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

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the best bike lights:

How we test bike lights

Best Bike Lights Pattern 4x3

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

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

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

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

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

The best bike light overall

cygolite

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best easy install bike light

bike light

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

Pros: Affordable, adjustable beam width, lifetime guarantee

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

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

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

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

The best budget bike light

MalkerLights1

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best bike light for trail riding

niterider

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

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

Cons: Expensive, hard to remove

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

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

The best solar-powered bike light

LuciLight

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

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

Cons: Full solar recharge takes close to 8 hours

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

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

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

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

The best rear bike light

LezyneLight

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

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

Cons: Strap isn’t very durable

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

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

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

The best waterproof bike light

urban bike light

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

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

Cons: USB port cover falls off easily

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

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

How to shop for a bike lights

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

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

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

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

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The 5 best rooftop tents, for use at the campsite or in the backcountry

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Rooftop tents attach to the roof of a vehicle to give you an elevated and secure place to sleep while camping.
  • The best tents are easy to pitch, come with a foam mattress, and have enough space to sleep comfortably.
  • Our top pick, the Roofnest Falcon, is a low-profile and versatile tent that pitches in under a minute.

Rooftop tents originated as an alternative method for campers to sleep off the ground, with the earliest versions existing in places like Australia or Africa to protect them from predators. Although they’re still widely used like that, many of the models prevalent in the US are geared more towards comfort and ease of use – and they’ve ushered in an entirely new era of what it means to “rough it.”

These standard rooftop tents attach to a vehicle’s roof rack and crossbars that are placed either on top of an SUV or crossover, or over the bed of a truck. There’s no lack of variety but many of the tents function similarly in that they’re able to pitch in a matter of minutes, feature a wall-to-wall foam mattress, and come with an attachable ladder for entry.

A rooftop tent’s ability to improve both the comfort and efficiency of camping does come at a cost, however. Most tend to run anywhere from $1,000 and $4,000 (or more), which is significantly more expensive than a traditional ground tent. But as they continue to grow in popularity, it’s become easier to see why they’re worth the investment.

Before I used one myself, I was skeptical. I’ve camped for over 25 years and grew accustomed to sleeping on the ground in a normal tent. And although it may not be the most comfortable way to sleep, to me, that was camping. But once I finally spent a night in a rooftop tent, it was easy to see their utility – and I quickly changed my tune.

In the years since, I’ve camped in enough rooftop tents to have a good idea of what should (and shouldn’t) deserve a spot on top of your vehicle – and have compiled a list of my five favorites below. So, no matter if you want something casual for car camping or are looking to deck out an overlanding rig, I have you covered.

At the bottom of this guide, I’ve also included some insight into the testing methodology I used in deciding which to feature, the other tents I’m currently testing, and why every camper should consider a rooftop tent.

Here are the best rooftop tents:

The best rooftop tent overall

RoofnestFalcon

The Roofnest Falcon is a low-profile rooftop tent that’s incredibly easy to pitch, comes with a comfortable foam mattress, and is compatible with additional crossbars for hauling extra gear. 

Pros: Takes under a minute to fully pitch, comes with an included foam mattress, sits just 7 inches tall when packed down, ladder can be placed on either side of the tent for access

Cons: Expensive, might be cramped for two people plus gear

The Falcon from Roofnest does three things very well: It has an extremely low profile while packed down, it takes less than a minute for just one person to pitch, and its ability to be compatible with extra gear makes it highly versatile. Those three components alone slot it in as our top overall rooftop tent, but there’s plenty more to the Falcon that makes it even more impressive.

The tent comes with its own included mattress that I found to be comfortable no matter if I was sleeping by myself among an allotment of gear, or if someone else was sharing the tent with me. I will say that space is quite limited in the Falcon’s interior, so even having one other person sleeping in it makes for a bit of a cramped night of sleep. It’s no dealbreaker but the Falcon certainly isn’t the biggest rooftop tent I’ve tested. 

Where it makes up for that lack of space is with how easy it is to pitch and its ability to carry additional gear. The Falcon’s design allows for just one person to open the tent on their own, and it fully pitches in under a minute (once you get the hang of it). Packing it down does take a little longer (and a bit more effort) but you can say the same thing about any of the rooftop tents featured in this guide. 

Concerning its versatility, the Falcon allows for the attachment of an additional set of crossbars. This helps make up for the lost roof rack real estate the tent takes up and lets you attach extra gear on top of the tent itself. Since it sits just 7 inches tall when packed down, the extra gear won’t be much more of a drag as it typically would be on your normal rack.

The tent has two separate entrances and a component on either side for the included telescoping ladder to latch into. Its interior features a number of pockets for stashing things like a smartphone, headlamp, or car keys, and a rear window zips open to allow for increased airflow or for some nighttime star gazing. 

Rooftop tents are spendy and the Roofnest Falcon is no different. Though it costs north of $3,000, it’s well worth the investment for anyone who intends to use it often.

The best hybrid rooftop tent

tepui

The Tepui Hybox doubles as a spacious rooftop tent and a cargo box, so you can easily store your gear in it when you’re not sleeping in the tent.

Pros: Can function as a rooftop gear container, hard top design improves aerodynamics, patented zipper system makes it easy to switch between the tent or storage container

Cons: Expensive, space enough for just two people

One of the drawbacks to using a rooftop tent is sacrificing the cargo capability of a vehicle’s roof rack system. With Tepui’s Hybox, you’ll not only have access to a quality rooftop tent but also 23 cubic feet of storage space via its built-in cargo box.

With the Tepui Hybox’s cargo box function, you’ll no longer be stuffing gear inside your vehicle ceiling-high while prepping for a weekend spent camping. When it’s time to convert it back to a tent, an included canopy easily zips on to create a spacious and comfortable sleeping area. Its aerodynamic design also means your car won’t be guzzling gas. 

However, the catch is that it can only be used as one or the other. For instance, any gear that’s stored inside is essentially being stored in the sleeping area. This does open up more room in the interior of the vehicle but would require gear to be removed to create a proper sleeping area.

Switching between the cargo box and the tent requires zipping on the included canopy, releasing both of its latches, and then pitching the tent straight up. This can be done easily by just one person. An included telescoping ladder attaches to either side of the tent to allow campers to choose the best point of entry. Each door on the attached canopy also zips out to act as an entryway canopy. 

The tent features a 3-inch foam mattress with a removable cotton cover (which can be easily removed when storing gear), as well as a quilted upper to help with insulation and sound dampening. Its hardshell exterior is made of a thermoplastic polymer called ABS and an aluminum substructure. The shell is both aerodynamic and durable as it’s able to take a beating and helps improve fuel efficiency for longer trips.

The best rooftop tent for families

freespirit recreation

For families of three or more, Freespirit Recreation’s High Country rooftop tent is perfect for making sure everyone has enough space to comfortably rest. 

Pros: Sleeps up to five people, durable construction, large awning covers entryway, 360-degree windows

Cons: Heavy, expensive

Camping with a large family doesn’t have to be a cramped and uncomfortable experience. With Freespirit Recreation’s High Country rooftop tent, families of up to five people can rest assured each person will have more than enough space to snooze comfortably. When pitched, the tent measures 80 inches in length, 98 inches wide, and 49 inches tall, and can hold up to 750 pounds. 

The interior of the tent features a 2.5-inch high-density foam mattress and plenty of storage pockets and gear hangers to allow for easy organization. Its exterior is made of 600D Poly-Oxford body fabric, as well as a durable aluminum alloy frame.

Its heavy-duty construction also means that it can take an absolute beating and still perform as well on its 100th use as it did on the first day. 

Freespirit Recreation designed the tent to be aerodynamic when pitched, allowing it to function well in high winds or heavy rain. Windows on all four sides of the tent offer a full 360-degree view and provide for ventilation and help reduce condensation. When packed, its included cover has front and rear cinches to create a sturdy shape, though the lines can tend to flap loudly if not secured while driving. 

Its two biggest drawbacks are its price and weight. Its $2,495 price tag is a steep initial investment but one that’s worth it for big families that need all the space they can get. Although it’s heavy at 172 pounds, installing or removing the tent with two or three people makes the process significantly easier. 

The best rooftop tent for overlanding

Smittybilt

Rooftop tents were created by overlanders and Smittybilt’s 2883 Overland Tent is the perfect companion for anyone looking to get into the lifestyle. 

Pros: Spacious interior, included mosquito screens, completely covered entryway, sleeps up to four people

Cons: Bulky when packed up

Though nearly all rooftop tents are intended for overlanding use, few do as well as Smittybilt’s 2883 Overland Tent. With size enough to sleep up to four people, a durable ripstop exterior to protect against the elements, and a sturdy aluminum frame, it’s perfect for multi-day backcountry pursuits any time of year. 

With a durable ripstop exterior and aluminum alloy frame, it’s capable of holding up in all conditions. Its 770-pound capacity means it’s able to house up to four people, too. 

What separates Smittybilt’s Overland Tent from others on this list is its attention to the details needed by overlanders. It comes with an included mosquito screen, a completely covered entryway, a fully waterproof exterior without the need for a rain fly, and LED strip lighting on the inside. A 2.3-inch high-density mattress runs the entirety of its interior to provide comfortable sleeping or sitting space. 

One of the tent’s best features is its price. At just $1,499, it offers great value compared to other rooftop tents on the market cheapest and should be the top choice for anyone getting into overlandering. 

The best budget rooftop tent

FrontRunner

The Front Runner Rooftop Tent sits just 7.87 inches tall when packed down, and its low profile helps improve fuel efficiency, reduces wind resistance, and makes it easier to store. 

