did some testing at home with products that have gotten high marks from experts and customers. I used them on a single boot or shoe as a before-and-after snapshot to see what kind of coverage, shine, and conditioning power they had. Other considerations included price, ingredients, and range of colors. Note that these products are for smooth leather, not suede or nubuck.

The 5 best shoe polishes in 2021:

The Best Leather Shoe Conditioner: Saphir Renovateur

Saphir Renovateur

Saphir Renovateur revitalizes shoe leather. It comes with a premium price tag but is well worth the money. 

Sizing options: 75 ml and 250 ml 

Modern Leather Goods almost exclusively uses Saphir products and it’s not alone. Of the many guides I’ve read on shoe care by various industry professionals, nearly all of them list Saphir as the top leather product company and the brand’s Renovateur as the best conditioner. I put it to the test on a pair of old cowboy boots I’ve had for 20 years that have seen a lot of wear and tear, and much less care. The leather greedily soaked in the Renovateur and I could see the results quickly. The leather had a more regular color, a light shine, and took on a richer brown. 

According to a company rep, Saphir, a French company founded in 1920, continues to manufacture its products in the same way it did when it was first founded. The ingredient list (and the smell, which is quite pleasant) is closer to what you might find in a skincare product than what you’d expect to rub on your shoes. The list includes lanolin, beeswax, and mink oil.  

While expensive at more than $20 for a 75 ml jar, a little goes a long way and it doesn’t need to be applied that often, perhaps once a month. If you’ve invested a chunk of change in your leather footwear, the Renovateur is worth the cost to help keep your shoes and boots looking their best. 

Pros: Conditions beautifully, works quickly, and imparts a light shine. 

Cons:  None to speak of

Renovateur (small)
Best Wax Polish: Saphir Medaille d’Or Pate de Luxe

Saphir Medaille D'or 1925 Pate De Luxe

Saphir Medaille d’Or Pate de Luxe instantly revives the color of your shoes and provides a high shine with little work. 

Sizing options: 50 ml and 100 ml

Saphir is a hard brand to beat and this is especially true with its wax polish, the Medaille d’Or Pate de Luxe. I used it on a pair of dress shoes I haven’t worn in a long while that were desperately in need of some TLC. The color had faded so badly I thought I might need to use shoe dye. I applied the Pate de Luxe as directed and the polish immediately revitalized the faded color, and didn’t require a large amount of product to achieve coverage. Saphir uses a higher concentration of pigment in the Pate de Luxe than other brands, and it shows. 

According to the company, you can achieve a high gloss or mirror gloss with the Pate de Luxe and can be used with the Renovateur and a cream polish. Like the Renovateur, the ingredients list mostly reads like a high-end face cream — jojoba, almond, and macadamia oils — plus beeswax, and natural solvents like turpentine oil. I was able to buff the shoe to a high shine with little effort. 

I tried it against the Leather Spa Luxury Wax Polish and found it had better coverage and didn’t require as much product to achieve similar results and costs about the same price. You can buy a 50 ml tin of the Pate de Luxe for about $12 on Amazon, depending on the color. It comes in 12 colors. 

Pros: Beautiful coverage, revitalizes faded color, achieves a high shine, several color options

Cons: None to speak of.

Medaille d’Or Pate de Luxe (small)
Best Color Polish: Tarrago Cream Polish

Tarrago Cream Polish

Tarrago Cream Polish has a huge range of colors, provides excellent coverage, and gives a medium shine. 

Sizing options: 50 ml 

Tarrago is a Spanish brand that’s been around since 1940 and was the first company to offer water-based polishes back in the 1960s. (It’s now owned by the same parent company that owns Saphir, Alma FRC.) The brand offers a range of nearly 100 colors in the cream polish. The wax polish comes in seven color choices. 

I used the Tarrago cream polish on a pair of gray leather sneakers that were badly scuffed. The thick cream quickly soaked into the leather and easily covered the various scuff marks. After it dried, I buffed it to a medium shine. If you’re looking for a high shine for your colored shoes, your best bet is to use the Tarrago Cream Polish, followed by a neutral wax polish that can achieve a higher shine. 

The Tarrago Shoe Cream is available on Amazon for $7. Not all the colors are available on the site. For more color choices, Myshoesupplies.com also carries it for $3.05, but you’ll pay a $4.29 shipping fee for orders under $60. 

Pros: Huge range of color choices, good coverage. 

Cons: Doesn’t provide a high shine.

