Your Best Digs Personalize Your Space Fri, 23 Feb 2018 17:47:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Best Lunch Box Sat, 17 Feb 2018 02:17:04 +0000 After a long, hot summer testing 19 finalists, we’ve found the best lunch box in three different categories: bento boxes, lunch bags, medium and jumbo-sized lunch bags.

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After a long, hot summer testing 19 finalists, we’ve rounded up a posse of recommended lunch boxes, bags and coolers to keep your food and snacks ready to eat. These are durable and practical ways to get your lunch where it needs to be, whether that’s work, school, sporting events or a day on the lake.

Bringing your own lunch to work or school makes sense. It can save you money and it gives you a chance to eat healthier food. Bringing lunch to work in a paper or plastic sack, though, can lead to spills, stains or worse.

Our top pick for every purpose is the Coleman – 9-Can Insulated Lunch Bag with removable hard liner. We couldn’t help falling for the charm and utility of this one: the bag has plenty of room for lunch and more and is equally at home in the office break room or in a canoe on the lake.

Top Pick: Coleman - 9-Can Lunch Bag

Coleman’s bag is a good size and easy to carry. The leak-proof tub liner also makes this much easier to clean than other bags.

For those who don’t want to carry anything more than the basics, it’s hard to go wrong with the High Sierra – Stacked Compartment Lunch Bag. Separate compartments keep your ice packs colder longer, and there’s plenty of room for a modest lunch.

Lunch bag pick: High Sierra - Stacked Compartment

This bag keeps maximizes the cooling of your ice packs by separating your lunch into two compartments.

If you need to pack food and drinks for a group of three to six people, the eBags – Crew Cooler II will probably carry almost as much food as you can lift. You can pack it with ice without worries, too; the removable liner has fused seams that won’t leak a drop.

Jumbo pick: eBags - Crew Cooler II

Designed for airline crew packing food on long trips, eBags has packed almost every feature you can imagine into this bag: two insulated compartments, two expanding water-bottle pockets and beefy construction all around.

Table of contents

How we selected finalists to test

We scoured the web for reviews and mentions of great bags. As always, we picked finalists that have plenty of verified purchaser feedback on major retail sites and eliminated contenders with consistent complaints (even if the complaints were in the minority of reviews).

“Lunch box” is a diverse product category. We looked at four groupings:

Bento boxes

These are minimalist trays designed to carry enough food to get most people through the day, and nothing else. Most offer some means of carrying silverware, too; if you need more than 900 calories in a lunch, though, this is definitely not the best way to go (unless you’re carrying something like single-serving potato chips and soda in some other bag, in which case portion control might be exactly what you want).

Lunch bags

This is a category that’s a bit ambiguous, but for the most part this is an insulated nylon bag that works like a reusable paper sack. The trick is that some of these bags actually have more capacity than small coolers; the major distinction is that they’re tall rather than wide.

Small coolers

The most ambiguous category, we defined the small cooler as capable of carrying more than six but fewer than 13 12-oz. beverage cans. These are mostly horizontally-oriented in the way they sit, though you could argue that a few of them are “tall.”

Large coolers

These bags can all carry a twelve-pack of beverages with room for ice, and will carry enough food to feed a family or a small party. A few have multiple insulated compartments, which really makes a difference if you’re carrying a lot of different types of food.

The three best bento boxes

Lineup of bento boxes
Bento boxesPrice $-$$$$$StyleCapacityAccessories?Microwave Safe?
1. Monbento - MB Original V$$$StackingLunchSmall bowlY
2. Modetro - Bento Lunchbox$$$FlatSmall lunchY
3. PlanetBox - Rover$$$$$FlatPetite lunchTwo bowls, decorative magnetsN

The seven best small insulated lunch bags

Lineup of lunch bags
Small CoolersPrice $-$$$$$StyleBeverage CapacityAccessories?Overall Score
1. Coleman - 9-Can Cooler$Small cooler12Bucket liner4
2. High Sierra - Stacked Bag$$Two-pocket lunch bag93
3. Rubbermaid - LunchBlox$Lunch bag103
4. Jaxx - FitPak$$$$Small cooler12Containers, shaker bottle3
5. Everest - Cooler Lunch Bag$Small cooler103
6. Stanley - 7QT Heritage Cooler$$$$$Small cooler9Insulated flask4
7. PackIt - Freezable Lunch Bag$Lunch bag92

The nine best large insulated lunch bags

Lineup of large cooler bags
Large coolersPrice $-$$$$$# Of CompartmentsBeverage CapacityAccessories?Overall Score
1. eBags - Crew Cooler II$$$$$2.123Zip-out liner4.4
2. Mojecto - Cooler Bag$$$$2.019Spare zip-out liner4.4
3. EvoVox - Insulated Cooler Bag$$$$1.321Zip-out liner4.2
4. Oniva - Pranzo$$$2.118Utensil set3.9
5. Arctic Zone - Titan$$$1.018Divider shelf3.6
6. Igloo - Maxcold Gripper 16$$2.0163.5
7. Ramaka - Large Insulated Lunch Bag$$1.1173.5
8. GreEco - Large Capacity Cooler Bag$$1.0183.1
9. BF Systems - Extreme Pak$$1.118Zip-out liner3.4

Important features to consider

Number of insulated compartments – Separate compartments give you the opportunity to take hot or warm items in the same bag without unnecessarily heating up your ice packs in the main compartment. Some of the bags even have insulated pockets. This will be listed as, for example, 2.1 for two main insulated compartments and one insulated pocket.

Capacity – People eat different things for lunch; that’s an uncontrolled variable in a comparison like this. We tried to sort our recommendations into three helpful size categories, but we’ve listed the capacities on our master table based on how many 12 oz. cans we could fit into each bag.

Liners – Some of the bags we tested feature removable liners. While a removable liner is not inherently more waterproof or stain-resistant than a sewn-in liner, it’s easier to deal with a bag that’s dirty if you can take the liner out to wash it.

Accessories – A few of these bags come with additional items that you might use: beverage containers, picnic flatware and even reusable storage containers.

How we tested

We took these lunch bags and coolers everywhere. We took lunch to work, and to the park. We had picnics at the lake, and snacks at the library. We strapped them to a motorcycle, and we even took food to Disneyland in the middle of a hot July.

At the end of our time with the bags, we sat down and rated each one according to these criteria:

Construction quality

Construction quality testing
This is a ranking of considerations like stitching, zippers, durable materials, easy-to-clean liners and insulation that seems like it’ll maintain its shape over time.

Lunch bags aren’t like gear bags or luggage where the contents are more valuable than the container, so we didn’t do any abusive tests. We definitely took away points for cheap liners or thin nylon, though.


testing for leaks
Any of these bags will keep food off your car seat, but we wanted to find out if they were good enough to be truly leak-proof. We filled all the bags with water then shook, flipped and dropped them to see how much they leaked. We also scored this category based on how easy it is to clean the liner of a bag.

While each of the plastic single-meal-sized bento options will keep liquids in place, shaking them around means liquid all over the lid of the entire box. PlanetBox’s metal tray is not watertight at all, but the included soup cup is, and that’s definitely the most mess-free way to carry and eat your tikka masala. (Too bad you can’t put it in a microwave.)

The big bags were quite waterproof, but only to a point. None will actually keep water from leaking out the zipper, and even the locking lid on the Stanley cooler will leak if you hold it upside down. So at the end of testing, a five-star rating means that the liner held water perfectly in an upright position and was easy to remove for cleaning. If the bag scored less than a four in this category, that means water had soaked through the liner (or worse, came dribbling out a seam).

Note that the Jaxx FitPak can stop leaks with the included accessories: six portion-control-friendly reusable containers. The bag has an easy-to-wash rubberized liner, but liquids will slowly leak out at the seams if they’re not in the containers. (We give the system a five, the bag itself an even three.)

Design and practicality

This score is based on a variety of considerations, including bag shape, how comfortable the straps are, removable liners, features like expanding water bottle pockets and any other unique design considerations that made the bag better.


testing with ice cubes
According to the USDA Food Safety service, perishable food like your egg salad sandwich should be kept at 40° F or below. Any higher than that, and you run the risk of bacteria multiplying (yes, there’s already bacteria in your food) to a level that might make you sick. Not all bacteria will make you sick, but unless you can assay a thoroughly representative sample of every lunch you pack… just pack some ice with your fresh food.

To see how much the insulation in these bags can help, we tested each bag in the hot sun. Smaller bags were loaded with three ounces of ice, and the bigger coolers were tested with six ounces. We left all the bags out in the hot sun (ambient temperature was approximately 102 °F) and checked on them after five hours. The score above is the percentage of that 40° target that the bags achieved; higher is better.

The results are not very promising. There was actually very little difference between the bags; smaller bags stayed cooler, but the biggest difference within a category was five degrees Fahrenheit (4 percent further from the target temperature).

None of these bags would keep a potato salad safe in a car on a hot day without extra ice to soak up the heat. The more ice you keep in your cooler, the longer your food will stay safe; that’s one more reason to carefully choose the capacity you need.

On a hot day in direct sun, even the single ice pack included in the Jaxx kit and the ice-gel-liner in the PackIt bag were insufficient to keep a lunch in the safe zone for five hours out in the sun. The FSIS recommends at least two ice packs per bag, or an ice pack and a frozen beverage. If you have an icemaker and a supply of sturdy zip-seal bags, you can use ice cubes. However, commercial ice packs are durable and convenient. That said, keeping your bag out of the sun is the most important step.

The best lunch bag: Coleman – 9-Can Cooler

Coleman 9-can
With a hard plastic “tub” style liner, good pockets and all the other features we looked for in a basic bag, the 9-Can Cooler from Coleman represents an amazing value at around 14 dollars.

While the Coleman wasn’t the very best at keeping a lunch cold without ice, the real trick to keeping perishable food safe is to use lots of ice, and that’s what this cooler is built for.

The removable hard liner is an ideal ice bucket. This is perfect for keeping a six-pack well buried on a scorching hot day, or carrying a 12-pack (without any ice) on a less-intense outing.

The best thing about the hard tub liner is that it’s easier to clean and dry than the soft zip-in liners used in many of the other coolers. Trying to get the last few drops of water out of a vinyl bag is a pain, but the Coleman will air-dry without problems and is easy to wipe down with a towel.

This makes an ideal lunch bag for large or bulky lunches. There’s a zippered mesh pocket in the lid that will hold a small ice pack, and of course lots of room for more ice packs inside the tub.

Best overall

Coleman - 9-can cooler

An ice bucket with pockets and a shoulder strap, this Coleman lunch bag is a basic cooler that checks all the boxes.

The best reason we could find to use a different bag is if you really need to keep warm and cold food separate. With only one large compartment, you need to decide if you want everything warm or ice-cold. Even in a small insulated bag, though, most hot food will cool quickly: unless you’re carrying soup in a vacuum-sealed container, keeping a hot lunch hot for more than an hour is unrealistic.

The other thing this bag didn’t do is carry our favorite water bottle. With a 2.9 inch diameter, the 20-oz Kleen Kanteen will barely squeeze into the mesh side pocket, and while it might count as “fitting,” we’re pretty sure the elastic would tear if you did that every day. Most non-insulated 12-ounce water bottles should fit in the pocket, but there’s enough room inside that you’ll wind up keeping your water in there anyhow.

If you only have a small lunch and don’t want to carry around something this bulky, there are other options. This cooler is a better deal than even the smallest lunch bags we tested, though, so we recommend that everyone consider it first.

Key takeaways:

  • The Coleman 9-Can Cooler is a good size for a bigger lunch and has room for plenty of ice in the hard liner ‘tub.’
  • Well-built and utilitarian, Coleman designed this bag with a great set of features and options for the price.

Other notable finalists

The best lunch box for work

An insulated cooler with sandwich bags or reusable containers inside is probably the way most people will want to pack a lunch, but there are other options.

If you’re working in an office that has a break room with a fridge, a microwave and a sink, you might be happiest with a compact lunch box.
The Japanese “bento” concept of taking a lunch in boxes with portion-sized compartments dates back more than four centuries, and modern-day practitioners have made it into an artform.

The three compartmentalized boxes we tried each had some quirks, but on the whole, our favorite was the stacking Monbento – MB Original. With two stacking compartments, it has room for a decent-sized lunch, and you can fit a small banana or carrot inside without cutting it into tiny pieces. The included tiny dish also works as a divider of sorts, which will help if you’re looking for a bento box mostly because you don’t like your foods to touch one another.

Best bento

Monbento - MB Original

It’s not cheap, but Monbento gives you a clever way to carry a minimalist lunch to work.

The Modetro Bento also performed quite well if your lunches are small enough, but it’s not as flexible as the Monbento. All three of the boxes we tested offered some way to seal liquids inside (PlanetBox includes a cup with a rubber lid), but we felt the Monbento’s seal was the most reliable and easiest to clean.

None of the bento-style boxes offered much insulation at all, and even the included carry bag provided with the Modetro box doesn’t give you a way to use an ice pack. (It barely has room for utensils.)

We do not recommend the PlanetBox line. The metal tray is cool in a retro kind of way, but you can’t microwave it. Even the smallest box they make is ridiculously expensive, so unless you’re dying to have a lunch box with magnets on it, look elsewhere.

The best insulated lunch bag

High Sierra with a sandwich
There are two ways to maximize insulation performance in a lunch bag: use a bag that’s no bigger than you need, or take a lot of ice.

Good insulation

High Sierra - Stacked Compartment Lunch Bag

This lunch back helps you keep your cold food even colder with a separate pocket for stuff that doesn’t need ice.

In our testing, the High Sierra – Stacked Compartment Lunch Bag was three percent better at keeping cold than our top pick, almost certainly because its main compartment is smaller. If you’re not using much ice, this bag will also let you pack non-perishable food in a second compartment where it won’t warm up the food in your main compartment. If your lunch bag will sit in a climate-controlled environment all morning, this is a good way to manage.

The one downside to this bag is that with all those zippers, there’s a bigger chance that any leaking liquids will spill out. The Rubbermaid Lunchblox Bag was slightly better at keeping water in for that reason. In either case, you don’t want to pack liquids inside unless you’re very sure they’re not going to leak.

The best cooler bag

Crew Cooler with lunch
If you’re looking to keep things cold for a long time but can’t haul around a large insulated cooler chest, A large bag with plenty of ice is still your best bet. If you need enough food for a few people, then a large bag like the Crew Cooler II from eBags has room to spare.

The big chill

eBags- Crew Cooler II

Room for an entire picnic and plenty of ice to keep it cool. A generous insulated lid compartment holds hot food or just accessories you don’t want to ice.

We could get 23 12-ounce beverage cans into the two insulated compartments, and the zip-in removable liner is sealed tight so you don’t have to worry about puddles at the end of the day. Like the High Sierra lunch bag, the second insulated compartment is great for stuff that you don’t want to pack in ice—we found that you can fit a bigger-sized DSLR like a Canon 5D in the lid, so long as you’re using a pancake lens.

The Mojecto – Large Cooler Bag is very similar to the Crew Cooler, but it’s four inches shorter; it also has a more padded shoulder strap. If you anticipate carrying your cooler any significant distance, that might be a better pick. Both bags have expanding water bottle pockets, a removable liner and quick-release buckles for the shoulder strap.

The best lunch bag for kids

rubbermaid lunchblox with school lunch
A small lunch bag with easy-to-use features is going to be the key to success when picking a lunchbox for school kids. Our favorite small bag is the High Sierra – Stacked Compartment Lunch Bag, but for school lunches the Rubbermaid – Lunchblox bag has a few things going for it. The simplicity of a single compartment in the Lunchblox bag might be better for some kids, and the shoulder strap might come in handy for those who tend to drop things and forget them in the hall or on the bus.

Best for kids

Rubbermaid - Lunchblox

This is a simple bag that will hold plenty of lunch and keep utensils organized.

The LunchBlox bag is also a tiny bit better than the High Sierra bag at preventing spills, since it makes a better “tub” shape when it’s lying on its back. If you flip it over, though, liquids will still leak through the zipper.

In either case, you’ve got a place to store utensils securely and enough space to hold a lunch and a water bottle. (Frozen water bottles are a great way to keep perishables cold.)

Finalists tested but not recommended

The other lunch bags we tested

Modetro – Bento Lunchbox

The Modetro Bento is the least expensive of the bento options we tried, and that might be enough to make it your first pick. The main reason we didn’t pick this over the Monbento is size: the three small compartments limit what you can pack. If you’re chopping up all your food and arranging it sculpturally it’s probably a great choice, especially since the lid is see-through, but if you want to include a stick of celery or a carrot you’ll almost certainly prefer the two deep rectangles of the Monbento box. We were also concerned that the white plastic might stain more easily over time than the black plastic of the Monbento.

PlanetBox – Rover

PlanetBox is all about retro cool, and depending on how you look at things the all-metal Rover might be more earth-friendly than plastic. There isn’t any other reason we could find to choose this to carry a lunch, though. Without a way to carry ice, you’d better have a fridge to keep it in, but in that case the tray will get uncomfortably cold.

The compartments stamped into the Rover are functional, but small. The best thing about this lunch box is the securely-sealing soup cup, but we’re pretty sure you already have a reusable container that will do that job (and if you don’t you shouldn’t pay these prices to get one).

Jaxx – FitPak

Probably the biggest downside to the Jaxx FitPack is a lack of flexibility. No shoulder strap, no removable liner, and a design that forces you to find a way to divide your food among four two-cup and two one-cup containers.
The FitPak set is designed for gym gorillas, so it seemed like overkill for most of our testers; if you’re packing for a family it’s a fairly reasonable size (so long as nobody complains about sharing containers).

Many of the other bags will do the same job, though, with enough cash leftover to buy multiple sets of reusable containers. (Those bags all have shoulder straps, too.)

This is probably a pretty good package for someone who specifically wants the accessories included to fit efficiently into one bag, but we can’t rationalize the price if that’s not exactly what you’re after.

Everest – Cooler Lunch Bag

Everest’s Cooler Lunch Bag is a simple offering that meets all the basic criteria. It’s sealed against leaks and fairly well-built, but without even a liner or pocket there aren’t any perks. For a few dollars more, the Coleman 9-Can will be easier to clean and hold more lunch.

Stanley – 7QT Heritage Cooler

A stalwart representative of the old school, we have mixed feelings about our time with Stanley’s Heritage Cooler.
On the one hand, this is the most rugged of the coolers we tested—we’re pretty sure you could run over it with a truck, but the editors don’t like it when we do that. “Few people,” they say, “are ever going to drive over a cooler.”
On the other hand, people do have to carry a lunch bag around. This thing has a handle, but it’s not exactly easy to carry. The Heritage Cooler’s divided compartment also holds fewer than half as many cans as the other coolers its size; you can fit nine cans and some ice in the 15.5 inch-wide frame; the EvoVox cooler holds 21 cans in a space just 13” wide.
If the Heritage Cooler gained significant thermal performance or leak-proofing over other bags, it might have earned a special mention, but it leaks when you turn it upside down and it doesn’t really insulate very well, either. What you need for long-term food preservation is plenty of ice, and there are cheaper, better ways of carrying ice than this behemoth.
We do like the included vacuum-insulated ‘Thermos’ flask, though. (Buy it separately, or just buy a good travel mug if that’s what you really need.)

PackIt – Freezable Lunch Bag

PackIt had an interesting idea in the Freezable Lunch Bag that didn’t really pan out in execution. This is a lunch bag only in the most basic sense of the word; it’s a bag, and you could put lunch in it. It’s small, it’s not easy to carry when it’s frozen and stiff, and when we put liquids in it they soaked through the inner liner. If you’re only ever carrying a dry lunch it might be fine, but absorbing liquids generally means smells will start to accumulate over time, too.

Certainly, the idea of a self-contained ice pack is a good one, but it’s not worth the compromises presented here. The High Sierra or Rubbermaid bags are superior in every way, so long as you can make ice, freeze a water bottle, or buy a separate freezable gel pack.

Mojecto – Cooler Bag

For all intents and purposes, the Mojecto Cooler Bag is the same bag as the eBags Crew Cooler II, but a little bit smaller. (It’s about four inches shorter and holds four fewer drink cans when you pack them tight.) That’s not an exaggeration: the way the compartments are designed and even the expanding-wing water-bottle pockets are almost identical. The zipper on the eBags cooler is a bit beefier, but the shoulder strap chosen by Mojecto is a bit better.

If you don’t need the extra space and you can find the Mojecto for less, it’s a good choice. List price for the Mojecto is higher than for the eBags cooler, though, so if you’re looking for a big bag, just get the bigger one.

EvoVox – Insulated Cooler Bag

The Insulated Cooler Bag from EvoVox is a great bag, and nearly got our pick for big-capacity cooler. The construction is rugged, and it seems that EvoVox used neoprene or some other stiff foam in the insulation here that makes the sides stiffer and more protective than the spongy foam in all the other bags. It didn’t make the insulation properties any better, though.
The reason this isn’t recommended above the eBags Crew Cooler or the Mojecto bag is that there’s only one compartment. If you’re not going to be carrying anything that won’t squeeze into the pockets this might be a great bag, but we really loved the flexibility of the two-compartment system when we filled the other coolers with ice.

Oniva – Pranzo

The Pranza “Picnic Time” bag was tough to review. Onvia has carefully thought out many of the features included: dual-compartment insulation for hot-and-cold (okay, ice and no-ice) storage, plus a full set of silverware for your romantic day-trip picnic.

If the main compartment were a little larger and included a removable liner, this would have easily scored a special mention. As it is, the eBags – Crew Cooler II can do everything this bag does and more, so long as you can come up with some silverware on your own.

Arctic Zone – Titan

The Titan is very similar to the Coleman – 9-Can Cooler, but with a liner you can’t remove, a hard lid and velcro instead of a zipper.
We like the removable shelf and the capacity offered by this cooler, but since it sits in the middle of the size range, it’s hard to say for sure it’s going to be big enough for those who pack for a group. The hard lid does seem more robust than the soft lid offered by the Coleman, but it still doesn’t hold water if you flip it upside-down. We’re also not sure how well the velcro will hold up over time, compared to a zipper.

If you want more capacity than the Coleman bag and find the Arctic Zone Titan on sale, it might be worth going for. At list price, you can buy two of the Coleman bags and get more drinks with the money you saved.

Igloo – Maxcold Gripper 16

If Igloo could have included a liner and a better pocket on the Maxcold Gripper 16 without increasing the price substantially, this probably would have been our favorite bag.

If you want to carry around a whole twelve-pack with ice and stuff some hot sandwiches in the insulated lid for an hour, this bag is fantastic. You don’t get a water bottle pouch, though, and the patch-style pockets that are sewn on won’t hold anything bulkier than the flattest of flatware.

The shoulder strap is basic but well-made, and the handle is very comfortable. The stitching is reinforced at all the right spots, and the strap is even sewn on at a slight angle to reflect the way a bag hangs when it’s loaded. The zippers aren’t exactly heavy-duty, but the main zip is sewn with a liner tape for snag-free zipping.

The antimicrobial lining proved to be fully waterproof in our testing, which is good, but we’d take a removable liner over anti-microbial materials any day.

The Igloo Maxcold doesn’t have features that make it an alternative to pricey coolers like the Mojecto, and it’s also not cheap enough to compete with our top pick. The only things it has on the Coleman nine-can is a bit more capacity and a separate insulated compartment in the lid; the Coleman is better in every other way for about $10 less.

Ramaka – Large Insulated Lunch Bag

Ramaka’s Large Insulated Lunch Bag is basic, but fared well in testing. It has everything except a removable liner: sturdy YKK zippers, a nice strap and a big water bottle pocket that actually holds a large Nalgene bottle. It’s not that much bigger than the Coleman, though, and without a removable liner it won’t be as easy to clean.

GreEco – Large Capacity Cooler Bag

If you’re looking for the most capacity-per-dollar, GreEco’s Large Capacity Cooler Bag does score a win on that metric. We paid $12 and got 18 cans to fit into the super-tall compartment.
The GreEco bag didn’t leak in our testing, but the construction was merely “good enough” and the shoulder strap was quite short. For a basic bag that you could fold up to keep in a glovebox, this one might be worth considering, but we liked the Coleman much, much more as an every-day lunch bag.

BF Systems – Extreme Pak

We hoped that the Extreme Pak from BF Systems would be a good bargain bag, but there were too many corners cut. The biggest problem here is the liner: it’s sealed with some kind of seam tape, but water still leaked through in the course of our tests. It wasn’t a really bad leak, but if you’re going to be toting ice around all day you’ll wind up leaving puddles everywhere. Not recommended.

The bottom line

<ahref=”>Top three bags
We’ve tried to include enough data in our review to help you find a cooler that meets your particular needs, what most people are going to want is a bag that holds ice, doesn’t leak or get stained and is easy to clean out at the end of the day.

If you want a small bag to carry a simple lunch around, the High Sierra – Stacked Compartment Lunch Bag does all the right things. Split stacked compartments help calm your lunch-organization compulsion and help keep the cold stuff colder.

If you want to be able to carry drinks around for an afternoon (or if you’re packing a monster-work-day sandwich) then the Coleman – 9-Can Cooler (which can hold up to 12 cans) is a fantastic choice. The hard liner makes it perfect for ice, but it also means your lunch won’t get crushed and any spills will be easy to clean up.

We tested some large cooler bags, too, and we loved the features offered by the eBags Crew Cooler II. If you want to carry more food and ice than this will hold (between the two compartments you can almost squeeze in a 24-pack of drink cans) then you almost certainly need something with wheels.

Top Pick: Coleman - 9-Can Soft Cooler

A removable hard liner sets this bag apart from the rest, and price is hard to beat.

The post The Best Lunch Box appeared first on Your Best Digs.

]]> 0 Lineup of bento boxes Lineup of lunch bags Lineup of large cooler bags Construction quality testing testing for leaks testing with ice cubes Coleman 9-can Monbento High Sierra with a sandwich Crew Cooler with lunch rubbermaid lunchblox with school lunch The other lunch bags we tested Top three bags
The Best Shower Head Tue, 13 Feb 2018 05:12:40 +0000 After two months of immersive testing with 13 shower heads, we’ve found the best shower head to be the Moen - Magnetix Attract with a nearly-magical magnetic dock and a great shower experience.

The post The Best Shower Head appeared first on Your Best Digs.


After two months of immersive testing with 13 shower head finalists, we’ve picked the Moen – Magnetix Attract Handheld as our top recommendation for a new shower head. If you’ve avoided upgrading to a handheld shower head because they’re tricky to pick up or put back in place when there’s soap in your eyes, let us introduce you to a world of flexible rinsing and nearly-magical magnetic docks. Moen also managed to deliver a good showering experience with this head, even while meeting the EPA’s strict WaterSense two-gallon-per-minute standard.

For those who want a little bit more elegance in the bathroom, the best “rainfall” shower head is definitely the Moen – Velocity Rainshower. With generous coverage, a gentle-yet-ample primary flow pattern and a sufficiently-vigorous second flow pattern, the feature that really seals the deal in this head is an adjustment lever that feels great (and you won’t need a manual to figure it out).

If you’re on a budget, the Speakman – Reaction fixed shower head provides simple, efficient, powerful rinsing at a great price. The styling of this shower head is a bit unorthodox (choose from three colors of translucent plastic), but the single spray pattern is better than anything else we tested. All the while, it saves water with a two-gallon-per-minute flow.

Top Pick: Moen - Magnetix six-function handheld

A handheld shower is a flexible and powerful rinsing tool, and Moen solves all the biggest problems with a great magnetic dock.

