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

Welcome back to Backed Hard, our monthly cornucopia of the best stuff your trusted Rec Room staff tried, loved, and now wishes to evangelize. We are online shopping wizards, traversing far and wide to try the weird, wonderful, and wack and report it all back to you, dear reader, so you know what’s actually worth those hard-earned clams procured from your personal role in the chains of capitalism. For real, though, window shopping on the web is a joy, but actually smashing that “add to cart” button—and then, even more harrowing, that “confirm purchase” button—can be frightening. Learn from our adventures, mistakes, and risks, and rest assured that everything we back hard, we genuinely love. 

Last month’s editors' picks included retro-cool, TikTok-viral headphones; next-level instant noodles; and a budget suction vibrator that will make you come so hard you feel like you’re getting head from Jesus Christ himself (don’t read this, Mom!). This month, we’ve tracked down AI-optimized mood-boosting sunglasses and Michelin-star-worthy spice rubs, as well as affordable earbuds and A+ Ray-Ban dupes you can buy on Amazon for less than 20 bucks. Read on to see what our writers and editors lived, laughed, loved in June 2022, and precisely why they’re so very worth it. 

A box fan that spices up the floor next to your bed

There’s nothing worse than trying to fall (or stay) asleep in the summer and lying awake in your damp, tousled sheets at 4 a.m. because you’re drenched in sweat and your mind is relentlessly cranking the chorus of “Champagne Supernova” on repeat. And while A/C certainly helps, a good old-fashioned fan not only keeps the indoor breeze goin’, but also offers that hummy white noise that helps to shut your brain off (or at least mine). Unfortunately, a lot of fans are butt-ugly—but I appreciate that Lasko’s Cool Colors fan at least insists on manifesting a variety of colors such as royal blue, purple, and “Fuschia Supreme” for something as utilitarian as a box fan. It was a tough call to make a color selection, but I went with the blue—although I kind of think purple has the most swag. Bonus: This thing is powerful—when you sit in front of it, you’ll feel like you’re in a soft-focus hair metal video. —Angel Kilmister

The best planters for a city fire escape

I sure love my Brooklyn fire escape—or “balcony,” as I refer to it when I’m on the phone with my mother. Sadly, it doesn’t have the square footage to hold my buns and a bunch of heavy pots, but I was still so inspired by these DIY city gardeners to be my best herbaceous summer self that I ordered a bunch of pollinator plant seeds, worm castings (this compost is like Four Loko for your plants, trust me), and this trio of affordable plant hangers. They’re incredibly lightweight, and put my precious seedlings on my horizon line so that I’m staring at greenery—and not my fuggo neighboring building—when I wake up. —Mary Frances “Francky” Knapp 

A mineral-based spray sunscreen that’s really, actually sheer

We never undersell the importance of wearing sunscreen here at Rec Room, and have consulted dermatologists, ourselves, and skincare memelords the Dewy Dudes in pursuit of the best SPF options. But come summer, my personal fave is this sprayable mineral sunscreen from clean skincare brand Pacifica, which smells amazing, works great (I have dodged many, many sunburns thanks to it), and does not—I repeat, does not!—leave a white cast that makes you look like Nosferatu. It sprays on white so that you can make sure you’re covering all of the areas you want to cover, but then rubs in completely sheer—I promise. —Hilary Pollack

Fire & Smoke Society’s ridiculously tasty spice rubs

In case you haven’t been paying attention, we’re big fans of flavor here at Rec Room, and while I’m not usually a premade spice blend guy, I’ve gotta say: These Fire & Smoke Society rubs slap. My two favorites are the Thundering Longhorn beef rub—which made a recent brisket taste chef’s kiss—and The Usual, an all-purpose mix that will be going on all of the savory dishes I make for the foreseeable future. The ancho chile and espresso (trust me, it works) in the Thundering Longhorn give meat a rich, complex flavor without overpowering the natural taste of the beef, while the rosemary, garlic, and lemon in The Usual make it perfect for sprinkling over roasted potatoes. —Ian Burke 

