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If your skin is on the dryer side, you may want to swap in your shaving foam for a shaving soap. To start with, the right soap will help your razor move cleanly across your face with enough protective lubrication for the skin and the whiskers you’re getting rid of. You also don’t want to lose the moisture that’s already in your skin during shaving, as that will lead to irritation and increase the likelihood of pseudofolliculitis barbae, or razor bumps. For those with sensitive skin (like myself), shaving foams can also lead to irritation because of the ingredients that are used.
Shaving soaps are made primarily with added fat from plant or animal sources. Some also contain glycerin. These components are what help give the soap the smooth consistency needed to produce the protective layer of lubrication for your skin without sacrificing any hydration. This was something important for me as I have a bald head (which besides a killer smirk is the only thing I have in common with The Rock), and I need that extra protection.
If you’re going to make the switch, it’s best to find the right shaving soap that factor in skin protection and good hydration. We’ve got seven soaps lined up that will be the centerpiece for your wet shaving kit and a ticket to making your routine a time of luxury.
Here are the best shaving soaps in 2021:
Floris “The Gentleman”
NO. 89 (small)
Pros: very gentle but consistent lather, great moisture, exquisite aroma
Cons: the price might deter some depending on their budget
Chances are, you might remember Floris from the 2012 James Bond movie “SkyFall”. This shave soap certainly has that air of elegance, made by a fragrance company that has been in existence in Britain since 1730. The No.89 is a triple-milled soap that has a highly pleasing scent with notes of bergamot and sandalwood. It lathers up very well with a wet brush, and I found that lather held up for my entire shave. The No.89 gives you a smooth shave from start to finish, leaving the skin soft and well-hydrated afterwards. And the scent is magnificent – I actually got complimented by a few people thinking it was a cologne I was wearing.
You might be tempted to whistle an old-fashioned show tune while using the Bay Rum Shave Soap from Col. Ichabod Conk. No judgement here – it is a soap that does give you that vintage barbershop feel beginning with that stunning bay rum scent. I found myself transported back to when my late father cut my hair with that fragrance. This is a reformulated version of their most popular shave soap. The first lather is a good indicator as to why, as it’s smooth and doesn’t overly lubricate. It handles the razor well and has the best finish with no residue left on the skin afterwards.
Shaving Soap (small)
Pros: Good initial lather, rich texture and feel, high quality moisture
Cons: Moisture residue but slight, lather does fade within a minute of application
Aiming for a shave experience steeped in sustainability? Then Badger Balm is one you might consider. Made with organic ingredients including aloe vera and coconut oil, this soap gives off a good initial lather and a really soothing texture. I found that this soap helped to soften the whiskers swiftly, allowing for a nice and crisp shave. There’s a good layer of moisture left afterwards, with a scant bit of soapy residue but not much to be bothered by. It also blends well with many of the aftershave products I have.
Classic Shave Soap – Bourbon Cedar (small)
Pros: Decent scent, soap texture is pleasant without too much lather
Cons: Lather disappears frequently, the scent doesn’t carry for too long after the shave
This company’s soap offers up a decent shave, with a gentle bourbon cedar fragrance to it. The lather starts out strong off the brush but does fade quickly. That doesn’t take away from its positive capability to work well with both traditional and multi-blade razors during a shave. As mentioned before, the scent’s nice but it doesn’t linger. It’s a good starter soap for your budget if you’re just building your wet shaving setup.
Glycerine Shave Soap (small)
Pros: Great hydration from lather, nice texture to the soap, works well with other aftershave products
Cons: You do have to lather consistently during your shave, slightly smaller than other soaps
Gentleman Jon is a company that’s committed to giving a truly classic shave experience with their glycerin-based soap. I found the lather was very smooth at the outset. One striking point is that while shaving, there wasn’t that much buildup on the razor but the skin felt very hydrated without much leftover moisture. The aroma is highly pleasant and blends in well with aftershave balms without any irritation. Using the soap also left the skin extremely smooth compared to the other soaps tested on both passes.
Moisture-rich Shaving Soap (small)
Pros: Good lather, works well with straight razors, leaves skin feeling softer after shave
Cons: Leaves a considerable amount of moisture buildup after, a little thick when using Multi-blade razors
The London-based company has been among the premier grooming companies, and their moisture-rich shaving soap with its own bowl is a reason why. Made partially with coconut oil, it provides a decent lather when starting out, but it can leave a little bit extra moisture afterwards so it’s best to go lightly with it. Its scent is pleasant, but not overly aromatic if you’re looking to not have it conflict with other grooming products. The soap does leave your skin feeling supple without any irritation, and it has a distinctive hydrating factor in helping the razor get rid of hairs.
The Art of Shaving
Sandalwood Shaving Soap (small)
Pros: Good initial lather, helps you get a close shave right against the skin
Cons: Skin dryness and potential for irritation afterwards depending on your skin makeup
The sandalwood shaving soap by The Art of Shaving represents a lot of thought given to what one desires in a shave. It gives off a good lather, and on the first shave it helped a lot towards clean hair removal close to the skin. There’s a brief bit of moisture residue afterwards but nothing too obvious. On the second pass however, I did feel my skin feeling drier than expected afterwards and a tad irritated which suggests this might be better for special occasion shaving.
How we tested
The process of testing each soap was based on shaving every two days, with each having two passes. Each pass was done using a wet brush made with badger hair and a shaving bowl owned by myself. Soaps that came with their own bowls are noted below. Every soap was also gauged on how smooth they left the skin, and if there were any irritation or potential for tonal changes.
Wall-mounted cat bridges can be installed in small spaces to give your cat plenty of room to climb.
Climbing and perching can relieve stress and entertain a cat.
We chose the best cat bridges, including those with added features like scratching posts.
Cats instinctively like to climb and perch. Up high where they have a bird’s eye view of their home, they are both safe from “predators” and less likely to be disturbed in the middle of a nap. In addition to providing stress relief, going vertical is also an outlet for entertainment. Standard cat trees can satisfy these needs, but wall-mounted cat bridges turn unused space into a feline playground and are ideal for small living spaces. Below, read more about our favorite cat bridges, from multilevel jungle gyms to minimalist walkways.
What we like: Customizable design, machine-washable fabric, available in two colors
CatastrophiCreations Play Place is a sturdy modular bridge made from durable bamboo and cotton canvas. Designed with hidden brackets, the floating bridge can be set up as one level or several and includes a platform with an escape hatch and a ramp with wooden steps for stability. The Play Place can support multiple cats — up to 62 pounds on each hammock and up to 85 pounds on each platform. It’s sold in two colors to fit your decor: natural wood and onyx wood. The removable hammocks are machine washable. Mounting instructions and hardware are included.
What we like: Made from jute and wood, affordable, easy to install
Fukumaru’s Cat Climbing Shelf is an affordable way to liven up the walls in your home while giving your cat a place to climb and perch. The rubberwood bridge has four steps wrapped in jute fiber. They’re all fixed to a single board that can be anchored to the wall with the included mounting hardware. Each step is 8.7 inches wide and the shelf is 15.7 inches long. It’s sold in two orientations to fit a variety of setups and you can combine shelves to create a more complex playground.
What we like: Two bridges, three platforms, can be mounted horizontally or diagonally
The Trixie Wall-Mounted Cat Bridge enhances your home’s vertical space with two hanging bridges mounted between wooden platforms. The three platforms can be arranged horizontally or diagonally. The bridge’s wooden-planks are held together with sisal rope and will give more adventurous cats a bit of a challenge as they steady themselves. Trixie’s bridge is available in espresso or white and comes with metal mounting hardware.
What we like: Two levels, additional walkways can be combined to form longer bridge, made from durable spruce
The sleek My Zoo Floating Cat Walkway is a chic way to add cat-approved vertical space to your home. The sturdy spruce wood bridge consists of two levels and a ramp spread across 29.5 inches. The bridge extends out about a foot from the wall. The Floating Cat Walkway can be purchased with a raised right-side or left-side orientation and multiple bridges can be put together to form a more extensive jungle gym. Each bridge can support up to 33 pounds and mounting hardware is included.
What we like: Customizable design, includes a wall-mounted scratching post, comes in six color combinations
The ultimate in vertical cat entertainment, CatastrophiCreations Climb Activity Center has multiple levels, bridges, and a scratching post. The center is made from bamboo and cotton canvas and mounted on hidden brackets. In addition to a 4-foot-tall sisal scratching post for claw conditioning and stretching, it includes an escape hatch and a separate floating shelf that can be configured in a variety of ways to suit your cat and your home. The Climb Activity Center can support the weight of multiple cats and its removable canvas sections are machine washable. The wood comes in three different colors — onyx, English chestnut, and natural bamboo — and you can choose from charcoal gray or natural fabric. Mounting instructions and hardware are included.
What we like: Two large cat trees in one, multiple perches and cubbies for snoozing, includes sisal scratching posts
The king of the cat trees, the Go Pet Club Cat Tree Condo is a massive vertical play space that doesn’t require wall mounting. Measuring 70-inches wide and 18-inches deep, this faux-fur-lined cat condo has two triangular houses, two baskets, four hoops, and a hammock, plus bridges, ladders, and multiple sisal scratching posts. The whole thing is anchored by adjustable poles (from 92 to 106 inches), which can be attached to the ceiling if desired. With an interior made from durable compressed wood, the entire cat condo weighs 68 pounds. Assembly is required and hardware is included.
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Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky
Cotton is an extremely absorbent material that can dry out your hair and face while you sleep.
Because silk is a much less absorbent material, it’s a great alternative to a satin pillowcase.
We break down what to look for in a silk pillowcase and some great options to shop now.
If you’re like most people, you have a cotton pillowcase. But you might not know that cotton is a highly absorbent material, which means your pillowcase might be draining your hair and skin of the moisture they need to stay healthy. That’s right – your pillowcase may be to blame for your dry strands.
“When your hair is rubbing against that cotton fiber, not only is it soaking up the moisture that is in your hair on your head, even. But it’s also causing friction,” which can lead to frizz, certified trichologist and natural hair YouTuber Afope Atoyebi says.
A silk pillowcase is especially helpful for keeping the moisture in your hair. While everyone can benefit from using a silk pillowcase, Atoyebi explains that people with high porosity, chemically processed, and curly and coily hair types benefit the most. All of these involve “a lot more openings, gaps, lifts in your cuticle layer that essentially make it harder for your hair to retain the water that gets put in it,” Atoyebi said.
