Despite all of the ills and upheavals that 2020 is bringing, there is at least one thing that we can celebrate: summer is here. And while your favorite sports team may be on hiatus, your vacation trip may be canceled, and your family get-together will have to wait, there are still things to enjoy and ways to relax. The staff of The Verge has gotten together to recommend some of their favorite gadgets, devices, and gizmos to help you have the best summer possible.
Sitting inside all day means that even the most simple and short visits outside can feel kind of magical and otherworldly. It’s fun for me to bring my camera, Olympus’ E-M10 Mark II, along for walks so I can scope out and capture little moments of beauty in the world before I climb back into my dwelling. I’d normally do this during any summer, but it feels especially worthwhile to do during this peculiar one.
If you’re using a bicycle to get around, then a phone mount is a great investment. You can use it to turn your phone into a bike sat-nav, letting you find your way around without having to constantly pull over to the side of the road to check directions. Personally, I find it essential for getting anywhere on time when I’m on two wheels.
For the past six months, I’ve been using Quad Lock’s mounting system to attach my Pixel 3 daily driver to my bike. You get a small mounting point that attaches onto your bike (there are a couple of different options here, but I have the one that mounts directly onto my bike’s stem), and then you also get a phone case that has a mounting socket built into its back. It’s easy to attach, and once it’s on there, I’ve found it stays put regardless of whether I ride over tarmac, cobblestones, or gravel.
The only potential problem with the system is that it works best when you have a phone that Quad Lock sells a dedicated case for. (These include iPhones as well as Samsung Galaxy, Huawei, and Pixel phones.) There’s a universal fit kit, which you can stick on the back of other phones or cases, but it sticks out a little more from the back of your phone, and it can reportedly be a little annoying.
Otherwise, my Quad Lock has been an incredibly useful little upgrade for my bike, allowing me to cycle anywhere at a moment’s notice rather than having to plan routes ahead of time.
International news writer
The good news: bicycle sales in the US are soaring, with two-wheelers getting snatched up in record numbers by people seeking to ameliorate their COVID-inspired cabin fever. The bad news: the cars are back, too, with many drivers exploiting less-congested streets to speed recklessly. As always, safety is paramount, so when you’re out riding, you should always wear a helmet. As Tracy Jordan would say, “You’ve got to protect your mind grapes.” But why settle for any piece of plastic and hardened foam when you can get something a little smarter?
There is a growing number of bike helmets that include embedded LED lights. Lumos is one popular brand, with three LED modules that allow motorists to see you from most angles. I got a chance to try out the Matrix at the NYC Bike Expo last year, and I’ve been looking forward to the forthcoming Ultra. Cycling experts like that it’s lightweight and well-vented, which makes it perfect for those longer summer rides. I like the fact that it looks cool while keeping me safe (hopefully) from inattentive drivers.
Lumos is doing a Kickstarter for the Ultra, and it hopes to begin deliveries by November. The front headlight on the Ultra gives you added illumination, and the back lights can even display right and left turn signals. And at just $99, the Lumos Ultra is cheaper than other options in the market. For example, a high-quality helmet and a set of bike lights would easily set you back by $200.
Andrew J. Hawkins
Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite e-reader is a great gadget that lets you read books outside without having to worry about things like lugging around a thousand-page tome or dealing with the potential of wet pages. The Paperwhite’s E Ink screen is very visible outdoors (unlike most phone screens, which can be harder to see in bright sunshine), and the newest Paperwhite is waterproof, meaning it should be able to safely handle a splash or even a brief dip in the pool. Happy reading.
The Apple Watch isn’t a summer-exclusive gadget, but it’s one I’ll have on me nearly every day this summer — tan lines be damned. By running competitions with my long-distance friends, it keeps me motivated to work out several times a week while staying connected to them. Given the added oddity of a summer during a pandemic, it’s a little extra encouragement to get outside each day for a short walk.
Social media manager
If quarantine has you cultivating an aggressive patio garden, an expandable hose is a nice, much lighter alternative to a traditional heavy rubber hose. It triples in length when full of water, but collapses into a nice coil that you can store in an old flower pot when empty. This one comes with a nice sprayer nozzle with a range of flow settings for different pots and gardens.
Portable Bluetooth speakers are essential summer gadgets, and Ultimate Ears makes the best around. They sound great, they look great, and they’re waterproof and weatherproof for wherever you take one. If you need a bigger partner, the Boom 3 or MegaBoom 3 are the ones to go to, perfect adding your favorite music to a picnic in the park, a day at the beach, or a backyard barbecue. Prefer something a little smaller and cheaper? The Wonderboom has the same benefits but in a more portable and quieter package.
The summer is a fantastic time to take up new hobbies, and learning to fly a drone can be really rewarding and fun! DJI’s Mavic Mini is the perfect beginner drone for new pilots. The features you get with this little drone (249.5 grams) are impressive. I’ve had flight times hovering just around the 25-minute mark depending on weather, and the gimbal and camera are great. I love taking this little guy out to the nearby lake and grabbing some fantastic videos of sunsets over the water. You can actually even use it handheld if you want a stabilized gimbal shot but don’t have one handy — just turn it on and start recording without taking off! I would highly recommend the Mini Combo for the extra $100 if you have the cash to spare since it includes a case, three batteries, and extra propellers should you damage your own.
Senior motion designer
I fully expected to return the Leatherman Free P2 after giving it a quick spin — but with five minutes of practice, it made me a believer. I’ve rarely ever got both hands free, and the P2 is the first multitool I’ve used that doesn’t need both: every single tool (pliers, scissors, screwdrivers, wire stripper, etc.) can flip in and out one-handed, thanks to a combination of lightly spring-loaded locks and magnetic clasps that keep the otherwise-freely rotating handles closed. When I need to quickly snip a zip-tie on my kid’s new scooter, slice into a grilled chicken breast to test doneness, or pull out those pliers or drivers without letting go of the item that needs manipulating, it’s a snap — and flipping around the butterfly knife-like handles is a nice distraction for my constantly fidgeting hands. The pricier P4 also comes with an extra knife and saw blade, but note that early units didn’t have the P2’s pocket clip.
Senior news editor
To me, summer means cherries and cherry pie. After many frustrating (and probably dangerous) years of surgically removing cherry pits with a knife, I finally caved and bought one of these cherry pitters. It makes pitting cherries less of a chore and lets me get back to baking. Other benefits: it’s inexpensive, doesn’t take up much space in my tiny kitchen, and is incredibly easy to use.
Mary Beth Griggs
My sister swears by this collapsible wagon for camping trips. It’s ideal for campsites where the parking lot is a bit of a hike from your tent or for beach trips or park picnics when you have a lot to carry. It’s very light and folds to a pretty compact size to squeeze into your car or store in your apartment.
I recently bought a hammock, and I’m never going back to any other way of relaxing in a park over the summer. It’s super portable, super easy to set up, and perfect for just taking a lazy Sunday, reading a book and watching the clouds roll by.
I haven’t done a lot of camping over the past few years, and my front lawn is so tiny that most squirrels disdain to even look at it. Even so, it is nice to sit outside with a book and something to sip on, say hi to the neighbors (at a suitable distance, of course) and listen to the occasional bird. While I don’t have room in front of my house for a permanent garden chair, I can pull out this folding chair anytime I want and enjoy a bit of at-home summer relaxation.