12 Smart Home Devices to Help You Live Your Best (and Laziest) Life

Amazon/Best Buy
Amazon/Best Buy

The days of having to get off the couch to change the channel or turn off the lights are long over, thanks to the seemingly never-ending flood of smart devices to hit the market. But setting up your smart home isn’t something you should jump right in to. First, you need to find the right hub for your needs, and then you'll need the correct devices that work with it. But once your setup is complete, your thermostat, slow cooker, refrigerator, vacuum, and pretty much anything else you can think of can be controlled by the push of a button or the sound of your voice. Here are some of the devices you may want to consider when making your home a bit smarter this year.

1. Google Home Smart Hub; $100

Best Buy

If you're ready to commit to Google's smart ecosystem, the Google Home is your starting point. This central hub includes a voice-activated helper (the aptly named Google Assistant) that acts as the central nervous system to your smart home. Once you pair it with your Wi-Fi, the Google Home can answer your questions, tell you the weather, set alarms, and, most importantly, control many of the different smart devices on the market through voice commands. Having all of your most important devices—like smart lights, TVs, and security systems—all going through one hub that you control with your voice is what living lazy is all about. As with any hub, though, do your research and make sure all of your desired smart devices are compatible with it.

Buy it: Best Buy

2. Amazon Echo Show 8; $90

Amazon

If you’re looking to go the Amazon route for your hub, start with the Echo Show. It has the Alexa-enabled capabilities of the Dot, but its built-in screen is a great catch-all for displaying photos, watching recipe tutorials in the kitchen, making video calls, and going through the news. Like the Google Home, you can control other smart devices through the Show, so you’ll always be connected to the gadgets around your home. Oh, and while those Show speakers certainly won’t replace a Bose setup anytime soon, they’re more than capable of filling the room with your favorite music.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Sengled Smart Lights; $40

Sengled/Amazon

Smart lights are the necessity you never knew you needed. They’re energy-efficient, simple to set up, and even easier to use. And this offering from Sengled, complete with two bulbs and the smart hub, is as good a place to start as any. These lights screw into most sockets around your house, and once in, it’s all a matter of pairing them with the Sengled hub, downloading the app, and learning the ropes. You can control brightness either from your phone or through Alexa or Google voice controls, and there’s even an option to set a schedule, so your lights will turn off and on depending on your personalized timetable. The company also offers colored bulbs capable of millions of different shades and tones.

Buy it: Amazon

4. LG Smart Refrigerator; $1800

Best Buy

This refrigerator from LG is designed to keep your food fresh for longer. It all starts with its InstaView panel, which allows you to get a peek at what's inside without having to open the door over and over again, wasting energy and messing with the temperature in the process. This model also has a smart cooling system (controlled through Alexa or Google Assistant) that continually monitors its temperature and adjusts accordingly, along with two humidity-controlled drawers ideal for storing fruits and vegetables.

Buy it: Best Buy

5. Nest Thermostat; $213

Google/Amazon

This Nest thermostat learns your preferred temperatures and adjusts itself to fit your needs. You can set a schedule to have your home at the exact temperature you want, whenever you want it. And if you're at work and temperatures suddenly drop, you can hop on the app and adjust right from the office. To streamline the process, the thermostat comes with all the setup equipment in the box, and there's even a YouTube tutorial online to make installation even easier.

Buy it: Google

6. Pet Food Dispenser; $180

PetSafe/Amazon

If you have a dog or cat that insists on being fed the moment you sit down, then this food dispenser is for you. Without getting up, you can schedule feedings right on your phone, whether you're on an iPhone or Android device. Have an animal that eats too quickly? This machine even has a slow-feeder option, which will dispense food over a 15-minute period.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Samsung Smart Outlet; $18