Cream Polish (small)
Best Budget-Friendly Polish: Moneysworth & Best Shoe Cream

Moneysworth & Best Shoe Cream

Moneysworth & Best Shoe Cream provides a light shine, comes in a good range of colors, and is a great value. 

Sizing options: 1.55 ounces

Moneysworth & Best is a family-owned Canadian company that started out as a Toronto shoe repair shop in the 1980s. The Shoe Cream is made in Spain from all-natural ingredients, including lanolin, and various oils, waxes, and pigments. The product comes in more than 30 colors.  

I used this on two different pairs of beat-up vintage boots. The shoe cream had decent coverage, but it wasn’t able to hide some staining. The product has a creamy consistency and soaked into the leather quickly. After buffing, I was able to get a light shine. While it didn’t completely cover the issues on the boots, it did give the leather a more even, smoother appearance and definitely made me feel comfortable wearing the boots in public again. That said, I’d recommend this product for shoes or boots that are still in good condition and don’t require a lot of pigment. 

It’s available for $2.99 for a 1.55-ounce jar. For more colors, Amazon also carries Moneysworth & Best Shoe Cream, but be warned that the pricing varies, with some colors costing around $7 or more. 

Pros: Good coverage, better price. 

Cons: I could only achieve a light shine, won’t cover all blemishes and stains

Shoe Cream (small)
Best Self-Shining Polish: Tarrago Self-Shining Kit

Tarrago Self-Shining Kit

The Tarrago Self-Shining Kit is perfect for reviving your shoes in a hurry while also helping to nourish the leather. 

Sizing options: 50 ml 

Tarrago’s Self-Shining Kit provides a quick and easy way to revive your shoes with very little time or effort. It contains a sponge applicator on the top that you simply dip into the cream polish and apply to the leather. I used it on a pair of my wife’s boots that were moderately scuffed and hadn’t been shined in several months. One pass across the leather was all it took to bring them back to life. It easily covered the scuffs and scratches and produced a medium shine with no buffing. 

The product contains a high amount of carnauba wax, which provides the instant shine. The wax is derived from the leaves of a Brazilian palm tree. It’s sustainably harvested as the trees aren’t damaged during processing. 

While the Self-Shine kit doesn’t come in nearly as many colors as the company’s regular shoe cream (there are only about a dozen options), it’s a great choice for when you’re in a hurry and need to get your shoes in order. I wish I would have used this before I headed through the TSA line all those years ago. The kit is $7.99 for a 50 ml jar. 

Pros: Fast, easy, good coverage, and a medium shine. 

Cons: Not as many color choices as Tarrago’s Shoe Cream.

Self-Shining Kit (small)
Best Cream Polish: Leather Spa Cream Polish

Leather Spa Cream Polish

Leather Spa’s Cream Polish nourishes leather, ably hides the scrapes and scuffs of everyday wear, and provides a medium shine. 

Sizing options: 1.4 ounces 

Leather Spa, the famous New York City-based leather care and repair business, also makes shoe care products, including a shoe cream. Leather Spa has its origins in France and that’s where the company’s shoe cream is produced using all-natural ingredients. It doesn’t contain any silicone or petroleum products that can end up damaging leather over the long run. 

I used the cream polish on a pair of my wife’s boots. The cream very quickly soaked into the leather, giving it a nice sheen. It had very good coverage, evening out the color, and hiding the scuffs. It didn’t quite cover a small divot in the leather, but as Tony Pecorella stated, a wax polish is better at hiding those kinds of blemishes. I buffed the boots and was able to develop a medium shine. Leather Spa’s Shoe Cream is $8.95 for a 1.4-ounce jar. It comes in 34 different colors, which is a major plus for matching shades other than the typical black or brown.

Pros: Moisturizing, evens out the color, hides scuffs and small scratches, many color options. 

Cons: Can’t hide larger blemishes like divots in the leather.

Cream Polish (small)
What else we considered

best shoe polish

Lexol Leather Conditioner

Lexol’s leather conditioner is billed as a conditioning product but imparts a nice glossy shine to leather. In a head-to-head comparison between it and the much pricier Saphir Renovateur on a pair of my father’s 1960s ankle boots, Lexol did well, except that it required a much longer drying time. The Saphir product dried in a few minutes. Lexol took several hours. For the price, around $7, it’s a great product, but not the best choice if you’re in a hurry. 

FAQs

Otter Wax Cream

What other products do I need to polish my shoes?

Besides conditioner and polish, there are a few basics you’ll need to do the job right. A horsehair dauber brush, which typically has a round head that tapers down to the handle, is good for applying saddle soap to clean the shoes before polishing. Some people also use this type of brush to apply polish. Kiwi makes a good one. 

