The 7 best whey protein powders, backed by strength coaches and dietitians

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Quality whey protein powder should have a tolerable taste, mix well, and offer maximum protein with minimal extras.
  • Our top pick, Naked’s Whey Protein, is a clean, additive-free powder that contains only whey protein.
  • This article was medically reviewed by Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, nutrition and wellness expert with a private practice in NYC.

Protein, a macronutrient every cell in your body contains, is essential for your health. If you’re an athlete, casual gym-goer, or just want to lose a few pounds, protein also helps you build and retain muscle. Taking whey protein is an effective and inexpensive way to add more of the macronutrient to your diet.

In short, whey is the liquid leftovers that come from the cheese-making process. This liquid is dried into a powder, which is then sometimes (but not always) mixed with sweeteners while keeping calories, carbohydrates, and fats to a minimum.

But there’s more to picking out the right whey protein than just grabbing whatever you find at the store. While some are formulated with different additives, others pack more protein per serving or are designed to keep more of the protein’s natural nutrients.

At the bottom of this guide, we’ve included insight into what whey protein is and why it’s beneficial, as well as the safety precautions associated with taking whey protein and the best places to purchase it. We’ve also provided some background on the sources used, as well as our own expertise.

Here are the best whey protein powders:

The best overall whey protein powder

Naked Whey Protein

When Naked Nutrition calls its Naked Whey Protein additive-free, it means it as this protein powder has literally just one ingredient: Whey protein derived from grass-fed cows.

Pros: Contains just whey protein from grass-fed cows, low carbohydrate and fat count per serving, has 5.9 grams of BCAAs per serving

Cons: Not completely devoid of sugar (though there aren’t any artificial sweeteners or flavors), hard to mix, and can sometimes be chunkya

Many of Naked Nutrition’s products live up to the brand’s namesake of being literally naked, though perhaps none do it quite as well as its flagship protein powder, Naked Whey. Comprised of a single ingredient (whey protein from grass-fed cows), Naked Whey is a clean, additive-free product that has no artificial sweeteners, no artificial colors, and no artificial flavors. 

From a protein standpoint, one serving of Naked Whey (2 scoops of powder which is roughly 30 grams) delivers 25 grams of protein, 3 grams of carbs, 2 grams of fat, 120 calories, and just 2 grams of sugar. Each serving also has 5.9 grams of a combination of the BCAAs isoleucine, leucine, and valine. BCAAs (branch chain amino acids) may help build protein in muscles and aid in recovery.

A few drawbacks (or, rather, nitpicks) would be the Naked Whey isn’t the easiest to mix, and requires quite the shake in a shaker bottle to create a smooth, drinkable combination, though you’re likely to still encounter a few clumps. The taste of this is also very plain and almost dairy-like (which makes sense, of course), but Naked does offer the protein in Chocolate, as well as Vanilla and Strawberry in its Less Naked Whey, which has a few more additives. 

Naked Whey comes in either a 5 lb. tub for $90 or a smaller 1 lb. option for $22 — and Naked Nutrition even allows customers to set up recurring monthly deliveries at a discounted rate. 

If an additive-free protein powder is what you seek, Naked Nutrition’s Naked Whey, with just the single ingredient of whey protein, is about as simple and straightforward as it gets. — Rick Stella, health and fitness editor

The best mixing whey protein powder

Cellucor Whey Protein

If you’re looking for a powder that mixes easily and tastes great, Cellucor Whey Protein Isolate & Concentrate Blend Powder is one of the best and most affordable options.

Pros: Great taste, affordable, mixes smoothly, 24 grams of protein per serving, excellent for baking, third-party tested

Cons: 130 mg of sodium per serving, contains artificial sweeteners

The Cellucor Whey Protein Isolate & Concentrate Blend Powder not only tastes good and has 24 grams of protein per serving, but it’s also the most affordable option in our guide at 71.4 cents per serving and 3 cents per gram of protein. Each serving also only has 1.5 grams of fat, 4 grams of carbs, and 120 calories.

There are seven flavors to choose from, including whipped vanilla, molten chocolate, and cinnamon swirl. Cellucor recommends mixing two scoops with five to six ounces of your preferred beverage, but you can adjust the amount of liquid to fit your tastes. The company also suggests mixing the powder with yogurt, oatmeal, and pancakes. — James Brains, reviewed by Andrew Gutman

The best sugar-free whey protein powder

 Optimum Nutrition’s Platinum Hydrowhey

The Platinum Hydrowhey by Optimum Nutrition may be expensive, but it mixes well and boasts 30 grams of protein per serving with zero grams of sugar.

Pros: 30 grams of protein per serving, third-party tested, superb mixability, no sugar

Cons: Contains high-fructose corn syrup

A single serving of Optimum Nutrition’s Platinum Hydrowhey yields 140 calories, 30 grams of protein, one gram of fat, 3 grams of carbs, and no sugar. It’s made of hydrolyzed whey protein, which breaks down the protein into smaller pieces for better absorption and easier digestion. 

You can choose from seven flavors: cookies and cream overdrive, chocolate mint, velocity vanilla, chocolate peanut butter, supercharged strawberry, turbo chocolate, and red velvet cake, which was the highest-rated flavor on Bodybuilding.com. I think that turbo chocolate tastes great, too.

Optimum Nutrition uses artificial sweeteners such as sucralose and high-fructose corn syrup (which gets counted as a sugar on food labels).

Optimum Nutrition claims you can easily mix this protein with just a spoon and I can confirm this is true. While this may not seem like a strong selling point, I’ve forgotten my shaker bottle at home many times and have had to mix my protein with a spoon or knife at work. When I tried this with other brands, I always got clumpy, gross-tasting shakes. — Andrew Gutman

The best customized whey protein powder

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Gainful offers a unique approach to protein powder by offering personalized blends that are formulated specifically to the person ordering it, based on their fitness goals, diet restrictions, and other vital factors.

Pros: The custom is able to serve a wider range of users, doesn’t just rely on whey protein but pea, brown rice, and organic oat, as well, has a team of registered dietitians formulating the blends

Cons: Not the most economical in terms of amount and cost

One of the more unique protein powder options is Gainful, a brand that formulates personalized blends based on your specific needs. This could include weight and fitness goals, the amount you’re active each week, or if you have any dietary restrictions. It even lets you choose options dedicated to getting better sleep or improving gut health. 

It’s an interesting approach that succeeds in making the protein you order seem one-of-one. That is, not only does Gainful say it’s formulating a specific blend of protein for you, but when you get it and see what exactly is in it (especially compared to other protein powders), it feels exclusive.

Gainful takes its customization even further by offering flavor packets that mix with the powder to create different taste profiles. My sample came with both rich cocoa and cafe mocha, but the brand offers a variety of others like chocolate peanut butter, strawberry cream, and matcha green tea. You could consume the standard protein on its own, but it’s a very bland flavor when you do (it doesn’t necessarily taste bad, it’s just not very exciting). 

The nitpick I’d have with Gainful is that it doesn’t feel like you’re getting much protein for how much you spend. I tend to consume protein most days of the week, and I was able to work through the $39 bag in a little under three weeks. You can opt to get more per shipment (and Gainful can set up a recurring monthly delivery), though the price could feasibly double.

Despite its expensive price compared to others in this guide, what you get with Gainful isn’t offered anywhere else. You’re essentially paying for a premium dietitian service to tailor a protein powder specifically to your needs — for people who keep close tabs on their nutrition and diet, that’s invaluable. — Rick Stella, health and fitness editor

The best GNC whey protein powder

GNC1

GNC’s AMP Wheybolic protein powder offers 40 grams of protein per two-scoop serving, as well as 6.2 grams of leucine, and works great as either a pre- or post-workout supplement.

Pros: Now comes in popular Girl Scout flavors, packs 40 grams of protein and 6.2 grams of leucine per two-scoop serving

Cons: Might be too sweet for some, contains sucralose and other artificial sweeteners

The GNC name is synonymous with workout supplements, and its own branded protein are among its most popular items, specifically its GNC AMP Wheybolic powder. The brand supplied a tub of the powder in the Thin Mints flavor, which is sure to catch the attention of anyone who’s a fan of Girl Scout Cookies (it also offers Girl Scout Coconut Carmel aka Samoas and Girl Scout S’mores). 

Each two-scoop serving of the powder offers 40 grams of protein, 6.2 grams of leucine, 210 calories, 7 grams of net carbohydrates, and 2 grams of total sugar. The powder mixes well in water (after about 20 seconds or so of shaking) and never felt chunky or like there were leftover bits that hadn’t fully mixed. 

I used this protein primarily as a post-workout drink, though did also test it post-workout and on non-workout days. The Thin Mints flavor is heavy on the chocolate and mint, so if you like sweeter protein powders, this is exactly what that is. I’m not a huge sweet protein powder drinker myself, so would often choose to use this in moderation. 

A single $65 tub of the powder comes with 25 two-scoop servings, which is just shy of enough for a month’s worth of use — especially if you prefer to drink it on both workout and non-workout days. 

Our nutrition reviewer, Samantha Cassetty, did point out a few things to be cautious of after we spoke to her during testing. First, is the inclusion of sucralose. As we’ve mentioned in other protein powders, sucralose is a sweetener that may upset some people’s stomachs during ingestion. Cassetty pointed out that the powder also includes the artificial sweetener acesulfame potassium, has artificial flavoring, and contains carrageenan, a somewhat controversial additive that’s been studied limitedly. — Rick Stella, health and fitness editor

The best-tasting whey protein powder

Optimum Nutrition Whey Protein Powder

The Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein Powder packs 24 grams of protein into each serving and is one of the better-tasting powders according to experts and buyers.

Pros: Tastes good, relatively affordable, third-party tested

Cons: Complaints about the formula changing, contains an artificial sweetener

The Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein Powder gets its sweetness from a little bit of sugar (1 gram per serving) and acesulfame potassium, which is an artificial sweetener also known as Ace-K.

Each serving has 120 calories, a gram of fat, three grams of carbs, and most importantly 24 grams of protein. Optimum Nutrition has also curated a number of recipes in which you can use the powder. — James Brains, reviewed by Andrew Gutman

The best fat-free whey protein powder

MyProtein whey powder

The Myprotein Impact Whey Isolate Protein is a great option if you want as much protein packed into each scoop as possible without extra fat, carbs, or calories.

Pros: Excellent product purity, a high concentration of bound protein, fat-free, low in sodium

Cons: Concerns about quality control, contains artificial sweetener, not third-party tested

Depending on the flavor you choose, the Myprotein Impact Whey Isolate Protein fits up to 22 grams of protein into each 25-gram serving.

It does this with little or no fat or sugar and only 90 calories per serving. The sodium content is also low at 25 mg per serving. 

Labdoor independently tests dozens of whey protein powders, and the site recommended the Myprotein Impact Whey Isolate because it scored high in Labdoor’s ingredient safety, nutritional value, and product purity tests. The testers found there were 21.9 grams of protein in every 25-gram serving.

There are a few complaints worth mentioning, too. Make sure you buy the whey isolate and not just the whey concentrate (If you follow our links, you should be fine). — James Brains, reviewed by Andrew Gutman

The best lactose-free whey protein powder

Dymatize

If you’ve found protein powders leave your stomach feeling queasy, consider the lactose-free Dymatize ISO 100 Whey Protein Powder.

Pros: Lactose-free, 91% of calories are from protein, less than a gram of sugar and fat, third-party tested

Cons: Complaints of foreign objects found in the powder, contains an artificial sweetener, 160 mg sodium per serving

The Dymatize ISO 100 Whey Protein Powder is the only lactose-free option on our list but it’s not the only one that uses hydrolyzed isolate protein—the Optimum Nutrition Platinum Hydrowhey does, too—which is supposed to help with digestion and absorption.

Each serving has 25 grams of protein, less than a gram of fat, 120 calories, and 2 grams of carbs, including less than 1 gram of sugar. There are 13 flavors to choose from, including cinnamon bun, fudge brownie, gourmet chocolate, and chocolate coconut

Labdoor recommends the Dymatize ISO 100 as one of the best whey protein powders. In its tests, the powder had high scores for nutritional value and product purity, including less than one part per million of six harmful substances. Around 91% of the calories in this powder come from its protein content. — James Brains, reviewed by Andrew Gutman

What else we tested

performix iowhey

Animal Whey

I like Animal because the company doesn’t make gimmicky claims or rely on pseudoscience to sell its products. What you see is what you get and what you get is 120 calories, one gram of fat, 2 grams of carbs, and 25 grams of protein per serving. Animal uses whey protein isolate as its primary protein source, it’s moderately priced, and it’s third-party tested.

This wasn’t included, however, because it’s no better than any other pick. Compared to Optimum Nutrition or Dymatize or Cellucor, it’s slightly more expensive and isn’t as lauded by fans. It barely missed the cut. 

Pro Jym Protein Powder

A fan favorite, Pro Jym is comprised of four different proteins: whey protein isolate, micellar casein, egg albumin, and milk protein isolate. According to creator, Dr. Jim Stoppani, Ph.D., this extends the rate of digestion for better protein synthesis. It comes in three flavors: chocolate cookie crunch, cookies and cream, and s’mores, and contains 150 calories, 3 grams of fat, 7 grams of carbs, and 24 grams of protein per serving. 

Pro Jym missed the mark for two reasons:

  1. You pay more for three times the amount of fat and carbs as Optimum Nutrition’s Platinum Hydrowhey, so it doesn’t fit into our minimum fillers criteria.
  2. It’s not a pure whey protein powder. 

Performix ioWhey

I personally like this protein powder because it tastes great, it’s easy on the stomach, and there are minimal extras. One serving of Performix ioWhey is 100 calories, zero grams of fat, 2 grams of carbohydrates, and 22 grams of protein. 

My major issue is that Performix claims ioWhey is absorbed 36% more efficiently than other brands, which is why their protein per serving is low. That sounds great but since the product isn’t third-party tested, there’s no way to know if this is true or if the company’s selling you less protein per serving.

For the price per serving, you’re better off buying Optimum Nutrition or Dymatize ISO 100 if you’re willing to shell out for a premium protein. — Andrew Gutman

What is whey protein?

man making protein shake shutterstock

There are three main types of whey protein:

  • Whey protein concentrate (WPC): This is a concentrated protein that keeps more of the nutrients. Most non-isolate proteins are comprised of WPC.
  • Whey protein isolate (WPI): This is similar to WPC but most of the carbohydrates, fat, and fat-soluble vitamins have been removed, so the powder has a higher percentage of protein. Typically, isolate is digested more quickly and, therefore, more agreeable for some. For that reason, most trainers and registered dieticians recommend opting for WPI, though it’s often more expensive.
  • Whey protein hydrolysate (WPH): WPH is considered pre-digested since it breaks down the amino acids — the building blocks of proteins — to help with quicker absorption.

Is it safe to consume? 

Before you increase your protein intake significantly, check with your healthcare professional since people with certain maladies, such as calcium deficiencies or low blood pressure, could experience adverse effects from whey protein. 

It’s also important to note that protein powders aren’t regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and some companies dilute their protein with useless fillers, which is why certain brands subject themselves to third-party testing as a way to verify the quality of their product.

To know if a protein is tested, look for a seal from either NSF Certified for Sport or Informed Choice. This doesn’t mean that untested proteins are a subpar product but it’s good to be aware. You are, after all, putting this stuff into your body. Other than looking for brands that are third-party tested, here are different ways to spot a quality protein:

  • Ensure that protein is the first ingredient on the label. “When you look at a label, it’s in descending order so the ingredient in the highest amount will be found at the top of the list,” Maryann Walsh, a registered dietician and the owner of Walsh Nutrition, told Insider. “Look for labels that have protein at the beginning with fewer ingredients accompanying them.”
  • Typically, you want a whey powder that contains at least 20 grams of protein per serving. All of our picks do.
  • Try to steer clear of excess sugar. As for artificial sweeteners, research on how they affect our weight and health is mixed.

How much should you consume? 

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein consumption is about a gram for every 3 pounds of body weight. So, if you weigh 180 pounds, that equates to 60 grams of protein per day. Experts suggest that taking up to twice that still produces benefits.

When it comes to fitness-specific goals, like gaining muscle or losing fat, Jeb Stuart Johnston from Stronger U recommends ingesting up to one gram per pound of bodyweight. His claim is backed by a study via the University of Stirling

“For someone who’s trying to gain muscle mass and work out, taking in more protein helps speed up protein synthesis [the process in which your muscle fibers utilize protein to repair and grow],” Johnston said. “For a person who’s strictly trying to lose weight, taking in more protein helps retain the muscle you already have.” 

