Fall is finally here. Or fall is already here, depending on your mindset. As the temperatures drop, the great outdoors become more enjoyable -- that is, until the winds of winter set in. To ensure you’re properly equipped for pumpkin spice season, we’ve compiled a list of items to help you make the most of your time on the porch, in the yard or out in the woods with some new picks and a few old favorites. From grilling to pizza, fire pits to smart lighting, there’s something for everyone. And a few options are available for $100 or less.
Traeger Ironwood 650 and 885
WiFi is becoming a standard grilling feature and Traeger has one the best implementations of it. While the company offers six sizes across three different smart models, the mid-range Ironwood series has nearly all the features Traeger offers. You get wireless connectivity that allows you to monitor and control the grill from a distance with an app. Traeger’s software also provides a wealth of recipes and will guide you through the entire cooking process. What’s more, WiFi allows you to send cooking info directly to your grill so all you have to do is hit the ignite button. The Ironwood grills now ship with a pellet sensor too, which means you never have to worry about running out of fuel mid-cook.
With a temperature range of 165 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, you can do everything from low-and-slow barbecue to hot-and-fast searing. Plus, there’s baking, roasting and everything in between. Super Smoke mode helps saturate your food with more wood flavor and a Keep Warm setting will hold things steady should you need it. Most importantly, the Ironwood grills are capable of producing truly delicious results, and even the smaller model has room for enough food to feed a family.
When it comes to travel coffee options, you can get everything from a full-blown pour over set that includes a kettle, to a simple card-like setup that folds down flat. I’ve tried a bunch of them, and the AeroPress is still my favorite. It allows you to quickly and easily make a great cup of coffee so you can avoid instant packs or hotel lobby swill. And with the Go model, everything packs down into the included cup. It does have a smaller capacity, but it will brew you an 8-ounce cup or a few shots of espresso. The set includes a brewer, filter holder, scoop, stirrer, lid and mug so all you have to provide are the grounds.
Brumate Hopsulator Trio
I purchased a Hopsulator before a week-long beach trip over a year ago and I’ve never looked back. I splurged for the 3-in-1 model that functions as an aluminum insulated koozie for 16-ounce cans, employs a reusable cooling puck for 12-ounce cans and comes with a lid so you can use it as a travel coffee mug. I’ll admit I’ve used that third option exactly once, but I’m constantly reaching for the Hopsulator to keep cans cold. The weight makes it difficult to tell when you’re empty, but the insulation works very well, so I only have that one complaint thus far.
Sure, you can make great pizza at home with a stone in your oven. But the appliance in your kitchen just isn’t up to the task of getting that true Neapolitan-style bake. It simply doesn’t get hot enough. To help you achieve pizzeria-quality results, Ooni has created a range of wood-fired and gas-powered pizza ovens for outdoor use. The smallest and most affordable models of each are the Fyra ($249) and Koda ($329), both capable of cooking 12-inch pies in about a minute.
To get started with the Fyra, you simply load a small amount of fuel and a food-safe firestarter. Once things get going, you slowly fill a hopper with pellets. After about 15 minutes, the Fyra is hot enough for your pizza. The oven’s chimney pulls the flames over the top of a baking stone to cook your Instagram-worthy creations.
The only downside is that the Fyra doesn’t have a heat dial like Ooni’s gas grills -- it’s wide open all the time. However, the results are outstanding, with a hint of wood smoke flavor throughout the properly charred crust. Plus, 22-pound Fyra disassembles and the legs fold up for easy transport, making this a super portable option for taking your (socially distanced) pizza parties on the go. And with the pellet model, you don’t have to lug around a gas tank with it.
As the temperatures drop, a fire pit is a cozy place to spend your time. However, most of the cheap options you’ll find at your local big box store aren’t really designed to channel smoke away from you or to maximize airflow. Solo Stove’s stainless steel fire pits do both, creating a roaring fire that won’t smoke you out while you’re sitting around it. Each of the three models, ranging from $195 to $475, is portable and burns whatever variety of wood you happen to have. I’ve been testing the Ranger, the smallest and most portable option. While you can certainly set these right on the ground or concrete patio, I highly recommend splurging for a stand and a weather-proof cover which cost around $80 for the Ranger and Bonfire models.
Goal Zero Yeti 200X
Sometimes your outdoor adventure takes you away from things like electricity. And because we still need to charge devices like our phones for safety, a powerful battery can provide all the juice you need. GoalZero has several models of so-called power stations, with the Yeti 200X being its most lightweight. It’s still a substantial package to haul around in terms of size -- it tips the scale at five pounds. Plus, a built-in display lets you know how much capacity is left so you never have to wonder. With connections for USB-A, USB-C, 12-volt car port (like a cigarette lighter) and 120-watt AC inverter, you should have no trouble keeping your gadgets going. And if you’re off the grid for a while, optional solar panels can recharge the Yeti as needed.
Philips Hue Calla
If you’re spending time outside after dark, you need some lighting to set the mood. You can already control the lights inside your house with your phone, so why not take that convenience outside. Philips Hue is the preferred smart lighting option among Engadget staffers, and the company offers a smattering of outdoor options. To keep the edges of your pathways or patio lit up, the Calla ($100-$150) is a solid choice. The cylindrical lights can either sit on a flat surface or be positioned on the ground with the included stake.
You’ll need a Hue Bridge to use these, and the Calla comes in both base station and satellite models. Setup is a breeze though, and if you keep all the cords somewhat accessible, you can move these around from one weekend to the next. And, most importantly, the Calla offers the 16 million light colors that have become the trademark of the Hue lineup.
BioLite Headlamp 750
A good headlamp is useful for a lot more than hiking or camping. Thanks to BioLite, you don’t have to worry about keeping a steady supply of AAAs on hand for one. With the Headlamp 750, the outdoors company offers a rechargeable option with a maximum brightness of 750 lumens. It also features dimmable red, white, strobe and burst mode in the front and a dimmable rear red visibility light. I’ve used it on walks and yard work after dark, and I can attest to the more general use cases. BioLite says you’ll get 150 hours on low, seven hours on high and eight hours in Reserve mode. There’s also a handy Constant Mode if you need to maintain brightness and a Burst Mode that gives you 30 seconds of max light.
Bluetooth speakers come in all shapes and sizes, and with varying degrees of portability. Sony’s XB23 is the size of a travel coffee mug, which means it can easily slide into the side pocket of a backpack. The speaker also has dual bass radiators for better low-end tone than many portable Bluetooth options can muster. Plus, the XB23 is IP67 rated dustproof, waterproof and rustproof, so it’s ready for adventures in the backyard and beyond.
Thermacell Patio Shield
I’ve been using a Patio Shield all summer, at least a few times month during socially-distanced porch beers with friends. I continue to be impressed with how well it works. Thermacell offers a range of similar products, but this one is small enough to carry anywhere. Even sitting six feet apart, it offers relief when the mosquitos start to swarm. Sure, the temperatures are dropping and bugs will be less of a nuisance soon, but some of us still have a few weeks of pests until they’re gone for winter.