Table of contents

How we selected finalists to test

A shower head is a simple thing. This is the kind of household fixture that’s usually only replaced in time of need. Sometimes they break, sometimes they get clogged with scale to a point where you can’t clean them anymore. Despite how frequently we use them, most people don’t spend much time thinking about their shower head.

If you’re like us, though, you’ve probably stood under your aging-but-functional shower and wondered “is there a better shower head out there?”

We looked hard at the long list of bathroom fixtures on the market, and after spending some time in Ferguson’s showroom full of large, designer-focused options, we found that the broadest differences in shower heads comes down to aesthetics.

If you’re working with an interior designer or contractor to set up a new or remodeled bathroom, you can pay a few hundred dollars for a basic bathroom fixture setup (matching sink, tub and shower included), a few more hundred for a premium set in a designer finish, or thousands if you want a look from European design houses like Grohe.

What we didn’t find was a lot of differentiation in function. Even the top-end shower fixtures tend to use familiar design considerations. Shower heads are generally round and spray as much water as they’re allowed by water-conservation regulations. Handheld shower sprayers mostly sit in cradles. Nozzles are now made of silicone or other clog-resistant materials.

So, while you may want to call a plumbing distributor if you want a very particular look (or especially if you need a replacement shower head that matches an existing tub set) we payed more attention to customer feedback for popular and economical options that you’d find in a home improvement store.

We looked at handheld shower heads, fixed shower heads, variable-pattern and even a ones with a flexible gooseneck.

Amazon ratings were, as always, important guides for our choices. We looked at fixtures recommended by Consumer Reports and online review sites like The Sweet Home, and we payed attention to brands referenced in plumbing discussion boards and places like r/HomeImprovement. Our focus was on hardware from established manufacturers, but we did try some well-reviewed budget brands as well.

The 13 best shower heads

lineup of all tested products

ShowerheadPriceTypeWatersenseSpray patternsStyles
01. Moen - Magnetix Attract$$$$handheldY62
02. Moen - Velocity Rainshower $$$$$variableY24
03. Speakman - Reaction S-4002-E2$$fixedY13
04. Waterpik - Aquascape AST-233E$$$$variableY11
05. Speakman - Hotel Anystream S-2005-HB-#2$$$variableN34
06. Hydroluxe - Full-Chrome 24 Function Ultra-Luxury$$$handheldN51
07. Ana Bath - SS5450 Handheld Shower$$$$handheldN51
08. Delta - 75152 Shower Head with H2Okinetic$$variableN21
09. AKDY - AZ-6021$$fixedN11
10. Waterpik - PowerSpray+ FlexNeck $$$$gooseneckY61
11. American Standard - Easy Clean 8888.075$fixedN11
12. WantBa - 6 Inches Rainfall$$fixedN11
13. Niagara - Conservation$handheldY31

lineup of detached shower heads 2

Types of shower heads

fixed vs handheld sprayer

A standard shower head is a relatively simple affair: it attaches to a shower arm (the water pipe that comes out from your wall, always with a ½” male pipe thread on the end) and directs water with some combination of spray nozzles into an efficient, cleansing stream.

There are a multitude of shower head styles and finishes available for a multitude of tastes, but in our research and testing we narrowed our picks down to two categories: shower heads for people who want a detachable hand-sprayer, and shower heads for people who don’t. Since the best fixed shower head is pretty pricey, we also included a recommendation for the best budget-friendly fixture.

Important features to consider

Handheld sprayer

Shower heads with a handheld sprayer will be especially appealing to anyone with small children or pets: rinsing a toddler’s hair or washing a dog is far, far easier with the extra control. The flexibility also makes rinsing your shower walls quick and easy, and you’ll probably find even more uses (like washing your feet or hand-washing clothes). Even if this is a feature you’ve never considered, once you try it you might not be able to go back.

Adjustable spray patterns

Multi-pattern shower heads add a twist to the spout-on-the-wall design. If you want a tighter high-pressure stream, a pulsating massage stream or a rainfall-like laminar flow, many shower heads aim to offer variety in your showering experience.

This becomes an especially important feature in water-conserving heads that put out less than 2.5 gallons per minute. If you have long or thick hair you might find a higher-pressure burst helps you rinse more thoroughly. Most of the variable-spray-pattern fixed shower heads we tested offer just those two patterns (wide coverage and concentrated blast) but the handhelds offer more options. 

Style options

Shiny, easy-to-clean chrome is by far the most popular finish in American bathrooms, but some have brushed, bronze, or other finishes and you will need to find a new head in something that matches. If your tub spout and valve handle aren’t mirror-finished, check out our chart to see which shower heads come with other finish options.

WaterSense water conserving design

The EPA says that in 2016, American households used an average of 60 gallons of water every day in their showers.

That’s a lot of water, and it used to be even more. “Water conserving” shower heads are broadly defined as consuming two and a half gallons per minute; that’s been a national requirement since 1994, but the new WaterSense recommendation is 20% less, just two gallons-per-minute with 80 PSI water supply pressure. WaterSense is a voluntary EPA standard that encourages everyone to save water, but California, Georgia, Texas and Colorado have passed laws that require those savings.

(Californians note: restrictions are set to change again in July of 2018; fixtures that comply with that 1.8 GPM flow rate are few and far between right now, but we’ll test again when the manufacturers update their lines.)

A note about water pressure

WaterSense is a standard that’s supposed to save water “without sacrificing performance”, so theoretically manufacturers can’t just put flow restrictors in old heads… but for all intents and purposes, that’s what many of them do. 80 PSI is plenty of pressure, so it’s easy to get some force behind a spray that will compensate for the reduced overall flow.

One of the confusing parts of the regulation, then, is how it impacts those with supply lower than what’s given in the standard. 80 PSI isn’t crazy-high, but pressure in the real world of plumbing is variable. Plumbers we talked to say that 40-70 PSI is typical, but if you’re in an apartment on a top floor you might be on the lower end (it’ll also be even less if everyone in your building showers at the same time). Low pressure means less flow than even the water conservation engineers intended.

Many who live with low water pressure will look for shower heads that use a rubber or plastic flow restrictor sitting in the neck of the shower and remove it to increase flow. (It seems to be an often-searched “feature” among Amazon reviews.) Obviously, that’s not what was intended by the design, and we can’t say we recommend it.

Instead, we looked at shower heads that would still perform well with only mediocre supply pressure. We can’t say precisely what our testing pressure was for each head because, like many, we suffered from pressure fluctuations. Both bathrooms we tested in were within the “normal” 40-70 range most of the time.

We tried some force-measuring jigs and other methods of deriving a definitive set of measurements for shower performance, but at the end of our testing we decided that the most important qualities came from the way the water is shaped and spread, and those qualities are difficult to assign a number to.

We are well aware that many people will pick a gallon-guzzler over a modern water-saving design, but if you’re buying locally in an area that requires a 2.0 GPM flow rate then it won’t help you much if we’re favoring high-flow shower heads on our chart. We included shower heads from both groups in our testing to get a sense of what’s available, but our picks are either WaterSense compliant or, in the case of the Moen Velocity, at least available in a compliant model.

How we tested

test results chart

We used each of these shower heads in an alternating cycle for two months across two test bathrooms. Testers gave us feedback on how much they liked the spray pattern and the construction of each shower head. We also looked at ease of use, including installation and cleaning.

Spray and coverage

This is our rating of what the shower head does and how well it does it, but there are a number of different factors involved.

Coverage isn’t the strictest requirement in rinsing performance, but most people will prefer a full-coverage spray to a narrow-coverage stream. All of the adjustable-pattern heads feature at least one wide-coverage pattern.

Sometimes this is accomplished with a cone-shaped pattern, other times the head itself is made extra-wide to get more coverage. Generally, a cone-shaped spray will use water more efficiently, while the wide head designs will need to divide the available water pressure among more nozzles (and thus seem weak when the designer has to restrict the flow to meet efficiency standards). If you can mount your shower head up high, though, the wide-coverage heads can provide a pleasant “rainfall” effect that some people prefer.


The factors that distinguish the good design from bad are often difficult to reduce to numbers, but one way to think about good design is to ask “how much do I have to think about this object in order to use it?”

Some examples of good design that we saw include: a magnetic dock that basically attaches itself, a lever that intuitively and smoothly adjust pressure and a simple slotted plastic faceplate that creates a great spray pattern with far fewer parts than any of the other shower heads.

Easy cleaning is another attribute of good design. Silicone nozzles are a wonderful advancement that help prevent scale buildup; however you may find that the simple silicone-nozzle designs (like the AKADY and WantBa fixtures) force you to use a bristle or other small scrubber to get between all of those tiny nozzles.

The good designs, like the Moen heads, at least sink the nozzles behind the chrome faceplate so you can easily wipe it off when you’re cleaning. The flat face of the Speakman Reaction really is marvellously simple to clean, no nozzles to maneuver around, just wipe with a towel or sponge.


Materials, well-fitting parts and refined finishes are all attributes we considered when ranking these shower heads. A plastic shower head may do the job, but nobody disputes that a metal body looks better and inspires confidence about longevity.

Mirror-plated fixtures shouldn’t be cleaned with abrasives the way brushed stainless can be, so we didn’t deliberately try to scratch any of these finishes. We did try to assess how long we think the plating will stand up to regular cleaning, though.

Easy installation/removal

installation with a wrench

There’s typically only one threaded joint involved in a shower-head installation, but not every threaded fitting is made equal. Some heads leaked, even with the normal amount of thread-sealing tape.

We prefer fixtures that are designed to be installed or removed with a wrench: two (or more) flat sides on the coupler allow you to get a wrench on securely, especially important if you have to take a fixture off a few years after someone’s made it too tight.

If you don’t have a wrench handy when you’re installing a shower head then you might complain about user-hostile design, but if there’s no way to get a wrench on, you might have no way to tighten or loosen the shower head without tearing into the coupler with pliers or a scary pipe wrench.

The best handheld shower head: Moen – Attract

the Moen - Magnetix Attract handheld shower head

This is a great showerhead on all counts. The Moen – Magnetix Attract handheld shower head has a good spray pattern, is easy to use and comes at a great price.

With good coverage and enough variety in the adjustable patterns to give the essentials (without getting into anything like pulsating jets) the Magnetix Attract made the most of its water-conserving 2.0 GPM flow rate. The rotary selector works reliably even with wet hands and better than the other shower heads in this category.

Aside from being a great shower head, the magnetic dock really made this handheld a pleasure to use. The magnet holds everything in place with just the right amount of force; engagement is satisfying and positive but without enough impact that you’re worried about something breaking. Removing the head is easy, but it won’t fall off accidentally.


Moen - Magnetix Attract

A magnetic dock makes the flexibility of a great handheld even better.

The magnet may seem like a gimmick at first, but if you’re kneeling next to your tub bathing a child you might be able to detach and re-attach the hand sprayer from the magnetic dock without standing up—something that’s just not possible with the cradle-style retaining clips used by most handheld sprayers.

We looked at a number of other magnetic-docking shower heads, and the Moen was the most economical while also being the easiest to use.

Installation was easy, with rubber gaskets provided by the manufacturer that made all the joints leak-free when tightened by hand. (Even without thread tape!) As mentioned above, we prefer using a wrench for installation, but the Moen system worked well.

Key takeaways

  • Moen’s Magnetix Attract shower head is everything you need in an affordable shower head: good spray patterns, easy to install and WaterSense-compliant.
  • The magnetic dock feature is remarkable. Once you try it, it’s hard to go back to cradle-style hangers.
  • Even if you don’t think you need a handheld shower sprayer, at less than $50 this is probably your best buy.

The best fixed shower head: Moen – Velocity

Moen - Velocity fixed shower head

The Moen – Velocity Rainshower is a premium bathroom fixture that happened to sneak into our testing lineup. Consumer Reports picked this fixture as their favorite, and we agree that it’s a great piece of hardware.

Often there isn’t much difference between a designer shower head and one you might find for cheap a home improvement store. In this case, we felt that the design quality really merits some consideration.

Luxury Pick

Moen - Velocity Rainshower

Solid. Luxurious. Elegant. The shower head of your dreams.

Many people have owned adjustable-pattern shower heads and never used the optional spray patterns, and they probably couldn’t tell you if it was easy or difficult to change. Today, with increasing demand for water conservation, adjustable spray patterns are becoming a more important feature, and that also means you could be using the adjustment lever every single time you shower.

The Velocity shower head gives great coverage with the spray set to wide-open: compared to the other “rainfall” style heads, this one actually felt like it was designed to maximize the area it’s covering and give you a gentle, steady flow. When you crank it down with the lever, the water concentrates into a narrow stream that rinses very effectively.

And that’s what set this head apart—not the stream, but the lever. The adjustment lever system Moen uses on the Velocity is so much smoother and easier to use than the other products in our tests, it’s hard to overstate the difference.

We spent some time in a high-end bathroom fixture showroom (Ferguson in Irvine, CA) to see what was available at the top end. Moen has really brought a top-quality look and feel to a (relatively) affordable price bracket. Yes, it costs almost four times more than our top pick; this isn’t for everyone. But, you might not even find comparable quality in an adjustment system until you’re spending four or five hundred dollars.

Everything else about this shower head is great, too. Installation is easy and leak-free: this coupler is designed for installation with a wrench, which is our preference. The nozzles are easy to clean, and the metal body looks and feels great. (It’s also available in a square-corner shape as well as four different colors and finishes.)

Speaking of installation: you can install the Velocity into nearly any shower, but the styling and gentle-rainfall spray pattern are even better when mounted overhead. If you don’t have a custom overhead shower mount, you can install a solid or adjustable arm that will maximize your rainfall bliss.

Key takeaways

  • The Velocity Rainshower is elegance and refinement epitomized. It’s a bit pricey compared to our other picks, but with an entirely different class of build and design quality.
  • If you want to endure the extra work of adding a height-adjustable arm to get your shower head directly above you instead of at an angle, this is the fixture to get.
  • This is the kind of shower head you don’t have to ask questions about or second-guess: everything works smoothly and perfectly.

Best on a budget: Speakman – Reaction

Speakman - Reaction installed in a bathroom

Speakman is a line better known among contractors and installers than among the big-box-store DIYers, but their products have a good reputation for reliability and performance within a very reasonable pricetag: the Reaction shower head is a great example.

This is the only single-pattern shower head we tested that complies with the strict two-gallon-per-minute WaterSense standard, and it was better than all the rest. The flow gives a good compromise between efficiency, comfort and effective rinsing. If you’re looking for a simple shower fixture that will cut back on your water use, this is a great choice on a budget.

Budget Pick

Speakman - Reaction

If you want a simple shower head, this is it. Only one spray pattern, but it's probably the best we've used.

Installation and cleaning were simple tasks without problems, and the nozzle design looks relatively immune to scale buildup.

The build of this fixture relies on plastic parts (as do most of the shower heads in the under-$100 price range). Instead of hiding the plastic behind a cheap fake-metallic plating, Speakman features the material proudly with a disc of transparent colored plastic. (Available in three colors.)

[Note: We bought this shower head for $19.49, and at time of publication it’s listing at most online retailers for $25.99. If you can’t find it at that price or lower, its value starts to slip relative to some of the other heads we tested. We like this shower head for what it is, but if you want to spend more than $30, an adjustable-pattern head might make more sense.]

Key takeaways

  • Speakman’s Reaction fixed shower head delivers the essentials: one pattern that does it all, without wasting water, every time.
  • A unique design that uses slotted plastic instead of nozzles, available in three tasteful colors.
  • If you can get it for less than $25, this is a real bargain.

Other finalists we tested

group photo of runner up shower heads

AKDY – AZ-6021

The AKDY – AZ-6021 offers an avant-garde style that might look great in your shower, but otherwise it was fairly unremarkable. If your water pressure is good, it will allow plenty of water to flow through, but not with any pressurization or rinse-assisting pattern.

With the optional extension arm this eight inch square head would give you a basic “rainfall” experience, but in our testing that’s actually not as amazing or luxurious as it sounds. The price is good, though.

WantBa – Rainfall shower head

Like the AKDY head, but round. Wantba’s Rainfall Shower Head is a shower fixture you’d probably want if you’re going for a specific look on a budget, rather than performance requirements. At 2.5 GPM it’s not exactly drenching you with water, but with normal or high supply pressure it’s sufficient flow.

American Standard – Easy Clean Shower Head

The best thing about the single-function American Standard Easy Clean Shower Head is definitely the price. If you don’t need any special features or have any aesthetic concerns, this is a solidly-built shower head that will keep doing its job for a very long time. Undoubtedly, this is a product aimed at apartment complex owners and institutional maintenance departments that want something simple, reliable and without any fancy features to troubleshoot.

For about twelve dollars more, though, the Speakman Reaction shower head is superior in every way.

Waterpik – Aquascape AST-233E

The Waterpik Aquascape is a fixed shower head with adjustable flow that’s aimed at DIYers more than professional installers, and the design definitely makes a statement.

Waterpik optimizes the wide-head experience by lengthening the circle into a vertical oval, since most people will be installing this head on a 45° angle instead of directly overhead with a custom installation or extension arm. This means that the spray is actually aimed at the body of the shower user, instead of spraying in an arbitrary circle or square pattern like the other “rainfall” heads.

If you move a slide-through selector in the neck you can switch the spray from maximum coverage to maximum pressure for more effective rinsing. The selector seems durable and reliable, but it’s not as nice to use as some of the other selector mechanisms we tested. In a guest shower there’s little chance anyone would even realize it’s there. That said, if you want a water-saving shower head, but need extra rinsing power for long or thick hair, the feature works.

We were happy with the Aquascape, but for the money it’s not doing anything more than it needs to. If the flow-selector switch were a little more intuitive, this probably would have been a recommended fixture. As it is, we’d rather put the Magnetix in every shower.

Delta – 75152 shower head with H2Okinetic

Delta’s 75152 is called a “single-function” shower head, but it lets you adjust (restrict) the flow from a 2.5-GPM sprinkle to a focused 1.8-GPM blast. Adjustment is via a rotating ‘paddle’ adjuster on the side of the head.

The adjustment is handy if you need some extra force for rinsing, but unlike the WaterSense-compliant shower heads this one is using an extra half-gallon of water every minute when it’s on full-coverage mode, and still not really providing a really satisfying flow.

Speakman – S-2005-HB-#2 Hotel Anystream

Speakman makes good shower heads, and the Hotel Anystream has a lot going for it: a nice look that will work in any bathroom, good build quality and features that make sense. Like the other water-conserving fixed shower heads, this one offers adjustment between wider coverage and a more concentrated stream.

The Hotel Anystream isn’t a bad shower head, but it’s not our first pick for anything in particular.

Waterpik – PowerSpray+ FlexNeck

This was, without a doubt, the most unusual shower head we tested.

Halfway between a fixed head and a handheld sprayer, the Powerspray + FlexNeck allows for fairly easy repositioning to direct water where you need it. This seems like an ideal feature for certain people, like those sharing a shower who are of dramatically different height. The flexible neck is definitely less fiddly than the wingnuts on double-elbow adjustable extension arms typically used to offer the same function.

Most Adjustable

Waterpik - PowerSpray+ FlexNeck

The flexible gooseneck-style arm on this head makes changing height a cinch.

If you’re currently using an adjustable extension arm, but you hate having to loosen and tighten the joints on that arm, the FlexNeck might be worth checking out as a replacement. On the whole, though, it’s just not as good a shower head as most of the others we tested.

The “Powerspray” pattern wasn’t as nice as anything from our recommended fixtures, and adjusting the pattern you can feel how lightweight and flimsy the head has to be to allow the gooseneck to support it.

Niagara – Conservation

If you need to have a handheld shower head with reasonable build quality for the lowest possible price, Niagara delivers the essentials with the Conservation Handheld.

While nothing about this shower head failed or broke when we were using it, it’s definitely on the flimsy side of the build quality spectrum. Plastic body, plastic hose, plastic retaining clip. The threads on the mount-side of this fixture are the right size to screw onto our shower arm, but we needed some generous over-winding with Teflon tape to stop the joint from leaking. The knurled grip on the fitting is tricky to get tight, too, unless you commit to biting into it with channel-lock pliers.

The spray pattern provided by this head is sufficient to get clean, but it has relatively narrow coverage, and a disappointing lack of flow. Like most water-conserving heads, you can switch to a high-pressure stream for better rinsing, but this head shoots six needle-like streams that don’t really blast away shampoo lather the way other shower heads can.

Ana Bath – SS5450 Handheld Shower

Ana Bath has a good shower fixture in the SS5450 Handheld. We were impressed by the attention to detail in the packaging, with plugs and caps for each fitting to protect threads and plating during shipping. There was also detailed accounting of all the gaskets and where they need to be installed.

The Ana Bath fixture provides a good spray pattern and relatively easy-to-use control of all functions. The handheld spray head feels well-built, and the nozzles are easy to clean.

We didn’t pick this shower fixture for two reasons. First, we found the fixed wall-mount head entirely redundant. If you need both heads to go at once (if you’re doubling up your showers and don’t want to share your water, maybe,) you might prefer this design.

Second, the Magnetix docking system on our top pick is just so much better. Once you go magnetic it’s hard to go back (especially since the Ana Bath fixture costs 25% more, and we didn’t find an Ana Bath model that conforms to the WaterSense standard.)

Hydroluxe – Full-Chrome 24 Function Ultra-Luxury

Hydroluxe’s 24-function Ultra-Luxury Handheld achieves a good balance of features, build quality and price. Like the Ana Bath model, we found that this 2.5 GPM fixture provided good flow patterns that make for a refreshing shower.

While this shower head represents a reasonable compromise of features and price, it can’t really compete with the build quality and ease of use of our top pick, Moen’s Magnetix Attract.

The bottom line

The best shower head we tested is Moen’s Magnetix Attract Six-Function Handheld Shower Head. With a great water-saving spray pattern, this shower head can easily handle most users’ daily needs, and a high-pressure spray pattern fills in for more forceful rinsing requirements.

Not everyone will be considering a handheld shower, but for the price it’s better than all the other shower heads we tested. The removeable head is a game-changer if you ever bathe a child or pet. The magnetic dock might seem like a luxury perk, but it really does make using the shower much easier.

For those whose bathroom decor clashes with hoses and magnetic docks, the Velocity shower head (also from Moen) is a classy upgrade in looks as well as build quality. Just turning the adjustment lever tells you all you need to know. This shower head is masterfully designed and a pleasure to use. With adjustment between a full-coverage sprinkle and a high-pressure blast, we didn’t feel like the Velocity shower head was sacrificing shower performance for water conservation.

And for those who don’t want to spend a lot of money or worry about extraneous features, we really have to give full marks to the Speakman Reaction fixed shower head. If you only have one pattern to work with, it needs to be a good one, and we think Speakman has come up with a near-perfect balance of coverage, force and water conservation.

Top Pick: Moen - Magnetix

At the end of the day, we think everyone should try a handheld shower head, and this one can't be beat.

The post The Best Shower Head appeared first on Your Best Digs.

]]> 0 lineup of all tested products lineup of detached shower heads 2 fixed vs handheld sprayer test results chart installation with a wrench the Moen - Magnetix Attract handheld shower head Moen - Velocity fixed shower head Speakman - Reaction installed in a bathroom group photo of runner up shower heads
The Best Spiralizer Sat, 03 Feb 2018 01:42:25 +0000 After spiralizing 30+ pounds of zucchini, butternut squash, carrots, sweet potato and Bosc pear to test countertop and handheld spiralizers, we found the OXO to be the best spiralizer.

The post The Best Spiralizer appeared first on Your Best Digs.


We went through over 30 pounds of zucchini, butternut squash, carrots, sweet potato and Bosc pear to test countertop and handheld spiralizers, and after creating mountains of vegetable and fruit noodles, we found that the OXO Good Grips – 3-Blade Tabletop Spiralizer outperformed other top-rated countertop vegetable spiralizers.

Our runner up is the Brieftons – BR-5B-02 5-Blade Spiralizer, which consistently churned out a variety of vegetable pasta-like noodles. However, it took a bit more effort to process the sturdy vegetables, and it lacks storage for all five of its razor-sharp blades.

We also tested handheld spiralizers, and another OXO Good Grips product, the OXO Good Grips – 3-Blade Hand-Held Spiralizer, stood out as the best, thanks to its heavy-duty blades and compact design.

Top Pick: OXO Good Grips – Tabletop Spiralizer

The most convenient, compact and easiest to use, the OXO Tabletop Spiralizer’s sharp and durable blades effortlessly cut pasta-like noodles from the sturdiest vegetables.

Table of contents

How we selected products to test

The spiralizer hit public consciousness with a bang in 2014, and now numerous blogs, websites and videos are devoted to how to use a spiralizer and spiralizer recipes for more healthful living. Many of these advocate a particular spiralizer as “the best,” and we used these recommendations as a starting point for finding the spiralizers we would test.

We gleaned from our research that initially people were using handheld spiralizers for “zoodles” (zucchini noodles), since zucchini is the easiest vegetable to spiralize into pasta shapes. When the handheld model graduated to the countertop version of the spiralizer, consumers began experimenting with a wide range of vegetables and fruits.

There are dozens of spiralizers listed on Amazon, so we winnowed our selection down to the spiralizers that received both the most and the highest reviews. We then matched these selections with spiralizers that were frequently recommended on culinary and other kitchen equipment review websites.

The seven best spiralizers

lineup 1

ProductPriceTypeEase of UseStability
1. OXO Good Grips - Tabletop Spiralizer$$$Countertop5/5Strong
2. Brieftons - 5-Blade Spiralizer$$$Countertop4/5Strong
3. OXO Good Grips - Hand-Held Spiralizer$$Handheld5/5N/A
4. Kinzi - Tri-Blade Vegetable and Fruit Spiralizer$$Countertop3/5Slightly unstable
5. Paderno World Cuisine - 6-Blade Spiralizer$$$Countertop2/5Slightly unstable
6. Spiralizer - 5-Blade Vegetable Slicer$$Countertop3/5Unstable
7. Veggetti - Spiral Vegetable Slicer$Handheld1/5N/A

lineup 2

Why buy a spiralizer?

It’s no secret that physicians and the World Health Organization advocate that healthier diets are primarily plant-based.

Registered dietician nutritionist Michelle Ricker explained to us that body and brain health are boosted by a varied plant-based diet. Adding a variety of vegetables and fruits to our diets provides the diverse nutrients we need for fighting off disease.

Certified integrative wellness coach Kaytee Lynn and her fiancé are natural bodybuilders (meaning no drugs or steroids), and they believe that the purest form of nutrition comes from eating food that’s close to the earth. They frequently use a spiralizer, because it gives them so many options for adding a variety of vegetables to their diet.

There are two types of spiralizers: handheld and countertop. For the handheld, you insert the vegetable into the spiralizer’s opening—either hourglass-shaped or cylindrical—and twist it in a clockwise direction. The vegetable is pushed through a serrated blade and, depending on the blade you choose, emerges as long, thin strands of vegetable noodles or ribbons.

The countertop spiralizer is about the size of an apple corer and is secured to your work surface with suction cups. One end of the vegetable is inserted into a corer blade, and the opposite end is inserted in a pronged disc that’s attached to a crank handle. As you turn the handle, you simultaneously push the vegetable through a serrated blade, and like the handheld, vegetable noodles are churned out from the opposite end.

Spiralizers are ideal for people following a healthier dietary regimen for weight loss or because of dietary restrictions, such as gluten intolerance. It’s certainly a perfect kitchen tool for vegetarians and vegans, but it’s also great if you simply want to add more vegetables to your meals or entice your kids to eat vegetables in fun pasta shapes.