Pros: Low profile when packed, weighs less than 100 pounds, built-in roof ventilator reduces condensation

Cons: Requires separately sold Front Runner tent mount kit for use on Front Runner racks

One of the biggest drawbacks of any rooftop tent is how much it impacts a vehicle’s gas mileage. Even the most aerodynamic options are still heavy and can dramatically reduce the mpg of any car. The best option currently available that attempts to fix these problems is Front Runner’s Rooftop Tent

Featuring a low-profile design, Front Runner’s tent sits just 7.87 inches tall when packed down, making it the slimmest on the market. This helps reduce the amount of wind resistance taken on while driving and improves fuel efficiency. At just 93 pounds, it’s light enough for two people to install and its compact size allows it to stow easily in a garage.

Though the tent sleeps just two people, it does come with a 2.5-inch high-density mattress, windows on each side of the tent, and privacy shades for each door and window. A telescoping aluminum ladder comes standard with the tent and has treaded steps to make climbing up and down easier. 

The exterior is built of durable 400D Oxford tent fabric that’s breathable enough to offer the ventilation necessary to reduce condensation. Its aluminum base boosts the tent’s insulation to keep the interior cool on warmer days and warm when temperatures drop.

It also comes with a fly-sheet cover to increase the amount of shade or protect against rain getting inside any open windows. A roof ventilator adds airflow and is protected by a mosquito net to keep bugs out at night.

What else I’m testing

yakima sky rise 6

Yakima Skyrise

The Yakima Skyrise has been one of the most intriguing rooftop tents since its debut. Not only is it spacious, easy to pitch, and compatible with a wide range of vehicles (and isn’t only compatible with Yakima racks, thankfully) but it’s one of the most inexpensive I’ve seen. Sold typically at around $1,600, it’s a price that’s hard to beat.

Why use a rooftop tent?

Pitching and packing a ground tent is as much a test in patience as it is deciphering a puzzle. Newer ground tents do feature easy-pitch designs but compared to a rooftop tent, even the simplest setup could be considered challenging.

Rooftop tents often take just one person to pitch and can be fully set up in less than five minutes.

Once set up, they offer more than just a comfortable place to sleep. Its high perch creates a unique vantage point for taking in your surroundings, and some even have a window on the roof for nighttime stargazing. Since most have a built-in mattress, there’s no need to toss and turn in a sleeping bag either. Use sheets and a comforter, and you’ll feel like you never left home. 

Our testing methodology

Each of the rooftop tents in this guide went through a series of tests to see how well they compared across these four categories: Ease of use, versatility, comfort, and value. Here’s how each category specifically factored into which rooftop tents were ultimately featured:

Ease of use: When judging how easy it is to use the rooftop tents tested for this guide, I looked at more than just how intuitive they were to pitch (which is often one of the most straightforward aspects of any rooftop tent). Ease of use also refers to the process of packing it back down, if there are any additional components to attach such as a rain fly or awning, and if the point(s) of entry make it easy to get in and out of the tent. 

Versatility: Rooftop tents are versatile by design, allowing for people to use them at a campsite, in the backcountry, or really anywhere the vehicle it’s attached to can go. Versatilty also pertains to any added extras it comes with like multiple points of entry, awning attachments to create covered outdoor shelter, convertible windows for air flow (and star gazing), or attachment points for other gear. 

Comfort: One of the easiest ways to judge the comfort of a rooftop tent is to consider the kind of default mattress it comes with. Many feature something similar to a 2-inch foam mattress, though the exact kind may vary. Additional areas of comfort I judged were how spacious the interior of a rooftop tent was, whether it allowed for good ventilation and airflow, and how it held up across a variety of weather conditions (be it sun in the middle of summer, an unexpected spring downpour, or the frigid temps of winter). 

Value: Judging the value of a rooftop tent is more than just comparing price tags. Even the budget model in this guide is just north of $1,000, so choosing which tent to invest in is an important consideration. This means that a rooftopt tent’s true value is a combination of the three categories above, as well as how long it’s designed to last. 

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The 12 best patio umbrellas and stands in 2021

Blissun 9 ft Solar Umbrella 32 LED Lighted Patio Lifestyle Image

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • The best patio umbrellas provide thorough sun coverage and can stand up to all kinds of weather.
  • We spoke to landscape architects to find traditional and cantilever umbrellas for your budget.
  • See also: Where to buy outdoor furniture online

A patio umbrella is an important addition to your backyard if you eat and lounge outside regularly.

Though it’s tempting to buy one off looks alone, remember that “as a functional piece, the most important feature in a patio umbrella is the coverage,” said Melissa Lee, the founder and creative director of design firm Bespoke Only.

“Think about the sun pattern in your yard,” Kevin Lenhart, a landscape architect and design director for online landscape design service Yardzen, said. “Even if you have a large space, you might not need a huge umbrella if you’re able to angle it to block the sun and shade the area you are enjoying.”

In addition to umbrella canopy size, consider the fabric, which needs to stand up to rain, sun, and wind. Sunbrella, a durable performance fabric that’s resistant to fading, stains, and mildew, is a favorite among landscape designers.

There are two main types of umbrellas: a traditional “market” umbrella, which is usually placed in the middle of a table, and a cantilever umbrella, which is freestanding and brings in the canopy from an angle. You can learn more about the pros and cons of each, as well as other things to keep in mind when shopping for a patio umbrella, here.

Currently, all of our picks are based on research and expert input. In the future, we plan to test these patio umbrellas and evaluate their ease of assembly, effectiveness, and durability.

Here are the best patio umbrellas in 2021

Our methodology

We determined the best patio umbrellas through a combination of research and expert input. Using insights and brand recommendations from our experts, we chose two to three options per category, keeping a variety of sizes and prices in mind. We plan on putting these umbrellas through a variety of tests in the future. 

The best patio umbrellas overall

best patio umbrella 2021 bridgehampton market umbrella behind an outdoor patio set

A traditional “market” umbrella is the classic style that works best for most people. It’s affordable; easy to use; and widely available in many sizes, fabrics, and colors. Because it’s placed right in the middle of a table, it requires less backyard space and is less likely to get in the way of foot traffic. 

Outdoor Metal Umbrella (10-ft.)  (medium)Ocean Master Roman Valance Umbrella (8.5-ft.)  (medium)
The best cantilever patio umbrellas

crate and barrel cantilever umbrella standing next to an outdoor patio set best cantilever umbrella 2021

If you have a larger backyard and don’t like how traditional umbrellas disrupt table space, you should get a cantilever umbrella. Keep in mind cantilever umbrellas tend to be heavier and more expensive, but there’s great payoff in the large amount of shade provided.

Cantilever Patio Umbrella (8-ft.) (medium)Round Cantilever Umbrella (10-ft.)  (medium)
The best patio umbrellas on a budget

abba patio umbrella in a table sitting on an outdoor deck best market patio umbrella on a budget 2021

A budget umbrella may lack the sturdiness and longevity of the umbrellas above. Still, we found some solid options with well-designed mechanisms and strong canopies. 

Patio Umbrella (9-ft.) (medium)Market Umbrella (9-ft.) (medium)Cantilever Umbrella (10-ft.)  (medium)
The best patio umbrellas with lights

best patio umbrella 2021 blue hampton bay with solar led lights over an outdoor patio set

Lighted patio umbrellas offer extra pizzazz and visibility when you’re sitting outside on a warm summer night. The best part is they’re solar-powered, so you don’t have to deal with tangled cords.

Solar Patio Umbrella (9-ft.)  (medium)Cantilever Solar LED Patio Umbrella (11-ft.)  (medium)
The best patio umbrella stands

best patio umbrella 2021 close up shot of abba patio stand next to an outdoor bench

A weighted umbrella stand or base ensures your patio umbrella won’t shake or blow away with the slightest gust of wind. “A good rule of thumb is to take the width of your umbrella and multiply it by 10,” said Lenhart. For an 8-foot-wide umbrella, for example, you’ll need a base that’s at least 80 pounds. Pre-filled stands are more expensive than empty stands, which require you to add sand or gravel. 

Umbrella Base (50-lb.) (medium)Hayward Patio Umbrella Base (88-lb.) (medium)Umbrella Stand with Rolling Base (125-lb.)  (medium)
Patio umbrella FAQs

Traditional vs. cantilever umbrella — which should you buy? What are the pros and cons of each?

  Traditional umbrella Cantilever umbrella 
Pros
  • More affordable
  • More variety of options 
  • Covers a lot of space
  • Pivots and tilts more easily
Cons
  • Smaller canopies
  • More difficult to angle
  • Pole can get in the way
  • More expensive 
  • Requires more space

“The biggest pro of traditional umbrellas is that they get the job done at a relatively low price. They stand up to harsh and windy conditions and require little maintenance. They also tend to be less expensive,” said Lenhart. 

Danu Kennedy, design director of creative design firm Parts and Labor Design, likes cantilever umbrellas because “you don’t have to interrupt the seating connectivity to place the umbrella, but they tend to be a little more clunky whereas a traditional model is perhaps more easily worked into the aesthetic.”


What size umbrella is best for your space? 

In addition to sun pattern, consider the size of the space where you’d like to place the umbrella, as well as the surrounding foot traffic. “Do you have room for a standalone umbrella or should you look for a table that allows for an integrated umbrella? A good rule is to allow for three feet around the umbrella to circulate,” said Blythe Yost, a landscape architect and cofounder of online landscape design service Tilly


What are the best materials for the umbrella stand and canopy? 

For the stand and pole, look for durable, rust-resistant materials like aluminum, coated steel, and concrete (which is harder to find). Some designers also like teak wood because it weathers beautifully. 

As for the canopy, Olefin and Sunbrella come highly recommended by our experts. “Olefin is a durable, sustainable fabric that requires no water during production and maintains its quality for years. Sunbrella is a leader in outdoor performance fabric — it’s easy to clean and has beautiful colors and designs,” said Lenhart. 


Once you’ve figured out size and coverage, how do you find a patio umbrella that fits the rest of your patio style? 