Samsung/Amazon

If you don't want to invest too much money in smart devices, a smart outlet is a low-cost alternative. This option from Samsung allows you to control power to a non-smart device using the Samsung SmartThings app or through voice commands, via Alexa and Google Assistant. So instead of pulling a plug out of a hard-to-reach outlet every day, you can simply use this smart outlet to control the power from anywhere in the house (or out of the house). It works without needing a pricey hub, so there's far less setup than most smart gadgets. And Samsung's app also offers scheduling capabilities for more personalization. If you're dipping your toe into smarter water or are wary of throwing out your favorite non-smart devices, this is a great starting point.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Smart Instant Pot; $79

Instant Pot/Amazon

This Instant Pot does everything a standard model can do—it's a slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, and sauté pan all in one—but because it's, well, smarter, you can schedule and control cooking times from an app or through your Alexa device. This means you can start and monitor your BBQ pulled chicken from work, so it's perfectly timed when you get back home at night.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Ring Smart Doorbell; $170

Amazon/Ring

For Amazon customers in the market for a smart doorbell with a built-in security camera, there’s the Ring. This device lets you see, hear, and talk to anyone at your front door from your smartphone, Amazon Show, PC, and plenty of other devices, even if you’re not home. Other similar options include the Google Nest Hello if you’re a Google Home user—this one boasts similar features as the Ring, with some reviewers touting the Nest’s video quality as superior. And for those not looking to commit to either tech giant, there’s the Arlo smart doorbell, which currently sits at a four-star rating on Amazon.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Smart TV Sticks; Various

Roku/Amazon

When it comes to smart TVs, you don't necessarily need to spend big on the latest set. Instead, a streaming stick, like Roku ($46), Amazon's Fire Stick ($50), or Google's Chromecast ($34), is about as high-tech as you'll need to go. These low-cost options plug right into your non-smart TV's HDMI port and come equipped with streaming apps like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and more. And depending on the device you get, most can be paired with Alexa or Google Assistant voice commands or an app, so you can control your binge-watching from your phone.

Buy it: Amazon

11. Eufy Robot Vacuum; $259

eufy/Amazon

It's 2020—if you don't want to spend your free time pushing a vacuum around the house, make a robot do it for you. Alongside having an app, the eufy robot vacuum is also compatible with both Alexa and Google Assistant, allowing you to start and stop the cleaning process with a simple voice command. The eufy can also run on its own according to whatever schedule you program, so you can have your vacuum working for you while you enjoy a well-deserved weekend off.

Buy it: Amazon

12. Sensibo Smart Air Conditioner Control; $119

Sensibo/Amazon

Control your air conditioner from anywhere with this handy device from Sensibo. You can set a seven-day schedule, so your A/C will turn on and off at the right times on work days and weekends. And on days when temperatures rise quickly, your Sensibo will react on its own and cool things off for you. It's perfect for keeping a cool home for your pets while you're on vacation, and it can pair with your Google Home and Alexa devices to make your ideal temperature just a voice command away.

Buy it: Amazon

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10 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

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22 Creepy Cryptids From Around the World

Belgian painter Pieter Dirkx's interpretation of the Mongolian death worm.
Belgian painter Pieter Dirkx's interpretation of the Mongolian death worm.

According to Merriam-Webster, a cryptid is an animal "that has been claimed to exist but never proven to exist." But as Bigfoot believers and Loch Ness Monster enthusiasts are often quick to point out, it’s pretty difficult to prove that something doesn’t exist. Plus, it’s much more fun to indulge in the idea that giant sea monsters and hairy humanoids are roaming the uncharted corners of the planet.

On this episode of The List Show, Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy is taking viewers across time and space to unearth legends about lesser-known monsters that, again, haven’t been proven to not exist. Take the Mongolian death worm, a lamprey-like nightmare that supposedly lives in the Gobi Desert and radiates a poison so strong that you could die just by standing near it. If you’re an ill-behaved child or a Catholic who scarfs down steak every Friday during Lent, watch out for the Rougarou, a Louisiana-based werewolf that sniffs out those two demographics.

Learn about more fearsome, fascinating cryptids of all kinds in the video below, and subscribe to the Mental Floss YouTube channel for future episodes of The List Show.