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Every month or so, we like to ask our staff about their favorite stuff — whether it’s pet toys, travel aids, kitchen gadgets, or straightforward tech. And the results are usually very different, very interesting, and a lot of fun.
In celebration of the annual post-Thanksgiving sales, we looked through some of our recent “favorites” articles and found deals on a lot of the tech, kitchen tools, travel aids, and pet toys we like. So we thought we’d list a few in case you have read about them in the past and thought, well, that sort of sounds good, but it’s a bit pricey. (Or — that’s pretty cheap, but maybe I’ll wait until the price goes down some more…)
So here are some of our staff’s most-liked gear and gadgets, much of which is still discounted despite the fact Black Friday is coming to a close.
Electronics repair kit
Alex Cranz, managing editor
I own at least two of these little Tekton Everybit Tech Rescue Kits, and I frequently buy them for friends and family, too, because for an average price of $35, you get a screwdriver with nearly every bit you’d need for most gadgets (including the weird ones for Apple products), a plastic and a metal spudger, tweezers, and a suction cup. I’ve replaced batteries in iPhones with this kit. I’ve built entire PCs with this kit. I’ve swapped out backplates on Steam Decks and housings of Joy-Con controllers with one of these kits. I’ve even used it to repair my eyeglasses.
One of the best parts of the kit is it all goes in a single case that can be tossed in a computer bag or purse or be left in a desk drawer at the office. But honestly, the main reason I love it is the selection and quality of the bits. Too often, precision screwdrivers have super soft bits that strip the first time you use them with a screw that’s been tightened by a machine. Given that most gadgets have at least one too-tight screw, I’ve gone through quite a few cheap screwdriver kits before I settled on this one. While I’m slowly building out a high-quality selection of precision screwdrivers, most people don’t have that luxury or necessity. This is a great alternative — plus, you feel like kind of a badass when someone asks you to help fix a gadget, and you just pull this kit out of your bag in the middle of Starbucks and get to work.
Dan Seifert, deputy editor
Cranz can talk all she wants about that little screwdriver kit, but I’m here to say the Hoto electric screwdriver is one of the best cheap tools you can keep in your kitchen gadget drawer. It’s compact, comes with enough bits to cover anything you might need, and is ridiculously powerful — I’ve used it to drill screws into walls without bothering with a pilot hole. It also charges over USB-C and has a handy light when it turns on to help you see where you’re screwin’. My only complaint is that the bits themselves are stored in the case and not on the screwdriver itself, but at this price, there’s really little to find fault with here.
This screwdriver is so nice I’ve now bought it twice — because once he saw mine, my father-in-law insisted on having one, so it was an easy Father’s Day gift.
Emilia David, reporter
I admit TikTok made me buy this small safety cutter, but it’s been indispensable to someone who may or may not have an online shopping addiction. The Slice Micro Ceramic Blade safety cutter’s tiny blade cuts through paper packaging tape cleanly, opens plastic wrapping, and keeps me from going insane opening blister packaging. It doesn’t damage whatever is inside, which unfortunately happens very often with my regular metal box cutter.
The downside is that it’s so small you may lose track of it if not in use, but it does have a handy dandy hole for a keyring and a built-in magnet. And while it doesn’t fully slice through a cardboard box, it will still leave a scratch, although that could ultimately damage the ceramic blade if not used properly. I’ve had my Slice Micro for a few months, so I’m not worried about it dulling yet, but it is unclear if the blade is replaceable.
Kaitlin Hatton, audience manager
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.
Jess Weatherbed, news writer
I got this as a birthday present from my partner after several months of arguing over our sleeping arrangements. Something about me trailing the charging cables for my devices in the bed being “dangerous” and “extremely uncomfortable”… Anyway, after begrudgingly acknowledging my poor charging habits, I have to admit that having this on my desk has had benefits outside of not garroting myself mid-slumber.
