This story is part of the GP100, Gear Patrol's annual index of the 100 best products of the year. To see the full list of products or read this story in print, check out Gear Patrol Magazine: Issue Eight, available now at the Gear Patrol Store.
Eating, sleeping, sitting and cleaning might seem monotonous in the doldrums of day-to-day life. But driving these quotidian functions are breakthroughs no less remarkable than a powerful smartphone or shiny new car. Enter the first truly affordable sous-vide cooker, direct-to-consumer bedding catering to the general public (instead of just people born between 1981 and 1996), the most responsive office chair ever built and a powerful Dyson vac engineered to kill the category of cordless uprights. Our picks for the best home goods of 2018 didn't prompt keynotes or unboxing videos, they just made life that much better.
Boll & Branch Cotton Percale Sheets
Boll & Branch is one of the standard bearers for direct-to-consumer done right, a position it reached — and held on to — without becoming a millennial-branded cliché. Its new percale sheets are emblematic of why: they're made from the brand's signature organic long-staple cotton and use a simple one-over-one-under weave. The sheets' two very fine plys, or layers, balance overall structure with breeziness; they also flex extra-deep corner pockets to fit high mattresses. — Will Price
- Thread Count: 360
- Color Options: White, ivory
- Cotton Source: Orissa, India
Anova Precision Cooker Nano
Sous vide is inherently simple: heat water, drop in a bag of food and wait for it to reach the perfect temperature. But the popular devices, called circulators, that make the cooking technique foolproof are stupid expensive. Anova, whose flagship model will set you back $160, released an excellent $99 version called the Nano earlier this year. It brings the great sous-vide fantasy — a circulator in every home — one step closer to fruition. — WP
- Control: Manual or app-based
- Temperature Gauge: Adjustable to 0.1-degree increments
- Dimensions: 12.8 x 2.2 inches
Instant Pot Max
Instant Pot is to cooking now what the bow and arrow must have been to war when they were introduced — a new, efficient and significantly less messy way of getting things done. For the better part of a decade, the company's signature multicooker sat on the market, dormant, before Amazon listed it as the Deal of the Day in July 2016. It didn't take long for the all-in-one appliance to become an internet sensation and face a legion of look-alikes, so2 it's no surprise the company would seek to differentiate its offerings with riffs on the original design. Its latest: the much-anticipated Instant Pot Max.
But by most accounts, the Instant Pot Max is a disappointment. WIRED wrote, "Truthfully, you don't need to replace your existing multicooker just to get this newest one." CNET's bottom line reads, "Stick with older Instant Pot models that are cheaper and cook food faster." Even our own review bemoaned the Max's usefulness. But overall, these reviews are comparing its cooking bona fides to other multicookers using a strictly price-performance matrix, and in doing so, they have, perhaps unfairly, discounted a few rather brilliant morsels of industrial design.
Beyond the addition of a useful and effective sous-vide function, something no other multicooker can yet claim, the Max is the first machine of its kind to have what should have already been a standard in the space: a pressure-release valve that doesn't require users putting their hands in harm's way. The push of a button on the front of the Max initiates steam release (and can be set to slow release, pulses of release or total release). It's a smart design change that won't make the headlines, but one that leaves you asking, "What took so long?" — WP
- Volume: 6 quarts
- Cooking Functions: Sauté, slow cook, pressure cook, canning, steaming, sous vide
- Max pressure: 15 psi
After 35 years and 27 models, Dyson is so sure of the technology within the V10 that, upon its release, the company decided to halt the production of all corded uprights. The V10 isn't Dyson's first cordless vacuum, but it is easily the most well-rounded. Users are treated to an efficient, super-charged motor that rivals some of the brand’s traditional corded vacuums; long battery life; a clean way to empty the dustbin and a light, more maneuverable build. — WP
- Weight: 5.9 pounds
- Warranty: 5-year limited warranty
- Runtime: Up to 50 minutes
It's possible the best furniture release in years isn't new at all. Ikea celebrated its 75th birthday in 2018 with a multipronged retrospective that revisits its most popular pieces from decades past. And if you think Ikea has always been a clean-lined, color-mute, Scandinavian design nirvana, think again. Dubbed Gratulera (that's Swedish for "congratulations"), the collection includes velvet-backed wing chairs, fire-red loveseats and curvy rattan armchairs. — WP
- Number of Products: 44
- Timeline: 1950s - 2000s
- Availability: Limited
Trade Coffee Co.
As far as the coffee cognoscenti are concerned, all signs point to a single truth: we live in a golden age of coffee drinking. In practically every major city in the U.S., people can track down beans from around the world, produced on farms of all sizes, processed by any possible method and roasted to every degree. What's more, they rarely cost more than $15 a bag.
Like craft beer breweries, specialty coffee roasters tend to remove themselves from the mass-produced methods of mega-corporations in favor of diversity, specificity and quality. But unlike the beer industry, specialty coffee's availability is not bound by shipping laws between states. This is the virtue of Trade Coffee Co., an online retailer that launched in the spring.
Trade works with more than 50 roasters, big and small, across the States. Its website brings them all to one place, allowing users to browse hundreds of bags of coffee based on flavor profile, country of origin, ideal brew styles, roast level and more. When you buy a bag, the order is filled by the roaster and shipped to your address after the beans are freshly roasted. Functionally, it's the largest collection of fresh specialty coffee on the internet, but that's only the beginning of its usefulness.
