Instead of sharing what’s in my backpack this year, I want to share the apps and pandemic purchases that were meaningful to me, along with a few words on each. Something I haven’t shared with you yet on this blog is… I went down a #vanlife rabbit hole and ended up camping and working remotely a decent chunk of the year. I learned a ton and feel much more resilient. So this is a phoneful and truckful update of my year.
First I’ll start with apps, these all link to Apple’s app store but almost all have Android equivalents that I also use:
- Calm and Waking Up — Very different but both incredibly valuable meditation apps. I had an 82-day streak with Calm this year! I wouldn’t have survived without these.
- Fitbod — You tell the app what equipment you have, how much time you have, and it gives you a workout like a trainer would, rotating muscle groups.
- Streaks — An app for starting and tracking habits. This is a funny one because I actually stopped using it because it worked. The things I was tracking on Streaks became daily habits and I stopped using the app every day. The same thing happened for me with Zero, my daily fast became part of my routine so I’d only use Zero if I was doing a longer one.
- Tumblr — It was so nice to have a social network centered around creativity and humor.
- Asana — Getting organized helped lessen anxiety.
- Pocket Casts — I switched to this because it syncs between devices, and I used my Android device a lot especially while driving.
- AllTrails — I spent more time in nature this year than almost any previous, and AllTrails was an amazing way to find great hikes.
- The Economist — The most insightful news, and the weekly cadence helped me avoid the wild variance of the daily news cycle. My favorite news app.
- YouTube — Wow, there’s a lot of stuff on here. This was the year I started to “get” why people spend so much time on YouTube. Some favorite finds were Jacob Collier and Mark Rober.
- Walmart — Surprisingly good on road trips for curbside pickup orders scheduled a few hours ahead. Yes, I have now joined 95% of the US population.
- Blueground and Avantstay — Good for longer stays in places. I found both through Airbnb, which is still the king.
- Food apps in order of usage: DoorDash, Uber Eats, Tock, Toast TakeOut.
- Camping apps in order of usage: AllTrails, Chimani, Recreation.gov, iOverlander, Boondocking, FreeRoam, Harvest Hosts.
- App I deleted and re-added the most: Twitter. I love the things I learn from using it, but hate feeling like I’m wasting time.
When on road trips I found Android Auto running off the Pixel 5 much more reliable than CarPlay, which would frequently freeze up on me. Things have improved with iOS 14, but I still always use the Pixel when I’m on a longer drive.
I also have been living with my Mom since July, including her two cats and new Coton du Tulear puppy. Pets are humbling! It’s been great to learn how to support them best, as I last lived with animals when I was in high school and wasn’t that conscious of the responsibility then.
Amazon says I made over 850 orders this year, more than double from any previous year. Here are the non-tech purchases that ended up having a big impact on me:
- SmartMouth mouthwash — Available in travel packs as well, this is magical for having great breath, which you’ll notice more now that you’re wearing a mask all the time.
- Marvis Royal Toothpaste — Delicious! SLS-free! I switch between this and the SmartMouth toothpaste which works better but isn’t as luxuriously tasty.
- Theragun — Because you can’t get a massage.
- Hurtle vibration platform — Really weird but seems to shake the stress out of you, especially if you stretch on it for 5-10 minutes.
- Bowflex Adjustable Dumbbells — I was lucky enough to get these before they sold out and became crazy expensive.
- Buckwheat meditation cushion — So much more comfortable to have a cushion, especially for longer meditation sessions. Here’s a smaller version I use on the road.
- Tons of Philips Hue lights — Got a ton of joy from playing with the colors on these.
- Cloth napkins — Felt so luxurious, easy to wash and re-use.
- Heated cat bed — My Mom’s cats are obsessed with this now.
- Sharonds hair cutting scissors — 10x better than the scissors I had lying around the house.
- Babyliss clippers — They’re gold and have a “Lamborghini” motor which is ostentatious but works great.
- Hair Apron Cape — You feel like a dog with one of those cones, but mostly works.
- Yeti Lowlands picnic blanket — Expensive but sturdy.
- Cliq camping chair — Super small and great design, but ended up using these less than I thought because we mostly just stayed on the ground on the Yeti blanket.
- Isdin foot care cream — Really softens your feet.
- Silicone tip cooking chopsticks or the ones with the spoon on the end.
- Roll-up drying rack — Goes great over the sink.
- Joseph Joseph nesting kitchen tools, nesting bowls — They’re so pretty as well.
- Hanging solar mason jar lights — Like fireflies in a jar.
- Matador Freerain32 waterproof packable backpack — My new favorite for hiking.
- Matador Transit30 packable duffle bag — I ended up using this way more than I expected.
- This bamboo table — Just the right size for eating or working on the ground.
- Ikea Frakta bag — Just a few dollars each and can hold so much, and available on Amazon.
Clothing and wearables, like much of the world I trended toward comfort and away from normal shoes and socks:
- Bumpers flip flops — Weird but you get used to them.
- Oofos slide sandals — Ridiculously comfortable, and this model looks like it has the Automattic logo on it.
- Glerups wool slippers — Like wool clogs, I wear the rubber-soled ones out if just stepping out for a bit.
- Patagonia Capilene Air baselayers — So warm! Addictive.
- Faherty Brand — I just love their whole look and feel, and have met the brothers before.
- Alo Yoga — Pricey but looks great and fun to workout in. I’ve had some quality issues with their items though.
- Lululemon — Especially their new tech canvas pants.
- Unbound Merino — My go-to shirt, also decent socks.
- Uniqlo — Great value, and no logos!
- Everything in the streaming post — I ended up doing a ton of press and talks this year as the world became more distributed. I also personally helped many others get similar setups.
- Everything Unifi — It’s a year I really appreciated solid internet.
- Retractable 50′ ethernet cord — I actually daisy-chained two of these to do an internal company town hall presentation.
- 25′ retractable power extension cord — I also carry two of these.
- Macbook 13″ M1 — It really is the fastest computer you’ve ever used. This replaced a maxed out 16″.
- Hyppr 100w USB-C charger — Smaller and better than Apple’s charger.
- Airpods Max — I didn’t want to like them but they’re slick.
- Airpods Pro Dekoni Tips — Great upgrade for normal Airpods.
- iPhone 12 Pro Max — It’s like a mini iPad. Camera with RAW support is fantastic.
- Apple Pro Display XDR — Wow.
- Pixel 5 — Pretty great that they got the fingerprint reader back in as FaceID with a mask is terrible, so this has become my primary device if I’m out for a walk.
- Pixelbook Go — For my Mom.
- Chromecast with Google TV — Bad name but great product. Truly. Really well designed.
- Kindle Oasis with the new warm light — Even though I read less this year, this made what I did read a pleasure.
- Sinjimou charging stand for iPhone and USB-C — Works great, really cheap.
- Megaboom 3 — Two of these paired together in stereo is the best sound, weight, and battery life combo I’ve found on the road and in parks.
- Garmin 945 watch — I’ve talked about this watch previously, but this year I discovered the GPS maps feature when in hiking mode, which can literally be a lifesaver. Amazing for going off-trail.
There you have it. As always, if you’ve tried something here and found an alternative that’s better, let me know in the comments!