A horse hair brush is important for buffing your shoes once you’ve applied the polish and have let it dry. The brush helps bring out the shine. Kirby Allison makes an outstanding version. 

Some people like to use a microfiber cloth for applying conditioner and polish and for a final buff for a higher shine. I personally use old cotton T-shirts cut into strips to apply polish, a trick I’ve seen professional shoe shiners use.


Do I need to clean my shoes before polishing them?

Yes. You can take a damp cloth and wipe away any visible dirt. If they’re very dirty or have stains, you can use saddle soap, like Fiebing’s, that can be applied using a slightly damp dauber brush. Rub the brush in the soap until you get a light lather and then apply on the shoes. Wipe away with a dry cloth. Now you’re ready to condition the shoes followed by shining them.


How often should you polish your shoes? 

“That’s the age old question,” Pecorella said. “It differs by person and wear. If you wear the same shoes every day, once every two to six weeks. If you alternate shoes, maybe once a month to two months. It really is based on the eye test and nobody knows your shoes better than you do.”


When should I use a wax polish versus a cream polish? 

According to a Saphir rep I spoke with, cream polish is more for nourishing and recoloring, while wax polish is for creating a high shine. It’s mainly for dress footwear where you want a high gloss.


Can wax polish damage my shoes? 

Tony Pecorella warns that wax polish, unlike cream, doesn’t moisturize the leather and can build up over time and dry the leather out. Cream polish won’t harm the leather, even if used frequently. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 6 best at-home teeth whitening kits in 2021, according to dentists

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • At-home teeth whitening kits help lift surface stains, but many are expensive and hurt your teeth.
  • We asked six professional dentists to recommend their go-to at-home teeth-whitening products.
  • Our top pick, Crest 3D White Professional Effects, is effective, simple, and fairly affordable.

Wanting whiter teeth in a world of first impressions and social media needs no explanation. But which at-home teeth whitening kits won’t make your pearlies sensitive after one round – that’s much harder.

In actuality, the most effective way to whiten your teeth is at the dentist’s office; however, that’s expensive and inaccessible for many people. Whitening toothpastes can help with daily maintenance, but they won’t create that ‘wow’ factor. At-home teeth whitening kits can save you money, time, and allow you to regularly re-whiten as needed (aka, as your coffee and red wine habit sees fit). The problem: A lot of whitening kits are too strong, causing your gums to become sensitive to pressure and your teeth sensitive to cold after just one use.

To find the most effective at-home teeth whitening products, including options for sensitive teeth, we asked a handful of dentists what the best teeth whiteners are for a brighter smile ASAP. We took into consideration options for sensitive teeth and gums, folks on a budget, and other buying factors. We tested many of their suggestions, as well as leading brands on the market, and combed through research and ratings. Each of the teeth whitening kits below are effective, easy to use, and less likely to irritate your teeth or gums.

Here are the best teeth whitening kits you can buy:

The best teeth whitening kit overall

crest whitening kit

Crest 3D White Professional Effects Whitestrips are effective, won’t slide around during treatment, easy to find at any drugstore, and have a less-concentrated formula for minimal sensitivity.

Pros: Produces results in four or five uses, recommended by dentists, low peroxide levels

Cons: May irritate the gums

Pack count: 20 treatments

Easy to put on and with an effective formula, Crest 3D White Professional Effects Whitestrips offers the most bang for your buck and is a favorite of Neil Hadaegh DDS, a professional dentist in Beverly Hills.

The gel is contained in strips that you press to mold around your teeth — so much so that Crest says you can even drink water and talk while wearing the strips thanks to their “Advanced Seal Technology.”

This formula typically has a lower concentration (10%) of Hydrogen Peroxide so it’s better for people who have sensitive teeth and can’t tolerate higher levels.

The Crest 3D White Professional Effects Whitestrips kit comes with 40 strips for 20 treatments (each treatment consists of a strip on the upper teeth and one on the lower teeth.) You are supposed to wear the strips for 30 minutes, once per day. Crest claims that after the 20 daily treatments, you can remove 14 years of tooth stains. 

However, strips don’t offer the custom fit of trays, which means you may notice some increased sensitivity if your gums come in contact with the whitening strips.

The best whitening trays

opalescence

If you’re looking for more precision in your application to avoid gum sensitivity, your best bet is combining teeth whitening gel with mouth trays or guards like in the Opalescence Go 15% kit.

