Top 9 Lockdown Gear Buys (And Score Dad Points)

Estimated read time: 11 minutes

Over the many months of lockdown, I found some gear super useful.

Now, with a surge of cases expected going into the fall and winter, I thought it might be helpful to share what I’ve found. Just some recommendations for some gear I’ve found indispensable, and you may find useful too.

There’s some other gear that I’ve put to use over this year, but those are things I made for myself. I’ll share them soon as experiments or part of opening up my cabinet of curiosities.

What follows below are items that have been a great help straight off the shelf.

(I think you know this by now, but in case you don’t it bears repeating: I don’t accept pay to play. I only recommend good stuff I use myself and have proven worth in my kit. If you purchase from affiliate links, we might get a clink in the tip jar. Thanks if you do!)


  1. (Spray Some) Force of Nature
  2. Take a (Laptop) Stand
  3. Rock It
  4. Packable Chair
  5. Clean Up Your (Hair) Act
  6. Walkie-Talkie
  7. Jump (Rope)
  8. Daylight in a Box
  9. You Scream I Scream: Make Your Own Cones!



1. Force of Nature

Force of Nature

Power of bleach, safe to spray in your eyeball.

Imagine if you could get the killing power of bleach but it’d be totally non-toxic and safe enough to spray in your eyes.

A little known factoid about me is that for a couple years I worked on importing a new breakthrough decontamination technology developed in Japan. We planned to bring it to the U.S. market for industrial applications.

The machine was big and the regulatory hurdles too complex. The relationship with the Japanese company was also difficult to navigate because of cultural differences, and the owner was very possessive.

But the science always fascinated me.

A few years ago, we discovered a company called Force of Nature that had figured out a way to make an easy at-home unit. It’s a small device about the size of a water bottle that uses salt, vinegar and water to create electrolyzed water.

[GEEK ALERT] The main active ingredient is hypochlorous acid, which is the best part of chlorine without all the nasty side effects. Our bodies produce this to destroy microbial invaders. It brings all the anti-microbial power of bleach, but at a pH level gentle enough to be used in wound care.

So as you can imagine, we use it all day long now.

Around our home.

On our groceries.

On our hands.

On our phones.


I usually pack as light as possible. But when we went out of town for a few days over the summer, we even brought the device with us so we could make a fresh batch to use there.

In the last several months, local retailers have had difficulty keeping cleaning supplies stocked. Then there’s the question of whether those sanitizers are actually effective (e.g. do they contain the right kind and the right concentration of alcohol).

We’ve bypassed all those issues and questions with Force of Nature.

Check it out (click for promo)! Of course, I’d be super grateful if you used the referral code for a win-win! You score a discount and free shipping and we get a coupon toward the capsule refills.



2. Take a (Laptop) Stand

Aluminum Laptop Stand

Compact, stowable aluminum laptop elevator

In a galaxy far, far away, when I worked in the office, my employer provided a standing desk that I could adjust between sitting or standing height.

I like the feeling of mobility I get from standing. I’d switch between sitting and standing through the day depending on how I felt. Overall, I’d spend roughly 50% of the day standing.

But once I started working from home, it was 100% sitting on my butt. In the beginning, it didn’t seem like it was worth making much change at my home desk, since I thought the worst case scenario for the pandemic would be 4-5 months.

I didn’t recognize it at first, but I was suffering from the sub-optimal setup and I felt it. It’s interesting how I can just slide out of a healthy habit and not even notice it.

Also, my home office desk is shared with Wonderwoman Grace. It’s actually a huge wooden kitchen counter we bought from IKEA, which we repurposed. So there’s no way I could adjust the height on that throughout the day.

I didn’t want the same kind of elevating platform I had at the office because it’s totally clunky and ugly, and our small apartment doesn’t have room for that.

This stand gets me on my feet, and I like how I can fold it up and stow it away when I’m not using it. It’s solid and, in the month or so I’ve used it, very sturdy and the only one I could find that folds up but also provides stability and a significant lift for my laptop.

The only downside of my current setup is that the hardware I used to mount my external monitor to the wall doesn’t swing upwards. So when I stand, I can only use my laptop monitor.

Interestingly, I’ve found that to actually help my focus for deep work. Having two monitors usually means I’ll keep my Slack open or some other distraction on the other screen.

This way, I really only have enough screen real estate to look at and focus on one thing.


3. Rock It

Balance Board

Standing desk balance board

When I stand for hours on end, I find a ground pad is a good help to reduce pressure points.

Back in the day when I worked at the office, I wore shoes so I didn’t really need a mat.