Important features to consider

Handheld vs. countertop

handheld vs. countertop spiralizer

The handheld spiralizer is a great gadget if you have limited kitchen storage. Its compact design makes it easy to fit into a drawer. The handheld works well for soft vegetables, but you need a lot of hand and wrist strength to twist sturdier vegetables through.

We tested two of Amazon’s best-rated handheld spiralizers: Veggetti and OXO Good Grips. The Veggetti is one of the “as seen on TV” products and is very inexpensive. The OXO Hand-Held is nearly triple the price, and although it’s well made, like the Veggetti, it took elbow grease to work.

The countertop spiralizers are much easier to use, but because of their size, they do require cabinet space. We tested five countertop models, and although we had varying results, we did like their features; strong suction cups to hold the spiralizer to the counter, heavy-duty construction and a crank handle made churning the vegetables a breeze.

The countertop spiralizers are not much more expensive than the OXO Hand-Held. In fact, they often cost about the same. So to get the most out of your money, we recommend a countertop model.


blade assortment

All of the spiralizers we tested had stainless-steel blades, but the quality and sharpness of the blades differed. The blades must be razor-sharp for the vegetable to be evenly and effortlessly cut into pasta noodles and shapes. If the blades are less sharp, the vegetable is shredded.

Three blade sizes are considered to be essential for a spiralizer: spaghetti cut, fettuccine cut and ribbon or flat cut. We found that additional blade sizes were unnecessary and redundant, except for cutting vegetables into fancy garnishes. For example, the difference in noodle size between the Brieftons – 5-Blade Spiralizer’s 2 millimeter and 3 millimeter blades or the 5 millimeter and 5.5 millimeter blades was negligible.

Countertop stability

A major factor for a countertop spiralizer is the strength of its suction cups. Softer vegetables, like zucchini, glide through the blade relatively easily and produce long, even strands of veggie noodles. But if you want to make noodles out of a sturdier vegetable, like butternut squash or beets, the spiralizer needs to be held firmly in place by its suction cups, or the unit will slide across the countertop as you’re pushing the vegetable through. This results in a shredded vegetable with few noodles.

The majority of the spiralizers we tested had four suction cups on the bottom of the unit. We tested both wet and dry suction cups on several countertop materials: granite, wood, glass and laminate. Most of the spiralizers held well on granite and glass and were even a bit difficult to remove. There was no difference in suction if the cups were wet or dry.

Only two of the countertop spiralizers held well on the other surfaces: OXO Tabletop Spiralizer and Brieftons 5-Blade Spiralizer. Moistening the suction cups before adhering the spiralizer to wood and laminate proved more successful than applying the suction cups dry.


blade storage

It’s frustrating to put together a kitchen appliance’s pieces before you can use it, so you want a spiralizer that’s convenient, or it winds up abandoned in the back of a cabinet. The countertop spiralizers we tested were approximately the same size, but we preferred the models that were completely assembled and could be compactly collapsed for storage, like the OXO Tabletop Spiralizer and Kinzi – Tri-Blade Vegetable and Fruit Spiralizer.

Easiest to store

OXO Tabletop Spiralizer

Separate blade caddy fits snugly into the OXO 3-Blade’s body for compact storage.

You could easily get nicked by the spiralizer’s blades, so it’s imperative that the spiralizer is designed to properly store them. Most of the spiralizers we tested had internal storage for only two blades with the third blade left exposed. For the five- and six-blade spiralizers, a separate plastic caddy was included for the additional blades, which increases the storage space you’ll need for the spiralizer.

The OXO Tabletop Spiralizer was the exception. Its separate blade caddy fits into the top part of the spiralizer, which makes it easy to store in a compact space.


All of the spiralizers we tested are made of hard white plastic, which easily stains from carrots, sweet potatoes and beets. Brieftons’ helpful videosuggests cleaning the stains with baking soda. The pronged disc that holds the vegetable in place stains the most, but the spiralizer bodies do clean well in the upper rack of a dishwasher.

Across the board, spiralizer blades are a chore to clean. Bits of vegetable get lodged between the slicer blade and the blade holes, and because you could severely cut your fingers on them, the residue can only be reached with a kitchen brush or a toothbrush. We found that soaking the blades first in hot water loosened the veggie bits for easier removal.

Easiest to clean

OXO Tabletop Spiralizer

Ultra-sharp blades prevent vegetable bits from sticking.

Any spiralizer’s long-term performance is dependent upon razor-sharp blades, so they should not be cleaned in a dishwasher, as the detergent and water jets will damage and dull their edges.

The spiralizer we found to be the easiest to clean was the OXO Tabletop Spiralizer. It has the sharpest blades, and less vegetable shreds got stuck in between the blade holes.

How we tested

Zucchini is the vegetable most consumers use for making veggie noodles with both handheld and countertop spiralizers. Most zucchini are straight with soft flesh and glide through the blades, producing noodles that are long, even strands.

Carrots are also very popular, although they do need to be the so-called “horse carrots,” which are much larger and irregular in shape than the carrots you buy in a bag at the supermarket. The diameter of a regular-size carrot (½ inch to 1-½ inches) is too narrow for the corer, which splits the carrot into pieces as it’s pushed through the blade.

Sweet potato and butternut squash are other favorites, but they can be a challenge with both the handheld and countertop spiralizers since they’re such firm and sturdy vegetables.

Not many of the spiralizers advertise their ability to make fruit noodles. However, the Kinzi – Tri-Blade Vegetable and Fruit Spiralizer does, and since the other countertop spiralizers are nearly identical in design, we opted to test each one with firm, but ripe Bosc pears.

We studied the spiralizers’ printed instructions before beginning our tests and we found them laughably vague about which blades to use for a particular noodle shape. We then consulted each spiralizer’s website for more information about assembly and operation. Brieftons and Spiralizer have the most complete online instructions, bolstered by helpful instructional videos.

Before our actual testing could begin, we needed to experiment with a couple pounds of produce to get the hang of how each spiralizer worked. We tried out every vegetable and fruit to see which one produced the best thin noodle (like angel hair pasta), thicker spaghetti or fettuccine noodle, curly fry and flat-ribbon shape.

As we learned, you cannot simply insert a vegetable into the spiralizer and crank the handle. Each piece of vegetable or fruit needs to be prepared, which entails trimming it into a relatively straight shape. (Peeling the vegetable is optional.) Zucchini, carrot and pear just needed their ends cut off, so they could fit securely into the corer and the pronged handle attachment that holds them in place.

Sweet potato and butternut squash needed to be peeled and cut into straight pieces at least 2 inches in diameter. The long neck of the butternut squash proved to be the most successful in making long, even noodles, while its bulbous base was too oddly shaped, even when trimmed, and produced short strands or half-moon shreds.

The best countertop spiralizer

OXO tabletop vegetable spiralizer

The OXO Good Grips – 3-Blade Tabletop Spiralizer is our top pick for the best countertop spiralizer. As with many OXO products, it’s thoughtfully designed, well-constructed and very user-friendly. The OXO Tabletop is almost identical in shape and appearance to the other spiralizers we tested, but it’s substantially sturdier and can process hard vegetables as handily as soft vegetables and fruits.

Best Countertop Spiralizer

OXO Tabletop Spiralizer

Exceptionally designed, sturdy and durable, it’s also the easiest to use and most convenient spiralizer we tested.

The latest model replaces four suction-cup feet with a single rubber disc, 4 inches in diameter, that is lowered and raised by a side lever. When engaged, the disc pulls up into a concave shape and creates a powerful suction that securely locks the unit in place on a countertop. When the side lever is flipped vertically, the suction cup flattens, and the unit releases. OXO’s suction held firm on granite, glass, wood and laminate and was by far the strongest of all the spiralizers we tested.

The OXO’s three blades are color-coded for each shape: green for spaghetti cut, orange for fettucine cut and red for ribbon cut. The five- and six-blade spiralizers are simply numbered by size in millimeters, which we found to be confusing, and when we wanted to switch blades, it was time-consuming trying to figure out which blade to use. The OXO blades have a separate storage box, which fits compactly into the unit, so no blades are ever exposed.

As with all of the spiralizers, straight or straight-cut vegetables gave us the most consistent noodle shapes. The OXO’s heavy-duty hand crank effortlessly pushes the vegetables through the blades in seconds and produced the longest noodles that most resembled pasta.

For us, the hallmark of a great kitchen appliance is if we want to use it again and again, rather than once or twice and then sell it at a garage sale. The OXO Tabletop is a real culinary workhorse, easy and fun to operate and reasonably priced for such a high-quality product.

Key takeaways

  • The OXO Tabletop Spiralizer lets you create healthy vegetable noodles in three different pasta shapes effortlessly in minutes.
  • Its three, ultra-sharp stainless-steel blades are color-coded so they’re easy to find and can be safely stored in the spiralizer’s included storage box.
  • A powerful suction pad holds the spiralizer securely to the countertop and doesn’t move when you’re spiralizing hard vegetables.
  • The OXO is compact and its sturdy crank handle can be collapsed so the unit takes up less space in a cabinet.

The runner up

Brieftons countertop model

The Brieftons – BR-5B-02 5-Blade Spiralizer is a well-made, efficient and user-friendly spiralizer with many of the same features as the OXO Tabletop.

It’s equipped with five stainless-steel blades in slightly varying sizes: 2 millimeter for angel hair vegetable pasta, 3 millimeter for spaghetti, 5 millimeter for fettuccine, 5.5 millimeter for curly fries and a flat blade for ribbons.

The noodle shapes from these blades aren’t really different enough to warrant five blades, and we found that the 3 millimeter, 5 millimeter and flat blades did the job. However, you might want to have the two extra blades on hand in case a blade wears out over time.

Runner up

Brieftons – 5-Blade Spiralizer

Consistently produces five different vegetable pasta shapes, the Brieftons is also fun to use and less expensive than our top pick.

The Brieftons’ body and suction disc are almost identical to the OXO Tabletop’s. It differs, however, in how the blades are stored. The unit stores two blades in the lower body and two blades in a small separate plastic case. The fifth blade is positioned upright in the body, and this exposed blade could be dangerous when the spiralizer is stored away or removed from a cabinet.

This is a minor quibble with the Brieftons, because it produced consistent noodle shapes in all sizes with little breakage or waste. It’s easy and fun to use, and at 10 dollars cheaper than the OXO Tabletop, we can recommend the Brieftons as an alternative to our top pick.

Key takeaways

  • Solidly constructed of molded plastic and user-friendly, the Brieftons – 5-Blade Spiralizer produced consistently uniform vegetable noodles with little effort.
  • Its five stainless-steel blades give you the ability to cut many types of vegetables and fruits into several different sizes of noodles, shreds and garnishes.
  • A super strong suction pad holds the unit in place while you spiralize the toughest vegetables.
  • Less expensive than our top pick, the Brieftons is an excellent budget alternative.

The best handheld spiralizer

If you lack storage space, or if you’re just cooking a small amount of vegetables, then you might want a handheld spiralizer instead of a countertop model. We tested the OXO Good Grips – 3-Blade Hand-Held Spiralizer and the Veggetti – Spiral Vegetable Slicer, and without question, the OXO Hand-Held is a far superior product.

The OXO Hand-Held is a cleverly designed, compact cylinder, 3 inches in diameter, made of heavy-duty plastic, with three color-coded blades that fit snugly on top of each other. The pronged disc that is used to push vegetables through the blades serves as the spiralizer’s cap when you’re storing it away in a kitchen drawer.

Similar to the OXO Tabletop Spiralizer, the handheld has blades for thin noodles (green blade), thick noodles (orange blade) and ribbon cut (green blade). The vegetable sits on top of the blade’s corer, and you turn the vegetable clockwise while pressing down on the pronged cap. The length of the vegetable noodles depends on how you cut the vegetable.

Top Handheld Spiralizer

OXO Hand-Held Spiralizer

Compact design with interlocking blades, this handheld spiralizer is a great choice if you have limited storage space.

The zucchini produced the longest noodles with little effort. The other vegetables were more difficult to process. The OXO Hand-Held gave us consistently well-shaped noodles, but it took a lot of elbow grease and wrist twisting to push the sturdier vegetables through.

The OXO Hand-Held also comes in a single-blade model for about 10 dollars fewer, but you’ll only be able to cut one size of vegetable noodles. For a little more money, we prefer the options of the three-blade model.

Key takeaways

  • Compact and sturdy, the OXO Hand-Held produces consistently shaped vegetable noodles.
  • Three color-coded stainless-steel blades give you the options of making spaghetti, fettuccine and ribbon vegetable noodles.
  • The blades interlock and fit together into the main compartment for easy and safe storage in a kitchen drawer.
  • The OXO Hand-Held is ideal for single people, couples and small families who want to make smaller portions.

Other spiralizers we tested

the runner up models

Kinzi – Tri-Blade Vegetable and Fruit Spiralizer

Kinzi manufactures a line of lifestyle products, such as exercise accessories, water bottles and bathroom scales. The Tri-Blade Vegetable and Fruit Spiralizer is its only kitchen product. It’s composed of lightweight plastic, and as some reviewers point out, resembles a child’s toy.

It has three stainless-steel blades for thin, thick and ribbon noodles, two of which are stored inside the spiralizer’s chassis. The third is exposed but locked in place in the upper part of the body. We found this to be a common flaw in other spiralizers. You could easily cut yourself on the exposed blade when removing it from storage.

Four half-dollar-sized suction cups hold the Kinzi securely in place, and although the unit didn’t move while we were spiralizing, the blades rocked up and down as we were feeding through the butternut squash and carrot.

The Kinzi cut the sweet potato and pear into even, long strands. The zucchini came out as long strands and short half-moon-shaped pieces. However, all of the blades failed in cutting the carrot and butternut squash, which emerged coarsely shredded or ground up into bits.

Paderno World Cuisine – 6-Blade Spiralizer

The Paderno is one of the most popular countertop spiralizers. However, we had several issues with its design, performance and inexact instruction manual. On the plus side, a cleaning brush with large and small bristles and a sturdy, plastic caddy for storing four blades are included. Two of the six blades fit tightly into the unit’s body.

We had a problem with the blades: none of them are marked with sizes. We needed to consult the manual to figure out which blade would cut the vegetables into which pasta shape. Other than the blade for angel hair vegetable pasta, the other five blades are only depicted by size in millimeters and meager descriptions, such as “chipper blade,” “wavy blade” and “shredder blade.” Thus, before we could even begin testing, we tried out each blade to see how it cut the vegetable and then labeled it.

With all of this extra preliminary effort, it was disappointing that cutting results weren’t better. The blade for large noodles was the only one that produced long, even strands. The blades for thinner cuts just turned out short, C-shaped noodles. The wavy blade gave us crinkle-cut carrot chips, and the flat blade produced strips of butternut squash resembling cheddar cheese.

The Paderno runs a few dollars more than the OXO Tabletop Spiralizer, but even with the extra gewgaws, we don’t feel its performance warrants the expense.

Spiralizer – 5-Blade Vegetable Slicer

Spiralizer’s 5-Blade Vegetable Slicer is very similar to the Kinzi and Paderno and has similar issues. Two blades are stored inside the unit’s chassis, and the third exposed blade is locked in on top. However, there is no internal storage or storage caddy for the two additional blades other than a flimsy plastic shell, so you would need to store the two blades in a separate container.

Its four suction feet were not effective in securing the spiralizer to the countertop, even when we were spiralizing zucchini, the most pliable vegetable that offered the least resistance in our other tests. Although we had to continually reposition the spiralizer with the zucchini, it was the only vegetable with which we achieved a true noodle shape.

We followed Spiralizer’s instructions and trimmed the butternut squash and sweet potato into 2-inch diameters, but when spiralized, each came out as half-moon pieces or short ribbons. We had the most success with the pear, which cleanly went through the blades and produced long, thin spirals.

The Spiralizer – 5 Blade is about the same price as our top pick, the OXO – Tabletop Spiralizer, and our runner up, the Brieftons – 5-Blade Spiralizer, but it didn’t perform nearly as well.

Veggetti – Spiral Vegetable Slicer

The Veggetti is the cheapest of all spiralizers on the market, and it’s the one that often introduces people to spiralizing. It works somewhat like a pencil sharpener. You insert the trimmed vegetable into one end of the hourglass-shaped unit and twist. The vegetable passes through the blade and comes out in strands.

There are two blades with the Veggetti for thick or thin strands. Zucchini was the easiest and produced even, but not long, spaghetti noodles. Carrot took more effort to twist, but we also got decent strands.

We had the most trouble with the sweet potato and butternut squash, which were very difficult to twist and would be impossible for someone who has strength issues in their hands and wrists. Neither produced noodles, but came out shredded as if they were put through a cheese grater. The pear was turned into mush.

If you have limited storage and want a handheld spiralizer, we recommend avoiding the mass-marketed Veggetti and going for the OXO Hand-Held instead.

The bottom line

As the dietician nutritionists we interviewed told us, your body and mind benefit from incorporating a wide variety of vegetables into your diet. Eating the recommended five-to-nine daily servings of vegetables and fruits can be a challenge, even for the most diet-conscious.

A spiralizer can help you add the necessary nutrients for your physical and mental well-being in an easy and fun way. We want our kitchen gadgets to be both effective and convenient, which is why we recommend the  OXO Good Grips – Tabletop Spiralizer as the best countertop spiralizer. Its thoughtful design and features, such as color-coded blades and compact storage, make this a kitchen tool you’ll want to use everyday.

If you don’t have much storage space in your kitchen, then you’ll want a handheld model, and we recommend the OXO Good Grips – Hand-Held Spiralizer. It requires a little more effort than the countertop model, but it consistently produced long and even strands of vegetable noodles in minutes.

Top Pick: OXO Tabletop Spiralizer

Easy and convenient to use, durable and sturdy with superior blades, The OXO Tabletop is also well-priced for such a quality product.

The post The Best Spiralizer appeared first on Your Best Digs.

]]> 0 The Best Spiralizer of %%currentyear%% - %%sitename%% We went through over 30 pounds of zucchini, butternut squash, carrots, sweet potato and Bosc pear to test countertop and handheld spiralizers, and after creating mountains of vegetable and fruit noodles, we found the best spiralizer that outperformed the rest when it came to design and performance. cooking lineup 1 lineup 2 handheld vs. countertop spiralizer blade assortment blade storage OXO tabletop vegetable spiralizer Brieftons countertop model the runner up models
The Best Book Light Sat, 03 Feb 2018 00:48:27 +0000 After weeks spent researching and reading before bed, we’ve determined that the LuminoLite – Rechargeable LED is the best book light.

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After weeks spent researching and reading before bed, we’ve determined that the LuminoLite – Rechargeable LED is the best book light. Its easy-on-the-eyes yellow glow, multiple light settings, flexible neck and high-quality construction earned it high scores from our voracious readers-turned-testers.

Best book light: LuminoLite

The LuminoLite combines flexibility and function with a bendable neck and multiple light settings. Its yellow-toned light is easy on the eyes, and two brightness settings make it easy to read anywhere.

Everyone knows that reading is good for you, but few of us make the time to do it. Luckily, all it takes to get into a good habit is inspiration, and a new book light might do the trick.

If you’re already in the good habit of reading, you know how important a well-functioning book light can be. It saves your eyes and maybe even your relationship, if you have a partner who’s trying to sleep while you get your literary fix.

Not to mention, book lights are good for more than just reading novels and magazines. In our research, we found that consumers use book lights for studying, sewing, reading music and even going for walks at night.

Table of contents

Important features to consider

A book light is a pretty simple purchase, but there are still some factors to keep in mind while selecting one.

Light and brightness: When it comes to book lights, it’s no surprise that brightness is the number one factor you should consider. You want a light that’s bright enough to prevent eye strain, but not so bright that it’s painful to read. If you’re purchasing a book light to use before bed, choose one with warm-colored bulbs. Cool-colored bulbs may be too stimulating.

You may also want to look for a light with multiple brightness settings, so you can choose the one that’s most conducive to your task or the time of day. Most of the book lights on the market today use LED bulbs, which are the most energy-efficient option.

Storage, portability and aesthetics: Some book lights are designed for travel, so they’re extra light and durable. Others are more sturdy and meant to hold firmly in place while you work.

Style and features: There are almost as many styles of book lights as there are genres of books. Some have a flexible neck (or even two) while others wrap around your neck. Some are designed to clip onto an e-reader while others are well-suited for a flimsy paperback.

Some lights also come with helpful features, like a shut-off timer that prevents you from sleeping with the light on.

Power source: While most of our book light contenders came with rechargeable batteries, one uses removable AAA batteries. Consider what’s most suitable for your situation. Equally important is how long each light holds a charge.

How we selected products to test

First, we combed through hundreds of book light reviews on Amazon to find the lights users liked best. Then we took to sites like Book Riot and Hooked to Books to see what the literary-minded section of the internet recommends. We scoured the forums on Goodreads to see what voracious readers are looking for in a book light. We also consulted with one of our own testers, who reads an average of four books per month. Then we used all of this information to select our top contenders.

We avoided book lights that exceeded $25. We found that any models above this price point were similar or identical in design to their lower-priced counterparts. We also chose to only test a couple of the most highly-rated e-book lights, since many electronic reading devices are already illuminated enough on their own.

The five best book lights

ProductPriceNumber of HeadsBrightness LevelsPower Source
1. LuminoLite - Rechargeable LED $$12USB-rechargeable
2. iKross - LED Clip On Light $123 AAA batteries
3. Ecologic Mart - Eye Care Warm Booklight $$28USB-rechargeable
4. Raniaco - Touch Switch Booklight $$13USB-rechargeable
5. Cesunlight $24USB-rechargeable

How we tested

We divided our book lights amongst a group of three insatiable readers. Then, we asked them to use the lights to read every night for at least 30 minutes, for two weeks. After that, we had our readers answer a slew of survey questions about their experience. Some of the questions we asked included:

  • Do your eyes hurt after you use your book light to read?
  • Does the light make turning the pages of your book inconvenient?
  • Do you have to hold your arms at an awkward or tiring angle while using it?
  • Is it lightweight enough to clip onto a paperback book?

We used all of these survey answers to do a qualitative analysis. We also examined each light’s construction, noting any parts or materials that felt especially flimsy or durable. And finally, we tried charging the rechargeable lights (even if they didn’t need it yet), so we could see how well the process worked.

The best book light: LuminoLite

So what is the best book light for reading in bed? After hours of before-bed reading, we’ve determined that the LuminoLite – Rechargeable LED book light is the best book light. It casts a warm, buttery-colored glow that felt easier on our eyes than some of the whiter-toned lights. We also liked that it had two different light settings. The brighter setting was illuminating (but not abrasive) when reading in bed with the lights off. The dimmer setting was perfect for reading on a red-eye flight, where we didn’t want to disturb our sleeping seatmate. And speaking of flights, this light was also easy to travel with. The light weight, flexible neck and durability of this little gadget made it easy to stuff into a coat pocket on layovers.

Best book light


The LuminoLite stood out in our tests for its ease of use and fuss-free charging method. It comes with a micro-usb cord that makes powering up a breeze.

Plus, the LuminoLite’s micro-USB charging cord made it easy to plug into our laptop while waiting at the terminal. The diffused lights on this gadget also meant our whole book was illuminated at one time.

The only thing we didn’t love about the LuminoLite was its clip. While it worked well on hardcover books and laptops, it was ever-so-slightly too heavy and unwieldy to use on most paperbacks. Our tester ended up holding the clip in their hand when reading anything paperback.

The runner up: Ecologic Mart

As a runner-up, we also liked the Ecologic Mart – Eye Care Warm Booklight. This one also has a warmer yellow light. More specifically, it has double the warm yellow light, since it has two heads. Our tester was skeptical about this feature at first, but ended up loving the way that it illuminated both pages at once. Our tester found that the grip worked well for every kind of book, paperbacks included. They also appreciated that this light is lightweight and easy to use in any position.

The runner up

Ecologic Mart

The Ecologic Mart stands out for its dual-headed light, making it easy to see both pages at once. It also comes with a rechargeable battery.

It comes with a rechargeable battery that held strong throughout the testing process, and it was easy to charge when we plugged it in (via USB cable) as well. The Ecologic Mart light was also the most expensive on our list, at just over $20, but we feel confident saying that it’s worth the (relatively small) investment.

The only downside we found to the Ecologic Mart? It has multiple settings, which is great, but you have to click through all of them to get to whichever one you want to use.

The best book light for e-readers: iKross

For those who prefer the digitized version of their daily read, we suggest the iKross – LED clip On Light. Our tester used this on their Kindle and found that it stayed gripped in place no matter how they sat with it. They also liked that it had an adjustable arm, which meant they could move the light’s focus and shadows on the Kindle screen were never an issue. The two levels of luminosity on this light also offered flexibility for reading in a variety of settings.

Best e-reader light


Fans of digital reading will want to pick up the iKross, which stayed firmly gripped on our e-readers and never cast shadows on the screen.

What didn’t we like about the iKross? Though it’s advertised for use on both e-readers and traditional books, our tester found that it didn’t work on the latter because it was too awkward to turn the pages. Plus, unlike the rechargeable book lights, this one required us to keep three AAA batteries on hand.

Other book lights we tested

CeSunlight – Rechargeable Book Light

The CeSunlight was the most unique book light we tested, with a design meant to wrap around your neck rather than clip onto your novel. It’s also a multipurpose tool. Our tester used it as a flashlight, to walk the dog at night and more. Because it has multiple brightness settings (from a direct concentrated spotlight to a wider, diffused light), it can be used in almost any situation.

It also came with a pre-charged lithium battery that lasted throughout our entire testing period. However, we tested its battery charging feature anyway. You simply plug one end of the included cord into the light’s charging port, and the other into the USB port on your computer. We loved being able to do this, rather than keeping regular batteries on hand to power it.

While the CeSunlight is great for sitting up in bed and reading in just the right position, it can present a challenge if you want to relax any other way. Our tester found that laying on their side to read with this light was impossible, because the book light leaned to the side along with them. They also found that they had to hold the book at a certain height so that the light emanating from around their neck could illuminate it properly. Simply put, this light will work for you, but only if you find the right reading position and stay there.

Raniaco – Touch Switch Book Light

The Raniaco is the most sleek and modern of the lights we tested, with an all-white design and buttonless touch-lamp feature. It’s USB-chargeable and has a wide clip that fits onto a desk edge for late-night work. The small details on the Raniaco, like the anti-slip silicone and frosted lampshade, make it feel a step above the rest in terms of quality. All of that being said, our tester was not a fan. In fact, though they liked the actual light, they “loathed it from the neck down.”

Why? They found the touch button unnecessarily difficult to use, when an on/off switch could have performed the same feature. Plus, they found that the bulky clip made it difficult to turn pages. Moreover, it was awkwardly shaped and obscured the pages, making it nearly impossible to clip onto a book.

Long story short, if you’re looking for a modern, attractive clip-on desk lamp, the sub-$20 Raniaco still may be for you. However, if you’re looking for a compact book light for reading in bed, we don’t recommend it.

The bottom line

If you find the time to read regularly, you should be rewarded with the best book light on the market. Luckily, even the best-functioning ones we’ve found don’t surpass the $25 mark. Our number one pick, the LuminoLite, costs far less than that and is simple, convenient to use and easy on your eyes. For e-reader fans, we recommend the iKross, which clips firmly to your e-reader and won’t cast shadows on the screen.

Best book light: LuminoLite

The LuminoLite is a highly portable and durable book light option with multiple light settings. It has two yellow-toned brightness settings that won't hurt your eyes.

The post The Best Book Light appeared first on Your Best Digs.