Look at your surroundings, and ask yourself whether you want your umbrella to blend in or pop out. “If you want your umbrella to meld in the natural setting, think neutral colors like white, gray, and beige or even subtle greens and blues. If you want your umbrella to make a statement, check out umbrellas in vibrant colors or patterns,” said Yost. “If you’re in a city, we prefer a bold, fun pattern to add a pop of color to the gray cityscape, but if you’re near a lake or beach, the piece shouldn’t compete with nature,” said Lee. 


How do you maintain a patio umbrella?

If your umbrella is crafted from high-quality materials, it’ll stand up to water, sun, and wind, making your job easier. Still, a few small steps can help make your umbrella last much longer. Wipe down the canopy and stand once a month with a soft cloth and a gentle cleanser like mild laundry detergent. “Finding an umbrella with fabric with the color as part of the material, and not dyed, will help retain the color in outdoor conditions,” Yost said. ‘When it comes to extending the life of your umbrella, it’s a great idea to store it when it’s not in use. Either bring it in a garage or you can find an umbrella cover for the material and the stand.” Just make sure everything is fully dry before you pack it away. 


Glossary of terms 

Traditional umbrella: Also known as a market umbrella, this is the style of umbrella you typically see at outdoor dining setups. The pole goes through the middle of the table and the canopy, which is either circular or rectangular, covers the table fully. Traditional umbrellas are usually lighter than cantilever umbrellas. 

Cantilever umbrella: The base and pole of a cantilever umbrella are offset, bringing the canopy in from an angle. Cantilever umbrellas are heavier, bigger, and more expensive than traditional umbrellas. 

Crank lift: A mechanism that helps you open your umbrella and adjust the canopy tilt by turning a crank handle. This mechanism is easier and smoother, but slower to use, than a push lift and could also break more easily. 

Push lift: A mechanism that helps you open your umbrella and adjust the canopy tilt by pushing a button. The button is typically located at the top of the pole and may be difficult for some people to reach without the help of a chair. 

Sunbrella: An outdoor performance fabric made of solution-dyed acrylic (the UV-stabilized pigment is spun directly into the yarn). It’s frequently used in outdoor furniture products because it’s resistant to fading, abrasion, mold, mildew, stains, and water. It’s strong, easy to clean, and comfortable to the touch. 

Olefin: Also known as polypropylene. A strong and thick synthetic fiber used in many household products like carpeting. It’s good for outdoor use because it’s resistant to fading, water, mold, and mildew, but it may stain more easily than Sunbrella. 

Check out our other outdoor home guides

Breeo x series 24
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The 4 best grill brush and cleaning tools we tested in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Cleaning a grill isn’t the most fun chore, but it’s essential for both your and your grill’s health.
  • The Kona 360° Grill Brush is our favorite because it evenly scours large swathes with each pass.
  • We also have recommendations for grill-cleaning bricks and metal-free brushes below.

Keeping your grill clean is paramount to its longevity; it helps preserve the hardware, preventing corrosion and rust. It’s also essential if you want to make sure the food you cook is safe for consumption.

That’s because the residue that builds up on the grate and inside of a grill contains carcinogens, and leftover food bits are a magnet for bacteria. Safety aside, your food will also taste better and cook more evenly if you commit to regular grill maintenance.

When it comes to choosing the right grill-cleaning tool(s), Barbecue University TV host, author, and grilling expert Steven Raichlen said to look for the longest tools you can find because “grilling utensils are never long enough.” Anything over 16 inches should suffice, and anything under 12 inches is best avoided, or you’ll face some serious singeing every time you go to clean your grill.

Below, we’ve chosen the ones we find to be most useful and effective, though a combination of two or three of them is probably ideal. So long as you have at least one brush and one scraper, and make sure to put in the time to actually use them, they’ll do wonders for keeping your grill in top condition.

Here are the best grill brushes in 2021

The best grill brush overall

The best grill brush overall, Kona 360 Grill Brush

The Kona 360° Grill Brush works in all directions to clean any and all grates, and comes with sturdy bristles that won’t end up stuck in your grill, or your food.

Pros: High-quality bristles that won’t bend or break easily, multidirectional, cleans at angles

Cons: Head is not replaceable, prone to rust if not properly dried, no built-in scraper (though you may not need it with this brush)

Kona’s 360° Grill Brush is effectively a one-stop tool that makes cleaning a grill as painless as possible. Thanks to its three-part head consisting of what are basically heavy-duty, oversized pipe cleaners, it reaches angles that more traditional, square, flat grill brushes simply can’t.

After using this brush for a couple of months, we’ve found that a combination of a few different angles, and specifically using the rounded edges, takes care of almost the entire surface area of a grill grate, which makes cleanup as swift as we could ever imagine.

Lightweight and balanced, this brush is great for cleaning hot or cold surfaces (hot is always preferred, because you’ll be able to dislodge residue much more easily). However, you do want to be careful about making sure it dries properly if you use it with water to clean your grill (hanging it vertically works well for us, and we haven’t encountered any rust yet). 

You can also use this brush to clean the entire grill box, should you choose, and it is designated safe for use on ceramic, porcelain, and infrared cooking surfaces, too.

Best budget grill brush

The best grill brush on a budget, Cuisinart

Cuisinart’s Grill Cleaning Brush comes with a sturdy stainless steel handle and scraper and well-spaced bristles for getting into hard-to-reach spaces.

Pros: Long, stainless steel handle, built-in scraper

Cons: Base of the brush head is plastic, which can melt over high heat if you’re not quick and careful; brand doesn’t offer replacement heads

Cuisinart’s Grill Cleaning Brush offers just what you need for a basic tool at an affordable price, without being made entirely of cheap, heat-intolerant materials.

One of the most common problems with budget grill brushes is that their handles are often short and plastic, meaning they melt easily (and put you in danger of singeing your arm hair). Cuisinart addresses this issue by outfitting their brush with a long, stainless steel handle; it won’t burn, and it will keep your hands far enough away from the flames. 

Between the inch-long bristles and the three-and-a-quarter-inch scraper, this brush will give you everything you need (save for a little water and maybe some grill spray) to keep your grill operational.

That’s not to say this is the perfect brush — we still haven’t quite found one within this price range. The bristles are a little short, but that seems to be the case with most brushes on the cheaper side. While the majority of the tool is stainless steel, the base of the brush head is plastic, which, yes, will melt if you’re not careful. Some advice: keep moving if you’re working over a hot grill, as resting in one place too long will speed up the melting process. 

Otherwise, it’s a functional, traditional brush design with a rectangular grid of bristles. If you want to eliminate plastic entirely, you’ll have to spend a bit more, but know full well that this brush should last you a few good years, if not longer.

Best grill scraper

The best grill scraper, Kona

Kona’s Safe/Clean Wooden Grill Scraper is 100% nontoxic with food-grade varnish, molds to your grill grates over time, and won’t leave behind stray bristles.

Pros: Food-quality varnish, solid hardwood, molds to your grill over time

Cons: Takes time to mold to your grill, not as thorough as a brush

Fresh out of the packaging, you might be inclined to think that Kona’s Safe/Clean Wooden Grill Scraper doesn’t work. You’ll need to spend some time scraping your grill and forming grooves into this scraper, but once you get it to that point, it’s going to function almost as well as — and in some ways better than — a good grill brush. Its main advantage: there are no metal bristles to break off and get stuck in your grill’s grates (or your food). 

In truth, you’ll probably want to follow your work with a wet paper towel to pick up anything left over. You’ll also have to flip your grates to properly clean them top and bottom. 

We like this scraper because it has a D-shaped handle like a snow shovel, which really allows you to put your shoulder into cleaning. It’s also a lot thicker than some other options, which look like they might wear out considerably faster.

And, because there can never be too many bottle openers within reach when it comes to grilling outdoors, there’s one built into Kona’s Safe/Clean Wooden Grill Scraper.

Best grill-cleaning brick

The best grill cleaning brick, KegWorks

For that truly like-new, grime-free, high shine look, it’s hard to beat the amazing scouring power you get with the KegWorks Grill Cleaning Brick.

Pros: Does an excellent job of removing grease, quick and easy to use, immediately builds groves to fit your grill

Cons: Large, a little messy in your hands, doesn’t reach corners and edges (you’ll need a brush and/or scraper as well)

A cleaning brick is similar to a wooden grill scraper in that you’ll build grooves in it with your grill grates, but because it’s softer, the grooves will take shape almost immediately. It’s going to do a great job of cleaning them, but as with the scraper, you will have to turn the grates over to get the underside.

Most grill cleaning bricks are made of nonporous pumice, and there are universal cleaning brick handles that make the job a lot smoother and easier on your hands, but they’re far from necessary. What we like about grill cleaning bricks is that they are simple and also safer and potentially less damaging to your grill’s grates than wire brushes (if you overuse them). That said, you do have to replace them more frequently than brushes, as they wear away quickly.

Any grill-cleaning brick made with nonporous pumice will do the trick, but KegWorks‘ is on the more affordable side, probably because it’s not as dense. That lightness has its benefits: this brick breaks in a lot faster than most. 

We found that this brick gets porcelain-coated stainless steel grates shining in the shortest order, but because it doesn’t have a scraper or a contoured edge, you’ll have to use something else to get into those harder-to-reach spots.

What else we tested

The best grill brush, what else we tested

What we don’t recommend and why:

BBQ Aid: This tool worked nicely, and we like the replacement head, but we have some concerns about bristle longevity due to a number of customer reviews on Amazon. We still think that the Kona 360°, being roughly the same price and having no plastic components, is the better bet.

Tool Wizard Barbecue Brush: This was another tool that worked very well, but it took a beating quickly, and we tore the mesh scrubber pad up pretty badly within the first use. You might swap the provided pads out for steel wool ones and find that they survive better, but it could wreak havoc on your grill grates so we don’t recommend it.