How to pick the right silk pillowcase for your hair
Silk is graded in mommes which describe the weight of the silk. The higher the momme, the heavier and typically higher quality and more durable the silk. As with all luxury items, be wary of silk that’s priced too good to be true or silk mixed with other fabrics. Check the seller has a clear and transparent source and production to avoid the fake thing or not pure silk.
Here are the best silk pillowcases in 2021:
The best overall: Celestial Silk 25 momme pillowcase
25 Momme Silk Pillowcase (small)
Celestial Silk’s thick, 25-momme silk pillowcase feels super luxurious to the touch. This brand also offers variety, including 20 color options, plus zippered or enveloped closures, at one of the most affordable prices for silk pillowcases on this list. The average pillowcase on this list is made with 22 momme silk, but Celestial Silk uses 25 — and the OEKO-TEX verification tag proves it’s the real deal.
Grace Eleyae 16 Momme Silk Pillowcase pillowcase
Black Silk Pillowcase (small)
Made with an envelope closure and 16 momme silk, this pillowcase is smooth, lightweight, and has three color options. The pillowcase fits very snugly on Target’s standard/queen size pillowcase unlike other options on this list, which had a few inches of extra room length-wise.. Grace Eleyae pillowcases come with a convenient silk pouch, making this pillowcase best for a frequent traveller.
Slip queen zippered pillowcase
Queen Zippered Pillowcase (small)
Slip uses 22 momme silk for their luxurious pillowcases, which come in beautiful, reusable boxes with a magnetic closure. The brand offers pillowcases in 13 different colors, multiple sizes, and multiple closure options.
Brooklinen standard silk pillowcase
Mulberry Silk Pillowcase (small)
Brooklinen’s soft, 22 momme silk pillowcase is available in five different colors and a standard or king size. Each has an envelope closure. This pillowcase comes in a slick, reusable box with a magnetic closure.
Jimoo Zippered Silk Pillowcase
Natural Silk Pillowcase (small)
This is an Amazon-favorite in the silk pillowcase category. Made with a zippered closure, this 22 momme pillowcase gets the job done at a great price with plenty of size and color options.
Shhh Silk Queen Zippered Pillowcase
Black Silk Pillowcase (small)
Australian-based Shhh Silk offers 22 momme silk pillowcases with zippered closures in queen and king sizes. Shhh Silk offers free shipping with every order plus a 100 day guarantee. Bonus: if you aren’t satisfied within your first 100 days, you can get your money back. Shhh Silk pillowcases also come with an OEKO-TEX verification tag.
My Mane 22 momme silk pillowcase
MANE Silk Pillowcase (small)
This London-based, curly care company offers a luxurious, 22 momme pillowcase made with a zippered closure and available in blush and slate colors. This is an especially good option if you’re interested in the brand’s curly products or are based in the UK. Plus, their pillowcases are OEKO-TEX-verified.
Swurly Curly Queen Pillowcase
Solid Queen Silk Pillowcase (small)
This Midwest-based, family business specializes in products for curly hair and offers 19 and 22 momme pillowcases. Made with envelope closures, these products are available in queen and king sizes.
An affordable alternative to silk pillowcases:
If you don’t have silk pillowcase money, there are some great, much more affordable alternatives in satin pillowcases. Satin is a method of weaving synthetic fibers that creates a fabric just like silk–but without the worms or high price. Usually, satin is vegan and cruelty-free. However, since satin is synthetic, it doesn’t have the same hypoallergenic benefits as silk.
Surprisingly, in terms of feel, satin can often feel a lot softer than silk. Here are some great, super soft satin alternatives.
Kitsch Satin Pillowcase: This satin pillowcase has incredible slip and has a quality thickness to it. Kitsch pillowcases come in about seven different colors and multiple sizes.
CurlMix Satin Pillowcase: CurlMix is all about clean beauty for curly hair. Their satin pillowcase is in line with their mission of providing vegan products that preserve and protect textured hair.
Bedsure Satin Pillowcase: One of Amazon’s best performing options, this highly-rated and affordable satin pillowcase is made with an envelope closure. There are 24 color options and multiple sizes available.
JSatin Solid Pillowcase: Target offers a great satin pillowcase option with six different colors and different sizes. This can be a convenient and effective option next time you’re at your local Target or shopping online.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.”
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.
Andrew Laux, NASM-CPT, and personal trainer with fitness platform, Fyt
Louis Chandler Joseph, NASM-CPT, trainer at Dogpound in Los Angeles
Regardless of whether you brew your coffee with a French press, pour-over setup, drip machine, or espresso maker, the key to getting the perfect cup lies in the quality and consistency of the grounds. In other words, you need a top-notch coffee grinder.
As Dan Kehn, founder of espresso enthusiast forum Home-Barista.com said of the device’s importance, “This is not a weed whacker, it is a precision instrument,” – meaning, above all, a good coffee grinder consistently produces uniformly sized grounds. That’s because the less even your grounds are, the less even the extraction will be, and the more likely your cup of coffee will be over or under-brewed, bitter, or weak.
There are two basic types of coffee grinders on the market: burr and blade. Burr grinders are pricier, but they offer more uniform results, carefully crushing coffee beans between two revolving sharp-edged surfaces, or “burrs.” You can adjust the space between those burrs to determine the size of the grounds.
Blade grinders, on the other hand, work similarly to blenders, pulverizing coffee beans with a propeller-like blade attached to a motor. While they don’t offer the same consistency or control as burr grinders, they’re significantly more affordable and can be used to make a decent pot of drip coffee.
We tested every grinder in this guide for grind-size consistency on multiple settings, measured their noise levels, timed how quickly they turned beans into grounds, evaluated their ease of use, and noted any special features. During testing, we found that the brands’ recommended settings were often off-target, so we included our own additional suggestions for each machine. You can read more about our testing methods here, along with a rundown of which grind size to use for which brewing method.
In testing coffee grinders, I applied several years of tireless personal and professional research on my quest to achieve the perfect espresso pour and all the necessary and auxiliary accouterments that accompany and assist the art of espresso making. We also consulted the more distinguished expertise of Sum Ngai (co-founder of the SCAA-accredited Coffee Project New York), Brooklyn Roasting Company founder Jim Munson), and Home-Barista.com founder and editor Dan Kehn.
Consistency: The most important factor when determining the quality of each coffee grinder was consistency. We used the brand-recommended settings for French press coffee and espresso on each grinder, as well as our own settings, based on expert input, personal experience, and guidelines set forth by The Craft and Science of Coffee. We then measured the grounds with a set of Kruve sifters — a series of stacked screens that separate coffee grounds at your determined grind size from any outliers — to see how many fine particles and boulders were left behind after each grind.
Once we achieved the best yield of a target size (measured in micrometers), we repeated the process to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. In the case of espresso, the aim was 250-500 micrometers. For French press grounds, we shot for between 600 and 1100 micrometers. Keep in mind, though, that these are just general suggestions, and we were testing for uniformity of particles above all; taste-wise, you may have your own grind size preference.
Settings: We recorded the number of settings on every machine, and tested to see how each grinder performed on several of those settings, noting accuracy, consistency, and speed. Espresso is the most demanding grind size, and you’ll need a machine with stainless steel burrs and at least 40 settings.
Programming: We noted whether or not you could program your own settings, and tested this function on each machine that offered it, docking points for grinders that made the process overly complicated.
Espresso compatibility: While the ability to produce consistent, uniform grounds in the 250-500 micrometer range is the most essential coffee grinder requirement for making espresso, it’s not the only factor we considered. Having a portafilter holder and a programmable interface also streamline the espresso brewing process, and we made sure to note machines with these features.
Noise: We measured noise levels with a decibel meter, but ultimately this didn’t factor too much into our final rankings. Some of the best burr grinders also happened to be the noisiest, but it’s an inconvenience we can live with for quality coffee.
The best coffee grinder overall
The Baratza Encore is a solid entry-level burr grinder that will suit most coffee drinkers’ needs, thanks to its wide range of settings, quiet motor, and consistent results.
Pros: Sturdy, nicely weighted, 40 grind settings
Cons: Not ideal for espresso
What Baratza set out to do with the Encore was make burr grinders accessible to all. This is by no stretch a commercial-grade machine, but it will elevate your coffee into the (relative) stratosphere if you’re upgrading from a blade grinder, and it’s significantly more affordable than most burr grinders on the market, which tend to start at around $200.
The Encore won’t get you immaculate grounds, but it will reduce the number of boulders and fines (how coffee pros refer to too-large and too-small particles) in each grind. Using Kruve sieves — a set of stacked sifters that separate coffee grounds at your determined grind size from any outliers — we found that the Encore managed between 70 and 80 percent of our target French press grind (600-1100 micrometers), outperforming the burr grinders we tested within and slightly above its price range.
However, when we tried a finer grind for espresso (250-500 micrometers), the results were only 50 to 70 percent on-target, with the irregular particles mostly being fines. A too-small grind can lead to over-extraction, which results in a bitter brew. So, while this machine will serve most home coffee brewers very well, we recommend upgrading to the Baratza Sette 270 if you plan on making espresso regularly.
Although many of its competitors feature ceramic burrs, the Encore‘s is made from stainless steel, making it significantly more durable. That being said, all burrs will eventually require replacement, regardless of material. This machine is also among the quieter burr grinders we tested, registering at 74 decibels, or a little louder than a vacuum at a yard away.
The best coffee grinder on a budget
The OXO Conical Burr Grinder is equipped with a stainless steel conical burr, 15 grind settings, and an attractive finish.
Cons: Only 15 settings, not ideal for espresso, some plastic parts
The quietest of the machines we tested at 70 decibels (a noise level we compare to a vacuum cleaner one yard away), OXO’s Conical Burr Grinder is the gadget to buy if you’re a French press, drip, or pour-over enthusiast who is ready to trade in their blade grinder for an entry-level burr grinder.
As with our top pick, we’ll steer you away from using this grinder to make espresso, although that’s not to say it can’t be done. The Baratza Sette 270, however, is much better suited to that purpose.
While we applaud OXO for outfitting this grinder with a stainless steel burr without sacrificing affordability, we found the Baratza Encore’s burr to be more robust (it’s a leap up in price for a reason). To that point, the OXO Conical Burr Grinder has 15 settings to the Encore’s 40, and the former’s burr is held in place by a plastic cap while the latter’s is secured with a stainless steel wingnut. This isn’t to say the OXO grinder isn’t worth buying — it’s a solid starter burr grinder — but it is a bit flimsier than the other models on our list.
We ended up with a little more than half of our target French press grind, with lots of fines mixed in, but fared slightly better when we switched to a coarser setting. Our coffee was certainly a step up from the batches made with blade grinders, and if you mainly drink pour-over or drip coffee — in other words, anything that uses a paper filter — the difference in taste between the OXO and more expensive burr grinders is close to negligible.