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The Best Safety Razor Thu, 25 Jan 2018 23:31:17 +0000 We spent two months testing the seven of the leading double edge safety razors on the market in order to make our pick of the Parker - 99R as the best safety razor.

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During nearly two months of researching, testing and even dreaming about double edge safety razors, we asked five different testers to put their faces on the line with each of the seven best products available to discover the Parker – 99R was the best safety razor for the money. Two of the testers were seasoned safety razor shavers, two had some experience with safety razors but were cartridge shavers, and one was an electric shaver with no previous exposure to safety razors.

The Parker – 99R earned high marks for easy maneuvering, blade loading, construction material and all-around shaving comfort. It had no problem getting the job done with testers from all shaving backgrounds, with hardly any nicks or cuts and no issues obtaining a close shave. Weighty but not heavy, the Parker provided a quick and comfortable shave, cleaned up easily and was easy to load.

Top Pick: Parker - 99R

Thanks to its striking chrome-plated brass handle, flawless butterfly open and balanced design, the Parker – 99R is both eye-catching and easy-to-use. Without a blindfold, it’s almost impossible to have a bad shaving experience.

Not far behind the Parker, the Viking – Chieftain will get the job done without pillaging your face and is ideal for shaving on the go. In addition to providing a comfortably snug shave, the Chieftain’s twist-to-open, one-piece design also made for convenient reloading while on the road, making it one of our top selections for value and functionality. For more aggressive shavers, the Edwin Jagger – DE89 provided a clean, close shave and showcases a streamlined design that smacks of tradition and elegance.
Thanks to its striking chrome-plated brass handle, flawless butterfly open and balanced design, the Parker – 99R is both eye-catching and easy-to-use. Without a blindfold, it’s almost impossible to have a bad shaving experience.

Table of contents

How we selected finalists to test

Starting with the safety razors that carried the most praise on Amazon, we sifted through hundreds of subreddit comments along with user reviews from sites like West Coast Shaving and reviews from sites like Sharpologist, pointing us toward the integral features of the best models. While aesthetics were a nice bonus, the essential features of a top-rated razor included easy maneuvering (to find the right shaving angle), minimal nicks/cuts, blade loading and the right amount of aggression.

Looking at sites like Best Reviews, Sharpologist, West Coast Shaving and more, we also hunted for a spread of different safety razors, avoiding several popular razors too similar to other well-reviewed models that made the final cut. Since price and overall value were also consistent themes, we focused on razors under $40 with at least 500 reviews from credible vendors and a minimum rating of 4.3 out of five. We ultimately selected razors that provided different levels of aggressiveness, allowing us to consider the viewpoints of both the experienced safety razor shaver and also the novice considering a switch.

The seven best safety razors

ProductPriceHandle Length (inches)Blade Gap (mm)Blade Aggressiveness (1 is mild)Materials
1. Parker – 99R$$$40.891/5Brass frame, chrome-plated
2. Viking – Chieftain$$$31.041/5Polished chrome
3. Edwin Jagger – DE89$$3.70.653/5Polished chrome
4. Merkur Futur – MK 23C$$40.642/5Polished chrome
5. Feather – Popular$3.50.613/5Synthetic plastic, stainless steel, chrome-plated brass
6. Smoothere – Sampson Series$3.51.124/5Polished chrome
7. Maggard – MR7$$3.850.895/5Stainless steel (handle); zinc alloy, chrome (head)

Why a safety razor?

Beneath the carefully crafted designs and methodology of the best razors, shavers tend to come back to a quintessential question: what’s the fastest and most effective way to shave without bloodshed? While cartridge razors are very popular options for wet shaving – balancing attractive upfront prices with exceptional ease of use – they also have a reputation for using lower-quality steel blades that can make it difficult to get a truly close shave. Straight razors have also had somewhat of a renaissance, allowing users the possibility of a simple and very close shave, but they’re notoriously difficult to get accustomed to for someone who normally uses either a cartridge or electric razor.

Enter the safety razor, which offers the best of both worlds. Safety razors still showcase the features that King C. Gillette envisioned when his first double-edge safety razors launched near the onset of the 20th century. These days, the impressive variety of safety razors gives shavers plenty of options while searching for the perfect shave, tapping into centuries-old tradition but also allowing countless opportunities for customization. It’s this type of diversity that is at the core of safety razors, allowing them to be a potentially great fit no matter your shaving starting point.

Given the cost of replacing cartridges, and the relatively inexpensive blade replacements for safety razors, it can even be significantly more expensive to use cartridge razors instead of traditional safety razors. Cartridges can also cause bacteria to build-up, a key factor in razor burn. Factor in the wide range of razor heads that cater to many different shaving preferences and it’s easy to see how the best safety razors feed into the desire for customization in the modern age.

What is a safety razor?

When French innovator Jean-Jacques Perret first pondered the concept of a safety razor in the 1760s, men were still shaving by candlelight in front of poorly polished metal mirrors, where they would predictably attack their earlobes nearly as well as they did their chin whiskers. Looking to limit the bloodshed, Perret added a simple wood cover to minimize the exposure of the blade, a basic concept that Gillette would enhance a century later when he looked to mass-produce a safer shaving razor.

Instead of just a wood shield over a straight razor, Gillette’s version was an entirely different model of safety razor that expanded on Perret’s initial concept. The new model came with three detachable pieces, a smaller and thinner stainless steel double-blade and a metal bar that limited blade exposure and provided much more control and safety.

Shortly after inventing the modern safety razor, Gillette began mass-producing affordable disposable blades at the beginning of the 20th century. The safety razors of today are all variations of the original design, including both the cartridge-style razors that use multiple blades within a disposable head and the classic double-edge razor that is the focus of this review.

Important features to consider

Everyone has a different idea of what they’re looking for in a razor, but several features tend to generate a bulk of the commentary and have an outsized effect on the overall outlook. Unsurprisingly, price and all-around value are main drivers of opinion, although other features like handle design, blade exposure, loading style, guard design and weight all are essentials in the conversation as well.

Handle length and material

Finding the right handle length is a balancing act that leads to different preferences for every shaver. The 4-inch long handle is standard with some of the most highly respected razors, although the classic early 20th century 3-inch models remain popular as well. Some manufacturers have created adjustable models, yet they have never really hit the mainstream – much like the 2-inch travel razors. There are also plenty of handles in the middle that don’t fall directly into either category.

As for materials, many manufacturers opt for the brass handle with a polished chrome finish, giving it an eye-pleasingly smooth look that is also designed to ward off rusting. Others prefer stainless steel, which is generally advertised as being less likely to chip than its chrome counterparts. Though less prominent than polished handles, matte finishes as well as colorful glossy finishes are not uncommon, specifically with upscale razors being marketed as modern takes on classic razors. While tubular handles are standard, we discovered plenty of creative handle designs, including specially designed cigar and barrel-shaped handles as well as handcrafted handles that combine elements from various razors.

Because the first safety razors users found out the hard way that wet handles can slip, different manufacturers have also tried an assortment of different ways to create the best grip possible. The typical solution was to create knurled handles with ridged patterns built right into the metal (or plastic), giving designers a chance to show some visual flair while also solving a practical problem of wet shaving. Even the top-rated synthetic plastic safety razors tend to have a knurled handle, although the texture can range from fairly rough to nearly smooth, with many different distinguishing patterns to separate from the competition.


The weight of a razor has a variety of ways that it can impact the overall shave. While light razors can still provide a great shave, heavier razors are preferred by many because they let the weight actually do the bulk of the work. The more pressure that a shaver has to exert, the better the chance that more passes will be needed, increasing the likelihood of skin irritation. True to expectations, heavier models like the Parker – 99R and Edwin Jagger – DE89 did very well in overall ease of shaving, outperforming lighter models like the Merkur Futur – MK 23C and Feather – Popular.

The weight is also a determinative factor the razor’s point of balance, which is the typically the easiest way to find the best grip for a shave. Most safety razors are designed to balance on your pointer finger about an inch away from the head; for others, this can be slightly less than an inch. Once you find the balance point, securing the razor with your thumb is generally all you need to obtain a workable grip, which is why it’s particularly useful to find a razor that has a point of balance you prefer. Although it may not seem important to a safety razor rookie, the point of balance influences your shave — whether you notice it or not.

Guard design

Guard designs typically fall into four main categories: straight safety bars, slanted safety bars, adjustable guards and open combs. Easily the most popular is the straight safety bar, which simply provides a straight buffer between your face and the blade. Within the straight safety bar, many manufacturers create a ridge along the bar for aesthetic purposes, a design usually referred to as “scalloped” or “microcomb system.” Designed for thicker beards, slanted safety bars can yield a slightly more aggressive shave, slicing at an angle down on your beard.

Also geared towards the thicker beards, open comb guards have small gaps in the bar – just like a comb – and let you put an additional amount of pressure on the edge of the blade. Lastly, the adjustable guard designs give shavers the ultimate freedom to choose their blade gap, although they tend to be high-end razors and fall outside the scope of this review. A few examples of adjustable heads include the Merkur Futur, Parker Variant Adjustable and Rockwell 6C, among others.

Loading Style

Considering that convenience has been a crucial aspect of shaving since early man was using shark teeth and clamshells, a razor that doesn’t easily load can be a deal-breaker. One of the most popular loading styles is the butterfly open of a one-piece razor, which opens the razor head with a few quick turns of a knob handle (generally at the bottom). Butterfly razors, also commonly called twist-to-open, typically score high in terms of blade-loading convenience, although the drawbacks are an elevated chance of clogs and a harder time with cleaning.

On the other end of the spectrum, three-piece razors are an absolute breeze when it comes to cleaning out those hair holdovers. Even if it takes a few extra seconds to unscrew the handle from the two head pieces, well-made traditionally loading safety razors are still anything, but a problem when it comes to loading, and can even encourage good cleaning habits. At the end of the day, shavers typically have to decide whether they value the pure convenience of the butterfly or the old-school style and cleanliness of the standard three-piece razor.


Although a few different features will give clues about a razor’s aggressiveness, ultimately the perceived level of aggressiveness by the shaver is what is important. This is why quantifying a razor’s aggressiveness level can be very difficult, as the process is as much art as science and each shaver will experience the razor differently. Shavers who prefer mild razors usually like them because they are less likely to produce cuts or skin irritation, making them ideal for new safety razor users and those with sensitive skin. Razors on the aggressive side are designed to provide a much closer shave, which is why they tend to be favorites for experienced shaving enthusiasts and those with thicker beards.

Those looking to pinpoint a razor’s aggressiveness can focus on two important metrics to provide a basic guideline: blade gap and blade exposure. Although other features (e.g. weight, shaving angle) also contribute to the overall aggressiveness, determining the blade gap and blade exposure is essential to separate razors that otherwise might be very similar.

Blade gap

A few millimeters between the guard plate and the blade can change everything when it comes to a razor’s aggressiveness. While fairly mild razors like the Merkur Futur – MK 23C and Feather – Popular land in the 0.61 to 0.64 mm range for blade gap, it’s not uncommon for an aggressive razor to have a blade gap well north of one millimeter. On the extreme side, classics like the Merkur Futur adjustable razors can have a blade gap of 1.75 mm for the top end of the adjustable settings. The blade gap between the guard plate and blade affects how easily you can clean up after a shave, as larger gaps tend to be easier to clean.

Blade exposure

Even though the blade gap often gets the bulk of the attention, partially because the data is more readily available, the blade exposure is still critical in determining aggressiveness. Blade exposure is simply the amount of blade that protrudes from the edge of the razor head, which combines with the blade gap, weight and shaving angle to create a general level of aggressiveness. A head that has significant exposure, like the V3A head on the Maggard – MR7, will end up feeling more aggressive than the Parker – 99R despite having nearly an identical blade gap of 0.89.

The problem with blade exposure as a metric is that it is much harder to measure. Even though actual measurements for blade exposure are rare, a basic rating scale from mild (limited exposure) to aggressive (maximum exposure) can easily give you an idea of how aggressive a razor is, particularly if you have measurements for blade gap. Whether you’re looking for mild and easy or want to push the upper limits of aggressiveness, the blade gap and blade exposure can be great metrics to help get you started.

How we tested

Our group of five testers started with their normal razors, giving us a chance to see what they liked about their own razors before moving on to the test group. To make sure the group started on the same page, testers were encouraged to shower before each shave, one of the recommended ways to properly prime the skin. Instead of using a new shaving soap or cream across the board, however, testers were instructed to continue using what they were accustomed to, as a change could distort the data and lead to skin irritation that may not be a reflection of the razor.

Each test razor was then loaded solely with Voshkhod Teflon-coated blades, which fit every standard double-edge razor and can be purchased inexpensively in hundred-packs. Testers used each razor five times at their normal rate of shaving, rating the razors from 0-5 in a range of different categories: ease of maneuvering, closeness of shave, blade loading, ease of rinse, construction material and overall satisfaction. Each tester was also asked to check their pride and keep track of any nicks/cuts not attributable to user error, finishing each razor by jotting down a detailed description of their experience.

After the test period was over, each tester looked through their results and came up with their favorite razor as well as their runner-up and least favorite. By breaking down the individual scores for each category compared with the macro views of the testers, we were then able to determine the razors that best held up during the process and performed the best.

The best safety razor: Parker – 99R

the Parker 99r razor

Smooth and substantial to hold, easy to use and a tremendous all-around value, the Parker – 99R scored very well with both the most experienced shavers and the tester who has been using electric razors for years. Parker may not have been one of the original trailblazers in the space, but the 99R model has perfected the twist-to-open style with an eye-appealing design and materials that feel built to last. The 99R’s blade gap is even on the aggressive side, though that doesn’t stop it from delivering a comfortable, close shave.

Top Pick

Parker - 99R

A great option for experienced safety razor users and novices alike, the Parker – 99R is aggressive enough for a close shave without sacrificing comfort. Add in its easy blade loading and ergonomic design and you have a terrific everyday shave without spending a fortune.


The Gillette SuperSpeed is generally considered the prototypical butterfly-open safety razor, a model that was very popular in the years before disposable cartridges took over. Four decades after the SuperSpeed was in its heyday, the Parker 99R carries on the torch with a 4-inch chrome-plated handle, spiral knurl grip and a weighty design meant to do the heavy-lifting portion of your shaving routine.

Elegant and sharp to look at, but not over-designed, the 99R also has a lightly ribbed (microcombed) straight safety bar and one of the thicker handles that you’ll find on a safety razor. Though the blade gap of 0.89 was more aggressive than most of the other test razors in the group, all five testers found it natural to maneuver and ended up with minimal nicks and cuts. The girth and weight of the handle also yielded a point of balance much closer to the center than is typical, making some of the slender-handled models feel somewhat flimsy by comparison.

The features that testers loved

With its simple twist-to-open knob at the handle base and standard butterfly open, the Parker was clearly going to be in the running for easiest to load, and it more than lived up to the billing with the highest score in this category. A surprising find? Testers found that it cleaned very easily, a feature that twist-to-open one-piece razors are definitely not known for. While this could change over the longer haul as the shaves begin to pile up, it’s a great sign that cleaning the head isn’t the problem that some butterfly opens tend to have.

Thanks to its bulkier design, it also might be easy to anticipate a few problems in terms of overall maneuverability, yet this turned out not to be a problem for testers. The long handle and central point of balance combined to create an easy shaving angle that made it one of the top performers in maneuverability; only the Viking – Chieftain scored as high, matching the 99R with a 4.2 out of five.

Although it was right in the middle of the pack for shaving closeness, the convenience factor and the overall shave elevated it to the top of the list for three out of the five testers. It was also the only tested razor to avoid an overall satisfaction rating of lower than four and wasn’t named by any of the testers as the least favorite of the group.

At face value, the Parker 99R is the razor equivalent of a moderately priced sedan, built to get the kids to soccer practice and back home again without the frequent trips to the mechanic. In action, however, the 99R proves that it has much more under the hood than it does on the surface, providing a user-friendly and luxurious shaving experience that is easy to appreciate no matter your shaving background.

Key takeaways

  • The Parker – 99R may seem aggressive with its 0.89 blade gap, but its limited blade exposure and heavyweight design makes for an incredibly easy shave while still getting close.
  • Thanks to its simple twist-to-open design and sturdy materials, blade-changing is as fast and easy as possible with a safety razor.
  • Unlike some other one-piece, butterfly razors, cleaning the 99R isn’t problematic.

Runner-up: The Viking – Chieftain

Don’t let the name of the Viking – Chieftain fool you. Though it may sound harsh and menacing, it is more of a mild-mannered charmer than the bane of a civilization. With its microcomb system embedded in its safety bar, the one-piece Chieftain is designed to placate irritable skin while still providing a close shave with its limited blade exposure. It also comes with a well-designed twist-to-open head and is impressive to behold, with its polished 3-inch chrome handle and deeply knurled grip that makes it look slightly like a Viking axe that has yet to be christened with battle.

Runner up

Viking - Chieftan

Designed for convenience at home or on the go, the Chieftan delivers a smooth shaving experience with easy blade loading and enough aggression to satisfy shaving enthusiasts.

Designed for convenience at home or on the go, the Chieftain delivers a smooth shaving experience complete with easy blade loading and just enough aggression to satisfy shaving enthusiasts.

Much more important than the aesthetics, however, the Chieftain performed extremely well in the key categories. Although the butterfly open was a touch flimsier than the Parker – 99R, The Chieftain was still a cinch to load and was as easy to maneuver as any razor in the group. The Swedish product also scored the highest in the group in closeness, left the least number of cuts and nicks and finished just behind the Parker in overall satisfaction, showcasing its combination of convenience and comfort that put it in the running for the top razor.

The Chieftain even came with a nice little bonus: a surprisingly effective case that accompanies most purchases and highlights the razor’s versatility as both an everyday option and travel companion. Although packaging is generally an irrelevance, The Chieftain’s practical and elegant leatherette case works perfectly with its shorter handle and could slide into a work or travel bag without you even knowing it’s there. Even though a case obviously isn’t a determinative factor, anyone who has to pull-off the occasional airport shave is in good hands with The Chieftain right out of the box.

Key takeaways

  • The Viking – Chieftain makes it easy to get a close shave, without the nicks of a more aggressive razor, making it a natural fit for first-timers.
  • Very high convenience and versatility factor. Like most twist-to-open razors, changing blades is lightning fast and the complimentary case is a nice add-on that makes it ideal for traveling.
  • Easy to maneuver for all safety razor experience levels despite the relatively short three-inch handle and ostensibly aggressive 1.04 blade gap.

Best three-piece option: Edwin Jagger – DE89

The name Edwin Jagger – DE89 tends to command respect in the world of double-edge safety razors, and the DE89 certainly points to the reasons why that holds true. The Edwin Jagger’s 3.7-inch handle is a manageable length, the construction material (polished chrome over brass) convinced testers it was a high quality, and it demonstrated a nice balance between comfort and aggressiveness. Although lighter than the Parker, the EJ’s handle is just as thick as its counterpart and shows off an attractive, vertically-knurled grip that contributes to its overall classic look.

Best three-piece razor

Edwin Jagger - DE89

With old-school charm and providing a close shave without the nicks and cuts, the Edwin Jagger is a great value razor.

Even though it has a blade gap on the mild side, the DE89 slightly topped the Parker – 99R in shave closeness and scored higher in ease of blade-loading than the other multi-piece razors that we tested. Still, we were left unconvinced that it would truly make the best safety razor for beginners despite the company’s own marketing efforts. Thanks to middle-of-the-road maneuverability, a unique handle length and more difficulty loading than the top butterfly models, beginners might be better off going for an option centered more on pure convenience. But even with a less than ideal starting point for safety razor rookies, the Edwin Jagger – DE89 is a very good all-around razor.

Key takeaways

  • High-quality material and a comfortable all-around shave make the Edwin Jagger – DE89 a great long-term shaving option.
  • Easy to get a close shave despite a minimal blade gap/exposure and overall mild feel.
  • Ergonomic, but classy design make for a razor that is as eye-appealing as it is effective.

Other razors we tested

Feather – Popular

Not to discriminate against the synthetic plastic safety razors, we also tested the Feather – Popular, a generally well-liked and inexpensive butterfly model that failed to make much of a connection with testers. Without the classic look of its more substantial metal counterparts or the pure convenience of a cartridge razor, the Feather simply had a rough comparison with the best models in the price range. In a vacuum, however, the Feather would probably get a chance to shine brighter thanks to its easy-to-load head, decent maneuverability and unbeatable price tag (typically under $20).

Smoothere – Sampson Series

While the Merkur 23C held its own next to the competition, the Smoothere – Sampson Series Double-Edge Safety Razor missed the mark despite showing flashes of potential. More than anything, the Smoothere proved difficult to tame, as three different testers reported at least three nicks/cuts. No other razor had more than one tester who ended up with at least three different nicks or cuts not attributed to user error. Where it did score fairly well, however, was the construction material (another polished chrome finish) and in closeness of shave, even though testers paid for the smoothness with a bit of bloodshed.

Maggard – MR7

The Maggard – MR7, is a unique safety razor that comes with a few different head choices. Looking to pick a head on the aggressive side, we went with the V3A, a zinc alloy, chrome-plated head with a (scalloped) close-combed safety bar that yielded an aggressive shave not to be taken lightly. Though the Maggard had no problem getting a very close shave, even the testers used to aggressive heads saw an uptick in cuts while greenhorns found it nearly impossible to use.

Having said that, the Maggard – MR7 is still a highly respected razor that could still be a great option for intermediate or expert shavers, though even veteran safety razor users could have a learning curve with the aggressiveness of the V3A head. Other head options that might be better suited to warm shavers up to the Maggard – MR7 include the open-combed V2 and the standard version of the V3.

The bottom line

For anyone intimidated by the prospect of switching from cartridge to a safety razor, the Parker – 99R is a classic-looking butterfly razor that promises a soft landing for both face and wallet alike. Rating well for both overall shave and value, the Parker is simple for beginners, but aggressive enough for more seasoned shavers to get their money’s worth, making it a rare razor that can satisfy a host of different beards and shaving styles. While the Viking – Chieftain and Edwin Jagger – DE89 were also comfortable, convenient and very good overall safety razors, the Parker – 99R stood above the pack as the clear top pick in its price range. Still craving more shaving? Check out our straight razor review.

Top Pick: Parker - 99R

The Parker strikes a great balance between blade aggressiveness and making close shaves incredibly easy. Additionally, its easy to load design, top performing maneuverability make this an easy pick.

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]]> 0 The Best Safety Razor of %%currentyear%% - %%sitename%% We spent two months testing the seven of the leading double edge safety razors on the market in order to make our pick of the best safety razor. Of our panel of five testers, two were familiar with safety razors, two were cartridge shavers, and one was an electric shaver with no previous experience. shaving the Parker 99r razor
The Best White Noise Machine Thu, 25 Jan 2018 06:41:48 +0000 We spent 60+ hours testing seven of the top-rated white noise machines. After weeks of sleep tests, sound-masking bootcamps and thorough one-on-one inspections, we found the 'LectroFan to be the best white noise machine.

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We spent more than 60 hours testing seven of the top-rated white noise machines on the market. After giving each machine a full week of overnight sleep tests, running them through a daytime sound-masking bootcamp and finally sitting down with each machine for thorough one-on-one attention, we have chosen Adaptive Sound Technologies – ‘LectroFan as the best white noise machine.

Unlike most white noise machines, ‘LectroFan offers a large variety of white noise and fan sounds and a wide range of volumes. Its compact and simple design will blend with any decor, and it’s lightweight enough to pack in an overnight bag or suitcase to take on the go.

If you’re looking for an ultra-portable, rechargeable option with a great volume range, then MarpacRohm is our recommendation. And our favorite non-digital machine is Sleep Easy Sound Conditioner, featuring a smooth, fan-created sound with no motor noise.

Some of the machines we tested were easy to love, while some took time to get used to. Whether you prefer your white noise soft and gentle or loud and severe, there’s an option for you here.

Top Pick: Adaptive Sound Technologies - ‘LectroFan

Whether you want a fan sound or a static noise, ‘LectroFan has it, and myriad choices in between. Featuring 10 fan sounds, 10 white noise selections and a huge volume range to match any preference.

Table of contents

How we selected finalists to test

Before we began choosing white noise machines, we did a crash course in the science of white noise and its benefits. Articles at Popular Science, How Stuff Works and Pacific Standard  gave us a good background on types of noise – white and otherwise – as well as why it works to assist sleep and mask sound.

Next, we looked at some blogs that specialize in improving sleep quality, and read their recommendations for white noise machines. The review Sleep Like the Dead was especially informative. Finally, we headed over to Amazon to select our finalists from among the highest-rated and most-reviewed white noise machines.

Many of the experts cited in our initial research noted the important difference between white noise and soothing sounds, such as ocean waves or babbling brooks. Although digitally sampled or simulated sounds like flowing water or wind chimes can be calming, they can also be distracting by causing the mind’s attention to jump from one aspect of the sound to another. Plain, ordinary white noise – the more boring, the better – is the best choice for better sleep, noise masking and concentration. For this reason, we selected finalists that offered white noise and fan sounds, and chose not to review any additional “soothing sounds” that might be included on a given machine.

The seven best white noise machines

ProductPriceFan/DigitalBattery OptionNoise Masking Performance
1. Adaptive Sound Technologies - ‘LectroFan$$DigitalNo4.5/5
2. Marpac - Rohm$$DigitalYes: 8 - 10 hrs4/5
3. Adaptive Sound Technologies - Sound+Sleep$$$DigitalNo4.5/5
4. HoMedics - Sound Spa$ DigitalYes: 96 hrs3/5
5. Sleep Easy - Sound Conditioner$$FanNo2/5
6. HemingWeigh - White Noise Machine$$FanNo2/5
7. Marpac - Dohm$$FanNo2/5

What is white noise and how does it help?

Research suggests that white noise can improve sleep quality, ensure your private conversations aren’t overheard and even enhance your ability to learn. Many parents also use white noise to help their babies sleep better and longer.

White noise is made up of all the frequencies a human ear can hear, sounded all at once. The term white noise is a comparison to white light, which is a combination of all the frequencies of light the human eye can see. At its purest, white noise sounds like a rather high-pitched radio static.

Frequency – The height of the wave, or the pitch of a sound, measured in hertz (Hz). For example, middle C on a piano is around 261.6 Hz. A healthy human ear can hear from around 20 Hz to 20 kHz (20,000 Hz). You might feel, more than hear, a very low bass tone at 20 Hz. The human voice is generally between 1.6 and 4 kHz. Electrical devices can emit high-pitched whines above 16 kHz, toward the top range of human hearing. Dog whistles usually start around 23 kHz.

Amplitude – The force of the wave, or the volume of a sound, measured in decibels (dB). The human ear can hear sounds beginning just above 0 dB, and can be irreparably damaged when exposed to sounds as high as 160 dB. A human whisper is around 20 dB and normal speaking volume is around 60 dB. Traffic noise is about 85 dB; exposure to prolonged noise louder than that for extended periods of time can cause hearing damage without ear protection. Jack hammers and ambulances are around 120 dB.

Combining all audible frequencies at equal amplitude into one sound can have the effect of cancelling out or covering up ambient sounds. Other “shades” of white noise, such as brown noise or pink noise, use a similar frequency-combining technique, but with certain frequencies played at higher amplitude in order to cover up more specific ranges of sound. A quick YouTube search yields samples of each different shade of white noise.

For purposes of simplicity in our testing, we’re using the term “white noise” to apply to any white noise or fan setting on one of our white noise machines, using descriptive language rather than other “colors” to describe differences in tone.