Our testing methodology

The best grill brushes, methodology

We spoke with experts like New York City meat purveyor Pat LaFrieda and Barbecue University TV host Steven Raichlen to learn what makes a good grill-cleaning tool. We also went to work cleaning too-many-to-count grills around the house and neighborhood.

Here’s what we looked for in the best grill brushes and tools:

Handles: During testing, we learned that handles, where applicable, had to be long and ideally not made of plastic, which can melt. Across the board, we preferred stainless steel handles, followed by wood handles.

Bristles: Bristles are highly effective, but can bend or break, which poses a hazard if they get in your food. We made sure that even over a hot grate, none of the bristles became deformed or dislodged from the plate to which they’re attached.

Ease of use: If a brush or tool was difficult to engage properly, we lost interest. Most people don’t want to spend too much time learning how to use a brush, and we think it should be easy enough for anyone to pick up and (effectively) use.

What we’re testing next

We’re not currently preparing to test anything new at the moment, but we’re going to keep testing our current picks for durability and longevity.

FAQs

What’s the best way to clean a grill?

The best way to clean a grill is while it’s still hot, which helps loosen residue and grease for easier removal. In general, it’s best to clean the grill both before and after cooking. Here’s how experts recommend cleaning your grill:

Before cooking

  1. Pre-heat your grill to your desired cooking temperature.
  2. When the grill is up to temp, use a grill brush to clean across the entire cooking surface.
  3. Using long tongs, dip a folded paper towel into high-heat cooking oil (such a vegetable or canola oil) and rub across the entire cooking surface. This helps clean and prime the cook top.
  4. Proceed with grilling.

After cooking

  1. While the grill is still hot, use your grill brush to loosen any debris and clean the cooking surface.
  2. Water is ok to use on your grill as long as it’s hot. Keep in mind that water left on cold cast iron grates or grill bodies can cause rusting.
  3. You may periodically want to use a scrubbing block for deeper grill cleaning, but this should be done on a cool grill.

How do I clean my grill brush?

Clean your grill brush with water and/or soap when it comes time, but be sure to hang it vertically so that it dries sufficiently, otherwise you’ll end up with rust.

Check out our other grilling guides

best charcoal grill 2021 masterbuilt
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The 6 best places to shop for women’s active swimsuits in 2021

  • To surf, swim, play, or chase kids around the beach or pool, you need a swimsuit that’ll stay put.
  • Active swimsuits should hold everything in however you move, not ride up, and survive many washes.
  • These are six of our favorite brands for active bikinis, one-pieces, rash guards, and more.

There are two approaches to buying a swimsuit: worrying about tan lines and worrying about staying covered. If your main focus is looking good by the pool, check out our guide on the best women’s swimsuits. But if you’re swimming laps, surfing in the ocean, diving for volleyballs, or chasing kids around the beach, you need a bathing suit that will do more than just make you feel good – you need a top and bottom that will stay put and keep everything in.

Luckily, there are more brands than ever making cute, active swimsuits, whether you’re looking for a one-piece, a bikini, or a rashguard.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Here are the best places to buy active swimsuits:

The best active swimsuit overall

Athleta Swim

Athleta’s swimwear is comfortable, stylish, and good for both curvey and athletic figures alike.

Size range: XXS-XL for swim suits, XXS-3X for sun shirts

Athleta is known for producing high-quality workout gear that is equal parts functional and stylish, so it’s no surprise its active swimsuits would hit that same sweet spot to look as good as they feel whether you’re swimming, playing beach volleyball, or turning cartwheels on the shore.

The swimsuits range from sexy to functional to high coverage in every design from bikinis to tankinis to one-piece suits to rash guards, so there’s truly something for everyone. While its designs are great for curves, unfortunately, its swimsuits only go up to an XL; however, Athleta is known for running large, so that should fit more like a traditional XXL (small consolation).

Much of the collection is made from sustainable materials like recycled nylon and many of the suits also have UPF sun protection, which protects the fabric and your skin from the sun’s rays.

Athleta’s swimwear is perfect for water sports including swimming, surfing, and paddle-boarding, thanks to the stretchy, breathable fabric that moves with you.

Athleta’s swimwear is priced on the mid-to-high end ($55-75 for a bikini top; $95-120 for a one-piece) but splurging on one well-fitting swimsuit is better than multiple ill-fitting cheaper options. 

What to buy:

Colorblock Crop Top (small)Sculpted Bikini Top (small)High Waist Jacquard Bikini Bottom (small)Colorblock One Piece (small)Cross Train One Piece (small)
The best eco-friendly active swimsuit

patagonia swim

Patagonia’s swimsuits are fair trade certified-sewn from recycled materials, they look great, and they stay in place whether you’re surfing or swimming.

Size range: XXS-XXL

Considering Patagonia is a leading brand for clothing designed to stand up to the elements and movement of the outdoors, it’s no surprise its line of women’s swimwear lives up to its reputation.

The swimsuits range from rash guards and long-sleeved one-pieces to bikinis, tankinis, and board shorts. In our opinion, the brand really excels on cute one-pieces that will stay put. In fact, when a few Insider Reviews editors tried Patagonia’s active swimsuits, they found them to be comfortable, supportive (including for DD cups), and reliable for playing in the surf.

We were all impressed by how comfortable the suits were and how well they stayed in place. Women’s swimsuits are often designed more for style than substance, so Patagonia’s collection stood out as a great choice for women who like to actually move around in the water in their swimsuits.

All the swimsuits are made of recycled nylon or polyester that has UPF sun protection and is non-slip. Patagonia also states that these suits are Fair Trade Certified-sewn, so you know you’re buying eco-friendly, ethical swimwear.

The biggest downsides are that sizing is limited (XS to XL) and the suits are pricey, around $120 to $180. — Malarie Gokey

What to buy:

Women’s Glassy Dawn One-Piece Swimsuit (small)Women’s Reversible Extended Break One-Piece Swimsuit (small)Long-Sleeved Swell Seeker One-Piece (small)Bayou Palmetto (small)Stretch Wavefarer Board Shorts (small)
The best luxe active swimsuits

sweaty betty swim

If you want a luxury feel to your sporty beach day, Sweaty Betty’s line of swimwear is very well-designed and flattering. 

Size range: XXS-XXL

Sweaty Betty is known for its high-end activewear and applies that same ethos to its swim line. The founder and creative director of SB surfs and paddleboards, and she brings this first-hand knowledge of needing to focus more on movement and less on staying covered into its designs.

The brand truly excels in its well-designed one-pieces which are made with swimming laps in mind. The one-pieces are always surprisingly cute and flattering for the category, with small details like a chest zipper or open back to elevate your basic one-piece without losing the swimming-efficient shape. They usually have chlorine-resistant fabric and are designed for performance with a high neck and supportive straps.

When it comes to its bikinis and rash guards, most pieces have 50+ UV protection as well as quick-drying properties to help avoid chafing. 

You’ll definitely pay for the silky, well-fortified fabric, but the higher quality also means the suit will last you many seasons.

What to buy:

Coral Surf Short Wetsuit (small)Medley Swimsuit (small)Harlyn Bikini Top (small)Carve Swimsuit (small)

 

The best budget swimsuits

speedo swim

Score a professional-grade one-piece for swimming laps or a bikini for secure surfing without dropping too much money from Speedo.

Size range: XS-XL, 4-42

There’s a reason Speedo has been a go-to source for professional swimmers for years. The brand makes high-quality, durable swimwear that offers both support and comfort.

Its classic one-pieces still hold strong with compression in all the right places and a design built for improved performance and faster recovery time. The quick-drying suits feature wide straps for added support and durability, while the smooth and soft fabric is chlorine-resistant.

Speedo also makes very cute and very functional bikinis, albeit only for the small-chested. In general, its suits run small, so the biggest downside is that these suits won’t fit the majority of American women (although Speedo does have a limited plus-size line).

However, if you are smaller and looking for functional, flattering swimsuits that won’t cost you too much, the majority of Speedo’s suits can be nabbed for $28-35 for bikinis, $50-88 for one-pieces, and $48-98 for rash guards. 

What to buy:

Solid super pro – prolt (small)Solid Tie Back Top (small)Zip Front Paddle Suit (small)Quantum Fusion Splice (small)
The best plus-size active swimsuits

swimsuits for all

Swimsuits for All crafts suits made to move with a wide range of body types — sizes 4 through 40.

Size range: 4-40

Swimsuits for All is one of our favorite swimsuit brands period, but we particularly love how well their bikinis, tankinis, one-pieces, and swim dresses stay put as your chasing after kids on the beach or popping up on a surfboard.

Swimsuits for All also has a ridiculously robust catalog of styles including collaborations with awesome body-positive advocates like Ashley Graham, and really cool offerings like chlorine-resistant lycra bike shorts and swim skirts, in case a traditional suit isn’t your jam.

Five of our editors who wear sizes 8 through 20 tried different styles from the brand and said all the styles fit shockingly well and no one reported any mid-swim malfunctions.

What to buy:

Ashley Graham CEO Lace Up One Piece (small)Halter Ruffle Swimdress (small)Gabrifresh Tie Front Bikini (small)
The best for high-movement activities

carve designs

Carve Designs was created by surfer girls and makes some of the most flattering cuts and cutest prints available for bikinis that will actually stay on.

Size range: XXS-XL with Tall options

Born out of a surf trip in Mexico, this women-owned business started out selling rash guards and boardshorts for women. As women’s style evolved in surfing to be more accepting of bikinis, the founders shifted their focus to also crafting two pieces that would actually stay put while paddling, popping, and carving — and in designs women would actually want to wear.

A decade-and-a-half later, its line features every kind of bikini cut, including more modest high-neck designs and swim skirts to fully cover your booty if that’s where you gravitate. But what we love about Carve is it also makes cheeky bottoms that make you feel empowered on the beach but won’t slip off when you go underwater. 

Also worth noting: The brand also recently launched a recycled swim line with suits made from plastic bottles collected out of the ocean.