Pros: Effective, greater control over application, potentially less gum sensitivity

Cons: Expensive, may cause sensitivity

Pack count: 10 treatments

The benefit of using a mouth tray or mouth guard with gel is that, unlike white strips, you aren’t as likely to miss spots on the teeth or irritate your gums. 

Opalescence is known for its whitening products in the dental industry. I’ve gotten amazing results with the Opalescence 35% formula, which is a syringe you squirt into your own trays and is slightly more intense. Heather Kunen, DDS, orthodontist and co-owner of Beam Street in New York recommended the Opalescence Go to Insider for how easy and mess-free the process is is to use to get that same high-quality whitening Opalescence is known for.

Dr. Hadaegh also likes this product, adding that the trays adapt to your teeth all the way to your molars. “They have 15% hydrogen peroxide, which means you only need to wear them for 15 to 20 minutes a day for five to 10 days. It also contains potassium nitrate and fluoride to help reduce sensitivity while strengthening enamel.”

However, because the concentration of hydrogen peroxide is so high, there’s a chance you may still experience some sensitivity, in which case it’s best to switch to a less concentrated alternative like Crest Whitestrips.

The best for sensitive teeth and gums

zimba white strips

Zimba white strips whiten over 7 to 14 days without causing major tooth or gum sensitivity and come in tasty flavors.

Pros: Affordable, no-slip strips

Cons: Only covers front 10 teeth (upper and lower), takes about a week to whiten, whitening doesn’t last

Pack count: 14 treatments

If you’re looking for teeth whitening strips but have had issues with teeth sensitivity in the past, Kunen suggested Zimba white strips. It’s made with a gentle formula that uses a low concentration of hydrogen peroxide.

One box contains 28 stain-removing strips (14 upper, 14 lower) which cover your front 10 teeth on top and 10 on the bottom. The strips stay on pretty well with anti-slip technology and they’re slick, so there’s no gel or goop. Moreover, you can choose between two tasty flavors, coconut or mint.

Zimba says you’ll see whiter teeth in 14 days, and it truly does take at least one week to start seeing any difference. The major downside here is that the whitening doesn’t seem to last long — most reviewers say you have to use the strips regularly to maintain results. But that’s not surprising considering the formula is gentler, and considering these are about as cheap as you can get for an effective whitening kit, these are a great way to whiten before an event without breaking the bank. –Rachael Schultz, health and fitness updates editor

The best LED kit

smile direct club

If you don’t want to use strips and are determined to use an LED light, the SmileDirectClub Teeth Whitening Kit is the way to go.

Pros: Few reports of sensitivity issues, more precise application of whitening gel, reusable mouth guard

Cons: Expensive, dentists agree the LED light will not make a noticeable difference 

Pack count: 14-28 treatments

The idea of LED teeth whitening kits has mixed reviews: Brands claim the light helps make teeth whitening more effective than traditional whitening strips or trays, but there aren’t any studies to support this claim and many dentists feel like they don’t speed up the process. Patrick Campbell, DDS put it succinctly when speaking with Insider: “Frankly, these products are not worth the money.”

That being said, LED whitening kits are probably as effective as the other options so they’re not a waste of money if you can find a well-priced option. Also, they come with whitening pens that allow you a bit more control in terms of the application so you can avoid your gums and any increased sensitivity, and they usually require you to spend less time per day with the formula on your teeth.

If you want to try an LED whitening kit, SmileDirectClub’s Teeth Whitening Kit is one of the most convenient choices and about the same price as non-LED options.

The direct-to-consumer kit includes a LED mouthguard to act as a catalyst for the hydrogen peroxide whitening formula. It only requires 10 minutes a day of use and comes with nine whitening pens (enough for two full treatments). When I tested the device, I found the company’s estimates to be conservative — I got more than double the use out of the pens than expected, which is a great value for the money.

I loved that the LED device just plugs into your smartphone for power. 

SmileDirectClub’s Teeth Whitening Kit is $74 for the LED Light and an estimated 12-month supply of whitening pens, and $40 for the LED Light and 6-month pen supply. You can find them all here.

Read our full review on SmileDirectClub’s LED whitening kit.

The best natural kit

teeth whitening

The Miswak Club Natural Teeth Whitening Kit is your best alternative if you’re looking for a natural, chemical-free approach to whitening your teeth.

Pros: Inexpensive, easy to use, no added chemicals

Cons: Takes some getting used to, smells weird

Pack count: 40 treatments

Teeth-cleaning sticks known as Miswak have been used for thousands of years in what is now Pakistan, India, many African countries, and other parts of the world. And, a meta-analysis in the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine found that the Miswak was just as effective for oral hygiene as the toothbrush and toothpaste used by Western cultures.