My iPhone, Apple Watch, and wireless earbuds rarely run out of juice, as I no longer fall asleep before plugging them in. I’ve also taken to using the charger’s upright positioning for phones to my advantage — serving as a desk clock, a tiny display for Slack or Discord, and as a hub to remotely control the various smart devices around my home. It helps me separate the device from being my phone and instead helps me build the habit of it being another tool to boost my productivity.
Temperature-controlled smart mug
Dan Seifert, deputy editor
As a number of my colleagues likely remember, I once vociferously criticized buying a $100-plus coffee mug that did nothing other than keep your coffee (or tea, or hot cocoa, or whatever liquid you like to drink hot) at the exact temperature you set it to. Perhaps this was a case of a schoolyard bully negging the kid they have a crush on to hide their true feelings, because I’ve been coveting one of those fancy Ember mugs for years.
And when Best Buy put its exclusive blue color of the Ember Mug V2 on sale for Black Friday %5Btwo years ago%5D, I finally bit. Reader, this mug is fantastic. It keeps my coffee hot no matter how long I take to consume it, I never have to bother with microwaving a room temperature mug, and I can even tweak its settings depending on what I’m drinking out of it (coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon, usually). I even get the joy of occasionally updating the firmware on my coffee mug, a sentence that would have made no sense to anyone just a few years ago.
To be clear, this is a completely frivolous product that nobody actually needs. It makes a mildly annoying thing slightly less annoying and its drawbacks (cost, can’t put it in the dishwasher, did I mention the cost?) probably outweigh those benefits for most people. It’s a little embarrassing how much I like it, which is why it’s a perfect guilty pleasure. I enjoy it, I feel a little awkward about it, and I’d like to never speak of it again.
Help for the cook
A multipurpose rice cooker
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 hardboiled 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.
Old-fashioned toaster oven
Amelia Holowaty Krales, senior photo editor
I love a toaster oven! It’s compact, works fast, and is perfect for reheating pizza, making nachos, and yes, even toast. I use my toaster oven more than my regular oven for sure — and probably more than any other item in my kitchen. I have a pretty basic model like this one, but these days, many come with other features, like air frying and convection oven capabilities.
Seal in your fresh food Emma Roth, news writer I never knew how much I needed a vacuum sealer until I actually got one. I’m the type of person who shops at wholesale clubs despite only needing food for two people, so when I buy meat, I get a lot of it all at once, some of which inevitably gets stored in my fridge or freezer. That’s where my vacuum sealer comes in. While I can’t speak to the quality of other vacuum sealers, the FoodSaver I have is awesome. Not only does the thing help keep raw meat and other food fresher for longer in the fridge but it also helps save space in the freezer (each package of meat becomes much flatter when all the air is sucked out of it). With this little machine, I can load up whatever I want in one of the FoodSaver bags, insert the open end into the machine, which vacuums up all the air and then closes the bag using its heat sealing feature in one fell swoop. It’s pretty neat!
For the traveler
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.
A portable smart speaker
Brandon Widder, senior commerce editor
For the longest time, my go-to portable speaker for camping and backpacking was the Ultimate Ears Roll 2. It was small and efficient, but it didn’t mesh well with the rest of my audio setup, especially on those sweltering summer days when I barely made it beyond the confines of my own backyard.
A couple of years ago, however, I splurged on the Sonos Roam. The rugged, pint-sized device is on the pricier side when compared to other Bluetooth speakers, but it produces solid sound for the size, offers wireless charging, and can automatically jump between my home Wi-Fi network and Bluetooth, a convenience I’ve come to appreciate when strapping the speaker to my bike and heading out the door.
And while I might not be able to fire off my usual quips at Alexa when I take it into the backcountry — the Roam only supports voice commands when connected to Wi-Fi — I certainly can still do it poolside with a drink in hand.