Based on Johnston’s recommendations, a 200-pound man would have to consume 200 grams of protein per day. That’s equivalent to 2 pounds of chicken breast. Supplementing with whey protein, he explains, is a convenient way to get more protein without grilling up another piece of bland chicken.

Where to buy whey protein

man protein powder shutterstock

When it comes to buying protein, one convenient ordering option is Amazon’s “Subscribe & Save” program, since it can save you up to 15%. You’re able to cancel your subscription at any time, too. What’s great about this program is that it automates ordering products that you replenish regularly.

For instance, if you take a serving of protein powder every day and there are 30 servings in a container, you can have a new tub delivered every month without lifting a finger.

Personally, I like to buy my protein from Bodybuilding.com. I usually try a different brand of protein each time I order more, so Amazon’s “Subscribe & Save” program doesn’t make sense for me, although it’s a smart option for many people. Bodybuilding.com has reliable customer reviews and it routinely offers deals on popular brands. As a bonus, it offers free shipping on orders over $75.

To figure out the cost per serving on your own, take the product’s price and divide it by the number of servings in the container. Since the amount of protein per serving varies by brand, it’s also useful to look at the cost per gram of protein. This is easy to calculate by dividing the cost per serving (as calculated above) by the number of grams of protein per serving. — Andrew Gutman

Expert sources

  • Jeb Stuart Johnston, nutrition and strength coach at Stronger U
  • Maryann Walsh, a registered dietician and the owner of Walsh Nutrition

This piece was also medically reviewed by Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, and a nutrition and wellness expert with a private practice based in New York City.

About our writers’ expertise

In developing this guide, we tested close to a dozen of the top protein powders available from brands like Cellucor, Optimum Nutrition, and Naked to find the best across a variety of categories. 

The co-author, Andrew Gutman, is a former associate editor at Muscle & Fitness magazine, has competed in a bodybuilding show and two Strongman competitions, and has been lifting weights regularly for more than 10 years. He’s tried dozens of different whey protein powders.

Our guide features powders that have a taste you can stomach, a high protein content, and minimal fat, carbs, and calories. Guides Editor, Les Shu, is a former research chief at Men’s Fitness who oversaw the fact-checking of the magazine’s nutrition and exercise articles.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 5 best jump ropes for a great cardio workout

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Jumping rope is one of the best cardio exercises you can do at home, practically for free.
  • The best jump ropes are durable and adjustable in length and ideally, come with extra ropes or handles.
  • Our top pick, Crossrope Get Lean, has multiple weights, exchangeable handles, and its own workout app.

Most of us associate jumping rope with days on the playground but for the everyday athlete, it’s actually one of the best cardiovascular activities you can do as an adult, Andrew Laux, NASM-CPT, and personal trainer with fitness platform, Fyt, told Insider.

Though jumping rope is good to get your heart pumping, it can also help improve bone density and build strength and stability through your entire kinetic chain (your feet to your shoulders). Plus, it’s a fun workout you can do almost anywhere, Laux said.

In addition to learning how to use a jump rope, the one thing you need to gain the benefits of the workout is the rope itself. And if you think all jump ropes are the same, think again: Many manufacturers have made improvements and tech updates to jump ropes over the years, offering more ease of use, adjustability, and weight options.

To find the best jump rope for cardio, I tested brands like Crossrope, Rx Smart Gear, SKLZ, and more, relying on my own experience as a certified personal trainer and fitness writer as well as important features in a rope. At the end of this guide

At the end of this guide, I’ve also included some insight from Laux on the proper technique for jumping rope, as well as some tips on how to shop for a jump rope and the testing methodology that was used in determining which ropes ultimately made this guide.

Here are the best jump ropes:

The best jump rope overall

Get_Lean_Set

Crossrope reimagines the tried-and-true jump rope by offering multiple weighted rope options, an easy-to-use handle clipping system, and a companion app with workouts and insight. 

Pros: Ropes come in multiple weight options, easy-to-swap soft handles, companion app has great workout guidance

Cons: Expensive

At $99, Crossrope’s Get Lean Set isn’t exactly inexpensive — but it’s not just any ole jump rope, either. 

This specialized jump rope set features ergonomic handles that are lightweight and easy to hold. The handles feature a quick clasp system making it easy to swap them in and out of the different weighted ropes. Each handle has a soft grip that won’t slip out of your hand, even when you start sweating — we’ve tested this in the humidity of NYC and the comfortable, tacky grips are a very welcome sight.

The other feature that makes Crossrope an attractive choice is its variety of rope weights. The Get Lean Set, specifically, comes with both a 1/2-pound rope good for advanced cardio exercises and a 1/4-pound rope that works well for HIIT routines and endurance training. As mentioned above, the handles just click in and out of the end of each rope for easy swapping. 

Crossrope also offers a companion smartphone application that comes standard with workout inspiration and routine guidance. The Lite version is completely free whereas premium access runs $10 per month. — Rick Stella, health and fitness editor

The best jump rope for speed work

wod jumprope

When speed and lasting performance are your main concerns, the WOD Nation Speed Jump Rope is your best option.

Pros: Comes with an extra cable, features a smooth bearing system for speed work

Cons: Susceptible to wear when used on hard surfaces

If you’re looking to perform quick tempo jumps, like high knees, crossover, or double unders, you want a speed rope, which moves faster, Louis Chandler Joseph, NASM-CPT, trainer at Dogpound in LA told Insider. “Speed ropes are also great for working hand-eye coordination,” he added.

WOD Nation Speed Jump Rope uses a patented four-metal ball bearing system in the handles. There is a bearing on the tip of each handle to hold the cable and another bearing in each handle for smooth rotations, and the handles are made of tapered nylon resin for a better grip.

This speed rope comes in nine colors and with an extra cable, replacement hardware, and a carrying bag. The cable is 2.5mm thick and 11 feet long, which you can easily adjust. 

WOD Nation’s jump rope comes with a “100% satisfaction guarantee,” so you can try it for 60 days and if you’re not completely satisfied, return it for a complete refund. (However, its return policy says it will only accept returns on unused items within 14 days of purchase, so that’s a bit confusing.) If you order through Amazon, you get 30 days to return. — James Brains, home and kitchen reporter

The best jump rope for beginners

SKLZ jump rope

The SKLZ jump rope is easy to use, lightweight, comfortable, and affordable, making it a smart choice for those just starting to jump rope. 

Pros: Easy to adjust, comfortable grip, smooth rotations

Cons: Comes with just one rope — no fancy additions

If you’re new to jumping rope, you need a straightforward jump rope that’s easy to set to your height and easy to swing. The SKLZ jump rope is all of this and more: The soft, padded handles allow for a solid, comfy grip, while the swivel on the inside of the handle makes for easy rotations and lots of control (which is super helpful for those jumping in small spaces).

It’s also lightweight, making it easy to move at a pace that works for you, especially as you tackle technique and eventually add in speed. 

Adjusting the rope is easy — just unscrew the handle, pull the rope through to the length for you,  push the plastic tab back, and cut the extra. Then, close the handle back up. Cutting the rope does means it’s a one-and-done adjustment so you can’t share your rope with someone of another height. But at under $15, your partner or roommate can buy their own cheap, too.

I tested this rope both indoors on carpet and outside on cement, and it lasted through lots of jump intervals. It’s definitely a no-frills cable but offers everything you need to get your jump rope routine started.

The best jump rope for multiple users

RX smart gear Rapid Fit Jump Rope

The Rx Smart Gear Rapid Fit Jump Rope allows you to easily switch between lengths, so the whole family can use it. Plus, it’s so smooth and comfortable. 

Pros: Easy adjustment and multi-user, smooth rotations, comfortable (and narrower) handle

Cons: More expensive than other ropes

If you’re 5-feet tall and sharing this rope with your 6-foot-tall partner, you can both use this Rx Smart Gear jump rope without anyone compromising proper length. The Rx Smart Gear Rapid Fit Jump Rope allows you to swap between sizes, just by pressing the end of the handle, removing the cover and pulling the rope to the top (to make it shorter) or bottom (to make it longer).

The standard size of the Rapid Fit Jump Rope works for people 5- to 6-feet tall. There’s also a short cable option that’s a better fit for anyone under 5 feet, as well as a longer cable for those over 6 feet. 

To be adjustable, this rope has long, thin handles. This shape has the added benefit of being easy to grip while you flick your wrists on the spin, and it offers good control over the rope so you can dial up or down the speed. 

This adjustable jump rope also comes with a carrying case. The price point is higher than other models, but it’s cheaper than buying two high-quality jump ropes of different lengths.

The best budget jump rope

Tone It Up Jump Rope

The lightweight Tone It Up jump rope comes in at under $10, while still offering an easy-to-use rope that’ll last through countless cardio sessions. 

Pros: Inexpensive, lightweight, soft and comfortable handles, easy to use and adjust

Cons: Not as durable as others; if you don’t cut the rope, it twists as you jump

For a super affordable jump rope, the Tone It Up offering costs less than $10 and is available at Target, while still delivering all the basic necessities of a cardio jump rope. At less than 13 ounces, the lightweight design makes for easy rotations and quick rounds. The padded foam handles also make for a soft feel as you hold onto the rope through each jump. 

To adjust the cable, simply unscrew the end of the handle, and move the plastic stopper tab to the spot that works with your height — the cable is short enough for those 4-foot-9 and long enough for those 6-foot-6. While you can shove the excess rope back into the handle, I suggest cutting off any extra (particularly if you have a lot of excess). The wound-up rope inside the handle occasionally made the rope twist up as I hit my rotations. 

To top off the benefits of this purchase, you’ll also support a women-owned brand.

What else we tested

RXSG EVO GO Speed Rope

Rx Smart Gear EVO GO Speed Rope ($125): If you’re looking for a truly lightweight rope for picking up speed on your feet, this rope has a well-designed handle that makes it comfortable and easy to whip the rope around. This rope comes at a fixed height. It didn’t make our main list because of its expensive price tag, but we do love this rope for speed work. 

SKLZ Speed Rope ($25): Another rope that handles well, works fast, and makes for smooth transitions, this SKLZ Speed Rope is also super affordable. The sturdy handles felt heavier than other speed ropes, and the adjustable rope itself stands up against kinks. The biggest downside is you need a wire cutter to remove the extra material, which isn’t always easy to get your hands on.

How to master the proper technique

Jumping rope is dauntingly easy — but the right technique is very helpful to master the cardio skill. Andrew Laux, NASM-CPT, and personal trainer with fitness platform, Fyt, offers three tips:

1. First, think of it like a pogo stick. “Keep your body in a straight line but relax your muscles and joints so you can easily absorb the jump and get ready for the next,” he said. Bend your knees slightly and jump on the balls of the feet to help with that impact.

2. It’s important to keep your shoulders back and chest tall (think of this as like having good posture).

3. And finally, look out on the horizon. “Once your eyes drop to your feet, your form will crumble,” Laux warns. 

When it comes to your actual jump rope workout, Laux loves jumping to his favorite song, resting for one minute, then repeating for another few pump-up jams. If you’re just starting out, though, he suggests going for just 10 seconds of effort, then resting for 20 seconds.

As you get better and can do five to 10 rounds, build the work interval, and decrease the rest break.

“Once you build up your strength and fitness levels and slowly build up your jump duration, you will find yourself jumping for longer time periods like 5 minutes or even 10 minutes nonstop,” he said. “It takes time, but you will get there.”

Learn more in How to jump rope in 4 easy steps, and a few fun workouts you can do at home.

How to shop for a jump rope

If you’re considering which jump rope to buy, think about how you want to use it. “The heavier the handles, the harder the shoulder and forearm workout,” Laux explains. “The lighter and thinner the rope, the faster you can spin the jump rope around and around.”

Anything labeled as a speed rope will likely feel lightweight and fast, while a more straightforward rope (usually plastic with foam handles) may be slightly heavier and likely, more affordable. 

The most important thing to consider once you know the kind of rope you want is its length. If a rope is too long, it might be harder to find your rhythm. Conversely, one that’s too short may increase your chances of tripping.

Make sure to check out the brand’s sizing guide before you buy. Then, to measure a jump rope to your height, step in the middle of the rope with both feet, ensure the rope is symmetric and taught, and adjust it so the bottom of the handle reaches your armpits, said Louis Chandler Joseph, NASM-CPT, trainer at Dogpound in LA.

You can always test out the rope and decide if you want it to be shorter or longer, too. Once you have a length you’re comfortable with, use scissors or wire cutters to clip the ends of the cable so you don’t have annoying and unnecessary lengths of the rope hanging off the handles. 

Also, Chandler Joseph suggests hanging your rope for storage — though, some ropes (like the Rx Smart Gear rope) do come with their own carrying case, making it far easier to stash away. Just try to avoid any kinks or bends, no matter how you chose to store them.

How we test jump ropes

Each jump rope featured in this guide went through a series of tests to see how well they stacked up across these four categories: Ease of use, versatility, durability, and value. Specifically, here’s how each category factored into which jump ropes ultimately made this guide:

Ease of use: Jump ropes should be easy to use right out of the box (so long as you have your timing and rhythm down), but through the course of testing for this guide, we realized there’s plenty to a jump rope that can make it easy to use. First, is how comfortable the handles feel in-hand. We also considered the flexibility of the rope, if it rotated cleanly on the handle, and if it avoided getting tangled too easily.

Versatility: There are a variety of workouts you can do using a jump rope, and they’re not all just the standard motion you first think of. Whether we were doing double under, crossing the rope, or any other variation, we looked at how well the rope moved along with us at every turn. Even if our own jump roping technique wasn’t flawless, we still were able to see how versatile the rope was able to be.

Durability: Much of our jump rope tests occurred outdoors where the rope would constantly hit the cement beneath our feet. Because of this, the part of the rope hitting the ground would naturally start to file down. After spending several hours jumping rope with each pick, none of those we featured ended up snapping or even filing down dangerously close enough to breaking. 

Value: Jump ropes shouldn’t cost much to begin with but it is important not to just buy whatever the cheapest on the market is. Keeping in mind the three categories above, as well as a jump rope’s actual sticker price, is a great way to judge the overall value. Our top pick is even $99, which seems like a lot for a jump rope, but considering everything it comes with, and the fact it scored the highest in terms of ease of use, versatility, and durability, it’s worth every bit of that investment.

Expert sources

  • Andrew Laux, NASM-CPT, and personal trainer with fitness platform, Fyt

  • Louis Chandler Joseph, NASM-CPT, trainer at Dogpound in Los Angeles

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

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

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

Living in New York City means my go-to mode of transportation is my bike. Whether I need to run errands during the week or want to get some exercise on a long weekend ride, there aren’t many days during the spring and summer that I don’t spend at least a little bit of time pedaling around Brooklyn.

But just as I’d never leave my apartment without a helmet, I always make sure to pack along a set of bike lights – no matter how long I plan on being out. Bike lights are an indispensable part of any cycling kit and one that can very well save your life.

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

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

Here are the best bike lights:

The best bike light overall

cygolite

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best easy install bike light

bike light

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

Pros: Affordable, adjustable beam width, lifetime guarantee

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

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

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

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

The best budget bike light

MalkerLights1

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best bike light for trail riding

niterider

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

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

Cons: Expensive, hard to remove

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

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

The best solar-powered bike light

LuciLight

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

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

Cons: Full solar recharge takes close to 8 hours

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

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

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

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

The best rear bike light

LezyneLight

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

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

Cons: Strap isn’t very durable

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

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

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

The best waterproof bike light

urban bike light

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

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

Cons: USB port cover falls off easily

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

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

How to shop for a bike lights

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

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

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

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

How we test bike lights

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

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

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

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

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

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The 7 best diet and weight loss apps of 2021, according to a dietitian

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • If you want to pay more attention to what you’re eating, a food tracking or weight loss app can help.
  • While they’re not for everyone, weight loss apps are helpful for certain health or fitness goals.
  • The best apps track your daily food intake and give expert insight on how to be healthier.
  • We spoke to dietitian Samantha Cassetty about how weight loss apps can positively change your health.

While we are (thankfully) moving past the era of toxic diet culture and feeling like you need to limit what you eat, there are certain times you might want help tracking your food intake. Maybe you’re looking for accountability to get back on track after a year of emotional eating, to feel more energized throughout the day, to support your workout goals, or you’re under doctor’s orders to start eating healthier. Regardless, weight loss apps can help you go about food tracking in a healthful and sustainable way.

Read more: How to get your diet back on the healthy track while working from home during the pandemic, according to nutrition experts

“There are many free and paid apps to help you learn how to eat more healthfully,” Samantha Cassetty, RD, national nutrition and wellness expert with a private practice based in New York City, told Insider. “The most important thing is to find one that supports a variety of healthful foods in balanced amounts that are right for your needs.”