Espresso, as we mentioned earlier, is where this machine falls short. Again, too many fine particles will lead to bitter coffee, and they can choke your grinder, preventing it from pushing water through the grounds.
The best coffee grinder upgrade
From ultra-fine espresso grounds to the coarsest settings required for French Press coffee, you can get a quick and consistent grind out of the Virtuoso+ with minimal effort.
Pros: Works for all grind sizes, stainless steel burr, stainless steel finish
Cons: Only one programmable setting, some ground retention within machine, some plastic parts
If you want the best possible grinder for as little investment as possible, the Virtuoso+ from Baratza is the strongest contender we’ve encountered. It isn’t as immaculate in its performance as its sibling, the Sette 270, but it covers just about every grind size and it’s equally as dependable.
This machine’s capabilities are right at the threshold of what is required to get truly good espresso (the most finicky grind size) at home. The Virtuoso+ is also what barista trainer Sum Ngai of Coffee Project NY chooses to use at home, citing that it’s easy to use, easy to clean, churns out consistent grounds, and offers just enough settings (40 in all) to be viable for any brewing method.
Again you’re not going to get perfect grounds out of this machine, but any deviation from your target size is going to be minimal. We were able to achieve about 80-90 percent of our target ranges for both espresso (250-500 micrometers) and French press (600-1100 micrometers) during our testing, and any effect the small amounts of fines and boulders had upon tasting was negligible.
This machine has the same basic plastic basin you get with most budget grinders, so dosing becomes a little more of a chore when you’re working with espresso because you can’t grind directly into a portafilter like you can with the Sette 270. So if highly convenient espresso-making is a top concern of yours, we recommend considering that option.
In the end, this is a do-it-all package at a reasonable price, and if you take your home coffee seriously, it’s a great step toward improving your setup without making a major investment (top quality burr grinders can easily go for four figures).
At 78 decibels, the Virtuoso+ is about as loud as a washing machine a yard away, so it’s a bit noisier than the Encore, but that’s to be expected of a more powerful grinder.
The best coffee grinder for espresso
Perfect for home espresso brewers, the Baratza Sette 270 handles grinding and dosing as meticulously as a commercial grinder, but on a consumer scale.
Pros: Perfect for espresso, macro and micro grind settings, high speed, user-friendly interface and programming
Cons: Not ideal for coarser grounds, loud
Achieving the perfect espresso grind requires a finely-tuned auger designed for working with precise, minuscule particles. If you’re exclusively making espresso, the Baratza Sette 270 is one of the best machines you can buy. We should say up front that it also happens to be one of the loudest; at 88 decibels, it’s akin to a propeller plane flying 1,000 feet overhead.
One of the common issues with coffee grinders is that most will pulverize your beans to dust much smaller than the generally recommended 250-500 micrometers for espresso. This is where the Sette 270 shows what it’s made of. While every machine up to this price point left us with 10 to 20 percent fine particles, the Sette 270 produced such a negligible amount of fines that not only could we not weigh them, we couldn’t scrape enough together to transfer them from the basin to the scale.
This machine is easily programmable, with three timed settings you can adjust down to the one-hundredth of a second.
Going back and forth between a portafilter (for espresso) and a grind catcher is also simple. There are two arms that will hold a portafilter, but by pushing the left one inward and outward, it clears the way for the catcher. Other machines require removing fittings, and we found this to be the easiest to switch back and forth by far.
Overall, the Sette 270 is an excellent choice if you’re serious about espresso, or use a moka pot (which also requires particularly fine grounds), but it might be overkill for less-precise brewing methods. Our top pick, the Baratza Encore, will suit most other coffee-making needs.
The best blade grinder
Krups’ F203 blade grinder is powerful, durable, affordable, and features a clear lid so you can monitor the grinding process.
Pros: Simple, small footprint, long-lasting
Cons: Inconsistent and uncontrollable grind
While burr grinders produce far more consistent coffee grounds than blade grinders, there’s no getting around the fact that they’re significantly more expensive. And while particle size uniformity is crucial when it comes to making complicated drinks like espresso, that level of precision isn’t necessary if you use a drip machine; any difference in taste will be negligible.
The best blade grinder we’ve tried is the Krups F203, which is sadly going to be discontinued soon (so we recommend buying it now). It has a simple on and off button, which you hold down to keep the blade spinning. The longer you hold it, the finer the grind will be.
It took about 30 seconds to produce a somewhat coarse French press grind that landed us on the safer side of not being left with too many fines. That’s a good blade grinder rule in general: go for coarser grounds and let them steep a little longer, since it takes more time for water to penetrate particles with larger surface areas. Fines will make your coffee bitter, while boulders will only make it weaker (and you can compensate by brewing or steeping longer). After brewing our French press coffee, we were left with some sludge at the bottom of the carafe, but we didn’t notice any difference in taste.
If your go-to brewing method involves a paper filter, it’s even easier to get away with using a blade grinder. You’re still going to get uneven extraction (finer particles emit oils faster; coarser ones emit oils slower), but at least the paper will catch the fine particulate so that it doesn’t end up as sludge.
We still ran this machine through some espresso tests, but they proved what the pros had warned us about, and we were unable to get anything close to a consistent pour.
Blade grinders can last an incredibly long time — some friends and family members have had this exact model for over 20 years — while burr grinders require more consistent upkeep and replacement. And, if you ever decide to upgrade to a burr grinder, you can still use your blade grinder to grind spices (burr grinders, on the other hand, are single-purpose machines).
The bottom line is, blade grinders will break your beans down into grounds and you will be able to make decent coffee — provided your go-to brewing method isn’t fussy — but you’re probably not going to get top-tier results by using one. If all of that sounds fine, the Krups will more than suit your needs.
What else we tested
Bodum Bistro Electric Grinder: This machine works well enough, and the borosilicate grounds catcher is far more durable than many of its competitors’ plastic versions, but there weren’t enough settings for this one to make the cut.
Breville Smart Grinder Pro: This is a good grinder by any measure. It puts out fairly even grounds, it has multiple fittings to accommodate espresso portafilters of different sizes, and its interface is user-friendly. However, we found that the Baratza Virtuoso+ produced more consistent grounds, especially when it came to espresso.
Chefman Electric Burr Mill: For the price, this is an impressive machine. There are some problems with static and consistency, and the ceramic (as opposed to stainless steel) burr isn’t ideal, but compare it a blade grinder, and it’s worth the extra $15 to $20.
Rancilio Rocky: This is a highly capable, professional-grade grinder, and while we wholly recommend it, we think the smaller, similarly equipped Baratza Sette 270 is a better, more kitchen counter-friendly option for most folks.
Comandante: A favorite of Lance Hedrick of Onyx Coffee Labs, several Brewer’s Cup champions have used this very grinder in competition. With a cult following online, the Comandante manual burr grinder comes with a language unto itself, as each click on the dial is 30 microns, which helps immensely when learning to grind and brew. Case in point: this overview from Prima Coffee.
Hario Skerton: We’re in the process of re-testing this manual coffee grinder for our next update, but you can read our review here in the meantime. Both our original tester and other experts consulted at Coffee Project NY praise it for its portability, consistency, and ease of use.
Which grind size should you use for which coffee brewing method?
First off, preferred grind size is going to be highly subjective, especially if you tend to prefer your coffee on either the stronger or weaker side.
In order to decide grind size ranges for particular brewing methods, we consulted experts including Dan Kehn of Home-Barista.com, Sum Ngai of Coffee Project NY, Kruve’s grind size guide, and The Craft and Science of Coffee. The recommendations below are meant to be loose guidelines we developed by condensing the above information and exercising trial and error, but again, in the end, it all comes down to your preferences. These are some basic parameters to help you get started.
Aeropress: 500-900 micrometers
Cold-brew: 600-1100 micrometers
Drip: 400-900 micrometers
Espresso: 250-500 micrometers
French press: 600-1000 micrometers
Moka pot/Turkish Coffee: 350-700 micrometers
Pour-over: 400-800 micrometers
Syphon: 400-800 micrometers
How do you clean and maintain a burr grinder?
As with any precision instrument, upkeep becomes increasingly important over time. “If you bought a good set of kitchen knives and you didn’t sharpen them for five years,” Dan Kehn, of Home-Barista.com, said, “it would be unrealistic for you to expect them to perform as well as they did the first week.”
A quick cleaning of stainless steel burrs involves using a small brush that is almost always included with your purchase of a grinder. Remove the hopper, pop out the burr, and brush it off.
In some cases, especially if it’s been a while between quick cleanings, you’ll need to do more work to remove the grounds and oils that have been wedged between the burrs. Remove them both and feel free to wash them with soap and water, but they must be perfectly dried — no exceptions — before going back into the machine or you’re going to face corrosion. Don’t let the “stainless” descriptor fool you: stainless steel is not actually stainless (such is the case with stainless steel knives, too).
Each grinder will need to be disassembled and reassembled a different way. Follow the brand’s instructions, and if you’ve long-since tossed them, they can most likely be found online (here are Baratza’s, and here are OXO’s).
Blade (grinder): A grinder that works like a blender or a propeller, employing a set of blades attached to a motor.
Boulders: Large grounds that are undesirable because they will under-extract and leave coffee watery.
Burr (grinder): A mill, usually made of ceramic or steel. It consists of a rough-edged pair of abrasive surfaces, one a disc-like shape, the other forming a ring around the first.
Basin: The container into which the grounds fall.
Fines: Small grounds almost dust-like in size, these are too small to brew as they’ll be over-extracted and leave coffee tasting bitter.
Hopper: The basin that stores the beans in the top of a burr grinder, ahead of grinding. You’ll usually have to remove this to access, clean, and replace burrs.
Micrometers: The standard unit of measurement for coffee grounds (.001 millimeters).
(Grounds) Retention: The amount of grounds left trapped in the machine and/or burrs after grinding.
Check out our other great coffee-related buying guides
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When getting from point A to point B means sloshing through mud, there’s a rain boot for the job.
We’ve gathered together fashionable, utilitarian boots to keep your feet dry in wet weather.
Look good and stay dry with these waterproof boots.
Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky
Wet weather may be inevitable, but suffering through it with wet feet in squishy footwear doesn’t have to be. A superior rain boot or a waterproof boot (along with a good raincoat) can turn a dismal day trudging through the rain into, if not a fun experience, at least one that won’t ruin your mood and leave you with damp socks. Beyond that, you don’t have to look like Paddington Bear when you go out in the rain, since there are many fashionable options to suit your personal style while still staying dry.
