Gear and Tips to Help You Get Through the Coronavirus Pandemic

Don't: hoard toilet paper and medical masks. Do: make sure you shop less often and stay prepared.

Parts of the country are opening up, but there are still shortages of all sorts of odds and ends, and not knowing what you'll actually need to get through the Covid-19 pandemic can be stressful. There's no guarantee that states won't tighten restrictions again, as new cases are once more on the rise, and CDC director Robert Redfield says we may see a second wave of infections later this year. If we are in a reprieve, take the opportunity to prepare yourself ahead of schedule this time.

The WIRED Gear team has talked to experts (and among ourselves) to come up with this master guide to everything you might need right now—and a few things you should avoid buying for the sake of the greater good. Need more information? Be sure to keep up with our coverage of all things Covid-19, and look out for any new information coming from the Centers for Disease Control and other reliable sources.

Updated June 2020: We updated the story with current news on the coronavirus' spread, switched some product recommendations, and replaced links for items that are out of stock.

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.

General Guidelines

First thing's first: Know when you might be sick. And that's not always easy (or possible). Some people do not show any symptoms. Read our guide to Covid-19's typical (and rare) symptoms, and what to do if you know you're ill. The recommendations below are from the CDC.

  • Stay at home all the time unless you need to leave for essential items, like groceries.
  • If you are on an essential errand, wear a face mask or a cloth face covering and keep your distance from others (about 6 feet). Avoid groups of people.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough (into your elbow or use a tissue).
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Frequently. You can use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol if you're on the go.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently-touched surfaces (here's our Covid-19 cleaning guide).
Food and Supplies You (Might) Need
Photograph: Daniel Grizelj/Getty Images 

Frankly, the most necessary supplies are things you should already have on hand: food, water, and a warm place to sleep. It's also a good idea to make sure you have basic emergency supplies on hand.

  • Cloth face mask: The CDC recommends you wear a mask in public. Here's our guide on how to make a CDC-approved cloth face mask, and the rules you should follow. Cloth face coverings shouldn't replace other methods of protection. They may help protect others from you, if you happen to carry the disease and not realize it. There's still a nationwide shortage of N95 and other professional masks right now, so even if you find one, don't buy it. Leave these masks for health care workers.

  • Groceries: It's a good idea to try and shop less, every 2-4 weeks if you can. Cook some of the dry stuff that's been sitting in your pantry, too. We recommend dried beans, rice, pasta, popcorn (it's a great snack!)—and maybe an Instant Pot (Amazon, Target) or, frankly, any pot and heat source to have some fun with cooking. Here's a list of some good types of foods to buy. Canned items are great to have around. Fresh vegetables and fruit will be good for the next week or two (you can freeze those blueberries!), and frozen veggies are a good choice. Milk is fine, but check the expiration date. Oat and almond milk (and Lactaid!) have a longer shelf life. Utilize that freezer.

  • Water purifier: You don't need to buy a bunch of bottled water. It's just a lot of wasted plastic. It's unlikely anything will happen to your water supply. Snag something like a Pur water pitcher (Amazon, Target) to filter your water if you're nervous. It's also nice to have a Lifestraw stashed somewhere safe; it'll be good enough to filter water if there's an actual emergency. This Lifestraw bottle is another alternative (Amazon, Target).

  • Water kettle/boiler: You probably won't lose power, so a water boiler may come in handy. It's wonderful for coffee, tea, and heating water faster than the stove. Here's a basic kettle, and here's a really nice Cuisinart kettle with temperature options (Amazon, Target).

  • First aid kit: Everyone should have one, and now is a good time to make sure yours is still stocked with acetaminophen. Here's a cheap first aid kit on Amazon and another option from Walmart. Make sure your first aid supplies include a thermometer. If you need a new one, they're tough to find at a reasonable price right now. This option is a good bet.

  • A plan if someone gets sick: It might be on paper or in a Google spreadsheet, but please read, think about, and prepare a plan for what to do if someone in your house gets sick (which room should they be in?), how to think about taking children back to day care, and more. The CDC has a Household Plan of Action list here. It's also a great time to make sure your phone's medical ID and emergency contact information are up to date. Make sure you have a good medical emergency plan in place, including the names and contact information of your doctors and a list of local hospitals and clinics that take your insurance (for others to reference if you're ill).