Better sleep

Sleeping difficulties can be caused by a number of factors, including street noise, stress, sleep partner noises and tinnitus. While white noise can’t cure all sleep problems, research suggests it can improve sleep in the average bedroom and especially in noisy or disruptive environments, including the ICU.

There are many explanations for how white noise works. Some experts say that white noise blocks out sudden changes or inconsistencies in the sleep environment that could wake you up. Others suggest that the combination of so many frequencies limits the brain’s ability to pick out a single sound among the many, effectively masking any unwanted environmental sounds.

No matter how it works, many people use white noise to help improve sleep. People with tinnitus, or ringing in their ears, can find it helpful to play a low-volume white noise to distract from the sound in their head. White noise can cover up the snores of a roommate or the street noise coming in your bedroom window. And as some meditation practitioners advocate, low-level meaningless noise can help a person clear their mind of stresses and worries in order to relax.

Fewer distractions and more privacy 

White noise is not sound cancellation – that is, white noise doesn’t work by minimizing or eliminating sound waves. Businesses with open-concept work environments sometimes use sound cancellation systems to minimize workers’ ability to overhear each other.

But personal white noise machines can be effective for covering distracting environmental sounds or private conversations. In the same way white noise can mask the sound of snores or street noise, it can cover voices from an adjacent conference room or doctor’s examination room.

Better learning

Using white noise can help improve learning. Studies have shown that white noise can help with memory and fact recall, and improve information processing. It’s also effective for improving memory difficulties related to aging.

Why babies love white noise

White noise can mimic the sounds a baby hears in the womb – the muffled jumble of voices, the whooshing of mom’s heartbeat, the vague rumble of environmental noises. Using white noise in a baby’s room can replicate this environment and the feelings of safety and comfort it triggers. The shush sound that people instinctively use to soothe a crying baby is a kind of white noise. Placing white noise in a baby’s sleep area can promote deeper and better quality sleep.

Experts caution parents not to place noise machines too close to the baby’s head, however. White noise should be around 50 dB, or about as loud as a bathroom shower, to prevent damage to baby’s ears.

Important features to consider

feature comparison chart

Personal tastes vary a lot regarding sleep environment, but there are some common features to look out for when shopping for a white noise machine.

No audible break or patterns in sound loop. White noise machines run for long periods of time, and any recognizable pattern or obvious break in the sound can be disruptive. Some digital white noise machines simply play back a recorded loop of noise that can have subtle patterns that become noticeable throughout the listening period. Noticing an obvious end and beginning in the loop or recognizing a pattern in the noise can be distracting enough to interfere with sleep or concentration.

Adjustable volume. Most bedrooms or workspaces won’t have the same level of sound every single day. Being able to adjust the volume of white noise can help mask unwanted sounds no matter how the environment changes.

Variety of sounds. It can be hard to know just what you’re looking for in a white noise machine until you try it out. A machine with a wide range of sound options can increase your chances of finding the perfect white noise for your needs.

Compact and portable. Humans are creatures of habit. Once we find our ideal environment, we want to duplicate it as easily as possible when we’re away from home. A white noise machine that can be easily packed in a suitcase or overnight bag can make a hotel room or vacation rental much more restful.

Reasonably priced. White noise machines can be viewed as investments in better living, but that doesn’t mean folks want to pay very much for one. The seven machines we tested range in price from around $20 to around $80.

Digital vs. analog. Analog white noise machines use fan-produced sound with an adjustable outer casing for fine-tuning pitch and volume. Digital white noise machines offer a greater range of volumes and an infinite variety of sounds. Analog machines tend to be quieter, but some people prefer the more natural sound of a fan over digitally produced or sampled sounds. However, normal wear and tear can cause fans to develop patterns or tics over time.

Design. Round, oval, heptagonal, tear-drop-shaped. Tall, low-profile, hangable. Push-buttons, dials. Display lights, no lights, adjustable lights. Portable, stay-put-heavy. Black, white, tan, chrome-accented. Some white noise machines are designed for utility, some have had obvious effort put into their appearance. In general, we made sure the design did not influence our ranking of the machine’s abilities.

How we tested

usage testing results

Our group of seven white noise machine finalists included three analog machines and four digital machines. We tested only the “white noise” and “fan” functions of each machine, ignoring any other sound options like waterfalls and ocean waves.

Pushing the buttons

Each of the three analog machines we tested – HemingWeighSleep Easy and Dohm – has a power switch and a single rocker switch to select low or high fan. (HemingWeigh has one additional button for the nightlight function.) In addition to buttons, the analog machines each feature an adjustable outer casing with slanted and circular vents in various sizes. Rotating the casing changes the airflow through the vents, affecting the quality and volume of sound produced.

The digital machines had more button options. ‘LectroFan has three rocker switches to control power, volume, timer and sound options. Rohm has four push buttons for power, volume and sound options. And Sound+Sleep and HoMedics each have a single dial and seven push buttons for sound options, timer and other functions.

We spent a couple hours running through the range of white noise and fan sounds and their volumes on each machine. We made sure the timers were true and the buttons did what they were supposed to do.

Finally, we cranked each white noise and fan sound on each machine up to its highest possible volume and used a sound meter to measure the amplitude.

Practical testing

We conducted our practical testing in two parts. First, we measured how well each finalist masked sounds in an adjacent room. Then, we used each machine overnight for a week to see how it affected our testers’ sleep.

Masking household noise

noise masking test results

Chances are, if you live with a spouse, roommate, child or pet, there are times they make noise when you’re trying to sleep. White noise machines can help to cover up the sounds in rooms adjacent to your bedroom and keep noise-related domestic disturbances to a minimum.

With our white noise machines set up in a quiet room, we used a stereo system to play recorded sounds in an adjacent room. We mimicked the experience of overhearing a variety of common household distractions, such as dogs barking and a TV sitcom playing, then used a sound meter to measure how well each machine covered up the sounds.

On the whole, none of the white noise machine finalists were overwhelmingly successful at masking noises in an adjacent room, but some were better than others. All of the digital machines, for example, were louder than any of the analog machines, and therefore much better at covering sound.

It’s important to note that white noise can be very grating and inhibit sleep at high volumes. Having a white noise machine that can mask noises at very high volume doesn’t necessarily make it the best. However, having the option to make it louder makes it a more versatile machine, which we think does generally make it better.

Overnight test

Our overnight testers already use white noise in their bedroom and were reluctant to give up their tried and true air cleaner for a full seven weeks, but they stuck it out for the sake of science.

Each machine was placed in the same location in the bedroom roughly two feet from the foot of the bed, display facing the bed and speaker facing the ceiling. Sleepers spent some time before bedtime running through the settings to find the right sound and turning the volume to the appropriate level.

In overnight tests, our testers overwhelmingly favored the digital machines. The analog machines were simply not loud enough to provide enough sound for a soothing effect. Even when moved directly next to the head of the bed, the analog machines were not loud enough for our testers, although they did note a pleasant stirring of the air that was soothing.

Besides volume, other complaints included display lights that couldn’t be turned off and too-harsh white noise sounds. Testers also noted that some of the finalists’ power cables were quite short, which wasn’t a problem in our testing room, but certainly could be in a hotel room or other non-home situation.

For our testers, who were already used to sleeping with white noise, there was no marked improvement in sleep with any of the machines. However, there were more uneasy nights with some of the finalists, most notably the analog machines, which were too quiet to assist with sleep.


Best portable

Marpac - Rohm

Compact size, punchy volume and around 12 hours of cordless operation make the Rohm a great investment.

As the only rechargeable white noise machine we tested, Marpac – Rohm takes top honors for portability with its 12 hours of cordless operation.

HoMedics – Sound Spa can run on an included power cable or four AA batteries, which makes it portable as well, although it is larger than Rohm. Every other machine we tested must be plugged in to work. Moving any of them from one location to another within the same house is no problem at all, and none of the units we tested will take up too much room in a suitcase. However, at two pounds, Sound+Sleep is the heaviest white noise machine we tested and the only one we would consider too heavy to call portable.


As with most electronics, the simpler units are less expensive and the machines with more bells and whistles cost more. The least expensive white noise machine we tested, HoMedics (around $20), looks rather cheaply made, but doesn’t feel flimsy or poorly constructed and the audio is decent quality. Sound+Sleep (around $80) costs four times more than HoMedics and looks and feels substantial, well-designed and is jam-packed with sound options, although not much in the way of white noise.

The three analog machines we tested each cost around $30 (Dohm is a little more) and feel mostly interchangeable regarding materials, construction and performance. And our two top finalists, ‘LectroFan (around $45) and Rohm (around $35), each feel well-made but not over-engineered, with no extra buttons or features that could increase their prices.

Battery life

Rohm and HoMedics are the only white noise machines we tested that have a battery option. Rohm has an internal lithium ion battery, rechargeable via an included USB cable. HoMedics can be powered either by its wall adapter or by four AA batteries.

When Rohm was fully charged, its battery life was between 10 and 12 hours. And at full volume, starting with new batteries, HoMedics gave around 100 hours of operation.

The best white noise machine – ‘LectroFan

With the highest scores in nearly all of our tests, Adaptive Sound Technologies – ‘LectroFan is our choice for the best white noise machine. It’s the only machine we tested that offers a selection of white noise and fan sounds, in addition to being the only finalist to ace our sound masking tests. ‘LectroFan’s simple design and straight-forward controls were great selling points for our testers, with no question about how to operate it or its purpose in the home.

The versatility of a white noise machine that offers a wide range of truly “meaningless” sounds is incredibly valuable. Most white noise machines offer only one or a few sounds to choose from, so you may need to purchase and return several machines before you find just the right one. ‘LectroFan offers 10 fan sounds, from box fan to industrial fan, and 10 white noise sounds, including “champagne” and “chestnut.” Our favorites? Vent fan for working, cinnamon noise for sleeping.

In our testing, ‘LectroFan’s loudest, most grating white noise and large fan sounds covered up all ambient noise and sound from an adjacent room, including the booming explosions of an action movie. As previously noted, you might not want to have this machine at full volume, but it does offer you the option to run it at high volumes in order to mask all kinds of environmental sounds.

Top pick

Adaptive Sound Technologies - ‘LectroFan

Compact design, easy operation and 20 white noise and fan sounds in a wide range of volumes made this our number one pick.

In overnight tests, ‘LectroFan fit seamlessly in our testers’ nighttime routine. After finding the right white noise and the appropriate volume, our testers gladly used ‘LectroFan every night of its test week. With no display lights to brighten the sleeping area and a small footprint that didn’t take up much space on the tabletop, ‘LectroFan was a welcome addition to the bedroom.

Design-wise, ‘LectroFan is low-profile, geometrical and inconspicuous. It’s available in black or white. At around $45, it’s a little more expensive than most of the other finalists, but a few days of use prove its worth. The nearly 5-foot cable allows the unit to be powered via USB plug or the included A/C adaptor. The three rocker buttons are easy to manipulate even in the dark. The 60-minute timer can be pressed multiple times to add more hours. And to help you find your favorite white noise or fan sound as you’re scrolling through the options, a soft whoop sounds briefly at the beginning of the list. This is a smartly designed machine.

Key takeaways

  • ‘LectroFan has 10 fan sounds and 10 white noise sounds from soft and unobtrusive to harsh and grating.
  • Volume range up to 85 dB to cover up the most stubborn environmental noise.
  • Power via USB or included A/C adaptor.
  • Use continuous play or set the timer in 60-minute increments.

Best portable option: Marpac – Rohm

For travel, baby stroller or any other situation where you might not want (or be able) to plug in your white noise machine overnight, we recommend Marpac – Rohm. Two white noise settings with a good range of volume and a battery life of up to 12 hours make this white noise machine a winner.

At 3.5 inches in diameter and only 3.8 ounces, Rohm is the smallest white noise machine we tested. It charges via micro USB, so you won’t even need to pack an extra charging cable if you already have one for your phone – although one is provided with the unit. Rohm will operate while plugged in, as well as up to 12 hours (at middle volume in our testing) unplugged with a full charge of its lithium-ion battery. It can sit on a tabletop or other surface, or can be hung by the included lanyard.

Best portable model

Marpac - Rohm

Simple to operate, Rohm is portable and user-friendly. It’s handy for use in a baby’s room, stroller or car seat.

Both the bright white noise and deep white noise settings are continuous; we could not detect a pattern of any kind during our overnight or practical tests. Our testers preferred the deep white noise for sleeping, but found the bright white noise similar enough to accidentally use it one night without noticing. Each setting has a volume range adjustable to over 70 dB, and in our testing was enough to cover dogs barking, TV conversation and city noise.

It’s important to note again that the volume should be kept quite low if using in baby’s crib, stroller or car seat. Experts recommend setting it to about the volume of a bathroom shower to prevent hearing damage. That said, this is a great machine for use with babies especially because its portability allows you to provide a consistent sonic environment no matter where you take your little one. Marpac also makes Hushh, which is marketed specifically for use with babies and is identical to Rohm except for a night light and a button lock.

We have one very minor gripe with Rohm. The unit comes with a micro USB cable, but no USB plug adapter. Chances are most people have a few of these around their homes, but at a price point over $30, we would expect such a convenience to be included.

Overall, though, we were pleasantly surprised by this tiny powerhouse. Rohm is a great choice for travelers, campers or anyone on the go who wants to take a little bit of home with them.

Key takeaways

  • Marpac – Rohm is small enough to fit in a carry-on, backpack or purse, but also great for use at home.
  • Charges via micro USB, but doesn’t include a USB plug adapter.
  • Battery life of up to 12 hours on a full charge.

The best analog option: Sleep Easy

We were not blown away by the analog white noise machines. In a sleeping environment our testers wanted a much louder white noise sound than any of the analog machines provided. Overall, in fact, the three analog machines we tested felt more or less interchangeable. They had the same control buttons and the same vented, rotating outer casings. The few extra features on HemingWeigh (see below) didn’t even set it apart to a significant degree.

It came down to sound. Two of the analog machines had a metallic whine or motor noise along with the fan sound that was mildly unpleasant. The one analog machine without the motor noise, Sleep Easy – Sound Conditioner, is our choice for the best analog white noise machine.

Best analog model

Sleep Easy

The gentle fan-created white noise has no motor sound, and its controls are simple and easy to operate in the dark.

Sleep Easy is a machine that will probably need to live on your bedside table, rather than on a dresser or another surface across the room. The fan sound is quite low; on the highest setting it’s only 62 dB, which is around the volume of conversational speech. But in a quiet room, the fan sound is especially soothing, and the faint stirring of the air that results from the fan itself is pleasant.

With a tan casing, circular side and top vents, and a black rocker on/off button, Sleep Easy looks a lot like the other two models we tested. However, at less than $30, it’s the least expensive model we tested, which may give it an additional edge on the competition.

This is definitely not a white noise machine for someone looking to mask environmental sounds in their bedroom. But in a quiet environment like a baby’s room or a typically quiet home, or for a sleeper with tinnitus, Sleep Easy is a good choice.

Key takeaways

  • Sleep Easy provides pleasant fan-created white noise without any motor sound.
  • Highest setting around the volume of normal conversation (i.e. rather quiet).
  • Best for use in a quiet setting or for sleepers with tinnitus.

Other digital machines we tested

Adaptive Technologies – Sound+Sleep

Sound+Sleep from Adaptive Sound Technologies offers a quality white noise sound, a wide range of volume options and a timer with four settings. Additionally, this machine includes an “adaptive mode,” which manufacturers say listens to your environment and adapts the sound machine to meet your specific needs.

Sound+Sleep is a rather large, sleek-looking tabletop white noise machine with black casing, chrome buttons and a large central chrome dial. At two pounds and nearly seven inches long, this teardrop-shaped machine is the heaviest and largest we tested. An A/C power adapter with a nearly 5-foot cable is included. Despite its relatively light weight, this finalist feels substantial enough not to be especially portable. It’s not really made for travel. And at around $80, it’s the most expensive model we tested.

In our overnight tests, Sound+Sleep got high scores for its deep static white noise sound. Testers liked its volume range and noise masking ability, as well as its non-looping digital white noise. A “display” button that turns all display lights on and off was testers’ favorite feature on Sound+Sleep. Overnight testers did note a kind of musical overtone to the white noise that was not unpleasant, but still noticeable.

In addition to Sound+Sleep’s white noise setting, there are nine soothing sounds (such as meadow and train) and a “richness” button that adds up to two levels of enrichment to each sound. As noted above, we did not test any soothing sounds in this review, focusing solely on the white noise options for each machine.

Adding richness to the white noise made it louder, harsher and higher-pitched. Interestingly, adding richness in our noise masking tests made the sound less effective at masking environmental noises, even though the sound was louder. Our testers overwhelmingly preferred the white noise sound with no richness added.

The other unique feature of Sound+Sleep is its adaptive technology, which uses a built-in microphone to detect environmental sounds and then changes the sound accordingly. In our testing, this feature was not impressive. Rather than keeping the settings as you’ve chosen and adapting the sound from that point, the adaptive mode raises and lowers the volume of white noise to match environmental sound. So in a quiet room with occasional bursts of noise such as talking or children playing, Sound+Sleep lowers the volume to nearly undetectable and raises it occasionally when it “hears” a loud enough sound. In our overnight testing, the microphone wasn’t sensitive enough to pick up street noise from the window, so it kept the volume of white noise too low to be effective for sleep.

Overall, we liked the single no-richness-added white noise option and the display on/off button on Sound+Sleep. If you’re looking for several soothing sound options, this might be worth the time and money. But if you’re mostly looking for white noise, look at less expensive models to meet your needs.

HoMedics – Sound Spa

Sound Spa by HoMedics was our least favorite of the digital white noise machines we tested. The lightweight, low-profile machine has one white noise function (among five other soothing sounds), a three-setting timer and a good volume range.

Weighing in at half a pound and not even two inches high, HoMedics is quite portable even with its 6.5-inch footprint. Made from very lightweight plastic, HoMedics feels rather cheaply made, but the buttons and volume dial are reassuringly responsive. The 6-foot A/C power adapter cable provides continuous power, or you can get about 100 hours of power at full volume from four AA batteries. At around $20, this was the least expensive white noise machine we tested.

The white noise option on HoMedics sounds harsh and thin compared to our top picks, a bit like a heavy rain with the warmer, deeper notes removed. Our overnight testers noted an unpleasant pulsing in the white noise sound, and were annoyed that the display light could not be shut off. Testers abandoned this machine only a few hours into each night of its tests.

Overall, HoMedics is an inexpensive, portable option for consumers who aren’t especially picky about discernible patterns in their white noise.

Other analog machines we tested

In almost every test, analog white noise machines Marpac – Dohm and HemingWeigh are indistinguishable. A couple features set HemingWeigh apart, but sound-wise, they are remarkably similar.

They’re both off-white and dome-shaped, with angled vents on the sides, circular vents on top and black rocker buttons on the front. Each creates its white noise sound with an internal fan, and both have a slight mechanical whirring that accompanies the fan sound. Additionally, they both have long power cables and top volumes of close to 60 dB in testing.

Their differences are few. HemingWeigh has a bright night light and two USB ports on its front, neither of which Dohm can boast. And price-wise, HemingWeigh is around $30 and Dohm is about $40.

All of that said, both HemingWeigh and Dohm provide innocuous fan-created white noise with no discernable patterns and an enjoyable light breeze that stirs the air immediately around the machine in a pleasant way. Neither was loud enough to pass any sound-masking tests or make it through an entire night for our overnight testers, but might be sufficient in a baby’s room or otherwise very quiet bedroom. Both are relatively lightweight and compact, so would likely travel well, especially HemingWeigh with its additional features.

The bottom line

With its large variety of white noise and fan sounds, compact design and reasonable price tag, Adaptive Sound Technologies – ‘LectroFan is our top choice for best white noise machine. For studying, sleeping, a baby’s room or noise-masking, ‘LectroFan is a smartly designed, high-quality choice. If you’re looking for a compact, portable, cordless option, Marpac – Rohm is our recommendation. And if you crave the soothing sounds of a fan-produced analog white noise, Sleep Easy is our pick for you.

Top Pick: Adaptive Sound Technologies - ‘LectroFan

LectroFan is a tiny powerhouse. With 20 white noise and fan sounds, a wide volume range and a compact design, ‘LectroFan is versatile, powerful and soothing.

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]]> 0 feature comparison chart usage testing results noise masking test results
The Best String Trimmer Wed, 17 Jan 2018 02:09:24 +0000 After two months of edging lawns, trimming grass and relentless weed destruction on a ten-acre orchard, with four of the top battery-powered models, we found the Black+Decker - LST136W to be the best string trimmer for the average sized lawn.

The post The Best String Trimmer appeared first on Your Best Digs.


After two months of edging lawns, trimming grass and relentless weed destruction on a ten-acre orchard, we’ve picked the Black+Decker – LST136W as the best string trimmer for the average sized home lawn.

Our review focused on battery powered units only, for the best balance of value and performance. If you’re only edge trimming a typical city lawn, it these will do a great job. Perfect for edging your lawn, cutting down weeds around flower beds and even for cutting grass on uneven terrain, Black+Decker’s award-winning 13″ trimmer is light and easy to use, but still has plenty of power. A variable-speed dial also helps you get even longer battery life if you don’t need all the power this trimmer has on tap.

Top Pick: Black+Decker LST136W

This is all the trimmer most people will need in a lightweight, high-performance package. Perfect for city lawns and gardens, it also out-cuts some bigger models if you take it out to the back 40.

We sent a selection of the best string trimmers and edgers to an avocado orchard in southern California for the autumn weeding season. We were impressed with the performance of the Black+Decker trimmer in those conditions, but the Ego – Power+ 1502-SF is a bigger machine better suited to field work.

For Heavier Work: Ego - Power+ 1502-SF

For overgrown grasses and big weeds: Ego’s 15” trimmer is quiet and powerful.

With enough grunt to keep up with gas-powered weed wackers, the Ego is a great choice for anyone who needs to cut through heavy overgrowth, but doesn’t anticipate needing to do so for more than half an hour in a day.

Table of contents

How we selected finalists to test

First, we looked at reviews and customer feedback for the top-selling trimmers on the market. We also covered the top-placing trimmers from publications like Consumer Reports and the Wirecutter.

We reviewed battery-powered trimmers because, let’s face it, two-stroke gasoline engines are noisy, smelly and expensive. Gas trimmers earn a place on the trucks of professionals with top power and long run-times, but most homeowners will be happy with clean, quiet and simple battery power.

While we set out to test battery-powered trimmers, we also used some other tools alongside our test lineup for comparison. We included a gas-powered Stihl – FS 70 R in our tests to see how the electric trimmers compare to the industry-standard workhorse that’s already doing the heavy work for landscapers and ranchers. We also purchased and used a plug-in edge trimmer and trencher, the Black+Decker – LE750.

We picked a set of top-ranked trimmers in two size categories: trimmers with 15” cutting heads as well as compact 12–13″ machines. We bought from brands with good reputations for warranty coverage that are available at major retailers. (In comparison, many commercial-grade brands like Stihl are only available through a dealer network.)

When selecting a trimmer from Ego, we picked the best-priced package at the time, the 1502-S. Ego’s model numbers are a composite of trimmer model, battery size and extra features. This kit includes a 2.5 AH battery and the 1500 trimmer with “split-shaft” folding for storage. This review has a table that explains the differences in kit accessories and features.

There’s a new model that has replaced the -S, called the -SF, with a “rapid reload” head in addition to the split shaft. Everything else about the kit is the same, so we’ve updated links in this review to point to that kit instead.

The four best string trimmers

lineup of string trimmers
BrandPriceCutting WidthCutting Ability# of StringsTested Run Time (Minutes)
1. BLACK+DECKER - LST136W$$$13"4/5133
2. EGO - Power+ ST1502-S$$$$$15"5/5236
3. Greenworks - 2101602$$$12"3/5240
4. Ryobi - RY40220$$$$13–15"1/5234

Who needs a string trimmer?

While a lawnmower is basically essential to the health of your lawn, a trimmer is a bit more of a luxury. You’re keeping your grass at the right length, what’s left to do?

String trimmers are great with grass and weeds in all of the locations where a mower can’t help. Does your lawn have a corner where your mower won’t fit? Mow it with a string trimmer. A patch of weeds sprouting behind your trash cans? The string trimmer will take care of those, too. Want a clean edge between your grass and driveway? A good string trimmer will make edging easy.

Unless you own a home in a desert or polar region where nothing grows, a string trimmer can probably make your yardwork easier.

Because the string that’s doing the cutting is flexible, you can cut right up to a tree or planter or post and not worry about damaging anything. The string will only cut through soft fibrous material like green plants, barely leaving a mark on big trees, concrete or metal. You should still be careful not to hit young trees and flower beds, of course, but it’s much easier to safely get close than it is with a mower.

String trimmers are even more popular on acreages and farms where hillsides and rocky patches make mowing impossible. Even in dry climates where grass landscaping and mowers are scarce, string trimmers can take care of the weeds that pop up.

If you’ve got a lawn that your mower covers perfectly and you don’t mind pulling your weeds by hand, you might not need a string trimmer. If you’ve got a bigger yard, though, there are almost certainly areas a string trimmer can help.

How to edge-trim your lawn

While a lawn mower trims grass that stands up in the air, it won’t do anything about the grass that lies flat or bends over and spreads onto your walkway or driveway. A trimmer can cut those leaves in a precise line along the edge of your lawn.

Edging your lawn with a string trimmer is quick and simple. First, turn the trimmer so it cuts up and down instead of parallel to the ground. Most have a rotating shaft or a multi-position handle so you don’t have to contort your upper body while holding the trigger in this position.

Walk the trimmer head down the edge of the lawn. Many trimmers have some sort of guide or other indicator that helps you track where the cutting string will hit. The rapidly-spinning string will slice through any blades of grass that cross over onto your sidewalk and leave a clean edge. Typically the guide is set so that you dig a neat, narrow trench into the dirt along the edge; if you just want to cut the grass you’ll have to lift the trimmer a few inches and hold it steady while you walk it along the line.

For edging and trenching

Black+Decker - LE750

This is an edger for people who want straight, clean, well-defined edges. It won’t mow in the corners like a string trimmer, but it will cut small trenches to run wires for backyard lighting projects.

Edgers like the Black+Decker – LE750 are built for edging and trenching only. A tool like this uses a solid metal blade rather than a flexible string, and this has a few consequences. For one, the whole tool is far more intimidating, and it can’t cut weeds or mow the tricky spots around trees. The edger can do jobs like trenching that aren’t possible with a weed wacker, and the wheels and guides help you cut a very straight and even edge. Think of it as a circular saw for your sod.

edging tools comparison

Even for edging, we prefer string trimmers over dedicated edgers because they’re easier to use on curved edges or uneven ground. It’s still tricky to follow a curve perfectly, but if you lose track with a string trimmer you won’t hear the terrifying sound of a metal blade scraping against concrete.

The best trimmers make it easy to switch between horizontal cutting and edging jobs, and our top pick, the Black+Decker, is no exception. You simply hold a button on the shaft and twist the cutting head to go from grass trimming to edging quickly and easily.

Types of trimmers

Ego and Stihl


This is the type of string trimmer you’ve seen working beside roadways. Two-cycle gas engines have all the power you could ask for and can run six hours on a gallon of gasoline. They’re loud, though, and require extra maintenance. There’s also the trouble of mixing, storing and filling the oil-gasoline mix required by two-stroke engines.

We’re not trying to dissuade anyone who needs a gas trimmer from buying one: our test partners still rely on a few reliable and powerful gas trimmers that see all-day use and perform well. For an average-sized yard, though, gasoline is overkill.