This coffee maker makes like 20 espresso shots

FINALLY. I’ve been trying to catch this boy all day. My roommate and I used to alternate making two or three small moka pots of espresso a day, until we realized it just doesn’t have to be that way. This 10-cup Bialetti is a stainless steel and aluminum beast (and very easy to use—just peep this three-minute YouTube tuto), and one pot makes enough espresso for us both to have a few Americanos each, or what feels like a million shots of espresso. “For years my go-to has been a French press,” writes one of its over 9,100 reviewers on Amazon, where it has amassed a 4.6-star rating, “Although tasty, I've been wanting something that makes a smaller [and] less silty cup without sacrificing strength. This Bialetti hits the mark!” —Mary Frances “Francky” Knapp

Momofuku’s insanely delicious black-truffle-infused chile crunch

I am a connoisseur of chilies, a sommelier of spice—I’ve seen every episode of Hot Ones, and Da Bomb resides in my fridge… but I don’t go HAM for truffles. Listen, if you’re shaving a fresh truffle over my plate of pasta, I’ll be delighted, but in terms of packaged foods and oils, they tend to fall just short of the real thing. Not Momofuku’s Black Truffle Chili Crunch—it’s made with real pieces of truffle and truffle concentrate, plus all the other good stuff that make the original so tasty, like sesame seeds, onions, garlic, and shallots; along with umami-packed ingredients like mushroom powder, yeast extract and seaweed. I have been slathering it on eggs, dousing my pizza slices, and drizzling atop my avo toast—it’s truly scrumptious. —Becca Blasdel

These mood-boosting sunglasses that enhance color

SPY+ is an optic wear brand making sunglasses, eyeglasses, and goggles for sporty types—they’re big, polarized, and glare-resistant to keep you from squinting while you’re running, snowboarding, surfing, or just jogging with your fellow furries. SPY+ recently debuted its HAPPY BOOST™ Lens Technology, which enhances the color and contrast of your surroundings by 30% more than the naked eye, thanks to some sort of process involving AI that sounds interesting and complicated. Anyway, I’ve been enjoying wearing these aviator-style CZARs while hiking and enjoying an enhanced experience of gazing upon bodies of water and admiring my neighbor’s bougainvillea. 

…And these Ray-Ban dupes that I got for $17.99 on Amazon

Unfortunately or maybe charmingly, I am addicted to buying sunglasses—I love how instantly they change an outfit’s vibe, and I go through quite a few pairs by letting them bounce around in my backpack case-free just livin’ hard, man. I love Ray-Ban’s round styles and have been eyeballin’ the black-on-black Robs for a while, but given my addiction and my tendency to break things live hard, I thought it wise to find an affordable dupe rather than drop 163 bones on a real pair. I scooped up this pair on Amazon for 18 bucks, and was pleasantly surprised to find that the metal frame is sturdy, the lenses are polarized, and they actually look better on me than the Robs did when I tried them on in-store. Plus, they have a tiny logo etched on the top of the lens that make them look spensi. —Hilary Pollack

Old-school earbuds that are only 20 bucks

With earbuds, I like to keep it simple and cheap. I buy Sony’s In-Ear Buds for just $20 (they’re on sale for $10 on Amazon) and they last such a long time that’s jaw-dropping for the price. Yes, they have the long obnoxious wire. There’s also an attached mic for taking calls. I like sticking to the classics, and they give me a proper dose of daily nostalgia that I crave. AirPods better watch out. —Nicolette Accardi

The Act + Acre Cold Processed hair products that stylists stan 

It’s been over a month since I subjected my scalp to rigorous testing, and while I have enjoyed many of the products, Act + Acre’s Daily Duo has crept its way into my regular routine. I was skeptical when the bottle of cold processed hair cleanse said to lather, rinse, repeat (I thought that was a marketing gimmick)—but it works. First off, you need to “activate” the product in your hands with water first, creating a rich foam—the brand suggests working from the nape of the neck forward. I feel a noticeable difference in the texture and feel of my hair between the first and second cleanse; the first barely lathers, so you can really work product into the roots, while the second go-round froths up quite nicely, covering ends and leaving hair slippery and soft.  I indulgently used the Restorative hair mask as a conditioner each time I washed, and my only complaint is that the tube wasn’t bigger. My hair feels cleaner, healthier, and air-dries very nicely. —Becca Blasdel

