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14 Essentials You Need in a Car Emergency Kit

14 Essentials You Need in a Car Emergency Kit

few people, if they drive for a long enough time, can say they’ve never broken down on the side of the road. One day, you might turn the ignition key and nothing will happen, or you’ll hear a pop and a hiss as your tire does its best impression of a sad hot-air balloon. Keep these WIRED-tested items handy in your trunk and you’ll be back on the road in no time, rather than making a long, long walk down the highway to the nearest tow truck. Everything here can be used by anyone, but it doesn’t hurt to open the car’s manual or look up a how-to on YouTube.

Be sure to check out our many other guides, including the Essential Home Tool Kit and the Best Emergency Gear to Keep at Home.

Updated May 2022: We’ve added new picks like the Noco Boost Plus GB40 Jump Starter and Carhartt Trade Duffel, and we’ve added a new section with some roadside tips and tricks.

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Everything You Need to Make Beer, Wine, Cider, and Mead

Everything You Need to Make Beer, Wine, Cider, and Mead

During the initial quarantine rush of 2020, as everyone scrambled to supermarkets to stock up on flour and yeast for homemade loaves, my older brother and I had another thought: stock up on malted barley.

For the past decade, we’ve met up nearly every Saturday in his shaded driveway to hang out with our dogs, barbecue lunch, and boil up a fresh batch of beer. We’ve steadily progressed from newbies to relatively experienced brewers, and lately we’ve been exploring fresh, local ingredients (most recently, Oregon-malted barley). But we’d be lying if we said we did it for the steady supply of suds.

Like barbecuing or gardening, making your own grog is more than just a way of getting cheap booze. It also directly connects you with humanity’s culinary and scientific histories. Did you know, for example, that we may have gone from hunter-gatherers to farmers because of our love of beer? What about the fact that Louis Pasteur discovered pasteurization while studying spoiled wine—and that he hated German beer?

One of the things I love is how easy it is to progress with this hobby. You can probably make something drinkable (even tasty!) on your first try, but you can make something downright professional if you put in a little work. It mostly requires the ability to read instructions and set timers. When you’re done, your products can help you relax after a long day of doomscrolling. 

Want to give it a shot? It doesn’t take a lot of cash. Here’s what you need to know to make beer, wine, cider, and mead.

Updated May 2022: We’ve added more tips and tricks, and a few new helpful products.

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Key Concepts for Making Booze

Making alcohol is easy. Take a sugary liquid, add sugar-eating yeast, and wait. 

As the yeast eats the sugar, it produces alcohol and carbon dioxide. Wait long enough (typically a few weeks) and you’ll have a fully fermented beverage that’s (probably) safe to drink. The following are a few general tips to keep in mind when fermenting your own booze, for quality’s sake:

Sanitation

Sanitation is the most important part of any fermentation process. You want to make sure everything that touches your liquid pre- and post-ferment has been fully sterilized with a no-rinse sanitizer. (See the section on Star San below.) This keeps poor-tasting yeasts and other contaminants out and ensures shelf stability.

Image may contain Building

My own early homebrew rig.

Photograph: Parker Hall 

Yeast Health

There’s a saying in the brewing community that brewers are really just glorified janitors. Yeast is what actually makes the stuff you like to drink. This couldn’t be more true. Keeping your little biological buddies happy is of the utmost importance for booze that tastes good. If you’re making beer, wine, cider, or mead, be sure to pitch a healthy amount of yeast cells and keep your fermentation within the recommended temperature range for the specific yeast you’re using.

Patience, Grasshopper

“Relax, don’t worry, have a homebrew” is the most popular saying in the home fermentation world for a reason. Making good stuff can take time, and it’s important not to rush things, even though you’re excited!

The Necessary Tools

I recommend buying gear at your local homebrew shop if you can. The experts there are invaluable resources, and if you’re looking to buy malt, hops, or other ingredients in bulk, it’s an awesome way to save on shipping. If you’re a bit more remote, however, we’ve included links to buy gear online. Pro tip: Hops are harvested in August and September in the US, so you’ll often see good discounts on last year’s harvest around that time. Fresh hops hit the market in December. Grape and apple harvests vary by location but are typically in mid-fall.

