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The BuzzFeed staff is always trying new products, apps, hacks, and DIY projects, and we decided it was time to start sharing the best of them with you. Each month, we post our recommendations for what’s actually worth it. For the sake of transparency, items under “Things We Bought” and “Tricks We Learned” were purchased with our own money and/or were not the result of a PR pitch. Those under “Things We Tried” are items that were provided to us at no cost for the sake of review. (But! We’re under no obligation to write a review of those things, let alone a positive review.)
Let us know in the comments what sorts of things you’d like us to review next month!
1. Polar Snow Boots, a pair of short boots that are perfect for wading through puddles of wet snow and feel like snuggly slippers.
I have lots of feelings about inclement-weather clothing and accessories. Bad feelings. But I recently resigned to my need for actual snow boots (instead of trudging around in rain boots) after several New York City winters with cold, wet feet. I researched legit warm winter boots for this story and came across these short ones. So when my brother asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I requested these in a size 10.
In early January, NYC was dusted with a layer of sloppy, wet snow and I wore these boots to work. Of course, the one building on my block that never has a shoveled sidewalk didn’t disappoint. Yet I was able to manage it easily. (I’ve eaten it on snowy and icy mornings many times on my block.) The rest of my commute included dodging lots of puddles of melting snow and dark-gray piles of plowed-through precipitation.
The boots’ waterproof exterior kept my feet dry and the furry lining kept them incredibly toasty. They were easily laced up over two pairs of thick socks and skinny jeans. I thought I’d regret my (lazy) decision to not bring along regular shoes to change into for the office. But I didn’t! Stairs were a tad trickier with these boots on, but still totally manageable. —Elizabeth Lilly
Get them from Amazon for $14.99+.
2. Bananagrams: Party Edition, a game for anyone who loves crosswords or Scrabble — and is down to wear a banana pouch as a hat.
If it were possible for games to mate… and traditional Bananagrams procreated with Kings, you’d get something like Bananagrams: Party Edition.
The big difference = mixed in with all the letter tiles, you’ll find “chaos-inducing” rule/challenge/action tiles to add to the excitement. If you pick up the flamingo, you get to force another player to stand on one leg; if you get two bomb tiles, you can BLOW UP someone else’s tile assortment; if you get the pouch head dude, you can make someone wear the banana pouch on their head; etc., etc.
It’s awesome and if you’re anything like me and my word-game-loving friends, you’ll end up playing about 17 rounds in a row. —Mallory McInnis
Get it from Target for $14.99 (it’s exclusively available there).
3. The TubShroom, a game-changing strainer that will keep any hair from clogging your shower drain.
Ok, so you might think you have a lot of hair but let me tell you, you don’t even know!!! My wife and I both are often recognized from behind by the height and heft of our hair and no one knows it more than the sad, overused, heavily purged shower drain in our apartment. If I had a dollar for every Drano injector or tub snake or as-seen-on-TV miracle product I’ve purchased to alleviate our hair problem, I would have enough dollars to hire a plumber, which I have also actually done multiple times. But that was before the TubShroom came into my life.
The name was probably the thing that first made me click, because it’s fun to say. Then I read some of the more than 5K raving Amazon reviews and immediately ordered it. The craziest part of the TubShroom’s magic isn’t just that it catches ALL the hair before it gets down the drain, every time, but that it does so without slowing down the draining process for the shower. It’s incredibly easy to clean off and I only have to do it once a week when I’m cleaning the bathroom. Life changing, indeed. —Jess Probus
Get it from Amazon for $12.99.
4. Princess Character Socks, the perfect accessory for anyone wanting to inject a little ~Disney magic~ into their everyday wardrobe.
I got these Disney princess socks for Christmas from my sister-in-law, but I’d pay my own $15 for a five-pack because they are so stinkin’ cute. My sock-princesses are Ariel, Jasmine, Snow White, Elsa, and Anna—a pretty solid group, and if I’m feeling particularly dorky one day I could see doing an Anna–Elsa combo.