The Miswak Club Natural Teeth Whitening Kit features two Miswak root sticks with two carrying cases. Each stick will last for three weeks of daily use. Miswak comes from the Arak tree, and this product contains no pesticides or chemicals. Miswak Club offers a 120-day money-back guarantee if you do not have noticeably whiter teeth after using their kit.

It has a sweet musky smell (which some people like and others really don’t) and doesn’t make a mess. Some reviewers have noted that it may take a few weeks of daily use to notice effects and that the smell may be a bit off-putting.

The best for professional-level results

linhart

If you want the intenser results of whitening at a dentist’s office, but at home, the Linhart Teeth Whitening Collection uses a formula from cosmetic dentists in New York City.

Pros: Professional-grade results, easy to use

Cons: Expensive, LED has minimal proven advantage

“This whitening system was custom designed by high-end cosmetic dentists in New York City and utilizes the same whitening gel they use in their office on their patients,” Dr. Kunen, who has no affiliation with Linhart, explained.

The kit contains four syringes of 35% carbamide peroxide whitening gel, an LED whitening light to activate the gel, and a milder whitening gel to help maintain your results. It’s a bit pricier than other at-home kits but, as Kunen pointed out, “For those patients looking to replicate a chairside whitening experience, this is closest you will find!” –Rachael Schultz, health and fitness updates editor

What else we considered

What else we recommend

Glowup LED Kit ($35): This direct-to-consumer LED whitening start up will personalize the whitening formula to your level of tooth/gum sensivity and discoloration. The LED light is powered by your phone and requires 16 minutes of use. It only comes with three gel vials and the syringes aren’t the most intuitive to spread on your teeth, so SmileDirectClub is a better choice for most people. But if you have sensitive teeth and want lasting results, Glowup is a great option. (Read our full review here.)

Snow LED Kit ($149): This well-designed LED teeth whitening kit comes with 4 serum pens (no syringes) that are easy to apply precisely to your teeth. All four will last you 75 treatments. The mouthpiece is very comfortable to bite for the suggested 10 minutes and plugs into your phone for power. The kit is quite pricey, but I saw results after two uses, so the included treatments will allow a whole family to whiten regularly for basically all of time.

Opalescence PF 35% Whitening Gel ($45.49): This is a cheaper alternative to the Opalescence Go that Dr. Kunen and Dr. Hadaegh both recommend, delivering the same Carbamide Peroxide formula in a syringe. You’ll need to use your own mouth trays, but we can confirm it delivers whiter teeth after just a few 30-minute sessions.

Lumibrite 32% Whitening Gel($25): Dr. Hadaegh told Insider that Lumibrite causes little to no sensitivity, while also producing excellent whitening results due to its high concentration of Carbamide Peroxide. It does require custom bleaching trays.

Zoom NiteWhite 22% Whitening Gel ($30): NiteWhite is a clinical-grade tooth whitening gel of 22% Carbamide Peroxide. It’s medium strength, so it’s an excellent option for individuals who have some tooth sensitivity but want a whitening gel that’s not too strong or too weak, Hadaegh said.

HiSmile Whitening ($130): If whitening kits have left your teeth or gums sensitive in the past, Kunen suggested this brand which uses Pthalimidoperoxycaproic acid (PAP) as its principal whitening agent as opposed to the more traditional and harsher peroxides. It’s definitely more expensive than the other options, but it’s also super easy to use.

What we don’t recommend

GLO Teeth Whitening Kit ($150): Glo Science sells a similar device to SmileDirectClub; both use an LED mouthpiece to reportedly act as a catalyst for hydrogen peroxide. But SmileDirectClub is a better value at half the cost. We still recommend strips over gel and mouth trays over LED light options, though.

FAQs about whitening your teeth

What types of teeth whitening products exist?

There are essentially two types of kits: ones that bleach your teeth to take stains off and ones that physically scrape off the stains. Whitening trays and strips have been the standard for decades and generally rely on carbamide or hydrogen peroxide. Activated charcoal powders had a spike in popularity recently, but the dentists we interviewed would tell you to nix the powders. Ira Handschuh, DDS, cosmetic dentist at The Dental Design Center in White Plains, NY and Ania Mohelicki, DDS, a cosmetic dentist in Boulder, CO both told Business Insider that they don’t recommend these because they can be abrasive and only remove surface stains. 

