Backed Hard: The Best Stuff We (Actually) Bought in December

As we bask in the afterglow of the holiday season and look back on the year that 2022 was, it’s time to do the playback and identify the MVPs of what we gifted, got gifted, and threw in our own online baskets to fight off the Seasonal Affective Disorder. Welcome to another edition of Backed Hard, the monthly roundup where VICE writers and editors are giving thanks for and throwing tips on all the best stuff we dropped moola on this past month. 

We’ve dug up some of our editors’ favorite finds from across the shop-o-sphere that were the undisputed champs of late 2022, proven tried and true by the rigorous testing of our highly discerning staff. Last month, we extolled the virtues of makeshift Noguchi-dupe lamps, fancy toothpaste, and hiking jackets.  This month, we’re diving into the new year with top-tier flannel bedding, a candle that’s perfect for going “California sober” this Dry January, and an affordable alternative to AirPods. Our new year’s resolution? Keep supplying our treasured readers (and, let’s be honest, ourselves) with the best gear that our $50 gift card from Uncle Bernard can buy (thanks, Bernie). We only recommend stuff that we know, from personal experience, rules, so get the ball rolling in 2023 with these vetted product picks.

I got forked 

How often do you think about your forks, spoons, and everyday knives? I have a decent-looking set of gold flatware, but I’d also been using a busted checkerboard-print set in the mix for-EV-er and eventually someone pointed out to me that it was chipped and hideous and embarrassing. I bought it at Urban Outfitters like eight years ago and it was some sort of inside joke with myself about ska, or IDK. Whatever. My mom took pity on me this Christmas and hooked me up with this very attractive, adult-but-vaguely-Tiki-inspired set of Fortessa flatware and I feel like a real, actual adult who has linen napkins (I also bought a set of those recently) and serves wine that’s more than $25 a bottle. —Hilary Pollack

Mini spatulas (for getting to the bottom of the jar)

No more sad days of leaving your best bougie sauces, jams, and spreads at the bottom of the jar. I bought this set of firm yet bendy silicone Slendermen spatulas for my mayo-addicted pops for Christmas, and they’ve been in constant use. —Mary Frances “Francky” Knapp

The hiking accessory I use for everything (except hiking)

In all honesty, I didn’t need a headlamp, but when I scoped this one on sale at REI, I had a hard time not buying it. This model from Black Diamond is a perfect, no-frills headlamp that does exactly what a lamp is supposed to do: light shit up. This particular model illuminates your driveway, basement, or trail with 300 lumens and has at least three different brightness levels (though I think there might be more; I couldn’t really continue to stare at a glaring light while trying to count the slight shifts in brightness level), which is more than enough for most. While I technically copped this to remain visible on walks around the neighborhood and on local trails after dark, it’s been my favorite thing to wear while just puttering around the house, DJing in a dark area, or hanging out outside with friends and family at night over the holidays. You haven’t lived until you’ve annoyed several loved ones by wearing a bright headlamp while they’re trying to soak up some steam (and starlight) in a hot tub. —Gregory Babcock

Obsessed with this hand soap TBH

While I acknowledge Aesop as the reigning leader in fancy hand soaps, Compagnie de Provence is the (slightly) cheaper, just-as-good underdog that will similarly accent your bathroom sink in appealing, gender-neutral design and fill your nostrils in expensive-smelling aromas of botanicals and herbs. This particular fragrance, “Anis Patchouli,” actually smells kind of like neither anise nor patchouli, and more like the neck of an effortlessly hot person who recently showered. It also makes your hands super-soft (thanks to a base of olive oil and sweet almond oil) and its scent lingers just the right amount, so you feel clean and luxurious till your next visit to the sink. —Hilary Pollack

An incredibly good, crystal clear Bluetooth speaker

I do a lot of research when I invest in a new piece of technology, and once I realized I needed a new Bluetooth speaker for my bedroom, I went to town reading about them. A lot of annoying new “smart” speakers run only on Wi-Fi, have mediocre sound, force you to go through a particular app, or give Siri/Alexa access to everything you’re doing in your home (in my case, eating ice cream and playing Elden Ring). I made a pact with myself recently that I’ll only buy very good speakers going forward, and the Bose SoundLink Revolve+ (Series II) has not disappointed. It sounds incredible, has great battery life, offers 360-degree sound, links to my phone immediately, and also just looks cool. Can’t recommend this speaker highly enough. —Adam Rothbarth

Got an issue, here’s a tissue (and a Neti Pot)