  • Thermometer for $24: You’ll want a high-quality and accurate thermometer to check the temperatures of various liquids. I like this long one because you don’t steam your hand over a hot brew kettle.
  • Hydrometer for $36: A hydrometer is a cute little floating gauge that measures the density of a liquid instead of its temperature. By measuring the density both pre- and post-fermentation, you can get a pretty accurate idea of alcohol content. As alcohol becomes present in the solution—a byproduct of the yeast eating sugars—the liquid becomes less dense.
  • Kitchen Scale for $18: A simple kitchen scale like this Etekcity model will help you measure everything from hops to sulfites to honey.
  • Siphon for $17: You’ll need a way to get your precious beverage out of the bucket once you ferment it. An auto-siphon lets you do this without sucking on the hose, which would require you to sterilize everything again.
  • Fermentation Vessels for $42: Fermentation vessels range from glass carboys to fancy stainless-steel tanks and beyond, but the best place to start is with a simple food-grade plastic bucket and a lid. It’s affordable, and you don’t have to worry about breaking glass if you drop it. Use only the soft side of a sponge when cleaning these. The rough side can create abrasions in the plastic that wild yeast and bacteria can cling to during cleaning and sanitation.
  • Airlock for $7: An airlock is a simple device that goes in the top of your fermenter and allows it to off-gas carbon dioxide—the other main byproduct of fermentation besides alcohol—while keeping the bucket sealed from any wild yeast or bacteria present in the air. This pack gets you five for cheap.
Our Favorite Audiophile-Grade Gear for Serious Listening

Our Favorite Audiophile-Grade Gear for Serious Listening

Your first speaker purchase should be a quality pair for your desktop. It is, after all, where you probably spend a lot of your time at home. For listening at my desk, I love the iLoud Micro Monitors ($350). They’re a small pair that sound exceptional for their size, and they have some surprisingly awesome bass response.

As far as bookshelf speakers go, my favorite pair is the KEF LS50 Wireless II ($2,126 per pair). They have the biggest, most detailed sound I’ve ever heard from a pair of speakers their size. The cheaper KEF LSX ($950 per pair) model are also great, as are the wired KEF LS50 Meta ($1,600 per pair).

The KEF and iLoud models I just mentioned are powered. They have amplification built-in, and they draw their power from a wall socket, so they can be used without a dedicated amplifier. If you already have an amp (or if you plan to buy one), a pair of passive speakers is the best way to go. Those hook up with regular speaker cables, and you won’t need to worry about plugging them into the wall.

Some passive bookshelf models I love are the ELAC Debut 2.0 ($400 per pair) and JBL 4309 ($2,000 per pair). The ELACs are a great entry-level speaker that will easily take you into audiophile territory with the right amp, where the 4309 more or less sound amazing with anything powering them. I’m a fan of fun, energetic sound when I’m listening on speakers, and both of these models deliver that, but with enough detail that you won’t feel you’re sacrificing anything.

Moving away from bookshelves and onto passive floorstanding speakers, I’ll highlight two very different models. The Paradigm Monitor SE 6000F ($1,000 per pair) are a great pair of speakers for those who like things a bit more clinical and precise—they’re amazing for classical music, jazz, and folk, thanks to their incredible detail. Some audiophiles prefer the type of tight precision you get from speakers like the Paradigms. The Klipsch Forte IV ($4,998 per pair) are more lively. In fact, they are perfectly tuned, mid-century–inspired masterpieces. They come with hand-made wooden cabinets and gorgeous horn tweeters, and the 15-inch passive bass radiators on the back of the sealed speakers make them punch deeper and with more authority than a professional boxer. If you’re looking for the most fun you’ve ever had listening to Hendrix at high volume, speakers like these are the way to go.

Your taste may differ from mine! The best way to find your favorite high-end speakers is to use your ears. Find a local dealer and go listen to several models before you buy. For reference, other brands that make excellent speakers these days include Yamaha, Bowers & Wilkins, Focal, Bang & Olufsen, and Polk Audio, among many other more boutique brands. 

You’ll never know how a pair of speakers truly sounds in your room until you get them there, so try to test them at home. Most high-end dealers allow some form of this, but big-box retailers may not, so check the return policy on anything you buy.

Digital-to-Analog Converters

Chord Electronics Mojo DAC

The Chord Mojo ($500) is a DAC with a headphone amp built-in.

Photograph: Chord Electronics

Digital-to-analog converters (DACs) take the digital audio signal from your audio files and convert them to analog audio signal that you can send (via an amplifier) to headphones and speakers. Every piece of digital technology you own that comes with a headphone jack already has a DAC chip inside it, but it’s usually a pretty cheap one. If you route your signal through a dedicated DAC—one with better components and a higher build quality than whatever’s in your phone or computer—then you’ll get higher fidelity out of your digital files.

Peloton’s ‘Worst-Kept Secret’ Is Out (Yes, It’s a Rowing Machine)

Peloton’s ‘Worst-Kept Secret’ Is Out (Yes, It’s a Rowing Machine)

Yesterday afternoon, the Twitter account for digital fitness company Peloton tweeted an emoji of a person rowing a boat. That’s it; that’s the tweet. If you wondered if that meant Peloton is sinking, you couldn’t be totally blamed—after all, Peloton’s third quarter earnings weren’t great, and its outlook for the next quarter isn’t stellar either. But a teaser video shared in a follow-up tweet revealed a Peloton-branded rowing machine. It was a quick glimpse at the product, and the company has yet to share any details on availability and price. (Trust me, we’ve asked.) The long-rumored rower was also Peloton’s “worst-kept secret on Earth,” as cofounder and chief product officer Tom Cortese described it in an interview with the Verge.