There is a third type of teeth whitening product that simply blasts your teeth with LED light, which typically claims to speed up the process and achieve more intense results. However, most of the dentists we interviewed agreed that any gains from this treatment are short-lived or nonexistent. “Most studies show some difference detected by computers, but no visual difference detected by the human eye. For the studies conducted in actual patients (in vivo), most found no added benefit for light-activated systems,” Charles Sutera DDS, FAGD, a professional dentist at Aesthetic Smile Reconstruction in Waltham, MA told Insider.

Only the SmileDirectClub system in our guide uses this technology, but it is used in conjunction with a whitening gel and a mouthguard that may offer better control over your placement and avoid increased gum sensitivity in comparison to strips. 

Which teeth whitening products are most effective?

“Shopping for teeth whitening products is very simple.” Dr. Sutera explained. “There is only one active ingredient in all teeth whitening products: hydrogen peroxide. It’s the same agent whether it’s prescription use or over the counter. Any other ingredients in the product are inactive fillers needed to create the right consistency of the product.” If you see carbamide peroxide on your ingredient list, it’s just a derivative of hydrogen peroxide. 

“The key is to understand that whitening can be effective at any percentage, but what differs is the time of use. A high percentage of hydrogen peroxide typically is only kept on the teeth for 20 minutes maximum, while a lower percentage can be worn for 6 hours or overnight.” Dr. Sutera explains. “Much of the selection comes down to personal preference. If you have a tendency to develop tooth sensitivity or if you want to minimize the risks of irritating your gums, that’s when you’d select a lower concentration.”

A few warnings about teeth whitening kits

Peroxide is effective, but it comes with several warnings. Pregnant or nursing women may want to stop using peroxide-based whitening products. It also isn’t suitable for children under 14 years old. And, you should not use peroxide for longer than two weeks of daily use without the supervision of a dentist.

The FDA does not recommend using any whitening gels with a peroxide concentration of higher than 18%. Two of the kits we recommend use peroxide (Crest Whitestrips and SmileDirectClub) but they should be safe for most people.

Again, you should always consult with your dentist before starting a course of treatment. For instance, if your darkened teeth are due to the natural thinning of tooth enamel that comes with aging, whitening kits will not help you. Also, they cannot whiten fillings, dentures, veneers, crowns, or caps.

Most importantly, Dr. Mohelicki says the biggest concern is wearing whitening kits for the right amount of time. “Over-the-counter options are inexpensive when compared to in-office whitening, but they offer no gum protection. With no gum protection, users can experience increased sensitivity and even burns in severe cases.” 

How to use teeth whitening kits effectively

Before using a teeth whitening kit, brush your teeth so your whitening agent can make contact with the surface of your teeth to improve efficacy, and so it doesn’t accidentally create an uneven white. “Any buildup of plaque or food debris will not allow for the whitening agent to contact the tooth and therefore not allow the whitening agent to do its job,” Dr. Campbell explained. “You could end up with a speckled, uneven whitened appearance.” 

And, after you’ve whitened, try to avoid food and drinks that stain your teeth.”I recommend that my patients stick to a ‘colorless diet’ just after whitening,” Dr. Handschuh told Business Insider. “Meaning, avoid highly-staining food and drink such as coffee, red wine, tea, sauces, etc.” But, if you really want to, he recommends using a straw to bypass your teeth a bit. 

As Dr. Sutera explained, whitening your teeth and then having a glass of red wine is like “two people in a canoe paddling in different directions. The whitening products open the pores and clean them out. If you have coffee, tea, or red wine within 72 hours of whitening your teeth, your teeth are more likely to absorb dark stains and adversely impact your whitening results.”

Does teeth-whitening damage your enamel?

“Most studies show that whitening does not damage enamel,” Dr. Sutera said. Though, there has been recent research that shows teeth whitening can affect proteins deeper in the tooth, though researchers are not currently sure if the damage is temporary or permanent, according to Dr. Sutera.

How can you prevent tooth sensitivity?

“It is common for the majority of people to experience increased tooth sensitivity after having teeth whitening done.” Dr. Mohelicki says. “However, for those who already have sensitive teeth, I recommend starting out by trying a whitening toothpaste. This takes significantly longer than trying an over-the-counter product or having teeth bleached in-office, but it can be significantly less painful.”

For whitening toothpaste, Dr. Sutera recommends patients with sensitive teeth use a toothpaste with potassium nitrate and fluoride and also use a fluoride mouth rinse. According to Dr. Sutera, potassium nitrate is the primary ingredient that helps with sensitive teeth, and fluoride a secondary option that has also been shown to help.  