If you’ve got a sinus problem, I’ve got a solution. Sure it’s probably not the one you wanna hear, but alas, it works: the Neti Pot. I know what you’re probably thinking: “Hell no, I am not about to voluntarily waterboard myself.” Fear not! The Neti Pot clears your sinuses, not blocks them. I was against using one myself until my boyfriend (a fellow Ashkenazi jew with many a sinus issue) poured it into my nostrils. Frankly, I have not looked back. Case in point: I recently was hit with a (self-diagnosed) sinus infection with flu-like symptoms and—thanks to my Neti Pot—stand before you now (almost) healed. It’s not to say this is a cure-all, but seeing goop drain from your nose and feeling the relief of cleared-up sinus cavities sure does feel great. —Becca Sax

An #oddlysatisfying packing material 

Last month, I had to pack up a ton of stuff in my apartment on short notice, much of which was breakable (glasses, plates, etc.) and I simply know too much about Styrofoam and single-use plastic to feel OK about cramming a bunch of it into boxes only to dump it down the trash chute in a couple of weeks. I found this biodegradable paper packing material that comes flat in a roll and then pops out into a honeycomb pattern, origami-style, when you unfurl it. It works great for protecting my collection of vintage cocktail glasses and Laurel Burch mugs, and makes me feel less panicked about killing sea animals and destroying the only Earth we’ve got. Plus, it’s very satisfying to watch it instantly spring from two to three dimensions as you pull out each sheet. —Angel Kilmister

Cheaper and chicer than AirPods

After losing or destroying multiple pairs of Apple AirPods in the span of a year, I was hesitant to buy another pair that seemed doomed to fall in a subway grate or get eaten by a dog. I toyed with the idea of a larger pair of wireless headphones, but I know that I am rarely carrying a bag big enough to accommodate them, which means I’m not going to use them. This cumulative mental calculus is how I ultimately smashed buy now on a pair of Beats Studio Buds. First of all, I like that they’re matte black and remind me of the Motorola Pebl (RIP). I’m very nostalgic for tiny 2000s technology, so already we were off to a good start. Not to mention they are somehow ALWAYS on sale? Seriously: They’re currently less than $100 and they have excellent sound quality and noise-canceling features for being so inexpensive. —Becca Blasdel

A tea man named Fred

I’ve recently become a tea drinker, so I needed a good steeper. My brother got me the cutest tea man for Christmas that I’m obsessed with. You just plop some loose leaf tea in his pants and let him chill in your mug full of hot water. Now if only I could be as zen as this little guy… —Nicolette Accardi

A sweatshirt celebrating the girlboss of our time! 

My sister is an enthusiast of all things grifter-y, scammer-ish, and deceit-driven, so, naturally, she’s thoroughly engrossed in the now-notorious Theranos scandal and the ongoing saga of its iconically full-of-shit founder, Elizabeth Holmes. Naturally, I had to get her this sweatshirt as a holiday gift, and lemme tell ya, it was a huge hit. Gets lots of head nods on the street. Thanks, all you freaks making stuff on Etsy—Hilary Pollack

In this house, we moisturize

I first tried this brand when a bottle of its pumpkin-spice chai seasonal lotion was in the bathroom of a sensory deprivation tank spa I visited (as one does) in 2019, and I instantly became a fan. I like the Sugarcane & Papaya scent because it’s sort of like the adult version of a Bath & Body Works product; yes, it is sweet–smelling, but not in the kind of way where it’s going to make people in an elevator with you cough. I do kind of want to eat it, though. At this particular moment it’s actually raining a LOT but for most of winter, the air is very dry and my skin is sad. Also, my brain is SAD (seasonal affective disordered). So this delightful-smelling and highly effective body lotion is both moisturizing and aromatherapeutic—two self-improvement birds, one stone. —Angel Kilmister

Because I’d rather be old than creaky 

I apartment-swapped with a friend at the beginning of December who lives in a one-bedroom where her desk chair doubles as a dining chair, and she had one of these ass cushions (the “TushGuard”) on it. Laugh all you want; this thing rules. It cradled my tuchus like a cloud, and made it way more comfortable to work from a kitchen table for hours at a time. I got one for myself, and now consider it a WFH lifesaver. —Angel Kilmister

Finally, adult flannel bedding that rocks

I am slowly becoming one of those people who makes their bed into a mille-feuille of coziness with faux fur throws and rotation of winter bedding. I’ve always loved flannel bedding for its warmth, but can’t think of a time when it didn’t make me feel like either 1) a bb in footie pajamas, or 2) a lumbersexual (not a bad thing, but def an aesthetic commitment). Parachute understands this quagmire, and has blessed us with a brushed cotton flannel sheet set that feels like snoozing on a unicorn hide, and keeps me toasty (but not overheated) in the winter; the organic cotton is slightly warmer than the brand’s percale, but cooler than its sateen sheets. —Mary Frances “Francky” Knapp