This upcoming rowing machine and the recently launched Peloton Guide are both niche hardware products, catering to people who want to do a specific kind of workout. What’s likely getting less attention right now is the fact that Peloton also just announced that it will soon allow people to track non-Peloton workouts, like walking and running, in its mobile app. This only underscores that Peloton is a subscription company that wants to keep people engaged in its apps as much as possible. New CEO Barry McCarthy has already piloted a program to lower the up-front cost of the hardware, while the price for access to the bike and treadmill apps just went up from $39 to $44 a month. So the rowing machine, whenever it ships, is much less significant as a stand-alone product and more a part of a broader ecosystem play.

Here’s some more news from the world of gadgets.

iPhones Might Finally Get USB-C ports

In a perfect society you wouldn’t need a different cord for every device. Fortunately, that utopian vision could be getting a step closer. According to Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman, Apple has been testing new iPhones that have USB-C connectors instead of Apple’s proprietary lightning ports.

While the faster, simpler USB-C ports have become ubiquitous across device categories, Apple has long been the most prominent holdout. As Gurman suggests, Apple’s motivation may be adherence to a decision by the European Union to mandate that manufacturers like Apple use the USB-C standard across devices. It’s not the only decision the company seems to have made to get out ahead of legislation. Apple (begrudgingly) started providing repair parts and manuals for its devices after a device repairability law passed in France.

Gurman says Apple’s new USB-C ports won’t slot into iPhones until next year at the earliest. Still, it’s huge news for everyone who’s sick of accidentally jamming the wrong charger into their phone.

Foldables Could Go Both Ways

You may think of folding screens as fully flexible—that’s sort of their whole deal. But most foldables only bend in one direction, either inward or outward. Some new tech from LG aims to combine them into one screen that can fold along a full 360-degree axis.

This week, at an industry conference called Society for Information Display, LG showed off an 8-inch screen capable of doing this. The company says the screen is capable of withstanding 200,000 folds before showing signs of wear. LG hasn’t offered a timeline for when this will make its way into a mass-market product. Still, companies are barreling ahead with foldables, whether they’ll become the future of screens or not. Hopefully this gives them just a little bit more, ahem, flexibility.

There’s a New OP-1

The OP-1 synthesizer is Swedish developer Teenage Engineering’s flagship beat box. It’s a compact, feature-stuffed groove machine that’s popular with musical pros and hobbyists alike. (Those who are willing to plop down the $1,200 asking price, anyway.) This week, the company announced that the OP-1 has gotten its first major update since its launch in 2011.

Called the OP-1 Field, the new model is thinner and lighter, and it packs even more features into its slim keyboard frame, including a higher-resolution display, 32-bit audio, and 24 hours of battery life (up from eight to 10 hours on the original).

Teenage Engineering also codesigned the hugely anticipated retro-style gaming handheld Playdate. While that particular device isn’t shipping again until 2023, the new OP-1 Field is available now. Unfortunately, it’s also more expensive than its predecessor, retailing for a whopping $2,000. Good things may come in small packages, but they’re going to cost you.

Time to Shut the iPod Doors, Hal

A moment of silence for the iPod, please. This week, Apple announced that it has stopped producing the iPod Touch, the last remaining product in its iconic line of music players. The original iPod launched in October 2001, and now its run has come to an end.

WIRED’s Steven Levy—who literally wrote the book on the iPod—goes in depth on the device’s demise.

A Gaggle of Google Gadgets

And in case you somehow missed it, Google held its I/O developer conference this week. The company used its keynote event to show off a smorgasbord of software and hardware updates. There’s new Pixel phones, a more conversational Google Assistant, some changes to make Search more inclusive, and yes, even a real-life Pixel Watch.

If you want to dig in, here’s all the hardware Google announced this week. And here’s all the new software updates. Also listen to some of WIRED’s gadget geeks dive deep on the important announcements on this week’s Gadget Lab podcast.

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The Best TV Streaming Devices for Cord Cutters

The Best TV Streaming Devices for Cord Cutters

Most of us stream a majority of our content, if we haven’t abandoned cable altogether. Smart TVs rarely have good interfaces, so owning a separate device will make things a whole lot easier (more on that at the end of this guide).

We’ve tried them all—you can get options from Roku, Apple, Google, Amazon, and even a cheap Walmart-owned brand—so you don’t have to go through a bunch to figure out what works for you, and separated each of our favorites by what they do best.

Be sure to check out all our guides, especially for picking the best Roku, as well as the Best TVs, Best Soundbars, and Best Smart Speakers we’ve seen.

Updated May 2022: We’ve added TiVo’s Stream 4K device.

Special offer for Gear readers: Get a 1-year subscription to WIRED for $5 ($25 off). This includes unlimited access to WIRED.com and our print magazine (if you’d like). Subscriptions help fund the work we do every day.

If you buy something using links in our stories, we may earn a commission. This helps support our journalism. Learn more. Please also consider subscribing to WIRED