If you have sensitive teeth and want to use a teeth whitening agent, you may just want to avoid higher concentrations of hydrogen peroxide. “The suggestion I would make is to use a lower concentration of whitening agent to get their desired whitening outcome while minimizing the risk of tooth sensitivity.” Dr. Campbell said. “Although anecdotal, I’ve found that brushing with Sensodyne toothpaste before and after whitening has helped me avoid sensitivity.”  

Why do you feel increased sensitivity after you whiten?

The bleaching temporarily weakens your enamel so the bleach can pass through it and further lift those stains, explained Dr. Mohelicki. “When [our enamel] is weakened during the bleaching treatment, many patients find that it can be hard to consume hot beverages, ice-cold beverages, or even eat certain foods. This typically wears off within 72 hours of ending treatment.” 

Our experts

For this piece, we consulted a handful of different dentists for multiple perspectives:

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The best tinted sunscreens that protect your skin and double as makeup

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Pattern of best tinted sunscreens, including Nars Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer and Elta MD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum
  • Tinted sunscreens are a multipurpose product that provides SPF protection and light skin coverage.
  • Although some mineral sunscreens can cause a white cast, tinted versions blend naturally.
  • We asked experts to weigh in on their favorite tinted sunscreen products below.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

If you’re a less-is-more kind of consumer, you’re likely already aware of the beauty of a good tinted sunscreen. Where some two-in-one products seem gimmicky, the best tinted sunscreen formulas provide both excellent daily sun protection, as well as a light coverage. The latter is intended to complement your skin tone, acting as a perfect base prior to makeup application or a smooth, natural fresh-faced look. Of course, with dual expectations, not every tinted sunscreen on the market delivers as promised, but the experts confirm which do in our FAQ section below.

These are the best tinted sunscreens in 2021:

Elta MD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 – Tinted

Elta MD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 - Tinted

Because of the possibility of leaving a whitecast appearance on the face, Dr. Obioha generally recommends tinted SPF for those with more melanin in their skin. “Tinted sunscreens are a great option, especially in the summer. If you’re looking for some coverage but don’t want to apply a full face of foundation, a tinted sunscreen is perfect for you,” says the L.A.-based dermatologist.

Dr. Obioha recommends Elta MD UV Clear. Though only available in one tinted shade, the SPF 46 product gets the stamp of approval because of its ability to easily blend into the skin. The formula also includes iron oxides which help prevent hyperpigmentation. Plus, Dr. Obioha says this EltaMD product has buildable coverage. “Since the product is tinted, you will not experience a white hue as you would with other sunscreen products,” she says, adding that ultimately, if the product does not suit your skin, she still recommends the label’s clear-tinted option.

UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 – Tinted (small)
Nars Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer SPF 30

Nars Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer SPF 30

“In terms of an everyday moisturizer that has a little more coverage, I like the Nars Pure Coverage Radiant Tinted Moisturizer,” says Santa Barbara-based dermatologist Dr. Chan. “It’s really nicely formulated with mineral as well as chemical filters. And it just has nice coverage.”

The Nars product has SPF 30 protection and a natural-appearing “skin finish,” Dr. Chan shares. Best of all is the product’s color range, with an amazing 16 shade options. Because of its inclusive offering, Dr. Chan says this product is for most people, herself included.

Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer SPF 30 (small)
Unsun Mineral Tinted Sunscreen SPF 30

Unsun Mineral Tinted Sunscreen SPF 30

For Branca, a favorite product is the Unsun Mineral Tinted Sunscreen. This formula offers broad spectrum — meaning against UVA and UVB — protection with SPF 30. “I find this better for skin that veers towards dry, as it has a bit of a heavier consistency,” she says. Ingredients also include shea butter, vitamin E, and coconut oil.

Unsun’s tinted sunscreen comes in two skin tone options: light/medium and medium/dark. Once you determine which is best suited for you, Branca suggests applying it some time before blending with other products or leaving the house. “This needs some time to set for a less ashy finish for deep complexions.”

Mineral Tinted Sunscreen SPF 30 (small)
Surf Mud Natural Zinc: Tinted Covering Cream

Surf Mud Natural Zinc: Tinted Covering Cream

This product was developed by and for surfers, and is formulated to be a waterproof and reef-safe — specifically made without oxybenzone and octinoxate, two products recently banned in Hawaii for their danger to marine life.

As a professional surfer, Anna Ehrgott is no stranger to intense and continuous sun exposure. “I generally spend at least two hours in the sun every day,” she tells INSIDER, “both my work and my free time are spent in direct sunlight.” Surf Mud is the product she uses for a tinted level of protection. 