How I tested rain boots for this guide:
Besides wearing the boots while walking in the rain (the things I do for my job!) I also tested them by wading into the nearby Hudson River until the boots were submerged to the boot’s collar or until water seeped inside (again, the things I do for this job!). For more details on testing, see our explainer slide below.
Here are the best rain boots for men in 2021:
XTRATUF Rubber Deck Boot
XTRATUF Ankle Deck Boots are completely waterproof, slip resistant, and have a moisture-wicking liner. Trusted by folks in the Alaskan fishing industry, these boots will keep your feet dry in the heaviest rains.
XTRATUF has been around for more than 60 years and made its reputation among Alaska’s fisheries and docks, earning their Legacy ankle boots the nickname “Alaskan sneakers.”
The XTRATUF Ankle Deck Boot is made from hand-layered neoprene, a type of synthetic rubber, for a completely waterproof boot (note: these aren’t meant for commercial applications). The only way you’re going to get your feet wet is if the water is deeper than the top of the boot. While testing them during a rainstorm, the water beaded off the surface and my feet stayed completely dry. The outsoles, made from slip-resistant chevron rubber, worked well on muddy surfaces and when scrambling over wet boulders. Because they’re made of neoprene, the boots aren’t as breathable as leather, but they’re lined with a moisture-wicking and anti-bacterial lining called Xpresscool that helps keep your feet cooler on warm days.
The biggest surprise was how comfortable they were. I walked more than five miles in these straight out of the box with no issues. They’re light, around one pound, and feature a front and back pull-on tabs to help get your feet in and out of them. They don’t come in half sizes. I normally wear a 9.5 so sized up to a 10 as recommended by the brand, and they fit well.
Ankle Deck Boots (small)
REEF Voyage Boot LE
The REEF Voyage LE is a waterproof and extremely lightweight boot that has you covered if you’re caught in a rainstorm in the city or traversing a stream on a day hike.
REEF, the beach brand started by two Argentinian brothers in the 1980s, is best known for its sandals, but the company also makes great boots.
The REEF Voyage Boot is a chukka style ankle boot that is both stylish and great for wet weather, or the beach when it’s not raining. Made from waterproof full-grain leather, it also has a rubber cupsole—a type of outsole made from a single piece of rubber that’s very flexible—and has good gripping ability in wet conditions. Unlike many of the boots I tested, water doesn’t noticeably bead on the leather’s surface, but it doesn’t penetrate the material deeply, nor does it affect the leather’s color or texture once dried. I found these boots to be fully waterproof both while testing them in a rainstorm and at the river’s edge. Water seeped into the boots where the tongue meets the shaft once I went deeper into the water. If that happens, no worries, these boots dry really fast—about an hour with the cork insoles removed.
The Voyage boots are very comfortable straight out of the box—I’ve worn them on several 5+ mile excursions with no foot trouble. They’re incredibly lightweight at just 15.4 ounces, but still provide decent ankle and arch support thanks to what the brand calls ‘Swellular Technology,” comprised of three layers: a soft foam deck, a slightly firmer midsole, and the aforementioned rubber outsole. They also have a soft corduroy lining.
These boots fit true to size. No additional or special care is required to help maintain the boot’s waterproofing, according to a company rep I spoke with, and the brand offers a one-year guarantee against manufacturer’s defects.
Voyage LE (small)
Sperry Saltwater Nylon Duck Boot
Sperry has been making footwear for wet conditions for 90 years and the brand’s Saltwater Nylon Duck Boot marries classic looks with functionality so you can look good and also keep your feet dry.
These are sophisticated enough for running around the city on a rainy day, but are hardcore enough for fishing or other outdoor activities.
The shaft is made from a waterproof quilted nylon with a tongue that’s attached for its entire length to prevent water from seeping in (known as a bellows tongue or gusseted tongue in footwear terminology). Below, a waterproof rubber shell keeps your feet dry. No water made it into the boots when I walked into the river with them. When I tested them on a very rainy walk, water beaded off the surface and kept my feet completely dry. The lugged rubber outsoles kept me from slipping in muddy conditions.
I found the Sperry Nylon Duck Boot to be comfortable for long walks, five or more miles. The lining is soft and they fit true to size. Because the boots are partially quilted and the shell is rubber, these may not be suitable for hot summer wear, but are definitely good for spring, fall, and mild winters.
The Danner Vertigo 917 are super lightweight, feature a Gore Tex liner, and are handsome enough for a night out but rugged enough for a day hike.
Danner, the Oregon-based heritage boot brand, has been keeping feet warm and dry since 1932. The company’s Vertigo 917 Boot goes beyond utilitarian needs (though it provides that too) with an aesthetically handsome style that still keeps your feet dry in the rain.
The Vertigo 917 has a waterproofed leather upper and features a 100% waterproof Gore-Tex liner that’s breathable, so your feet stay dry whether from water or your own sweat. The lower portion of the tongue has a mesh liner layered over a waterproof membrane attached to the shank to help regulate your temperature and to keep water from seeping in. I found them to have very good traction on wet surfaces. They have a Vibram XS Trek outsole—Vibram is an Italian company that sets the standard for rubber soles with gripping ability—that provides stability and traction. It should be noted that these boots cannot be resoled.
I’ve taken these on five-mile in-town walks and on longer day hikes. There was a short break-in period—they rubbed at the ankle bone on my first five-mile walk in them—but by the third wear they had become very comfortable. These are flexible and extremely light—35 ounces for the pair—making them great for longer treks. They have a removable OrthoLite Footbed with three layers for maximum cushioning and support. They fit true to size and are nicely designed for easily getting them on and off.
A brand rep advised me that the leather’s protective coating will eventually wear off so apply Danner’s Waterproofing Gel when you notice the leather beginning to darken.
Vertigo 917 (small)
Muck Boots Originals Pull On Mid
The Original Muck Boot Company is the go-to work boots for both farmers and gardeners of all stripes working in muddy, damp, slippery conditions. The company’s Originals Pull On Mid is a workhorse of a boot that will keep your feet dry and comfortable for all-day wear.
The Originals Pull On Mid is made from hand-layered rubber over a neoprene bootie. I wore these mid-calf-length boots while working in the garden over several days and on a 2.5 mile walk in a heavy rain. When testing them out, water beaded off the surface well and when I waded out into the Hudson, the boots were completely waterproof. The only way water is getting in is if it goes over the top. They provided good traction in muddy conditions.
The first time I wore them they rubbed against my calf, a problem solved by tucking my pants into the boots. Longer socks would also solve this problem. They were very comfortable—the boots have molded footbeds with a layer of memory foam. The boots were easy to get on and off thanks to the tab at the back. These don’t come in half-sizes, so I opted for the next size up as recommended by the brand. They felt a bit big, so I wore them with thicker socks to fix the problem and they were fine. Because they’re made from rubber, they don’t breathe as well as leather, but I didn’t find them unduly hot while working outside in 70 degree weather. My feet didn’t noticeably sweat in them. The footbeds are both antimicrobial so they don’t stink and moisture wicking to help keep your feet feeling dry. You can get away with four season wear depending on your climate.
Bring a little rock-and-roll to your rainy day excursions with the Dr. Martens Waterproof 1460 boots. These boots surprised me twice. The first time was when I took them on a five-mile walk straight out of the box. These are solidly made boots that weigh in at 1.14 ounces each but are remarkably comfortable. They’re amply cushioned at the collar and on the tongue. The soles are also very cushiony. They don’t call them “Air Wair” for nothing (the company’s brand since the 1960s) since the soles are air-cushioned.
The Waterproof 1460 has the same look as the originals (the logo tab on back, iconic yellow stitching, grooved sidewalls, DMS tread) but also feature “Drywair,” a proprietary waterproof membrane that keeps moisture out but is breathable enough to keep your feet from perspiring. They also have a twin heat-sealed welt and a gusseted tongue that keeps water from seeping in. My second big surprise with these Dr. Martens came when I waded out into the Hudson in them. No water got in. None. The outsoles provided great gripping ability in muddy, slippery conditions.
Dr. Martens don’t come in half-sizes, so I sized down to a 9 per the company’s advice and they fit perfectly. They only come in black in a waxy, oil-finish called Republic WP. They’re easy to clean too. Just wipe them down with a damp cloth. My only quibble with these boots (a tiny one) was the length of the laces. I’m a double knotter and the shortness of these laces didn’t really allow for this.
Waterproof 1460s (small)
Le Chameau Vierzon Jersey Lined Boot
The Vierzon Jersey Lined Boot by Le Chameau is a classic Wellington-style rain boot that has thoughtful details for an elevated experience.
Le Chameau, a French heritage brand, has been keeping the feet of farmers, hunters, and anglers dry and comfortable for nearly 100 years. The Vierzon Jersey Lined Boot is a classic calf-length wellington-style rubber rain boot with a ton of nice details that elevates it above the competition. These boots are handcrafted from the company’s Chamolux rubber that starts with Grade A rubber from Vietnam that’s mixed with some secret ingredients to produce the famously soft, supple and fully waterproof boot material.
The thoughtful details include a soft polycotton, tartan patterned jersey lining, an adjustable waterproof gusset with snap-fastening buckle for a perfect fit, and shock-absorbing dual-density outsoles with a shank reinforcement board for better stability and arch support. The outsole is abrasion resistant and provides traction on uneven, slippery surfaces.
The Vierzon is a four-season boot, depending on your climate (they are rated for temperatures down to 0°C and are comfortable for use during warmer months thanks to the quick-drying lining that helps wick away sweat. These boots, like all the company’s products, come with a two-year warranty and free shipping in the U.S.
Vierzon Jersey Lined Boot (small)
Rockport Mid Moc Waterproof Boot
The Rockport Mid Moc is good-looking, super comfortable, and fully waterproof, to boot.
Rockport is known for casual, comfortable footwear that’s made for walking. The Mid Moc Waterproof Boot is true to the brand. Made from a full-grain waterproof leather, they are really comfortable, good-looking, and will keep your feet dry on a rainy-day hike.
I’ve worn these on in-town walks and day hikes of at least five miles, and from day one I had no foot issues. They have a nicely cushioned collar and tongue, and an EVA footbed that provides good support and helps prevent foot fatigue. They also provide excellent ankle support.
These are seam sealed, have a gusseted tongue, and a waterproof insole. They kept my feet dry, both while hiking in the rain and during river testing. It should be noted the gusseted tongue only goes up about two-thirds of the way, so water can seep in if the water is deeper than that. The boots also have anti-microbial and moisture-wicking footbeds. The thick rubber outsoles provide good gripping power in slippery conditions. These boots fit true to size.