This book juices your serotonin levels

Bell Hooks was so smart, dude. I’ve never been big on self-help reads, but there’s a reason the late author’s works have been memed and Instagram simped to the heavens. All About Love is full of easily digestible wisdom (I downed it in two days) about 1) what the word “love” even means and 2) why we should try to demystify it as a concept, and implement it into our reflections on relationships, spirituality, politics, and social justice. —Mary Frances “Francky” Knapp

Disco days

All things disco just speak to me. The music, style, and, um… well, the shiny balls. I got a tabletop disco ball that legitimately fills a room given how tiny it is. I was quite impressed when using it, and so were the guests at my boyfriend’s New Year’s Eve party. I like to believe people were so inspired by its glowing presence that they were throwing down HARD on NYE (or perhaps it was just the ice luge that said “NY F*ckin City”?) Either way, I plan to use it for mood lighting, private jam sessions, and future bangers. —Nicolette Accardi

The cult-mascara every hot girl has

I’ve heard rumors about the ILIA Limitless Lash mascara for months—every cool girlie I knew was absolutely frothing over it and I had to know why. I naturally have really long lashes, so I tend to be very particular when it comes to the formula and the brush. I don’t want anything heavy or gloopy, and I want the brush to lift and separate every single one of my lashes like a G-D Barbie doll, and I’ll tell ya, ILIA delivers. While the formula is practically weightless, made with organic bee and carnauba waxes for hydration, it’s the application brush that really steals the show. Use the shorter, denser bristles to apply and fully coat lashes, and then go back in with the comb side to lengthen and lift. Et voila—you’ve got Bette Davis eyes. —Becca Blasdel

For easing the no-sun sads

My mom got me these dog butt magnets for Chanukah and I couldn’t be more pleased. Now everytime I walk past the fridge I am ripped away from my inner monologue that is counting down every single minute until the sun goes down, and have a little chuckle. Not as good as antidepressants, but almost. (Don’t worry—they have cat butts for you feline-freaks, too.) —Becca Blasdel

A baker’s rack, because you kitchen should be as functional as a professional’s

My pantry was totally wack for a very long time—there was just shit everywhere. Cat food, cases of La Croix, bottles of apple cider vinegar, pasta, rice, random beers, spices—all of it was scattered in piles, and all placed with no method to the madness. Then, my partner suggested getting a baker’s rack, and everything fell into place (pun not intended). My pantry is now ultra-functional and has more space than I could have imagined. Getting some shelves from Ikea or Target is fine, but getting a full-on baker’s rack is universe brain shit, and anybody can do it. —Adam Rothbarth

A candle that’s perfect for going “California sober” this Dry January

There’s little in life that brings me more simple joy than buying a new candle. A foolproof (and, more often than not, inexpensive) way to punch up a room or shift vibe, keeping a few good scented candles on deck at all times is my goal, my purpose, and my obsession. Malin + Goetz’s “Cannabis” candle is pound-for-pound one of my absolute favorites. For the weed-averse—or, you know, those worried their dwelling will smell like a burnt bong rip—fear not. The fragrance is primarily an earthy-woody blend that is more evocative of a forest floor than the leftover crumbs found in someone’s grinder from college. Using something weed-adjacent for relaxation—this might be the perfect accessory for going “California sober” this Dry January. —Gregory Babcock

A dress to impress

Winter is full of events between holiday gatherings and meeting old friends, and ultimately, many occasions require dressing up far more than you would in, say, August. If you’re looking for a no-fail solution, this Monrow piece is the dress to go for. I picked one up this season and it’s sleek, it’s flattering, and it hugs ALLLL the right places. I may have worn it often during the month of December, but this dress now has a place in my closet anytime of the year. —Becca Sax

Headphones to drown out the world

I’m not sure where I’ve been, but I’ve never owned a pair of wireless or noise-canceling headphones. I’ve refused the AirPod life—team wired tech forever—but ahead of holiday travel, I finally caved and snagged these very sleek Sony babies. To be honest, they haven’t left my head and neck since. They are comfortable, adjustable, fit on my tiny head, hold their charge for a long time, and literally quiet the everyday stresses of my life. I can take the train in peace, I can work from our loud office while keeping silence in my head, and I can listen to music while grocery shopping and not get tangled up in a cord. —Kate Spencer

Here’s hoping for an incredible 2023. Our new year’s resolution? Upgrading our living room with a sick ass leather couch (no one said we couldn’t resolve to get a little more R&R in 2020 Part III). See you next month. 

The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story. Want more reviews, recommendations, and red-hot deals? Sign up for our newsletter


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