Ehrgott jokes that she likes the product so much she uses it as a makeup foundation. “I’m a bit pale in winter but my skin does tan easily in the sun,” she says. “I do think it’s a flattering shade that blends well with slightly tan to more caramel skin colors.”

Natural Zinc: Tinted Covering Cream (small)
ISDIN Eryfotona Ageless

Bottle of ISDIN Eryfotona Ageless

Another favorite product for deeper skin tones is the Isdin Eryfotona Ageless, says Dr. Obioha. Like the EltaMD, Isdin’s formula only offers one shade of tint, but it’s easily blendable, even if the initial product looks lighter than your skin. (The doctor demonstrates this on her Instagram account, as well). 

Isdin’s formula has SPF 50 protection against UVA and UVB rays, as well an other ingredients that can help improve overall skin health, including photolyase enzymes to support repair of sun damage and a peptide complex for collagen and skin elasticity.

Eryfotona Ageless (small)
Tarte Amazonian Clay BB Tinted Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 20

Tarte Amazonian Clay BB Tinted Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 20

With seven skin tint options, the Amazonian Clay BB Tinted Moisturizer tops the list for Florida-based makeup artist Lennie Billy. As she and her clients spend significant time outdoors, she says sun protection is essential to her makeup kit, including this SPF 20 product. 

“I love the Tarte formula because it’s super natural, fresh, dewy and is a beautiful product for those ‘no makeup’ makeup moments or even male grooming.” That said, as the SPF is on the lower end of the spectrum, Billy says she tends to use this product “for moments I or my client/model won’t be under the sun for long.” Therefore, those with much less daily sun exposure might be more drawn to an option such as this one.

Amazonian Clay BB Tinted Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 20 Sunscreen (small, Preferred: Tarte)
NeoStrata Sheer Physical Protection

Bottle of NeoStrata Sheer Physical Protection

NeoStrata Sheer Physical Protection is a mineral sunscreen with SPF 50 that comes highly recommended by Branca. “I like the texture that is light, very fluid, and applies very easily,” she says. The formula also includes Polyhydroxy Acid or PHA, which have both exfoliating and hydrating properties. “The color though is probably more suited to lighter complexions,” notes Branca of NeoStrata’s singular skin tone sunscreen option.

Sheer Physical Protection (small)
Frequently Asked Questions

How do tinted sunscreens work?

Sunscreen options include those with chemical/organic or physical/mineral filters — and occasionally, both. Where each provides protection from harmful UV rays, chemical filters tend to have a more sheer, unnoticeable finish on the skin, whereas mineral options that contain zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide may not.

“Mineral sunscreens provide the best UV protection and are the gold standard of sunscreen,” says Dr. Onyeka Obioha, MD a board-certified dermatologist and Glory Skincare Dermatologist Advisor tells INSIDER. “Unfortunately, mineral sunscreens often don’t blend in well.” 

Dr. Obioha says she recommends tinted mineral sunscreens instead. “It will blend in better and not leave a gray hue to your skin, as many sunscreens do. Better yet, tinted sunscreens with iron oxides also protect against visible light which has been shown to contribute to hyperpigmentation, especially in darker skin.”

As cosmetic formulator Annalisa Branca explains, tinted sunscreens work by combining UVB/UVA filters and mixtures of oxides that create different shades to suit different skin tones. “The downside of these products,” says the Netherlands-based formulator, “especially when they are quite pigmented, is that people don’t apply nearly enough to avoid looking cakey.” 

She personally prefers tinted products with just a hint of color as this might encourage more product — or rather, the appropriate amount of product — to be used. “A tinted sunscreen is sufficient only if it is used at the recommended 1/2 teaspoon for face and neck,” Branca confirms.

When should you wear tinted sunscreens?

“Tinted moisturizers are the best for everyday use,” says Dr. Aegean H. Chan, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist and dermatopathologist. She reiterates the common dermatological advice that SPF protection should be used every day, and not reserved for designated outings where you’ll be in direct rays, such as at the beach. “If you’re going to be outside for a sustained amount of time, you should be using a proper sunscreen and make sure you’re putting on enough.”

For daily use — “You’re going from your house to your car, your office to your car, running a few errands,” she suggests — tinted SPF serves as protection and, for those who want it, a smooth finish that can help even skin tone. Spending hours in direct UV rays and still want a tinted product appearance? “You can mix with a proper sunscreen but it can be tough if you’re using a tinted product. The more product you use, the harder it is to blend in.”

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