Trade is a specialty coffee retailer that doesn't discriminate against its customers for not understanding specialty coffee. It even created a coffee-taste quiz for those who don't know what they like. Trade's site hosts how-tos covering every major brew method, and a small but smartly curated shop hosts the best coffee gear money can buy. Broadly, Trade acts as a tool consumers can use to discover roasters they may never have tried otherwise, and it effectively acts as a bridge between the coffee curious and the coffee obsessive, doing so in a way that doesn't insult the former or the latter.
Just before its April launch, we asked Trade's CEO, Mike Lackman, to distill the company's mission into a single sentence. He said simply, "We think roasters and farms should be more accessible to more people." — WP
- Number of roasters: 50+
- States represented: 20+
- Bags of coffee: 400+
The first time I spoke with Zach Schau he told me his yet-to-be-released cookware wasn't the best design on the market. He told me that again when we met in person, and once more during a phone call some months later. He doesn't believe Milo is the most luxurious Dutch oven you can buy, and it's certainly not the cheapest. But he does believe he made the best one for most people, and he did it because no one else would.
Schau is the first to admit that he and his fianceé are "home-cooking freaks." As the owners of a goldmine of vintage cast-iron cookware, their California home is outfitted with pots and pans from the very brands they're aiming to undercut. But if they hadn't inherited them, they wouldn't have bought them with their own money. And if you ask Schau why, he'll tell you frankly: "It's the price, man. Is it a Gucci handbag or a pot, you know?"
Le Creuset and Staub are the undisputed titans of Dutch ovens. And they both make "incredible products" — another thing Schau willingly admits. But they both also charge more than $300 for a standard-sized pot. Meanwhile, Lodge offers a similarly-sized Dutch oven for $60, one-fifth the price. But that one didn't meet Schau’s quality standards; its enamel just chips and cracks in no time at all.
Schau had prior manufacturing experience (he helped start a bike brand called Pure Cycles, and a company called The Graces that makes towels out of organic cotton sourced from Turkey), so he started digging for more information about the category. Once he came up for air, he arrived at a solitary conclusion: the primary reason that great enameled cast-iron cookware is so expensive and cheap cast-iron cookware is so shoddy isn't the result of some sage means of production, the use of superlative materials or selling in every cookware store in the world. Rather, in Schau's words, "the incumbents hadn't really been challenged."
Schau thought it should be possible to make an excellent product that lasts forever, looks great and doesn't cost hundreds of dollars. So that's exactly what he set out to do. This spring, after two years of R&D, he released Milo — a glossy, 5.5-quart enameled Dutch oven.
Smartly, Schau's pot works in the best features from the great French brands instead of shunning them outright. It borrows the sheen and light interior of Le Creuset, a feature that makes it easier to check the browning of the food while cooking. And like a Le Creuset, Milo's lid allows some moisture to escape, thus concentrating the flavor in braises and stews.
But Milo’s weight and bulk are Staub-like — it's heavyset in the base and thin in the walls, which alleviates the issue of hot spots on the cooking surface but doesn't make the pot unwieldy. The Milo Dutch oven is also backed by a lifetime warranty program, and you can buy one for under $100 — which previously only Lodge could claim.
And so one of the best new products of 2018 is not a new idea. Instead, it's a direct-to-consumer cookware company's first attempt at confronting a lethargic market. The result isn't the prettiest Dutch oven out there (an honor that probably goes to Le Creuset), and it's not the cheapest (Lodge). It's simply the best.
"As home chefs, we struggle with the fact that there are a couple conglomerate businesses that basically own fifty different cookware brands and drive prices up," Schau said. "So this isn't the be-all and end-all of what we want to be. We're just getting started here." — WP
- Colors: Black or white
- Capacity: 5.5 quarts
- Warranty: Lifetime
iRobot Roomba i7+
What Dyson is to handheld vacuums, iRobot (the brand behind the Roomba series) is to robo-vacuums. Its latest is superior to the competition for many reasons but distinguished by one major industry first: the capacity for useful memory. The i7+ will remember your floor plan and develop an optimal cleaning pattern over time, reducing how long it takes to clean your floors and thus saving significant battery life. It can also be dispatched to clean individual rooms. — WP
- Height: 3.63 inches
- Controls: Manual or app-based
- Memory Space: Up to 10 floor plans
Traeger Ranger Pellet Grill
With the Ranger, the brand that invented pellet grilling effectively created a trunk-sized version of the most pain-free path to smoked food. It combines an accurate real-time temperature display, a drip tray that actually works and remarkably short preheat times — and the result is a final product that is non-hyperbolically stellar. This portable grill isn't the "first" or "only" in any category, it's simply the best. — WP
- Weight: 60 pounds
- Cooking Capacity: 184 square inches
- Cook Time: Up to 24 hours per hopper
The Best Home Product of 2018: Herman Miller Cosm
There has never been a chair quite like the Herman Miller Cosm, which shuns hyperbole as the most ergonomically advanced office chair ever built. That is to say it requires almost no manual input from the user. Cosm is the first passive ergonomic office chair that doesn't lift the user's legs when they lean back — a subtle feature, but it's one that took the team at Herman Miller nearly a decade to figure out. And the result is stunning.