Astrology is about so much more than your Sun sign.
Understanding your birth chart, for example, can help you make career or relationship decisions.
We rounded up 10 great astrology books recommended by astrologers.
Throughout centuries, astrology has been used to help us understand ourselves better. By looking towards the planets and cosmos, astrologers can gain key insights about a person, including personality traits, interests, and even hardships based on their birth chart (a map of what was happening in the sky when we were born). This knowledge can be extremely validating, and can even help us make big career decisions or know what kinds of relationships fulfill us the most.
For those who are interested in learning more about astrology, the plethora of books and resources out there can be overwhelming. I spoke to several astrologers to find their best recommendations for beginner to advanced books, from introductory guides to deep-dives into transits and birth chart compatibility.
10 great astrology books recommended by astrologers:
A practical guide for understanding all things astrology
Learning astrology can get complex quickly, but this book approaches the subject in a fun, casual style — as if you’re chatting with a friend. “April delivers exactly what the title promises: the whole kitchen sink of astrology, in a conversational style that makes potentially confounding concepts crystal clear,” says Elisabeth Grace, a consulting astrologer, writer, teacher, and conference speaker.
For example, the book addresses seemingly counterintuitive parts of astrology, like why horoscopes show southern planets above the horizon and northern planets below. “Thanks to April, I can now explain it in a few pithy sentences to a befuddled student,” adds Grace.
A beginner, hands-on astrology workbook to help you practice
This book breaks down astrology into an easily understandable format, with questions at the end of each section to apply what you’ve learned. It can be helpful to have a journal or notebook handy or jot down notes directly into the book.
An astrology book that will help you finally understand Sun/Moon combinations
Weekly or monthly horoscopes often broadly focus on a person’s Sun sign, but astrology is much more layered than that. This book focuses on all the possible 144 combinations of Sun and Moon signs, helping you understand how they work together.”
The ability to synthesize the horoscope — to see all the parts as an integrated whole — is what skilled astrologers do that computer-generated reports simply can’t,” says Grace. Plus, if you’ve ever struggled to relate to your Sun sign description, this book will have a lot of answers.
A beginner book for reading and interpreting birth charts
Once you have a grasp on astrology, you’ll eventually want to be able to put all the pieces together and interpret your own birth chart (or the birth charts of your best friends/family/potential romantic partners).
Zerner and Farber recommend this handy, concise guide if “you already have some understanding of how real astrology works, and want to go deeper into the step-by-step process of reading a natal chart.”
An astrology book designed to help you find your destiny and life path
For anyone pondering their purpose in life, this book can provide some insight by looking at the rulers of your Midheaven and north node in your birth chart — two specific points in your birth chart.
“[North nodes] refer to past lives and soul growth in this lifetime; [the ruler of your Midheaven] refers to your ideal career,” says Grace. “What I love about this book is that it is a brilliant and concise reminder of how the world works, with specific guidance on how we can access our personal creative power,” she adds.
A book dedicated to transits and planetary placements
Transits are an important part of astrology — they refer to the current movements and placements of the planets and how they interact with your natal planets (aka, the locations of the planets in your birth chart).
“Whenever I see a pattern in a horoscope and I’m feeling stuck on how to relate its potential to my client’s life experience, I’ll reach for Hand’s candid insights, which suggest potential rewards and challenges,” says Grace.
An in-depth guide on the astrological houses and house systems
Astrologers each have their own way of reading charts. One key component of their unique style and interpretation is based on the house system they choose and use (it can stir up a lot of debate within the astrology community).
“I learned so much about how the meaning of the houses has evolved through history,” says Grace. “Astrology has been around for thousands of years, and like all languages, evolves with the consciousness of the humans who use it.” Grace recommends that astrology students familiarize themselves with all the house systems and then choose the system they prefer to use.
A book about the oft-misunderstood Mercury Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde may get a bad rap, but this book explains everything about this misrepresented astrological event and how it correlates to your chart based on the sign and house it’s in.
“There’s no reason to freak out when Mercury — or any planet — is retrograde,” says Grace. “There are plenty of productive things that can be done during these natural periods of rest and review.“ For instance, Wilkinson offers coping strategies like meditations for each Sun sign and Ascendant sign, which this book can help you figure out.
A guide to understanding relationship compatibility using astrology
Whether you’re already dating and want to check your compatibility or simply curious about the most astrologically aligned potential partners for you, this book can provide valuable insight. It combines specific parts of each person’s birth chart to generate a third chart focused on the relationship, “as if the relationship was a person with its own needs and purpose,” says Grace.
“The composite chart offers insights on how a relationship actually functions, regardless of the attraction between the parties involved,” she adds.
A thorough book on figuring out your career goals
Astrologers can gain a lot of information from looking at someone’s birth chart, including the ideal jobs or career paths for someone’s personality type. This book is a useful guide for helping people get on track with their goals and find a career that is actually fulfilling.
“When I prepare a horoscope for consultation, I rarely know what my new client does for a living,” says Grace. “I use the techniques in this book to jot down the kind of career the horoscope suggests they need to pursue in order to be happy.”
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A cozy bean bag chair can be a great addition to any children’s room, dorm room, or game room.
The best bean bag chairs are filled with soft materials and can support multiple seating positions.
We recommend shopping with these six brands for comfortable bean bag chairs.
Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky
When many of us think of bean bag chairs, we think of the uncomfortably flat, outdated blobs of childhood. However, modern bean bags have evolved significantly, and are now made of more durable materials, have stylish designs, and are big enough to be used while sitting and laying in different positions. Bean bag chairs make a great addition to game rooms, small living spaces, and of course any college dorm room.
As anyone who’s lived in a college dorm knows, seating and space are extremely limited. Bean bag chairs can be a fun way to decorate your space while also adding more seating for friends and roommates. They can also be a very inexpensive furniture option if you’re outfitting a room on a budget.
After doing extensive research, we found that these six retailers are the best places to shop for bean bag chairs. These brands offer chairs that are great for movie nights, impromptu naps, and even for working comfortably from home.
Here are the best places to buy bean bag chairs in 2021
Moon Pod offers bean bag chairs that are crafted to mimic the feeling of anti-gravity weightlessness and can change shape based on your preferred seating position or activity.
Pros: Offers support and holds its shape, eco-friendly materials, built-in carrying handle
Cons: Some models are too small for larger adults
Moon Pod‘s uniquely shaped bean bag chairs are built to support multiple body types and seating positions. Each Moon Pod is hand filled with high-density beads to replicate the feeling of flotation therapy, which purportedly promotes relaxation and stress relief. A soft cover is included with every Moon Pod purchase and can be removed and washed. Choose from five different cover colors including Neptune blue, rose quartz, and space gray.
I tested the Moon Pod over a period of several weeks and found it to be comfortable and easy to set up. Upon receiving your Moon Pod you’ll need to put its cover on it, a process that is extremely easy due to the bean bag only weighing around 12 pounds. It takes a few days of sitting on the Moon Pod for it to fully expand and become more flexible. Overall, the chair is comfortable and provides enough support to work sitting up, but is still cozy enough for a quick nap. The Moon Pod can also be stored standing up and can easily fit in smaller corners and spaces without taking up an excessive amount of space.
Moon Pod also offers fun accessories to pair with your chair, including the back rest Crescent and the Lunar Lift foot rest. Extra covers are also available for purchase if you need a replacement.
What to buy:
The Moon Pod (medium)Super Moon Pod (medium)
Wayfair combines budget-friendly prices with a wide selection of products.
Wayfair‘s wide selection of bean bag chairs includes many price points and styles. You can even find chairs specifically for children, along with uniquely-shaped chairs.
Wayfair prioritizes a positive customer shopping process; each of its bean bag chairs has easy-to-read product snapshots of the most important features. These features include the chair’s weight capacity, fill type, and whether it has a removable cover.
The retailer also offers extensive customer service hours, with representatives available until midnight EST.
What to buy:
Milano Medium Bean Bag Chair (medium)Large Classic Bean Bag (medium)
From small game room chairs to giant multi-seaters, Lovesac offers a wide size range of bean bags.
Lovesac is no stranger to creating comfortable seating options; the brand has been making bean bag chairs since 1995. It offers its “Sacs” in six different sizes which range from single seaters to giant bean bags that can accommodate up to four people. Each Sac is covered in a removable cover that can be washed. The brand currently offers more than 200 cover options, making it easy to find a style that will complement your home’s decor.
Instead of using microbeads like most brands, Lovesac’s Sacs are made of durafoam which helps to absorb body weight while maintaining shape and support. After unboxing your Sac you’ll want to give it up to a week to fully expand to its true size. The brand also offers accessories like its Squattoman and Footsac blankets.
Lovesac also has a generous 60 day home trial so you can decide if it’s right for you. While the brand’s prices are on the higher side, its durable designs, generous warranty, and return policy make it worth the splurge.
What to buy:
GamerSac (medium)MovieSac (medium)
In addition to a seamless shopping experience, Target offers a selection of affordable bean bags in a variety of unique designs.
Target prioritizes its customer’s shopping experience by offering curbside and in-store pickup, and free two-day shipping on orders over $35. Its bean bag chair selection isn’t extensive, but includes several affordable, highly rated chairs.
Many of the chairs are available in multiple colors, styles, and materials including suede and microfiber. Target also makes it easy to search by budget, color, and material preferences for a seamless shopping experience.
What to buy:
3′ Kids’ Bean Bag Chair (medium)Madison Faux Suede Beanbag 5′ (medium)
Pottery Barn Teen
If you’re looking for a stylish bean bag chair that will complement your decor, Pottery Barn Teen has a collection of modern designs.
Pottery Barn Teen is well-known for its furniture, which offers Pottery Barn’s classic style with a fun teenage flair. Its furniture doesn’t just look great, but is also designed to be fully functional. The retailer’s bean bag offerings include chairs made of unique materials like sherpa, denim, and pony faux fur. It also has fun Harry Potter-themed designs, which would be a welcome addition to any fan’s room.
Pottery Barn’s bean bag chairs are surprisingly affordable given the high-quality materials and typical premium prices of the brand.
What to buy:
Charcoal Chamois Bean Bag Chair (medium)Ivory Polar Bear Faux-Fur Bean Bag Chair (medium)
Amazon offers a wide variety of products and convenient two-day shipping for Prime members.
Amazon is well known for its customer-friendly shopping experience that includes a wide product selection, and free and fast shipping with a Prime membership.
Customers can narrow down their bean bag chair selection by using one of Amazon’s many filters: search by brand, material, bean bag chair size, color, or by other customer reviews. The retailer currently offers more than 1,000 different bean bag chairs.
What to buy:
Memory Foam Filled Bean Bag Chair (medium)Bean Bag Chair (medium)
What’s the best bean bag chair size for your college dorm or small space?
If you have a smaller space and are looking to add additional seating with a bean bag chair, you’ll want to be very aware of the size limitations of your space. We strongly suggest paying attention to measurements when shopping and even taking the time to measure your space prior to making any purchases.
How do you clean a bean bag chair?
When purchasing a bean bag chair you have two main options, a chair with a removable cover and a chair with a non-removable cover. You can easily machine wash and dry a removable cover if any spills or messes happen. However, with a non-removable cover, you’ll need to spot clean the chair, which may be difficult depending on the materials. Overall, if you’re worried about having to clean your bean bag chair, we recommend opting for a chair with a removable cover.
What are the best materials to look for when purchasing a bean bag chair?
Choosing a material for your bean bag chair is mostly dependent on your personal style preferences. Fabrics like denim, sherpa, and velvet can add a stylish hint of decor into your space. Faux leather and nylon are also performance fabrics and can work great at repelling liquids and stains. If you’re purchasing a chair for young children, we recommend prioritizing function over style.
How do you refill a flat bean bag chair?
Your bean bag chair may flatten after sitting and laying on it over time. Some brands such as Posh Creations sell extra beads or inserts that you can purchase to refill your bean bag chair if it’s starting to feel deflated. Other brands like Moon Pod encourage customers to reach out to its customer service team if your chair has flattened.
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Karie Johnson, veterinarian and co-founder of VIP Vet Visit, a mobile vet service in the south suburbs of Chicago.
Cleaning the litter box is the most dreaded job of any cat guardian, and without a high-quality cat litter, it’s made all the worse. What makes a person happy, however, can be the exact opposite of what a cat prefers. If the texture is wrong or the litter is perfumed, a cat may even choose to do their business outside of the box.
To help us identify the best litters to please both cat and guardian, we consulted four veterinarians to learn more about the litter preferences of cats and their toileting needs. Guided by their advice, we selected and tested 28 different litters, including clay, paper, silica gel, wood, grass, and corn substrates. Editorial review samples were provided by their manufacturers, with the exception of Dr. Elsey’s Ultra Multi-Cat Strength Litter.
Testing cat litters for this guide was done in two phases: a pre-cat phase and a cat phase. In the first phase, I compared litters belonging to the same category in heats of four at a time, assessing them for a variety of factors, including clumping ability, dustiness, scent, and texture.
The top two litters in each heat went on to the next phase. The litter was poured into a litter pan for the cats to use for anywhere from one to four weeks to test for odor control and tracking. Litters that were tested for two weeks or less were those that my cats refused to use, or those we tested prior to receiving the bulk of the litters for this guide. For each litter, I assessed the following qualities:
Litter weight, shape, and softness: Because cats typically prefer a soft, grainy substrate that is easy to dig, I evaluated the shape, texture, softness, and density of each litter. I measured 1/4 cup of each on a kitchen scale to compare their weights side by side.
Dust and scent: Cats are sensitive to both dust and scent, so I measured the relative intensity of each. I noted the amount of dust emitted when pouring and scooping the litter, as well as how much peppered the sides of the bowl or litter box. With scent, I went by the advice of Dr. Catherine Tannert, co-medical director of VCA Old Marple Animal Hospital, in Springfield, Pennsylvania, who said, “Cats prefer unscented litter to the cloying smell of kitty litters that are developed for the owner’s perception of cleanliness.” I did a sniff test of each litter in both phases of testing, including the thankless job of lifting clumps of litter to my nose to gauge how much of an ammonia scent they emitted.
Clumping ability and ease of cleaning: In phase one testing, I compared a small amount of each litter in plastic bowls with slick interiors similar to a litter pan. I added 1/4 cup of water to each bowl in two separate trials to gauge how quickly and easily it was absorbed, as well as how solidly it clumped and stuck together upon scooping. At the end of both trials, I emptied each bowl to look for moisture that had escaped the clumps and adhered to the bottom of the bowl.
Odor control and tracking: The top two litters from each category went on to phase two testing in a litter box for one to four weeks. I cleaned the litter pan twice daily and swept up any tracked litter once a day, noting how easy clumps were to remove and how much ended up on the floor. A daily sniff test informed me of the extent to which odors were under control. Because my cats refused to use the paper litters, I was unable to complete a phase two test on them.
Cost: I calculated the cost per pound of each litter and compared them. With lightweight clay litters, I first calculated their weight relative to a standard clay litter and adjusted the price accordingly.
The best cat litter overall
Tidy Cats Naturally Strong Litter is a super absorbent clay-based clumping litter that does a superior job containing odors, produces very little dust, and is easy to clean.