At the end of this guide, I’ve included tips on how a weight loss app can help, as well as the insight Cassetty shared on why making healthy changes takes more than just the help of an app.

Here are the best weight loss apps:

  • Best overall weight loss app: Noom
  • Best weight loss app for those on a budget: Weight Watchers
  • Best free weight loss app: MyNetDiary
  • Best weight loss app for fitness: MyFitnessPal
  • Best weight loss food tracking app: Lose It!
  • Best weight loss app for busy lifestyles: Rise
  • Best weight loss app for at-home cooks: Fooducate
Best overall

Noom

Noom distinguishes itself from other diet and weight loss apps by looking at your entire lifestyle rather than just food intake.

Pros: Comprehensive diet plan backed by nutrition experts, assesses a user’s entire health profile, offers a food log and calorie tracker

Cons: Expensive

Noom is unique in that it not only pairs you with a health and nutrition expert to craft a plan individual to you, but it also takes into account a variety of factors like age, height, weight, activity level, target goals, medical history, and personal goals. 

The program Noom creates for you suggests which foods to eat, how much physical activity to do, and other healthy habit reinforcement. The goal is to give you the tools you need to adjust your current lifestyle gradually, making small changes that can be sustained over time. This approach leads to better health and fitness all around, which makes it a more balanced option for those looking to lose weight in a healthy and sustainable fashion.

The Noom app includes features you’d expect, like a food log, calorie tracker, and an activity monitor. It also provides incentives for you to be more active but in a more mindful way, taking into account caloric intake, fitness levels, and a variety of variables.

The downside of Noom is that it’s pricey. But if you’re looking for a larger life change, it’s a great, expert-backed program.

Best on a budget

ww app

Weight Watchers has helped people lose weight for decades and does a great job of making the transition to the digital age.

Pros: Familiar diet plans, offers a barcode scanner for use at the store, has more than 8,000 recommended recipes, allows members to attend workshops and coaching sessions

Cons: App can be glitchy at times and can have trouble logging food

Weight Watchers WW app is designed to supplement its proven dietary plan by putting the resources members need right at their fingertips. That includes a massive database of rated foods using the Weight Watchers point system, putting less emphasis on calories and more on total awareness of exactly what foods you’re eating.

The app includes far more features than just a food-tracking database, too. It offers more than 9,000 healthy recipes, a barcode for scanning foods at the grocery store, and the ability to get advice from a diet coach at any time. Members can also connect with one another to offer advice and encouragement, while also earning a variety of tangible rewards — such as water bottles and wireless earbuds — just for leading a healthy lifestyle.

Weight Watchers members get access to the WW app as part of their benefits, or you can purchase a digital-only membership. This provides access to all of the app’s features but doesn’t allow digital-only users to attend workshops and coaching sessions. 

Best free app

mynetdiary

If you’re comfortable managing your own food choices, MyNetDiary is an excellent option for free.

Pros: An excellent app for anyone on a budget, offers food and exercise tracking and a variety of meal planning options

Cons: The advanced tracking options are behind a paywall

While the app does have some premium features, MyNetDiary‘s free services are very good, too, and great for anyone on a budget.

Those features include food and exercise tracking, meal planning options, graphical charts to map your progress, daily analysis of eating habits, and even access to a large and active online community. And not only are these services free but they don’t require the user to create an account. That means your data stays completely anonymous.

Paying for the premium version of MyNetDiary unlocks a number of other useful upgrades, as well. They include compatibility with Fitbit devices, health tracking for those who are diabetic or pre-diabetic, and personalized diet advice from a nutritionist. Those are handy to have if you need them but aren’t necessary to see beneficial functionality from this app.

Best for fitness

myfitnesspal

MyFitnessPal encourages users to think about the things they eat, while also helping them become more active at the same time.

Pros: Offers a wide variety of cardio and strength workouts, has a database of over 11 million different foods, features a barcode scanner for use at the store, its recipe importer gives you info on custom at-home meals, free features

Cons: $50 annual membership required for the full suite of features

While many diet and weight loss apps focus on just eating healthy, you should also ramp up your exercise routine for the best results. That’s where MyFitnessPal comes in, acting as both a diet and an exercise coach.

MyFitnessPal comes with a database of more than 11 million foods, as well as a barcode scanner for adding entries to your food log. It includes a recipe importer for evaluating home-cooked meals, which is especially helpful when trying to get an accurate picture of your current eating habits.

Beyond those features, the app includes more than 300 cardio and strength workouts for a more well-rounded approach to your health and fitness. It even integrates with Apple’s HealthKit, as well as the MapMyRun, Garmin, and Fitbit apps to more accurately track steps and workout routines.

MyFitnessPal has a great online community to provide support, advice, and encouragement. While the premium membership is $10 a month or $50 a year, MyFitnessPal does have plenty of features for free.

Best for tracking food

lose it

Lose It! lets you quickly and easily input the foods you’ve eaten to calculate your caloric intake for the day — and the app is intuitive enough for anyone to use.

Pros: Easy to use food tracking, intuitive app, can take photos of your food to estimate calories, offers a social aspect to connect with other users, plenty of free features

Cons: App can be buggy, requires you to be highly specific about some foods

There are literally dozens of food tracking apps available for your smartphone but thanks to its versatility and smarts, Lose It! is our top pick. You’re able to easily add what food you ate today by selecting it from the app’s extensive database or by scanning the barcode on a product purchased at the store.

You can even take a photo of your meals in order to get an estimate of how many calories it contains. The app includes a helpful water tracking feature that reminds you to stay hydrated throughout the day, too. 

All of this functionality is included in the app for free but a $40 annual membership unlocks additional features like a Fitbit-compatible activity tracker, macronutrient goal setting, and access to a detailed and powerful meal planner.

An active community of users also provides a social aspect to using the app, which can be helpful when it comes to looking for support and feedback. The app even has weight loss games and challenges to take part in as well, which does a nice job of providing extra motivation.

Best for busy lifestyles

rise

Rise is the food tracker that doesn’t require an extensive amount of time to use — even minimal input can provide users with immense benefit.

Pros: Doesn’t require a lot of effort to make use of its benefits, simplifies the diet process, makes use of an easy-to-use food photo system that tracks what you eat

Cons: Expensive at roughly $48 per month

Food tracking and weight loss apps can be a lot of work. But the Rise app requires minimal work from users while still providing plenty of helpful advice to assist in achieving their fitness goals.

With Rise, you won’t be scanning bar codes, searching through food databases, or entering individual ingredients into the app. Instead, you just snap a photo of your meal or snack and upload it to your account. Then, a personal nutritionist reviews the photo and offers an analysis based on the goals you’ve set. This not only provides helpful feedback but adds a measure of accountability that goes a long way towards keeping users on track.

While Rise takes the drudgery out of the process, the simplicity that it provides comes at a price with monthly fees start at around $48 per month. This does make it pricey for a dietary service accessed through an app, though it’s still much cheaper than paying for an on-call personal nutritionist — which is essentially what you get here.

Best for at-home cooks

fooducate

Fooducate is the informational tool you need if you’re looking to improve your nutrition yet don’t know where to start.

Pros: An excellent informative tool to help people become more aware of their nutrition, uses an easy to understand grading system for a variety of foods, offers insightful tips on what to look out for when shopping

Cons: Food database isn’t entirely comprehensive (but gets updated often)

Fooducate is an app designed to help you make smarter decisions about your food as it suggests healthier alternatives to your favorite grub.

Using Fooducate is extremely easy, too. Simply scan the barcode on any product at the grocery store and it provides a letter grade for the nutritional value of that item ranging from A+ to D-. Accompanying that letter grade is an explanation of why the product received the grade it did, including valuable information about the nutritional content it offers.

The app also points out important things to be aware of, including whether or not a product contains added sugars, artificial coloring or sweeteners, or other unhealthy additives. This allows consumers to make more informed decisions at the grocery store, while also assisting with finding healthier alternatives.

Fooducate has other features beyond just scanning products at the grocery store. It also serves as a health tracker, offers insightful diet tips, and provides delicious and healthy recipes. But its engaged and active community is one of its best assets, with users sharing tips and suggestions with one another on a constant basis. That kind of support is an incredibly helpful feature for anyone struggling to eat healthier and lead a better all-around lifestyle.

How a weight-loss app can help

Considering you always have your phone with you, using an app to track your food and screen your grocery store purchases is ideal. Some of the apps that are available even create extensive meal plans, provide diet and exercise routines, or offer consultations from dietitians and nutritionists. Others simply track what you eat in order to raise awareness of the calories you’re taking in. Cassetty said there are benefits to both and that even basic food trackers are valuable.

“Free tools allow you to track your food intake, which is a form of self-monitoring that’s been found helpful for reaching or maintaining a comfortable weight,” she said. “They can also expose when you might be grazing or over-snacking, which happens when you’re spending more time working at home with a stocked kitchen.”

Why making healthy changes takes more than an app

While Cassetty said she finds plenty of value in the use of smartphone apps to track dietary intake, she also urges caution, saying that “unless you’re getting the tools and information you need to make lasting changes, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to maintain any weight you’ve lost.”

She recommended working on understanding how to balance meals so they fill you up while tasting great at the same time. She also stresses the importance of developing healthier coping strategies rather than turning to food when we’re bored, stressed, anxious, depressed, or even happy.

“Rather than focus on a goal weight, I think a better way to go is to focus on small steps you can take to create healthier habits,” Cassetty said. “Examples include, limiting soda, upping your veggie intake at lunch and dinner, cooking an extra meal or two, drinking more water, and aiming for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.”

Those are words of wisdom, no doubt, but Cassetty also expressed the importance of cutting ourselves some slack when things get especially stressful and difficult.

“I think it’s important to be flexible and compassionate with yourself during these challenging times,” she added. “You may not be able to eat as well as you’d like or maintain your healthy routines, and that’s alright. As long as you’re putting in some effort — versus none at all — it’s a step in the right direction.”

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The 6 best treadmills for your home gym

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Adding a treadmill to your home gym is an excellent way to increase your routine cardio and keep fit.
  • The most important qualities to look for in a treadmill are power, reliability, and comfort.
  • Our top pick, the ProForm Pro 2000, features iFit workouts, has a cushioned tread, and folds up easily.

Editor’s note: Due to high demand, some of the selections are either limited in stock or back-ordered. We will update this piece with new picks or purchase options as best we can.

Few exercise machines have endured the changing landscape of at-home fitness quite like the treadmill. They’re great for maintaining cardio fitness, preparing for road races like 2-milers or 5Ks, or serving as a complement to a weekly workout routine – especially for anyone who doesn’t have time to run outside.

Treadmills are also incredibly simple to use. You just run or walk on the belt, and a motor moves it under your feet at whatever speed you select. Some even offer a variety of different features, including touchscreen displays and live-streamed classes, that’ll help you gain exactly the kinds of training and health benefits you need.

As a frequent gym-goer (prior to the pandemic, of course) and current fitness editor, I’ve run my fair share of miles on treadmills advanced, basic, or otherwise. For every mile logged on something like NordicTrack’s Commercial 2950 or ProForm’s Pro 2000, I’ve logged an equal amount (if not many more) on treadmills without an interactive screen attached to them and those a bit more typical of a standard fitness center or gym.

This experience proved vital when combing through and testing the allotment of treadmills currently available – and helped me better understand why someone may prefer a certain model over another. The following guide features a range of treadmill types at various price points in hopes of helping you find the best option for your fitness needs.

At the end of this guide, I’ve also included some tips on how to shop for a treadmill as well as insight into the testing methodology used for deciding which made the cut.

Here are the best treadmills:

The best treadmill overall

treadmill

The ProForm Pro 2000 Treadmill is a race-trainers dream that’s versatile enough for the casual runner, too. 

Pros: Good motor, large running belt of 22 by 60 inches, includes both an incline and a decline setting, offers good interval training features, has access to iFit workouts

Cons: Customer service may be disappointing if you have problems, very heavy treadmill

Runners looking for a treadmill with good all-around training capabilities and a host of useful features will like the reasonably-priced ProForm Pro 2000 Treadmill

It has a 3.5-horsepower motor, which allows it to stand up to daily use, and it boasts a belt deck that measures 22 by 60 inches, which is perfect for most runners. When you’re training for races with hills, you’ll appreciate this treadmill’s ability to reach a 15% incline and a 3% decline, which better simulates hills than most other treadmills — it’s easy to adjust it both up and down, too, even while running. 

The ProForm Pro 2000 also has a number of techy features, including a 7-inch screen that’s compatible with iFit’s wide range of interactive workouts, a music port for iPods, and a built-in fan that works well to keep you somewhat cool while using it. Its tread features what the brand calls ProShox Cushioning, which is designed to lessen the impact on your feet and knees while running. Though a true, long-term test of this would better judge its viability, even a handful of runs on it showed that this made a difference (even if it was minimal). 

What truly makes this treadmill stand out is its inclusion of the above-mentioned iFit workouts. Not only are these excellent ways to keep motivated, but the platform offers some genuinely unique workouts. One day you could be running through France and the next through Vietnam. The globe-spanning locales add a level of quality to the workouts you’d have a hard time finding elsewhere.

Another perk of the iFit workouts is how the trainers leading the runs entirely control the incline, decline, and speed, allowing you to focus strictly on running. This is something that’s incredibly welcome as fumbling with a treadmill’s controls while in a full stride isn’t always the most fun (and can easily mess with your cadence). The ProForm Pro 2000 comes with one free year of iFit, too, so you won’t have to worry about shelling out a monthly payment for at least 12 months.

Its price is also in the range of what you’d expect to pay for a full-featured treadmill. Most interactive workout machines run in the $2,000 range, and the fact this undercuts that average by a few hundred dollars, makes it an appealing choice for anyone looking to add a treadmill to their home gym. It can easily support any fitness routine, whether it’s the centerpiece of your weekly workouts or a supplement to a more comprehensive plan.

The best smart treadmill

2950Nordic

NordicTrack’s Commercial 2950 is a highly versatile treadmill that offers automatic incline control, an HD 22-inch touchscreen, and a deep library of interactive classes from iFit. 

Pros: Now features automatically adjusting resistance and speed, the iFit library offers a wide range of in-studio classes and runs through real-world locales, offers Bluetooth connectivity and WiFi support

Cons: Expensive

The Commercial 2950 treadmill from NordicTrack is one of the most full-featured machines I’ve tested, coming with everything from automatic incline control and Bluetooth connectivity to Google Maps integration and personalized workout stats. My favorite feature, however, is its access to iFit’s expansive library of interactive workouts. 

With iFit, you’re able to run essentially anywhere, yet still from the comfort of your home. The service’s roster of trainers offers a wide range of run types that aren’t just confined to a studio or their home (where they do film some of the classes). Rather, you could be running through real-world locales that quite literally offer a breath of fresh air from standard treadmill routines. I found this to be a welcome deviation from the tediousness of normal running. Though iFit does cost $39 per month, a free year of the service comes standard with the purchase of all new treadmills (and bikes, too, for that matter). 

In addition to those workouts, the rest of the 2950 is a highly premium product. The automatically adjusting resistance feature mentioned above is a game-changer, and, as the name suggests, allows the trainers to fully control the incline, decline, and speed of the treadmill as you run along. All you have to worry about is just running — which does well to keep you focused and motivated instead of worrying about fumbling with controls. 

One nitpick could be that the iFit interface can be a little clunky and slow to use sometimes, and the service occasionally crashed mid-workout (though did tend to load right back up in the exact same spot I was running). This didn’t happen enough to be concerning, nor did it detract from my overall experience. 

The 2950 certainly isn’t cheap but few treadmills with this much to offer both in terms of features and available workouts will necessarily be “affordable.” Still, it’s worth the investment for those who want access to a huge library of interactive classes and a premium-built treadmill. 

The best budget treadmill

treadmill

Compared to other budget fold-up treadmills, the Horizon Fitness T101-04 Treadmill has nice features and good performance.

Pros: Very good price point for an entry-level treadmill, will save space with a fold-up design, runs quieter than most budget-priced treadmills, works better for walkers and light runners

Cons: Only a 55-inch belt length, not really made for high-end running workouts, longevity is questionable

Saving space with a fold-up treadmill is a great idea for a lot of people. However, most fold-up treadmills don’t offer a lot of power.

With those natural limitations of fold-up treadmills in mind, you’ll like the Horizon Fitness T101-04 Treadmill, which works well for walkers and anyone on a budget (and isn’t really made for runners looking for high-end workouts). Think of it as like an entry-level treadmill, or something that can be a complement to a wider range of at-home equipment. 

