We all could use a break. A break from the stress of the day, the larger problems we deal with during a global pandemic, and especially the endless news feeds we scroll that remind us of it all. In the spirit of unplugging, here are some products that help nudge us away from our glowing rectangles—if just for a little bit.
Stepping away from the screen and using a pen and paper to write can do wonders for your mental health. Journaling is an activity that five-time Olympic Trials qualifier Becky Wade swears by: “When we take time to explore and label our emotions, we’re able to organize our cluttered minds and make sense of our experiences,” she writes. “A cascade of positive mental and physical effects—which include lowered blood pressure, increased immunity function, better digestion, and improved sleep—follow suit.”
Our pick: Moleskine Classic Hardcover Notebook ($20)
Wade likes Moleskine’s products for classic and bullet journaling. This version has an elastic strap and a pocket to stash loose documents. We recommended the brand’s Voyageur notebook as an essential item for solo travel. Contributor Janna Irons liked that Moleskine included “travel-specific features, like a planning section, tear-out packing and to-do lists, and budget pages for calculating your expenses,” all of which can help you stay organized, even when you’re not jet-setting.
A Yoga Mat
Now that the majority of us are working from home, combating long hours of screen time might feel like a bigger challenge than usual. Our Gear Guy, Joe Jackson, rounded up the items he uses to make his workdays productive, and he frequently rolls out the yoga mat to take small breaks from the computer. “A good stretch and some deep breaths can turn a stressful day around, especially when I’m feeling isolated and stuck inside my head,” he writes. Plus, a yoga mat is an obvious tool for daily meditation.
Our pick: Manduka Pro Travel Mat ($68)
“The Pro Travel weighs just under 2.5 pounds and provides 2.5 millimeters of cushy, grippy foam—enough to keep you stable on grass, decking, and office carpet,” writes tester Aleta Burchyski. It was one of our favorite pieces of yoga gear in 2020.
A Good Book
In 2019, contributor Heather Hansman wrote—with incredible foresight—an appropriate summation of the past year: “January comes with that itchy recalibration of trying to assess your year and your life. It can be exhausting, especially in the face of a 2018 that was… not great for a lot of people and places. Here’s an invitation to go easy on yourself and the world, if only for a little bit, with some books to fight your burnout by way of escapism.” Indeed, books can offer a respite from the stress of daily life and even have the power to change your life, as a few Outside staffers would argue.
Our pick: Any of these outdoor books that shaped the past decade
There’s no shortage of gems in our roundup of books; these chosen few “sparked debate, changed discourse, and spawned movements in the outdoor world,” contributor Shawnté Salabert writes. They “made us marvel at the seemingly impossible limits of the human body and feel enthralled with the wonders of nature. They mobilized us to stand up against environmental injustice, taught us about climate change, and inspired us to take our ideas out into the world.”
A Backyard Fire Pit
Unplugging doesn’t have to be extreme; some simple time away from electronics, like getting fresh air in your backyard, can do just the trick. (Wouldn’t you rather stare at a fire than a screen?) And with a handful of portable options, making a fire for yourself or your family doesn’t have to be difficult.
Our pick: Solo Stove Bonfire ($350)
Outside columnist Graham Averill loves this portable pit from Solo Stove because it creates a simple, efficient fire. “It’s built with a stainless-steel ‘can’ equipped with vent holes at the top and bottom that feed oxygen to the base of the fire while the ash falls below a grate. The result is a fast, hot-burning flame that’s practically smokeless (depending on what you’re burning),” he writes. “I’ve been using this fire pit for a year, and what I like most is the hands-off process: build your tepee inside the pit, light the fire, and walk away. You don’t have to constantly tend to it, because the tubelike design forces the fuel to fall into itself as it burns.”