Pros: Activated charcoal controls odors; forms tight, easy-to-clean clumps; does not contain fragrances or dyes; lightweight; produces minimal dust; has texture many cats prefer; reasonably priced
Cons: A fair amount of litter tracks outside the box
Tidy Cats Naturally Strong Litter is a dye and fragrance-free clay-based clumping litter with the grainy, sandy texture that most cats prefer, or at least tolerate well. It produces very little of the little dust that can irritate cats with sensitive respiratory systems and contains bits of activated charcoal that help control odors.
In testing, Naturally Strong absorbed liquid quickly, forming a tight clump that was easy to remove in a single piece. I also found that this litter rarely left moistened clay stuck to the interior of the litter box. Best of all, it was effective at preventing foul odors throughout our three-week testing period.
Pros: Tight-clumping medium-grain clay litter, unscented, very little dust, low tracking, does a fine job of controlling odors, affordable
Cons: Odors can accumulate over time
Several years ago, I switched my cat to the unscented Dr. Elsey’s Ultra Multi-Cat Strength Litter at the recommendation of a veterinary behaviorist, and I’ve been using it religiously ever since. But with the opportunity to test nine clumping clay litters for this guide, I was anxious to see how it would hold up compared to other brands. Quite well, it turns out.
For a highly affordable litter that is odor-containing and easy to clean, Dr. Elsey’s Ultra is as good as it gets. The unscented medium-grain clay litter also satisfies a cat’s need to scratch, dig, and bury their waste. Because it produces very little dust, it’s also a good choice for cats with respiratory issues.
In testing, it absorbed liquid almost instantly and clumped tightly. With a bit of heft to its grains, less litter was carried out of the box on my cats’ feet than with our top pick, Tidy Cats Naturally Strong Litter.
Although Dr. Elsey’s Ultra controls odors, it relies on 100% sodium bentonite clay to minimize odors instead of activated charcoal. I have found that if I’m lax on emptying and completely cleaning the box every couple of months, odors can begin to accumulate.
At around $0.50 per pound and sold in bags up to 40 pounds, Dr. Elsey’s is one of the top two most cost-effective brands in this guide, along with Frisco Scoopable Unscented Litter.
The best non-clumping litter
Pretty Litter‘s color-changing silica gel formula is an early warning system for detecting feline urinary health problems.
Pros: Changes colors to monitor a cat’s urinary health, made of safe silica gel, absorbs and controls odors, automatic delivery, 30-day money-back guarantee, reasonably priced, lightweight formula
Cons: Ammonia scent toward end of litter’s lifespan (around 12 days for two cats), false health readings toward end of litter’s lifespan (around 14 days for two cats)
Feline urinary tract diseases (FLUTD) such as bladder inflammation, urinary stones, or crystals are common in cats, according to Tannert. Just as common is a cat who tries to hide their pain and discomfort, making it all the more challenging to figure out if there’s a problem.
Pretty Litter takes the guesswork out of monitoring a cat’s urinary health with its color-changing silica gel litter. When a cat’s urine is too acidic, too alkaline, or contains blood, the litter changes color from a healthy yellow-green to an ominous dark yellow, blue, or red.
Both of my cats used Pretty Litter willingly, and despite its light weight, it did not stick to their feet as much as the clay litters. The litter is dust and fragrance-free, but it does have a bit of a chemical scent.
Pretty Litter does not clump. Instead, urine is absorbed into lightweight silica gel flakes made from safe naturally occurring minerals like those frequently used in medications, food, and cosmetics. The flakes have a light, sandy texture that satisfies a cat’s instinct to dig and bury their waste. Solids need to be scooped out daily.
Pretty Litter did a good job of controlling odors. I did find that the closer we got to the end of the litter’s lifespan (about two weeks for two cats), the more I noticed a slight ammonia scent.
Around that same time, the litter can also give false color readings. We had one stressful morning where one of my cat’s urine turned blue. It turned out the only thing that was wrong was that I hadn’t changed the litter fast enough.
For a single cat, a bag lasts a month before requiring changing. Pretty Litter is a subscription service priced at $22 per month for one cat. If either you or your cat isn’t a fan, the company offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Pros: Made of sustainably sourced paper pellets, free of dyes and synthetic chemicals, very little dust, biodegradable, pellets are soft and less than 1 inch long, unscented
Cons: Expensive, some cats do not like using a pellet-style litter
Paper litters, most of which come in the form of small, firm pellets, can be a good substrate solution for cats that suffer from respiratory problems. Of the five paper varieties we reviewed, Ökocat’s Paper Pellet Litter performed best in my first round of testing. It absorbed liquid quickly and the paper pellets didn’t immediately fall apart.
Ökocat’s pellets were also the softest and smallest (approximately .5 to 1 inch in length) of the paper litters we tested, making them more conducive to natural scratching, digging, and burying behaviors than brands with heavier, larger pellets.
This litter does not clump. Instead, the paper pellets absorb as much liquid as they can before falling apart and turning into a sort of mulch. Scooping is only necessary for solids.
Unfortunately, because neither of my cats were willing to use the paper substrates, I can’t speak to how well Ökocat controls odors or holds up over time. However, it is clear from the weight and shape of the litter that the pellets are very low tracking compared to smaller-grained clay and natural varieties. We will be testing this litter out with some willing participants for a later update to this guide.
While Ökocat Paper Pellet Litter isn’t dust-free, it is close. The paper pellets are also biodegradable and do not have any scent. But this litter is also 35% to 60% more expensive than the other paper brands we tested. Unlike most paper litters, Ökocat uses sustainably sourced dye and white paper free of synthetic chemicals instead of recycled paper — a less environmentally friendly policy that nonetheless is likely better for sensitive cats.
Pros: Made from compressed corn kernels, similar texture to clay litters, controls odors well when cleaned frequently, minimal dust, reasonably priced
Cons: Odors can build up without frequent cleaning and become more noticeable around three weeks of use by two cats
In our tests, World’s Best Multiple Cat Litter came out on top of the 12 natural litters we considered, thanks to its good clumping ability and odor control. Made from compressed corn kernels, this litter’s lightweight granules are slightly harder than the clay litters in our best overall and best budget litter categories, but they are still satisfyingly scratchable.
World’s Best absorbed liquids instantaneously to form tight, solid clumps that maintained their shape and structure on removal. Its natural corn-cereal scent controlled odors well when cleaned twice a day. However, I found if I left clumps in for a 24-hour period, the scent of ammonia became increasingly strong.
Tracking of this litter is relatively minimal — about equivalent to our top clay litter selections. This litter is also free of synthetic additives, chemicals, and fragrances and produces very minimal dust.
According to World’s Best, a 14-pound bag of Multiple Cat Litter is intended to last about a month (33 days) for two cats. However, I found that in the last few days of our three-week testing period, the remaining litter in the pan was somewhat less effective at absorbing odors than it had been in the beginning. Based on this observation, I would expect that by the end of four weeks, ammonia odors are likely to be even more noticeable.
What else we considered
Clumping clay litters we liked
Cat’s Pride Unscented Natural Care Multi-Cat Clumping Litter: This affordable clay litter absorbed liquids instantaneously and formed clumps that were only a little more likely to break apart during cleaning than our top picks. Cat’s Pride is lighter weight than most clay litters, but that also makes it more likely to be tracked than heavier formulas. For every 15-pound jug purchased, the company donates a pound of litter to an animal shelter.
Tidy Cats Free and Clean Lightweight Litter: This Tidy Cats Litter was on par with the brand’s Naturally Strong variety, which we selected as the best litter overall for this guide. The Free and Clean litter absorbed liquids on contact, clumped tightly, controlled odors with activated charcoal, and produced very little dust. It was also significantly lighter, making it easier to carry and pour. That lighter weight, however, resulted in more tracking than the Naturally Strong litter, with granules of litter sometimes riding on my cats’ feet all the way to the living room couch.
Frisco Scoopable Unscented Litter: Frisco’s Multi-Cat Litter is a steal. Though it is less instantaneously absorbent, forming thinner and more fragile clumps that spread more widely across the pan, Frisco’s litter controls odors as well as our top budget pick, Dr. Elsey’s Ultra Multi-Cat Strength Litter. Unscented and among the least dusty formulas we tried, this is another great option for anyone looking to save a few bucks.
Clay clumping litters we don’t recommend
Arm & Hammer Unscented Multi-Cat Litter: Although it is advertised as unscented, this litter has a light laundry detergent odor. And while it did form solid clumps, it was the dustiest of all of the litters we tested.
Cat’s Pride Scented Bacterial Odor Control Multi-Cat Litter: Cat’s Pride Bacterial Odor Control Litter produced very little dust and clumped reasonably well, but it failed to capture all of the testing liquid, leaving wet clay stuck to the bottom of the pan. This litter has a light soapy scent.
Arm & Hammer Cloud Control Litter: Arm & Hammer’s Cloud Control was the least absorbent litter out of the nine clay varieties we tested, although that which it did absorb clumped solidly. A heavy litter perfumed with a light laundry scent, Cloud Control is, at the very least, dust-free.
Petsafe Scoop Free Scented Crystal Litter: Lightly scented and with very little dust, this crystal litter absorbs moisture and captures odors. Like Pretty Litter, Petsafe’s non-clumping crystal litter is made from silica gel and a single bag lasts up to 30 days for one cat. Unlike Pretty Litter, Petsafe’s litter does not warn guardians when their pet might be experiencing urinary trouble.
Paper cat litter
Yesterday’s News Clumping Paper Litter: The only clumping paper litter we tested, this recycled paper formula worked reasonably well to absorb moisture and form clumps. Its flaky, soft texture is also more similar to clay litter than the other varieties. Unfortunately, it was the dustiest of the bunch.
Yesterday’s News Non-Clumping Paper Litter: Made from recycled paper, this unscented eco-friendly paper litter is absorbent and virtually dust-free. However, being made up of long, hard pellets of 1.5 to 2 inches in length, it was among the least conducive to natural scratching and covering behaviors of all the litters we tested.
Pioneer Pet Smart Cat Clumping Grass Litter: I really liked this grass litter because it acted almost exactly like a good clay clumping litter. The naturally wheat-cereal-scented grass particles absorbed moisture instantly and formed strong, solid clumps. Soft to the touch, essentially dust-free, and odor-trapping, the only thing keeping this litter from the top spot was its cost — almost double the equally effective World’s Best Multiple Cat Litter.
World’s Best Zero Mess Cat Litter: My cats and I both liked the Zero Mess formula from World’s Best, which blends the company’s typical corn kernels with additional plant fibers to absorb liquid and form tight clumps. On sniff tests, this litter also did a great job of minimizing odors. Ultimately, however, I found the Zero Mess formula to work no better than World’s Best Multiple Cat Litter, our pick for best natural litter, despite costing around 25% more.
Frisco Corn and Wheat Cat Litter: I was disappointed by this litter’s absorbency. Not only did our tester liquid spread out within the litter, it seeped all the way to the bottom of the pan and left it wet. The clumps that did form were also quick to fall apart, making this litter more challenging to clean.
Ökocat Super Soft Wood Litter: Of the three wood litters we tested, I liked Ökocat’s Super Soft formula best. Like the other wood litters, this version did an excellent job of absorbing liquids and preventing odors. It also had a superior clumping ability as opposed to Feline Pine and Okocat’s Original Litter — though clumping was less solid and more likely to fall apart in cleaning than some of the other natural varieties we tested. As the name suggests, this litter has softer, smaller granules than its competitors, which my cats seemed to prefer. They toileted in it a little more frequently than the others, though still not as often as the grass, walnut, or grain varieties.
Ökocat Original Wood Clumping Litter: Ökocat’s original clumping formula is made of the same sustainably sourced wood as the Super Soft Clumping style and it absorbs moisture just as quickly. However, I found this litter’s clumping ability to be somewhat disappointing. It stuck together in some places, while in others, the wood granules quickly degraded. When dry, those same granules are quite sharp and stiff, a texture that sensitive cats may prefer to avoid.
Feline Pine Clumping Wood Litter: Made of reclaimed lumber shavings, this was the softest of the wood litters, but it was also the dustiest. In testing, I was unimpressed with Feline Pine’s clumping ability. It absorbed moisture slowly and turned mealy like oatmeal instead of forming a solid clump.
Littermaid Natural Premium Walnut Clumping Litter: My cats and I liked this walnut litter, which clumped tightly and controlled odors well. Because this slightly softer substrate is heavier than its competitors, it also tracked less and produced a little less dust. One thing to note about Littermaid is that it sometimes absorbs liquids slowly. The company recommends waiting a full 15 minutes after urination to scoop, but we found that often absorption took less than a minute.
Naturally Fresh Quick-Clumping Walnut Litter: This clumping formula was my least favorite of the walnut litters we tested. It absorbed liquid well, but its clumping ability was just okay. In cleaning, many of the clumps fell apart and were more challenging to remove. It was also the dustiest of the three nut-shell varieties we tested.
Clumping vs. non-clumping litters: Cat litter is sold in both clumping and non-clumping formulas. Clumping formulas, including those made from clay, corn, wood, and grass, form solid masses when they encounter urine, and those must be removed from the litter daily.
Non-clumping litters absorb urine, too, but instead of forming clumps, the granules of silica, wood, or paper become saturated and gradually break down over time. On each cleaning, the substrate must be stirred to distribute the ammonia in the box. There is no difference between how non-clumping and clumping litters interact with solids — feces must still be scooped daily.
Both clumping and non-clumping litters manage bad smells. In the case of clumping formulas, urine is removed through daily scooping. In non-clumping formulas, urine accumulates in the box over time. Clumping litters can be topped off with additional litter as needed, but boxes filled with a non-clumping litter must be completely emptied and refilled after a period of two to seven weeks, depending on the brand and type of litter.
Litter texture: Litter preferences vary from cat to cat, according to Dr. Karen Sueda, veterinary behaviorist at VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital, but every feline wants a toileting substrate they can easily dig and cover their waste in. Cats with sensitive feet may avoid using litters with sharper granules, such as crystal or pellet formulas.
Dust-free litter: Dusty natural and clay litters can be problematic for both cat and human. Dust may cause sensitive cats, particularly those with allergies or respiratory issues like asthma, to cough, sneeze, or wheeze during or after using their litter. It can produce the same effect in humans when filling or scooping the box. While no litter is completely dust-free, those that produce very little dust are less likely to have unintended respiratory effects.
Scent-free litter: Because cats have an extremely strong sense of smell, the scent of a litter is a significant factor in whether they will use or avoid a litter box, according to Dr. Christine Calder, veterinary behaviorist at Midcoast Humane in Brunswick, Maine. Even a natural scent may deter a cat. Calder, Sueda, and Tannert all recommended sticking to an unscented variety.
Why we didn’t consider the flushability of natural cat litters: One of the purported benefits of some natural cat litter varieties is that they can be flushed in the toilet. But just because you can flush natural cat litter doesn’t mean you should, and not just because low-flush toilets and pipes made for human waste often can’t handle clumps without clogging.