The main downside, like many brands on this list, are that the suits don’t fit a huge range of body types or sizes. 

What to buy:

Madeline Sunsie Rashguard (small)Barbados Short (small)Melanie Bikini Top (small)Mustique Reversible Bottoms (small, Preferred: Backcountry)

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The best garden hose nozzles in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

So you’ve finally found a garden hose that’s durable, easy to use, and doesn’t kink. Next, you’ll need a garden hose nozzle. It makes watering tasks more convenient and efficient, plus you’ll save water.

“It’s absolutely necessary to attach an adjustable nozzle to your garden hose,” said John Jo rs, a Florida Master Gardener and volunteer groundskeeper at the 35-acre Bonnet House Museum and Gardens. “Otherwise, you may find yourself running back and forth to turn your water spigot off and on as needed.”

There are a few different nozzle styles to consider, including pistol grip, fire-hose, and watering wand. If you plan on using your hose for a wide variety of tasks, Jors recommends a pistol grip nozzle with multiple spray options and adjustable water pressure.

But if you have trouble holding down a pistol grip for long periods of time, fire hose-style and watering wands are good alternatives. Learn which nozzle style and spray option you should use.

We tested garden hose nozzles of different styles on the same hose (our pick for the best hose overall, the Dramm ColorStorm Garden Hose). For each hose nozzle, we tracked ease of use, comfort, water pressure, spray distance, and durability. Read more about our methodology.

Here are the best garden hose nozzles in 2021

The best garden hose nozzle overall

Best garden hose nozzles 2021 - Gardenite 10 Pattern Garden Hose Nozzle

The Gardenite 10-Pattern Garden Hose Nozzle is the most versatile, reliable, and comfortable nozzle you can attach to your hose. All the spray patterns are consistent and using it won’t tire out your hand. 

Pros: Many spray patterns, easy to switch among patterns, strong metal and rubber construction

Cons: The multiple settings may be superfluous if you only use your hose for a few tasks, jet setting doesn’t offer strongest pressure

With this Gardenite hose nozzle, you won’t have to worry about whether you’ll have the appropriate spray pattern for the task in front of you. The 10 patterns include “cone,” “shower,” “mist,” and “jet,” plus less common ones like “flat” and “vertical.” Whether you’re washing your dog, watering delicate plants, or hosing down dirt, you’ll be properly equipped. 

It’s easy to twist the nozzle to the spray pattern you need, and the nozzle clicks clearly to let you know you’re ready to use your selected pattern. When you hold down the trigger, the water doesn’t shoot out aggressively — an issue I discovered with other nozzles. The nozzle also never leaked in all my tests. 

The flow control knob at the back of the nozzle lets you adjust the pressure of each of the 10 patterns, allowing for even more adjustability. 

Despite all these ways to diversify your watering experience, the jet option was a little disappointing and wasn’t as strong as our high-pressure nozzle pick below. Overall, the all-in-one design and quality construction of this nozzle still earn it our top position, but consider whether you’d rather have the versatility or a more specialized nozzle. 

This nozzle has a pistol grip, with a front trigger that is made from metal and has indents for your fingers. The handle is cushioned rubber. These features combined make the grip as comfortable as it can get. 

The best garden hose nozzle on a budget

Best garden hose nozzles 2021 - Melnor 5 Pattern Watering Nozzle budget cheap affordable

If you don’t want to spend a lot of money, the Melnor 5-Pattern Watering Nozzle is a solid alternative that still offers five spray options. Just be warned it’s not as durable as our other picks.

Pros: Affordable, easy to use, versatile 

Cons: Can leak a little, not rugged, doesn’t offer long spray distance 

A good, solid garden hose is an investment, and after spending that money, you might not want to splurge on an additional accessory. Luckily, this Melnor hose nozzle is very affordable, while still offering features you need and decent comfort. 

This nozzle keeps it simple with five spray options that should suit most activities: shower, full, stream, flat, and mist. All the settings worked well and had strong, consistent pressure, though the spray distance fell short compared to the other nozzles. The mist option was especially effective.

The nozzle attached securely to my hose, but there were some small leaking issues. The droplets were tiny and didn’t significantly affect my watering experience but it’s worth noting since this was the only nozzle I tested that leaked at all. 

It’s decently comfortable to hold — the rubber grip features indents for your fingers, but the back trigger section is made from plastic which is less comfortable than an all-rubber grip. There is a trigger lock to help prevent grip fatigue, so you don’t need to squeeze down the whole time you’re watering. 

Made from a combination of metal, plastic, and rubber, the nozzle is lightweight, but you can’t bang it around the ground too much. In our durability tests, the metal pin that acts as a trigger lock fell out. While we know you won’t purposely drop your nozzle onto concrete repeatedly, it’s also good to keep in mind that this nozzle isn’t going to last for years. But if you need a temporary solution, or don’t use your garden hose often, it’s a quick and cheap buy with most of the features you need. 

The best watering wand

Best garden hose nozzles 2021 - Melnor RelaxGrip Watering Wand 2

Avid gardeners will want the Melnor RelaxGrip Watering Wand, which offers a gentle shower of water, is long enough to reach tall hanging plants, and uses a comfortable thumb control rather than a pistol grip. 

Pros: Long, less tiring to grip, ideal for delicate flowers and plants in hanging pots 

Cons: Singular purpose, may have leakage problems after long-term use 

If you have trouble holding down a pistol grip, you’ll love the easy thumb control of this nozzle. You simply slide the control up and down whenever you need to adjust the water flow. This smart design reduces the strain on your wrists and fingers, allowing you to water your garden for longer. The textured rubber grip is also comfortable with ergonomic indents for your fingers. 

The thumb control acts as a sliding scale in that there isn’t a distinct click for each different flow setting. Instead, you might have to play around with the control at first to learn where the flow intensity changes and how far you should slide the control. Over time, you’ll have a better natural sense of how to control the water.  

This watering wand has a long stick design (this version is 33 inches long from nozzle tip to end, while the short version is 15 inches long) that lets you reach tall branches with no struggle. The water travels smoothly all the way through, and the water flow is consistent. 

It attached securely and didn’t leak, but after seeing some customer reports of leakage issues, we’ll keep an eye out for that in our long-term testing. Given the wand is made up of many distinct parts, it’s possible it may leak if any of the parts break. In our durability tests, however, the wand emerged unscathed and nothing broke.

Since this nozzle only offers a concentrated shower pattern, it’s best for gardeners who intend to use it frequently for their plants and flowers. It will not help you in the way of washing a deck or covering a large amount of ground.

The best high-pressure garden hose nozzle

Best garden hose nozzles 2021 - Twinkle Star Adjustable Twist Hose Nozzle high pressure

This simple and compact brass nozzle from Twinkle Star shoots out strong jets of water over long distances, making it perfect for chores that require some water pressure. 

Pros: Made from sturdy solid brass, small, good jet and wide spray options 

Cons: No two-way shutoff, less control over water flow 

For grimy trash cans, a car in need of a good wash, or your deck that has so many layers of dirt it’s starting to change colors, it’s handy to have a high-pressure nozzle to do all the hard rinsing work for you. 

The Twinkle Star is a long and slim nozzle that has powerful and efficient jet and wide spray settings. To use, you twist the nozzle in one direction to find the pattern you need. Though there aren’t specific settings that you can “click” into, the nozzle twists smoothly and the spray patterns transition well into each other. The one-way shutoff means you have to twist it off the same way you twist it on, which isn’t a huge dealbreaker, but it’s a little convenient. The nozzle attached securely to my hose and never leaked. 

Its spray distance was long, on par with the Gardenite nozzle‘s. The high pressure and long spray distance are a great combo for attacking dirty surfaces from afar.

We also loved the solid brass construction. It’s resistant to rust and all-around durable, plus it looks sleek. 

This product actually comes with two nozzles, a long one and a much smaller one. We wouldn’t recommend the small tip nozzle, as it wasn’t adjustable and couldn’t shut off the flow of water. It offered medium pressure and a very narrow spray, so we’re not sure what the use of this extra nozzle is. Stick with the long nozzle, and you’ll be set. 

The best fireman-style garden hose nozzle

Best garden hose nozzles 2021 - Bon Aire Hose Nozzle fireman style

A fire-hose-style nozzle like the Bon-Aire Hose Nozzle is perfect if you want versatile spray options without straining your hand. 

Pros: Very comfortable to hold, strong rubber and metal construction, two-way shutoff 

Cons: Less control over water flow 

Rather than hold down a trigger, you only need to twist the barrel of the Bon-Air nozzle to start and stop the flow of water. Like a few of the nozzles above, it doesn’t have distinct spray settings, so you just gradually turn the nozzle to find the different options. Conveniently, the nozzle has two-way shutoff, meaning you don’t have to turn it back all the way to the beginning in order to stop the water flow. 

I enjoyed using this nozzle a lot because it was comfortable to hold and all the water flow options were consistent in pressure. The jet and wide spray settings were especially strong. 

Compared to the Twinkle Star nozzle, the Bon-Aire is bulkier but also likely more durable. Since most of it is encased in rubber, the metal middle section rarely touches the ground. If you drop it on the ground from a tall height, it simply bounces around. 

Our gardening expert John Jors reminds us, “Although [a fire hose-style nozzle] is very durable, the spray options are limited and you won’t have the flow control you have with the pistol grip.” 

This was certainly my experience with the Bon-Aire nozzle. It’s available for around the same price as our best overall pick, so choosing this nozzle is ultimately a matter of personal preference and comfort. It’s ergonomic and durable, but you will have the deal with the lack of distinct spray settings. 