Mid Moc Waterproof Boot (small)
Huckberry All-Weather Chore Boot
The Huckberry All-Weather Chore Boot wears like a sneaker, looks like a cross between a Chelsea boot and a duck boot, and is made from premium materials to keep your feet dry no matter the conditions.
Huckberry has made its reputation with products that are equal parts cool, innovative, and well-made, so it’s no surprise their All-Weather Chore Boot ticks off all these boxes and more. This is a hybrid between a Chelsea boot and a duck boot with a waterproof full-grain leather upper, rubberized leather rand at the heel, and Vibram outsole that provides traction in slippery conditions.
The interior has a waterproof lycra membrane that’s breathable so water won’t get in, but sweat will evaporate to help keep feet dry and comfortable. The uppers have sealed seams and are joined using waterproof cement and glue. The rand at the back and toe cap help protect against tears and abrasions.
These fit like a sneaker, with a cushioned insole and EVA midsole that provide great shock absorption. Pull tabs at the back and elastic at the sides (like traditional Chelsea boots) make for easy on and off. These fit true to size.
All-Weather Chore Boot (small)
Brunt Perkins Waterproof Work Boot
Brunt is a new direct-to-consumer brand that’s quickly becoming a goto workwear staple. The Perkins is a tough full-grain leather work boot. Designed for the worksite, it’s got a reinforced composite nano toe and shank (the long thin piece of material in a boot that sits between the insole and outsole and provides support). These are fairly light for reinforced-toe work boots, weighing in at around two pounds each. Traditional steel-toe work boots can be as heavy as 4.5 pounds. The boots have double stitching at key areas that tend to wear faster and durable toe caps and heel guards. The Perkins meet the ASTM International standards for safety toe work boots. This international standards organization provides technical standards for a variety of products and materials.
The Perkins is also very comfortable. I wore these working in the yard and around the house and walked 2.5 miles in them with no foot issues. There was no break-in time required. The Perkins features a rubber foam midsole, a three-layer removable insole, and extra padding at the collar.
These boots performed well in normal rain conditions thanks to triple-layer waterproofing. Water beaded off the surface and my feet stayed dry. In the river, no water seeped in via the seams. The boots don’t have a gusseted tongue so water can seep in through there, but these aren’t meant to be used to slog through the Hudson and will definitely keep your feet dry in most situations. They took about 10 hours to dry out inside. The Perkins also have heavy-duty outsoles that prevented me from slipping in muddy (even oily) conditions. They fit true to size and have a cool feature that lets you adjust the boot width from regular (D) to a wider fit (EE).
Perkins Waterproof Work Boot (small)
How I tested rain boots for this guide
I tested these rain boots for comfort, breathability, ease of getting in and out of them, how well they grip in slippery conditions, and, of course, how they stood up against water. I walked and/or hiked in each of them at least twice, sometimes more, for at least 2.5 miles (in most cases twice that distance) at a time during rainstorms. I submerged them in puddles as well as wading out into the Hudson River in them. In the case of the Muck Boots and Brunt Work Boots, I used them while working in my yard and doing chores around the house.
Intestinal parasites pose serious risks to your dog’s health.
The best dog dewormers treat many common intestinal parasites and are easy to administer.
We did the research to determine the best topical and oral parasite prevention medicine for dogs.
This article was medically reviewed by Karie Johnson, DVM, veterinarian and co-founder of VIP Vet Visit, a mobile vet service in the south suburbs of Chicago.
Intestinal parasites, often called worms, are microscopic organisms that live inside your dog, where they silently cause harm. Common intestinal parasites in dogs include roundworms, tapeworms, and hookworms. Some worms, like roundworms and hookworms, can take up residence in humans, too.
If your dog has worms, you need to eradicate them quickly and prevent them from returning. Deworming medications kill the parasites your dog already has, and intestinal parasite preventives, most of which are given monthly, prevent future worm infections. Some products also kill fleas, ticks, and heartworms.
Choosing among the many safe and effective parasite preventives for dogs can be difficult. After speaking to veterinarians, we chose products based on safety, efficacy, number of parasites targeted, and products’ ease of use. Read more about how we selected products at the end of this guide.
Different drugs kill different worms, so you must always visit your veterinarian for a fecal test before giving your dog a dewormer. Your veterinarian can advise you on what product might be best depending on your dog’s temperament and lifestyle and the parasites that are most prevalent in your area. Many of these treatments also require a prescription from your veterinarian.
Here are the best dog dewormers and parasite preventives in 2021
No other dog dewormer kills as many different types of worms as Drontal Plus.
Pros: Veterinarian recommended, kills four types of worms, safe and reliable, kills all parasites within seven days, low risk for side effects
Cons: Not for puppies younger than 3 weeks old or those weighing less than 2 pounds
Drontal Plus is a safe and effective broad-spectrum dewormer that eliminates multiple types of parasites with one dose. It kills tapeworms, hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms within seven days. Just offer the Drontal Plus Taste Tab flavored chewable tablet to your dog alone or with a small amount of food.
Drontal Plus features three powerful active ingredients: pyrantel pamoate, praziquantel, and febantel, which together cover four species of tapeworms, two species of hookworms, two species of roundworms, and whipworms.
The dewormer has a very low risk for side effects and is safe for puppies as young as 3 weeks old and weighing at least 2 pounds. It requires a prescription from your veterinarian, and a vet visit is also important because your dog may have other parasites that even a broad-spectrum dewormer can’t eliminate.
When using a broad-spectrum dewormer like Drontal Plus, your dog may require one or more follow-up treatments to make sure all the worms are eliminated. If your dog has fleas, they should also be treated with a flea control product to prevent future tapeworm infections.
The best tapeworm dewormer for dogs
A single dose of Droncit safely and quickly kills tapeworms within 24 hours.
Pros: Kills four species of tapeworms, works within 24 hours, easy-to-administer tablet, long-trusted brand, affordably priced per pill
Cons: Some dogs may experience salivation, vomiting, or diarrhea after taking; not for puppies less than 4 weeks old
One Droncit tablet works to paralyze and eliminate the four most common species of tapeworms within 24 hours. Its active ingredient, praziquantel, is effective and safe for adult dogs and puppies 4 weeks of age and older. The tablet can be fed whole or crumbled and mixed with food.
The treatment is conveniently and affordably sold per pill, unlike the other tapeworm dewormer we considered, Bayer Tapeworm Dewormer, which contains the same active ingredient praziquantel but is only sold in a five-pack.
Dogs commonly become infected with tapeworms by ingesting fleas. For this reason, it’s important to treat your dog for fleas to prevent future infections.
The best oral parasite preventive for dogs
Trifexis treats and controls three common intestinal parasites, kills adult fleas, and prevents heartworm infection with just one monthly chewable pill.
Pros: Protects against three intestinal parasites, heartworms, and adult fleas; once-monthly treatment; safe for dogs and puppies 8 weeks of age and older weighing at least 5 pounds; tablet is easy to administer
Cons: Does not kill or treat tapeworms, not labeled for use in puppies younger than 8 weeks or weighing less than 5 pounds
Our pick for best oral parasite preventive for dogs is Trifexis, a chewable tablet that treats and controls hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms. It also kills adult fleas and prevents heartworm.
Given once every 30 days, Trifexis uses spinosad and milbemycin oxime to prevent, treat, and control parasites. While it does not kill or treat tapeworms, it kills adult fleas, which are responsible for transmitting the parasite. The beef-flavored flavored chewable tablet should be given with food for maximum effectiveness.
Trifexis is safe for puppies as young as 8 weeks old and weighing at least 5 pounds. However, puppies less than 14 weeks of age might experience a higher rate of vomiting than older dogs. This parasite preventive requires a prescription from your veterinarian as well as a current negative heartworm test. It should be used with caution in dogs with a history of seizures or breeding females.
The best topical parasite preventive for dogs
With just one simple monthly application, Advantage Multi for Dogs treats, controls, and prevents more parasites than any other topical product.
Pros: Kills and prevents six types of parasites, once-monthly treatment, easy to administer, safe for use in puppies older than 7 weeks and weighing at least 3 pounds
Cons: Does not kill ticks; not labeled for use in puppies younger than 7 weeks or breeding, pregnant, or nursing dogs
No single preventive covers every parasite that could harm your dog, but Advantage Multi comes close. Containing the active ingredients imidacloprid and moxidectin, the topical treatment prevents three common intestinal parasites: roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms. It also prevents flea infestations by killing adult fleas before they can lay eggs and prevents heartworm and mange mites.
Choosing between an oral or topical parasite product can be a tough decision. Sometimes dogs do better with one versus the other. “Some animals can’t tolerate or have a food allergy to an oral product so they must use a topical,” said veterinarian Melissa Smits, a partner at Fort Morgan Veterinary Clinic in Colorado. “Or their skin may be sensitive to a topical so an oral is better.” If there are no tolerance issues, it usually comes down to owner preference.
Advantage Multi is easy to use: Just apply it every 30 days to your dog’s skin at the base of the neck between the shoulder blades. The liquid medication is absorbed and dries within hours. Unlike with some of the other topical preventives, you do not need to wear gloves to apply Advantage Multi. If you get the product on your hands, simply wash them with soap and water. For the first 30 minutes after application, keep dogs from licking the application site, either on themselves or other treated dogs in the house. Children should not touch the application site for two hours after application.
You must obtain a prescription from your veterinarian to purchase Advantage Multi. As with all medications that prevent heartworm, your dog needs a heartworm test prior starting Advantage Multi and annually thereafter.
How we selected products
While researching and writing this guide, I drew from my eight years of experience as an assistant in veterinary hospitals and two decades of experience as a writer and editor in the pet and veterinary fields. I conducted research using the quick product reference guide published by the independent, nonprofit Companion Animal Parasite Council. This helpful reference, which includes all FDA- and EPA-approved parasite control products for small animals, lists each product’s active ingredients, how the product is used, and which parasites it controls.
Here are the main attributes I looked for:
Safety and efficacy: Only FDA-approved products were considered for this guide.
Number of parasites treated: In general, products that covered more parasites received higher ratings. This did not apply to tapeworm dewormers, which are only intended to treat one parasite.
Ease of use: Products received lower ratings if they were more complicated to use than a similar product. An example: Lower ratings were given if gloves must be worn to apply the product or if children and pets need to be kept away from the treated animal for a period of time after application.
Minimum age/weight: When comparing similar products, higher ratings went to preventives that can be used in younger animals.