Nashville hot chicken chicharrones—seriously 

The best part of fried chicken is the skin—duh. Some resourceful person realized this and started Flock, a line of keto-friendly chicken skin chips that are basically poultry chicharrones. They’re low-carb, and high-protein, and most importantly, come in a collab flavor with Nashville institution Hattie B’s, known for its supreme hot chicken. They’re ultra-crispy, sweet, salty, and spicy; yep, that’s ghost chili pepper in there. They’re also highly addictive, speaking from experience.  —Hilary Pollack

The perfect non-stick cookie sheets

I know it’s not the sexiest purchase in this lineup, but you can’t really call your kitchen complete until you’ve got at least two sheet trays living in your oven. These non-stick cookie sheets from Nutrichef have absolutely lived up to their 4.6-star average rating on Amazon, since they don’t warp, have a high-rimmed edge, and are dishwasher-safe. (Not that I have one.) But the best thing about sheet pans is their versatility—you can bake cookies, roast meat and veggies, and broil to your heart's content. —Ian Burke 

A Fitbit, finally

Training for a race means having to log every mile. Sounds like a pain in the ass, huh? Yep—that’s why I snagged a smartwatch to do all the work for me: the Fitbit Inspire. Besides the beauty of logging my sweet little jogs, it tracks my heart rate so I know when it's time to chill out. I love exerting energy, but there’s a fine line, my guy. It’s one of the simplest models, but it gets the job done. —Nicolette Accardi

This goblin-mode print

Do you have a crush on everyone in Heironymous Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights? Is your other car a decomposing log? Congratulations! You’re goblincore. You should celebrate by taking home this trippy print by the Berlin-based artist Adrienne Kammerer and blasting Magic Dance. Bonus tip: Have a staring contest with the print the next time you’re shrooming to unlock exxxtra ethereal swamp feels. —Mary Frances “Francky” Knapp

A post-shower body lotion that absorbs in seconds

I recently joined a new gym, and I’ve been trying to perfectly optimize my gym bag to contain everything I need without being overloaded or cluttered, and that includes post-shower skincare goods. After you’ve just worked out, then sudsed up, it feels amazing to moisturize, but I also dislike the feeling of being sticky after applying lotion. Soft Services makes a variety of minimalist, all-gender skincare products, and the latest addition to its roster is this Speed Soak gel, which the brand describes as “Gatorade for your skin.” I concur; it absorbs super-fast and leaves zero stickiness, perfect for when you’re hopping out of the shower and need to get dressed in just a few minutes. —Hilary Pollack

A desk chair that doesn’t have late-capitalism vibes

I wanted a desk chair that wouldn’t remind me of work every time I looked at it, and I can personally confirm that this swiveling velvet chair does, in fact, spark joy. It’s funky, it’s soft, and it’s where I plan on parking my seat for the rest of my life—or its life, whichever comes first. It took me maybe five minutes to assemble (including unboxing), not to mention it keeps my bum alive during those long WFH days. (Plus, the swivel is a fun way to soothe my restless leg syndrome.) —Zoe Pelikan

An exfoliating washcloth with cult-fave status

This might not be your first time hearing about the magically gentle exfoliating powers of these extra-large nylon washcloths, but chances are they’ve probably been lurking in your soft-skinned friends' showers for ages. I was recently reminded of their brilliance after snagging a blue one in the checkout line at Fei Long Market, in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. After a week of washing with my new Salux before shaving, I had noticeably less bumps and ingrown hairs, leaving my skin baby-soft and allowing for a much closer shave. Thank god I remembered you can order them on Amazon, even though I’d happily make another trek to procure them. —Becca Blasdel

The banana-flavored Minion soda I never knew I needed

Ever wanted a Minion-themed, banana-cream-flavored, sparkling prebiotic beverage? You, dear friend, are in luck, because that’s exactly what OLIPOP recently released, and it’s as delicious as it is internet-ironic. Read the full review here, or, if TL;DR, just know that it tastes exactly like banana-flavored Laffy Taffy, and pick up a case below. —Angel Kilmister

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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