What else we tested

best garden hose nozzles 2021 Gilmour Metal Pistol Nozzle what else we tested

What we don’t recommend and why

Gilmour Metal Pistol Nozzle: This simple nozzle is cheap but also really rugged. It’s metal all around and intuitive to use — just squeeze the trigger and the water flow will change depending on how hard you squeeze. My main critique is that it’s not comfortable to hold at all and has no cushioning for your fingers, so you’ll have to wear your own gloves. The nozzle is small, brittle, and stiff, and you’ll have to use the hold-open clip to spray continuously. 

What we’re testing next

What we look forward to testing - best garden hose nozzles 2021 Dramm 14866 One Touch Rain Wand with One Touch Valve

Dramm One-Touch Rain Wand: Another promising watering wand has a similar thumb control valve to our current best wandering wand and looks to be durable and consistent. 

Gilmour Swivel Connect 1-Pattern Nozzle: Gilmour’s innovative “swivel connect” design means that you can turn the nozzle in any direction without turning the hose itself, reducing annoying kinks and bends as you handle your hose. Though it doesn’t have multiple spray options, there is a comfortable thumb control valve. 

Methodology

Best garden hose nozzles 2021 - Methodology slide

We put all the hose nozzles through these same five tests: 

  1. Ease of use: We noted how easy or difficult it was to attach to the hose, how many spray options it had, and whether it leaked. 
  2. Comfort: We noted if the grip was ergonomic. If the nozzle had a pistol grip design, we timed how long we could press the grip down before it got too tiring to press. 
  3. Spray distance: On concrete, we measured how far the nozzle sprayed water when holding the hose at a regular position (a foot away from the body).
  4. Water pressure: We measured the pressure of water coming out of the nozzle with a water pressure gauge. If there was more than one spray setting, we measured the low, medium, and high settings. 
  5. Durability: We dropped each nozzle on concrete from 10 feet high 10 times and noted scuffing, scratches, abrasion, and any broken or bent parts. We also left the nozzles outside for two consecutive weeks through various weather conditions, including sun and rain, noting any rust and other signs of wear and tear.

Garden hose nozzles FAQs

best Garden hose nozzles 2021 FAQs

Why do you need a garden hose nozzle?  

  1. It saves water. Water will not come out of your hose unless you open the nozzle, meaning you don’t need to run back and forth to the spigot. This is especially helpful if you’re using a long hose. 
  2. A garden hose nozzle helps distribute water in a more controlled manner than a garden hose alone. The regular flow of a garden hose alone isn’t always the best for tasks like watering delicate flowers or washing a car. The different spray options of a nozzle let you customize the flow to your specific task. 

What are the different types of garden hose nozzles? How do you use them?

Pistol grip nozzle: Features a trigger that controls the amount or flow of water. Hold down the trigger (which may be in front of or behind the handle) to release water. The harder you press, the more water comes out. 

Dial nozzle: Features a rotating dial of distinct spray patterns. It’s often combined with a pistol grip so you only need to hold down the trigger to activate the flow of water, while the dial setting controls the specific flow.

Watering wand or rain wand: A long nozzle that helps extend water flow to hard-to-reach areas. It’s usually controlled with a comfortable sliding thumb control. 

Firehose (or fireman)-style nozzle: A large dial-style nozzle that does not have a pistol grip. The spray patterns are not distinct and must be gradually adjusted. 

What nozzle and spray type do you use for…

  • Watering flowers or a vegetable garden: Use a flat spray or shower delicate plants with a rain wand because it’s the most gentle spray type. Make sure to water at soil level at the base of the plants. It’s best to water them in the morning, before it gets too sunny and hot, so that less water will evaporate.  
  • Watering trees and shrubs: Drip lines are ideal, and if you’re using a hose, you actually shouldn’t use a nozzle. Simply place the hose on the ground near the tree and let water slowly and steadily dribble out. Rotate the hose around the tree (in a ring shape) periodically. 
  • Washing a car: Use a jet spray with any of the nozzles above except the rain wand. If you’re just doing a light rinse, a setting like a full shower could also work. 
  • Power-washing a deck: Use a jet spray with any of the nozzles above except the rain wand. 

Check out our other backyard and gardening guides

Purple garden hose on the sidewalk
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The 7 best bike lights for better visibility while cycling at night

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the best bike lights:

The best bike light overall

cygolite

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best easy install bike light

bike light

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

Pros: Affordable, adjustable beam width, lifetime guarantee

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

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

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

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

The best budget bike light

MalkerLights1

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best bike light for trail riding

niterider

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

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

Cons: Expensive, hard to remove

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

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

The best solar-powered bike light

LuciLight

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

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

Cons: Full solar recharge takes close to 8 hours

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

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

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

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

The best rear bike light

LezyneLight

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

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

Cons: Strap isn’t very durable

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

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

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

The best waterproof bike light

urban bike light

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

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

Cons: USB port cover falls off easily

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

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

How to shop for a bike lights

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

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

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

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

How we test bike lights

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

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

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

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

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

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The 12 best places to buy patio umbrellas and stands in 2021

Blissun 9 ft Solar Umbrella 32 LED Lighted Patio Lifestyle Image

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • The best patio umbrellas provide thorough sun coverage and can stand up to all kinds of weather.
  • We spoke to landscape architects to find traditional and cantilever umbrellas for your budget.
  • See also: Where to buy outdoor furniture online

A patio umbrella is an important addition to your backyard if you eat and lounge outside regularly.

Though it’s tempting to buy one off looks alone, remember that “as a functional piece, the most important feature in a patio umbrella is the coverage,” as Melissa Lee, the founder and creative director of design firm Bespoke Only said.

Kevin Lenhart, a landscape architect and design director of online landscape design service Yardzen advised, “Think about the sun pattern in your yard. Even if you have a large space, you might not need a huge umbrella if you’re able to angle it to block the sun and shade the area you are enjoying.”

In addition to umbrella canopy size, consider the fabric, which needs to stand up to rain, sun, and wind. Sunbrella, a durable performance fabric that’s resistant to fading, stains, and mildew, is a favorite among landscape designers.

There are two main types of umbrellas: a traditional “market” umbrella, which is usually placed in the middle of a table, and a cantilever umbrella, which is freestanding and brings in the canopy from an angle. You can learn more about the pros and cons of each, as well as other things to keep in mind when shopping for a patio umbrella, here.

Currently, all of our picks are based on research and expert input. In the future, we plan to test these patio umbrellas and evaluate their ease of assembly, effectiveness, and durability.

Here are the best patio umbrellas in 2021

The best patio umbrellas overall

best patio umbrella 2021 bridgehampton market umbrella

A traditional “market” umbrella is the classic style that works best for most people. It’s affordable, easy to use, and widely available in many sizes, fabrics, and colors. Because it’s placed right in the middle of a table, it requires less backyard space and is less likely to get in the way of foot traffic. 

Outdoor Metal Umbrella (10-ft.)  (medium)Ocean Master Roman Valance Umbrella (8.5-ft.)  (medium)
The best cantilever patio umbrellas

best patio umbrella 2021 cantilever umbrella sunvilla

If you have a larger backyard and don’t like how traditional umbrellas disrupt table space, you should get a cantilever umbrella. Keep in mind cantilever umbrellas tend to be heavier and more expensive, but there’s great payoff in the large amount of shade provided.

Cantilever Patio Umbrella (8-ft.) (medium)Round Cantilever Umbrella (10-ft.)  (medium)
The best patio umbrellas on a budget

best patio umbrella 2021 budget abba patio

A budget umbrella may lack the sturdiness and longevity of the umbrellas above. Still, we found some solid options with well-designed mechanisms and strong canopies. 

Patio Umbrella (9-ft.) (medium)Market Umbrella (9-ft.) (medium)Cantilever Umbrella (10-ft.)  (medium)
The best patio umbrellas with light

best patio umbrella 2021 hampton bay solar led lights

Lighted patio umbrellas offer extra pizzazz and visibility when you’re sitting outside on a warm summer night. The best part is they’re solar-powered, so you don’t have to deal with tangled cords.

Solar Patio Umbrella (9-ft.)  (medium)Cantilever Solar LED Patio Umbrella (11-ft.)  (medium)
The best patio umbrella stands

best patio umbrella 2021 abba patio stand

A weighted umbrella stand or base ensures your patio umbrella won’t shake or blow away with the slightest gust of wind. “A good rule of thumb is to take the width of your umbrella and multiply it by 10,” said Lenhart. For an 8-foot-wide umbrella, for example, you’ll need a base that’s at least 80 pounds. Pre-filled stands are more expensive than empty stands, which require you to add sand or gravel. 

Umbrella Base (50-lb.) (medium)Hayward Patio Umbrella Base (88-lb.) (medium)Umbrella Stand with Rolling Base (125-lb.)  (medium)
Our methodology

We determined the best patio umbrellas through a combination of research and expert input. Using insights and brand recommendations from our experts, we chose two to three options per category, keeping a variety of sizes and prices in mind. We plan on putting these umbrellas through a variety of tests in the future. 

Patio umbrella FAQs

Traditional vs. cantilever umbrella — which should you buy? What are the pros and cons of each?

  Traditional umbrella Cantilever umbrella 
Pros
  • More affordable
  • More variety of options 
  • Covers a lot of space
  • Pivots and tilts more easily
Cons
  • Smaller canopies
  • More difficult to angle
  • Pole can get in the way
  • More expensive 
  • Requires more space

“The biggest pro of traditional umbrellas is that they get the job done at a relatively low price. They stand up to harsh and windy conditions and require little maintenance. They also tend to be less expensive,” said Lenhart. 

Danu Kennedy, design director of creative design firm Parts and Labor Design, likes cantilever umbrellas because “you don’t have to interrupt the seating connectivity to place the umbrella, but they tend to be a little more clunky whereas a traditional model is perhaps more easily worked into the aesthetic.”


What size umbrella is best for your space? 

