As it did to the rest of the planet, the pandemic that was declared roughly a year ago recast almost every facet of our daily lives here at Gear Patrol. Work decamped to our homes. Social interactions occurred on screens. Exercise shifted from gyms and studios to wherever we could find space. Our kitchens replaced our favorite bars, restaurants and coffee shops. And none of us ever expected finding a trove of freshly restocked toilet paper to feel momentous.

Changes forced us to get creative, whether we were trying to get through our daily grind or to stay engaged with our passions and interests. Products we discovered along the way proved a crucial part of that journey. Some fulfilled our newfound occupational requirements. Some helped us connect with friends and family in novel ways. Some just met our ever-present need for anything resembling novelty.

Here are some great gear items we discovered over the past year that made our stressful and often static existences feel a bit more agreeable, comfortable, or, dare we say it, fun.

The Cushion Lab Ergonomic Lumbar Pillow

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I have pretty terrible office-chair posture and stubbornly dealt with back aches for weeks before giving into the Instagram ads saying that this cushion would solve my WFH woes. Those ads weren't wrong. This cushion not only makes sitting in an office chair all day more comfortable, but also reminds me to adjust my posture whenever I realize I'm starting to slouch. -Caitlyn Shaw, Product Manager

Price: $66

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Yashica Mat TLR Medium Format Film Camera

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A year essentially trapped in your immediate neighborhood can make anyone go a little stir-crazy. Shooting and developing my own film on this unusual and arduous but beautiful and capable film camera helped me see my very familiar surroundings in a whole new light. -Eric Limer, Editor

Price: ~$150

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Autonomous ErgoChair

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I found the ErgoChair from Autonomous after badgering our Home editor for chair suggestions for six months. This thing ain't cheap, but I sit for 12 hours a day and have a bad back and neck, so: worth it. It's so adjustable in so many different directions that I feel like Captain Kirk's chair on the Enterprise probably doesn't even compare. -Oren Hartov, Associate Editor

Price: $399

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Made In Carbon Steel Wok

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Unlimited screen time has brought me back to YouTube and, more specifically, J. Kenji López-Alt's channel, which for many months focused on meals to make in a wok. In trying to keep up, I bought up some pantry staples (fish sauce, shaoxing wine, oyster sauce, etc.) and followed the videos. TL;DR: you need a wok. This one from Made In is heavy, but holds heat well and takes to seasoning without much effort. Mastering a few stir frys is one of the easiest and most delicious ways to get dinner on the table in 20 minutes or less. -Will Price, Assistant Editor

Price: $99

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Parlee Altum

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Current worldly events resulted in my Parlee Altum bike becoming my #1 distraction and healthy lifestyle device for 2020. Throughout the year I purchased upgrades for it (a power meter, carbon handlebars, pedals and numerous other things) and I rode almost 4,000 miles. I will gladly do it again in 2021, or perhaps build another bike. -Hunter Kelley, Associate Designer

Price: $4,000+ (stock)

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Thule Canyon XT Roof Basket

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We've lived in four different places this past year. In fact, I'm considering applying a U-Haul livery to our family SUV. One thing I never thought we'd utilize as much as we have is our roof basket. We have an extension for ours and have tested the limits of its capacity. Buy it for its looks, love it for its versatility. Pro tip: skip the optional mesh net and purchase a grip of multi-sized bungee cords from Amazon. -Eric Yang, Founder, CEO

Price: $349.95

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Battle Beaver Customs Xbox Series X Controller

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I found myself and friends resorting to an outrageous amount of online gaming, as much for a chance to chat and catch up as anything. Naturally though, things escalate, and gear-nerds will be gear-nerds. I found my competitive advantage in Battle Beaver Customs — a small company that takes Xbox and Playstation controllers and modifies them with absolute performance in mind. Yes, it's five times as expensive as a normal controller, no I am not five-times better...but just think of all the takeout lunches I'm not spending money on. -Henry Phillips, Deputy Photo Editor

Price: $175

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2020 Hyundai Ioniq EV

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End-of-summer lease offers were extremely attractive for 2020 model year EVs last year. We did a lot of research (and consulting with our Motoring desk) before we sprung for this EV hatchback (plenty of room for surfboards) with decent range for city driving to give us mobility. Having a car again, and not feeling as guilty about it, has been a huge upgrade and allowed us to avoid public transportation. Adopting EV technology has made parts of the past year rewarding at times. -Ryan Brower, Commerce Editor

Price: $33,245+ (purchase)

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OXO Grips Angled Measuring Clear