It has a 55-inch belt length, a maximum 10 mph speed, and a 2.25-horsepower motor. The T101-04 treadmill is easy to fold up for storage, which is great for anyone with minimal space in their home or apartment.

You can’t beat the value, too. If you want something simple, straightforward, and cost-effective that has the basic features necessary for just running and walking, the T101-04 from Horizon Fitness is the treadmill you need.

The best upright folding treadmill

treadmill

The LifeSpan TR3000i uses an extensive shock absorption system to take some pressure off your joints while running.

Pros: Good price for a mid-range treadmill, unit folds up to save storage space, extensive shock absorption system, good feature set versus other models in this price range

Cons: Not really designed for high-end workouts, build quality of treadmill is questionable

Some people dislike working out on a treadmill because of the pressure it places on their joints. The LifeSpan TR3000i attempts to alleviate some of this pressure by using a shock absorption system in the treadmill’s deck.

It has a 20 x 56-inch running surface, 15 incline levels, and a 6-inch LCD screen that shows your time, calories, distance covered, steps, heart rate, speed, and incline. The eight shock absorber elements in the deck ensure that it remains both stable and comfortable to run on. As mentioned on other models, long-term testing would be a better indicator of just how well the shock-absorbing works, but it’s easy to notice the difference in the TR3000i compared to others. If you at all have foot, knee, or joint issues, you’ll want to at least consider this one when shopping.

Beyond its shock-absorbing capabilities, the TR3000i has a number of fun features to give you variety in your workouts, too, including a tablet holder, a USB charging port, and compatibility with iPods. It also has built-in speakers, folds up for easy storage, and physical console buttons that are sometimes easier to use when making adjustments than only relying on the touchscreen.

The best compact treadmill

Cubii1

The Cubii Pro is an easy-to-use, under desk exercise machine that’s more of an elliptical than a treadmill but still allows you to log some quality cardio no matter if you’re sitting down for lunch or powering through a backlog of emails. 

Pros: Small, easy-to-use machine that delivers an effective cardio workout, has up to eight different resistance settings, offers companion app support

Cons: Not strictly a treadmill, might not be as intense for hardcore fitness buffs

Though the Cubii Pro isn’t exactly a treadmill in the traditional sense (and is more of an elliptical style machine than anything else), its unobtrusive nature makes it a convenient addition to anyone’s home gym. The machine simply sits on the floor, be it under a desk, next to a coffee table, or literally anywhere around the house, and lets you pedal away for as long as you like. 

The machine delivers low-impact cardio that may benefit those unable to run on a treadmill due to sore joints, and its quiet operation even allows it to be used while watching TV, talking on the phone, or listening to music. With eight different levels of resistance, it affords as easy or as difficult a workout as you like, too. 

A companion smartphone application lets you keep track of all your logged workouts and lets you set weekly and monthly goals or share your progress with friends. The app is also compatible with services like Fitbit or Apple HealthKit, so if you prefer the interface of those, all workout data can easily sync to them.

At $349, it’s certainly not a drop in the bucket but it is far cheaper than even the budget model on this list. For convenient, low-impact cardio exercise, the Cubii Pro is as versatile and easy to use as it gets. 

The best treadmill for quiet workouts

treadmill

The 3G Cardio Elite Runner Treadmill delivers excellent performance and runs quieter than most treadmills.

Pros: Strong steel frame that will support a lot of weight, unit runs quieter than most treadmills, large treadmill belt area for tall runners, includes a large motor to compare favorably to gym treadmills

Cons: Extremely high price point, very heavy equipment that is difficult to move around

Few treadmills made for use at home will deliver the kind of quiet performance that the 3G Cardio Elite Runner Treadmill delivers. It’s made for tall or heavy runners looking a tough workout, but you’ll pay more than $3,000 for the kind of quality that this 3G Cardio unit delivers.

It has an Ortho Flex Shock suspension system to minimize the stress of impact for runners, and the 22 by 62-inch platform is perfect for running.

The 3G Cardio comes with many pre-programmed workouts and a fitness level test. You have access to speed and elevation settings, heart rate control, and workout customization.  This treadmill also has a 4.0 horsepower motor and 3-inch rollers for great performance.

As you would expect with a treadmill with such a high price point, the 3G Cardio Elite consists of thick steel tubing in the frame. It’s also rather expensive, so this is really only for serious runners who want a treadmill that will last a lifetime.

Treadmill FAQ

 

Basic

The most basic type of treadmill only works for walkers. They will have simple tracking features, such as speed, distance, and time. Most basic units will have a short bed that works better for a walker’s stride than for running.

And you’ll find limited shock absorption features here, which isn’t great for runners. Such treadmills will fold up for easy storage (although some more expensive treadmills also can fold up for storage).

Mid-range

These treadmills will work for walkers or runners. For walkers, a mid-range treadmill should have longer support arms, allowing you to balance yourself easier. The belt bed will be a bit longer than the basic treadmill, but those with long running strides may still struggle.

You’ll see better tech features in this price range, including a heart rate monitor worn on the chest or pre-set training programs.

Top-end:

The highest quality of treadmills will contain long belt beds with good shock absorption, making them perfect for runners. To gain these features, such treadmills rarely will fold up for storage, meaning they require a lot of free space. They will deliver greater maximum speed levels and greater levels of incline, too.

These treadmills consist of the highest-quality materials. You’ll receive Wi-Fi connectivity and extensive pre-set exercise programs with these models.

Key treadmill features and terms

As treadmills evolved, companies began adding a suite of high-tech features. However, don’t focus entirely on the bells and whistles of expensive treadmills. Pay attention to its physical parts, too, to find the best possible unit for your needs.

Exercise programs

Treadmills may have pre-programmed workouts that can help you with weight loss, cardiovascular performance, speed workouts, or hills training. These programs will allow you to set the length of exercise time, but they will automatically change the speed of the treadmill and the incline to match the parameters of the pre-programmed workout.

Horsepower

Any treadmill motor with a continuous duty measurement of at least 2.0 should be sufficient for most people. Smaller motors work better for walkers and larger motors work better for runners.

Incline and decline

To help with training for running on hills or for additional calorie burn, the treadmill needs to offer an incline. Most treadmills can reach at least a 12% incline grade. Some treadmills even give you a simulation of running downhill with a decline grade of around 3%.

Length

Runners need a treadmill belt bed of roughly 55-60 inches long, while walkers can use one closer to 45-50 inches long. Taller people will need an even longer belt bed. Remember that the length of the treadmill isn’t the same as the length of the bed.

The treadmill length (and width, for that matter) must accommodate the base portion of the unit that doesn’t move, as well as the bed’s motor housing at the front of the unit.

Safety line

Treadmills will contain a safety line that hooks into the unit. You’ll clip the safety line to your shirt. Should you stumble, the safety line will disconnect from the treadmill, causing it to shut down immediately. This is a nice safety feature, and it prevents those common TV and movie gags where the person using the treadmill falls and gets launched into a wall.

Speed

The speed with which the bed rotates on the treadmill is measured in miles per hour. Most people don’t need anything over 10 mph, but those seeking heavy-duty interval workouts can find speeds up to 15 mph in a top-end treadmill.

Support rails

A treadmill made for walkers, especially elderly walkers, should have long support rails on the sides that you can grip while using the treadmill to steady yourself.

Touch screen controls

You should be able to adjust the incline, speed, and program in use through the touchscreen monitor. The screen also gives you information on the time elapsed, calories burned, distance traveled, your heart rate, and more. 

Weight limit

Based on the size of the motor and the shock absorption capabilities, a treadmill may give you a maximum user weight recommendation. You should be able to find this listed in its online user’s manual or listed on its specifications sheet. 

Wi-Fi connection

Through a Wi-Fi connection, you can gain access to simulated video workouts. Or you can play streaming movies on the display screen, giving you some entertainment as you’re workout out on the treadmill.

Width

A treadmill belt bed should be at least 22 inches wide for runners which provides plenty of space in case you have a misstep. Walkers can successfully use a narrower bed than runners, such as 18 or 20 inches.

How we test treadmills

Each treadmill featured in this guide went through a series of extensive tests (i.e. we ran on them, a lot) to see how well they compared across these four categories: Performance, features, quality, and value. Here’s how each category specifically factored into which treadmills ended up making this guide:

Performance: How a treadmill performs comes down to a few basic aspects, including how comfortable it is to run on (and how shock absorbing it is), if it’s able to avoid sounding like you’re loudly pounding the ground with each step, what its tread feels like underfoot, and how wide the running area is. Though not all treadmills reliably check each of these boxes, a healthy combination of at least three of those often translates to high quality. 

Features: Some modern treadmills, like those from NordicTrack or ProForm, feature a built-in interactive screen that streams workouts, tracks output metrics, and improves the treadmill’s performance. For models that don’t have a screen, we looked at how intuitive it was to increase and decrease the treadmill’s speed and whether it offered an incline or decline mode. Even those that aren’t decked out with the ability to stream workouts are still feature-heavy enough to warrant a spot in your home gym.

Quality: If used often, treadmills can take a consistent beating, mostly due to a runner pounding on it step after step after step. This means the best treadmills should feature a sturdy and durable tread, a high-quality design that won’t become compromised even after a full year or more of use, and that feature an interface or series of buttons and dials that can avoid popping off or being unusable. 

Value: The value of a treadmill is less about its sticker price and more so the combination of the three categories above compared to its initial (and sometimes recurring) investment. We factored in everything when selecting treadmills across each featured category and often feel that it’s worth it to spend a little more money on a product that’s designed to last than to spend less, more often on something inferior. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 5 best Fitbit trackers and smartwatches to improve your health and fitness

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • All of Fitbit’s fitness wearables track steps, workouts, and sleep patterns, often automatically.
  • Its devices also give insight into stress levels, health habits, and routines.
  • We compared every current Fitbit for the best in the lineup, from smartwatches to basic trackers.
  • Our top pick, the Versa 3, has all the smartwatch basics plus built-in GPS, a huge display, and a long battery life.

A fitness tracker or smartwatch is an incredible tool to help you pay more attention to patterns in your health, get serious about fitness training, or even just increase your daily step count.

One of the brands at the forefront of the industry is Fitbit, a company whose wearables track everything from daily steps and workout pace, to sleep patterns and stress levels. A Fitbit can help you better understand when you to push yourself more in a workout, when your stress levels are too high and you need to take a moment to decompress, or when that fatigue or irritability you feel is actually the result of poor sleep quality.

As an avid runner, personal trainer, and fitness journalist, I’ve tested more fitness trackers than I can count, even before they became a staple on most people’s wrists. My first tracker, the Fitbit Flex, would light up with just a few red dots to notify me that I’d hit my step goal for the day. At the time, this was revolutionary information – and I loved it. Since, I’ve tried countless smartwatches and fitness trackers from brands like Apple, Garmin, and Polar.

Over the past several months, I’ve tested out the latest in Fitbit’s current lineup. My experience using them on runs, hikes, running errands around town, and even sleeping can hopefully help you decide what fits best with your lifestyle and which may be able to help you reach your own fitness and health goals.

At the bottom of this guide, I’ve also included some helpful insight into how to shop for a Fitbit, as well as the testing methodology I used for narrowing down which models ultimately made the cut.

If you’re deciding which is the best Fitbit to buy, here’s a quick breakdown of the most mainstream contenders:

Fitbit Versa 3

Fitbit Versa 2

Fitbit Inspire 2

Our review

Best overall

Best budget smartwatch

Best for the basics

Average price

$230

$180

$100

Battery Life

6 days

6 days

10 days

Features

  • Automatic activity tracking
  • 20 exercise modes
  • Sleep tracking
  • Water-resistant up to 50m
  • Built-in GPS
  • Built-in music storage
  • Large display for mindful minutes
  • Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant connection
  • Automatic activity tracking
  • 15 exercise modes
  • Sleep tracking
  • Water-resistant up to 50m
  • Large display for mindful minutes
  • Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant connection
  • Automatic activity tracking
  • 20 exercise modes
  • Sleep tracking
  • Water-resistant up to 50m

Drawbacks

  • Watch band can stick
  • Phone sync can take time
  • No built-in GPS or music storage
  • Slightly less modern display compared to Versa 3
  • No built-in GPS or music storage
  • Smaller screen

Still have questions about which Fitbit you should buy? Check out the more in-depth reviews below, along with a few other options for different needs.

Which is the best Fitbit to buy?

Best Fitbit overall

Fitbit Versa

With automatic activity tracking and a huge screen for both mid-run stats and the relax app, the Versa 3 has nearly all the perks of the Fitbit line at a not-totally-absurd price point and with a stylish design. 

Pros: Automatic activity and sleep tracking, in-depth exercise and sleep stats, 24/7 heart rate tracking, heart rate zones, built-in GPS, water resistant up to 50 meters, oxygen saturation reading, mindful minutes, battery life

Cons: Occasionally uncomfortable, sometimes needs to be manually synced

The Versa 3 stands out for its bright, colorful face and big display that clearly shows any stats. There are a lot of pros to this watch:

During a run or bike ride, the large display is especially great for quick glances at your pace in real time as you move. You can also easily check other stats — total time, average pace, heart rate zones — just by tapping the watch face, even mid-activity. The device buzzes to let you know when you’ve switched between fat burn, cardio, or peak zones. 

In the Fitbit app, you can see the complete overview of your cardio numbers, including time spent in those various heart rate zones, active zone minutes, average, minimum, and maximum heart rate, calories burned, and steps taken. With all this data, the Fitbit also determines your VO2max, the top marker of fitness level.

The Versa 3 has built-in GPS, so you can also go for a run or walk without your phone, which I particularly love to unplug and focus on your steps without losing the data behind how many I got in today.

The Versa 3 also has automatic activity tracking, which is such a nice feature when you forget to hit start on your runs. In addition to straight cardio workouts, you also have easy shortcuts to tracking bootcamp, Pilates, yoga, circuit training, and weight workouts. 

The sleep tracking on the Versa 3 also stands out among other devices in the line, as it reveals your time awake, in REM, deep sleep, and light sleep, plus the percent of time you spend below resting heart rate (aka “restoration”). All these stats lead to an overall sleep score that makes it easy to see the quality of your sleep.

You also get health-promoting tips based on sleep and activity, like when the watch told me I spend more minutes in deep sleep on days my step count hits more than 11,000 (fascinating!).

The final thing worth mentioning about Fitbit, in general, is the Relax app. This comes on each watch, but it’s best on the Versa 3 because you just have to press play and it gives you a pretty visual the Versa’s large screen. You then just follow along for deep inhales and exhales. You can check the mindfulness tap on the Fitbit phone app to see what your starting and ending heart rate is, as well as log how you’re feeling from very calm to very stressed.

The Versa 3 (as well as the Sense) will connect to Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant to help you check off errands or set reminders, without your computer or phone. You can even pay through the watch.

Lastly, you can control music from Spotify, Pandora, or Deezer, and even answer calls right on the watch face. If you have an Android, you can send voice-to-text responses, too. 

The only big downfall to the Versa (and the Sense) is that sometimes the watch band stuck to my skin — especially at night or when I didn’t dry it off after a workout. I do have sensitive skin, but it left a mark at one point, which went away quickly.

Also, because I close all the apps on my phone pretty often, sometimes I’d need to manually sync the watch to the phone app to see my full list of stats. This sometimes took longer than I wanted it to, especially after software updates.

Lastly, this is certainly not the cheapest watch on our list, but it still comes in below competitor models like the Apple Watch.

Best for monitoring health

Fitbit Sense

The Sense smartwatch has a ton of added features, focusing on heart health and stress management, giving you a more holistic look at your well-being. 

Pros: Automatic activity and sleep tracking, in-depth exercise and sleep stats, 24/7 heart rate tracking, heart rate zones, built-in GPS, water resistant up to 50 meters, oxygen saturation reading, mindful minutes, EDA scan, ECG readings, stress management score

Cons: Expensive

The Sense offers a more complete picture of your health, tracking not just your physical activity but also your mental state. 

For starters, the Sense offers automatic exercise and sleep tracking, and the stats that come with those readings. 

More excitingly, this smartwatch offers electrodermal activity (EDA) readings. This is a measurement of tiny electrical changes on the skin which is meant to indicate your stress levels. To get a reading, you open the EDA scan app on the watch, hold your palm on the screen, and then do a mindfulness session as it reads your EDA. After, the watch will tell you how many EDA responses it calculated (fewer means you were calm), plus your starting and ending heart rate. It gives you an option to log how you’re feeling (calm or stressed), too. 