Plug-in electric

We didn’t test any corded trimmers. They have a great price-power-weight ratio, but the cord is frustrating to work with. The specialized edger/trencher we tested is a plug-in model, and it has great power, but if you’re doing anything other than straight, slow lines close to your house the cord isn’t worth it.

Battery-powered electric

Cordless electric trimming is definitely the most pleasant experience of all. These trimmers are much quieter than a gasoline-powered trimmer, and you’re free to move quickly and efficiently around your yard.

The big downside to cordless electric is capacity: battery packs make a painful trade-off between power, run-time and weight. Lithium-based battery technology is getting better every year, though, so the current generation of tools is widely regarded as a worthwhile compromise if you’re doing small jobs.

Battery life is up to around half an hour for most models, long enough to finish trimming around a house and small lawn without needing to stop for a charge.

Important features to consider


In the world of cordless tools, manufacturers aren’t required to list specific power draw specs on their tools the way they are with tools you plug into the wall. Makers do tell you about battery voltage, but that’s only half of the electrical story (volts x amps = watts).

Without a rating of the current drawn by the motor, we have to make guesses or extrapolations based on other numbers, like run-time and battery size. Gasoline engines do have a nominal watt power rating (since watts and horsepower are two different ways of measuring power, the rate work is done) and manufacturers like Stihl tell us what to expect from their engines.

We’ve made an estimate for the wattage used by each of the cordless tools. All of these numbers are for available power from the battery system, and don’t take into account any waste from inefficiencies of the working machines. Our “cutting power” test scores give a better idea of what each machine can really do with that power.

A balance between power and noise

Many professionals rely on two-stroke gas trimmers for all-day landscaping work, and they might be the right tool for your job. That said, the noise of a two-stroke gasoline engine requires hearing protection, and will likely disturb your family or neighbors if you like to do yard work in the morning. Some electric trimmers make a bit more noise than others, but none of them come even close to the loudness of a two-stroke engine.

Battery size

Batteries are typically sold with a capacity listed in amp-hours, literally the number of hours the battery will be able to send one ampere of electrical current to the motor. As noted above, these tools don’t list how many amps they draw from a battery, so we’ve done the dirty work with real-world tests of working time.

Cutting width and line size

The advantages to cutting a wider swath are both efficiency and power. For example, the difference between 13” and 15” might not seem like a lot, but if you’ve got large weedy patches to attack, the extra cutting with each pass can definitely add up over time.

The bigger advantage to a wider swath is in cutting power. A longer string means that, for the same engine speed, the tip of the cutting line will be moving faster, moving at (for our example) 16,000 feet per minute instead of only 14,000.

The difference between a 13” cutting head and a 15” head is about 15 percent in both the cutting area and the speed of the string, but there’s more. When you add the fact that a bigger head can take a line that has a 0.080” diameter instead of the skinny 0.065” string in a typical smaller machine, the extra mass makes for yet another 23 percent increase in the force that goes into chopping weeds. (Some big trimmers can load 0.095” or 0.1” line for even more power, and 0.095” is a typical diameter for commercial work where tough weeds are expected.)

Extra force means more electricity is needed from a battery pack, so you’ll see diminishing returns if you’re more concerned about run time than cutting a wide swath through dense weeds.

We’re pretty sure that this is the flaw in Ryobi’s design with the 40220: the motor just can’t draw enough current from a 40V battery to get the big 0.08” string going quickly enough. Our top pick from Black+Decker uses 0.065” string, but the slightly newer LST540 seem to have problems with its heavier string just like the Ryobi.

If you’re even considering running the trimmer for more than one battery charge (about half an hour) in a day, the extra width and power of a bigger trimmer with high-voltage battery is probably worth it (and you might consider gas). If you’re mostly edging and you keep up with garden weeds so you never see half-inch stalks, then a 13” trimmer should do the job without extra weight or expense.

String feed system

There are a few ways to get more cutting line out when rocks, sticks and concrete wear down or break the string:

Automatic feed is popular on smaller trimmers, and was featured on our top pick from Black+Decker as well as the Greenworks trimmer.

This system tries to keep your line at just the right length by letting out a small amount (usually about ¼”) every time you stop and restart the trimmer. The line never gets too long, because a small blade chops off any excess line as it spins.

This is handy, but it can waste line if the mechanism is too generous, and can be frustrating to work with if the spool is stingy. (If you burn through a bunch of string cleaning up around a sharp-edged brick planter, for example.)

Some newer trimmers use a hybrid manual/automatic system that will pay out more line when you push a button while the trimmer is running, but this wasn’t available on the top-ranked trimmers we tested.

Manual feed
lets you stop the machine, pick up the trimmer head, and press a button to pull out more string. This takes time, but you can get very close to the maximum allowed length (determined by the length-trimming blade mounted on the guard) to reduce wasted line.

The trimmer from Greenworks is the only one we tested that has a manual-feed bypass for its automatic system.

uses a spring-loaded clutch system that will release more line when you “bump” the bottom of the trimmer head on hard ground while it’s running. This is the system used on the 15”-width trimmers we tested, from Ryobi and Ego.

This takes some getting used to, but if you’re working around rocks, sticks and concrete that quickly wear out your trimmer line, it’s a very fast way to get back to the job. Most commercial-grade trimmers use a system like this.

Fixed-line trimmer heads are sometimes an option, but we didn’t pick any models with this style. Rather than a spool that feeds out line as it’s used up, a fixed-line head just holds one piece that starts out at exactly the right length and needs to be manually replaced when it wears down.

A shoulder strap

a shoulder strap for weed trimming

None of the models we tested came bundled with a strap, and we tested each of them without one, but if you’re going to be running a trimmer for more than ten minutes at a time you owe it to yourself to use a support system of some kind.

Essential Accessory

Arnold Universal Trimmer Strap

The universal trimmer strap from Arnold is basic, but it’s a huge relief to shift the weight of the trimmer onto your core muscles.

Aftermarket straps are plentiful and cheap; we tested the Arnold Universal Trimmer Strap. It works perfectly on all the models except our top pick: the bracket included with this strap won’t quite fasten around the thicker shaft on the Black+Decker tool. The strap itself can clip on various parts of the handle, though, and we didn’t have any problems using it; the Black+Decker is also a trimmer that’s light enough not to need a support strap as badly as the others do.

The shoulder strap attachment bracket should sit right at the balance point of the trimmer. After you adjust the length of the strap to get the trimmer at a perfect height, you can almost work one-handed.

There are more elaborate strap and harness systems available to help balance a heavy commercial trimmer. The trimmer will rub against your hip if you’re supporting it with a strap, so the heavy-duty harnesses include some kind of shield to fend off bruises and grass stains.

How we tested

In addition to testing for lawn-duty use in the city, we sent this lineup of trimmers to an avocado orchard in southern California. The trimmers arrived at the ten-acre grove just in time to begin work cleaning up all the weeds that had sprung up after a fall fertilizer application. Our testers cut weeds ranging from mundane dandelions and crab grasses up to the imposing four-foot-tall horse thistles.

The orchard already uses a selection of gas-powered trimmers, mostly mid-size Stihl models like the FS 70 R. We’ve included direct comparisons to the Stihl where it makes sense, but as context rather than as a purchase recommendation: we believe that most home users are going to be happier with a cordless electric trimmer.

trimmers feature comparison chart


As mentioned in our section on features, none of these trimmers were supplied with a shoulder strap, but they really should be. We tested each model without a strap for a few weeks before ordering a generic strap from Amazon.

These trimmers are quite light compared to the gas-powered engines that professional landscapers are using for hours at a time, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy on your shoulders and back. If you’re only planning to do quick touch-up trimming, the Black+Decker – LST136W is not too bad without a shoulder strap; for any other purpose, get a strap.

Cutting ability

cutting performance data

This was one of the trickier values to test for. Each of these trimmers will cut grass easily, but the upper limit of cutting capacity is harder to define.

We measured the biggest weed stalks that could be cut cleanly by each trimmer. We tried to bog down the trimmers in extra-dense grasses. We even skirmished with some materials like saplings and vines that are just too tough to cut effectively with string trimmers.

The wattage rating here is a value derived from the nominal capacity and voltage of each battery system divided by how long the trimmers run before shutting off. Between batteries with the same capacity and voltage, a shorter run-time means more wattage is being pulled by the motor.

The chart above rates each tool on a scale of five based on how effectively it cut, but note that the smaller trimmers use thin line that disappears quickly if you’re cutting tough woody material.

There are a lot of similarities between trimmers of the same size, but each manufacturer has taken their own approach to finding a balance of power, battery life and weight.

The Ego trimmer has impressive power, ripping through all but the very toughest weeds. The other trimmers stopped cutting green leafy weeds when stalks got bigger than 0.45”, though the Ryobi trimmer often failed on anything bigger than 0.35”.

Gas trimmers probably have enough power to cut through very thick material, but the trimming line will usually start to wear away before you reach the limit of engine power.

Line advance

The different systems used to release more cutting string have their strengths and failings, but we ranked them here based on how easily and quickly we could get back to cutting at full speed after a rock or vine ate away at our trimmer string.

The automatic-feed systems are okay for general use, but for cutting in the field where string sometimes goes quickly, we preferred a system like the bump-feed that gives some control over how much line is fed out and when.

Battery tests

power comparison data

We timed how long each trimmer will run under the same conditions, with the motor running constantly and cutting in dense grass and weeds.

As you can see from the charts, run time tracks pretty closely with the size of battery and amount of power the trimmer puts into cutting. The more work the tool does spinning the trimmer line, the shorter the battery life.

We also timed how long it takes to recharge the batteries with the included chargers; this will be a more important detail for some buyers than others.

battery testing data

The most surprising result is the Ryobi system; the short run-time on a high-capacity battery means it’s pumping a lot of watts through its motor. The fact that this trimmer also suffered poor cutting performance suggests an inefficiency in the drive shaft system that allows changing to other tool types. (It’s certainly the noisiest trimmer, and more noise is never an indicator of an efficient electric drive system.)

As noted previously, we’re using a nominal advertised power rating for the Stihl 2-cycle engine (0.9 kilowatts) that seems accurate. It has far more power available than the battery systems, and every fill of the 11.5 oz tank will give you about 34 minutes of run-time.

The best string trimmer: Black+Decker – LST136W


The Black+Decker – LST136W is a compact, lightweight but powerful trimmer that will be ideally suited to most home edging and trimming needs.

Weight is a big consideration here: we liked how easy it was to carry this trimmer around. The fact that it can be collapsed to a smaller size for storage is a great bonus. The other tools fold or come apart, but that makes for an unwieldy package.

None of the conveniences would be a worthwhile trade-off if this trimmer couldn’t keep up with the cutting tasks, but Black+Decker managed to hit a sweet spot for efficiency and power. The motor tackled thick, overgrown grass that bogged down even the big Ryobi trimmer, and it managed to cut heavy stalks (like the pictured fig-tree shoots) better, too.

Black+Decker with weeds

If you’re dealing with household chores like trimming lawn edges and cutting weeds around flower beds, this trimmer does amazing work given how light it is.

Best for city lawns

Black+Decker - LST136W

This ultra-light trimmer doesn’t skimp on power, and it out-cut some big competitors in our testing. A great overall package.

Even better, there’s an easy-to-use speed dial that will vary the amount of juice the motor is using: if you’re just trimming a bit of grass or light weeds, you can turn it down and get even longer runtime from the battery. We ran all our tests with the power cranked up to full and were still satisfied with the battery capacity, but it’s nice to know that you can go for longer if you’re not pushing the performance envelope.

There are definitely jobs that this trimmer is too small for, but the motor and battery aren’t really the limiting factor. If you’re working around sharp stones or tough plants like vines, then the 0.065” trimming line will disappear quickly.

With unexpected line breaks, and it was sometimes frustrating having to wait for the Black+Decker’s automatic feed system to pay out more line. We even bypassed it a few times by opening up the spool and unwinding a few turns manually after losing a big chunk of string. Bigger machines with 0.080” line won’t last too much longer when dealing with tough material, but they are designed to quickly feed out more line after it breaks.

Probably the biggest disappointment of this machine is the length of the shaft and the difficulty attaching a standard shoulder strap bracket. If you’re much taller than six feet, you might be annoyed by how far you need to stretch your arms to reach the ground with the optimal cutting angle.

shoulder strap on Black+Decker

Adding a shoulder strap helps, since your arms aren’t carrying all the weight anymore. Since the shaft of this tool is too thick for a “universal” strap bracket, we had to improvise an attachment point; it’s not pretty, but it works. If you’re shorter in stature, the adjustable-length shaft is very easy to set at exactly the right length for good posture and easy work.

Key takeaways:

  • The Black+Decker – LST136W is the lightest trimmer we tested, and collapses neatly for easy storage.
  • The weight savings don’t cost you much in terms of cutting power, and we were impressed with how capable this 13” trimmer is in the field.
  • 33 minutes of working time is close to average, but there’s a handy power dial feature to save power when you’re only doing light cutting.

The best for heavier work: Ego – Power+ 1502-SF

If you scoff at the term “lightweight” and are looking for a battery-powered trimmer to replace a gas model, Ego’s Power+ ST1502-SF is made to fit your needs.

With a higher-voltage “Power+” battery system that pumps up the wattage available to its motor, Ego’s trimmer also uses commercial-grade 0.095” line that will cut heavier material than any of the other electric trimmers we tested.

Best for big jobs

Ego - Power+ 1502-SF

Battery power comes of age: this trimmer has enough grunt for a half-hour of serious cutting work, without the mess or noise of a two-stroke gasoline engine.

The available power comes at a price: with only 36 minutes of runtime despite the massive 2.5 amp-hour battery, this machine is just barely viable for big jobs on an acreage. (This trimmer runs at a higher voltage than the others, so the battery has more cells inside.) It’s heavy enough to make your shoulders and back sore the first couple of weeks you use it. That said, this is lighter than the Ryobi 15” trimmer or a gas-powered model, and a shoulder strap is a good idea anyhow.

Fortunately the battery charger got the same treatment as the rest of the machine, with an integrated cooling fan and beefy power supply. The charger reliably refilled the 2.5 AH battery in less than 45 minutes. That’s impressive even compared to the Greenworks charging system, which only had to refill 2.0 AH and took an hour.

We don’t really have anything bad to say about the Ego trimmer, and it was far more powerful than the Ryobi’s competing model, but we found that for city lawn work it was a bit overkill.

You can definitely do most of the jobs this trimmer will do with the Black+Decker, and our top pick has a wire guide and rotating head for easy edging jobs. The Ego’s hand grip lets you hold the trimmer sideways to do edging, but it doesn’t feel like a purpose-built solution the way our top pick does.

Key takeaways:

  • The Ego – Power+ 1502-SF has a 15” cutting head with commercial-grade cutting string and a 36-minute runtime.
  • Ego has dropped the gauntlet and put gasoline-powered toolmakers on notice. There are still pros who don’t have the option of waiting for a battery to charge every half-hour, but for the rest of us this is the best big trimmer to buy.

Other finalists we tested

Greenworks – 2101602 G-MAX


Greenworks has released the 2101602 trimmer as part of their G-MAX system, and while it doesn’t make top grade, it’s a very capable machine.

The biggest hindrance to this trimmer is weight and ergonomics. While the Black+Decker tool weighs in at a very slim 6.8 pounds, Greenworks only managed 7.8, with a smaller battery, and with a drop in cutting power.

The performance of this trimmer is acceptable for most situations: the line only reaches 12” diameter compared to the Black+Decker’s 13”, but Greenworks has two lines spinning at the same time, like the big 15” trimmers do.

We felt that they were on fairly equal footing in terms of cutting power if you dial back the Black+Decker control wheel to 85 percent power, which roughly matches any difference in runtime, too.

If you don’t think you’ll ever want to cut anything heavier than grass, the Greenworks will save you some money and charges a bit more quickly, but we really liked the option of bumping up the power just a little bit with Black+Decker’s system.

The one case where we’d recommend this trimmer over the Black+Decker is if you’re much taller than six feet. The Greenworks trimmer’s longer reach makes it a bit easier to find a balanced handle position, and mounting a “universal” shoulder strap isn’t as tricky.

Ryobi – RY40220


The Ryobi line won top spot in Consumer Reports’ roundup, and The Wirecutter liked this one enough to give it runner-up pick.

The Ryobi – RY40220 trimmer gives you a ton of options. If the first thing you’re looking for is a tool system that will let you do hedge trimming, roto-tilling and leaf blowing with a single battery and motor module, then it might be worth considering.

Sadly, Ryobi’s lawn tools aren’t compatible with their cordless shop tools. Ryobi’s 40 volt system doesn’t offer nearly the same power as the Ego 56 volt system, either, nor is it significantly cheaper.

On the whole, this trimmer was pretty disappointing. It’s loud: not nearly as loud as a two-cycle gas engine, but far louder than any of the other electric trimmers we tested. It’s also heavy, about one pound shy of a gas-powered trimmer and two pounds more than the Ego (despite that bigger battery).

In thick, tall grass or against stout weeds, the Ryobi just didn’t seem to have enough power to keep up. The worst-case scenario for this particular tool seems to be thick grass: clumps of tall quackgrass that Black+Decker’s light-weight trimmer buzzed through easily seemed to be too much for Ryobi’s motor or drive system.

Ryobi defeated by figs

On vines and thick stalks like the fig saplings pictured above, the motor would slow down enough that the cutting string started wrapping instead of cutting, and we had to move much more slowly and more deliberately to cut weeds efficiently with this trimmer.

Those tough-cutting situations are not great for any weed wackers, since tough stalks and vines will also start wearing and breaking your trimmer line. We’d prefer to use up line more quickly, though, if it means we can get through occasional patches of heavy weeds without bogging down.

Ryobi’s bump-feed system works well, with slightly more consistent re-loading than Ego’s, so it’s not a total failure as a serious tool. Without more power to cut through tough spots, though, the refinement seem a bit of a waste.

Ryobi has also faced some criticism in customer reviews over the batteries they sell. Some users are reporting that their batteries won’t charge anymore after a few months. There are some unrealistic expectations in the Home Depot customer reviews: cordless lawn tools shouldn’t be expected to run for more than 30 working minutes. Failing to charge, though, is a serious problem.

We haven’t had any problems with our Ryobi battery yet, and we didn’t see the problem mentioned in the other major reviews, but we’ll update if ours kicks the bucket.

The bottom line

Trimming grass and weeds around your lawn is one more step in a mowing routine that can really make the difference between a lawn that’s merely cut and a lawn that looks carefully maintained.

Black+Decker’s – LST136W is a tool designed with home lawn-care in mind, and it has just the right set of features and performance to excel in an urban environment. Striking a good balance in power, weight, cost and battery capacity, this is a single-line trimmer that can keep up with your lawn-care needs.

Top Pick: Black+Decker LST136W

At less than seven pounds and with enough battery capacity to get you through a weekly trimming job, this is a great tool for urban lawn-care.

The post The Best String Trimmer appeared first on Your Best Digs.

]]> 0 The Best String Trimmer of %%currentyear%% - %%sitename%% After two months of edging lawns, trimming grass and relentless weed destruction on a ten-acre orchard, with four of the top battery-powered models, we found the best string trimmer for the average sized home lawn. Gas-powered models are recommended only for larger jobs, usually folks who do this professionally. lawn lineup-trimmers2 edging tools comparison Ego and Stihl a shoulder strap for weed trimming trimmers feature comparison chart cutting performance data power comparison data battery testing data Black+Decker Black+Decker with weeds shoulder strap on Black+Decker ego-electric-edge-trimmer Greenworks Ryobi Ryobi defeated by figs
The Best Leaf Blower Fri, 05 Jan 2018 23:28:15 +0000 After two months of blowing, sweeping and shredding the endless piles of autumn leaves on a ten-acre orchard with five top units on the market including plug in, battery, and gas-powered ones to discover the Toro - 51621 is the best leaf blower for most homeowners.

The post The Best Leaf Blower appeared first on Your Best Digs.


After two months of blowing, sweeping and shredding the endless piles of autumn leaves on a ten-acre orchard with five of the top units on the market, the Toro – 51621 proved itself the best leaf blower.

Leaf blowing is a task that expands to fill the abilities of your tools: once you have a blower you like, you’ll start taking better care of your gutters, sweeping behind the garage more thoroughly and (maybe) winning the war against leaves in your garden water fountain.

There’s more than one way to blow leaves around, and we tested battery-powered, plug-in as well as two-stroke gas tools. We moved more leaves than you can probably imagine, sweeping driveways and grass as well as blowing out gutters and vacuuming around flower beds.

We picked the plug-in Toro for its great balance of impressive power in a quiet and maneuverable package. The cord is the only drawback, but that saves you from the smell, noise and expense of two-stroke gas engines.

Top Pick: Toro - 51621

This is a plug-in blower that nearly matched big backpack blowers for power. It's easy to handle, quieter than a gas-powered blower and comes complete with accessories for vacuuming and bagging leaves.

If you’re working with a big driveway or a shortage of outlets, we also liked the convenience of the cordless Dewalt – DCBL720P1. With a 20V battery, this blower is on the smaller side, but that makes it lightweight and easy to carry around and use. For a quick clean-up sweep of walks and patios, this blower is practically perfect.

Runner Up: Dewalt - DCBL720P1

If you've struggled to find places to plug in your lawn tools, this battery-powered blower will save you from over-long extension cords. This is a simple tool, but it does its job well.

Table of contents

How we selected finalists to test

We looked at top-rated blowers from publications like Consumer Reports, Popular Mechanics and Gardening Products Review. We looked primarily at brands that are well-reviewed and easy to find and purchase. (Sorry, Stihl; a one-brand authorized dealer network might be a good place to buy tools for a landscaping company, but we like our internet comparison shopping.)

This lineup includes blowers with customer reviews that indicate more than just satisfactory performance and models regarded as quiet and efficient. We picked two models with vacuum and bagging options, both well-regarded for their capabilities there.

Gasoline-powered blowers have taken a real beating in the press this year, especially after a number of towns in New York and New Jersey decided to ban them during the summer months when they’re mostly used to clean up grass clippings, not to collect leaves. There is even a lobby organization dedicated to eliminating gas-powered landscaping tools, especially blowers.

Hand-held gas blowers didn’t make this review since, aside from those noise and pollution complaints, they’re both expensive and require more maintenance than many homeowners will want to deal with.

We did include a bigger backpack-style gas-powered blower to see what the extra power can do (and how much noise it really makes), and we also had a giant 9 HP walk-behind blower on hand for comparison.

The five best leaf blowers

leaf blower lineup
ProductPriceWeight (lb)TypePower Score
(out of 5)
Vacuum Function
1. Toro - 51621$$8.2Electric, Corded3.7Yes
2. Dewalt - DCBL720P1$$$$7.4Electric, Cordless1.9No
3. Echo - PB-580T$$$$$$23.4Gas, Backpack5.0No
4. Worx - Trivac WG509$$9.4Electric, Corded2.2Yes
5. Greenworks - 24012$4.6Electric, Corded2.1No

Blower types

Plug-in electric

Most of the blowers we tested fall into this category. A cord does limit the distance you can move around your yard, but there’s a huge advantage: all the power you’re using is stored in the grid, so you don’t need to carry around a fuel tank or a heavy battery.

Plug-in blowers are very good at providing just the right amount of power for backyard leaf-blowing, and many also give you the option of vacuuming and mulching leaves for bagging or composting. (There are gas-powered leaf vacuums, but they’re becoming less and less common.)

This style is a compromise between clean, quiet operation and available power. If we had to pick just one blower for an urban backyard, it would definitely be plug-in.

blower power types

Cordless, battery-powered electric

Battery-powered tools have been evolving steadily since Black & Decker created the first battery-powered drill using Nickel-Cadmium cells back in 1961. We’re now seeing widespread use of Lithium Ion cells, very similar to the battery in your laptop or cell phone, which don’t have nearly as many problems as older battery types.

Battery power is very convenient for short bursts of moderate power, like daily sweeping on a small yard and a driveway. If you need to work for longer than 20 minutes, though, the long charge time makes this a poor choice. You can buy additional battery packs to work longer, but the cost of a battery is a significant part of the tool’s price.


If being tethered to an electrical outlet just isn’t an option, gasoline-powered blowers are another way to go.

Professional landscapers use gas-powered blowers not only for freedom of movement, but also because gas motors put out far more power than a compact battery is capable of. We tested the Echo – PB-580T: a backpack-style blower with almost four times more working power than DeWalt’s 20V battery model.


Echo - PB-580T

Echo’s two-stroke engines are powerful and reliable, and the backpack design makes it relatively easy to carry for long periods.

The downsides to a two-stroke gas engine are also readily apparent. You need to mix special oil into the gasoline (or buy pre-mixed fuel), and the difference in noise levels is huge.

We measured 95 dBA of sound pressure at the distance of an operator’s ear, which means you should use ear plugs if you’re working with a blower like this for more than an hour per day. It’s slightly less than a typical gas-powered chainsaw or string trimmer, though.

That said, It’s easy to see why gas-powered tools are still popular among professionals. If you keep fuel on hand in a small gas can, you can run your blower for six hours. We didn’t test a hand-held gas blower because the electric models were so highly rated, but gasoline still has a place on a property with lots of ground to cover.

Walk-behind blowers

wheeled blower

This is a special category of leaf blower for people who need to clear a large area of pavement or concrete quickly. They’re mounted on wheels because they weigh about 150 pounds, but the amount of power on tap is pretty impressive.

Our test partners at the orchard use an older model of the Little Wonder Optimax blower for clearing driveways. With a 270 CC Honda engine attached directly to a giant fan, it’s rated to push 2260 cfm of air—more than five times what our top electric blower puts out.

That means you can clear a long driveway as quickly as you can push the blower, but it won’t do much for a big lawn with the on-road-only wheels. It also has a nasty habit of peeling up loose sod and destroying flower beds if you’re not careful where you point it. For clearing the driveway it works very well, unless you have a steep slope: these beasts are much easier to roll down a hill than they are to push back up.

Do you need a vacuum for mulching?

Vacuum types

There’s a bit of controversy surrounding leaves, mulching and bagging.

Leaves and grass clippings are organic material that grows from your lawn, so there’s no question that removing them is also removing nitrogen and other plant nutrients from your lawn’s natural life-cycle.

What’s more, curbside pickup of bagged leaves might not even be available in your area. Leaves have to be composted, rather than going to a landfill, and it takes even more energy to transport all the leaves to a city composting site than it does for you to bag them.

That said, if you’ve got trees dropping all their leaves on your lot in October, you’ve got to do something with them (and blowing them into the street doesn’t count). If you just let the leaves accumulate, they’ll block the sunlight that your grass needs to store energy for winter—or worse, the leaves can get soggy and musty.

Many experts (not to mention the EPA) advocate mulching organic material back into your lawn with a mower that chops up leaves and spreads them as it cuts. (This is often called a “mulching mower,” but some people use that term to refer to a mower that collects mulch in a bag.)

Research like this study from Michigan State University definitely shows that mulching leaves back into the turf is good for your lawn. A lawn mower like our top pick from Honda will shred the leaves small enough that they filter down into your turf and nearly disappear.

Some homeowners strive to achieve the pristine green that you can only get by collecting leaves and clippings, and a blower with vacuum options is one tool that can help. Consumer Reports has published this guide that discusses strategies for using a leaf vacuum.

We definitely appreciated having the vacuum options on two of the blowers we tested, but we found them most useful for selective work. Collecting leaves around a pool or fountain, for example, is much easier when you can suck up the leaves instead of accidentally blowing them into the water.