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Like many others, I've started making my own cocktails at home since the pandemic started. This little measuring cup has made it much simpler and less frustrating to measure out ingredients. Double jiggers have to be filled to the top to measure out an accurate volume, making spillage and overflow super easy and common. It's much harder to mess up and waste your liquor/liqueurs, etc. with this Oxo cup. It also has markings for more increments of volume than just 1 or 2 ounces, making it less intimidating to attempt any super precise cocktail recipes. -Sherry Wang, Art Director

Price: $5

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Salomon XT-4 Advanced Shoes

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I've been getting outside a lot more this year, and needed a pair of shoes to handle the varied terrain. These had the right blend of cushion, traction and support for moderate hikes in and around the coastal mountains of California. And, the incredibly breathable upper kept my feet comfortable on sunny December days. -John Zientek, Associate Editor

Price: $250

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Oculus Quest 2

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When socializing — and golf — was stripped away, one of my friends suggested that VR headsets would be fun for us all to have. Long story short, I was the last to cave, and really wish I hadn't waited. I can goof off on my own , swinging lightsabers at practice bots, or going full-on John Wick in a couple FPS games, but the real gold for me is the golf games. It's been a fun, unexpected way to connect with friends. I miss the walking and fresh air and clinking beers, but now there's no commute, no per-game cost, and no "you have to wear pants" rule. -Nick Caruso, Coordinating Producer

Price: $299+

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Nespresso Aeroccino3 Milk Frother

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I'm a zero-cup coffee drinker. On the weekends, however, I like to indulge in a mid-morning latte. I used to walk over to the bakery near Gear Patrol's offices every Friday morning for one, but the closest cafe to my current home is a 25-minute drive away. My mom introduced me to this kitchen gizmo at the start of quarantine, and the unit I've since purchased for myself helps me keep my little ritual going. It makes smooth, creamy foam but doesn't require the investment — in dollars or counter space — that a home espresso machine would. -Tanner Bowden, Senior Staff Writer

Price: $82

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Mahabis Breathe Slippers

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I needed some house footwear to ease the toll of my wood floors on my feet. These turned out to be a great breathable alternative to my shearling LL Bean Mocs during the spring and summer months. The killer feature is the “heel cradle” which you can pull it around your heel to achieve a snugger, sneaker-like fit, or step down on to mimic a traditional slip on. They’re also machine-washable. -Ben Bowers, Co-Founder/Chief Content Officer

Price: $109

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Brooks Ghost 12 Running Shoes

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These were an investment in not hurting myself while running, and exercise has always been a big part staying sane for me. It was all the more important through lockdowns and otherwise sedentary WFH weeks and months. For road and treadmill running, and even long urban walks, they’re worth it. Shoes like this don't have to look cool, but it's a bonus that they do. -Zen Love, Staff Writer

Price: $130

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Monstera Deliciosa

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Before the pandemic, I had zero plants. I'm now basically living in a tiny jungle in New York City. The first plant I fell in love with was my monstera, aka the Swiss cheese plant, for its hole-laden leaves. While I got this from a local nursery, a bunch of online plant retailers sell this popular plant. Watching new growth has been one of the best parts of being at home constantly, and I can't wait for spring to hit so a new crop of leaves can spring. -Tyler Chin, Associate Staff Writer

Price: $60

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Lodge Skillet

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My grandmother passed away right around when much of the U.S. was getting locked down. Losing someone you're close to is never easy, but not being able to come together and remember her added a weird, disorienting layer to the grief. So I was really touched when I was sent her cast-iron skillet. The cost of sending it cross-country was more than it's worth, but having something of hers to remember her by on a daily basis has meant a lot to me. -J.D. DiGiovanni, Platforms Editor

Price: $18

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DUER Stay Dry Denim Slim Jeans

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For the past year, biking has been my best excuse to leave the house. Tons of protest rides, march marshaling, food drives and other outdoor activities later, I'm still riding strong thanks in part to these tough, cycling-friendly jeans. They feature a DWR-treatment and just a bit of stretch to stand up to ugly weather and long days in the saddle. -Steve Mazzucchi, Editor

Price: $139

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Dawn Platinum Powerwash Dish Spray

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My wife and I are home preparing and eating three meals per day. My son snacks constantly. The result is a Sisyphean struggle each night to tackle the ever-replenishing dish load. My mother-in-law bought us some Dawn Platinum Powerwash Dish Spray. It clears plates and pans instantly with a scrub. No soaking is required. Using it saves me a few minutes per evening. And those few minutes can make the difference between having time to relax and unwind before bed and not having it. -Tyler Duffy, Staff Writer

Price: $28

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