Using those EDA readings, heart rate data, sleep patterns, and your exercise for the day, the Sense will also give you a stress management score. I was surprised by how low my score was when I actually felt stressed, but I chalk that up to a balance of physical activity and healthy amount of sleep. 

Lastly, the Sense also reads your blood oxygen levels at night and can act as an electrocardiogram (ECG) reader with the accompanying app. This means with the touch of the screen, the watch analyzes your heart rate and looks for atrial fibrillation (or AFib, which shows an irregular heart contraction and can signal a major health issue).  

The less flashy but super useful features including the ability to answer calls via Bluetooth, sync your calendar, pair the watch with Alexa or Google Assistant, and pay through your watch.

To get all these features, you do have to pay a rather hefty price, and it can take some time to add things like EDA scanning to your regular health routine. But if you’re trying to seriously clean up your overall health or want accountability to stay on track, the Sense’s many features are worth the price.

Best for tracking fitness

Fitbit Charge 4

The Charge 4 hits a budget-friendly price point while offering stellar activity tracking in a smaller footprint than a smartwatch. 

Pros: Automatic activity and sleep tracking, in-depth exercise and sleep stats, 24/7 heart rate tracking, heart rate zones, built-in GPS, water resistant up to 50 meters, mindful minutes, slim design, long battery life

Cons: Black-and-white display, smaller screen, no music storage

If you want a tracker to record your workouts and daily movement with a few nice-to-haves, but you don’t care about fancy features like a big, colorful screen; answering calls via your watch; or connecting with Alexa or Google Assistant, then the Charge 4 is your match. 

This tracker records and displays you all the stats you want from your workout: current and average exercise pace, distance, heart rate zones, total time, steps taken, and calories burned. Within the Fitbit app, you can also see a map of your run, complete with intensity zones showing where your heart rate climbed highest and dipped lowest. 

The Charge 4 has built-in GPS, so you can run without your smartphone if you want your hands free or the battery is low, which is rarer for a tracker this small.

You also still have the option to sync your calendar and get alerts on events, plus you can read text messages and see when you’re getting calls. The Charge 4 also comes with access to the Relax app for two minutes of deep breathing with dots to follow for each inhale and exhale instead of a video. This device also has Fitbit’s in-depth sleep tracking.

The battery life on the Charge 4 is longer than either Versas or the Sense. The design is smaller and takes up less space around your wrist, which is nice for more petite people. 

However, that also makes the screen smaller for reading and navigating, which can be a huge drawback for some. 

Best budget Fitbit

Fitbit Inspire 2

If you want a straightforward activity tracker to tell you how much you’ve moved today and how good of a workout you got, the Inspire 2 offers the best of Fitbit’s basic features at under $100.

Pros: Automatic activity and sleep tracking, in-depth exercise and sleep stats, 24/7 heart rate tracking, heart rate zones, water resistant up to 50 meters, mindful minutes, slim design, battery life

Cons: No built-in GPS, smaller screen

This mini-sized watch has the best of Fitbit’s signature features, including automatic sleep and activity tracking, constant heart rate tracking, and mindfulness encouragement via the Relax app. Better yet, it has the longest battery life of all the Fitbits — and it’s under $100. 

On the Inspire 2, you can get smartphone notifications like calendar alerts, texts, and calls (though you can’t answer the phone on the watch).

The slim design is nice for people who aren’t used to something on their wrist, and the minimalist display, while small and harder to read for some people, makes it easy to see what’s important without being inundated with stats and info.

The biggest downfall is that you need your phone every time you head out for a walk or run in order to track mileage and other stats. But that’s not even a huge concession for most people.

Best budget smartwatch

Fitbit Versa 2

If you want the bigger screen of the Versa 3 and the Sense but don’t need to answer calls from your watch or have a built-in GPS, the Versa 2 is a fabulous option to save a little money ($50).

Pros: Cheaper than the Versa 3 or Sense, automatic activity and sleep tracking, in-depth exercise and sleep stats, 24/7 heart rate tracking, heart rate zones, water resistant up to 50 meters, mindful minutes, long battery life

Cons: no built-in GPS, music storage only works with Deezer and Pandora’s premium service

The Versa 2 has the big, bright screen of Fitbit’s leading smartwatch models (i.g., Versa 3 and Sense), albeit with a little less modern-looking display (though the clock face and straps are all customizable).

It automatically tracks activity and sleep, offers a sleep score, has 24/7 heart rate tracking, and offers guided breathing exercises. It displays real-time pace and distance when you’re on the move. The Versa 2 has 15 exercise modes to record, which is 5 less than the newer models, but still includes all the biggies like running, biking, hiking, swimming, weights, and bootcamp. 

You can connect the watch to Amazon Alexa and control music via apps like Spotify. You also get phone notifications like texts and calls (you can’t answer calls through the watch, though you can use voice replies to texts) and can pay with the watch.

The major thing you’re giving up by opting for the older model is built-in GPS. That means you’ll need your phone with you when you go out for a run, walk, bike ride, or hike. But realistically, most of us take our phones with us running for safety or communication, so this might not be as big of a deal-breaker as it sounds. Plus, built-in GPS drains your battery faster, so you’ll score a longer battery life.

What we’re looking forward to testing

Fitbit Luxe: Fitbit recently announced a new fashion-forward fitness tracker to its lineup, the Luxe. The device is about the size of the Charge 4, but with sleek metal finishes and luxe wrist bands, and the more advanced features of the Versa 3. The device is currently on pre-order and will ship this spring. Our tech team will be testing the device, so check back for updates on how it compares to its predescessors.

How to shop for a Fitbit

Fitbit was one of the first brands in the fitness tracking-space when it came out with its step counter. Since then, its devices have evolved with the needs of its customer base, allowing it to maintain one of the top spots in a growing market of fitness trackers and smartwatches. There are good options from other brands like Suunto, Apple, and Garmin but Fitbit continues to deliver high-quality products that excel in a few key areas:

User-friendly features

Ease-of-use is everything when it comes to any technology, but especially a device you intend to use every day. Fitbit’s found success as a brand thanks to its easy-to-use interfaces and superior activity and sleep tracking. 

What makes Fitbit such a successful brand — and one worth the money — is that all its devices, no matter the price point or type (tracker versus smartwatch), come with all the foundational features you want in a health and fitness tracker. This includes the ability to automatically track sleep and activity, which is the best thing about the brand, in my opinion.

Then, all the models track pace, distance, and calories burned during your workouts, and calculate your heart rate training zones, including fat burn, cardio, and peak. For sleep, you not only get the total hours you slept, but the time you spent in deep and REM sleep, plus the percentage of time you spent below your resting heart rate. 

With some models, these stats are easier to access than others — namely, the Sense, Versa 2, and Versa and 3 because their larger screens are easier to read at a glance. But even with the smaller, more narrow faces of the Charge 4, the numbers are very large which is really nice to have. The Inspire 2 is definitely the hardest to glace stats quickly off of.

The Fitbit app itself, accessed via your phone, is easy to navigate and clearly displays steps, miles, active zone minutes, daily calorie burn, mindfulness days, exercise, and activity per hour. It also reminders you to take 250 steps per hour. Additionally, you can track your menstrual cycle, food and water intake, and weight (though these require more manual entries). 

Easy-access add-on features

Fitbit now also offers a Premium membership, through which you get access to guided meditations, video workouts, goal setting and challenges, and more in-depth health insights, particularly for your blood oxygen level readings, heart rate variability, and breathing rate. 

All of these features are accessed through the Fitbit app, so this is mostly just a plus for Fitbit as a brand. However, most of the new Fitbit devices come with a complimentary free trial, after which it’s $10/month or $80/year, and the upgrade unlocks special features for some devices. The Sense, for example, includes a six-month free trial of Premium, which also offers special mindfulness and mediation features through the watch’s special electrodermal activity sensor. The Inspire 2 comes with a year-long free trial. The Versa 3, Versa 2, and Charge 4 all come with a 3-month free trial.

Superior battery life

Each Fitbit in the line has top-notch battery life, lasting days even with auto-activity and auto-sleep tracking turned on, so you don’t have to worry about charging it every night. 

Officially, the battery for all Fitbits featured last from six days up to 10 days, depending on the device and your usage. In my experience, the Versa 2, Versa 3, and Sense last an average of six days on one charge, the Charge 4 for seven days, and the Inspire 2 a whopping 10 days.

Versatile customization options

For starters, there’s the devices themselves: the Fitbit line is a range of smartwatches and other wearables, all with different features and price points, so you can choose the one that best fits your style and health goals. 

Then, Fitbit offers plenty of options to customize the look of your device. Each watch or tracker comes with a basic band, but all have different colors and material bands you can purchase for customization, from stainless steel mesh for a professional look to expressive prints to more breathable sports bands. The only watch on our list that doesn’t offer a sport-specific band is the Inspire 2.

You can also customize the watch faces, both for aesthetics and readability, and to personalize shortcuts on the devices and what’s displayed on the main app page. The Sense and Versa 3 have the most options for watch faces; you can even download third-party designs or use your own photos, which you can’t do with the other models.

How I tested

In addition to testing past iterations of Fitbit trackers and smartwatches when they were launched, I tested each on the list below for several days (some weeks, even) wearing them 24/7 in most cases. I wore each during different types of workouts, from runs and walks to strength sets and yoga. I also wore the trackers to bed and for mindfulness sessions. Here are the key features I looked for when testing:

Workout tracking

To successfully record stats during a workout and easily check these as you go, it’s important that a watch clearly displays numbers, and quickly and continuously connects to the GPS, particularly if it’s built into the watch. I judged the trackers and watches on whether I could easily see my current pace, distance, and time, and if I had quick access to see other metrics like average pace and heart rate. 

Additionally, I ran another fitness tracking app on my phone to test the accuracy of the watch’s distance and pace. For every Fitbit featured, the numbers were always relatively close (and within the normal range you’d find if you compared almost any other fitness tracker). 

Because Fitbit offers automatic tracking, I also did a few workouts without manually pressing the start button to confirm that it picked up my movement, which it almost always did. 

Tracking and comfort while sleeping

I wore each of these watches and trackers to bed to test the automatic sleep tracking. I checked these stats in the morning to make sure it recorded my time in bed and wake-up times throughout the night. I also wore the devices when occasionally taking naps throughout the day, which they also picked up on. 

The devices needed to be comfortable enough to wear all night in order to get those stats, too. While the bands occasionally stuck to my skin if I got sweaty at night, it never disturbed my sleep — I only ever noticed this after waking up. 

Battery life

I tested the battery life of each Fitbit by charging it to 100% battery and wearing it through workouts, nights of sleep, and throughout the day to see how long each would last. They all surprised me, too — the life lasted even after several workouts, including those using the built-in GPS (which typically drains batteries quickly). The Inspire 2 was the most impressive for battery life. 

App usability

One huge perk of Fitbit is the built-in stress-reducing apps, so how easy these were to use was a key part of testing. I tried Fitbit’s mindfulness program, the Relax app, on all devices, and the EDA scan app on the Sense, which contributes to stress management numbers. I looked for ease of use, visuals, and the stats provided after recording a mindfulness session, like changes in heart rate. 

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The 6 best kayaks for recreational use, sea touring, or whitewater kayaking

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Kayaking is a great way to spend time on the water, be it paddling on a lake, riding river rapids, or going fishing.
  • Kayaks vary in design, with some intended for sea touring and tandem kayaking, while others are inflatable.
  • Our top pick, Dagger’s Stratos 14.5, is stable and easy to maneuver, and rides well in the ocean, on lakes, and in rivers.

As is the case with many other outdoor activities, kayaking can be as intense or as relaxing as you’d like. Whether you’re looking to enjoy a gentle paddle across a serene lake or an adrenaline-inducing ride through turbulent whitewater, the sport has something to offer just about everyone.

It also makes for an excellent form of exercise and is a great way to bond with friends and family in the outdoors. Kayaks can also be used in both wilderness and urban settings, providing unique perspectives on both environments.

I’ve been a fan of kayaking for as long as I can remember. From riding Class 4 rapids to casual paddles at my local lake, I’ve spent plenty of time learning what does (and doesn’t) make a good kayak. Thankfully, the good has more often outweighed the bad, and the current variety of kayaks fit a range of budgets and skill levels.

To help narrow down the best kayaks available, I’ve tested a number of models from top brands like Dagger, Oru, and Perception Kayaks. I’ve broken my selections down into a variety of categories based on the type of kayaking, so if you’re in the market for a new boat of your own, these are the models that should be on your shortlist.

At the end of this guide, I’ve also included some insight into how to shop for a kayak and what to keep in mind, as well as the testing methodology I used in deciding which models ultimately made this guide.

Here are the best kayaks:

The best kayak overall

 Dagger Stratos 14.5

A stable and maneuverable boat that excels on the open ocean but can also be used on lakes and rivers, the Dagger Stratos 14.5 provides outstanding versatility for paddlers of all levels of experience.

Pros: Stable, easy to maneuver, plenty of fun to paddle

Cons: Not the fastest kayak on the water

Because they’re designed for use on more turbulent waters, sea kayaks tend to be longer and narrower than other models. This helps improve not only their stability but their speed and tracking, too, making this type of boat easier to paddle even in rougher conditions. But their longer length can also make them less maneuverable, limiting their usefulness on other bodies of water.

That isn’t the case with the Dagger Stratos 14.5 as this is a boat that’s easy to control and paddle straight whether you’re in heavy ocean surf, on a calm lake, or floating along with the current of a river.

The versatility of the Stratos is one of its biggest strengths, making this a boat that’s equally well-suited for day trips on a local bay or extended multi-day outings along rugged coastlines. It features a large, comfortable cockpit, two watertight hatches, and bungee cord storage on the deck itself. This makes it easy to carry everything you need on the kayak, with ample cargo space for any adventure.

Surprisingly nimble and easy to paddle, the Stratos 14.5 doesn’t feel like a boat that’s more than14 feet in length. Beginner paddlers will find it offers a wide margin for error when it comes to perfecting their kayaking skills, while veteran kayakers will love how easy the boat is to maneuver, even in tight quarters. Despite its length, the Stratos can turn on a dime, and thanks to a built-in, adjustable skeg, it maintains its tracking with relative ease.

Ocean kayaks aren’t especially well known for their speed and the Stratos is no different. Compared to other models in this category, it isn’t exactly slow, but it also doesn’t compete with the shorter, lighter-weight boats that are purpose-built for use on lakes and rivers. Still, it’s easy to get this kayak moving and maintain a constant pace.

If you primarily find yourself kayaking on the ocean, you’ll find that the Dagger Stratos 14.5 is a fun, comfortable, and stable boat for use on those outings. But its ability to extend its use to other types of paddling helps separate it from the competition.

The best budget kayak

Perception Sound 10

The Perception Sound 10.5 is proof that you can buy a versatile, full-featured kayak without blowing your budget. 

Pros: Budget-friendly, versatile, stable, and customizable

Cons: Lacks features, slow, and heavy

As the popularity of kayaking has grown in recent years, the availability of high-quality boats that don’t break the bank expanded, too. Case in point, the Perception Sound 10.5 is a model that offers solid performance and versatility, at a wallet-friendly price. 

Designed primarily for kayak fishing, the Sound 10.5 is nevertheless a good all-around recreational model. It’s incredibly stable and offers straight tracking, making it feel right at home on lakes, slow-moving rivers, or calm coastlines. Because it’s a sit-inside model, it also provides good protection from the elements — the open cockpit is airy and comfortable in warm conditions, too.

The included seat is surprisingly supportive and adjustable, especially for a kayak at this price point. The boat comes with a large, open storage area that sits behind the paddler, although this compartment isn’t watertight and uses only bungee cords to keep its contents in place. The Sound 10.5 features two molded fishing rod holders built right into hits hull, along with sturdy grab handles at either end to help get it in and out of the water. 

To keep the cost of the Sound 10.5 low, Perception stripped away a few features, with the option to add them back in as needed. The boat has a dashboard that includes several mounting points, allowing the kayaker to customize it to fit their specific needs. This lends the Sound an extra level of versatility, allowing it to perform multiple roles. 

Make no mistake, the Perception Sound 10.5 won’t be the fastest or flashiest kayak on the water, but it does offer simple, reliable performance at a great price. For most recreational paddlers, this is a boat that fits their needs nicely, while still offering room to grow. Don’t let the inexpensive price tag fool you, this is a quality option for those who are looking for great value without the need for top-end performance. 

The best whitewater kayak

Dagger Mamba Creeker 8

Whitewater boats don’t come much more agile and quick than the Dagger Mamba Creeker 8.6, a boat that was designed to take on the most challenging rapids imaginable.