What else we considered
Bayer Tapeworm Dog Dewormer: This product contains the same active ingredient (praziquantel) as our top choice for tapeworms, Droncit, but it’s only sold in a five-pack unlike Droncit which is affordably priced per pill.
Heartgard Plus: Given monthly, Heartgard Plus (ivermectin and pyrantel) treats and controls heartworms, hookworms, and roundworms. Our top pick for best oral preventive, Trifexis, is effective against an additional parasite: adult fleas, which are also responsible for transmitting tapeworm. Heartgard requires a prescription from your veterinarian and a current negative heartworm test.
Interceptor Plus: Given monthly, Interceptor Plus (milbemycin oxime and praziquantel) treats and controls roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, and whipworms and also prevents heartworms. Trifexis beat out Interceptor Plus because it kills adult fleas in addition to preventing three common intestinal parasites and heartworm. Although Trifexis doesn’t prevent tapeworms, it kills fleas, which transmit tapeworms. Interceptor Plus requires a prescription from your veterinarian and a current negative heartworm test.
Iverhart Max Soft Chews: Given monthly, Iverhart Max treats and prevents heartworms, tapeworms, roundworms, and hookworms. It does not prevent whipworms or kill fleas like Trifexis. Iverhart Max requires a prescription from your veterinarian and a current negative heartworm test.
Sentinel Spectrum: Given monthly, Sentinel Spectrum treats and controls tapeworms, roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, heartworm, flea larvae, and flea eggs — almost as many parasites as our category winner Trifexis. Trifexis doesn’t prevent tapeworms, but we gave it a slight edge because it kills adult fleas, which transmit tapeworms. Sentinel Spectrum requires a prescription from your veterinarian and a current negative heartworm test.
Simparica Trio: Simparica Trio treats, controls, and prevents more parasites than any other oral product, including adult fleas, flea larvae, ticks, heartworm, hookworms, roundworms, mange mite, and chewing lice. However, because intestinal parasites are the primary consideration in this guide, Trifexis gets the nod for preventing three intestinal parasites compared to Simparica Trio’s two. Simparica Trio requires a prescription from your veterinarian and a current negative heartworm test.
Types of worms and their signs and symptoms
Most dogs will contract intestinal parasites at some point in their lives. Some of the most common worms seen in dogs are roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, and whipworms. In adult dogs, parasite infestations may cause mild to moderate digestive symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and gas. However, heavy infestations, especially in young puppies, can lead to severe issues.
“They can cause intestinal problems, malnutrition, anemia, growth problems in puppies, and even potential autoimmune issues,” Smits said. “Also important is the zoonotic risk — potential spread to human family members.”
Roundworms: These parasites are common in dogs, especially puppies, and are 3- to 6-inches long, smooth, and round-bodied. You might not know your dog has roundworms, particularly if they have only a few. In puppies, large numbers of worms may cause a pot-bellied appearance, vomiting, diarrhea, low appetite, dull coat, and restricted growth. You might also see roundworms in your dog’s stool or vomit. Roundworms are zoonotic, which means they can be spread to human family members.
Tapeworms: Dogs pick up tapeworms when they ingest an infected adult flea. As the tapeworm grows, segments break off and pass in your dog’s stool. If you see something in your dog’s feces that resembles grains of white rice, or you notice them licking or biting the area under their tail, they could have a tapeworm infestation.
Hookworms: Hookworms are blood-sucking parasites that attach to the wall of the intestines. These tiny worms are nearly invisible without the assistance of a microscope. Signs of hookworm infection in dogs include anemia, weight loss, bloody diarrhea, dull coat, and growth restriction. Hookworms are zoonotic so they can be spread to human family members.
Whipworms: Whipworms are relatively large intestinal parasites (about a ¼-inch long) that reside in the cecum and large intestine, where they wreak serious havoc. Dogs with heavy whipworms are likely to experience concerning symptoms, such as watery, bloody diarrhea, weight loss, and anemia.
What you should know about parasite prevention for dogs
Dogs should be on parasite prevention year-round.
Veterinarians recommend a broad-spectrum parasite preventive that treats, prevents, or controls intestinal parasites like roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, and whipworms; heartworms; fleas; and ticks.
“Many adult dogs may be asymptomatic carriers,” according to Kelley Lay, a relief veterinarian who practices in Nashville, Tennessee. “Parasites are not always able to be seen in feces and so you may not even know the problem is there. This can lead to infections that linger undetected for a long time.”
Veterinarians recommend keeping dogs on a broad-spectrum parasite preventive all year, not only in the spring and summer months. Different parasites are active during different months, and parasite activity varies. Parasites can also become active earlier than expected, including during the winter.
“You cannot fully predict or control the environment your dog is in,” Smits said. “I live in Colorado, which overall has a low incidence of heartworms and [has] freezes with no mosquitos in the winter. Except, I have killed mosquitos in my house in February. My dogs find rodents in the backyard with tapeworms and potentially fleas. We just found tapeworms in February.”
Your veterinarian can help you choose the best product or combination for your dog.
Although different parasite preventives cover many different parasites, no one product covers every single internal and external parasite that could affect your dog. For instance, one product may cover fleas, heartworm, and intestinal parasites, but not ticks. Another may cover fleas, ticks, and intestinal parasites, but not heartworm. Talk to your veterinarian to help you decide which product will be best for your dog.
“This is the most important part of having a relationship with a veterinarian in your area,” Smits said. “We are trained to know what parasite problems we have in our area are, what lifestyle risks are important to consider, and overall, what is best for an individual pet and lifestyle.”
You should always take your dog to the vet before giving them a dewormer.
If you suspect your dog has worms, it’s important to take them to the veterinarian for a physical exam and a fecal test to determine what type of worms they have.
“Not all intestinal parasites are created equal and there is not a one-size-fits-all when it comes to deworming medications,” Lay said. “Your veterinarian will perform the appropriate tests to diagnose which type of intestinal parasites are present, and therefore which medication will appropriately target the problem.”
Even though some dewormers do not require a prescription, do not skip the vet visit since different drugs treat different worms. Although a broad-spectrum dewormer kills several different types of worms, certain single-celled microscopic parasites (protozoa), including coccidia and Giardia, cause symptoms similar to those caused by intestinal parasites, but they are not true worms. They require different prescription medications to treat them.
In addition to conducting a fecal test, your vet can also determine if your dog may have other health issues that need to be addressed. Depending on the type of worms found, your dog might need follow-up deworming and a follow-up fecal exam to ensure no parasites remain.
Natural dewormers aren’t necessarily a better option.
Check with your veterinarian before using natural dewormers with your dog. “While ‘natural’ deworming products may have some effect on intestinal parasites, I’ve consulted with numerous clients over the years who have tried them with repeated failure,” Lay said. “Also, there’s unfortunately still many unknowns and variables when it comes to many of the natural products.”
Lay noted that conventional, veterinarian-recommended dewormers are both effective and safe to use. “Like any medication, we can’t assume there will be zero side effects 100% of the time, but the veterinary-approved products have been around a long time, have gone through stringent drug trials and studies, and are proven to carry minimal to no risk,” she said.
We consulted with two licensed veterinarians for advice regarding the treatment and prevention of intestinal parasites like tapeworms, roundworms, and hookworms as well as heartworms and ectoparasites like fleas, ticks, and mites. Although this information guided us in our product selection, our experts did not specifically endorse or recommend any of the products in this guide.
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.
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
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.
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
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).
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
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
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.
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.
Amazon is here for all your tech-gifting needs right from the comfort of your couch. But, there’s so much tech for sale that it can be hard to know where to start.
Never fear: we’ve searched high and low for the best tech gifts available on Amazon to help you out. Some of these are budget-friendly small buys, while others are premium technology that should last several years. No matter what kind of tech you’re looking for, you’ll be able to find something here.
Check out all 32 Amazon tech gifts:
A projector that will help bring your favorite movies on the road
This soda can-sized projector can display images up to 100 inches and blast sound 360 degrees around you. Whether you want to watch a movie outdoors or inside, all you need to do is place the projector in front of your desired surface. After you fully charge the device, you can get up to four hours of use for classic films, family flicks, and more.
It should be noted, however, that while the projector can accept a 1080p signal, the device only projects a resolution of 854 x 480p.
An updated Apple tablet with more storage than ever
A wireless charger is a great gift for anyone with a glass-backed smartphone that supports the feature. Our reviewer called this one “the perfect wireless charging pad.” It charges quickly, looks nice, and can even accommodate thick phone cases.
This smart notebook is a great gift for students, journalists, or anyone else who takes a lot of notes. Write or draw on its 48 pages with the included FriXion pen, and you can easily save your work as a PDF or JPEG with your phone. The pages are also re-usable; just wipe them down with a wet cloth to start again.
Don’t let the low price fool you: This tiny security camera is one of the best that money can buy, and it makes a great stocking stuffer. It shoots 1080p video, which you can access from your phone, and will send an alert if it spots an intruder.
This desktop decoration brings the world to you with a floating globe powered by magnets. Once you power the LED light on, hold the globe in the middle of the two magnets and let go to watch it float on its own.
This accessory and small gadget organizer looks like an excellent deal for frequent travelers in your life. The material has multiple elastic bands of various sizes to hold a number of small gadgets and other tech accessories and stationary.
A power bank is an excellent gift for anyone who travels or spends a lot of time out and about. This one offers a massive 20,000mAh of capacity with support for USB-C and USB-A connections. It’s even capable of fast charging compatible devices.
This power strip consists of three outlets and two always-on USB ports. The outlets can be controlled separately and they support automation and voice commands via Alexa and Google Assistant. It’s an ideal gift for anyone who is looking to get started on a smart home.
Amazon’s newest Echo Show display is simply a fantastic value for folks looking to get into the new smart display scene on the cheap. It’s got a suitably sharp (960 x 480 pixels), 5.5-inch touchscreen and large wrap-around speakers. Finally, the Echo Show 5 is ready for video calls with a 1-megapixel camera.
We all have that friend who’s always losing their keys. Gift them the Tile Pro; it will be a godsend. They can stick this tiny battery-powered device on their key ring and, if they lose their keys, they can remotely activate an alarm. If the Tile Pro is out of Bluetooth range, they can still locate it using a crowd-finding network in the Tile app, which draws from other Tiles in the surrounding area.
If you have a friend or relative who has trouble sleeping, you need to buy them this white noise machine, which plays 10 different types of fan sounds. It’s the most calming ambient noise I have ever heard. (For more traditional users, it plays 10 levels of white noise as well).