But beyond being cute, the tops of the socks (aka their dresses! squee!) are tall enough that they cover my ankle, but short enough that they stay hidden in my adult-woman boots. This is a big bonus as someone who loves cute Disney things but prefers them to be my little secret.
After a few washes, the socks are still in great condition, except for Elsa’s hair, which is starting to look like moldy bread but I’m letting that gooooooo. And if you’re more into super heroes, you’re in luck! The same brand makes those, too. —Rachel Christensen
Get a five-pack from Amazon for $14.88.
5. S’well Insulated Water Bottle, a gorgeous and condensation-free bottle that keeps your water super cold — and helps you stay hydrated.
I ordered the S’well water bottle for my sister-in-law for a Christmas present. It was supposed to arrive before Christmas, but S’well got worried it might not get there in time, so they expedited a second water bottle, free of charge, just in case the first one didn’t come in time, thus I ended up with a gift for myself as well…pretty incredible customer service IMO.
Since I got my S’well bottle, I literally don’t think I’ve drank water out of anything else. TBH, it’s a little weird how quickly I grew so attached to it! I’ve also significantly increased my water intake. Before getting the bottle, I’d often go a whole work day without drinking any water, and then realize at around 5 p.m., and chug a cup or two. For the past few weeks, I’ve been regularly drinking 3 to 6 liters of water a DAY, and I can feel the difference it’s making for my body!
Here are my favorite things about it:
- This bottle really freaking cute, I regularly get compliments on it while toting it around the office.
- It seriously keeps things SO cold! I’ll fill up a bottle before bed, and when I wake up in the morning, it’s literally as cold as it was when I went to sleep.
- It doesn’t have any condensation — it’s some kind of sorcery!
- I’ve also started tracking my water intake on MyFitnessPal, and using the S’well bottle makes it easy to do, since it’s 500 milliliters. Every time I finish a bottle, I just add another 500 milliliters to what I’ve drank for the day.
$35 for a water bottle is expensive, but if you’re like me and were horrible at drinking water, changing that habit for just $35 is way worth it! —Maycie Thornton
Get it on Amazon for $35.
6. Dynaflex Pro Gyro Exerciser, a magical-looking sphere that helps build strength and coordination while reducing carpal tunnel and arthritis symptoms.
Science has delivered to us yet another odd way to work out a very specific part of your body. Have you ever just wanted to have your wrists and forearms get JACKED?! Yeah that probably wasn’t your first ambition in life, but maybe it will be now. Introducing the Dynaflex, a weird gyroscope-y workout tool that will help you build grip strength and fight off those repetitive stress injuries!
I’ve been using one for quite a few years and I still don’t see them around very much. The idea is that you have a weighted spinning rotor that you spin using the momentum from your wrists. The faster the rotor spins, the more resistance it generates (up to 35 pounds, they claim). It’s hard to explain the sensation. I can only imagine that if you could pick up a spinning top without having it stop, that’s exactly what it would be. There is a learning curve, and it takes awhile to get the knack for starting it up and keeping the ball spinning, but once you do, it’s incredibly satisfying. As you work up speed you start to feel the burn in your forearms and it starts to get gain more and more resistance. If you sit at a computer all day or if you’re into building strength for rock climbing, you should give this a look. It’s fun to see how long you can keep the ball spinning without tiring out. Plus, people always want to know what it is when they spot it at your desk. —Jeff Barron
Get it from Amazon for $19.82.
7. Fisherman’s Friend Menthol Cough Drops, soothing lozenges that’ll seriously stop your hacking.
Naturally, after miraculously surviving the holidays without picking up any illnesses, I came down with an early-January cough and sore throat the very Wednesday my sister won the ticket lottery for that weekend’s Saturday Night Live.
After working at home every day, hoping to recover enough to be over my cough before the live show, I wasn’t over it at all. So on Saturday morning, I made the single-block pilgrimage to my local Rite-Aid, and after a moment of despairing over the cough-drops I usually buy (that don’t usually work), I grabbed these and compared the ingredients with more candy-like drops, which I usually take.