Pros: Stable, great for beginning paddlers, and highly reliable performance

Cons: Slow and ponderous

Unlike kayaks designed for touring, a whitewater boat is short, nimble, and incredibly maneuverable. Built to help paddlers negotiate fast-moving rapids, these models excel at winding their way through the wildest water imaginable and few can do it better than the Dagger Mamba Creeker

A mainstay in the whitewater world for years, the Mamba Creeker is a kayak that has a reputation for providing outstanding performance in the most demanding of conditions. Designed to operate in turbulent, shallow waters, the boat is incredibly buoyant, something that’s crucial to success for whitewater paddlers. This kayak also offers a high level of control, allowing its small body to deftly weave in and out of tight situations with surprising ease. 

The interior of the Mamba Creeker‘s cockpit has been designed to not only keep the paddler well protected but to help them maintain control at all times. Padding has been placed at strategic points — such as along the hips — in an effort to prevent bruising and soreness brought on by a particularly fast and furious whitewater run. 

Meanwhile, the seat’s positioned in such a way that it can best take advantage of the boat’s integrated leg lifters, which increases the amount of energy transferred from the paddler to the kayak itself, facilitating the quick turns that are an important part of whitewater paddling. 

The hallmark of the Mamba Creeker is its stability, something that helps to make this boat a good option for beginners. It also provides a high degree of versatility, making it useful in a variety of different whitewater settings. It’s even quite comfortable for this style of boat, which can sometimes feel cramped and confining. 

Its main drawback is that the Mamba Creeker isn’t a very fast boat and its aging design has allowed competitors to close the gap some. More experienced paddlers may find other models more to their liking, but it is difficult to beat this kayak’s steady, tried and true, all-around performance. 

The best tandem kayak

Old Town Dirigo Tandem Plus

Take to the water with your favorite paddling partner aboard the Old Town Dirigo Tandem Plus, a two-person kayak that’s lightweight, speedy, and very roomy. 

Pros: Fun, surprisingly agile, and stocked with lots of handy features

Cons: It’s heavy, even for a tandem, and it should come with a rudder

As the name suggests, a tandem kayak accommodates two paddlers, allowing them to paddle at the same time to propel the boat along. If those two kayakers work well together, a tandem model can be quick, agile, and efficient out on the water, making for a fun shared experience. The Old Town Dirigo Tandem Plus is the perfect example of just such a boat, combining a spacious design and a host of features that help elevate it above the competition. 

One of the more notable features of the Dirigo Tandem is that both cockpits are large, open, and extremely accommodating. This not only makes it easier for both paddlers to get in and out of the boat but also improves the level of comfort as well.

The included seats are nicely padded and easily adjustable, allowing both individuals to tune them to meet their own needs. Thigh pads provide additional support and protection, while adjustable foot pedals make paddling more efficient. 

Old Town outfitted the Dirigo with a number of additional features such as a dry hatch and integrated bungee cables for deck storage. There’s also a sealed glove box-style hatch for securing cell phones, cameras, or other important items, as well as built-in paddle holders, retractable handles for carrying the boat, and cup holders. 

Tandem kayaks aren’t always known for their versatility, but the Dirigo breaks with tradition in this area, too. Old Town put plenty of thought into its design and the ways it can be used. To that end, it’s managed to squeeze in a child-sized jump seat that can accommodate smaller members of the family, ensuring no one gets left behind. 

Additionally, the rear seat can slide forward, effectively changing the center of gravity and allowing this tandem to be paddled solo should the need arise. These seemingly minor changes make it easier for a paddling family to buy a single boat that everyone can use together. 

Tipping the scales at 72 pounds and measuring over 15 feet in length, the Dirigo can be a bit ponderous getting on and off the water — especially when paddling solo. The kayak also doesn’t come with a rudder (though you can add one to it), which would be a major help when trying to paddle straight in challenging conditions.

The best folding kayak

Oru Bay ST

Lightweight and easy to paddle, the Oru Bay ST is a folding kayak that performs like a traditional model but can be stored in a closet and transported to and from the water in a trunk. 

Pros: Very beginner-friendly, easy to store and transport, ingenious design, and just plain fun

Cons: Not as fast or efficient as a traditional kayak and has a learning curve when it comes to assembly. 

Thanks to vastly improved designs and better all-around build quality, modern-day inflatable and folding kayaks now rival traditional models in terms of performance.

Leading the way in this category is Oru Kayaks, a company that’s looked to the Japanese art of origami as a source of inspiration. The company’s Bay ST model in particular is a marvel of creativity and design, proving just how impressive a folding kayak can truly be. 

Built from a single sheet of custom-made polypropylene, the Bay ST— like all of Oru’s kayaks —folds flat and stores in a plastic box that somewhat resembles a large suitcase. When taken out of the box, it assembles in a matter of minutes, transforming into a touring kayak that’s both stable and durable with solid tracking. The entire process is simple, although you’ll need to do it a time or two before it becomes natural. 

Inside its closed cockpit, the Bay ST is roomier than you’d expect. It accommodates paddlers of up to 6 feet, 3 inches in height, with a bit of extra room left over for storage. Bungee cables on the deck store additional gear, such as a water bottle or dry bag, as needed. This makes the boat a great choice for shorter excursions or even day trips, but not necessarily overnighters.

The boat also performs the best on flat water lakes, gentle rivers, and a relatively calm ocean. For the most part, it’s best to avoid fast-moving rapids in this one.

Oru outfit the Bay ST with a seat pad and it also includes an adjustable back- and footrest. This gives the paddler the ability to somewhat tune the fit to meet their needs. Smaller paddlers will likely feel comfortable and right at home at the helm, although larger kayakers may feel a bit cramped.

The best feature of the Bay ST is its ability to fold down and store in a relatively small space. This makes it ideal for apartment dwellers or those who simply don’t want a larger kayak taking up space in their garage. Oru owners don’t need a kayak carrier on their car either.

The best recreational kayak

Wilderness Systems Pungo 120

An excellent all-around performer, the Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 is the recreational kayak made for casual paddlers, weekend warriors, and seasoned veterans alike. 

Pros: Quick, easy to paddle, very comfortable, and spacious

Cons: Jack of all trades, master of none

Built mostly for use on flat water and gentle rivers, recreational kayaks are designed to be comfortable, easy to paddle, and offer solid all-around performance. That’s exactly what you’ll get from the Pungo 120 from Wilderness Systems, although this model does plenty to elevate itself above the competition in this very crowded segment of the kayak market. 

Blending stability, speed, and maneuverability, the Pungo is a good choice for just about anyone who isn’t venturing out onto the ocean or running whitewater. Its wide body is comfortable, easy to get in and out of, and extremely accommodating.

It also tracks extremely well, maintaining a straight line across the water with minimal effort. This boat glides along so effortlessly that it makes it much easier to enjoy your natural surroundings — a major draw for kayaking in the first place. 

While most kayaks ship with a minimally padded seat, the Pungo comes standard with a model that provides an excellent amount of support and comfort. This makes for a much better experience out on the water, particularly when you spend hours at a time inside the cockpit. And when the seat is adjusted to work in tandem with the built-in foot pedals, it almost feels like the boat was custom-made specifically for you.  

Wilderness Systems supports the Pungo with a variety of accessories, allowing owners to customize the kayak to fit their needs. This gives you the ability to add things like deck pouches for additional storage, a dry box for protecting important gear, or a spray skirt to help keep you drier.

Aimed mainly at casual paddlers, the Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 is a kayak made for the masses. As such, it performs very well in a lot of different areas, although it isn’t especially outstanding in any of them. This may turn off more experienced kayakers looking for a more versatile experience, although beginners and intermediate paddlers will likely fall in love with it.

How to shop for a kayak

Unsurprisingly, getting the most out of any kayaking experience starts with having the right boat. Over the years, kayak designs evolved dramatically to the point where you can now buy highly specialized models purpose-built for a specific type of paddling. 

If you want to explore coastlines and paddle on the ocean, for example, a longer, more stable sea kayak is required. If gently flowing rivers and flat lakes are more your style, a more traditional recreational or touring kayak is what you seek. And if your goal is to make epic whitewater runs, you’ll want a shorter, more maneuverable kayak designed for those conditions. 

In addition to deciding what type of paddling you’ll be doing, there are a few other options to consider as well. For instance, do you want a more traditional sit-in model or a sit-on-top kayak? Sit-in versions tend to offer better performance and feature a closed cockpit that provides a measure of protection from the elements.

Conversely, a sit-on-top model leaves the paddler exposed but is often more comfortable, easier to get in and out of, and is better suited for warmer environments. 

For those who want to bring a buddy along on their paddling adventures, kayaks also come in tandem versions. These models feature multiple seats, allowing two people to share the same boat. Due to their increased capacity, they’re also longer and more stable than a single-person kayak and have the potential to be faster provided both paddlers work well together.

Tandem boats are great for people who know they’ll be kayaking together regularly, allowing them to buy just one boat they can share, rather than purchasing two single-seat models. 

What else to consider

The vast majority of kayaks available today are made from a hard plastic shell. This allows them to stay lightweight and provides exceptional levels of performance and buoyancy, although the rigid structure makes transporting and storing the boats a challenge. 

Inflatable or folding kayaks overcome those problems, however, with models available that can be stored in a closet or under a bed and transported in the trunk of a car. These types of kayaks tend to sacrifice a bit of performance in terms of speed and tracking but are a viable alternative for those shopping for a space-saving option.

How we test kayaks

Each kayak featured in this guide went through a series of on-water tests to see how well it performed across these four categories: Performance, versatility, durability, and value. Specifcally, here’s how each category factored into what kayaks made this guide:

Performance: How a kayak performs in the water comes down to how well a kayak handles in the water, how stable it is across a variety of water conditions, and how easy it is to steer, paddle, or pedal. Of course, some kayaks are more well-suited to specific conditions and ride styles, and those differences were certainly heeded during our tests. 

Versatility: A recreational kayak may not be the best in white water (or vice versa) but kayaks should still have some level of versatility to them — even if you are just in the market for a hyper-specific boat to do one or two things well. Each kayak has its limitations but the best can at least somewhat handle rides outside their purview.

Durability: Kayaks can take a beating, whether they’re getting thrown into the back of a truck or stored in a garage among throngs of additional gear. Because of this, boat durability is vital — you’d prefer the thing to last you at least a few years before you ever have to think about it running the risk of taking on water. 

Value: A sum of its categorical parts, value isn’t just an analysis of its price. Of course, that does matter but it’s always better to spend more on one high-quality kayak than to spend less on several shoddy boats.

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The 5 best wetsuits for surfing, kayaking, and paddleboarding

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Wetsuits protect you from cold water, allowing you to surf, swim, or dive longer than if you didn’t wear one.
  • Choosing a wetsuit depends on how you’ll use it as surfers have different needs than kayakers, for instance.
  • Our top pick, O’Neill’s Psycho Tech, features water-resistant neoprene, durable stitching, and a comfortable fit.

For anyone who doesn’t live in the tropics, wearing a wetsuit while surfing is a necessity. Paddling out to a break with water temperatures anywhere below 65 or 70 degrees Fahrenheit without a generous helping of rubber can range from slightly uncomfortable to downright deadly – but wear the right wetsuit and you’ll quickly forget all about the hypothermia-inducing water temp (for the most part).

Surfing isn’t the only water sport one might wear a wetsuit for, however. Paddleboarders, kayakers, and divers, among others, also don neoprene getups to keep cold water from cutting their outings short – but not every wetsuit is a jack-of-all-trades type of suit. What one person might need for kayaking might be too cumbersome or ill-fitting for a surfer.

To help anyone shopping for a new suit, I’ve field-tested a number of wetsuits from top brands like O’Neill and Rip Curl, consulted with diving and surfing enthusiasts, and conducted plenty of research to come up with a list of the best currently available.

At the end of this guide, I’ve included some tips on how to shop for a wetsuit, including the differences in suit types and thickness, as well as some insight into the best way to care for your wetsuit and how to pick out a dive suit.

Here are the best wetsuits:

The best wetsuit overall

ONeill wetsuit

The O’Neill Psycho Tech is made with water-resistant neoprene to keep it from retaining water, and its top-notch stitching makes it almost watertight.

Pros: Warm, almost watertight stitching, lightweight, quick-drying

Cons: A little pricey

O’Neill’s Psycho Tech is the kind of cozy, stretchy, almost watertight suit that becomes oh-so-precious to cold-water surfers when winter storms roll through and leaky seams threaten to end surf sessions early.

If there’s one company I’d put all my good faith in keeping me from the wrath of hypothermia, it’s the late, lauded laureate and godfather of the modern wetsuit, Jack O’Neill.

O’Neill puts a lot of money into research and design, and while the US military doesn’t exactly endorse or use any single wetsuit, they’ve frequently sent personnel out in O’Neill suits. That alone may or may not speak volumes to you, but the US military is not known to be one to skimp on matters of national security.

This wetsuit is flexible, and I’ve found it to hold up in temperatures considerably lower than their rating. My old Psycho II model from 2009, which saw heavy service through 2010 and has seen service in most of the years since, is still, shockingly, in pretty good shape. The new Psychos are miles ahead, but there aren’t enough problems or even one single tear in my suit that warrant tossing mine out just yet.

Cleanline Surf, the Pacific Northwest’s coldwater surf aficionados, called the Psycho Tech “the pinnacle of wetsuit technology and performance.” The site goes on to taut it for being lightweight, warm, durable, and flexible — I don’t disagree.

Also, the TechnoButter neoprene rejects water so well that it stays light even when wet, and it dries much faster than most suits.

The best budget wetsuit for women

RipCurlDawn

Rip Curl’s Dawn Patrol suits cost less than $200, feature an easy-to-use rear zip entry, and have both stitched and glued seams for added durability. 

Pros: Easy in and out via a rear zip entry, stitched and glued seams, inexpensive (as far as wetsuits go)

Cons: Its 3/2 millimeter thickness won’t keep you warm very long in colder water temps

Rip Curl’s Dawn Patrol suits are extremely flexible, thoroughly stitched, taped, and glued, and very reasonably priced.

The suit has been a bestseller for several years and being blindstitched, glued, and taped for under $200 certainly hasn’t hurt its reputation. It also comes in both men’s and women’s designs, but, I must make a full disclosure: I’ve never owned one, though I’ve envied them from close and afar over the years. 

The best budget wetsuit for men

7seaslarge

VISSLA’s 7 Seas is economical but doesn’t cut any corners to deliver a functional wetsuit at a fair price.

Pros: Price tag, sleeve gaskets, stitching and gluing, 1-year warranty

Cons: Neoprene retains water and gets a little heavy

I tried VISSLA’s 7 Seas model in New York this late spring and was hot in the 3/2-millimeter full suit. That’s a good sign. I also caught up with an old friend on Montauk who’s in his third season with the same model, which is as much as most people ask of even a luxury suit. That was good enough for me.

It fit me exceptionally well, which is a shock because I’m six feet tall, generally, stay shy of 160 pounds, and almost no company designs standard suits sized for stick-figured string beans like me.

The seams are held together by double blind-stitching and taped three times over, which somewhere around five years ago was unthinkable for a suit under $200. Matter-of-factly, this suit is designed in much the same way one of my nicer suits from about 10 years ago was, only that one cost me about twice as much. The suit’s also backed by respective 1-year warranties for both the neoprene and the stitching.

Although the neoprene retains water and gets heavy, the suit is remarkably stretchy — maybe stretchier than Patagonia’s Yulex suits — and the wrist gaskets that are located a few inches above the cuff really kept water from getting up my sleeves and slowing my paddling. Further, taking water up the sleeves in fall or winter is shockingly chilling.

I also liked the fuzzy lining, which is akin to Patagonia’s, but, again, this suit is less than half the price (at the time of this publishing). While Patagonia’s suits are nice, and I love mine, I don’t see any need to step up unless you really feel like spending the extra money or you’re going to be surfing in exceptionally cold waters where you’ll probably want the best technology you can get.

The best non-neoprene wetsuit

Patagonia wetsuit

There are other non-neoprene suits emerging on the market, but my Patagonia suits have lasted through a lot, and it will take a lot for another suit to knock them off their throne.

Pros: Long-lasting (as long as if not longer than most neoprene suits), neoprene-free, almost petroleum-free, very warm, so you can often get away with a thinner suit

Cons: Not cheap, maybe a little stiffer than neoprene suits

Patagonia’s current crop of wetsuits comes via a biochemical company called Yulex. Yulex manufactures neoprene from the guayule plant, a hardy shrub native to the Southwestern United States that’s used to make rubber that’s both renewable and nearly chemical-free.

