Whenever the staff of The Verge is asked to describe their favorite pet toys, summer tech, desktop accessories or whatever, they are free to describe something that is recently bought, 10 years old, or that has been sitting around the house for decades. Inevitably, though, some of the items have popped up in Amazon’s Prime Day sale. We thought we’d offer a curated list of a few of them.
Christopher Grant, group publisher, The Verge and Polygon
If you don’t have Spotted Lanternflies in your area, just wait; they’re coming. The insect, native to China and first detected in my home state of Pennsylvania in 2014, is an invasive species that loves to snack on trees, along with other plants and crops. As a result, local governments have been asking people to squish them on sight. There’s something charming about seeing a group of children chasing down Lanternflies and gleefully stomping them — just doing their part.
However, stomping on them is easier said than done since the bugs can bounce (usually right toward your face), and it’s hard to stomp a tree branch above your head, their preferred hang-out zone. So we found the BugZooka WB100, which is a pump-actuated vacuum for sucking up critters, and it’s proven a hit in our household. No batteries are required, just a steady hand, and you can fill the reservoir with enough bugs to make you feel like a horticultural hero.
Kaitlin Hatton, audience manager
Earlier this year, I committed to traveling more, and so I took a look at the gear I had that could be replaced after years of trekking the globe. My ratty old secondhand carry-on bag was the first thing to be replaced. After several days of weighing the pros and cons of various travel bags, I stumbled upon this Lumesner carry-on backpack on Amazon, and it fit all of my needs. It can carry a laptop, several days’ worth of clothes, my 40oz Hydro Flask bottle, and more. The bag even includes some packing cubes. It’s very comfortable, and the weight is well distributed when it’s completely full. It’s an inexpensive alternative to many name-brand carry-on bags, too. So far, I’ve used it on a handful of trips, and the quality has held up. It also holds onto pet fur, though, so I had to add a small lint roller to my travel necessities. But that’s just life while traveling with a dog anyway.
An extension cord for awkward situations
Sarah Jeong, deputy features editor
Nobody wants to carry a power strip or an extension cord with them on their vacation. It’s probably unnecessary if you’re staying in relatively modern buildings and definitely unnecessary if you’re camping. But sometimes you want to stay in a charming historical hotel or a lovely cabin in the woods, and it’s only when you go to charge your devices at night that you realize that the only electrical socket in the bedroom is in the corner farthest away from the bed and there’s already two lamps plugged into it.
Older buildings especially suffer from what I can only describe as loose socket syndrome, where those very convenient modern boxy socket extenders with five different USB and USB-C charging ports simply cannot stay in place and fall right out of the wall because they’re too heavy. After one (totally pleasant) vacation where I had to charge my phone, watch, AirPods, and laptop in a weird corner of my room with the plug-in charging hub propped up on a strategically balanced mountain of books and sham pillows, I bought this Anker combination extension cord / power strip. It’s not a full power strip — just a cube with a few sockets along with USB and USB-C charging ports at the end of a five-foot cable. I’ve brought it on a few trips since then. It takes up extra space in my suitcase but, each time, has left me feeling vindicated about the purchase.
The three prongs at the end of the cable are static rather than folding flat for easy packing. This is key because the loose sockets of older buildings reject the beautiful convenience of folding prongs. There are more than enough sockets for one person, and with some finagling (and maybe an extra charging brick), it can accommodate two people’s devices.
If you’re traveling overseas, don’t forget to purchase a different plug type for the region you’re going to or pack an adapter.
Comfortable cat bed
Elizabeth Lopatto, senior reporter
Jeeves loves to be in the office with me while I work. (I assume she’s supervising.) Anyway, to make her cozier, I got her this fuzzy cat bed. At first, she was afraid of it — she’s extremely shy around new people and objects — but now, a year later, it’s her favorite place to sit that isn’t my lap. Usually, she spends the afternoon snuggled up in it.
Victoria Song, senior reviewer
A lot of people will tell you that rice cookers are single-use appliances meant only for rice — they’re wrong. A rice cooker is best at cooking rice, but it can do a lot of the same things as an Instant Pot. For instance, you can use it to cook hard-boiled eggs or oatmeal, steam vegetables, make porridge, make one-pot meals, and even bake a cake.
I grew up with giant 10-cup rice cookers at home, but I didn’t appreciate how versatile this appliance was until I left the country for college. A tiny two-cup rice cooker kept me fed in my cramped 250-square-foot Tokyo apartment. It was programmable, so I could wash my rice, stick it in the cooker, and know that when I woke up late for class, I could still whip up some ochazuke or oatmeal for a quick, cheap, and nutritious breakfast. (It also took the hassle out of steel-cut oats.) Whenever I had a craving for sweets, it was so easy to take pancake mix and bake a Japanese-style cheesecake for one.
I’ve since graduated to a 5.5-cup Zojirushi Micom Rice Cooker, and it’s one of the handiest tools I have for meal prepping. When I was sick this past winter, I made ample use of its porridge setting to make a congee-type dish with chicken and ginger — just like my mom used to make when I was a kid. The fact that it’ll keep something warm for days meant I could crawl out of bed, scoop out some porridge, and crawl back into bed with minimal effort. When I’m feeling lazy, I throw eggs in there, and bam — some extra hard-boiled protein. Mine also comes with a little basket, so it’s super easy to throw in veggies or steam frozen dumplings.
But what I like most is that rice cookers are more space-efficient than Instant Pots. In my kitchen, the one spot where I could fit an Instant Pot is instead occupied by a rice cooker, blender, and spoon rest. A multitasking kitchen gadget that doesn’t take over your entire counter? That’s a must if you live in a small space.
Helen Havlak, publisher
Like many people, I struggle to get through the dark winter months in my home office. My in-laws gifted me a full-spectrum light for my desk, designed to mimic sunlight and help with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) — though, as SAD lamps are not FDA regulated, I can’t swear to their actual medical benefits. But a surprise bonus is that my SAD lamp makes for incredibly flattering Zoom lighting, like being bathed in an influencer ring light.
Anchor under-desk headphone hanger
I gave this a try for one of our TikTok videos, and it has not disappointed me yet. I use it to hold my Razer Kraken headset and some extra cords. It’s small enough to remain out of the way but large enough to hold more than the headset itself. It has a pretty strong hold and doesn’t give, even as I raise my standing desk up and down several times a day. It’s not the prettiest accessory one can attach to their desk, but it is highly functional.
Water filtration system
Mitchell Clark, former staffer
While all the previous entries are by current staff members, we can’t resist including this entry by Mitchell Clark, who left us recently in order to walk from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail. One of the items that he took with him was this squeeze water filtration system, which he described as follows:
“I’ll be drinking out of rivers, streams, ponds, and the like, all of which can have some nasty stuff in them that’ll make me sick. To keep that from happening, I’ll be filtering it through a Sawyer Squeeze, which gets rid of bacteria and protozoa.”
Update July 12th, 2023, 11:36AM ET: This article has been updated to add the entry for the Sawyer water filtration system.