Cat waste can contain Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that causes flu-like symptoms at best and, at worst, fetal development disorders, brain damage, and premature birth in babies. Water waste treatment plants are unable to filter out this harmful parasite and it can end up in treated water that’s released back into the environment, harming fish, killing native plants, and making recreation areas unsafe. Scientific studies have found that T. gondii especially poses a threat to marine mammals like sea otters.
Types of cat litter
Nearly every one of the more than a dozen veterinarians, veterinary behaviorists, and cat specialists I’ve spoken to about cat toileting behavior over the last six months has agreed that most cats prefer, or are at least more tolerant of, nonperfumed clay litters. “Generally speaking, I recommend a fine-grained, clay-based clumping litter that is unscented,” said Sueda.
Most clay cat litters are made from absorbent sodium bentonite clay, a naturally occurring material acquired through strip-mining and broken down into pebble-sized granules. Some clay litters are mixed with activated charcoal for additional odor absorption. They come in both unscented and scented varieties. Traditional clay litters are also quite dusty when poured, scratched at by a cat, or cleaned, though many newer formulas produce very little dust.
Pros: Preferred or tolerated by most cats because they make practicing natural toileting behaviors like digging and covering waste easy; absorb liquids instantly and form tight clumps for easy cleaning; control odors, especially those formulas that contain activated charcoal; cost efficient; some formulas are virtually dust free
Cons: Weigh more than some other varieties of cat litter; are produced in an environmentally unfriendly way; scented formulas can be too strong for a cat’s sensitive nose; can be easily tracked out of the litter boxes, especially lighter weight formulas; some formulas are very dusty
For cats that suffer from respiratory problems like asthma or have recently undergone surgery, Dr. Zay Satchu, chief veterinary officer at Bond Vet, in New York City, typically recommends a paper litter, which tends to be less dusty than clay litters and less likely to stick to incision sites. Most paper litters come in pellet form and are made from either recycled materials or sustainably sourced wood. They are also almost always non-clumping with pellets that absorb liquid and slowly break apart over time. Only solids need to be scooped out of a litter box filled with paper litter.
Pros: Good for cats with respiratory problems, only solids need to be scooped from the litter box, pellet formulas are low-tracking, made from recycled or sustainably sourced materials
Cons: Some cats dislike the texture and weight of paper pellets, pellets fall apart over time, odors may increase over time as pellets become saturated with urine
Silica gel litter
Silica gel or crystal litters are made from sodium silicate sand, a naturally occurring material acquired through strip mining. They do not contain crystalline silicate or other carcinogenic materials that may be harmful to cats, but the inhalation of microscopic silica dust over time could lead to respiratory issues.
Silica gel litters are ultra-absorbent odor-eaters, but as the non-clumping granules saturate with urine over time, they may become less effective at preventing ammonia odors. Some silica litters, particularly crystal versions, may be too sharp for sensitive paws.
Pros: Made from safe, natural silica gel; ultra-absorbent and good at preventing odors; non-clumping formula does not require removal of liquids
Cons: Inhalation of silica dust over time may lead to respiratory issues, crystal formulas may be too sharp for sensitive paws, smells can worsen over time as silica gel becomes saturated with liquids, not environmentally friendly
Grain, grass, wood, and walnut shells are all used as alternative materials in natural cat litters. According to Satchu, not only are these biodegradable options more environmentally friendly, some have additional benefits, too. Due to their absorption ability, wood litters are typically low tracking and do a good job minimizing odors while grain litters are a safe bet for cats who like to snack on litter due to behavioral issues.
Ultimately, the superiority of one style of natural litter over another comes down to a cat’s individual preference. “I try to encourage owners to choose one litter and stick with it through kitty’s life because they are ultimately creatures of habit,” said Satchu. “Any litter that will keep kitty going where they’re supposed to be going is a good litter in my book.”
Pros: Many formulas are low dust, natural scent of some varieties controls odors without additives, biodegradable, made from sustainable materials
Cons: Some cats may dislike the scent and/or the texture of natural litters, lightweight formulas are more easily tracked than heavier clay litters, more expensive on average than clay litters
FAQs about cat toileting
How many times a day does a cat normally use the litter box?
On average, cats urinate two to four times a day, but according to Sueda, this can vary from cat to cat. Cleaning litter boxes at least once daily can help guardians determine if there’s a change in frequency, which may indicate a health problem.
Typically, cats defecate one to two times a day, but this, too, can vary from cat to cat. Like with urination, sudden changes in frequency may indicate a health problem.
What size and how many litter boxes do I need?
A litter box should be at least 1.5 times the length of a cat, large enough for them to comfortably scratch and bury their waste. The standard rule of thumb is to have one litter box per cat plus one extra, and ideally one on each floor of a home. A home with multiple cats, however, may be able to get away with fewer extra-large litter boxes as long as they are cleaned at least twice a day, according to Sueda. See our guide to the best litter boxes for more on this.
What does it mean if a cat stops urinating?
If a cat stops urinating altogether, it is likely they are experiencing a feline urinary tract disease (FLUTD) such as bladder inflammation or urinary stones or crystals. Male cats are particularly susceptible to the latter. “Male cats have a very narrow urethra, so crystals and mucus can form a plug or a single tiny stone may become lodged anywhere along this narrow tube,” said Tannert.
If a cat is unable to urinate, deadly toxins begin building up. Death can occur if the blockage isn’t removed by a veterinarian within 24 to 48 hours. If a veterinarian rules out medical problems like FLUTD, anxiety may be the culprit, a problem a veterinary behaviorist is best equipped to handle.
What does it mean if a cat goes outside the litter box?
According to Calder, cats that eliminate outside the litter box are engaging in one of two behaviors: toileting or marking. In toileting (also called inappropriate elimination), a cat has found a place to do their business outside of the litter box. Sometimes, this behavior occurs when a cat does not like the location or size of their litter pan, the type of litter in the pan, or the cleanliness of the litter.
Other times, going outside the box is related to anxiety (for example, a cat who worries about being ambushed by another pet while using the litter box may stop using it altogether) or to a medical problem such as FLUTD. A cat may also choose to go outside of the litter box if they find a spot that satisfies their need to scratch and bury their waste, such as a pile of dirty laundry or a potted plant.
Whereas toileting typically occurs on horizontal surfaces, marking occurs on vertical surfaces. Instead of squatting, when a cat marks they back up with a raised tail to spray their pheromones. “Marking cats are trying to communicate something, and most have some kind of conflict or anxiety,” said Calder. Cats that mark are typically intact males, but fixed males and females can spray, too.
Dr. Christine Calder, veterinary behaviorist at Midcoast Humane in Brunswick, Maine
Dr. Zay Satchu, chief veterinary officer, Bond Vet, New York, New York
Solid running shoes that support your biomechanics will make miles more comfortable and safe.
It’s important to consider how much cushioning you need and where, and what surface you run on.
Our top pick, Brooks Ghost 13, is lightweight, cushioned, and durable enough to last long miles.
Running is one of the most accessible forms of exercise (and stress relief). Whether you’ve decided you’re going to start running a mile a week or you’re training for your first marathon, finding a quality, comfortable pair of running shoes is the first step to guaranteeing that commitment will happen – and that it’ll actually be enjoyable.
If you’re new to running, it’s hard to know how to choose the best pair of shoes off anything other than aesthetics. But, truly, it’s fit you want to look for. The amount of cushioning, stability, tread, breathability, and overall design shape is different for every shoe, and each of these effects or supports your natural biomechanics (that’s the way all the parts of your body move to create one overall unit).
If shoes often squish your toes, you want to look for a pair with a wider toe box. If you have bad knees or an old injury, you might do well with more cushioning in a shoe. What’s more, features like deeper lugs or waterproofing can make things like trail runs or winter runs not only more comfortable but also safer.
These aren’t just nice-to-haves: Over time, running miles and miles in the wrong shoe for your body can lead to stress and overuse injuries.
We would know: I’ve been an avid runner for years, as have all the fitness editors at Insider Reviews. Together, we comprise a diverse pool of varying foot shapes and biomechanical needs and have tested nearly every running shoe on the market.
Leveraging our experience as runners and as gear reviewers, we’ve narrowed in on the best running shoes for women with different needs. At the end of this guide, we go into more detail on how to shop for a women’s running shoe.
The Brooks Ghost 13 shoes are durable enough for long runs, light enough for speedwork, and are even more responsive than the Ghost 10 thanks to a new sole unit.
Pros: Well-cushioned, lightweight, smooth heel-to-toe transition, breathable, versatile design ideal for both speed work and long distances
Cons: Heavy, not supportive enough for overpronation, some reviewers feel the sole redesign creates a firmer feel that could become uncomfortable on long distances
If you’re looking for a cushioned, neutral running shoe that will fit most foot shapes, the Brooks Ghost 13 is your pick. The latest model of the Ghost line-up, the Ghost 13 has out-of-the-box comfort and works for both comfortable long runs and snappy speed work.
The Ghost 13 keeps much of what worked in prior Ghost iterations, including the 12mm heel-to-toe drop for a smooth ride. There have also been a few significant design changes, most notable the new sole unit which cuts down on the foam of previous models. This helps break away from Brooks’ reputation for heavy shoes — the Ghost 13 is comparably lightweight to other shoes on our list at just 8.8 ounces.
The rest of the sole keeps the original DNA foam which gives it the cushioned and responsive feel the Ghost line is known for. I found that this redesign offers a firmer feel underfoot than its predecessors, which is great for speedwork but could create some discomfort for longer distances.
The shoe’s upper features a seamless, engineered mesh that promotes airflow while keeping dirt and debris out. It also gives the shoe a sleeker, more modern look. I also love that unlike many other shoes, the Ghost 13 has one tongue loop so it won’t slip around while you run and you don’t have to constantly readjust.
Pros: Great overpronation support, comfortable cushioning, breathable, stable, 10mm drop for a natural heel-to-toe motion
Cons: Heavy, not ideal for neutral runners, upper too breathable for cold weather, narrower toe box than previous models
As a tried-and-true stability shoe line, the entire New Balance 860 line is solely dedicated to providing stability to those who overpronate, helping prevent any unnecessary running injuries.
The newest model in the line, the 860v11 has a new Fresh Foam midsole, which delivers a soft-yet-supportive feel. The 860v11 excels at providing a steady and well-supported run. One of the downsides of the 860v11 is, at 9.6 ounces, this shoe is slightly heavier compared to others on our list. But the slight weight increase comes with the payoff of more support, and its durability makes the 860v11 ideal for high-mileage.
It has a T-Beam stability shaft that runs under the midsole to help correct overpronation and still allows for a snappy and responsive feel often found in lighter running shoes. The blown rubber outsole works well in both wet and dry conditions, too.
Unfortunately, the 860v11 does have a slightly narrower toe box, particularly in comparison to past models, which will be a deal-breaker for some (though it’s worth noting the model comes in narrow, standard, wide, or extra-wide widths).
The best shoe for trail running
The Hoka One One Challenger ATR 6 can handle rough terrain with its rugged soles, yet provides max cushioning and feels lightweight for a comfortable run.
Pros: Fantastic cushioning-to-weight ratio, rugged outsole and 4 mm lugs provide great traction, works on both trails and roads, toe-cap protection against rocks, comes in wide-width option, beloved by runners with joint pain
Cons: Not suited for overpronators, maybe too cushioned for rugged trails
The Hoka One One Challenger ATR 6 is the ideal road-to-trail shoe for anyone who may be tackling mixed terrain. With Hoka’s signature cushioning underfoot, the Challenger ATR 6 provides stability and less stress and impact on the body. The Challenger ATR 6 is considered a neutral running shoe, so it won’t offer much in terms of support for overpronators. Devotees of the brand swear by that padding for reducing stress on their tendons and muscles, though.
Lightweight at just 8.8 ounces and with 4mm lugs, they’re responsive, rugged, and won’t weigh you down while you conquer your local trail. The shoe’s box is reinforced with thermoplastic polyurethane to protect your toes from rocks and roots on the trail. Hokas fit most feet, but the Challenger ATR 6 does have a wide-width option for those who need a seriously wide shoe.
If you have to log some pavement strides before you hit trail, the traction and grip performance of this shoe is the sweet spot to works just as well on trails as it does on the pavement.
The biggest update to the ATR 6 from the 5 is the switch to recycled Unifi REPREVE® yarn derived from post-consumer waste plastic in the primary and collar mesh, and recycled poly laces, both of which are moves to help reduce waste in the running shoe industry.
The best lightweight running shoe
The New Balance Fresh Foam Arishi v3 running shoes provide a super lightweight feel without sacrificing cushioned comfort, and they’re versatile enough to tackle both short and long runs.
Pros: Super lightweight, cushioned, comfortable upper, reflective, versatile for both short and long runs
Cons: Shorter lifespan for total mileage, runs small
If you’re looking for a neutral, lightweight running shoe with a cushioned feel, the New Balance Fresh Foam Arishi v3 is your go-to. The women’s model weighs in at a mere 6.2 ounces, which is significantly lighter than most other running shoes.
This weight seems impossible with all the foam cushioning involved. The magic lies in what’s known as Fresh Foam Ground Contact, the concave and convex hexagon material that makes up the sole, sculpted and shaped to provide cushion and stability where its needed most. It’s ultra-light yet still provides a soft and responsive feel.
The all-knit upper allows for comfort, breathability, and stretch. From heel to toe, there’s a 6mm drop, which is ideal for neutral runners. We also love the unique design feature of the ‘N’ logo being highly reflective, making for a safer dawn or dusk run.
The sole does have quite a bit of exposed foam, and while New Balance has strategically-placed lugs to keep the heel and forefoot supported, this design means this running shoe will last you more like 250 to 300 miles of running, as opposed to most other shoes’ lifespan of 500 miles.
Also, we found that the Arishi v3 run slightly small, so we recommend going half a size up for a comfortable fit.
Best running shoe for long runs
The Under Armour HOVR Infinite is specifically designed for long runs, with responsive cushioning, a durable outsole, and a built-in chip that tracks your running progress.
Cons: May need to size up, connectivity feature is currently only compatible with MapMyRun
If you’re logging longer and longer runs, the Under Armour HOVR are ideal for two reasons: its distance-specific design and built-in Record Sensor technology.
A neutral running shoe, the HOVR Infinite is marked by its high energy-return HOVR foam. This has just the right amount of cushion to keep your legs feeling fresh even as you pile on the miles, and offers responsiveness with each stride to help keep you moving with more ease. The outsole is made of blown rubber and carbon rubber for extra durability — a must for shoes expected to withstand high-mileage runs.
The HOVR Infinite are specifically designed for the anatomy of the female foot, as well, to deliver a tighter better fit with a contoured sock liner. We found them to be not only comfortable with a soft tongue and breathable mesh upper, but also very lightweight at 8.8 ounces.
The other stand-out feature for these shoes is Under Armour’s proprietary Record Sensor tech. This is a removable chip is embedded in the insole of the shoe to track your speed, distance, stride length, and cadence. This data can then be uploaded to the Under Armour MapMyRun app post-run, allowing you to view your stats in one place. The data only works on MapMyRun (for now) but we love that you can still track your miles if you don’t own a GPS watch or if you want to know your end mileage without being distracted by your split times on your wrist.