Any friend who games will appreciate the gift of the Logitech G502, which is one of the best gaming mice on the market, and also cheaper than many of its competitors. It has 11 buttons, all of which can be programmed to fit your friend’s or relative’s needs, adjustable sensitivity, and customizable RGB color schemes.
For any kid or geeky adult who wants to fly a little thing around, a cheap starter drone is an excellent choice. This is the best drone for beginners; you can control it with the included remote or Drocon’s smartphone app. Its built-in camera can capture either photos or video footage.
A fitness tracker is a great gift for anyone who loves to exercise or just wants to keep an eye on their steps. The Fitbit Inspire 2 is one of the cheapest Fitbit products, and also one of the best ones. It tracks a number of metrics, including steps, heart rate, calories burned, and sleep, and can also log runs and bike rides with built-in GPS.
Gift this to a friend who wants to equip a full room or apartment with smart lights. This kit includes four white bulbs, which you can control with Alexa, Google Assistant, and HomeKit, and a Philips Hue Bridge that connects them to your router. You can automate the bulbs with timers and schedules, and create gorgeous lighting effects. With the Philips Hue Sync feature, they can even sync up with the audio of your music, movies, or games.
If you’re looking to gift a TV, especially for use in a bedroom or apartment, this is a good affordable option. It comes with Amazon’s Fire TV platform built in, so they won’t need to buy a streaming stick to access Netflix, Hulu, and other apps. This is a nice price for an entry-level 4K HDR display, and it’s high time you upgrade your loved one to 4K entertainment.
This keyboard is a fantastic gift for PC gamers; our reviewer called it “one of the most diverse and feature-rich mechanical keyboards on the market.” It feels great to type on, and can come equipped with a number of different switches to suit your friend’s or relative’s typing style. They can also customize the RGB lighting to find a pattern they’ll love.
Many people think of a robot vacuum as a luxury purchase, but it doesn’t have to be. The Robovac 11S is affordable, but it can clean just as well as more expensive models. Plus, at just 2.85 inches tall, it’s small enough that it can slip under radiators and bed frames.
Ultimate Ears makes some of the best Bluetooth speakers on the market, and the Boom 3 is the best the company has to offer. It pumps out serious audio with booming bass, and you can use UE’s Boom app to adjust the equalizer settings to your taste. In addition, it packs up to 15 hours of battery life, and it’s waterproof, so you can use it in the shower or blast it at the pool without fear.
The Facebook Portal makes a great gift for any parent or older relative who wants an easy way to video chat with loved ones. It supports voice control, so all they have to do is say “Portal, call Jennifer” to start video chat over Facebook messenger. The Portal also includes Amazon Alexa, and a number of third-party apps including Spotify, Pandora, YouTube, and more.
A console may feel like an expensive gift, but for under $200, you can give the Nintendo Switch Lite to anyone who wants to get started with gaming, or who might want a secondary gaming device. Whether they’re on their couch, on the bus, or on their lunch break, they can whip this out to access a massive selection of games.
A virtual reality (VR) headset is a fun device, but it can be a risky gift if you’re not sure that the recipient has a PC powerful enough to run VR. That’s why the Oculus Quest 2 is the best VR headset to buy for a friend or relative. It’s completely standalone with no wires or computer necessary, and it even includes two Touch Controllers. That said, buyers will need a Facebook account, wireless internet, and the Oculus mobile app to get the device set up.
Apple’s brand-new AirPods Pro aren’t a bargain, but they are the best wireless earbuds you can buy for a friend or relative who uses Apple products. They sound great, they’re sweat- and water-resistant, and they support noise cancellation.
There’s no better gift to give a reader than the Kindle Oasis, which is the best ebook-reader you can buy. It gives your friend or relative access to thousands of titles through Amazon’s library, and the display limits the amount of blue light it emits to prevent eye strain.
When it comes to noise-cancelling headphones, Bose is the gold standard; any tech enthusiast will be stoked to receive a pair. The nice thing about the QC35 II is that they’re a few years old, so they’re a bit cheaper than the most recent Bose models, but they still sound incredible, and sport Bose’s unparalleled noise-cancelling technology. I have a pair of these, and they’re my most valuable possession; I don’t know how I ever lived without them.
If you want to gift a smartwatch and money is no object, then the Apple Watch Series 6 is the one to get. It tracks a number of metrics, including activity trends, menstrual cycles, and run distance with built-in GPS. It sports an always-on display, so you’ll never have to wake it up to see the time, and you can choose between a number of different watch faces to find one that suits your style. The Series 6 also adds more advanced health readings, like blood oxygen measurements.
If you’re gifting a DSLR camera, this is the best one to give. It takes excellent, detailed images with its 24.2MP sensor, has an easy touchscreen for beginners to operate, and supports Nikon’s SnapBridge app, which allows you to easily share photos from the camera. This package includes an 18-55mm lens and a 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G ED lens.
A Chromebook makes a great gift for the holidays, and Samsung’s Chromebook 4+ is one of the best models you can give without breaking the bank. Though it doesn’t have a lot of RAM or local storage, the device features a 15-inch Full HD display, along with an Intel Celeron CPU and up to 10.5 hours of battery life. There are more powerful options out there, but what you get here is hard to beat for the price.
If you’re gifting a Windows laptop, there are dozens of excellent models you could buy. But, if you want to give the very best, you want the Dell XPS 13. This computer is our current pick for the best laptop you can buy this year. It’s known for its striking, almost bezel-less touchscreen with 4K resolution. It’s also an immensely powerful laptop, equipped with Intel’s 10th-Gen processors. And it comes with two Thunderbolt USB-C ports, a MicroSD slot, and an integrated 720p webcam.
Smoke detectors don’t seem to get the same attention as home security systems, and for something so important to home and personal safety, this can be a costly mistake. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), a working smoke alarm can decrease your risk of dying in a home fire by 54% compared to not having a working alarm – or worse, no alarm at all.
Due to the amount of synthetic material in modern furniture and buildings, home fires can spread really fast. According to the US Fire Administration (USFA), 30 years ago, you had about 17 minutes to escape a home fire; today, it’s about two minutes. A reliable and effective smoke detector can alert you quickly to get you and your family to safety.
I have years of experience relocating and installing hard-wired smoke detectors as a residential carpenter, and leaned on that expertise when testing six units for this guide (I go through my full testing methodology here). I also consulted Patrick Andler, a fire investigator with 38 years of experience and a board member of the Arizona Burn Foundation, and Nick Yahoodain, a home remodeler with 11 years of experience at Advanced Builders & Contractors, on how to install smoke detectors, how to use them effectively, and more.
The X-Sense SC01 features a 10-year lithium battery, carbon monoxide detector, and a color-changing LED to let you know its current status.
Pros: Digital battery level display, doubles as carbon monoxide detector
Cons: Lacks ionization sensor
The X-Sense SC01 responded well in my testing and activated its alarm within two sprays of the aerosol. It had a loud alarm that was clearly heard from across the 2,700 square foot house I tested it in, and its red LED flashed continuously while the alarm was sounding. The alarm — and the light — shut off simultaneously when the sensor no longer detected any aerosol.
The X-Sense SC01 lacks an ionization sensor and uses only a photoelectric sensor to detect smoke. This makes it marginally less sensitive to flash fires, but also cuts down on the chances of it being set off by nuisance alarms, or false alarms caused by cooking smoke or steamy showers. Its screen displays the real-time amount of carbon monoxide in the air, the status of the unit during a test, and a battery level icon.
Installing the X-Sense SC01 was simple, and with a power drill and pencil, I was able to attach it to the ceiling in about two minutes. The anchors are white, so they blended in with the ceiling, and also came in a resealable plastic baggie, which was convenient.
Overall, the value of the 10-year battery, the carbon monoxide detector, and digital readout make it the best option I tested. The detector also comes highly recommended by our fire investigator expert.
The best smart smoke detector
The Nest Protect features both a carbon monoxide and split-spectrum smoke detector that detects both fast and slow-burning fires, and delivers clear verbal instructions to explain why its sensor was triggered and what you should do next.
Pros: Spoken instructions, phone notifications
Cons: May not be ideal for those not technically savvy, requires three AA backup batteries
The color-changing LED, along with the verbal commands and smartphone notifications, made the Nest Protect fun to test out and operate. My first aerosol test activated its “heads-up” function, which issued a verbal warning that it detected a small amount of smoke. This would be a convenient feature if the smoke was due to burning toast, or another non-emergency — especially for anyone who might get overwhelmed by loud noises. By giving you the chance to resolve the problem before the smoke levels rise, you can prevent the unit from going into full-blown alarm mode. My second aerosol spray was enough for the Nest Protect to assume there was an actual fire, and it sounded its alarm immediately.
The Nest Protect allows you to silence the unit in the event of a nuisance alarm easily with the large and easy to press test/silence button. You can even silence the alarm from your smartphone, although it doesn’t allow for this if the smoke is too heavy.
The Nest Protect is a hard-wired unit, so installation was a bit more elaborate than the other smoke detectors I tested. This will involve working with and reconnecting electrical wiring, so if you’re uncomfortable around that type of thing, you may want to hire a professional. It took me about 15 minutes to remove the previous unit and connect this one. The instructions walked me through every step of the process, and the included hardware was effective and easy to use. It also took me about 15 minutes to connect the Nest Protect to my home’s Wi-Fi network due to connection issues.
If your home Wi-Fi goes down like in the event of a power outage, the Nest Protect will continue to work just fine — you just won’t get any notifications on your phone. The three AA batteries will ensure the Nest Protect continues to work during a power outage.
The best smoke detector for smoke only
If you already have a standalone carbon monoxide detector, the X-Sense SD01 is a dependable smoke-detector-only that uses an extra-bright LED to help lead you to safety.
Pros: Ultra-bright escape light, easy to install, auto-monitoring feature
Cons: Lacks a carbon monoxide detector
The X-Sense SD01 has a nice solid feel to it and the large LED escape light gives it a professional look, like something you would see in a commercial building. This light automatically turns on when the alarm is activated, and not only alerts you about the presence of smoke but can also help to illuminate a darkened room. This is an especially important feature as more than half of home fire-related deaths occur between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., according to the NFPA. This light would also be extremely valuable in the event of a power outage, a feature that Andler praised and why he endorses the X-Sense SD01 so strongly.
This unit responded well to my tests and activated after two aerosol sprays. I made sure to perform one of my tests at night to best observe the escape light and was very impressed with how bright it was. The light, the loud alarm, and a flashing red secondary LED would be effective in the case of a real emergency. These high-visibility features also make the X-Sense SD01 a great option for hallways and stairwells as long as you have one or two on the ceiling as well.