The latest Yulex-branded suit now has a new patterning intended for “improved fit and increased mobility.” Yulex’s brand of rubber often had a reputation among wetsuit users as being stiff compared with neoprene, which isn’t generally a good thing for water enthusiasts. However, the suits do feature a fuzzy synthetic liner that makes the inside of the suit feel silky smooth while also doing well to make me feel warmer in frigid water. 

The company now uses a water-based glue in all its suits, eliminating the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that were used for decades. The new suit also includes solution-dyed fabrics that reduce water consumption and CO2 emissions by 86% and 96%, respectively.

Of course, as goes with the Patagonia story, everything is Fair Trade Certified, and you’ll also get Patagonia’s Ironclad Guarantee, so if you’re not thrilled with your new suit, you can send it back.

What excites me most about this suit is that, although Patagonia hasn’t made the leap to zipperless suits, the corrosion-resistant zipper on this suit is now actually replaceable, so if it wears out before the wetsuit does, you can extend its life a little longer. This is great news because oftentimes the collar or zipper area is the first thing to wear out on a wetsuit.

Learn more about Patagonia and Yulex’s bio-rubber here.

The best wetsuit for paddlesports

Screen Shot 2018 08 07 at 5.16.06 PM

If you’re tired of hanging up your paddles for the winter, O’Neill’s O’Riginal spring suit is just enough to keep you comfortable as water temperatures reach the 60s and maybe the 50s. 

Pros: Flexible, breathable, affordable

Cons: The chest rubber can be overly sticky

Because our bodies are mostly out of the water when paddling, we tend to work up a sweat beneath a neoprene wetsuit. While any combination of layers can do the trick, I’ve found that a farmer john-style (sleeveless) wetsuit with flatlock seams works best unless you’re dealing with temperatures below 50° F or so, at which point I’d opt for a dry suit. Stohlquist makes a good one for men and women.

Since you’re getting such a thorough upper body workout, I’d suggest avoiding sleeves, which apart from causing you to overheat also tend to constrict movement and cause chafing. O’Neill’s O’Riginal spring suit is 2 millimeters thick and comes with flatlock seams, and at less than $100 can’t really be beaten.

If it’s a little cooler, you might want one with full-length legs (the women’s model, the Bahia, comes in a 1.5mm), or a 3mm. O’Neill doesn’t make the sleeveless suit in a 3mm, but Aqua Lung does, for men and women. Anything above 3mm tends to get a little too hot for paddlesports, at least if you’re not getting in the water.

If you want to spend even a little more money — unless you’re surfing in one of these suits, keep in mind that quality might not be quite as paramount — Patagonia’s Long John (men’s) and Long Jane (women’s) are $169 and worth it. They’re made of the same non-neoprene Yulex rubber as Patagonia’s other suits, but flatlock-stitched so that they breathe a little better.

How to shop for a wetsuit

Open-cell vs. closed-cell wetsuits

Apart from temperature, what you’ll be doing in or on the water is a major deciding factor for which wetsuit is best. If you’re swimming or surfing, a floaty, hydrodynamic closed-cell or single-piece suit is likely your best bet. These are either chest- or back-zipped and come with different sleeve and leg cuts.

But if you’re diving, a closed-cell wetsuit allows too much water flow between it and your skin. You’ll find yourself feeling stiff and cold, and stiff and cold are never what you want while diving for long periods of time. An open-cell wetsuit provides suction between the skin and suit that’s nearly watertight. While these types of suits are a pain to get in and out of, they keep you much warmer and allow for much greater flexibility underwater.

Editor’s note: If you use a little eco-friendly dish soap, getting into an open-cell wetsuit is much easier.

Open-cell suits usually don’t have zippers apart from the wrist and leg cuffs but closed cells come in a variety of different zipper configurations. Some manufacturers are starting to develop zipperless models, too, which could eliminate zippers altogether — at least on more expensive suits.

Zipper variation

Back-zip suit: Back-zip wetsuits are the original design, and almost always cheaper than chest-zip or zipper-less suits. They’re fine for swimming in temperate waters on relatively warm days, but I’ve found that having cool water seep down your back on a chillier day — or in the middle of winter, for that matter — can be miserable.

Chest-zip suit: Usually more expensive, chest-zip wetsuits tend to keep you warmer thanks to a smaller, well-protected zipper that sits on the front of the suit. This also makes them the most difficult to get in and out of, but, overall, we think they’re worth it. They tend to last longer, and some even allow for the neckpiece to be replaced, which is often the first thing to wear and tear on a wetsuit.

Zipperless: I haven’t yet tried out a zipperless wetsuit, though I’ve been hearing positive buzz about O’Neill’s Hyperfreak Comp zipless model. It would be more of a performance suit than most require, and it’s hard to say whether the lack of a zipper will, in turn, stretch the suit more or keep us warmer, but we will see how they fare over time and update this guide with our findings.

Wetsuit thickness and temperature rating

Wetsuit thickness is measured in millimeters, and the core is most often thicker than the extremities to keep your body temperature up while allowing for more mobility in the arms and legs. This is why you’ll see two — or sometimes three — numbers, listing the core’s thickness first (e.g., 3/2, or 4/3/2).

Temperature rating corresponds with thickness, for the most part, but varies some from company to company and material to material, but here’s a basic rule of thumb:

  • Mid 60s to low 70s: 2 mm
  • Low 60s to high 60s: 3/2 mm
  • Low 50s to low 60s: 4/3 mm, or 4/3/2 mm
  • Low to high 40s: 5/4 mm, or 5/4/3 mm
  • High 30s to low 40s: 6/5 mm or 6/5/4 mm
  • Upper 30s and below: While a good 6/5- or 6/5/4-millimeter suit can do you well in the upper 30s, it’s tough to stand it any colder. There are 7/6- and 7/6/5-millimeter wetsuits, but they become impedingly stiff at that point. A good 6/5 or 6/5/4 with hood, boots, and gloves will take care of most of us through winter.

Not all sizing is consistent

Size charts vary from company to company, so make sure to have a look at the chart to be sure which one fits you best. Unless you get a custom suit, none are likely to fit you perfectly but you should be able to get close enough.

Stitching and seams

Not all wetsuits are created equal, and while most are made of neoprene — and come from the same factory in Taiwan, despite different brand names — it’s the stitching and seams that make all the difference.

  • Overlock stitching: This is the most basic stitching, and it will let water flow through your suit like Victoria Falls. Okay, not really, but I save these cheap suits for spring and summer, or when it’s not exactly board-short temperature, but a constant flush is actually refreshing.
  • Flat stitching: This is probably a little fancier than the stitching they taught you in Home Economics class. By no means is it watertight, but it lies flatter and holds up better than basic overlock stitching.
  • Blindstitching: Blindstitched suits have even narrower stitching than flat-stitched ones, and the seams are usually glued, which does a pretty good job of preventing water seepage.
  • Sealed, taped, glued: This is a definitive step up, and usually what you’ll find with blindstitched suits. Once you get into blindstitching, you start to notice that very little water seeps through your suit, and you stay relatively dry inside. The best of these suits are also sealed and taped both inside and out, but the full combination is where suits start to get above the $500 price tag, which isn’t crucial for most. Still, if you plan to be surfing in sub 55-degree Fahrenheit temps, we highly recommend forking over the extra dough.

How to take care of your wetsuit

All outdoors equipment requires a little love to survive its life expectancy and, hopefully, beyond. Protect your wetsuit and it protects you — at least from the cold.

Here’s what every first-time wetsuit owner should know: 

Wash your suit every time you use it, or at least as frequently as you can stand to. Wetsuits take on everything you put into them, from your sweat, sunscreen, seawater, and yes, urine. While it may not damage your suit, it will surely smell bad.

And even though Helen Hunt does it, it’s not exactly a good idea to pee in your wetsuit, for obvious reasons. Regardless of whether or not you decide to relieve yourself in your suit, get a wetsuit shampoo, and follow its instructions well. Do NOT use any old soap for this, or you’ll be sorry.

Store your wetsuit in a dry, shaded area with plenty of ventilation. We all know what happens to wet things in confined spaces, but hanging your wetsuit to dry in the sun is surely the quickest way to end its life.

Hang your wetsuit loosely on a thick-framed clothes hanger, a proper wetsuit hanger, or fold it loosely. If you hang a wetsuit on a sharp wire hanger, it will stretch out. If you fold it too tightly, it’ll crease. I roll mine up when I travel to avoid creasing.

How to choose a diving wetsuit

shutterstock_678622990

A simple, closed-cell suit like a surfing wetsuit works above the surface where you have heat from the sun and little pressure, but when you get below the surface, it can get stiff and cold. An open cell suit will keep you much warmer and more flexible, whether you’re freediving or using scuba tanks. 

I’ve never actually owned an open-cell diving suit — I use a surfing suit to dive, which I assure you is less than ideal — so I called on a lifeline: an old friend who spends his workdays and sometimes his nights underwater in the marrow-chilling depths of New Zealand’s Marlborough Sounds. If anyone has earned the authority to deem a wetsuit good or bad, we figure it might be a commercial diver, after all.

A commercial diver’s input

The array of both open cell and closed cell diving suits in the locker where he works is almost exclusively with Beuchat and Cressi wetsuits, and while many of the members of the dive team do wear closed cell suits to work, they don’t last as long — maybe that’s intended. Open cell suits are snug, and almost suction-cup your skin, which is extremely efficient for keeping you warm, but makes them very difficult to get on and off.

When we would go spearfishing together — I in my 5/4-millimeter closed-cell surfing wetsuit, he in his 7-millimeter open-cell diving suit — I’d be in and out of my suit in half the time it took him to roll his on and off. But, by the same token, he could still feel his hands and feet after an hour of diving. Meanwhile, my lips would be turning blue.

Bottom line: If you’re going to be in even moderately cold water, save yourself the agony of freezing and put up with the nuisance of stretching into a skin-tight open cell suit.

How to shop for a dive suit

If you’ve never worn or owned a diving wetsuit before, you’ll probably want to go to the local dive shop and have the pros sort you out, or at the very least fit you.

When picking out a diving suit, color, or rather pattern, is a consideration that goes beyond aesthetics. If an experience with wildlife is what you’re after (even if you’re not in search of dinner), then a camouflage suit is probably a good idea, simply because you won’t startle as many creatures as quickly as you would with a black suit, or one of any color, really.

Also, note that camouflage is relative: If you’re going to be in open water, you’ll want a rhapsody in blue, and if you’re going to be in kelp, coral, or rocks, you probably want to look for a more greenish-brown pattern.

A few drawbacks

The main downfall of many closed-cell suits is that they are made of or coated with a softer, more delicate rubber-like neoprene skin which, while it keeps you warmer and leaves you agiler in the pressured depths, is highly prone to tearing.

Also, always make sure your wetsuit is wet when you’re pulling it on, and follow instructions for care and maintenance like these, from Aqua Lung. Never leave any wetsuit in the sun but especially not a suit with skin material, which will melt and stick to itself, a tragedy not covered by any warranty far as I’m aware.

Aqua LungBeuchat, Cressi, and Mares are companies that have all been around since recreational diving has, more or less, and they all have similarly long legacies and popular standing with commercial and recreational divers alike.

Pros: Tighter-fitting, more watertight, keeps you warmer, less constricting

Cons: Can be more expensive, much more delicate, difficult to don and doff 

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The 6 best hydration packs for day hikes, long-distance runs, and other outdoor activities

  • It’s crucial to stay hydrated while exercising, particularly in the heat.
  • Hydration packs make it easy and comfortable to carry liters of water on a run, hike, or bike ride.
  • The Osprey Skarab 18 hydration pack is comfortable and holds 2L of water plus all your hiking essentials.

You know it’s important to stay hydrated on a hike, run, bike ride, or literally any adventure in exercising. But carrying a water bottle or and having to constantly stop to pull it out of your pack gets old quick.

Hydration packs are the ideal way to make carrying and accessing water easier and minimize stoppage time. The best hydration packs not only have a pouch big enough to hold 1+ liters of water, but they also provide storage for snacks, layers, a first aid kit, and any other essentials you might need on a day hike or run. What’s more, the pack also needs to be comfortable, breathable, and quick-drying to not weigh down your adventure.

For longer hikes and backpacking trips, check out our guides to the best backpacks for men and for women.

The number of hydration packs on the market can be overwhelming. But we’ve dug into which packs can actually keep up on your putting and, therefore, which are worth your money.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Here are our top picks for the best hydration packs:

The best hydration pack overall

Osprey hydration pack

Osprey’s Skarab 18 is the only day-hiking hydration pack you’ll need, thanks to its high-quality construction, internal frame that keeps it comfortable mile after mile, and easy-to-access water reservoir.

Pros: Comfortable to wear even over several hours, extra-wide clip-on water reservoir allows for easy cleaning and refills, 2.5-liter capacity is perfect for long day hikes, offers plenty of interior storage, and the ventilated foam frame helps avoid excess sweat

Cons: Too small for longer backpacking trips

Osprey has consistently made some of the finest backpacks for decades, so it’s no surprise that the Osprey Skarab 18 also happens to be our favorite hydration pack.

It’s the ideal size for a day hike, weighing just over one pound with enough storage space for hiking essentials. Its foam frame allows for great ventilation, keeping your back cool and mostly sweat-free. Like all its packs, Osprey decked out the Skarab with plenty of straps to allow for the ultimate custom fit, regardless of who’s wearing it.

But what makes this bag truly shine is the large, 2.5-liter water pouch, which should keep you hydrated for most day hikes. Additionally, its extra-wide clip opening makes it easy to add more water or clean the reservoir after use. The pack even has a magnetic bite valve attachment that allows it to quickly attach to the Skarab’s sternum strap, allowing for easy access.

Added extras like stretch mesh pockets on the side of the pack, a scratch-free stash pocket, removable hip belts, and external bungees for more gear are Osprey staples and only add to the pack’s overall quality. Osprey’s Skarab 18 is simple when it needs to be yet versatile and technical for those who demand it.

The best for male runners

camelbak hydration pack

Runners don’t want anything weighing them down, and CamelBak’s HydroBak weighs just five ounces — before being filled with water, of course. 

Pros: Weighs just five ounces without water, mesh back panel and harness aid in ventilation, new Crux reservoir allows 20% more water per drink, and its leak-proof valves are easy to flick on or off

Cons: Doesn’t offer much in the way of storage (not that runners need much of it, anyway)

A running-specific hydration pack should sinch down tight and comfortable, and be able to carry enough water for long miles. Camelbak’s HydroBak has a mesh back panel and harness to help with ventilation and keeping you cool. Its reflective accents help with visibility for early or late runs. 

Uniquely, the HydroBak features a Crux reservoir which lets you pull a full 20% more water with each swig. That means less time sucking on the tube and more time focusing on your stride. Additionally, the pack features easy-to-use leak-proof valves that you can flip on or off with a gentle push for less wasted water and no fumbling with the tube while running.

CamelBak also outfitted the Crux with a leak-proof cap and coated the tube with its anti-microbial HydroGuard technology, which is 100% BPA free and reduces the risk of bacteria growth.

Though it’s small, the HydroBak still features a few zippered pockets perfect for keeping energy gels, granola bars, and some cash for those well-earned post-run beers.

The best for female runners

salomon adv skin 8

The Salomon ADV Skin 8 is specifically designed to sinch down on the female figure, and can carry 1 liter of water with the option of adding a reservoir in the back.

Pros: Female-specific design, adjustable to fit different chest sizes, soft material, 2 soft 500ml flasks included, many mesh and zipper pockets, room to carry warm layer

Cons: Expensive, straws can be a bit tricky to adjust

While females can wear any hydration pack, they’ll be the most comfortable in the Salomon ADV Skin 8. Designed by one of the leading trail running brands today, the ADV Skin 8 is uniquely shaped to sinch down tight around female curves so your pack isn’t throwing off your momentum. Specifically, this pack was crafted to alleviate pressure on your breasts and has an adjustable drawcord fasten in the front for a personalized fit. I’m small-chested and have lent this vest to friends as large-chested as 34DD who say it’s just as comfortable for bigger breasts.

While you can slide a traditional reservoir in the back of the pack, the other feature that makes Salomon running vests so great is their integrated soft flasks. Two half-liter water flasks sit on either side of your chest in a soft mesh pocket, allowing for quick water access mid-run.

Additionally, this pack has mesh and zippered pockets strategically placed in nooks and crannies, as well as down the back, to stash everything from car keys to a warm layer. You can even move the elastic cords and loops around to carry trail running poles wherever feels most comfortable to you.