Even if you don’t care about the connectivity aspect, the shoe itself is still impressive. They clock in at $120, which is roughly the same as other running shoes on the market that don’t offer the same smart features.
Best shoe for winter runs
The Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37 Shield are incredibly comfortable, have great traction on icy roads, and keep your feet dry running through slush, snow, or rain.
Pros: Lightweight, springy, great waterproofing, superior traction
Cons: Can feel a little tight around the top of the midfoot, will feel narrow for wide feet
After testing 15 pairs of winter-specific running shoes, the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37 Shield is our top pick thanks to its road-specific design that provides a little bounce back with each stride you take. What’s more, the traction on these shoes replicates what you’d find on tires. The result is a ton of grip underfoot without the lugs normally required for such a hold, which is a very hard combo to find in running shoes.
These shoes kept fitness writer Mallory Creveling’s feet dry on snowy runs, as well as when splashed directly with water in a bathtub test of the shoes waterproofing capabilities. Despite being water-repellent, these shoes are still flexible and breathable.
These do have a unique feature of giving a squeeze of support from the upper, which can feel a little too tight at times. Creveling notes loosening the laces is a simple fix, but these probably won’t be comfortable for a wider foot shape.
Overall, these are running shoe you could wear every day year-round without having to worry about cold, wet, or uncomfortable feet through many chilly miles. –Rachael Schultz
How to shop for running shoes
While shopping, you’ll want to consider the type of running you plan to do. Do you intend on doing a lot of road racing? If so, a lightweight shoe should be your go-to. Perhaps you’re planning on embarking on long trail runs; you may want a shoe designed specifically for trail running.
If you’re looking for a simple training shoe for casual running, then durability won’t be a big concern. However, if you’re the type of runner who lives in their running shoes, finding a high-mileage shoe gives you the best quality for your money.
One of the biggest factors in which running shoe is right for you depends on whether your foot strike overpronates, supinates, or remains neutral.
When your foot strikes the ground, the arch of your foot is going to collapse to some degree, which then causes your ankle to roll inward. This concept is called pronation, and it is the most defining factor in what kind of support you need from your shoe.
Some people have a neutral footstrike, so they don’t need cushioning on either side. But most of us have a tendency to overpronate or supinate.
If you overpronate, your foot rolls inward when you run, and your body isn’t absorbing shock as efficiently. To help with this, you’ll want a more supportive motion-control shoe designed to correct your foot motion.
If you supinate, your foot doesn’t rolling in far enough. This causes the outside of your foot to take the brunt of the impact with every strike. If this is the case, you’ll want a more neutral-cushioned shoe that encourages natural foot motion.
This is one of the most important things to consider when buying running shoes, too — overpronation or supination often causes serious injury over time if not addressed.
The difference between women’s and men’s running shoes
What makes women’s running shoes different from men’s starts with foot shape. Women tend to have smaller heels in relation to the forefoot, so the shape of the shoe needs to be slightly different. A lower body mass also results in slightly less foam in the midsole of the shoe, while deeper grooves make it easier to flex the midsole when toeing off.
Men and women also have different Q-angles, or the angle of incidence between the quad muscle and the kneecap, as women generally have wider hips than men. This tends to cause pronation, which requires different types of cushioning.
The books cover the basics as well as how to master French pastries and temper chocolate.
It’s no secret baking is a science – only the right ingredients interact properly to create chewy cookies, flaky pie crust, and airy cakes. Pastry chefs work hard to get those measurements right, and many pass on their knowledge in beautiful cookbooks. But which ones belong on your bookcase?
I reached out to James Beard Award Winner Joanne Chang (owner of Flour Bakery and Myers + Chang in Boston) and “Chopped Sweets” Winner Amber Croom (owner of And 4 Dessert confectionary studio in Baltimore) to find out which cookbooks every beginner and expert home baker needs. Many of the picks are classics that have been around for years, with the best now in its second, revised edition.
For those who learn better by watching, I also combed through hours of videos to find the best YouTube channel for upgrading your baking skills, plus an online platform that brings some of the best pastry chefs’ classes right into your kitchen.
These baking cookbooks belong in any kitchen library, whether you’re looking to perfect your chocolate chip cookies, want to become an authority on French patisserie, or simply love a great homemade loaf of sourdough.
10 great expert-recommended baking books and online baking resources:
The original edition of the “Tartine” cookbook was published in 2006 and became an instant classic among pastry chefs, home bakers, and fans of the legendary San Francisco bakery. “It’s gorgeous, the pastries are both familiar and special, the recipes WORK,” says Chang. “It’s so inspiring to read and I love every page.” For the award-winning 2019 edition, Pruett and Robertson doubled the number of recipes with all-new photography, making this a must-have for any cookbook collection.
While new bakers may dream of macarons, it’s easier to start with simple American recipes and slowly learn the science behind your bakes. Those two reasons alone are why “BraveTart” is the perfect cookbook to start exploring in the kitchen. Parks not only incorporates great stories for each recipe; she composes each one in a way that professional chefs and home bakers can use, says Croom. “BraveTart is amazing — all of the pastries you grew up with as a kid, but made by a master baker,” adds Chang.
Jim Lahey turned the pastry world upside down with the publication “My Bread,” which proved bread machines and exhausting kneading techniques aren’t necessary. “He started a bread revolution with his way of baking bread and every loaf I’ve ever had from this book tastes just like it does in his bakeries Sullivan St Bakery,” says Chang. More than a decade later, its flawless recipes are still a must-have for anyone who wants to bake bread at home.
Every home baker has a story about a cake disaster since they are incredibly tricky to get right. Rose Levy Berenbaum’s classic “The Cake Bible” has taught a whole generation of bakers the mistakes to avoid, and everything else you need to know to turn out delicious cakes. “It has every single cake you can ever imagine and Rose is generous with her expertise and knowledge,” says Chang. “I’ve learned so much about cake baking just from reading and baking through this book.”
Chocolate makes gorgeous desserts that are a delight to eat, but it can be quite temperamental and frustrates even the most expert of pastry chefs. “Chocolate,” from the famous culinary school Ferrandi Paris, gives readers step-by-step instructions to master the medium. “It covers everything from utensils to tempering chocolate,” says Croom. “It’s like going to a chocolate academy without the price tag, but in book form.”
Mastering patisserie takes time, patience, and a lot of butter. Jacquy Pfeiffer, the founder of Chicago’s French Pastry School, created “The Art of French Pastry” as a comprehensive guide that helps readers with the fundamentals and gives easy-to-follow instructions. “You can tell from every recipe in the book that Chef Pfeiffer has years of teaching classic French pastries,” says Croom.
Erin Jeanne McDowell, whose work is regularly featured in “The New York Times,” Food 52, and on Food Network Kitchen, is one of America’s foremost experts on pies. In this pie cookbook, “she covers everything you could ever want to know about creating the perfect pie,” says Croom. That includes everything from making the flakiest crusts and picturesque decorations to mastering savory pies.
Baking with whole-grain flours can help home bakers create delicious desserts beyond the usual all-purpose flour. “Good to the Grain” features 75 recipes that cover a dozen different whole-grain flours, from buckwheat to teff. “You will learn so much about how different flours enhance both taste and texture of baked goods,” says Chang. Boyce does utilize white flour in her recipes, so this is good for those beginning to experiment with different flours.
Created by Chefs Sébastien Canonne and Jacquy Pfeiffer, The Butter Book is a portal to everything a burgeoning pastry expert needs. It houses more than 170 baking video lessons, articles, a glossary, and courses on bread making, classic pastries, and cake decorating. The platform is available for $25 a month, or $200 for a year.
I grew up believing my parents had eyes in the back of their heads, but, sadly, I didn’t immediately sprout an extra pair of eyes after donning the title of mother. Video baby monitors are the next best thing. While there’s no substitute for being in the room with the baby, these monitors allow parents and guardians to to keep eyes and ears on the baby from another room.
A good video baby monitor answers questions that a simple audio monitor cannot, like, When did the baby fall asleep? Just 10 years ago, these monitors were clunky gadgets that played constant audio and offered a pixelated picture of the crib. Now they can send a detailed sleep analysis to your smartphone, play white noise, and even track breathing.
Keep in mind: Some of those features of smart monitors may not be as great as they seem. The AAP and pediatricians we spoke to emphasized there is no evidence that smart monitors prevent incidences of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Read more about smart monitors, sleep safety, and what our experts had to say at the end of our guide.
While features vary by model, video monitors typically come equipped with a night mode to see the room in the dark, a thermometer to measure the temperature in the room, and two-way audio to talk to the baby (or tell the toddler to get back in bed). Some baby monitors are fixed in place, while others have cameras that can be controlled remotely to pan around the room. With smart baby monitors, the list of potential features is even longer.
I tested nine of the top-ranked video baby monitors with my now 1-year-old. Each monitor that made the top of our list was tested for at least one month, including naps and nighttime snoozes.
With excellent picture and sound, the Vava is an affordable video baby monitor that has everything you need.
Pros: Clear video and audio, easy setup, remote panning and tilt, affordable
Cons: No VOX
Although the Vava lacks the fancy features of a smart monitor, it’s easy to use and offers clear audio and video, with a few extras including two-way audio.
Most standalone video baby monitors use a low-resolution fixed camera that doesn’t show the finer details, but the Vava’s video quality is so good that I could often see my son’s chest rise and fall as he slept. The handheld unit’s 5-inch screen is what really allows you to see the detail picked up by the Vava’s 720p resolution camera. The monitor’s night vision is also better quality than other units I tested.
With the controls on the parent unit, the Vava can be turned 270 degrees and tilt up or down 108 degrees, offering a view of almost the entire nursery except. The remote pan and tilt are preferable to using a wider lens because you can get a closer look at the baby while still being able to see if, say, a pet is accidentally locked in the nursery.
The Vava’s solid video quality is also paired with excellent audio. There’s no voice-activated alert (VOX) option, but the volume settings are varied enough that the fan in my baby’s nursery, while slightly audible, wasn’t annoying.
The 900-feet range didn’t once drop a connection in my house or even when I went out to the porch. Because the Vava doesn’t use Wi-Fi, hacking risk is low. The parent unit battery lasted for two daytime naps before needing a charge.
There are a few features that I would have liked to see, such as VOX, but the Vava had better video and audio quality than similarly priced monitors. Smart monitors like the Nanit and Miku offer more features and budget monitors like the VTech, a better price. But, ultimately, the Vava checks all the must-haves without a high price tag, making it our top pick.
The best smart video baby monitor
The Nanit Plusvideo baby monitor offers excellent video and audio, along with extras like sleep tips.
Pros: Sleep tracking and tips, contactless breathing monitor, quick alerts, reliable app, good video and audio quality, two-factor authentication
Cons: Pricey, sleep insights require subscription after first year
Many smart monitors deliver late alerts or poor audio, but the Nanit Plus doesn’t skimp on the basics in order to deliver the smart features.
The monitor’s audio was free of white noise, and I could turn the volume down enough not to hear the fan in my son’s room but still hear his cries. Picture quality is excellent, even for the night camera.
The Nanit was the most reliable smart monitor that I tested. It never crashed while livestreaming, though it can run few seconds behind depending on internet speeds. The one time the app stopped working (while using push notifications, not the livestream), it alerted me. For added security, it offers two-factor authentication, which Nanit says is continually audited for security compliance.
Unlike many breathing monitors, the Nanit Plus also doesn’t require extra devices. With a patterned fabric band, swaddle, or sleep sack, the camera detects pixel-level changes in that pattern to monitor the rise and fall of the baby’s chest. Even without the wearable, the monitor can still recognize movement to track sleep. False alarms can cause unnecessary worry, but I didn’t experience any.
The app’s interface is easy to navigate. It charts sleep times, duration, and time it takes to fall asleep. Using that data, Nanit Insights offers personalized sleep tips developed by a certified infant sleep coach. I shared these tips with Dr. Fern Hauck, professor of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences at the University of Virginia, who said they provided reasonable advice about establishing sleep patterns. However, these tips can also be found in inexpensive parenting books and are not the solution to every sleep problem.
Outside of the downsides of app-based monitors, like quickly depleting the smartphone battery, I have very few complaints. One minor inconvenience is that you need to go into the app and start a session in order to monitor breathing.
The Nanit Plus is one of the pricier smart baby monitors, although the wall mount option is less expensive than the floor stand. Insights also requires a paid subscription after the first year. Still, it’s $100 less than options like the Owlet and Miku.
Smart monitors are not for every family. Solid-performing, less expensive audio and video monitors are available, and breathing tracking isn’t studied for SIDs prevention (read more about this at the end of the guide). But, out of all the Wi-Fi connected monitors that I tried, the Nanit Plus delivered the best experience with the most reliability.
The best wearable-free smart baby monitor
The Miku accurately tracks breathing and sleep patterns without any wearables.
Pros: Sleep tracking, contactless breathing sensor, simple to use, plays lullabies or white noise, reliable app
Cons: Slow push notifications, white noise during livestreaming
With a radio-wave sensor built into the camera, the Miku tracks sleep and creates a color-coded chart that illustrates how well the baby slept. The well-designed app tracks data such as how long it took for the baby to fall asleep, sleep quality, and average bedtime, which may be helpful for new parents establishing a routine.
This monitor narrowly missed beating out the Nanit, largely because the audio had constant white noise detectable even at the lowest volume. (Audio performance could possibly differ based on the smartphone you are using — I tested using an iPhone 7.) The notifications were too slow to be a suitable substitute. However, if you’re looking for easy sleep tracking without any form of wearables, the Miku is a great option.
The app never crashed during testing and it can send push notifications that the baby has woken up. In order to avoid false alarms simply because the baby rolled over, there’s an intentional delay on those alerts. Unfortunately, the alerts are also delayed for cries. For that reason, I preferred streaming the audio.
Video is also easy to review with an option to watch the feed from any time the app detected motion or noise. The Miku also has a built-in sound machine — you can play white noise or lullabies and control them from the app.
Simple setup requires pressing a physical button to start a new connection, which feels a bit more secure. The Miku also has a built-in crypto security chip and includes features like two-way authentication.
Like with the Nanit, smart monitors are not a necessity. For some families, tracking breathing can lead to more worry and distraction. The AAP cautions parents that breathing monitors have not been studied for reducing SIDs. But, for families that want that extra tracking, the Miku offers those added features without the need to attach anything to the baby.
The best budget video baby monitor
The VTech RM5754 video monitor proves you don’t need to spend a lot to keep an eye on the baby, from anywhere.
Pros: Parent unit and Wi-Fi app, affordable, movement alerts
Cons: Lower night-camera quality, buggy app
The VTech RM5754 is a good monitor for those on a budget. It is unique because it’s a standalone monitor that also offers app access via Wi-Fi and VOX so you don’t have to listen to annoying background noise. The parent unit is the most convenient way to monitor, but the app allows you to watch the baby from anywhere.
The camera has a higher 1080p resolution and the parent unit a large 5-inch screen. The 100-degree wide-angle lens means you can see much of the nursery, but it doesn’t provide the close-up detail of some of the other monitors. While the night vision camera is low quality, it’s enough to see.