Universal Travel Adaptor
Victoria Song, senior reviewer
In my youth, I forgot to pack plug adaptors for international trips one too many times. Buying them once you’ve landed in another country isn’t always easy, either. And if you’re like me, your relatives in rural Korea don’t always have more than one plug for your American devices — in which case, you’ll have to share with your six other cousins. Nope. Absolutely not. Which is why I never leave this country without a universal travel adaptor.
Basically, it’s six plug adaptors in one. Depending on which one you get, it might come with USB ports so you can charge multiple devices in one outlet. Granted, it’s bulkier than buying one or two specialized adaptor plugs, but if you’ve got a multi-continent itinerary, it’s a game-changer. What I like about this one from Epicka is that it comes with a spare fuse in case things go sideways with voltage.
The only caveat is that, although it says “universal,” it’s technically only the four most common types of plugs. That’ll get you by in most countries, but it’s not a guarantee in places like Brazil, South Africa, or India. Even so, I’ll take this over price gouging at airport electronics shops or having to take time out of my schedule to visit a local hardware store.
Brandon Widder, senior commerce editor
I’m a big fan of ambient lighting, even when I’m 50 miles from the nearest outlet. And while I’ve long been a proponent of MPOWERD’s solar-powered Luci lanterns, I recently picked up the company’s like-minded string lights for car camping and overnight jaunts in the backcountry when I don’t mind toting a little extra weight with me.
The 18-foot string is certainly not the brightest you can buy — it packs a series of 100-lumen LEDs, whereas your average headlamp might offer 400 — but it can swap between six different colors and features a 2,000mAh battery for when your phone needs some emergency juice. Best of all, you can charge the lights via USB or solar, meaning you can spend less time worrying about how to keep them going and more time taking in the vibes.
Memory card holder and reader
Becca Farsace, senior producer
As a video person who is constantly on the move, there is nothing better than the consolidation of gear — especially when it pertains to dongles. So when fellow video extraordinaire Vjeran Pavic (The Verge’s supervising producer) recently surprised me with a very cute birthday note and this magical little gadget, I was elated.
And if that wasn’t enough, it has a carabiner hook. It is everything I have ever wanted in a rubber case and more. To have both my SD card reader and all my cards in one place is priceless (well, actually $39.95). Thank you, Vjeran. <3
A portable speaker for an aging car
Barbara Krasnoff, reviews editor
Okay, it’s time to admit it — I have a well-used, not-at-all-new, not-at-all-smart car. It’s a 2007 Honda Civic, and the most technologically advanced thing it does is allow me to roll down the windows by pressing a button. No Bluetooth, no screens — nothing like that. It’s not that I don’t like having tech in my car, but I’m the sort of car owner who holds onto their auto as long as possible until it starts to become more expensive to fix it than to buy a new one. And so far, I haven’t hit that milestone.
Not that there aren’t issues, the most serious of which lately is that the port that I used to plug into in order to listen to my music on the car’s stereo system no longer works. (Not to mention the fact that my Pixel 6 doesn’t have an audio port anyway.) So I’ve compromised by using a small portable speaker from Ultimate Ears, paired via Bluetooth to my phone, to act as the speaker for my mapping directions, music, and audiobooks. At least this way, I won’t have to depend on the very old-fashioned method of listening to whatever happens to be on the radio.
A mobile tripod for holiday snaps
Jess Weatherbed, news writer
When you go on holiday with your partner or family, you generally get stuck with three options when it comes to taking group photographs: a cramped selfie, leaving someone out to take the picture, or asking a total stranger to take it for you. Not to be dramatic or anything, but I’d rather not ruin my vacation by trying to figure out which individuals nearby are the least likely to dip the minute I hand over my phone. And it’s depressing to think that my mum is in so few of our family photos because she was always the person on the other side of the camera.