But the reason I like this desk mat is that it’s actually a wooden balance board and has a slight angle on the bottom. This way I can rock back and forth and the motion gives more movement mobility.

I thought the little bumps and acupressure thingies were gimmicky, but I actually like using them. I’m on it for hours some days, so it’s totally worth the investment.

My only complaints are with the foam they use on the top layer. The foam leaves a bit of a slippery residue that can get tracked around on hard surfaces. But I wiped it down with a surface cleaner, which pretty much removed that.

Relatedly, the foam also has a bit more new plastic smell that take a few days to air out. YMMV since I don’t get the best airflow in our home office (no window).

In addition, we also got a simple flat foam mat for Wonderwoman Grace’s painting table, where I sometimes work when she needs the home office space for workouts. It’s difficult to find one with just the right amount of cushion — not too hard/soft, not too thick/thin — but I tested a few and this less expensive foam mat came out on top for us.


4. Packable Chairs

Folding Camping Chair

Folding camp chair

We use these folding camping chairs every single day. I originally bought one of these last year for actual camping.

I used to scoff at people who brought chairs on camping and backpacking trips. But now I’m over 40 — I get it.

We’re now all together in our apartment all day every day, so for the sake of everyone’s sanity, our family goes outside for an hour or so every morning to get some “fresh” (NYC) air. It also allows the littles to free range a bit. We find that when they play inside, they lose interest in toys and books quickly, and bicker more frequently.

When we get them outside, they can occupy themselves with rocks and sticks and chalk for hours, and play very nicely together.

The park areas around here do have some benches and seating, but even pre-pandemic, they were pretty filthy. They also tend to be screwed in place, so you can’t adjust your positioning for sun or shade, or for a different view.

On chilly days, the chairs elevate us off the ground so we don’t feel as cold. Plus, with only four points of contact, it’s a lot easier to clean than, say, a picnic blanket.

We initially thought the chairs with cup holders were kind of silly. But these ones with side pockets turned out to be cheaper when we were buying them.

The pockets have been fantastic for stowing phones and water bottles. Overall, I’d say that chairs are a bit pricier than I’d like, but since we’re using them every day, we’re definitely getting good value out of them.

People regularly stop by to ask me where I got them from.

Just be aware — we’re not sure how or when it happened, but someone stole one of our chairs right out of our stroller one day.

But you don’t need to steal ours: Grab your own chairs!


5. Clean Up Your (Hair) Act

Hair Clippers

Hair clippers with titanium and a built in vacuum

Spoiler alert. This Remington’s not a gun. But it’s got blades!

I don’t know about you, but I’m on Zoom meetings almost every day. It’s been entertaining to see colleagues and friends’ hair bloom into Fabio or messy nests of chaos, and now everyone has facial hair.

One of my favorite (and pretty much only) personal grooming tools is my Remington Hc6550 clippers.

  1. Wireless
  2. Built in vacuum (I’d say it captures 75-80% of cut hair)
  3. Sharp titanium cloated blades
  4. Plenty of guards to pick from for beard trimming as well.

I also added thinning shears into the mix because my hair is super thick and this helps keep the mane more manageable.

I had stopped cutting my own hair for a few months before lockdown, and I forgot how easy it was. Now I even cut my son’s hair, too.


6. Walkie-Talkies


Talk time, fun times

Breaker 1-9 1-9, KRSHHHH Anyone out there?

My son has pretty much always been good at going to sleep. We’d read, snuggle and he’d go to sleep. Pretty simple, right?

We thought we’d figured out the bedtime routine thing decently well with our firstborn. Little did we know what was to come. Enter my daughter, the willful free-spirit.

After my son’s new roommate arrived, bedtime became a constant flurry of him coming out of the room to give us the latest status report. She did this. She did that. She is dancing. She rammed her head into the wall. She kicked down my pillow fort.

And so every few minutes the little messenger would come out with new reports, and we’d have to resettle them into their room. One night, I couldn’t take it anymore.

I ordered walkie-talkies.

I had just finished reading Bob Goff’s book Everybody Always. Bob’s next door neighbor, who lives alone, found out she has cancer. So he rushed out and bought walkie-talkies so she would feel closer and could talk to them anytime.


These walkie-talkies have saved countless hours of walking back and forth to triage the latest issue.

Not only that, it’s fun.

Scout loves calling us on his walkie-talkie. And it’s also taught him the responsibility of making sure they’re charged before bedtime.