In addition to sun pattern, consider the size of the space where you’d like to place the umbrella, as well as the surrounding foot traffic. “Do you have room for a standalone umbrella or should you look for a table that allows for an integrated umbrella? A good rule is to allow for three feet around the umbrella to circulate.” said Blythe Yost, a landscape architect and cofounder of online landscape design service Tilly


What are the best materials for the umbrella stand and canopy? 

For the stand and pole, look for durable, rust-resistant materials like aluminum, coated steel, and concrete (which is harder to find). Some designers also like teak wood because it weathers beautifully. 

As for the canopy, Olefin and Sunbrella come highly recommended by our experts. “Olefin is a durable, sustainable fabric that requires no water during production and maintains its quality for years. Sunbrella is a leader in outdoor performance fabric — it’s easy to clean and has beautiful colors and designs,” said Lenhart. 


Once you’ve figured out size and coverage, how do you find a patio umbrella that fits the rest of your patio style? 

Look at your surroundings, and ask yourself whether you want your umbrella to blend in or pop out. “If you want your umbrella to meld in the natural setting, think neutral colors like white, gray, and beige or even subtle greens and blues. If you want your umbrella to make a statement check out umbrellas in vibrant colors or patterns,” said Yost. “If you’re in a city we prefer a bold, fun pattern, to add a pop of color to the gray cityscape, but if you’re near a lake or beach, the piece shouldn’t compete with nature,” said Lee. 


How do you maintain a patio umbrella?

If your umbrella is crafted from high-quality materials, it’ll stand up to water, sun, and wind, making your job easier. Still, a few small steps can help make your umbrella last much longer. Wipe down the canopy once a month and stand with a soft cloth and a gentle cleanser like mild laundry detergent. “Finding an umbrella with fabric with the color as part of the material, and not dyed, will help retain the color in outdoor conditions,” Yost said. ‘When it comes to extending the life of your umbrella, it’s a great idea to store it when it’s not in use. Either bring it in a garage or you can find an umbrella cover for the material and the stand.” Just make sure everything is fully dry before you pack it away. 


Glossary of terms 

Traditional umbrella: Also known as a market umbrella, this is the style of umbrella you typically see at outdoor dining setups. The pole goes through the middle of the table and the canopy, which is either circular or rectangular, covers the table fully. Traditional umbrellas are usually lighter than cantilever umbrellas. 

Cantilever umbrella: The base and pole of a cantilever umbrella are offset, bringing the canopy in from an angle. Cantilever umbrellas are heavier, bigger, and more expensive than traditional umbrellas. 

Crank lift: A mechanism that helps you open your umbrella and adjust the canopy tilt by turning a crank handle. This mechanism is easier and smoother, but slower to use, than a push lift and could also break more easily. 

Push lift: A mechanism that helps you open your umbrella and adjust the canopy tilt by pushing a button. The button is typically located at the top of the pole and may be difficult for some people to reach without the help of a chair. 

Sunbrella: An outdoor performance fabric made of solution-dyed acrylic (the UV-stabilized pigment is spun directly into the yarn). It’s frequently used in outdoor furniture products because it’s resistant to fading, abrasion, mold, mildew, stains, and water. It’s strong, easy to clean, and comfortable to the touch. 

Olefin: Also known as polypropylene. A strong and thick synthetic fiber used in many household products like carpeting. It’s good for outdoor use because it’s resistant to fading, water, mold, and mildew, but it may stain more easily than Sunbrella. 

Check out our other outdoor home guides

Breeo x series 24
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The 5 best BBQ smokers in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • A smoker is a great way to preserve food and spend some quality time outdoors.
  • Our favorite smoker for most people is the Traeger Pro 575 Pellet Grill.
  • It offers steady temperature regulation and has a small learning curve, but the right one for you might vary.

Smokers can be a lot of fun, and as involved or hands-off as you like. These days, you can even tend (at least in part) to your smoker via WiFi from the comfort of your couch while your food fumigates and your pellet grill feeds itself and changes temperature and smokiness at your command.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are barrel smokers, otherwise known as stick burners, which are traditionally cut out of 55-gallon steel drums. These require meticulous oversight and tending, over which many professional careers have been spent.

In between, there are charcoal, electric (sans pellets), and propane smokers. The thing to keep in mind when purchasing one is how much time you want to spend hunched over or standing beside it, and how smokey you really want your food. They’re all great options according to Steven Raichlen, TV host of Barbecue University, Project Smoke, and author of dozens of books on barbecuing (including his forthcoming release, “How to Grill Vegetables“).

Before testing out smokers, we sifted through countless reviews, spoke with several other chefs, and walked the floors of The Home Depot and Lowe’s to get a feel for what was out there.

Below, we offer recommendations across each of the categories listed above, and while we haven’t yet tested enough stick burners (smokers that use log splits or “sticks”) to determine our top pick in that category, we managed a few recommendations for those looking to dive headfirst into wood-smoking.

Here are the best BBQ smokers in 2021

The best smoker overall

best smoker overall

If you’re going to buy just one grill for barbecuing, Traeger’s Pro 575 is a tank built to maintain perfect temperature and last well over a decade.

Pros: Excellent temperature control, WiFi-equipped, hefty steel built to last

Cons: WiFi connectivity could be better, LCD interface not as intuitive as others, not modular like some other brands

Whether you’re just getting into barbecuing or you’ve spent more days than you can count hunched over a stick burner, a pellet grill like Traeger’s Pro 575 is hassle-free and offers steady temperature and smoke. It’s also the heaviest-duty grill we’ve found for less than a thousand dollars.

One of the most important things about a smoker, or any barbecue grill that you’re going to operate for hours at a time, is heat retention. If you can’t keep steady heat, you’re really going to struggle to time and cook your food to perfection. We’ve tried multiple pellet grills (see more below), and while they’ve all done their job swimmingly, the Traeger is built with the thickest steel and maintains a temperature within about five degrees of your target. Try and do that with a manual charcoal or wood-burning grill and you’ll have your work cut out for you (you’ll also learn quickly why Pitmasters earn their distinction).

Frankly, apart from the quality of the steel, all pellet grills follow the same design, more or less. Traeger might be the original, but there are plenty of other brands that come close, and if you want to save some money, Raichlen suggests looking to Green Mountain Grills’ models

We had some trouble connecting to WiFi using this grill. Our router was on the other side of two brick walls, and it couldn’t hold a connection. Though since relocating it, a lone wall hasn’t been a problem. 

Traeger, like many other brands, falls short in the way of accessories. Camp Chef’s Woodwind WiFi series, which we also recommend, is modular; you can add on grill boxes, a 28,000 BTU side-burner (great for searing, boils, and clam bakes), a pizza oven, and much more. 

If all you want your pellet grill to do is smoke and grill (they all max out at around 500 degrees Fahrenheit, so you won’t necessarily pull off any high-heat searing), Traeger’s is the one that’s built the best and made to last the longest, which is why we think it’s worth spending a little extra.

The best charcoal smoker

Weber Smokey MOuntain Smoker

Weber’s 18″ Smokey Mountain has the same timeless and sturdy design as its Original Kettle, only better-equipped for smoking.

Pros: Simple but effective, full manual control, small but plenty of cooking area

Cons: Labor-intensive, difficult to maintain temperature control

When it comes to charcoal smokers, there are almost too many designs to consider. That said, unless you’re throwing massive backyard barbecues, smoking multiple briskets, or dealing with entire hogs, you probably don’t need a ginormous offset barrel smoker (however alluring it may look). 

We find that Weber’s Smokey Mountain series’ 18-inch smoker offers the most for the casual at-home smoker. It has a relatively small footprint of about 20 inches, is made with the same solid steel and porcelain enamel as the brand’s Original Kettle grills, and it will outlast most charcoal smokers on the market for the same price.

If you do want a large offset smoker, Raichlen says look to Horizon, Yoder, or Lang — I’d also add Texas Originals to the list — but know that they’ll all weigh hundreds of pounds, and cost you four figures. We plan on testing these larger grills soon.

Depending on the amount of cooking surface area you require, you can size up to 22 inches (726 square inches) or down to 14 inches (286 square inches), but we think the 481 square inches offered by the 18-inch model (between two vertically integrated grates) is plenty for most.

Setting this grill up is easy and straightforward, and once assembled, a pile of charcoal (we recommend hardwood charcoal), some wood-smoking chips (or split wood), and a basin (included) filled with water are all you need. You’ll have to keep on top of the fire and airflow throughout to find the perfect balance — and make no mistake, that is an art unto itself, but also part of the fun.

I’ve spent the better part of a decade tinkering with and smoking all sorts of things with this very grill, and looking back on that experience I can say this: my most monumental successes in smoking have occurred on this very smoker, but so too have my greatest failures. If these prospects don’t appeal to you, save yourself the anguish and consider a pellet, propane, or electric smoker instead.

Approach this grill for what it is knowing that while it’s in some ways a starter smoker, and one that you can easily store away or station in tighter spots, it will allow you to produce a wide variety of superb smoked goods.

The best propane smoker

Cuisinart Smoker

Cuisinart’s 36″ Vertical Propane Smoker is easy to use, maintains steady heat, and fits anywhere a mini fridge would.

Pros: Convenient, consistent, efficient, portable

Cons: No timer, requires regularly adding wood chips, no casters

Propane smokers are among the easiest and most efficient to operate and assemble. They might not impart the same amount of smokiness (adding dry or soaked wood chips hourly helps), and certainly don’t create the same ambiance as a fire, but they’re convenient and maintain impeccably steady heat.

We like Cuisinart’s 36-inch Vertical Propane smoker because of its basic but robust steel design. There are very few moving parts, and there’s only one control knob. And while this smoker lacks a timer or programming, it’s propane, which you’ll always need to shut off manually anyhow.

If you’re willing to forego the element of fire, a propane (or an electric) smoker is a great way to go. It requires almost no input from you beyond adding wood chips and igniting a burner. There’s also plenty of surface area spread out between four roughly 200-square-inch porcelain-coated stainless steel racks, which is comparable to the cooking surface area of a medium-sized barrel grill. And because it runs on propane, you can load it into the back of a truck for car- or off-grid camping, should you be so inclined.