A decent Bluetooth-enabled tripod can resolve these issues. I’ve had good experiences using Atumtek’s 60-inch Self-Stick Tripod — it features a discrete, detachable Bluetooth shutter remote that you can pair with your smartphone, sparing you from having to set a timer and run like hell. Simply get into position and use the remote to snap as many shots as you need to ensure it’s caught you at a flattering angle. It also extends up to 60 inches to squeeze everyone into a group selfie if you’re using it as a selfie stick. This could be a brilliant gift for any “Instagram boyfriends” who spend hours of their vacations as their partner’s dedicated paparazzi.
Products for your pet
Mitchell Clark, former news writer
The ChomChom pet hair remover is an extraordinarily simple device — it’s basically a couple of pieces of plastic, fabric, and rubber. But through some dark magic, it’s better at getting cat hair off my couch, cat tree, and other upholstery than even the adhesive-laden lint rollers (though those are still superior if the thing you’re trying to de-pet is yourself). I’d explain more, but honestly, I think the ChomChom can best be explained with this GIF:
I know I’m stretching the definition of “tech” here, but I just had to share the ChomChom because the first time I saw someone use it, my jaw dropped. I hope it can change your life like it did mine. (Note: as far as I can tell, the limited-edition cat ChomChom that I paid extra for is 0 percent more functional than the regular one. It was still worth it, though.)
Fuzzy 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.
Distracting dog toy
Kaitlin Hatton, audience manager
Trudee, otherwise known as My Boss, is notoriously insistent on being the focus of my attention. At any given moment, she has 20 toys strewn about my apartment, but she will not play with them unless I’m watching her — like literally, no distractions, sitting within feet of her, just staring at her chew on her toys for hours on end.
Don’t get me wrong. I love staring at my dog, but she doesn’t get the enrichment she deserves when her activity levels are tied directly to my ability to give her undivided attention. That is, until I bought the Pet Fit For Life Plush Wand. It has a toy attached to a long chewable rope that is suspended from a metal pole. Now, I not only toss the toy about the room from the comfort of my couch but also Trudee is so distracted by chasing it that she doesn’t notice if I am not making direct eye contact. It’s a win-win.
Slow cat feeder
Helen Havlak, publisher
Despite many standoffs in pursuit of an acceptable wet food, our cat Olivia remains addicted to dry food. Last year, I recommended the Catit Senses 2.0 slow feeder, a pedestal with five plastic cups that slows down her eating pace.
This year, my in-laws gifted us the even more intense sequel, the Catit Design Senses food maze. This is a three-level tower that you load from the top; your cat then has to reach in with their paw to move food down each level. It’s intense! I would estimate that it takes her about three times as long to finish a meal in the tower as in her older slow feeder.
Self-cleaning litter box
Antonio G. Di Benedetto, commerce writer
We have two cats, Pouncey and Oscar, who have always shared a litter box. Oscar, the younger one, is quite messy — jumping out of the box with reckless abandon and spreading litter all over. We initially had a covered box to slightly circumvent this, but last year, we opted for a pricey self-cleaning one to keep things tidier. (It was on sale for a little more than $400 then.) Like much smart home tech, it’s excellent in some ways and not so great in others.
I love that I’m no longer scooping litter every day, and if we ever go on a trip, we don’t have to ask friends or family to handle poop duties in addition to feedings. But it’s a blessing and a curse because, if I don’t empty out the waste bin on time, it piles up too high. Ever try opening a jam-packed kitchen drawer with a ladle sticking up inside it? You know that sense of frustration when it hits the top of the frame and the drawer gets stuck? Picture that, but instead, it’s clumped-up cat pee smearing across the underside as you pull it out. Yeah, not ideal. So it handles the daily duties, but it keeps me on schedule, or I end up wrist-deep in the other doodies.
Feeling a little overwhelmed on what deals to pounce on? Need some tech buying advice? Our Verge Deals team is here for your retail therapy, and we’ll be answering your burning shopping questions for Cyber Monday live on November 27th at 11AM ET. Leave a question here.
Update November 24th, 10:47PM ET: Vetted existing deals and adjusted pricing.