Audio isn’t the greatest. There were some audible static noises from both the parent unit and the app, but turning on VOX — my favorite feature — meant I only heard the static when there were loud noises in the room. The feature wasn’t explained in the user manual and is hiding in the menu, so it takes some tinkering to set up.
The VTech monitor also provides movement alerts, something uncommon with standalone monitors. From the parent unit, you can play white noise or lullabies through the monitor and turn on the night-light.
The app performance is inconsistent — it kept crashing on my iPhone 7, but ran much smoother after I updated my phone. The static is worse on the app and VOX isn’t available on a mobile device.
While I preferred the Vava’s better picture quality and sound, the VTech costs less and includes app access and VOX. This makes it a decent option for caregivers on a limited budget or families who can’t decide between a standalone camera and a Wi-Fi enabled one.
Our testing methodology
I tested nine video baby monitors over the course of several months with my now 1-year-old. The top picks were tested for at least one month. During that time, I evaluated the following features.
Audio quality: Parents will listen for a baby’s cries more often than watching the video screen, which means audio quality is still a major consideration. I listened for annoyances like static and white noise, as well as how sensitive the microphone was to both soft sounds and loud noises.
Video quality: Baby monitors don’t need cinematic 4K, but I looked for footage that was detailed enough to tell if the baby’s eyes were open or closed. Ultimately, I wanted a monitor that would cover the entire crib while still showing enough detail to see if the baby is awake or simply rolling over in their sleep.
Smart monitoring: For smart monitors, I also used the breathing tracking and sleep tracking. Thankfully, I never experienced what happens when a baby stops breathing. I did, however, research what I could into how the alarms work (including this Nanit and Miku comparison from Dad Verb using a robotic baby). I also noted any false alarms and eliminated options that caused more worry than it prevented. As noted throughout this guide, APA does not endorse breathing monitors for infants. Studies have not shown whether or not the devices have any effect on reducing SIDs.
Connectivity, battery life, and overall usability: Throughout my testing, I noted any app crashes and difficult setups. For Wi-Fi based monitors, I noted the battery life and range of the parent unit, including taking the unit outside. For smart monitors, I considered how simple the app was to use and whether or not the extra smart features were actually helpful.
What else we considered
Levana Mila: The Mila would be one of my top picks, except it’s not available yet. Originally expected out in June 2020, its release is now delayed indefinitely. I was impressed by its mode that turns the screen and audio off when no noise is detected in the room, which preserves battery life. The same mode also works with two cameras to display footage from the room when noise is detected.
Pampers Lumi: In addition to monitoring sleep, the Lumi uses a sensor on the baby’s diaper to track wet diapers, though it’s not recommended to wake a baby just to change a diaper. It simply wasn’t the best because anytime the sensor stops moving, the Lumi labels it a nap. The camera’s wide-angle fish-eye lens makes it difficult to see details, and audio is inconsistent across devices — on my iPhone, it generated constant white noise, but the iPad app didn’t have that issue.
Angel Care 3-in-1 AC337: This unique standalone monitor uses a sensor placed under the mattress to monitor breathing. To make sure an alarm is heard even if the parent unit has a dead battery, the alarm also sounds in the nursery so false alarms could wake the baby. I got a few false alarms and stopped using the breathing pad because I was worried about waking the baby up with those false alarms. The camera lens also isn’t a wide enough angle.
Cubo A.I. Baby Monitor: The Cubo uses facial recognition to alert you if the baby’s face is covered by a blanket or if the baby rolled over, while “detection zones” alert you if the baby enters a preset area. While this feature worked great, when I followed safe sleep tips, I just got notifications for rolling over and placing a hand over his face. The Cubo did have one feature I wish the other smart monitors had — push notifications are a chirping sound instead of the default, which means you know it’s a baby monitor alert and not an alert from any other app.
Owlet Smart Baby Monitor Duo: Unlike the Miku and Nanit, the Owlet Smart Sock tracks oxygen levels and heart rate — neither of which are recommended by the AAP. It doesn’t, however, track sleep data or send push notifications when noise or movement is detected. The smart sock is difficult to put on, and I don’t like placing electronics directly on my baby’s skin. I also had to try three different socks before getting one to work properly, suggesting some quality control issues. But, for what it’s worth, excellent customer service.
Standalone vs. smart baby monitors
Video baby monitors used to be simply a camera that allowed you to see and hear your baby, but the tech now falls into two major categories.
Stand-alone baby monitors are the traditional monitors that come with everything you need in the box. These monitors have both a camera and a parent unit with a screen that displays video.
Smart baby monitors come with only a camera; the rest is done via an app on a smartphone or tablet, connected via Wi-Fi. Because these app-based baby monitors are essentially running on a mini-computer (the smartphone), this type can include a lot of features that standalone monitors lack. Smart monitors can track sleep patterns, send push notifications for sound and movement, and some even track breathing.
With the Wi-Fi connection, smart monitors are never “out of range” like a traditional monitor. That means you can check in on the baby while you are out and the baby is with another caregiver, or you can work outside in a big yard and still use the monitor.
The downside is that these monitors rely on an internet connection. If your home internet is slow, the video will lag behind and occasionally freeze up, and when the internet is out, so is the baby monitor. App-based monitors can also fail if the app freezes. If that happens overnight, parents could potentially miss baby’s cries. Smart monitors will also drain your smartphone battery faster and granting access to the app to a babysitter can be a hassle.
Safety considerations for smart baby monitors
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not endorse breathing monitors for infants because studies have not shown whether or not the devices have any effect on reducing SIDs. “There are no data that other commercial devices that are designed to monitor infant vital signs reduce the risk of SIDs,” the AAP states. Every smart monitor that I tested came with a legal disclaimer that the monitor is not a medical device for preventing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). While we like features like sleep tracking, we don’t recommend buying a smart monitor exclusively for the sleep tracking. It’s unproven and often adds another item to the already too long to-do list.
Dr. Justin Smith, a pediatrician and the medical advisor for digital health at Cook Children’s in Trophy Club, Texas, told Insider Reviews: “There is no evidence that wearing a monitor will prevent or allow a parent to act in order to prevent SIDS. Parents should assess whether using a monitor would give them peace of mind or cause them stress and anxiety. False alarms are common and can lead parents to seek medical care for normal babies.” He emphasized that parents should adhere to safe sleep practices above all.
Dr. Fern Hauck, a family medicine doctor and University of Virginia professor that focuses much of her research on SIDS, echoed similar thoughts. “Some parents may feel more comforted by the home monitor and, at other times, monitors cause distress because of false alarms,” she said. “As a safe sleep expert, the bottom line is that we don’t have evidence that these monitor’s prevent infant death. There may be more evidence in the future.”
While our medical experts stressed that there is no evidence that monitoring breathing at home reduces the risk of SIDs, both pediatricians noted that parents that find more peace of mind from a smart monitor can choose to do so with a few safety guidelines in place. A smart monitor should never be an excuse not to follow safe sleep practices — for example, just because a monitor is watching the baby breathe doesn’t mean it’s okay to load the crib up with loose blankets, bumpers, and stuffed animals. Infants should be placed on their backs on a flat, firm sleep surface with no loose bedding. Hauck also cautions against moving the baby to their own room before the AAP recommended 6 to 12 months, even with a smart monitor.
Parents should also ensure the monitor itself doesn’t pose a hazard. Wearable sensors can also pose a choking hazard if a sensor becomes loose or comes off, according to Smith. “In addition, any sensor with a cord could cause strangulation. Battery-powered devices could cause skin sensitivity or a burn injury if it malfunctions,” he said. Monitors placed over the crib could be safer if the device isn’t able to be pulled into the crib or can’t fall off.
Because the last thing new parents need is to spend money on a device that will make them more anxious, we quickly eliminated the options that sent a lot of false alarms during testing. The Nanit Plus ended up being my favorite smart monitor because I still loved it even after discontinuing use of the breathing band. It has excellent features worth paying a little more for, like sleep tracking and clear audio and video. Parents, however, shouldn’t feel like they have to spend so much on a monitor to keep the baby safe because there’s no evidence that smart monitors are actually safer.
How does AI Sleep Monitoring work, and is it worth it?
Both the Nanit and Miku monitor the baby’s sleep, offering stats like how long the baby slept and when. The Nanit goes a little bit further and adds sleep tips, delivered once a week based on the infant’s sleep data.
Those tips are developed from a certified infant sleep coach, according to Nanit. The AI determines which tips to send based on the sleep data and the baby’s age, but the tips themselves were written by actual baby sleep experts. Essentially, using Nanit is like having someone tell you which chapters of the baby sleep book to read first for your particular baby.
The tips that Nanit Insights sent during my testing were similar to what I’ve read about establishing healthy sleep habits, such as a consistent bedtime. I shared Nanit’s tips with Dr. Fern Hauck, professor of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences at the University of Virginia, they provided reasonable advice about establishing sleep patterns.
You can find similar tips in a $15 baby book without spending $300 on a baby monitor. But, if you need to buy a monitor and prefer one that is Wi-Fi-based, having sleep tips tailored to your baby’s age and sleep habits is a nice extra. Don’t impulse buy the Nanit Plus at 2 a.m. while holding a wide-awake baby out of desperation, though.
Baby monitor security
Wi-Fi enabled monitors have another downfall: As with any Internet of Things (IoT) device, they are susceptible to hacking.
According to Deral Heiland, the IoT research lead for cybersecurity management company Rapid7, there’s no actual internet connection to hack into with a stand-alone monitor, and any hacker would have to be within range of the camera. Radio monitors don’t have the same encryption measures, but a hacker would still need to be within a few hundred feet of the monitor.
Wi-Fi based monitors have more risks, but they can be mitigated through a few best security practices, Heiland told Insider Reviews.
“Just like any camera-based technology, there’s some risk, but there are ways to mitigate that risk,” he said. “Most of the risk on camera-based technology is password reuse. Don’t reuse passwords. Don’t use the baby’s name, a phone number, or a home address, or anything that people can easily guess. Create a complex password that is not used on other accounts.”
If you choose a smart monitor, Heiland recommends looking for one that offers two-factor authentication, which requires a code to be sent to your phone anytime a new device tries to log in. The home Wi-Fi network should also have a hard-to-guess password that’s a series of random letters and numbers rather than a known phrase.
Brand matters, too. A well-known brand will quickly patch up any vulnerabilities to maintain its brand reputation. Off-label brands sometimes have known vulnerabilities that are never patched.
But a total lack of vulnerabilities isn’t necessarily a good sign. All technology has vulnerabilities, Heiland said, so with any IoT device, choose a company that has patched security issues before and provides a place to report them.
Unlike hacking into credit card data, there’s no monetary gain to hacking a baby monitor (unless your monitor has a paid subscription) — the outcome is just shock and fear. While you can find stories dotting the internet about baby monitors being hacked, Heiland said that in almost every case, it was a simple target of opportunity with a weak or default password.
Buying a cookware set can be overwhelming because of the sheer volume of brands, materials, and types of included pieces. While stainless steel, copper, and traditional nonstick are the most popular options for cookware sets and each have their benefits, another lesser-known cookware material can offer some of the best value: hard-anodized aluminum. According to Fran Groesbeck, managing director at the Cookware Manufacturer’s Association, hard-anodized cookware is known for its strength, durability, and even heating.
Raw aluminum is inexpensive and offers excellent conductivity for cooking, but it’s prone to discoloration and scratching. Hard-anodized aluminum has undergone a chemical process to oxidize the cooking surface of the pan so it’s more durable, nonstick, and doesn’t discolor the food. While hard-anodized cookware is plenty nonstick in its own right, many hard-anodized pieces have additional nonstick coatings. For more information on the technical aspects of the material, see our FAQs.
While durability, cooking, and ease of use and cleaning were top of mind when making our selections, we also looked for sets with useful pieces and no superfluous items. The most important pieces in any cookware set are a stockpot or Dutch oven, a 12-inch skillet, and a 4-quart saucepan, all with lids (it’s worth noting that cookware manufacturer’s consider lids as separate “pieces” when listing the number of pieces in a set). We used this blueprint to narrow down the choices in this guide. If you’re looking for a specific piece, consider purchasing individual items, as a large cookware set is likely to have more than you need.
We think hard-anodized cookware sets are a great option for folks who want to outfit their kitchen on a budget, and are looking for a set that is easy to cook with, care for, and maintain. Below we’ve outlined our top picks for hard-anodized sets.
Here are the best hard-anodized cookware sets in 2021
The GreenPan Valencia Pro set is our top pick because it features 11 basic cookware pieces that have safe ceramic nonstick coatings and are oven-safe to 600 degrees Fahrenheit, all for about $200.
Pros: Oven-safe to 600 degrees F, metal utensil safe, durable ceramic nonstick coating, lots of useful pieces, both PTFE- and PFOA-free
Cons: No 12-inch skillet (though sauté pan can be used in its place)
With seven pans and four lids, the Valencia Pro has everything you need to switch between stovetop and oven cooking. The hard-anodized bodies and stainless steel handles are durable, scratch resistant, and oven-safe up to 600 degrees F. The glass lids allow you to see what you’re cooking without releasing steam or heat (but keep in mind that the lids are only oven-safe to 425 degrees F). The casserole dish is just a Dutch oven by another name.
GreenPan uses a ceramic nonstick coating derived from sand particles, which is as durable and effective as traditional coatings, but free from PTFE, PFOA, and lead. The Valencia Pro set is also dishwasher and metal utensil safe for easier clean up and better durability.
Best hard-anodized cookware set on a budget
The Rachael Ray Cucina set features dishwasher safe and durable cookware basics, making it an ideal set for starting fresh in the kitchen on a budget.
Pros: Dishwasher safe, comes in three different cookware colors, large variety of pot and pan types
Cons: Only oven-safe to 400 degrees F, no large frying pan, saucepans are a bit on the small side
The Rachael Ray Cucina Hard-Anodized Set offers valuable basics in materials known for durability. The hard-anodized aluminum exterior is scratch-resistant, and the tempered glass lids are bordered by a stainless steel rim. The nonstick interior is PFOA free, but not metal utensil safe.
Instead of a third saucepan or skillet, the set includes a 3-quart sauté pan as a piece with more volume and versatility. The serving utensils (a slotted spoon and spatula) are a great addition for a starter cookware set. You can choose from three colors for the serving utensils and the silicone grips that wrap around stainless steel handles.
Best high-end hard-anodized cookware set
The Thermo-Clad cookware set features details that make cooking easier, from the heat-encapsulating stainless steel lids to the metal utensil safe nonstick coating.
Pros: Induction compatible, heat-sealing lids, includes a large stockpot
Cons: Fewer pieces than less expensive sets, no large skillet
Instead of glass, this set features stainless steel lids with double wall insulation to keep food warm. While this means you can’t see the food while it’s cooking, it’s useful for making items ahead of time and keeping food warm for serving. The entire set is oven-safe to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Thermo-Clad line features a tri-ply stainless steel base, designed to limit hot spots by covering the bottom of the pan edge to edge. The nonstick coating is metal utensil safe, though the brand recommends avoiding abrasive cleaners like steel wool. The unique item in this set is the 6-quart “essential pan,” which is nearly identical in design to a traditional saucier. With a wide base and high, rounded sides, this pan is great for one pot meals.