For some reason the ones I bought have no battery indicator. Instead, when the batteries are dying, a robotic female voice intones at top volume, “LOW BATTERY. PLEASE CHARGE. LOW BATTERY. PLEASE CHARGE.” So, if I could go back in time I’d get these highly rated walkie-talkies instead.

It reminds me to be thankful that even in this time of disconnect and separation, we have technology to bridge the distance. What would be totally isolating not too long ago, in some ways has provided the opportunity — even the excuse — to be closer.

It’s reminded us that we can connect as much — or as little — as we want. That we have the agency to decide how, who, when, even why we connect with someone.

I hate Zoom. There. I said it.

I don’t like to be the center of attention. It makes me squirm.

I don’t like having a camera in my face. That’s partly why I became a photographer in an earlier chapter of my life.

When I hold the camera I decide where to point it. Definitely not at myself.

I’ll admit it’s a lot about feeling self-conscious. My ears look too big. My hair seems weird. The lighting is too dark. My room in the background is a mess.

It’s all selfish really at the end of the day.

What I really want to be doing is encouraging. Equipping.

And so usually I just turn off my “self-view.” Wouldn’t that be a nice feature to have in all of life? Worrying about what people will think of me?

Click. Self-view off. Voice on.


7. Jump Rope

Jump Rope

As in other parts of the country, gyms have been shut down in NYC since March.

I’d already been spending some mornings doing HIIT in our home office space, in addition to a mobility algorithm designed to flow through all the major muscle groups in 5-7 minutes.

The science agrees that a daily movement regimen does not need to take hours, or an hour, or even half an hour.

I also work in stealth exercises like climbing the stairs to our apartment rather than taking the elevator, riding my bike to work, lunges with my two-year-old, etc.

But since I’m homebound now, I haven’t touched my bike in months, and I get less stairs and general walking except for a short morning family walk around the Seaport here. And HIIT isn’t meant to be done more than a few times a week.

I wanted something else that gets the adrenaline pumping and heart rate elevated with a minimum effective dose. Someone in our building had abandoned an old Everlast leather jump rope in a common area.

The wood was cracked and the rope no longer spun freely. (I don’t recommend my current jump rope because the wood keeps cracking.)

Of course, I had to see if I could fix it. So I mended it with some wood glue and Sugru (moldable silicone putty).

Jump rope takes a little getting used to, and it’s kind of frustrating at first when it keeps catching on your feet. But stick with it.

With some practice, persistence, and music (a strong beat is super helpful), jump rope becomes a super effective cardio hit. Plus, you’ll strengthen your feet, ankles, balance, and coordination.

When this salvaged one wears out, I want one of these CW&T aluminum bad boys.


8. Daylight in a (Dark) Box

Skylight in a Box

Ultra thin diffuse daylight panels

Our “office” in the apartment is a room with no windows (welcome to New York). I really like a bright working area. But I didn’t want to install more lamps.

Diffuse light just feels better and fills a room more effectively. Almost like there’s a skylight.

This flat thin panel light is epic. I love this thing.

When I first installed it I kept walking back into the office just to look at it. I used this minimal frame to mount it on our ceiling.

Pricey, but worth every penny of invigorating light.


9. You Scream I Scream: Make Your Own Cones!

Ice cream cone maker

Ice cream waffle cone and bowl maker

When you’re locked down at home, you want to maximize fun and minimize tears.

What’s more fun than ice cream?


I’m not a huge sweets guy (I’ll take chips over candy any every day.)

But ice cream.

One source of annoyance for me is that I don’t need a huge amount. I just want a taste.

I think the standard sugar cones are too large — and forget about the waffle cones — and should be scaled down for my own self-discipline’s sake. But it’s not like you can just eat half a cone.

Every time we ate Wonderwoman Grace’s homemade ice cream, I’d complain, “Why do they make cones so large?! I just need a bite or three.” (I fully acknowledge this first world problem is ridiculous.)

Plus, when it comes to the littles, the last thing they need after a dinner and before bed is a massive sugary spike.

I got sick of complaining (and so did my family). So, I got this ice cream cone maker.

It’s perfect. Under 2 minutes per waffle.

Up to you if you want cone or bowl — it comes with shapers. You can modify the size by how much batter you pour. I make mine smaller.

I’ve only used the recipe that came with it. I just cut back on some of the sugar and added a heap of cinnamon.

But it’s a win. Instead of bothering with twisting a cone, I just make a mini ice cream sandwich.

Score one for fun dad (and husband)!

I know you have better/other ideas or solutions than the above! Send them over, I’d love to hear what you’ve found super useful over these several months.

Share this post