The size of Cuisinart’s 36-inch Propane Smoker is also convenient for small spaces or those who prefer to store it in the garage. And thanks to the side handles, it’s much easier to put away than some other models. Still, we do wish it had casters because it’s a bit heavy for many people.

Even with an electric grill, this is as easy as smoking gets, and about as compact as well. So, if you don’t want to tend to a fire and would rather not pay for wood pellets, this is your best and most efficient option.

The best electric smoker

The best electric smoker

Masterbuilt’s 30″ Electric Smoker operates with nothing but electricity and wood chips, and is as easy and predictable as smoking gets.

Pros: Intuitive, glass door to check progress, efficient

Cons: No casters or handles, short warranty

Electric smokers are among the easiest smokers to operate. They’re insulated, maintain almost perfect temperature control, and can cook for hours and hours without much attention (save for adding wood chips).

Masterbuilt’s 30″ Electric Smoker comes practically preassembled (attach the legs, the digital monitor, a latch, and it’s ready) and will be up and running with the press of a few buttons.

There’s no fussy fuel to deal with, and all you have to do is remember to deposit a handful (half-cup) of either dry or pre-soaked wood chips, which you’ll want to replenish about every hour or so, depending on the temperature you set.

Vertical electric smokers are the same shape, size, and every bit as straightforward as propane smokers, but without the hassle of dealing with propane (namely, running out of it). The size lets you cook just about everything you would on a mid-sized barrel grill or smoker, and a glass window in the door is a nice touch that allows you to keep an eye on things without having to open it up and lose heat.

We wish this grill had handles because we have had to move it quite a bit, and there’s no great place to get a grip on it. Plan to keep this grill more or less where you park it, and know that you’ll need a solid electrical source.

Adding wood chips might also be sort of a nuisance if you’re not familiar with smoking, but it’s incredibly easy compared with maintaining a fire, and it also helps you keep things from overcooking. Otherwise, there’s not much to worry about with this smoker. We smoked fish, meat, and a pile of vegetables in it and everything came out perfectly, evenly browned and cooked through. This is as fail-safe and as effortless as smoking gets.

The best versatile smoker

best versatile smoker

Camp Chef’s Woodwind WiFi lets you monitor your grill from inside, and it’s compatible with many attachments.

Pros: Modular with several options for attachments, easy to move, industrial-style casters

Cons: Doesn’t maintain temperature as well as our top pick (but only a matter of 15 degrees)

While we like the Traeger Pro series for people specifically looking to smoke and grill (with smoke), we haven’t found any pellet grills as versatile as those in the Camp Chef Woodwind series, which we’ve been testing for nearly two years now.

Apart from offering remarkably user-friendly interfaces, the smokers in the Camp Chef Woodwind series (we think the 24-inch model with 800 square inches of cooking surface area is best for most people) are compatible with multiple accessories, and it’s hard to imagine something you couldn’t cook. 

As far as attachments, we recommend Camp Chef’s 28,000-BTU Sidekick, an extremely powerful propane burner capable of searing anything and boiling massive stock pots of seafood (we put the latter to the test twice). The Sidekick also comes with a flat-top griddle and a grease catchment system, and you can add on the “Outdoor Oven” which is really a stainless steel pizza oven. There’s also the Sear Box, which works like a miniature propane grill with cast-iron grates and a stainless steel cover. 

While this grill isn’t made of the same hefty steel used in Traeger’s Pro series, we haven’t encountered any issues with it, and it’s already been through two winters, accidentally left uncovered through snow, rain, and even hail, and is no worse for wear. We also really love the casters, which seem to be the same kind you’d find on industrial stainless steel carts.

If you want a do-it-all outdoor smoker (or grill for that matter) that lets you smoke, grill, braise, bake, boil, and more, this is our favorite modular option. 

Read our full review of the Camp Chef Woodwind Wifi 24.

Our methodology

methodology BBQ smokers

We recently retested three of our top picks and, paying careful attention to the heat retention, temperature fluctuations, general ease of use, and the overall quality of the materials and design.

We also walked through Lowe’s and The Home Depot opening and examining every smoker there. We looked at fittings, the quality of the seal between the lid and the grill, and the thickness of the steel.

We then spoke with several experts including chef Shola Olunloyo of Studio Kitchen and veteran author and Barbecue University TV host Steven Raichlen to find out what makes a good smoker. 

Here’s what we looked for in our top picks:

Smoking method: While smoking over hardwood is probably the most fun experience, we all agreed, not everyone wants to spend the better part of a day hunched over a fire. And while pellet grills might not offer the same flavor charcoal and wood-burning grills do, they come mighty close and are almost entirely hands-off.

Ease of use: Inextricably linked to the smoking method is the ease of use. The learning curve on wood-burning grills is stratospheric. Pellet grills offer a great balance between smokiness and user-friendliness, but some don’t hold a steady temperature all that well, which presents another set of problems.

Material quality: Most smokers have to live outside, and while a cover is a worthy investment, a grill is still going to have to withstand the elements. Flimsier metals and cheap wheels were immediately disqualified. Thicker steel and industrial-grade casters were positive points, especially on competitively priced smokers.

Performance: Because heat retention and maintenance of a consistent temperature is so paramount to smoking, we chose grills that excelled in those areas with little oversight. In the case of charcoal or wood-burning, you are entirely on your own.

Warranty: We considered warranty to a degree, and looked for at least two years, but in the case of some picks we made concessions. In the end, the grill is only so good as the quality of the materials and build, and it’s hard to call in a warranty on something like a grill or smoker because “normal wear and tear” involves starting fires and spilling grease. Plus, it’s going to live outdoors. We find that investing in a grill that’s built to last is ultimately the better consideration.

What else we tested

Best charcoal grill 2021 what we’re testing next

Dyna-Glo Wide Body Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker: The Dyna-Glo is a fine grill in design, but we’re not convinced that it will last more than a few seasons based on looking at the materials used. Expensive as it is, there are plenty of options that will probably well outlast it for a little more money.

Nexgrill 29-inch Barrel Charcoal Grill/Smoker: If you’re on a tight budget or you just want a charcoal grill (and smoker) in a pinch, this is the best you’re going to do. Our hesitation is that this is one of those grills that you could outfit with gaskets to function very well, but the quality of the parts means it’s not destined to survive past a couple of years with moderate use.

What we’re testing next

What we're testing next bbq smokers

Broil King Offset Smoker: Based on inspection in-store and in a neighbor’s front patio, this grill seems like it will last a while and costs less than most higher-end brands. We’re planning to have a better look and try it out soon. All that said, keep in mind that charcoal smokers require a lot of attention, and you have to dedicate yourself to maintaining the right temperature.

Green Mountain Grills: We’ve been hearing a lot about Green Mountain Grills’ pellet grill as a great budget option, and Steven Raichlen tells us he’s a fan, too. We’ll be trying one as soon as we can.

Masterbuilt Gravity Series 1080: A self-feeding charcoal grill is enticing; it offers all the flavor of a charcoal fire without having to maintain the right balance of coals (and temperature) on your own. We’ve heard good things, and we’ll be trying one out soon.

FAQs

FAQ BBQ smoker

What is the easiest type of smoker to use?

The easiest smoker to use is far and away an electric smoker, followed by a propane or pellet smoker. This is because each of these smokers maintains temperature automatically, so as long as you have your fuel (wood chips, propane, or pellets, respectively), you don’t have to do much of anything at all.

When it comes to charcoal and wood- or stick-burning smokers, you have your work cut out for you, and have to maintain the right amount of fuel to keep the temperature as close to your target as possible.


What can I put on a smoker?

You can put just about anything you’d eat on a smoker. Meat is what most of us associate with smokers, but vegetables, fruits, and all types of seafood can be extraordinary on the grill. Figuring out the endless options and recipes is part of the fun of taking up smoking as a hobby.


How do I make a brine?

When you want to smoke food, oftentimes a recipe will call for a marinade or brine. You can do this any number of ways, and arguments will abound until the end of time over how to make the perfect brine, but here’s a basic recipe for preparing and smoking with a brine, start to finish:

Note: You’ll want to start this process between about four and 24 hours ahead of starting your smoker.

  • Add a 1:1 ratio of salt and sugar into a gallon of water in a stock pot.
  • Heat up to a boil, or until the salt and pepper dissolve. 
  • Add any herbs or other seasonings.
  • Let it cool for at least an hour or two, then place it in the fridge.
  • Once cool, add food and let marinate for anywhere from a couple of hours (vegetables, lighter meats and seafoods) to 12 or even 24 hours (beef, pork).
  • Remove food from the brine, pat dry, and light the grill.
  • Add any dry rub or glaze you want to put on.
  • Wipe or spray grill with a little cooking oil. You can use olive oil or any oil of your choice, and because you’re cooking at low heat, you don’t have to worry about smoke or burning points.
  • Apply food, checking regularly to make sure fuel and temperature remain consistent.
  • Remove when ready (a thermometer helps).

Check out our other grilling guides

The Home Depot grills best smoker 2021
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The 5 best bike lights for better visibility while cycling at night

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

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

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

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

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

Below, I’ve rounded up five of my favorites from brands like Malker and NiteRider. 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 used to decide which lights ultimately made the cut.

Here are the best bike lights:

The best overall

cygolite

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Pros: Affordable, adjustable beam width, lifetime guarantee

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

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

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

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

The best on a budget

MalkerLights1

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

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

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

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

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).  — Rick Stella, fitness and health editor

The best for trail riding

niterider

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

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

Cons: Expensive, hard to remove

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

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

The best side light

urban bike light

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

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

Cons: USB port cover falls off easily

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

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

How to shop for a bike lights

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

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

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

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

How we test bike lights

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

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

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

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

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

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