Mulching leaves is a valuable part of lawn management, but we can’t say that there’s a leaf vacuum on the market that will make bagging an entire lawn worth of leaves easy.

Important features to consider

Cubic feet per minute is a measurement of overall volume of air the blower can move and should always be a relatively accurate measurement of overall power.

Miles per hour, on the other hand, is a measurement of the speed of the air that’s coming out of a blower. The speed will change, though, depending on how much room the air has to move: a small opening will yield higher speeds with more blasting power, while a wide nozzle might be much better at moving a wide swath.

There’s no definitive standard for where or how to measure airspeed, so we’ve done actual testing with weighted test objects and common tasks to give you an idea of how the blowers put their power to work.

Amps is a measurement of the amount of electricity that travels through a circuit each second. Corded electric tools will always tell you how many amps they pull, since you need to know that number in order to choose a big enough cord and avoid blowing your 15A circuit breakers.

Cordless tools, on the other hand, will rarely advertise how much energy they’re actually consuming, nearly always emphasizing the voltage and capacity (amp-hours or watt-hours) of the battery instead.

Watts measure the total amount of energy used, and we can even include a rating for gasoline engines. These numbers are provided by the manufacturers, and they’re only measuring the amount of energy that’s used up rather than the amount of actual work done, but it’s a handy reference for the size and power of a machine.

Mulch Ratio is how much space you’ll save if you mulch your leaves instead of raking them into a bag whole. Consumer Reports has found that the manufacturers’ listed ratios are exaggerated by four or five times, though, so we don’t put much stock in these numbers when picking machines. Toro lists “97% reduction to half-inch pieces,” while Worx claims an 18:1 reduction.

How we tested

testing blower force

Test 1: force

force testing results chart

If you need to move debris and gravel or to lift damp leaves out of your grass, then this is the chart that’s going to be most important.

We used a small weighted box to see how much brute force each blower has when you give it a big surface to blow against. The chart lists the distance our two-pound weight was pushed beside the manufacturer’s rating for total blower output in cubic feet per minute.

Test 2: air speed

air speed test results

If you’re primarily blowing loose leaves to clear a big area, then this is most important chart to look at.

We measured how far each blower could throw a plastic pouch full of leaves with a quick-moving airstream. The chart includes the manufacturer’s assessment of air speed in miles-per-hour. The test object weighed four ounces, and the results line up with performance we observed sweeping leaves in our field tests.

For example, we see that the outlet tip on the Toro blower makes the air go faster than the giant tube on Echo’s blower, so the Toro was able to keep up when blowing leaves around even though it doesn’t move as much air overall.

The Worx blower, on the other hand, is only slightly better than the tiny Greenworks blower despite the narrow nozzle. It just doesn’t move enough air to be effective at clearing large areas.

Test 3: noise levels

noise level test results

We measured the noise levels of each blower with our calibrated sound pressure level meter setup in three positions: at ear height, from 50 feet away and from 50 feet with the variable-speed control (if the blower has one) turned all the way down. Measurements are A-weighted (as most industry regulations require) and averaged over 30 seconds using Room EQ Wizard to ensure consistency.

For reference, some ordinances prohibit sound levels as low as 50 dBA before 7 AM in residential communities. 65 dBA at 50 feet is a common daytime maximum, so be careful using any blower around sensitive neighbours. More and more towns are beginning to ban loud leaf blowers, even electric blowers, so find out about local ordinances.

What about safety for you, the owner of the blower? Unless you’re blowing for more than a few hours every day, only the gas-powered blower is loud enough reach noise exposure levels that cause damage. Even the backpack blower isn’t as loud as a chainsaw or a weed trimmer, but if you’re using any blower for a full day at work you should definitely be wearing hearing protection.

Regarding safety, note that because sound pressure is measured on a logarithmic scale, every 3dB change represents a doubling in sound intensity. So, in terms of the health of your ears, a 6dB difference is four times more sound.

We tested an additional data point: if you just need to blow a few leaves off your walk early on a Saturday morning, most of these blowers do offer a speed control that will let you turn down the noise. The DeWalt cordless blower was really the only one that was quiet enough to consider using in a noise-sensitive situation, and it’s still not below the 50dB threshold that’s often used before 7 AM.

The way your neighbours perceive the sound of your lawn tools is not the same as measured results, of course. The decibel scale represents power in a logarithmic slope, but our brains respond in an even less linear way to changes in sound, and your family might not even notice a difference of 3dB, even if it is a lot more power. Your neighbor’s sleeping baby or dog will probably not care if you’re below a legally allowable noise level, but it’s good to know where you stand.

Test 4: power comparisons

power testing data

Compared to the capacity and voltage comparisons between battery-powered tools, comparisons of plug-in appliances might seem pretty boring. Bigger is better, right? There’s a catch, though, to drawing all that current from the wall plug: you need to be careful about using a big enough cable to get power to your tool.

The official National Electrical Code listing for cable conductor sizes involves some complex math and is more concerned with wiring inside your walls than lawn tools, so we rely on interpretations in the guide published by Home Depot.

16-gauge cords are common and will work well for our big plug-in blowers at 50 feet, but that’s not the end of the story. Wire heats up when you run electricity through it, and the longer the cable is, the more it will heat up.

If you need to buy a 100’ cord or tie two 50’ cords together, you should go up in size to 14-gauge wire. (Smaller number, bigger wire.) A 14-gauge extension cord is not as easy to find or inexpensive as a 16-gauge cord, but it’s well worth the cost when you consider what might happen if you melt a cord running too much current through it.

For battery and gas-powered blowers, we’ve provided the average running times we achieved after a season of leaf-blowing. Refilling a gas tank is quick compared to waiting on a battery charger, but don’t forget to keep some gas and two-cycle oil on hand in a gas can, or it could take you significantly longer to go re-supply at a gas station or hardware store.

The best electric leaf blower: Toro – 51621


Toro’s top-selling blower, the plug-in model 51621, comes with a kit that includes mulching and bagging accessories as well as a variety of different air-shaping nozzles. This is a versatile kit, but we picked it primarily for its raw power output.

In testing, we found that this blower could move bigger debris and throw leaves much farther than most of the other blowers, and it was better at loosening leaves out of long grass. In our distance test, el Toro threw our weighted test objects almost as far as the big backpack blower did.

The added accessories do make a difference, though. Being able to switch to vacuum-mode means you can do jobs that simple blowers can’t. The included oscillating tip makes it a little bit more efficient for sweeping off wide areas of concrete, though we didn’t notice much change when we were working on grass.

Toro’s blower isn’t perfect. To use it as a vacuum, you can exchange the blower tube for a bag, and the guard over the intake fan for a vacuum tube. The fit of the guard is snug, and changing the accessories could have been a little bit easier. That said, the recall on a close competitor, the Black+Decker’s BV5600, was over a very similar guard that was so loose it would fall off. We’ll take a bit of prying over lacerated fingers any day of the week.

Toro accessories

Black+Decker’s BV5600 got a good review from The Wirecutter and Popular Mechanics and goes together as a kit in a similar way. Beyond the safety recall, Consumer Reports gave it a much lower score because it lacked power, so we stuck with the Toro.

If you’re planning to use this blower for long periods of time on the lowest power setting, the big speed controller does have a tricky habit of bumping to “off” if you jiggle it or even if you shake the blower.

It’s easy to ramp the speed up and down if you have a free hand, but it’s not like the trigger-control on the DeWalt cordless blower that lets you flick precise blasts of air. The speed control works if you need to turn things down for careful work around flower beds, but low-speed work is not its strong suit.

The cord lock integrated into Toro’s handle is not the best we’ve used, but we figured it out without needing to look it up in the manual and we never had a cord come unplugged.

With a 50-foot extension cord most people should have no trouble cleaning their lawns and patios with this plug-in blower, but if you need more length be sure to get 14-gauge extension cords: this blower draws 12 Amps, and that means typical 16 gauge cords will start getting too hot if you daisy-chain them out to 100 feet.

Another feature that solidified the Toro’s spot in first place is a blue hook that slips over the blower tube and gives you a way to wrap your extension cord neatly around the blower for storage. We prefer to hang our cords on a hook in the garage, but Toro is providing real options that the other manufacturers just don’t seem interested in.

Key takeaways:

  • The Toro – 51621 blower/vacuum has far more power than the other blowers in its class, but it manages to be a little bit quieter than the other plug-in models, too.
  • Plug-in power means you need a cord long enough to reach wherever you’re blowing, but you’ll never have to worry about batteries or fuel.
  • Toro includes extra nozzles for specialized work and a well-designed vacuum function, making this a complete package.
  • No cord included: if you need more than 50 feet of reach make sure to get a heavy-duty 14-gauge cord.

Best cordless leaf blower: Dewalt – DCBL720P1


A 20V lithium-ion battery can’t deliver as much power as a gas engine or a 120V extension cord, but the Dewalt – DCBL720P1 earned our respect with usable power and the freedom of lightweight cordless use.

If you’re lifting leaves that have been sitting on a lawn for a week and settling into the grass, the amount of power this blower offers might be disappointing, and the Toro blower can run circles around it doing tough jobs.

If you just want a blower for sweeping leaves off your sidewalk and into a pile, though, the cordless design means you can move quickly. If you’re concentrating on one spot a cord isn’t a big hindrance, but this blower excels at roaming up and down long driveways just as well as clearing hard-to-reach gutters or the corners behind your trash cans.

Effectively, this blower makes up for a lack of reach by making it easier to get close to the leaves you’re blowing. That also means it’s a bit easier to be careful about not blowing leaves across property lines or damaging flower beds, but it also means you’ll spend more time walking.

Runner up

Dewalt - DCBL720P1

This blower is compact and easy to grab for quick clean-up jobs. The power output is low, but it’s easy to get right where you need to be.

The lower output also means this is also a very quiet blower, and the variable-speed trigger is by far the easiest to use of the bunch. (There’s also a locking thumb-lever that keeps the speed where you want it if you’re doing a bigger job.) It’s still as loud as a vacuum cleaner, so you’re not going to be some kind of lawn ninja who clears leaves unnoticed, but it’s a nice perk.

For spending an entire morning collecting leaves off your yard, this wouldn’t be our first choice, but it’s very convenient not having to worry about cords or gas cans when the leaves start falling and you just want to clear off your deck.

At the end of the day this didn’t make our top pick because an 18-minute runtime is just not going to be enough for some jobs, and stopping in the middle of a job to wait more than an hour for charging is just a pain. This is a worst-case runtime, though, with the trigger locked on full and no breaks. If you take full advantage of the smooth and easy trigger control you should be able to get five or ten more minutes out of a battery, but it’s difficult to translate that to real-world time walking around your yard without defining exactly how much force you need to push your leaves and how far you need to push them.

If you’ve already got one or two of DeWalt’s 20V Max batteries (or one of the new batteries for the Flex-Volt 20V/60V system) then the run-time limits might be less of a problem, but this still isn’t a tool for big jobs.

At the end of our testing period, we have mixed feelings about this blower. The price is especially hard to swallow, basically double what you pay for a good plug-in blower like our top pick. But this blower can go anywhere without worrying about cords, and it doesn’t have the inconvenience and weight of a gas-powered blower. This might make it sound like a niche tool, but we found ourselves reaching for the DeWalt first when doing frequent, easy jobs like blowing off walkways after mowing.

As is the case with most cordless tools, this blower is very handy and great to have around, and you might be surprised at how little you notice the power difference compared to the ease of working without a cord. (Just don’t forget to charge the battery when you’re done.)

Key takeaways:

  • The Dewalt – DCBL720P1 isn’t the perfect tool for every job, but it has just the right amount of power for most leaf-blowing.
  • The battery isn’t going to astound you with its capacity, but there’s enough working time for weekly yard chores.
  • Remembering to charge the battery is a bit of a pain, but it’s still faster and easier to drop the battery in a charger after each use than to untangle a heavy extension cord or remember to fill a gas can.

Other finalists we tested

Echo – PB-580T


The PB-580T from Echo is a representative pick: this was a well-reviewed and economical choice from a wide field of two-cycle gas blowers. This is the kind of tool you’ll know well if you’re working professionally around yards and parks, but some homeowners with property backing onto parkland might consider it too.

The downsides, naturally, are many. Starting never took more than a few pulls if we followed the prime/choke/throttle/pull procedure carefully, but that’s still a lot of steps compared to the power-and-go simplicity of electric blowers. The run time was good and refuelling was pretty easy, but those are still factors you don’t have to worry about with our top pick.

Gas-powered blowers are also becoming increasingly less popular with neighbours and city councils, so think carefully about who might be affected by your leaf-blower choices.

Pre-mixed gas like TruFuel is a handy way to keep fuel on hand for occasional use, but it’s not cheap. The brand-name oil additive with handy measuring bottle makes it easy to add when you’re filling a gas can, and if you’re refilling that a few times per season it definitely pays off.

The noise that this machine makes is unmistakable. It rumbles, buzzes and chatters at idle like most two-stroke engines do, but it actually put out less noise energy (however distinctive it might be) when idling than the big electric blowers did at their lowest speeds.

Echo backpack

Of course when you pull the trigger to spin the fan up this is a loud machine. You’d be wise to wear hearing protection when you’re doing big jobs, but it doesn’t put out the ear-splitting volume of something like a chainsaw.

There are other options if you have a yard too big for a cord: handheld gas blowers like the Hitachi – RB24EAP costs less than a backpack blower, but they don’t put out significantly more air than our electric top pick. There are also bigger lithium-ion cordless systems, like the 56V Power+ from Ego (out of stock when we purchased our testing group) that put out an impressive amount of air, but can’t run longer than about 20 minutes on a battery.

The backpack blower is a tool that makes no compromises: it goes where corded blowers and even the big walk-behind gas blowers just can’t go, but it can keep going for as long as you can keep topping off the fuel tank. It’s not a vacuum or mulcher, and it’s not lightweight or quiet, but if you need to clean a ¼-mile-uphill driveway it’s practically perfect.

Worx – Trivac WG509


There are things to like about the TriVac WG509 from Worx, but on the whole it’s just not competitive.

The only reason we might recommend this blower over the Toro is if you need to switch quickly and frequently between blowing and vacuuming leaves: Worx made this blower so you can leave the bag attached all the time, and switch the output between the bag and the blower tube with a simple flip of a lever.

As a blower, though, it’s just not great. The outlet nozzle is small and hides underneath the large vacuum tube, which makes it tricky to maneuver in tight spaces. It has more power than the cordless DeWalt blower or the little GreenWorks blower, but compared with the Toro it’s very underwhelming.

As a vacuum the shape and handle are well-designed, but for blowing we found the Toro’s pommel-grip handles made it easier to sweep and pile direct leaves. The Worx blower is a pound heavier, too, even without the bag attached.

For nearly the same price, the Toro electric blower is much more powerful, more versatile, and easier to use.

Greenworks – 24012


Greenworks makes a lot of inexpensive lawn tools, and the 24012 is pretty much what you’d expect. The best thing about it is definitely the price, but it deserves the high 4.5-star overall rating on Amazon since it does what it can within a budget.

In testing, this blower doesn’t move very much air. There’s enough to move leaves around, more than the cordless DeWalt and almost as much as the big Worx multi-function machine, but it’s not any easier to carry around or use than our top pick from Toro.

Greenworks didn’t provide any consideration for vacuuming, different blower patterns, variable speed or easy cord-wrapping. Even the on/off switch is about as basic as it could be.

The amount of noise it makes is the one thing that’s remarkable: with a small fan spinning quickly trying to move as much air as it can, this was the loudest electric blower we tested. It’s a high-pitched whine, too, definitely something your neighbours and family will notice.

We payed $30 for the Greenworks blower, and that does count for something; if you don’t already have a long extension cord, it’ll cost almost as much as this blower does. Note that the tiny motor does means it’ll safely run on a cheap 16-gauge extension cord all the way up to 100 feet.

The bottom line

Finding the very best leaf blower for your particular situation is sometimes a tricky exercise, even without factoring price or power. You can really only pick two of the following traits: Ease of use, run-time and freedom from cords.

For those whose primary concern is quickly clearing a driveway or patio, extra power might not be all that important. The 18-minute runtime of the Dewalt – DCBL720P1 isn’t its best feature, but it’s enough time to do the jobs this blower is best at.

Right now, it really is still worth the hassle of a power cord to gain the power and run-time of a blower like our top pick. The Toro – 51621 is a blower that will do everything you need a backyard blower or vacuum to do, if you have a long enough cord. If you’ve already got one of those for a plug-in mower, the Toro is an easy pick, but for nearly everyone else we still think it’s a great machine and worth the hassle.

Top Pick: Toro - 51621

Toro’s top-seller has all the power and accessories you could want. Carrying a cord around and moving from outlet to outlet isn’t our favourite part of blowing leaves, but it’ll save you money and it means you never have to wait for a battery to charge.

The post The Best Leaf Blower appeared first on Your Best Digs.

]]> 0 The Best Leaf Blower of %%currentyear%% - %%sitename%% After two months of blowing, sweeping and shredding the endless piles of autumn leaves on a ten-acre orchard with five top units on the market including plug in, battery, and gas-powered ones to find the best leaf blower for most homeowners. lawn leaf blower lineup blower power types wheeled blower Vacuum types testing blower force force testing results chart air speed test results noise level test results power testing data Toro Toro accessories DeWalt Echo Echo backpack Worx Greenworks
The Best Artificial Christmas Trees Mon, 04 Dec 2017 18:44:17 +0000 We researched and tested dozens of Christmas trees to find the best artificial Christmas tree for your home this season.

The post The Best Artificial Christmas Trees appeared first on Your Best Digs.


We spent weeks researching and comparing dozens of artificial Christmas trees to determine that the 7.5 – foot Best Choice Products – Premium Spruce is the best artificial Christmas tree. It’s quick and easy to set up, looks full and festive, and is easy on your holiday budget at less than one hundred dollars.

Top Pick: Best Choice Products - Premium Spruce

The Best Choice is a full and festive pick for a bargain at under $100. The branches of this tree sit high off the ground, meaning plenty of room for presents underneath.

You may be surprised (or vaguely repulsed) to learn that the first artificial Christmas tree was created by a toilet brush company. Since then, these trees have made leaps and bounds in realism. Companies, like Balsam Hill, even pedal artificial pine scents to make your tree smell more realistic.

And while there will always be an undeniable appeal to selecting a real Christmas tree and hauling it home, there’s also an undeniable backache involved for whoever’s doing all that hoisting. Plus, there’s the required maintenance in the weeks that follow: watering, vacuuming needles and preventing your pets from marking the tree as their own.

If you’re one of the millions of individuals opting for faux this year, you may be astounded at the number of artificial trees available on the market. When searching for your perfect tree, we know that delving into species, heights and needle types can be confusing, so we’re here to make it simpler. After all, you’ve got decking the halls to do!

Table of contents

Real Christmas trees vs. fake Christmas trees

Real vs. fake. Which is better? It’s a highly-contested topic each holiday season, and it’s one that the American Christmas Tree Association (the organization representing the artificial tree industry) and the National Christmas Tree Association (the organization representing the real tree industry) take seriously. Both groups make their cases for selecting either a real or faux tree, and we used them to inform our comparison.

small decorated tree

Fake Christmas tree pros

  • While some faux Christmas trees may seem costly up front, they typically last between ten and fifteen years, making them a more sound financial investment than real trees.
  • Artificial Christmas trees are convenient, typically requiring only simple assembly and fluffing once a season.
  • You don’t have to worry about watering or maintaining your artificial tree throughout the season.
  • You are not cutting down a live tree and disturbing animals that may inhabit it.

Real Christmas trees pros

  • You get the quintessential holiday experience of going to the farm (or tree lot) to select a tree with your family.
  • Though modern candles and air fresheners come close, nothing can exactly replicate the invigorating scent of natural pine.
  • Most sources indicate that real christmas trees have a slight advantage when it comes to environmental friendliness.
  • Buying a real Christmas tree eliminates lead concerns. Many artificial trees trees are made with PVC, which can contain lead. There is no federal regulation for lead in artificial Christmas trees. And you probably won’t find a faux Christmas tree without PVC in it.

Important features to consider

If you decide to go artificial, there are a few buying factors to keep in mind. An artificial tree can last a decade or more, so it’s worth investing the time to find the perfect one for you. Here are some key features to consider:

Number of branch tips and shedding: If you’ve already started perusing through faux trees online, you’ve noticed that many companies specify the number of branch tips on their trees. This is because there’s a direct connection between number of tips and realism. More tips yield a more realistic tree. And just like real Christmas trees, these branch tips are also bound to shed some needles. This is especially true the first time you take the tree out of the box and set it up. The best fake Christmas trees will shed less with each year of use.

Type of branches: The type of branches on the tree also has an impact on its assembly. You may want a tree with hinged branches, rather than the type you screw in, because it makes assembly easier.

Material and flocking: Consider whether you want a tree flocked with fake snow (or glitter) or if you want something more realistic. You may also want to choose a tree that’s made with more Polyethylene (PE) than PVC, since PE is thought to pose less health risk. If you read the fine print, many tree companies will tell you what percentage of PE their tree is made with (if any).

Ease of assembly, disassembly and storage: Most of the artificial trees on the market (including the ones on our list) come in three parts that are easy to click together. However, the process of “fluffing” the tree (spreading the tips apart and arranging the branches) can be time consuming. The more time you spend fluffing your tree, the better it will look. More on that later.

If you can’t fit the tree back into its original box when it’s time to put it away (who can?), just ensure that it’s covered and stored in a cool, dry location (or put it in a Christmas tree bag).

artificial christmas tree parts

Height and dimensions: Consider the height of the tree you’d like to purchase, bearing in mind that you’ll need to access the top of the tree for decorating. If the ceilings in your home are within the standard (American) eight to nine foot range, a 7.5 foot tree is probably ideal for you. The dimensions of the tree you purchase should be dependent on where you’re displaying it. If you’re placing it in a small corner, a narrow tree is best, whereas a tree with a wide girth is best for a front and center display.

Pre-lit trees and type of lights: While deciding whether to buy a pre-lit tree is a personal decision, we suggest that you don’t. Though the quality of string lights has improved in the past several years, you still risk the lights on your tree burning out before you’ve gotten full use of the tree. Furthermore, you usually cannot remove the lights from the tree.

If you do purchase a pre-lit tree, you should look for one that has about 100 lights per foot and a half of tree. You can find both incandescent-lit and LED-lit trees on the market. However, LED lights are the by far the favored choice for their energy saving and long-lasting qualities.

Cost: The cost of artificial Christmas trees varies dramatically. And, while it’s true that higher cost is usually synonymous with a higher branch tip count and better looking tree, there are some bargains out there that look pretty realistic for an affordable price. The trees on our list run the gambit in cost, starting at about $20 (for a tiny apartment-sized tree) to over $100 for one of our top contenders. Though all of our picks fall under $200, it’s not unheard of to drop nearly half a grand for a tree.

Want to get the best deal on your tree? Some experts suggest you buy during the first two weeks of December.

How we selected finalists and winners

We started our quest for the best artificial christmas tree to buy by researching the artificial Christmas tree market. While there are quite a few brands out there, many of the trees that are sold are almost (if not completely) identical in material and composition. Many of them are just renamed for different brands. We also found that some stores, like Walmart, sold multiple brands online but only had their in-house brand in our local brick and mortar stores.

We also searched the web, scouring Amazon, Home Depot, Lowes and Target for the most-reviewed and highest-rated trees. We stuck with trees under 8 feet tall, since that’s the height of the average American ceiling.

Next, we consulted review sites like Wirecutter and cultivation sites like New York Magazine to get a more well-rounded view of the trees on the market. And finally, we browsed home decorating sites like Good Housekeeping to see which artificial trees they liked best. From there, we charted all of the trees and their specs (like height and material) to compare and contrast which ones were best.

Kind of like your preference for toothpaste or what you eat for breakfast in the morning, the Christmas tree you choose will come down largely to personal taste. So, we didn’t get overly technical with our tree comparisons. Instead, we simply considered objective factors like the number of branch tips on each of our top contenders. We took an in-depth look at the material composition of each tree. Then we looked at what it took to assemble and disassemble each one, and considered each tree’s cost.

Finally, we piled on our sweaters and headed to the stores to see our picks in person (or in tree). We took pictures and notes and examined their textures up close. Then, we took the top contenders home and assembled, decorated (and photographed) them ourselves, to make sure they lived up to the hype.

Our finalists were trees that had a good needle count for the price, looked good both decorated and undecorated and were a breeze to set up.

The best fake Christmas tree: Best Choice Products

Best Choice Products tree

When it comes down to it, a lot of artificial Christmas trees in the $80 – $200 are very similar, if not identical, in design. For this reason, we had a tough time choosing between our top two contenders, the Best Choice Products – Premium Spruce and the National Tree Company – North Valley Spruce.

Ultimately though, we think that the 7.5 foot Best Choice Products is the best artificial Christmas tree. (And we promise we weren’t just swayed by the name). It’s got 1346 long branch tips that give it a full and fluffy look, even with its 52 inch width. It also seems to be a slightly lighter green color than the NTC tree, which looks nice with the warm glow of string lights.

Best overall

Best Choice Products - Premium Spruce

The Best Choice Products is easy to assemble and looks lush.

We did sustain some minor branch scratches while fluffing this tree, but the NTC tree injured us, too. (For that reason, we highly recommend that you purchase some gloves before fluffing your tree at home).

We also found the Best Choice tree really easy to set up. Simply click the three tree sections into place, fluff and you’re done. The only challenging part was the top third of the tree. Some of its branches were compressed so tightly against the center pole that we didn’t realize they needed to be pulled down at first. There were some complaints on Amazon about the top of this tree being too small, and we think that this could be why.

tree branch tips

However, once the branches are in place, they stay formed exactly how you set them. The Best Choice tree branches also sit higher off the ground than the NTC tree, meaning that you can easily slide gifts underneath. It had minimal shedding when we set it up, requiring just one quick sweep of a broom to undo the damage. And at less than $90, this tree is also one of the best deals of the holiday season.

Once you’re finished with this tree, it breaks down into three sections, and the branches can be compressed up against it. Even so, it may be hard to fit in the original box again, so we recommend a storage bag.

If you’re looking for a high quality tree in a different size, Best Choice Products makes similar trees in a variety of sizes.

Key Takeaways:

  • The 7.5 foot Best Choice Products tree is simple to set up with three three pieces that click together.
  • The Best Choice Products tree is a great bargain at less than $100, resembling trees that cost $50 – $100 more in composition and material.
  • The Best Choice Products’ branches start high off the ground, meaning there’s plenty of room for presents under the tree.

The runner up: National Tree Company

National Tree Company

The 7.5 foot, 52-inch-wide National Tree Company – North Valley Spruce (or NTC tree, for short) was a close second in our tests. It looked almost identical to the Best Choice Products tree, though just slightly less full.

Runner Up

National Tree Company - North Valley Spruce

The easiest to assemble tree on our list.

That being said, this NTC tree was even easier to set up than the Best Choice Products tree. It was so easy, in fact, that two people could set it up in under 45 minutes. The hinged branches literally fell into place as soon as we snapped the the three sections of the tree together. Then we did some fluffing and it was ready to go! As mentioned, this tree also left our arms a little bit scratched up after the fluffing process.

Another thing we loved about the NTC tree is that its branch tips are varied in length. It has the same amount as the Best Choice tree (1346), but some are short and some are long, giving the tree a more organic, and therefore realistic, look. Our anti-artificial tree tester even mentioned that this tree “looked better than [he] expected it to” after fluffing.

tree needles

A couple things that stopped this tree from being number one? The branch tips on this tree start relatively far from the center pole, meaning that from certain angles, you risk seeing a lot of bare metal hinges. Though, if you plan to decorate the tree with lights and ornaments, this becomes less of a problem. The branches also extend very low to the ground, which means it’s hard to slide sizeable presents underneath.