The X-Sense SD01 packs a built-in 10-year battery, so it will last for the life of the unit, and after you’ll need to purchase an entirely new alarm. It’s also designed to constantly auto-check itself to make sure its batteries are in working order. In the event of an issue, the secondary LED will turn yellow, alerting you that something is wrong.
The X-Sense SD01 uses a photoelectric sensor, which works with the air flow design of the casing to better detect a variety of fire types. The sensor also analyzes smoke three times before activating the alarm, which minimizes nuisance alarms.
Installing the X-Sense SD01 was a breeze, just like the other X-Sense models, and I had the mounting plate installed and the unit in place within a couple of minutes.
The best dual sensor smoke detector
The First Alert SA320 is an affordable and effective smoke alarm with both photosensitive and ionization sensors, which can cause it to be too sensitive at times. However, there’s no denying its effectiveness.
Pros: Has both photosensitive and ionization sensors, has safety features suitable for landlords
Cons: Very sensitive, batteries must be replaced regularly
The First Alert SA320 features both photosensitive and ionization sensors, which is likely the reason why it was the only unit that activated its alarm after a single aerosol spray test.
Although this high sensitivity sounds good on paper, it can also be the cause of frequent nuisance alarms. These alarms, combined with the removable AA batteries, greatly increase the odds that someone will remove the batteries or the alarm itself. The NFPA reported that between 2009-2013, 21% percent of deaths in home fires occurred when smoke detectors were “present but did not operate.” It’s important to keep this in mind if you’re planning to get this unit — after all, the whole point of a smoke detector is household safety.
I didn’t experience any issues installing the First Alert SA320. But, it uses red wall anchors, which aren’t ideal if you want to move the unit to a different location in the room. It also has optional locking features to discourage unauthorized battery or alarm removal. There are two pins you can insert into the sides of the unit or by the battery compartment that expand once they’re in place to prevent anyone from taking down the smoke detector or removing its batteries. You “unlock” the unit with a flathead screwdriver to depress the pin’s teeth. This is a good feature for landlords, or anyone else placing the unit who won’t be there to monitor it.
The First Alert SA320’s design makes it feel more functional and less clunky. It does lack the polished appeal of the X-Sense models, though it shouldn’t be a big factor compared with safety and effectiveness. Andler describes this as “a standard smoke detector at a good cost.”
The best interconnected smoke detector
The X-Sense Wireless Interconnected comes as a set of six separate smoke detectors with a range of more than 820 feet each, so they can cover small and large spaces safely.
Pros: Small size is easy to install, easy to find silence button in the dark, covers large areas
Cons: Does not have a built-in battery
Even though the X-Sense Wireless Interconnected smoke detectors are smaller and lighter than typical ones, they still meet UL 217 standards. They also beeped at the same 85-db level as every other model tested. Their red alert lights were easy to see, and because of their side-mounted position, they reflected off the ceiling to increase visibility.
Because they are interconnected, all six units will sound even if only one detects smoke, so you’ll be notified regardless of where you are in your home when a fire breaks out. They performed effectively in every test I did and were all relatively sensitive, responding within two aerosol sprays. Since the silence button is also the alert light, it was easy to quickly find the button to silence the unit — even in low light.
Each unit was interconnected right out of the box, so there was no additional set up necessary. You can add up to 24 units to the network, but every new set will need to be manually connected to the rest. This process seems pretty straightforward though, and X-Sense’s instructions are clear, ensuring this process won’t be too complicated.
Installation of the six-pack took longer than other smoke detectors I tested because there were more units to install. Their small size only required two anchor holes per unit, as opposed to the three that the other units I tested needed. This not only made them easier to install but also reduced the amount of damage to the ceiling and walls. Each of the units easily clicked onto its mounting bracket and they were the simplest to install out of all smoke detectors I tested. Like all X-Sense models, their smooth finish gave them a nice, high-quality look.
What else we tested
What else we recommend and why
After researching a dozen smoke detectors, we ended up testing six that met our criteria for units you could install yourself. Here’s what else we tested and think are worth considering:
First Alert PRC710 ($49.99): The First Alert PRC710 responded well to my tests, and I really liked its slim 1.38-inch profile and light 0.73-lb weight. Although I personally preferred the informative LED screen of the X-Sense SC01, if you’re simply looking for a minimal, hassle-free unit that detects both smoke and carbon monoxide, the First Alert PRC710 is an effective choice.
What we’re testing next
A few smoke detectors didn’t arrive on time for me to test, so I look forward to testing them soon. We’re also researching smoke detectors for people who are hard of hearing.
First Alert BRK 3120B: This hardwired version of the First Alert SA320 includes both photoelectric and ionization sensors, and usually costs under $25, the lowest of any unit I’ve tested.
Kidde KN-COSM-IBA: Kidde is one of the most well-known smoke alarm brands out there, and it offers a really wide variety of detector types, styles, and sensor options. This model features voice warning capabilities, a feature I’ve found to be really useful with other smoke detectors I tested.
First Alert Onelink: I’m interested in how the First Alert Onelink and its smart capabilities will stack up against the Nest Protect.
For this guide, I personally tested six smoke detectors after consulting with fire and building experts, and doing extensive online research.
I interviewed Patrick Andler, a fire investigator with 38 years of experience and a board member of the Arizona Burn Foundation. This organization — among many other functions — supplies free smoke detectors to low-income housing across Arizona. I also interviewed Nick Yahoodain, a home remodeler with more than 11 years of experience at Advanced Builders & Contractors.
I also used my own experience installing hard-wired and battery-powered smoke detectors in my own apartments and my parents’ home, as well as my experience as a residential carpenter, which frequently required the relocation of hard-wired units.
I installed each of the smoke detectors and tested it three times a day for three days. I performed a basic maintenance test according to the manufacturer’s instructions (usually just by pressing the “test” button) and then sprayed the units twice with an aerosol spray that mimics real smoke. Most smoke detectors will not activate after a single spray so you will need two three-second sprays to set them off. I found this to be the case with every unit I tested, except for the First Alert SA320, which activated its alarm after only a single spray.
I broke these tests up throughout the day to allow time for the spray to dissipate and the detectors to return to their working levels.
I used several criteria to compare the units during testing.
Installation: I installed each smoke detector on my ceiling according to the manufacturer’s included instructions, timing how long it took, and noting how helpful or detailed those instructions were. Aside from the hardwired First Alert, all the units used essentially the exact same mounting procedure, but I made sure to note any differences.
Appearance: I took note of the size, weight, finish, and overall look of each smoke detector after installing units on a white ceiling.
Special safety features: I tested and evaluated each smoke detectors’ extra safety features, such as voice or light notifications, removal prevention, and more. For example, even though all the models I tested featured some kind of visual alarm component, the ultra-bright LED of the X-Sense SD01 was much more effective compared to the rest, and could be beneficial to those with hearing issues. Or the straightforward voice commands of the Nest Protect might be preferred by those who might get confused or disoriented by the single alarm siren of the other models.
Operation: Throughout my testing, I made sure to use and observe each mode the smoke detectors offered. This included their testing and silence buttons, how they utilized any LED lights, and whether or not they included carbon monoxide detection.
Maintenance: I took note of the approximate lifespan of each unit, and the specifics of its battery replacement procedures.
Types of smoke detectors
Battery: Smoke detectors can either be hardwired or standalone battery-powered units. Battery-powered detectors are easier to install than hard-wired units and are unaffected in the event of a power outage. Some newer smoke detectors are designed with lithium batteries inside the unit which can last up to 10 years without needing to be replaced. Units that use replaceable batteries typically need new batteries every six months and are vulnerable to tampering and being disconnected during false alarms caused by non-emergency situations like cooking smoke or steamy showers.
Hard-Wired: Hard-wired smoke detectors connect directly to your home’s electrical wiring, and typically have a backup battery in case of a power outage. These will initially need some electrical know-how or the help of a professional to be installed, but once the system is set up, it’s pretty easy to disconnect and install new units whenever you need them. Yahoodain recommends hard-wired smoke detectors since they’re easy to interconnect, so if one goes off, they all go off.
Photoelectric: Smoke detectors use either photoelectric or ionization sensors to detect smoke. Some, like the First Alert SA320 that we tested, use both. Photoelectric smoke alarms use an LED light to detect smoke and are more responsive to slow-burning, smoldering fires than ionization alarms. When smoke particles enter the unit, they disrupt the light beam, which reflects it into a sensor and activates the alarm. These types of sensors are generally superior to ionization sensors because smoldering fires tend to be more dangerous and can go unnoticed for longer periods of time than flash fires, or ones that develop very suddenly and intensely. They also cut down on unnecessary nuisance alarms like which can cause people to remove the batteries out of frustration.
Ionization Sensors: These sensors are typically more effective at detecting flash fires. They do this by utilizing a small amount of radioactive material and placing it between two electrically charged plates. When smoke displaces the radioactive ions, the current between the plates is disrupted, and the alarm goes off. Ionization sensors have a higher chance of detecting nuisance alarms and tend to be much less effective at detecting smoldering fires.
Andler said that smoke alarms should be placed on your ceiling, not on the wall. Since smoke rises and begins gathering at the ceiling first, they have a much better chance of detecting smoke than a wall-mounted detector. As we mentioned earlier, seconds count when it comes to escaping a house fire, so correct placement is extremely important.
Andler also stressed the importance of having additional smoke detectors. He said that in the event of a fire in your home, hallway smoke detectors can sound their alarms much earlier than a bedroom alarm. Seconds count in home fires, and the early warning from hallway alarms can provide the extra time you and your family need to escape safely.
He also recommends having a smoke alarm near — but not inside — the kitchen, to reduce the chances of false alarms. The Arizona Burn Foundation recommends keeping your detector at least 10 feet away from the stove.
How do I test my smoke detector so I know it’s working?
Your smoke detector should have a “test” button. Press and hold it for a few seconds, and a high-pitched siren should start to sound. If there’s no sound or the sound is non-existent, it’s time to replace the battery. Many insurance companies also advise replacing the batteries every six months regardless of the siren loudness.
What certifications should I look for in a smoke detector?
Whichever smoke detector you choose, make sure it meets the standards of Underwriter Laboratories (UL). UL is a third-party certification company that has been developing smoke detector standards for more than 40 years, and with their stamp of approval, you can trust that your unit will do its job.
The UL 217 code covers both “single station” smoke alarms that function as standalone units, and “multiple station” smoke alarms that are interconnected — so when one goes off, they all go off. All the products we tested have this UL 217 certification, and our two combination smoke/carbon monoxide detectors, Nest Protect and First Alert SA320, also have a UL 2034 certification, which covers the CO detector.