Best space-saving hard-anodized cookware set
The Calphalon Stackable Set includes every necessary piece to start a cookware collection and it all stacks neatly for easy storage in small kitchens.
Pros: Stacks compactly for storage, lids fit on multiple pieces
Cons: No large skillet, only oven-safe to 400 degrees F, not safe for metal utensils
This set is organized by diameter, so that all 8-inch wide pieces fit in a stack that can nest within the 10-inch wide stack. Interlocking plates on the pans’ outside edges stabilize the stacks. Because of the common diameters, the lids are interchangeable among pieces.
Silicone grips keep the handles cool to the touch, but limit the oven-safe temperature to 400 degrees F. The nonstick interior is also not safe for metal utensils. The highlight of this set is a stackable Dutch oven, giving you the versatility of the piece without taking up too much space.
Best hard-anodized cookware set for induction
The Ninja Foodi NeverStick cookware set works on all range types, including induction, and is constructed for maximum durability and heat retention with heavy-gauge aluminum and a stainless steel base.
Pros: Proprietary nonstick coating, metal utensil safe, induction compatible
Cons: No large skillet (though sauté pan can perform similar functions)
Ninja’s NeverStick technology is based on heating the particles used in the nonstick coating to higher temperatures than other brands do for their coatings. This promises a more durable nonstick surface that isn’t prone to chipping or flaking and is metal utensil safe.
The NeverStick line is available in a hard-anodized set that comes with 10 pieces and can be used on all range types, including induction. Though it lacks a large skillet, it comes with a generously-sized stockpot for making soups, stews, and one pot meals. The pieces are also safe to 500 degrees F for easy transition from stovetop to oven.
We identified the best hard-anodized cookware sets through research, an interview with Fran Groesbeck, managing director at the Cookware Manufacturer’s Association, and our own extensive experience with cookware. We developed baseline criteria, such as necessary pieces and safety requirements, and evaluated sets based on these elements and other factors like value for price. We plan on testing these sets in the future and updating this guide accordingly.
What is hard-anodized aluminum?
Aluminum is a common material used in bakeware and cookware because it’s lightweight and has great heat conductivity. The main issue with aluminum is that it will oxidize when exposed to acidic food, leaving dark marks on the surface that can transfer to light colored foods. To prevent this, most modern aluminum pans are coated in a ceramic layer or “anodized,” an electrochemical process that uses controlled oxidation to create a protective layer.
The unique element of this process is that the anodized layer isn’t applied to the surface, but created out of the molecules within the metal. Therefore, the anodized protective layer cannot chip or peel off. It can wear down, but if cared for properly, it lasts longer than applied coatings. “Hard-anodized aluminum is naturally stick resistant, and it is resistant to scratches and food odors,” said Groesbeck.
What utensils are safe to use on hard-anodized cookware?
The hard-anodized layer isn’t a coating, so a hard-anodized pan can be used with any material utensil. However, nonstick coatings are often applied to hard-anodized cookware, so we recommend checking the information provided by the manufacturer before using metal utensils. Single or double layer nonstick coatings can be scratched by metal utensils.
Can hard-anodized cookware be used on induction stovetops?
This depends on the set and will be listed in the manufacturer’s description of the product. Cookware must have magnetic properties to work on induction stovetops, and aluminum is a non-magnetic metal, Groesbeck said. Therefore, a magnetic plate must be applied to the base of aluminum cookware in order to be induction safe. This is why not every hard-anodized aluminum set is induction compatible.
Can hard-anodized cookware go in the oven?
While you should always consult the manufacturer’s instructions, most hard-anodized cookware is oven-safe to some degree. The exact oven-safe temperature will be listed by the manufacturer on the packaging. The lids may have a different oven-safe temperature depending on the material.
Is hard-anodized cookware dishwasher safe?
Consult the manufacturer’s instructions on using the dishwasher or hand-washing your cookware. If the cookware has a nonstick coating, it is always recommended to use non-abrasive cleaners and avoid steel wool or other harsh sponges.
PFOA and PTFE
The acronyms PFOA and PTFE are everywhere in cookware descriptions. Here’s what you need to know about each:
PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, was used in the production of PTFE since Teflon was invented in the 1970s. In the manufacturing process, most of the PFOA burns off and only trace elements remain in the cookware. These elements are then only released if the cookware is overheated to temperatures of 570 degrees F. However, since 2010, the EPA has put programs and regulations in place to phase out the use of PFOAs in American manufacturing. The majority of cookware made in the United States since 2015 is PFOA-free, and so are all of our top picks.
International standards are not the same as American ones, so PFOA may still be used in products from other countries.
But the piece of equipment is actually really easy to get the hang of, and the odd shape of a kettlebell allows for a more dynamic range of movement than you get with a traditional dumbbell. Thus, kettlebells are used not only for strength training but also for cardio work, flexibility and balance training, and to target multiple muscle groups at once. Kettlebells are incredibly diverse, but they also open the door for challenging moves you can’t otherwise do – like a kettlebell swing – and add another layer of challenge to tried-and-true exercises like goblet squats.
Kettlebells have a lot of advantages and they almost always level up the fun of a workout. But they shouldn’t be treated as toys which is why it’s important to learn proper form for every move. At the end of this guide, I’ve also included answers to a few FAQs to better help you understand the kind of kettlebells you should shop for and how much weight to look for.
Whether your fitness goal is to build muscle strength, improve your cardiorespiratory fitness, or continue to challenge your body in new and exciting ways, one single bell can help you achieve any of these.
Pros: Protective vinyl coating, easy-to-use color coding for different weights, decent price point
Cons: Maximum weight too low for some athletes
It only takes smashing a cast-iron kettlebell into the side of your knee one time to help you understand that features like a softer vinyl coating is really nice to have on your kettlebell.
“I’ve used Everlast kettlebells for years,” Cincotta told Insider. “When the bell itself is coated like this, as opposed to metal-based, you’re able to do much more with the bell without accidentally tearing up your body.”
If you’re buying more than one, it’s nice that the Everlast’s Vinyl Dipped Kettlebells have bright colorings to mark different weights, so you’re at less risk of grabbing the wrong weight for a given exercise. The kettlebells are also available in increments between five and 35 pounds.
Whether used for suitcase squats, lunges, presses, or core training, these are reliable kettlebells from a company with more than 110 years of history in the fitness gear arena.
The best kettlebell for interval training
TRX Training Kettlebells have lightly textured handles that allow for a secure grip and easy transitions, ideal for use during high-intensity exercise.
Pros: Textured handles for secure grip; multiple weights offered; broad, flat base adds stability
If you’re a fan of HIIT exercise (high-intensity interval training), you’ll love these kettlebells that are perfectly suited to fast, highly specific motions. Their textured grips ensure you keep a steady grasp even when you’re sweaty, moving fast, and rapidly switching between various different exercises.
TRX offers kettlebells from four kilograms (8.8 pounds) all the way up to 40 kg (88 pounds) with moderate increases between each option. That means you can choose the exact amount of weight to suit your body for any given exercise. (Find out more in how to choose the right weight kettlebell.)
These bells also have a broader, more flat base compared to competitors. That extra flattened surface area makes these kettlebells more stable when you set them down fast, like during HIIT workouts.
One significant drawback is the price, however — these aren’t cheap.
Pros: Six weights in one, affordable compared to buying all six weights, easy to adjust
Cons: Expensive up front; handle is less ergonomic than others; bulky, especially for use at lighter weight
Yes, $149 is a lot to pay for a kettlebell. But with the Bowflex SelectTech 840, you’re actually getting six kettlebells in one, which turns this into quite the deal.
The 840 gets its name from its lowest and highest weights, which are eight pounds and 40 pounds, respectively. In between those low and high options, you get 12-, 20-, 25-, and 35-pound increments, a good spread for people of varying strength and for a single person’s use at varied exercises.
Switching between weights is quick and easy, too. You simply turn a dial and lift up on the handle, and the extra weight is left sitting there on the ground. Beyond the ease of use during active exercise, you’ll also appreciate what is effectively six kettlebells only occupying the space of one.
The benefits of this design are clear, but there are a few drawbacks — the largest of which is that kettlebell is less ergonomic than a standard option. The handle is slimmer and doesn’t have the flared shape of most kettlebells, and the overall unit is larger than solid options, which might make some exercises harder to execute properly.
With a few reps, you should get used to the shape, though, and the value far outweighs the cons.
The best budget kettlebell
AmazonBasics Vinyl Kettlebell has many features of other brands like a gentler vinyl coating and range of weight choices, but you’ll pay a few bucks less.
Pros: Great price point, good spread of weight increments, colorful, vinyl coatings
Cons: Grips often have minor imperfections
There’s plenty of positive things to say about the kettlebells from AmazonBasics. They’re coated in a thick vinyl that protects your skin and helps minimize the chance of scuffing the floor or scratching a piece of furniture; they come in a wide range of weights, starting at 10 pounds and reaching all the way up to 60, with 11 increments along the way; and their colorful coatings make it easy to tell one weight from another.
That description fits just about any decent set of kettlebells. What sets these apart from the pack is that they cost on average 15% less than its competitors — and you can use your free Prime shipping for delivery.
For that reduced price, you can expect a slight reduction in quality. Many of the kettlebells sold under the AmazonBasics banner have minor imperfections in the handles such as irregular bumps or little holes.
These flaws shouldn’t be deal-breakers unless you have sensitive hands, for which you can also work out with gloves on.
The best soft-sided kettlebell
The Bionic Body Soft Kettlebell is plenty heavy but soft-to-the-touch, so you won’t break a toe or crack a tile if you accidentally drop one.
Pros: Safer for flooring and injury, decent price point for a unique product
Cons: Leather exterior damages more easily than standard kettlebell
If you work out often enough, at some point you are going to have an accident. Dropping weights is a fact of life, and it’s why gyms have padded floors. If you’re working out on the hardwood or tile floors of your own home, that dropped weight might lead to an unexpected and unpleasant home repair project — or, potentially, an ER trip to fix a broken toe.
Working out with a soft-sided kettlebell solves this. Bionic Body’s Soft Kettlebells come in a decent range of weights, spanning 10 to 35 pounds, and they’re durable and solid-feeling in your hands.
There’s no sacrifice of function in the name of making them soft-sided, and you won’t even pay that much more for these kettlebells than you would for standard iron or vinyl-coated weights.
The leather wraps around the weights won’t chafe or irritate your skin, so these kettlebells make for more comfort. But with them being leather, the exterior can get scuffed and torn in a way a solid kettlebell can’t, so you do need to treat these with a bit more care than with other options.
What else we considered
Many brands offer their own version of the kettlebell incredibly similar to one another, so there’s little reason to look much beyond the list we put together. There are, however, a few specialty options and accessories worth your consideration:
Meister MMA Elite Portable Sand Kettlebell ($13): This option is made from rugged PVC that can be filled with sand to create a functional kettlebell. Empty, the sack packs down flat for easy storage or travel. Filled and with the neoprene handle wrapped into place, this portable kettlebell lets you knock out snatches, standing rows, and more anywhere you go — so long as you can find sand. And for under $15, you can’t beat it.
Kettle Gryp ($35): The Kettle Gryp is a one-pound plastic grip that affixes to any dumbbell with a grip wider than 4.5 inches and converts dumbbells into kettlebells. So that stack of free weights you have there in your garage? Every one of those could be used just like a kettlebell.
Before you start swinging your new kettlebells around wildly, make sure you take some time to learn how to properly execute the exercises for which they are so helpful when used correctly.
“When you’re using kettlebells, safety is the first thing,” R.J. Cincotta, director of fitness with Orangetheory Fitness Long Island, told Insider. “Many people just start swinging them around and don’t focus on form. There’s such a dynamic difference using them [compared to other weights] that you really need to learn form, first. And you don’t want to go too heavy too quickly; that’s a very easy way to get injured.”
With that advice in mind, we tested a variety of kettlebells from brands like Everlast, TRX, and Bowflex to find the best currently available. So, no matter if you’re just looking for a set to round out your home gym or want to kick your weekly fitness routine up a few notches, there’s a set of kettlebells perfect for you.
What weight of kettlebell should I buy?
The problem with buying a single piece of strength equipment like a set of dumbbells or a kettlebell is that different moves call for different resistance amounts. One of the main selling points of a kettlebell is that it’s such a diverse piece of equipment, but to really maximize its use, you want to choose the single weight that will deliver the most bang for your buck.
When thinking about what weight will be most useful, it’s better to go a little heavier, San Diego-based trainer Pete McCall, CSCS, host of the All About Fitness podcast, told Insider. “Kettlebells are often used for exercises like swings and goblet squats, and for these lower body movements, heavier is better,” he says.
What’s more a heavier kettlebell actually forces you to use better form and technique. “Going too light could lead to “cheating” during the lift which, in turn, could result in injury,” he said. (We know — it’s the rare instance the injury risk is in going too light instead of too heavy).
If you’re going light, McCall also advises looking for a competition-style kettlebell. “With traditional kettlebells, as the weight gets lighter, the handle gets smaller,” he explained.
But competition-style bells have more room between the bell and the handle, which can be a lot easier to grip, especially for those not used to the equipment.
What kind of workouts can you use a kettlebell for?
R.J. Cincotta provided some professional perspective on the importance of kettlebells, and although most Orangetheory gyms don’t use kettlebells, he was able to speak to Insider based on his own extensive fitness experience.
“Kettlebells are best used for power movements,” Cincotta said. “You’re going to use them for squats and swings, and you’ll use them for a lot of single-sided exercises often referred to as asymmetrical movements. You can even use kettlebells for stability work as well.”
What makes a kettlebell harder to use than a dumbbell lies in its shape, which puts the weight several inches away from your hand. This means you’ll need to activate more of your muscles as you stabilize the weight. With a kettlebell, every single-handed exercise like curls, shoulder presses, snatches, and so on is that much more productive.
And for two-handed exercises like goblet squats, the grip shape means added stability so you can focus on your form, as well as your core, glutes, quads, and other muscles.
Is there a significant injury risk with buying a kettlebell that’s too heavy?
The answer to this is both yes and no. Using a heavier kettlebell will lead to more results because you’ll have to work harder to move it and therefore use more muscle. Keep in mind however, that “heavier” is entirely relative. As Cincotta mentioned (and any trainer will tell you), a weight above your strength level is the fast track to injury.
Generally, the best way to choose a weight is to borrow a friend’s or pop into your local sporting goods store and see what feels comfortable for moves like lunges and squats. But if you can’t do that, McCall offers some guidelines for what weight is good for most people:
If you don’t have a solid foundation of muscle mass already or experience using a kettlebell, aim for a 20- to 25-pound (12kg) kettlebell for a female, and a 30- to 35-pound (16kg) bell for a male.
For those experienced with a kettlebell (i.e., have been using one 1-2 times a week already), females should opt for a 30- to 45-pound (16 or 20kg) bell, males for 40- to 50-pound (20 to 24kg) kettlebell.
The best wireless chargers provide a convenient way to charge your phone without the hassle of plugging in.
I’ve tested more than 40 wireless chargers over the past few years to find the best ones.
