Thanks for all the comments, tweets, and messages you sent in August. Wherever you are and however you’re coping with this long, tough summer, we appreciate you. We hope we can take some of the pressure off. Let us know in the comments if there’s anything else we can do to help make your lives better right now.
What’s the best gallon-sized water bottle? One of our colleagues at The New York Times, Tim Herrera, asked us this question. We haven’t formally covered giant water bottles, but several options immediately came to mind for staff expert Eve O’Neill. Eve has tested the 128-ounce Hydro Flask Oasis, and she can vouch for its performance, but she doesn’t expect most people want to spend that much. In the mid range, Eve would recommend this RTIC gallon jug. We haven’t tested it directly, but we were impressed with RTIC’s coolers, and we’d expect a similar level of quality here. For a budget option, Eve says, “I have really fond memories of using this Coleman Jug at all of my summer cross-country practices in high school. There’s no way of knowing if it’s made the same 20 years later, but if all you want to do is set it on the sidelines at sports practice, it could be a great choice.”
What kind of computer should I buy for my kid? Between the pandemic and all the ongoing pandemic-related stock issues, it’s been tough for many parents to get the gear needed for remote learning this fall. We’ve written a post laying out different options for kids’ computers, including advice on repurposing old computers and tips on buying a used or refurbished model. Staff writer Nancy Redd explains the many advantages of setting kids up with an old desktop (as opposed to investing in a Chromebook or an expensive laptop). As Nancy says, “I realized I wanted my son to have the computer equivalent of that first beater car that savvy parents give some lucky kids. A beater desktop doesn’t need the white-glove treatment; you can do almost anything to it, and the stakes are low. That’s the point—it’s fun and freeing and the best way to learn, and not just hypothetically.” If you’ve been frustrated by the stock issues plaguing the world of laptops right now, it’s important to remember that not only are there other options, but the other options might actually end up serving your family better in the long run.
Coverage you inspired
How to Pick the Best Smartwatch (or Dumb Phone) for Your Kid: Over the years, we’ve gotten a lot of questions about which devices provide tweens with a good middle ground that allows for communication and increasing independence without compromising their privacy or providing unrestricted access to the wilds of the internet. After our experts tested a range of devices with their own kids, we think a smartwatch will be the best choice for most families. There are a variety of reasons why we didn’t think flip phones measured up. But we’ve got advice on how to choose one of those, too, as well as a section on the privacy concerns raised by these devices and how to talk about those issues with your child.
How to Choose the Best Cloth Face Mask for You: Many of you asked us for cloth face mask recommendations back in March. It took us a while, but now we’ve got a full guide up with Wirecutter-tested and -approved cloth face mask recommendations. We prioritized versatile masks that will suit a wide range of faces. We also have an extensive section that addresses the best features to look for in a cloth face mask, like nose bridge wires and adjustable fasteners, and an FAQ that details how to prevent maskne and to reduce fogging on your glasses. We also reviewed the best cloth face masks for children.
On that last note, shout-out to 02nz!—who commented on Nancy’s post about giving her son a beater desktop computer with advice on repurposing used corporate PCs. 02nz’s comment details the various upsides of investing in used and/or refurbished PCs over new ones, and it offers a personal testimonial for their chosen model, a 4-year-old Lenovo ThinkCentre Tiny, which cost them less than $400 (including the monitor and a few upgrades).
Shout-out to Albany Landlord!—for sharing extensive experience in the comments of our guide to over-the-range microwaves. We don’t have much data on long-term reliability in this category. So it’s particularly useful, interesting, and disheartening to hear what Albany Landlord has learned about the poorly attached handles on GE over-the-range microwaves and how those handles can cost hundreds of dollars to replace. The comment is too long to display in full here, but it’s worth a read.