Essentially, both types of drops contained somewhere between 10 and 15 milligrams of menthol as the active ingredient — that’s the soothing mint flavor. But these also contain capsicum (as an inactive ingredient), the chemical that makes a raw jalapeño burn on your tongue, and could help with sore throat. The combo makes these particularly intense, but also particularly effective.
And how did SNL go? Great — I kept taking a new drop every time the last one ran out, which you are not supposed to do, because eventually too much menthol = bad — but I didn’t cough once! —Natalie Brown
Get a package from Amazon for $5.99.
8. Amtrak Red Cap Service, a free service that will take all the stress (and lots of schlepping) out of your next train trip.
One of the worst things about traveling is lugging all my shit around. If I’m flying, I just have to make it to the luggage dropoff and then I’m free, but when traveling by train, I’m pretty much stuck with it until I get on the train, which can sometimes be awhile.
Last month, I was in this unfortunate position in NYC’s Penn Station, a well-known portal to hell. I was going to DC for 10 days, so, naturally, I was carrying 30 days worth of stuff in two overstuffed bags, along with a dog carrier and a tote with my laptop and assorted sundries. I don’t know Penn Station all that well, so I wasn’t exactly sure where my gate would be, and the amount of stuff I was carrying had me extra overwhelmed and stressed and anxious. As I struggled through the station with all my shit, I saw a sign that said “Don’t give your bags to anyone who is not Red Cap Service.” Wait. This implied that I could give my bags to Red Cap Service. But… what was Red Cap Service?! I assumed it was something expensive, but was feeling pretty desperate, so I googled it, ready to pay pretty much any cost to get help with my bags.
TURNS OUT, Red Cap Service is a totally free service available in 12 major US train stations. You don’t have to sign up for it in advance; you just find a Red Cap person (or go to their little area in the station) the day of and they will assist you. They take your bags and put them on a cart for you, direct you to have a seat in their special waiting area, and tell you they will come get you when your train has arrived and it’s time to board. THEN! THEN!!!! As soon as your train is in the station — like before it’s even been announced, they have access to insider info — they come and personally escort you and all your shit to the train — you bypass the line!!!! — and you get to be first to board. ALL FOR ZERO DOLLARS EXCEPT A TIP WHICH IS MORE THAN FAIR BECAUSE OH MY LORD WHAT A GODSEND THIS SERVICE IS.
I also used it at Union Station on my trip back, and my man Edwin — who told me he has worked at Amtrak for 40 YEARS!!! — went above and beyond. He was extra attentive and we chatted about politics, took a walk to get snacks and water, and when my train was delayed, he encouraged me to see about switching my ticket…and then personally escorted me to the ticket counter and told them what the problem was — and I had a new ticket, at no cost, within minutes. Again, all for the cost of a tip. If you ever take Amtrak to or from any of the stations on the list, pack cash and then do yourself a favor and find a Red Cap worker as soon as you get to the station. It makes an otherwise stressful experience a million times more bearable — tbh, I’m just outraged that I didn’t know about it sooner. —Rachel W. Miller
9. Purely Elizabeth Chocolate Sea Salt Granola, a granola snack that looks like turds but tastes delicious.
Hi, I’m Maitland and I’m a snacker. My desk drawer at work rivals our office snack selection. You can usually count on me to have Ritz crackers in my purse. I watch Netflix with the subtitles on because the crunch of whatever I’m eating is too loud to hear the dialogue. I also enjoy discussing digestion and am (probably too) comfortable talking about poop. This combination of traits is probably why my work wife Mallory pilfered this probiotic granola from the health team and handed it to me.
This stuff is damn tasty. It has big ole chocolate chunks, oats, chia seeds, and flakes of sea salt. I prefer to crunch my keyboard while also crunching a delicious snack, and this really does the trick. It’s sweet and salty in that perfect way a chocolate-covered pretzel is. It’s made with coconut oil and coconut sugar, which at least ~sound~ healthy. I usually just eat it by the handful, but it would also be delish on some yogurt. I don’t know if it’s had any kind of probiotic effect, but what I do know is that it’s tasty as heck, I can at least pretend it’s good for me…and I will absolutely be ordering it again on Amazon. —Maitland Quitmeyer