I’ve been running in this hydration vest for two years and the only bad words I have to say about it is it’s expensive (but, in my opinion, worth it for runners) and the straw on the included flasks might need to be cut down, which can be a little tricky to do. –Rachael Schultz, Health and Fitness Updates Editor

The best for day hikes

platypus hydration pack

The Platypus Duthie A.M. 10.0 is a day hiker’s dream, offering 7 liters of storage, strategically-placed tool organizing loops and compartments, and a huge, three-liter water reservoir. 

Pros: Plenty of storage options despite its modest 7L capacity, external tool and gear loops, capable of fitting many different body types, comes standard with huge three-liter BigZip water reservoir and magnetic hose, and FloatAir back panel offers comfort for even the longest day hikes

Cons: Expensive

Platypus’s Duthie A.M. 10.0 has plenty of internal and external storage options with a 7L capacity, perfect for short jaunts into the backcountry or several mile excursions. Its strategic approach to organization also means you won’t be digging past your car keys to get to your snacks — everything has its own place in the pack.

When it comes to the Duthie’s hydration capability, few companies deliver as well as Platypus. Featuring a large three-liter reservoir, the brand’s patented BigZip water pouch features a magnetic hose clip and also offers wearers the ability to route the house in multiple ways — a welcome function not typically seen in hydration packs.

For hardcore day hikers who also have other activities in mind, the Duthie also offers a useful carry system designed to hold pads or full-face helmets and even sports a fleece-lined pocket perfect for stashing a pair of shades.

Additionally, the pack easily conforms to a variety of body shapes and sizes with just a few adjustments of its straps and hip belt. After finding the perfect fit, Platypus’ FloatAir back panel keeps you mostly sweat-free and comfortable, no matter how long the hike.

The best for cycling

gelindo hydration pack

Forget reaching down for any built-in water bottle holders because with Gelindo’s Insulated Hydration Pack, staying hydrated while biking is as easy as simply drinking out of a straw.

Pros: Insulated water reservoir pocket keeps liquids cool for up to four hours, mesh back panel keeps airflow at a maximum, interior organization capable of holding a variety of items without feeling cluttered, and its easily adjustable straps are capable of fitting almost any body type

Cons: Limited reflective details

While most bikes have space for attaching a water bottle holder, a hydration pack makes staying quenched much easier and Gelindo’s Insulated Hydration Pack is perfectly fit for the job.

This pack has an insulated pocket to carry its 2.5-liter water reservoir, which will keep your water cool for up to four hours. The pack is also designed to keep your body heat from warming the water. 

Gelindo included several storage pockets capable of holding energy bars and car keys, and bigger compartments to hold a spare change of clothes, larger items of food, or spare tubes. Organization also scores highly as it’s easy to reach for and access any of the interior contents, no matter how full the pack gets.

It’s no secret cyclists care about comfort and with Gelindo’s Insulated Hydration Pack, finding a perfectly comfortable fit is easily done via its adjustable shoulder straps and hip belt. Furthermore, its ergonomic mesh back allows for steady airflow to keep you from overheating, keeping you comfortable throughout the entirety of your ride.

The best for commuting

gregory hydration pack

Gregory’s Inertia 30 makes it easy to stay hydrated while commuting with its easy-access water tube, ample interior storage, and comfortable shoulder harness.

Pros: Plenty of storage for whatever the workday requires, quick-drying 3L water reservoir is easy to fill up and features an integrated drying hangar, hydration sleeve auto-centers the water pouch to stabilize weight, versatile enough to even act as a day-hiking pack

Cons: Expensive

Even just commenting to wor requires energy, so it’s important to stay hydrated. The Gregory’s Inertia 30 is designed to not only quench thirst but also to pack a work day’s worth of gear. Be it a laptop, notebook, tablet, or otherwise, the Inertia offers enough interior storage space to tote along whatever the day calls for.

It even features several exterior pockets perfect for storing items that need to be quickly accessible, as well as a padded zippered pocket designed for sunglasses or house keys.

Gregory includes a quick-drying 3L water reservoir that has a built-in drying hangar, perfect for airing it out to avoid mold or mildew buildup. The Inertia’s dedicated hydration sleeve makes it easy to just toss the reservoir into the pack, and it automatically stabilizes the pouch’s weight to the center of your back. Gregory even made the reservoir’s tube magnetic, making it easy to take on and off.

Though we chose it for its ability to act as a commuter bag, the Inertia 30 also excels as a day-hiking pack, offering exterior loops for trekking poles, compression straps on either side, and load lifters that help stabilize the pack when it gets heavy.

At $120, it’s not the cheapest bag of the bunch but considering what it offers, and the Gregory name also means supreme durability, the Inertia 30 is worth every penny.

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The 5 best bathroom scales for weighing yourself at home

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Bathroom scales can be helpful for those trying to achieve certain health or fitness goals.
  • The best should be highly accurate and reliable, come with useful added features, and have good value-for-cost.
  • Our top pick, the Amazfit Smart Scale, was one of the most accurate and consistent scales we tested.

Most of us grew up with a scale in the house. And while society has (thankfully) begun to move away from the idea that weight equals health, some people do need to take note of their weight – namely, older adults who need to avoid losing weight unintentionally or those under specific directives from their doctors to monitor it for medical conditions. Other groups, like athletes and bodybuilders, may need or just want to track their weight for professional reasons, as well.

Laura Iu, a New York-based registered dietician nutritionist who specializes in intuitive eating and disordered eating recovery, told Insider that the average person is probably better off not weighing themselves regularly. That’s because the number is not an indicator of health and research shows focusing on your weight can cause more harm than good to your mental state and healthy behaviors.

That being said, if you are in the market for a scale, it’s important to invest in one that’s accurate – which doesn’t always mean the most expensive or the one with the most features. For this guide, I tested several models for accuracy and reliability and took note of accessibility features, weight capacity, and “smart” features like body fat percentage, muscle mass, and hydration levels, to name a few.

At the end of this guide, I’ve also included some insight into the testing methodology I used, what to look for when shopping for a bathroom scale, as well as the other models I considered and answers to common FAQs.

Here are the best bathroom scales:

The best overall

AmazFit Smart Scale

The Amazfit Smart Scale offers accuracy, consistency, and smart features at a fair price.

Pros: Accurate and reliable, attractive design, easy to use, larger surface area, under $50

Cons: Smart features are generally overrated, some kinks in its corresponding app

Our tests found the Amazfit to be one of the most accurate and consistent scales in our consideration. What’s more, no other scale we tried offered both high accuracy and smart features, particularly at this price point. Additionally, its platform is relatively large, making it comfortable to use for those with bigger feet, and its subtle gradient design makes it an attractive bathroom fixture.

Though the accuracy of “smart” scales overall is strongly doubted by experts (see FAQs), users may still be curious to see additional body metrics like heart rate and body fat percentage. Those two stats appear on the display after your weight reading, and you can use the corresponding app — now called Zepp  — to see other details and store your data. Otherwise, the app is only necessary if you want to change the units of measurement from kilograms to pounds.

The app itself, which syncs with the scale via Bluetooth, has a few small issues (mostly pertaining to incomplete translation from Japanese to English) but overall is intuitive, user-friendly, and provides detailed explanations of each metric it provides.

The best budget

Etekcity digital scale

The Etekcity Digital Body Weight Bathroom Scale is an accurate, no-fuss scale at a low price.

Pros: Accuracy, reliability, price

Cons: 400-pound limit

If you’re looking for a simple, trustworthy bathroom scale just to weigh yourself, the Etekcity Digital Body Weight Bathroom Scale has you covered. At just $20, the Etekcity beat out other budget-friendly options in our trials for accuracy and reliability. 

It displays your weight to the second decimal place, the LCD screen is bright and easy to read, and the scale itself feels sturdy and comfortable on which to stand. It’s little wonder this scale is a time-tested hit with Amazon reviewers as well as our reviewers.

The best smart scale

FitTrack Dara scale

The FitTrack Dara scale pairs with a slick phone app to give you a detailed body profile.

Pros: Highly accurate weight readings, easy to use, user-friendly app

Cons: Smart features are generally overrated, expensive, smaller platform

The FitTrack Dara is a sleek device that feels high-tech and easy to use. It works as a basic bodyweight scale of course, and our trials found it to be accurate and reliable. The scale itself only displays a weight reading, but many more metrics are included in the smartphone app, which syncs with the scale via Bluetooth. 

Experts warn to be wary of smart scales in general as it’s not actually possible to accurately measure body fat percentage, hydration, muscle mass, and other traits with this kind of device — it merely provides an estimate based on the other physical data you input like age and height. Regardless, we liked using this scale and its corresponding app, which automatically keeps a record of your weight and other metrics with a clean, user-friendly interface that is easy to use and intuitive to understand.

The best for the visually impaired

Taylor Electronics talking bathroom scale

The Taylor Talking Bathroom Scale is sturdy, reasonably priced, and reads the weight aloud.

Pros: Audible reading, sturdy, simple to use

Cons: Reliability in question

For those with visual impairments, a display-only scale is inconvenient at best and fully unusable at worst, hence the creation of talking scales to give audible readings. Additionally, typical small bathroom scales can be too unsteady for people with balance or mobility issues.

This Taylor Talking Bathroom Scale is well-rated on Amazon by folks with visual impairments: In addition to its LCD display, an automated voice reads the measurement aloud in five different languages (English, Spanish, Greek, German, and Croatian). It’s also made of glass and stainless steel, so its weight makes it sturdy, ideal for those with balance issues. Additionally, its design is simple and easy to use.

Some users do report reduced accuracy as the product ages, though we were not able to test this one ourselves. Still, at $38, it’s still good value for all of its accessible features.

The best high-weight capacity

MyWeigh XL550

The MyWeigh XL-550 is reliable, accurate, and is designed to measure and hold up to 550 pounds.

Pros: Accommodates bodies up to 550 lbs, wide platform

Cons: Expensive, limited availability

Most scales on the market max out around 300 or 400 pounds and tend to have accuracy issues for folks weighing 250lbs or more. But the MyWeigh XL-550 is designed for large bodies, able to accommodate up to 550 lbs in weight. It has a large, sturdy platform — 14.7″ x 12.5″ — to comfortably accommodate people with wide stances. The scale talks (in four languages) to tell users when it’s ready and what their reading is, though this feature is optional and can be turned off. 

Note that if you need a larger platform or higher weight capacity, the same brand makes the XL700, which has a  20″ x 12″ platform and theoretically reads higher weights more accurately (up to 700 pounds); however, it’s much harder to get a hold of and costs over $100. For this reason, we recommend the XL-550 for the vast majority of people as it’s well-reviewed across the board by consumers and professionals alike.

My testing methodology

To test the accuracy and reliability of each scale, I weighed myself using each device and recorded each reading, then reset the scales and weighed myself again. I noted which scales produced dramatically different results between the two trials. I then calculated the standard deviation of the data set to identify statistically significant outliers.

I also weighed a standard 10-pound barbell plate on all but one of the scales (the Amazfit would not produce a reading for an inanimate object) as an additional accuracy test.

Scale Tester bodyweight – Test 1 Tester bodyweight – Test 2 Standardized 10lb weight
Amazfit Smart Scale 112.9 112.8 unable to read
FitTrack Dara Smart Scale 113.1 112.7 10.1
Renpho Smart Scale 114 112.8 10.2
Eufy Smart Scale C1 113.7 112.6 10.1
Etekcity Digital Body Weight Bathroom Scale 112.7 112.7 10.3
EatSmart Products Digital Bathroom Scale 114 113 10.4
Ozeri Precision Bath Scale 114.7 113 10

While using each scale I also paid attention to the user experience, noting how simple and intuitive each device was to use, as well as any issues a customer might want to know about.

I also tested the accuracy of two smart scales. The experts I spoke with for this piece warned that a scale’s report of your body fat, muscle mass, BMR, and more is unreliable since it’s calculating those numbers on your body weight and height, not measuring your actual fat and muscle masses.

It was unsurprising, then, that the two smart scales left me with wildly different readings. While they tested accurately for actual weight (see chart above), I can’t claim either to be accurate for smart readings.

  Body fat Muscle mass Water Bone mass Basal Metabolic rate (BMR) Protein rate Visceral fat index
Dara 20.2% 43.2 lbs 54.8% 5.5lbs 1253 kcal 19.4% 2
Amazfit 29.3% 77.6 lbs 50.2% 4.61 lbs 1176 kcal 12.3% 3

What to look for in a bathroom scale

Accuracy and reliability are the two main factors you want in a bathroom scale, no matter the type. A trustworthy scale will give you correct and consistent readings that accurately reflect changes in your body, and you won’t be misled by too-high or too-low readings. Since there’s no way of knowing from the box whether or not a scale is as accurate as it claims to be, we recommend one of the scales we’ve tested for accuracy.

Smart scales are all the rage, telling users not only their weight but also their body fat percentage and other metrics. Experts warn, however, that these readings are gross estimations and may be much higher or lower than the reality. (Case in point, the Dara and Amazfit gave me two completely different body composition profiles.)

Therefore, it may not be worth it for the average shopper to dole out top dollar for these extra features, but curious-minded folks might enjoy seeing the estimations anyway. 

When evaluating products, value-for-cost is always a factor. There are scales available at every price point, starting at under $20 and going up to over $100. You want the price you’re paying to justify the features promised, and be comparable to similarly-priced competing products in terms of accuracy, reliability, and usability. 

Lastly, consider what specific traits you might need, personally, in a bathroom scale. Talking scales, which read the measurement aloud, may be helpful for people who are blind or visually impaired. For folks in large bodies, you’ll want a scale with a higher weight capacity and potentially a larger platform to accommodate a wider stance.

What else I considered

What else we recommend

  • Renpho Smart Scale ($29.99): The Renpho was slightly less accurate than some of the other scales we tried, but it’s a hit with Amazon reviewers, boasting over 160,000 ratings and a 4.5-star average. 
  • EatSmart Digital Bathroom Scale ($22.40): The EatSmart had some consistency issues in our trial, but it’s sturdy, attractive, and competitively priced.
  • Weight Guru Bluetooth smart scale ($48): We weren’t able to include this scale in our trials, but it’s very highly rated by both Amazon reviewers and our own. Some have reported issues with accommodating large bodies even when well under the weight capacity, but overall users rave about this scale and its Bluetooth integration with smartphones and FitBits.

What we don’t recommend

  • Eufy C1 Smart Scale ($29.99): Our trials found this scale to be less consistent than the others, though not dramatically — it fluctuated just over one pound between readings.
  • Ozeri Precision Bath Scale ($15.95): The Ozeri is a temptingly low price, but our tests and numerous customer reviews determined that the Ozeri was somewhat inconsistent in its readings.
  • MyWeigh XL-550 Talking Scale ($44.39): If you need a scale that can accommodate heavier bodies with wider stances, but doesn’t need the full capacity of the XL700, this MyWeigh model has a capacity of 550 lbs and a larger-than-average platform on which to stand. Not to mention, it’s about half the price.

FAQs

When is the best time to weigh myself?

Family medicine physician Dr. Abisola Olulade, who is based in San Diego, recommended that you weigh yourself first thing in the morning before eating or drinking anything for the most accurate evaluation.


How accurate are scales, in general?

Research has shown that both personal and medical-grade scales can be quite imprecise, but ultimately good enough for public use as long as they are regularly calibrated.

Most people weighing themselves don’t really need down-to-the-ounce precision so much as a general idea of how their bodies are changing. For this reason, Dr. Olulade encourages patients to use one scale consistently — even if it’s not the most accurate device, you’ll be better able to track changes using a single controlled device.


Do “smart scales,” which claim to measure other traits like body fat percentage, hydration, and bone density, really work?

Sort of, but they’re not as precise as you might hope. The only way to get a truly accurate picture of body composition is with an air displacement chamber or MRI, which are expensive and generally only used by specialists and researchers.

Smart scales estimate body composition by sending a weak electrical current up into your body and measuring the resistance with which it’s met. This result is compared to other info your scale already has about you, such as age and gender, to come up with a body composition estimate. In one Consumer Reports trial, even the most accurate smart scales were found to be off by up to 21% in body fat percentage readings.

Despite inaccuracies, some shoppers might want to see those estimations just for fun or out of curiosity. Smart scales are safe to use, so recreational use is fine — just don’t plan to use it as a serious health management tool.

Expert sources

Laura Iu, RD, CDN, CNSC, RYT is a registered dietitian, nutrition therapist, and certified intuitive eating counselor who practices privately in New York City. Iu has worked in hospitals including NYU Langone and Mount Sinai, and is affiliated with The Greater New York Dietetic Association, The International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals, and The Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH).

Abisola Olulade, MD, is a board-certified family medicine physician at Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group in San Diego. She is also affiliated with Atrium Health’s Carolinas Medical Center in North Carolina.

Read the original article on Business Insider