Our guide highlights chargers in different categories and suits various budgets.
To put it simply: no one likes charging their phone. Whether you’re chatting on a video call, reading the news, or listening to music during a run, there’s nothing like the panic that comes with seeing your battery dip below 20%.
Wireless chargers are a great way to power up your phone easily without fumbling with a power cord. In the early days, wireless chargers only offered slow speeds, were hampered by competing compatibility standards, and required precise placement in order to work. But as support for wireless charging has spread, especially after it became standard across the iPhone lineup in 2017, the technology has improved rapidly.
As an early adopter and tech reporter with more than a decade of experience, I’ve tested more than 40 different wireless chargers over the years, so I’m well placed to recommend the best picks to serve different needs. Later on in this guide, we breakdown things you should consider when shopping for a wireless charger.
The Moshi Otto Q has a gray fabric design that looks good anywhere, it charges most phones at top speed, and it is sturdy.
Pros: Stylish look, non-slip, charges through cases
Cons: No adapter included, LED too bright for nightstand
With a smart design that combines style and function perfectly, the Moshi Otto Q is an excellent wireless charging pad. It supports fast wireless charging at up to 10W, which means it can charge up an iPhone and most Android phones at top speed.
Clever use of a metallic-looking silver plastic with a gray fabric cover helps this wireless charger stand out from the crowd in a good way. It looks at home on a wooden table, a nightstand, or a kitchen counter.
The silicone ring on top both cushions your phone and prevents it from sliding off the charger. There’s also a rubbery pad on the underside that prevents it from slipping, even if you bump the table or nightstand that it’s on. Moshi supplies a USB-C to USB-A cable that’s 3 feet long in the box, but the manufacturer does suggest that you will need an adapter rated at Quick Charge 2.0 (9V/2A) minimum to get the maximum speed from it. This one from RAVPower should work.
I’ve been using it with a Samsung Adaptive Fast Charger, and it has been happily charging up a variety of phones, including an iPhone X and a Pixel 4.
The Moshi Otto Q has foreign object detection, so if any metal gets in between it and the phone it’s charging, it just turns off. You’ll want to make sure any case you use is metal-free, but thickness isn’t an issue. Moshi says it can charge through cases up to 5mm thick, and I’ve tested it with a variety, including some fairly thick protective cases, without any issues. Simply plug the USB-C cable into the back and plug the USB-A end into an adapter and you’re set.
There’s a white LED at the front of the Moshi Otto Q that pulses gently while it’s charging and stays on when your phone is fully charged. Unfortunately, this light can be annoying in the bedroom when you’re trying to sleep, so the nightstand is not the best location for this wireless charger. I’ve placed mine on a side table in the dining room and it fits in nicely.
My whole family has been using the Moshi Otto Q for a couple of years now and it’s still going strong, so I can wholeheartedly recommend it. The lack of an adapter in the box is a bit disappointing, but the style and quality build justify the price tag. Moshi also offers a 10-year warranty.
The best fast-charging wireless charger
If you have a phone capable of charging at 15W or you want to future-proof, then the Anker PowerWave Alloy Pad is best for you.
Pros: Durable design, non-slip, long cable
Cons: No adapter included, LED too bright for nightstand
This compact metal puck blends into any room easily and feels built to last. It can fast charge most Qi-supporting Android phones and iPhones at the top speed they support, with four distinct charging modes designed to charge different smartphone models as quickly as possible.
Anker is more focused on function than style and this sturdy, solid, weighty wireless charging pad has a silicone pad on the top and a silicone ring on the bottom to prevent any slippage. Pop your phone on the center of this pad and it will stay in place, even if a call comes in and it begins to vibrate. The only slight annoyance of the silicone is that it attracts dust and hairs.
It comes with a relatively lengthy 5-foot cable, but you’ll need to provide your own power adapter. Cases are nothing to worry about because the Anker PowerWave Allow Pad can charge through cases up to 5mm thick. It also has safety features like temperature control and foreign object detection, and the alloy body helps it to stay cool in use.
The downside of the Anker PowerWave Alloy Pad, beyond the slightly dull design, is the presence of a blue LED at the front that lights up when it’s charging your phone. This light is likely to irritate you if you plan on using this wireless charger on the nightstand.
Pros: Supports portrait or landscape, 4-foot power cord and adapter included, non-slip
Cons: Doesn’t fast charge some phones, quite large
Sometimes wireless charging stands are better than pads because they allow you to prop your phone up, making it easy to see incoming notifications or to check the time. The downside with stands is that they can be a little unstable and easy to accidentally knock your phone off.
The Belkin Boost UP Wireless Charging Stand has a smart design with a circular charging pad and a wide frame that makes it extremely stable. It’s also capable of charging your phone while it’s propped in landscape or portrait orientation and it can deliver up to 10W.
The Belkin BOOST UP comes in black or white plastic and has a wide frame with non-slip rubber padding on the bottom edges and on the surfaces where you rest your phone. The design makes it easy to position your phone correctly so that it charges.
Many stands claim to offer charging in portrait or landscape, but in practice, it can be tricky to find the right spot in landscape. With the Belkin BOOST UP, the angled circular pad makes it easy, and I’ve found it works reliably with an iPhone X and Pixel 4.
Another advantage with the Belkin BOOST UP is that it comes with a cable and adapter. My version has a barrel connector and the cable is permanently attached to the adapter you plug into the wall. There is another version of this wireless charger that comes with a separate cable and adapter. Either way, it’s nice to have the correct adapter included.
It can charge through cases up to 3mm thick. There are also two pinprick LEDs in different positions, so that one is always visible whichever way you place your phone to charge. They light up white when charging and turn orange if there’s a problem, like keys or another metal object being stuck on the pad. It also has overheating protection built in for peace of mind.
If you have an iPhone, the Belkin BOOST UP can charge at the top speed of 7.5W, and it can hit 9W for Samsung phones, but for every other device, including Google’s Pixel phones it is capped at 5W. This isn’t a problem if you use it for overnight charging, and I think the light is small enough here that the Belkin BOOST UP is a good choice for the nightstand. It usually costs $50.
The best luxurious wireless charger
A classy aluminum body with suede padding makes the Bezalel Altair a great looking, sturdy wireless charging stand for your phone.
Pros: Looks great, very stable, charges through cases
Cons: No adapter included, expensive
If you want a wireless charger that’s solid and sturdy with good looks, whether there’s a phone on it or not, then the Bezalel Altair is worth considering. It can deliver up to 10W of power, so it will charge iPhones and many Android phones at their maximum wireless charging speed. Carved from a single piece of aluminum, it’s strong and it looks great.
There are two rubber pegs that stick out to prop your phone on, and there’s a white LED just beneath them. A suede pad, with a relatively subtle logo, allows you to rest your phone safely on the stand while it charges. A solid rubber base prevents it from sliding around on the desktop. Bezalel also provides a 3-foot, flat, non-tangle, USB-C to USB-A cable in the box. You’ll have to buy your own adapter and you’ll want one that’s rated at QC 2.0 or higher, like this one from RAVPower.
One of the nice things about the design is that you can prop your phone in landscape or portrait orientation, and it will charge. It’s also the perfect angle to have on your desk for face unlock and for video calls. I have it on my desk and use it with my Pixel 4 every day. It’s not capable of charging the Pixel at top speed, but the style and utility make up for that. If you’re ever in a rush and want to charge up via cable, the peg design allows easy access to the charging port on your phone, so you can prop your phone in portrait and plug in a charging cable.
It can charge through cases up to 5mm thick, but one downside here is that it doesn’t automatically detect foreign objects between the phone and charger and shut itself off like many wireless chargers do. Because it’s angled, this is less likely to be an issue than with a pad, but it’s worth noting.
Sadly, the white LED stays lit all the time when this charger is plugged in or charging, so it’s not suitable for the nightstand if light is going to bother you. I think this style is better suited to a desk anyway. If you like the look of it, you can expect to pay $65.
Pros: Clever multi-functional design, great for travel, compact
Cons: Expensive, bulky at outlet, power button required to turn on USB charging
The Fuse Chicken Universal All-in-One World Travel Charger makes it easy to charge your phone in a variety of ways while you travel. It’s a battery pack, a wireless charger, and a travel adapter all wrapped into one portable device that’s about the same size as a MacBook power adapter.
Set your phone down on the charger, and it acts like a quick-charging 10-watt wireless charger, but if you’re on the move, you can also plug in a cable to use it as a battery pack. The 6,700mAh battery inside the charger is enough to fully charge most phones, though you’ll find you can squeeze a little more from it if you plug in, rather than use the wireless charging function.
I was able to fully charge a Pixel 4 with change using the USB-C port. It can deliver up to 18W, which is enough to charge an iPhone or Pixel at top speed. As a wireless charger, you can expect a fair bit less, because wireless charging is less efficient. Luckily, you can see how much battery life is left in the internal battery by pressing the power button. The percentage remaining will display on the tiny LED screen.
When it comes time to plug in the charger and re-juice the internal battery, you can plug it right into a regular wall outlet. If you’re not in the US, and you happen to be traveling to the EU, UK, or Australia, Fuse Chicken has you covered with travel adapters for all those countries. Simply slide on the adapter you need, again, much like a MacBook power adapter. A small bag comes with the charger, so you have a place to safely store those adapters.
The USB-C port can also charge the battery up if you can’t plug it in for some reason. It is a bit bulky, which can sometimes be a problem with some outlets or power strips. There’s also a USB-A port that’s capable of delivering 12W, so you can plug your phone’s charging cable and juice up your device that way if you prefer. You can use both ports at the same time to charge multiple devices at once, should you need to.
Downsides include the fact that you can’t use the wireless charging function when it’s plugged in, because it plugs in vertically. You also must press the power button sometimes when plugging in a cable or it won’t start charging your device. Sadly, it can’t charge a USB-C laptop like the MacBook, but you can charge any phone, tablet, ereader, or accessories like headphones with it.
This travel friendly, all-in-one wireless charger is also very expensive. However, if you travel to those countries a lot, it’s worth it.
The best wireless charger for multiple phones
If you want to wirelessly charge up to three devices simultaneously, the clever Unravel Wireless Charger is the only one of its kind.
Pros: Clever fold-up design, wirelessly charges three devices at once, extra USB-C port
Cons: Expensive, looks a bit cheap
Whether Apple will ever revive its AirPower wireless charging mat, which was going to be capable of charging your iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods all at once, remains to be seen, but there are alternatives. The Unravel Wireless Charger offers three wireless charging pads linked together with hinges.
There are two versions of the Unravel; there’s the Unravel AW+ and the Unravel 3+1. The Unravel AW+ has two wireless charging pads that can deliver up to 10W for phones, AirPods, or another Qi device, and a third pad that’s specially designed to charge an Apple Watch. The AW+ is obviously ideal for Apple fans. The Unravel 3+1 has three wireless charging pads offering up to 10W each, and it also has a second USB-C port that can be used to charge up a fourth device.
Both versions can fold up concertina style to stow neatly away for travel. You get a 30W charger in the box and a cable. Apart from the fact it folds up nicely, travel utility is expanded when you consider that you can potentially use the same USB-C Power Delivery (PD) charger as your MacBook to power this wireless charger. However, it’s important to note that you’ll need a 60W charger if you want to get the fastest possible charging rate from all three pads at once.
The clever design features don’t end there. You can also configure the Unravel into a triangular shape, fold out a small perch to prop your phone in landscape orientation, and watch a movie while it charges. There are black and red versions, but I recommend the glow-in-the-dark model because it gives off just enough of a glow for you to position your phone on it in the dark, but not so much that it interrupts your shuteye.
While I’m a big fan of the Unravel, it’s not perfect. Finished in soft-touch plastic, this isn’t the kind of charger that’s going to subtly blend in with your décor. There are pinprick lights that turn on when it’s charging, but most phones cover them, so they seem redundant. The fold-out perch for propping your phone in landscape orientation also feels quite flimsy.
Still, this versatile wireless charger is ideal for busy families or people with multiple devices to pop on the charger at night. It’s also a useful companion for travel if a single pad isn’t going to meet your needs. Both versions of the Unravel are typically the same price, but read the descriptions to make sure you get the right one for you. The manufacturer, Ampere, also offers versions with world plug sets and different chargers on its website.
Pros: Can simultaneously charge three devices, 4.5-foot power cord and adapter included, attractive design, non-slip
Cons: Expensive, large
This elegant wireless charging station from Belkin can wirelessly charge your iPhone at the current top rate of 7.5W, but it also has a magnetic Apple Watch dock built in, and there’s a wireless charging pad for your AirPods or AirPods Pro. The ability to charge all three of your Apple devices simultaneously from a single outlet makes this accessory an ideal pick for placing on a nightstand or desk.
With a glossy plastic finish in black or white, this Belkin charger has a slightly futuristic feel. The base is solid and wide to aid stability, and there’s a soft rubbery covering on the bottom that ensures it stays put. The round charger for the iPhone is angled, extending up on a shiny stainless steel pole, and there’s a curved lip to guide your placement and keep the iPhone in place.
The magnetic Apple Watch charger is built-in and sits at a 90-degree angle, which is perfect for Nightstand mode. The circular pad behind the Apple Watch charger provides a spot for your AirPods. The included AC adapter has a permanently attached cable and slots into the back neatly with a barrel connector. The cable has an ample 4.5-foot length, and the adapter provides enough power to charge your three devices at top speed.
Two, tiny, pin-sized LEDs light up white when an iPhone or AirPods are charging and turn amber if there’s a problem with alignment or something has snuck in underneath your device. Thankfully, they are low-key and shouldn’t disturb your slumber if you decide to use this charger on the nightstand. The iPhone pad can also handle cases up to 3mm thick, so you don’t have to worry about removing your case to charge.
I’ve been testing this charger with an iPhone X and an Apple Watch Series 5, and it has won a permanent place on the nightstand. If you like to use Nightstand mode and set alarms on your Apple Watch, then this charger is especially good. I’d prefer it didn’t have the LEDs, but at least they are tiny.
The catch is that the Belkin Boost Charge 3-in-1 Special Edition for Apple Devices is expensive. It’s a hefty investment, but I appreciate the fact that everything is included, and the Apple Watch charger is built-in, so all you need to do to get going with this is plug it into the wall. There is a cheaper version with similar functionality for a bit less, but it lacks classy touches like the stainless steel.
What else we considered
There are so many good wireless chargers available that it’s impossible to cover them all. These are the wireless chargers that came closest to making the list, and they are all decent alternatives if you don’t like what you’ve seen so far.
Nomad Base Station Pro: With cutting edge technology inside, this wireless charger doesn’t require careful placement of devices. Stick your phone down anywhere on the surface and it will charge. It has space and power enough for two phones and a set of AirPods to charge together. It’s also beautifully crafted from aluminum with leather padding on top and comes with a braided cable and wall charger. The only reason it fails to make the list is the high price. Read our Nomad Base Station Pro review to learn more.
AirUnleashed: This large wireless charging pad is designed to emulate Apple’s ill-fated AirPower charger and has space for an iPhone, an Apple Watch, and AirPods. It has a minimal design in black or white with a soft touch finish. Sadly, there’s no AC adapter included, it requires precise placement, and you must remove some Apple Watch bands to charge. I found it too easy to accidentally bump my iPhone off the sweet spot, and after testing for a few weeks this charger is starting to look shabby.