Like the Best Choice tree, this one breaks down into three sections with branches that can be compressed for storage. And, National Tree Company also makes artificial trees in a variety of other sizes.

One disclaimer about both The Best Choice and National Tree Company trees: like many artificial trees in their price range, they are made with PVC rather than PE. As we mentioned earlier, some people are dubious about the potential health risks of being around PVC. While finding a tree with less PVC and more PE (a safer alternative) is possible, it will typically cost you more.

Key Takeaways:

  • The 7.5 foot National Tree Company tree was the easiest to set up.
  • This tree’s branch tips start further out on the branches, leading to a more sparse look.
  • The branches on this tree extend very low to the ground, which creates a fuller look, but makes it harder to put presents underneath.

The best small artificial christmas tree

Apartment dwellers, we haven’t forgotten about you! If you’re searching for something that looks to-scale in your compact living room, we’ve curated a few 5-foot-and-under options for you as well.

Home Accents Holiday – 3 Foot Unlit Tacoma Pine

We found the Home Accents Holiday – 3 Foot Unlit Tacoma Pine to be the best small artificial Christmas tree. This festive little tree is a holiday steal at under $20. Much like its description says, it can fit just about anywhere. No pre-strung lights on this one mean you don’t have to worry about a burnout before you’ve gotten full use of your tree, either. Reviewers also loved how easy it was to put together. Notably, it felt softer and less-synthetic to the touch than it’s 5 foot older brother. Perhaps because it’s lacking lights that illuminate its tips, it also looks a bit more lush and realistic.

Vickerman – Carmel Pine Tree with Cones

This Charlie Brown-style Vickerman – Carmel Pine Tree with Cones is sparse in appearance, but still looks cute decked out with miniature lights and ornaments. It has a sturdy burlap-wrapped base and is dotted with small, whimsical pinecones. Available in four sizes ranging from 18 inches to 42 inches, its smallest size costs under $20.

apartment sized tree comparison

Home Accents Holiday – 5 Foot Pine with Clear Lights

The pint-sized Home Accents Holiday – 5 Foot Pine with Clear Lights comes pre-trimmed with clear lights. It arrives in two pieces that you slide together. Then you fluff it, plug it in and it’s ready for ornaments. Most reviewers shared that this entire process took them less than an hour. This little tree is compact and festive, especially for the sub- $50 dollar price point. One big negative? The bulbs are incandescent. However, there are a good amount of them for such a small tree, and we found that they cast a nice warm glow when we examined this tree in person.

The best pre-lit artificial Christmas trees

feature comparison

Because we advised against pre-lit trees (as you typically can’t remove the lights from the tree even if they burn out), we chose to focus our research on unlit trees. That being said, we know that the convenience of a pre-lit tree is sometimes irresistible. And we have to admit, they make festive night lights. So, we’ve still curated three of the most oft-reviewed and highly rated pre-lit trees for you to check out. We also checked out all these trees in person to make sure they lived up to their online descriptions.

Martha Stewart Living 7.5 Foot Pre-Lit Pine

If you want to feel like you just stepped into “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the Martha Stewart Living – 7.5 Foot Pre-Lit Pine might be the one for you. Its glitter flocking and branch-tucked pinecones will probably elicit an “aww” from everyone who sees it. At 7.5 feet, it’s just the right height for the average (U.S. sized) home, and it’s classically charming. Plus, its 54 inch diameter makes it full enough to be festive. We also love that it uses LED lights, and they come in a cheery “warm white” color. At over $250, this tree is also the most expensive on our pre-lit list. One down side? For its height and girth, its 1197 branch tip count isn’t that impressive.

Most Festive

Martha Stewart Living

This festive flocked tree makes you feel like you're inside your favorite Christmas film.

We also checked out this tree in-store and the first thing we noticed was how flocked it really is. While the picture makes it look slightly dusted with snowfall, it felt much more intensely white to us in-person. However, we loved the realistic pinecones that didn’t overwhelm the design of the Martha Stewart Living tree.

GE – 7.5 Foot Pre-Lit LED Colorado Spruce

The coolest thing about the lights on the GE – 7.5 Foot Pre-Lit LED Colorado Spruce? They change colors. You can have warm white lights, colorful lights or alternate between the two depending on the occasion. This 7.5 foot Spruce lookalike has energy smart LED lights, too. With a 48 inch diameter and 1,202 branch tips, it’s a bit thinner in girth, but more lush than the Martha Stewart choice, making it ideal (and beautiful!) for tighter spaces.

Best for tight spaces


This tall and thin LED-light tree is perfect for tight spaces.

When we saw this tree in person, it was displayed with the colorful light function. We liked that the lights stood out, but didn’t overwhelm the tree. The molded tips on the GE one also look very realistic, and it looks as full in person as it does in pictures. All of this bright Christmas magic will cost you just over $170.

Home Accents Holiday – 7 Foot Tree with Clear Lights

The Home Accents Holiday – 7 Foot Tree with Clear Lights is the least expensive on our pre-lit list, costing just under $140.

Best starter tree

Home Accents Holiday

This inexpensive pre-lit tree is a good choice for young families.

Perhaps a good “starter tree” for a young family, it has all of the basic functionalities like quick-set technology and an included stand, lights and fuses. However, this tree’s comparatively low price point shows through in its branch tip count (just 1000 tips) and only 500 lights. Even less reassuringly, the lights are incandescent, which means you risk burnout before you’ve gotten the most out of your tree.

How to fluff an artificial Christmas tree

Once you’ve purchased and assembled your artificial tree, you must fluff it. “Fluffing” is an (admittedly adorable) term for arranging all of the branches on the tree. It may seem like an imposing prospect but, in reality, it just requires a few simple steps repeated over and over again. This is a good time to bribe friends and family members to help you. We think a couple of hours of fluffing in return for some homemade hot chocolate is a good offer.

Step one: Start at the base of your artificial tree. Pull one branch out from the center of the tree.

Step two: Starting at the back of the branch (the part closest to the center of the tree) gently pull the tips of the tree away from the branch. Bend them into opposite directions so that they’re not all pointing the same way.

Step three: Continue doing this until you’ve completed the base of the tree. Take a hot chocolate break, then move on to the middle portion. After that, you can move on to fluffing the top portion. The experts at Balsam Hill recommend that you fluff the top portion before attaching it to your tree.

The bottom line

Artificial Christmas trees aren’t for everyone. If they are your cup of tea, though, it makes sense to invest in one that’s attractive, functional and good quality for the price. We recommend the Best Choice Products – Premium Spruce to satisfy that trifecta. It looks full and festive, and comes together quickly with under an hour of setup. At less than $100, it’s also great quality for a low price. The National Tree Company – North Valley Spruce is another excellent choice. It’s the easiest and most convenient tree to set up in under an hour and its varied-length branch tips make it look more realistic. If you need a small tree, the Home Accents Holiday – 3 Foot Unlit Tacoma Pine is a quality investment with its soft branch tips and below $20 price point.

Top Pick: Best Choice Products - Premium Spruce

The Best Choice is easy-to-assemble, inexpensive at under $100, and beautiful. This tree shed very few needles, making cleanup a breeze.

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]]> 0 The Best Artificial Christmas Tree of %%currentyear%% - %%sitename%% We spent weeks researching and comparing dozens of artificial Christmas trees to find the best one on the market. small decorated tree artificial christmas tree parts Best Choice Products tree tree branch tips National Tree Company tree needles artificial-christmas-tree_tree_mini apartment sized tree comparison feature comparison
The Best Money Clip Fri, 17 Nov 2017 22:47:19 +0000 We group-tested 20 of the top-rated money clips on the market to find that the Storus - Smart Clip is the best money clip.

The post The Best Money Clip appeared first on Your Best Digs.


A quick online search for “money clips” reveals thousands of options from which to choose, but luckily we did the hard work for you. We consulted style professionals, scoured through hundreds of money clips, and then group tested 20 of the top-rated clips over the course of two weeks. We found that the Storus – Smart Clip is the best money clip.

Top Pick: Storus - Smart Clip

The only dual-sided clip on our list so you can clip money on one side, and cards on the other. The Storus is high quality and aesthetically-appealing.

Top Wallet Pick


The viosi has the storage and security you’re looking for in a streamlined clip-wallet hybrid.

If you’re in the market for a card holder and money clip hybrid, we found that the Viosi- front pocket money clip was the best money clip wallet. This inexpensive leather card carrier has plenty of room for credit cards and ID, with a magnetic money clip attached.

Or, if you’re looking for a less traditional banded “clip,” check out the Prägres – wood front wallet. This unique wood-frame money carrier kept our cash and cards secure with a minimal profile and light-as-air feel.

Top Banded Pick


The Prägres is a unique front-pocket carrier that will keep your cards and cash secure without the extra weight.

Do the words “money clip” conjure mental images of a bygone era? The first money clip was patented in 1901, and it has since fallen in and out of favor with trend setters.

But it might be time for the money clip to bask in the spotlight again. There’s no doubt that everything vintage is currently en vogue. Vinyl record sales hit a 28-year high in 2016, and it’d be hard to attend a contemporary get-together without spotting a handlebar mustache or two.

So if ever there were a time for the money clip to make its resurgence, this is it. With-it brands like Izola seem to agree, stocking clips with tongue-in-cheek sayings that most modish types would love to carry. Feel like hopping on the trend? Keep reading.

Table of contents

How we selected products to test

When it comes to choosing the best money clips, there are two primary factors: fashion and function. We aimed to choose clips that had both. We also know that money clips aren’t complicated. At their simplest, they’re just a bent piece of metal. But even so, there are some distinctions you can make about which are higher quality and will serve you better over time.

So, we combed through Amazon reviews to find clips that users loved for their function and efficiency. Then, we consulted trendy sites like HiConsumption and The Coolist to find clips that fashion-forward folks would want to own. Since these sites focus on curation rather than testing, we were sure to thoroughly test every money clip on this list.

In our research, we found that while many people were looking for traditional money clips, many were also looking for money clip wallets. Money clip wallets are simply cardholders with money clips attached. Most lack the traditional “pocket,” for cash, which many reviewers note cuts down on bulkiness. Still others liked money bands, which, while not truly a “clip,” performed a similar purpose of holding cash and cards together without the bulk of a wallet.

We decided to test all three of these “clip” types for our review, dividing them into the categories of money clips, money clip wallets, and banded money clips.

The best money clips

a. Storus $ClipStainless steel
b. Adamant $ClipSilver plating with black enamel
c. Viosi $Clip walletLeather
d. Kinzd $Clip walletVaried
e. Prägres $Banded clipWood
f. Xband $Banded clipNylon elastic

Other finalists

a. Shivam $ClipNoMetal
b. SHARKK $ClipNoStainless steel
c. Alaska Bear $ClipYesStainless steel
d. Knife Center $ClipNoAluminum
e. CL Carbonlife $ClipNoCarbon fiber
f. Royce Leather Clip $ClipYesLeather
g. Izola $ClipYesBrass
h. Serman $ClipYesCarbon fiber
i. Distil Union $Clip WalletYesLeather
j. idclipz $Clip WalletYesCarbon fiber
k. NapaWalli $Clip WalletNoLeather
l. MUTBAK $Clip WalletYesLeather
m. Alpine Swiss $Clip WalletNoLeather
n. Royce Leather Wallet $Clip WalletNoLeather

Should you be using a money clip?

The answer to this question depends largely on your habit and preferences. If you’re of the minimalist persuasion (or think that you could be), then a money clip is a natural choice. It forces you to cut back to the bare essentials. As one of our money clip testers put it:

“It was difficult to pare down my wallet to my ID, two credit cards and cash, but it finally accomplished something that I’ve been wanting to do for a while – get my big fat wallet out of my back pocket.”

If you’re dedicated to carrying several forms of ID, your coffee shop rewards card and a picture of your sweetheart everywhere you go, a money clip may not be right for you.

overstuffed wallet on desk

It’s also worth considering that a money clip, not unlike cuff links or a tie bar, can be an accessory for a special occasion. We spoke with men’s fashion and style blogger, Adam York of Your Average Guy who noted that “when the situation demands it…unleashing a bundle of crisp bank notes tightly clasped together within a stainless steel money clip will always have a timeless appeal.”

Still undecided? Let’s take a look at some pros and cons of carrying a money clip:


  • Most clips are sleek and unobtrusive, so they won’t ruin the look of an outfit. The Art of Manliness points out that “often underrated, [money] clips are even slimmer than wallets and can be eye catching if you find a good one.”
  • Most clips will fit in your front pocket, eliminating the need to sit on your wallet
  • Money clips force you to stop carrying unnecessary items (like old gift cards) everywhere
  • From a style perspective, money clips have a classic, vintage appeal


  • Most clips cannot hold as many items as a conventional wallet
  • Some are so lightweight that users say they wouldn’t know if the clip fell out of their pocket
  • Some may consider money clips to be an “outdated” accessory
  • Poor-quality or too-tight clips could potentially scratch your credit cards

One last note; there’s no doubt that in the modern age, many of us no longer carry paper money. (Though some argue that you still should.) In fact, half of Americans carry less than $20 in cash each day, and 9 percent of Americans carry none. Happily, many clips are just as effective at holding only a few plastic cards. (We’re looking at you, Adamant.)

How to use a money clip

If you’ve decided that a money clip is a good option for you, you may be wondering how to use one. Don’t roll your eyes; we know the obvious answer is “you clip your money together!”

However, there actually is some strategy to using one effectively. First, if you have paper money, you should fold it in half. Fold smaller bills on the outside to discourage people from stealing your money. Keep in mind that if you only carry large bills, you’ll likely end up with more change. Once folded, place the money into the clip, folded side first. Then, slide your credit cards in on top of the cash.

If you are using a magnetic money clip, you may want to avoid using it to carry credit cards. There is some concern that doing so will mess with the chip reader on your card. However, reviewers of the magnetic money clips that we tested didn’t find any issue with this.

Important features to consider

Type of clip: There are a few different types of clips from which you can choose. If you’re planning to carry primarily cash, choose a money clip or band. If you have several cards to carry as well, you may want to consider a money clip wallet.

Aesthetics: At the end of the day, all money clips essentially do the same thing: clip your money. So the biggest difference between any money clip is how it looks. There are clips available in everything from carbon fiber to leather to sterling silver, so do some browsing (and set a budget) before you decide. Also consider the weight and width of the clip, since you’ll likely be carrying it most places you go.

Quality: Does your money clip spring back into place after you open it? Does it seem like it will break if it’s a little overstuffed? Does it have sharp edges that’ll damage your phone screen? Or does it have a cheap finish that’ll show scratches from its scuffle with your keychain? Keep this in mind when selecting one.

Capacity: Some of the more poorly-designed clips that we tested could barely open wide enough to fit one bill. Others could probably hold a paycheck’s worth of cash, no problem.

Cost: Based on our assessment of user reviews, there wasn’t a whole lot of quality difference between the cheaper and more expensive money clips. Some reviews claimed that the $20 clips (like the Storus) lasted them a decade, while more expensive ones looked worn-down after a year. So again, this really comes down to aesthetics. If you want something in solid aluminum or something gold plated, prepare to pay a lot more.

RFID blocking: Many of the money clip wallets that we tested came with RFID blocking technology, which is supposed to stop thieves from stealing your credit card data. Does your wallet actually need this feature? It’s debatable. You can also achieve the same RFID-blocking effect with a piece of aluminum foil.

How we tested

Group testing

money clip and wallet contents

For a product as simple and straightforward as a money clip, we figured the best way to test it was to get it into the hands of every-day users. So, we rounded up ten co-workers (both men and women) and gave them a few simple rules:

  • Ditch your wallet and carry all of your cash and cards in a money clip (or money clip wallet, or banded money clip) for one week
  • Use it everywhere you go, as you would a normal wallet
  • No cheating with an auxiliary coin purse, money pouch or card carrier

Our testers did as they were told. Because of the clips’ slim profiles, many of our testers were forced to ditch the old gift cards, outdated IDs and crumpled receipts they’d been carrying. Many saw this as an unforeseen benefit of switching to a clip.

After our testers finished out their week, we asked them a series of questions:

  • Was your money clip convenient to use?
  • Did your money and cards stay securely in the clip?
  • How easy was it to both add and remove cash and cards to and from your clip?
  • How did you carry your clip? (Front pocket? Back pocket? Purse?)
  • Would you continue to use your money clip after testing?

After our testers answered these questions, they repeated the process again with a second money clip (or wallet, or band).

Once we had our answers, we did a qualitative analysis to decide which clips were worth testing further. We eliminated the clips that testers found egregiously difficult to use or otherwise problematic.

Quality check

Once we had only tester-approved clips remaining, we examined their quality. Did the clips have sharp edges that were likely to scratch a phone screen? Did they feel like they would snap when bent past their natural angles? Did they spring back into place each time they were opened? We noted our observations, then used all of this information to determine the top clip in each category.

The best money clip: Storus – Smart money clip

Storus - Smart Clip

Storus, a division of Mosaic brands Inc, makes innovative and unusual “personal storage solutions” that you don’t see on your average trip to the department store (think dual-sided money clips and jelly wallets.) We ordered their Smart Clip, which costs between about $20 and $40 depending on the finish you choose. But regardless of the color, it’s secure enough to hold money and cards tightly, while still retaining enough room for a good deal of cash and cards.

The dual sided holders, an anomaly in the money clip world, mean that you can keep cash on one side and cards on the other. The Storus’ durable metal material also stood up well to getting knocked around by keys and purse contents.

Best Money Clip

Storus - Smart Clip

The Storus is aesthetically pleasing, highly durable and convenient to use.

Upon receiving all of the money clips that we ordered, the Storus immediately stood out for its unique design. Its curved edges, wave-like aesthetic and double-sided clips make it a stand-out in a sea of rectangular clips. We ordered it in the gold color and found that the finish didn’t look chintzy or scratch easily. Reviewers on Amazon also noted that the finish did not wear down after extended use. Plus, our tester shared that this clip even garnered a few compliments when they pulled it out to pay.

The only downside of this clip is that it holds five cards maximum on one side, with our tester noting that (in their experience) it could handle no more than four. Keep in mind though that this clip does have two sides, so you could technically store cards on both. The final verdict from our tester? They’d “definitely continue using it.”

The minimalist pick: Adamant money clip


One of the most common responses to our money clip testing was “who carries cash anymore?”

It’s true, there’s no doubt that we are in the digital age, and many of us rely almost exclusively on credit cards for our transactions. If that’s the case for you, you may want to skip the Storus’ dual carrying capacity and head straight for the Adamant instead.

Minimalist Pick


If you said goodbye to cold hard cash a long time ago, the Adamant is the card-holding clip of your dreams.

With its cost coming in at just under twenty bucks, this clip’s design is evocative of a bygone era. Its black finish and metallic stripes feel like a vintage car. However, its functionality takes a cue from the modern minimalist movement. The Adamant is best for carrying ID, debit, a couple of credit cards and nothing else; and it holds onto them with an iron grip. Yet despite its tight hold, our tester noted that it was “arguably the quickest and easiest card experience” he’d ever had when it was time to grab a card to pay.

The only downside? According to our tester, this clip’s tight clasp isn’t all that convenient for inserting and taking out flimsy dollar bills.

The best money clip wallets

Viosi and Kinzd wallets

With nearly 2,000 Amazon reviews, a 4.7-star rating and a sub-20 dollar price point, we knew we had to give the Viosi a try. Luckily, this money clip wallet didn’t disappoint, earning rave reviews from our focus group.

This genuine leather wallet is simple in appearance, with an ID window, several large slots and a magnetised clip on the outside. Our tester noted that it was convenient to use, with the outside clip making it easy to grab cash. Despite relying on a single magnet, this clip gave us no concerns about security. It held on to money firmly until it was time to be removed.


The Viosi is well-loved on Amazon, and for good reason. It carries cash conveniently without sacrificing card space.

The three card slots and two larger slots in the Viosi also mean that you don’t have to totally convert to minimalism to carry this wallet. There’s plenty of room in it for cards and receipts.


Looking for something even more budget friendly? The folks at Kinzd say their goal is to offer “slim wallets at extremely affordable pricing,” and they seem to be doing just that.

Depending on the color in which you purchase it, the Kinzd money clip wallet can cost as low as $13 (at time of publish). That’s a great value for a wallet that earned a cumulative 4.5 stars from nearly 1,400 reviewers on Amazon.

This wallet was a favorite among our testers, so much so that others requested to try it even after testing was complete. Our tester noted that everything stayed put in this wallet, and its slim profile made it easy to tote around. Plus, the attached clip held cash safely in place.

Best budget wallet


The Kinzd is a bargain at just 20 dollars or less for a slim-profile wallet with a strong attached clip.

The Kinzd wallet is also durable, surviving a skirmish with some books and workout shoes at the bottom of our tester’s bag.

The only downside? The magnetized feature on this wallet clip has a tendency to adhere to other items, like keychains. Though, this may not be a downside if you’re looking to pull all of the essentials out of your bag at once!

The best banded money clips

Pragres and Xband

If you’re looking for an alternative way to store your money that’s not a traditional wallet and not quite a money clip, consider the Prägres wood front wallet. Costing about $14 at time of publication, this contraption is hard to confine to any one money-carrier category.

Our tester was pretty skeptical about this wallet, yet by the end of the week they were asking if they could keep it permanently. They loved the Prägres’ light weight and slim design, which allowed them to carry it in their front pocket. They also traveled with this wallet and found that whipping it out at the airport to retrieve their ID was easy.

Top Banded Pick


The Prägres is a unique front-pocket carrier that will keep your cards and cash secure without the extra weight.

The people at Prägres pride themselves on “wallets that make a statement,” and this one will certainly garner some attention. It has a hard, wooden construction that acts as a sort of frame for your credit cards. A band wraps around the entire frame to keep money and cards in place. On the back side of the wallet, you can slide your paper money under the band. A fun add? The wallet comes with three different colored bands to swap out as desired.

Perhaps most importantly, it kept our tester’s credit cards secure, yet allowed for easy removal when it was time to use them. And just in case you plan to do any cannonballs into the nearest pool, the reviews also state that this wallet will float.

Looking for an even lower-priced banded alternative? The Xband is our budget pick. Costing under $10, the Xband is minimalist in both price and composition. Simple in design, it has two nylon strips in the shape of, you guessed it, an “X,” that hold your money in place. Reviewers loved the simple functionality of this money carrier, and so did our tester. They noted that it was “super convenient,” and they liked that it stayed securely in their back pocket.

Budget Banded


The Xband is simplicity at its best, holding money and cards securely in place with a minimal profile and minimal price to boot.

More high praise for this simple band? The Xband was easy to put cards and cash in, and made it relatively easy to take cards and cash out. Its description claims that you only need to remove one strap to remove your cash, while the other strap keeps the rest of your contents secure.

The only complaint? Much like traditional money clips, the Xband makes it hard to pull just one bill or card out. It’s easier to remove everything, shuffle through it and then clip or band it all back together.

Other products we tested

a. Shivam $ClipNoMetal
b. SHARKK $ClipNoStainless steel
c. Alaska Bear $ClipYesStainless steel
d. Knife Center $ClipNoAluminum
e. CL Carbonlife $ClipNoCarbon fiber
f. Royce Leather Clip $ClipYesLeather
g. Izola $ClipYesBrass
h. Serman $ClipYesCarbon fiber
i. Distil Union $Clip WalletYesLeather
j. idclipz $Clip WalletYesCarbon fiber
k. NapaWalli $Clip WalletNoLeather
l. MUTBAK $Clip WalletYesLeather
m. Alpine Swiss $Clip WalletNoLeather
n. Royce Leather Wallet $Clip WalletNoLeather

Money clips

Royce and Serman

Royce – Leather Magnetic money clip: While the Royce clip didn’t make our top picks, it’s still a quality choice for under $20. Its simple leather construction makes it classy and gender-neutral in appearance. Plus, our reviewer liked that it was “small enough to fit in a women’s pocket, but not too small to misplace.” The biggest downfall of this clip? Our tester didn’t feel the the magnet was strong enough to hold more than a couple of cards.

Serman Brands – Real Carbon Fiber money clip: The Serman clip feels well-constructed and extremely lightweight in your pocket or bag. It has RFID-blocking technology, and doesn’t scratch easily. What didn’t our tester like about this clip? It’s looser grip meant the clips’ contents got knocked-around easily, and it’s also not the most visually-attractive option on the market.

Money clip wallets

MUTBAK and idclipz

idclipz – Slim Carbon Fiber money clip wallet: Though the idclipz wallet clip didn’t make it into our top picks, our tester had rave reviews for it. They loved that it was slim enough to carry in their front pocket, and that the the magnetized clip was strong enough to feel secure. The only downside? A common complaint among our money clip testers: it’s hard to pull one bill out of the clip without everything else coming with it. For another magnetized choice, try the Viosi.

MUTBAK – Bunker: Our tester loved the MUTBAK for its slim profile and secure clip. It’s also one of the trendier-looking wallet clips on our list, with a worn-in leather look. The only major drawback to the MUTBAK is its overly-deep credit card pockets, which make it hard to retrieve your plastic quickly. Still, if you need a slimmer wallet for a quick vacation, the MUTBAK would be a good choice.

Clips we don’t recommend

Carbonlife Shark and Napawalli

CL Carbonlife – Carbon Fiber Money Clip: Though reviewers on Amazon loved the CL Carbonlife, our tester found that the material was too rigid and made getting money out a difficult experience. In our experience, the Storus is a better pick for your money.

Sharkk – Stainless Steel Clip: We think our tester put it best: “the good news about this clip is that the metal is incredibly sturdy and will NOT release your plastic cards. The bad news is that it will NOT release your plastic cards.” They found that the Sharkk was too stiff, would not budge, and even scratched their credit cards when they tried to yank them out. For a similar design that won’t damage your plastic, we recommend the Adamant.

NapaWalli – Front Pocket Clip Wallet: The NapaWalli has great aesthetic appeal, and our testers liked its small, slim size. However, its downfall was its pockets. Our testers found them so stiff that getting cards out “was a chore.” We recommend the Viosi instead.

Some more luxurious picks

Like any accessory, appearance matters. So we decided to share some top-shelf picks that have serious visual appeal. We didn’t test these clips, but they get high style points from an aesthetic perspective. We like the Craighill – Square and Wave money clips for their unique shapes, and the Maxx and Unicorn – brass clip for its geometric appeal. And we also have our eyes on these aluminum money clips.

The bottom line

pragress viosi and storus

There’s no doubt that minimalism is having a moment, and a money clip ensures that decluttering begins in your pocket (or purse). It should be an item that you buy once and don’t have to think about again for a long time. It should be simple, functional and of course stylish. For the best money clip, we think the Storus – Smart Clip achieves all of those goals. If you’re looking for the best money clip wallet, the Viosi – front pocket money clip gives you great value at a low price, and for the best banded money clip, the Prägres – Wood Front wallet has our vote.

Top Pick: Storus - Smart Clip

The only dual-sided clip on our list, the Storus is high quality and aesthetically-appealing.

The post The Best Money Clip appeared first on Your Best Digs.

]]> 0 overstuffed wallet on desk folding-gif money clip and wallet contents Storus - Smart Clip Adamant Viosi and Kinzd wallets Pragres and Xband Royce and Serman MUTBAK and idclipz Carbonlife Shark and Napawalli pragress viosi and storus