OtterBox OtterSpot: Bringing some genuine innovation to the table, OtterBox’s wireless charging system starts with a simple round base charger that looks much like any other. What sets it apart is the fact you can put a battery pad with a 5,000mAh capacity on top; it can charge wirelessly, and it can serve as a wireless charger for your phone. You can even stack additional batteries to charge them all up at once, and then take them with you when you leave. The entry price gets you one base charger and one battery, but this system can get pricey fast.
RAVPower Wireless Charging Stand: After a year’s service, this unobtrusive black stand still works perfectly and can deliver up to 10W. It is Qi certified, has temperature controls to prevent overheating, and sports an LED that blinks green when everything is working and red when there’s a problem. It only just misses out on a place above.
Google Pixel Stand: Capable of wirelessly charging your Pixel 4, 4 XL, 3, or 3 XL at top speed, the Pixel Stand also supports some interesting Google Assistant features. Use your Pixel as an alarm clock, get your daily schedule, or turn your Pixel into a digital photo frame. This will charge any Qi device, but it’s only worth paying this much if you have a Pixel phone that can take advantage of the special features.
Mophie Charge Stream Pad+: With a dull, but practical design that includes a rubbery, non-slip finish, and a white LED light, this wireless charger can deliver up to 10W. It also comes with a 5-foot cable and a QC 2.0 adapter. It charges most phones at top speed, but can’t charge through bulky cases. No major complaints about the functionality, but there simply isn’t enough here to justify the high price.
Satechi Wireless Charger: The chamfered aluminum frame is smart, and there’s a silicone cross in the middle of the shiny top surface to cushion your phone. Sadly, charging is slow at 5W, there’s no adapter in the box, and the LED is far too bright to use on the nightstand.
Twelve South HiRise: With a clever design that includes a weighted leather base, with a pop-out puck that you can take with you for wireless charging on the go, the Twelve South HiRise is unusual. It can deliver up to 10W, but can’t deal with thicker cases and ships without an adapter, making the price tough to swallow.
Courant Wireless Chargers: These fancy leather-clad 10W wireless chargers make nice gifts, but they are too expensive to recommend over our other picks — especially as the basic Catch:1 wireless chargers don’t come with outlet adapters. The Catch:2 and Catch:3 do come with adapters, but cost $120 and $140, respectively when they’re on sale.
How to choose a wireless charger
The wireless charger landscape has evolved in the last few years, with new features, faster charging speeds, and a range of different shapes and styles. To make sure your chosen charger is going to meet your expectations, it’s important to pose a few questions before you shop.
What device or devices do you want to charge?
Make sure that your smartphone — or other device — supports Qi wireless charging. Every entry on our list is a Qi wireless charger. Many Android phone manufacturers, like Samsung, have included wireless charging support in their flagship phones for years now. Apple introduced wireless charging support with the iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and iPhone X, and every iPhone since then has supported it.
Don’t assume your phone supports it, though, take the time to check. A few manufacturers still haven’t adopted wireless charging, and it’s less common in mid-range and budget devices.
What is the top speed your device can charge at?
At first, wireless chargers were capped at 5W, but you can get 10W or even 15W chargers now. However, the speed you can wirelessly charge your phone at is set by the manufacturer. At the time of writing, for example, the iPhone 12 Pro tops out at 7.5W (or 15W through Apple’s MagSafe charger), Google’s Pixel 5 can charge at 12W, and Samsung’s Galaxy S20 can charge at up to 15W.
Do you need a charging cable and adapter?
Many wireless chargers are sold without a wall adapter, though they generally include a cable. It’s important to make sure that you have the right cable and adapter to enable the top charging speed. If you use a 5W adapter with a 10W charging pad, for example, you’re only going to get 5W charging. Apple also no longer includes a power adapter in the box with its new iPhones, so you’ll want to make sure you have the proper adapter handy if you’re planning on buying a new phone.
Where are you going to use it?
The nightstand will be the ideal location for some, but you may prefer to have a wireless charger on your desk at work, on the kitchen counter at home, or perhaps all three. Different kinds of chargers will work better in different locations. For example, if it’s for the nightstand, you probably don’t want a wireless charger with a bright flashing light.
As a yoga teacher and decades-long practitioner, I live in yoga pants.
I went on a proper search for the best yoga pants and the top choices on the market.
I’ve rounded up my favorites, including my top maternity leggings, below.
There are few clothing items as versatile as the yoga pant. They’re not only great for yoga class but also ideal for running errands-and sprints. This is why they’re a staple in so many of our wardrobes. All yoga pants aren’t created equal, though. And the difference between poorly and expertly-made leggings can determine whether your yoga practice is distracted and fidgety or calm and blissful.
As a yoga teacher and decades-long practitioner, I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of yoga pants with my fair share of ill fits and too-thin see-through fabric. These years of informal testing led me to know exactly what to look for when formally sampling the yoga-pant market. Specifically, the material’s comfort and cut are the two most important factors.
As a yogi watches their breath and tackles challenging physical postures, a nagging fold of fabric that needs to be adjusted (and readjusted) can take them right out of the peaceful moment that they were working so hard to achieve. That’s why the best yoga pants are the kind that you don’t notice you’re wearing.
The ideal material, on the other hand, can vary based on what you want your yoga pants for. For example, the ideal hot yoga pants won’t be made from the same fabric as those for a fall outdoor class. And maternity yoga pants’ material won’t compress as a performance pair might.
With these considerations in mind, we scrutinized some of the most popular and newest pants on the market. The details on our testing process are below.
How we tested
To assess how the cut and fabric felt and moved in different situations, I wore each for a diverse range of activities. I sported each pant for three yoga sessions and one non-yoga workout. Each pant was also my attire for one full day of varied activities, from running errands to watching Netflix. Each bottom was washed twice.
Everlane’s Perform Legging is comfortable for all-day wear, yoga, and other workouts. Its high quality and relatively low price distinguishes it from comparable pants.
Pros: Comfortable, ethically made, affordable
Cons: Thin material, so these aren’t great for outdoor yoga (or wear) in cold weather.
When most people think of yoga pants, Everlane isn’t among the first brands that come to mind. But since discovering this legging, I have been recommending it widely.
As a nod to their focus on ethical production, the bag that housed the leggings announced that it “is made from recycled plastic,” and the tag on the pants invited me to visit their website to learn more about the “ethical manufacturing process.” I took them up on the offer and the site took me to a factory in Sri Lanka and told their story. Yoga is more than a physical practice. It’s also a philosophy and way of life, which has a strong focus on ahimsa, or non-harming. It felt good to know that the pants’ production was aligned.
But it wasn’t just the backstory that made me fall in love with these pants. They’re thin and sleek with few seams and made from recycled nylon and elastane. The light compression from the extra-high waist, reminded me to use my ab muscles, even in simple poses like tadasana (mountain pose). And, most importantly, when I put them on, they felt so good that they made me want to get on my mat and practice yoga. Not all pants can inspire a workout.
During my yoga practice, the leggings checked all the boxes. They were flexible, so easy to move in, and they were comfortable. They lived up to the hype of being made from a “premium performance fabric from a renowned Italian mill.”
I also appreciated that these pants have no visible logo. My yoga practice is a time to step away from the material world, and the absence of a small symbol of consumer culture was a nice touch. They’re also well below the $100+ yoga pant price point at $58 per pair, leaving more cash to fit in the cute pocket in the waistband.
Cons: Not great for indoor high-intensity yoga or exercise
As the pandemic has shuttered studios, many teachers have moved classes to parks and parking lots with socially distanced mats. This has been great for those of us who need to practice with others so can’t just Zoom a class. But what do we wear? Thin yoga pants are great for feeling free and agile during practice, but they’re not great for winter walks or outdoor classes in cooler weather.
Of all of the pants that I tested, the Alo High-Waist Lounge Legging was the only one that had a level of thickness to provide strong protection from the wind chill of cold days. They’re still flexible, though, with Alo’s signature four-way stretch.
When I wore these outside, they were perfect, and for lounging indoors or doing light movement, like restorative yoga or stretching, they were also great. But when I wore them indoors for more intense workouts, they were too hot for my comfort.
Overall, these pants with Alo’s “velvety” Alosoft fabric are a dream. As the name would suggest, they feel incredibly soft against your skin, and the ribbing at the waist and ankles make them even cozier and more flattering.
Cons: The thin material is not great for outdoor classes or colder climates
While you may be questioning your decision to ever wear skin tight jeans after months of quarantine, the question about why we wear tight pants is especially relevant in yoga. When I went to India to study with my yoga school, they warned us Americans that our idea of “yoga pants” wouldn’t be acceptable attire there. Looser pants were the norm.
But the problem with baggy yoga pants can sometimes be that the fabric flies all around and makes movements clunkier. And in inversions, loose trousers may even succumb to gravity and fall down from your ankles to your hips.
I love Sweaty Betty’s Gary Yoga Pant because they’ve thought of all of that. These pants are loose, comfortable, and lightweight, but they also work well for practice. They’re tapered at the ankles, so they didn’t fall when I was upside down. Plus, the polyester/elastane blend fabric was roomy and stretchy enough that I could move into deep poses carefree. As Sweaty Betty advertises, they’re “100% squat proof.”
When in-person yoga becomes the norm again, I’ll probably mostly wear traditional leggings, but on days when I want to feel less constricted, these would be my go-to pants.
Cons: Prominent branding, too thin and airy for cold weather, can’t be tumble dried
Even with most hot yoga studios temporarily closed, many aficionados find ways to get in a heated practice at home by blasting space heaters and shoving blankets underneath doors. For these steamy classes, the right yoga pants can make a big difference. When drenched, certain fabrics’ compression and thickness leads to too much weight and cling to be comfortable. The adidas x Karlie Kloss Primeblue High-Waist Long Tights are a great thin option that avoids those pitfalls.
The pants are great for any workout, but especially good for sweaty activities like runs and heated classes. They’re made from primeblue, a material partially made of upcycled plastic, which would have otherwise ended up in oceans. They also have elastane.
These pants were comfortable for cardio workouts and unheated yoga as well. But they were less ideal for outside wear, at least in the fall and winter. Each leg has six small holes about half way down, and there’s a thinner, ribbed fabric interspersed with the main material. These touches made the leggings ideal when my heart was pumping but less so for running errands on a windy day.
Also, the branding made these pants feel less able to switch from a workout to a dressier engagement. The branding, a small “Aeroready” on the back waist, and 10 inches of “Karlie Kloss” and the Adidas logo down the hip make it clear that these are exercise leggings.
When I first tried on the Alo High-Waist Airlift Legging, I felt like I was getting dressed up. The double-knit Airlift fabric’s silky sheen and high waist made them feel more sophisticated than the yoga pants I had been wearing every other day.
High waists vary. Some land below my belly button while others nearly reach the bottom of my sports bra. I appreciated that these pants were of the higher variety. Having a higher waist supports my yoga practice because the touch of pressure on my stomach nudges me to engage my core. I’m not sure if it was that engagement, the micro-performance fabric, or both, but the pants did smooth my mid-section. And with the higher high waist, I didn’t have to worry about the pants rolling down during forward-folding poses like uttanasana or paschimottanasana.
Another advantage of these pants is that they’re thin, but not too thin. The light fabric and its four-way stretch is great for postures that call for deep stretches, like split pose, but they’re not so light that they expose what’s under them — in other words, no visible underwear lines. The front smoothing panel is great for that protection or, as Alo says, “commando comfort.”
The best maternity yoga pant
If you’re a yogi with a bump, these pants will give you a fit that rivals those of your pre-pregnancy pants.
Pros: Soft, comfortable and great fit
Cons: Limited duration of usability; the extra high waist is great for a bump, but with this extra fabric, they may not be ideal far beyond pregnancy
Maintaining my yoga practice during pregnancy was crucial, not only because I’ve been practicing daily for years and wanted to keep up my strength and flexibility, but also because a prenatal practice has been shown to reduce labor pain and length. As my bump grew, however, my yoga classes—and pants—had to change. Traditional vinyasa flows became too intense, and the waists of my favorite leggings kept getting lower and tighter. It was time for prenatal classes and new yoga wear.
These leggings are buttery soft and fit exactly like my favorite pre-pregnancy pants. The one exception, however, is the super high waist. This top portion can be worn up, reaching just below your bra, or folded down for a more traditional yoga pant look. Personally, I preferred wearing the waist up, so that during practice, the pants would stay in place perfectly.
As I sat in squats and reached my limbs into bird-dogs, the leggings’ Spacedye fabric, which delivers on its promise of an “ultra soft feel,” stretched with me like a second skin. And as my belly has expanded over the past few weeks since I first wore them, the fit has remained just as good. I’m excited to have these pants see me through the rest of my third trimester and beyond.
What else we considered:
Lululemon Groove Pant Flare Super HR ($98, sizes 0-14): As expected from Lululemon, these pant’s Nulu™ fabric is light and soft. They’re great for all day wear, and the high waist adds to their comfort. They weren’t a top choice, though, because their flare cut makes them less ideal for a fast-paced yoga practice. In inversions and seated forward folds, the excess fabric was a bit distracting.
Outdoor Voices Springs 7/8 Legging ($78, sizes XXS to XXXL): These were the only yoga pants that I got compliments on. Outdoor Voices’ signature color block design helps these leggings to stand out from competitors and is a creative way to have their pants be immediately recognizable as Outdoor Voices without needing a logo. I was comfortable in these leggings working out, running errands, and practicing yoga, and I also loved how they looked. But they didn’t make the top list, because I found the textured polyester and spandex fabric less comfortable than that of the other pants.
Beyond Yoga Heather Rib Jogger ($110, sizes XS to XL): These are another great option for a non-legging yoga pant. They’re very comfortable, and when I put them on I didn’t want to take them off for days. That said, they didn’t make the top choices, because they’re more fitted than I would like when I’m looking for a non-legging pant. A large part of the appeal of the non-legging pant to me is to not have a form-fitting shape, and these felt a little too close to leggings for me.
Seraphine Maternity Activewear & Yoga Power Leggings ($59, sizes XS to XL): At nearly half the cost of the other maternity leggings we tested, these are a great option if you want to invest less in pants that you’ll only be wearing for a couple of trimesters. Though I didn’t find the fit as ideal as that of the top maternity pic, these were comfortable and held up across activities. The pant legs are made of a sweat-wicking material, which made it feel like there’s some distance between me and the fabric. (This was nice at a time when I’m already feeling constricted enough!) And, the belly band is made of soft jersey material, which was comfortable to wear over my bump all day long.
HATCH Before, During, and After Legging ($98, sizes XS to XL): I loved these leggings. Made of 92% modal and 8% spandex, the fabric is super soft. Though they feel as cozy as pajamas, they don’t look like them, and can be easily dressed up with a nice top and non-athletic shoes. These aren’t explicitly yoga pants, but they worked well in maternity-style yoga classes, which exclude sweaty, vigorous sequences. What these pants lacked in yoga-pant-perfection, they made up for in their versatility.