  • Medications or baby supplies: Don't forget to refill medications, pick up baby stuff like diapers, or snag other monthly-use items you might forget about, like toothpaste, toilet paper (please don't go nuts), shampoo, or anything you are extremely low on right now.

  • Soap and/or hand sanitizer: It's tough to find both of these sometimes, but stock is slowly starting to trickle in. And while you may not have the biggest selection, you have a better chance of finding some in stock near you than back in the early days of the pandemic. If you want to try and DIY it, here's WIRED's guide to making your own hand sanitizer. Check on Amazon's hand soap inventory here.

Stuff You Definitely Do Not Need

Do not buy or hoard medical masks.

Photograph: Getty Images

Please do not buy more than a few weeks' worth of supplies at a time. Panic-buying massive amounts of toilet paper and cleaning supplies won't make this problem better, and it might hurt those in need. Grocery stores are already struggling to keep up with demand for some items as everyone panics and buys too much. Try not to strain the system further, or some people in your community won't have access to items they need.

  • No medical-grade face masks: Again, there is a nationwide shortage of masks. Every N95 mask or good professional mask you buy or hoard should be routed to a nearby health care facility. The site has a form that can help you locate and donate any masks or other personal protective equipment you own. Scroll up, or read our Mask Rules if you want to know more about how to approach face masks right now.

  • No dehydrated food: It's full of salt, and there are massive shortages. Don't make a bad thing worse. Stick to the food recommendations above. Our own Matt Jancer wrote a rant on why you should avoid dehydrated food right now.

  • No (extra) toilet paper or paper towels: Please don't buy more unless you need it! Now's also a great time to consider making the switch to a glorious heated bidet, which can help conserve toilet paper during shortages and makes your bum feel much cleaner anyway. We also like these bidets.

  • No hoarding a ton of anything: You don't need to stockpile survival supplies or prepare for nuclear winter. Just try to limit your close exposure to others, wash your hands, and avoid touching your face. Keeping normal supply streams running where they need to go is a good way to help everyone else.

Gear to Feel a Little Calmer at Home
Photograph: Casper 

Navigating something like Covid-19 can cause stress and anxiety among even the most level-headed people. It's important to take good care of yourself—in no small part because stress takes a toll on your immune system. Do whatever you can to relax if you have time, whether that's hanging out on the couch with your kids or taking your pup for a walk. We have some tips on how to stay social at home, but here are some products that help us chill out.

  • Casper weighted blanket for $169 (Amazon, Casper): Compressing yourself can actually help you decompress. Weighted blankets are nice to have—we liken them to a warm hug. They'll help you get to sleep (which is important!), and they also might mask the sound of you yelling into the void. Think something else might be preventing you from catching Zs? We've got an entire gear guide dedicated to sleep to help you.

  • Vuori sweatpants for $62 (REI, Vuori): What good is staying home without some dressing down? If you don't already have a pair of comfy sweatpants lying around, we on the Gear team really like Vuori. Forced to leave your house? Keep 'em on and call it athleisure.

  • Calm meditation and sleep app for $12 per month (Android, iOS): Mind racing? You're not alone. Coronavirus-related fears are affecting much of the population, so much so that we wrote a story about how to quell the coronavirus anxiety spiral. Turning to a phone app to combat stress may seem ironic, but you may find it helpful. It'll guide you through meditation, and it also has programs designed to help lull you to sleep. A one-week trial is free for new users. You may also want to read our take on hope in a time of hopelessness.

If Your Kids Are Stuck in the House
Photograph: Getty Images 

If you have small children, odds are you spent the early weeks panic-buying Legos and tiny trampolines on Amazon. We have a few suggestions for you here, but we've also assembled a bigger list of gear to make this time with your kiddos more fun. Be sure to read our full guide, How to Entertain Your Young Children During a Quarantine, for more ideas!

  • Pillage your closet: Nearly every parent that WIRED's senior writer Adrienne So spoke to used goods around the house for crafts. Washi tape, cardboard boxes, and recycle bins were all mentioned, but she liked the versatility of wrapping paper (plus the fact that many of us always have extra on hand). You probably have some scissors and glue around. Go to town!

  • Puro Sound Labs BT2200 Kids Headphones for $80 (Amazon, Pure Sound Labs): There are only so many times you can listen to "Baby Shark" during the workday. We like these headphones to protect their tiny ears and keep kiddos quiet while you take an urgent conference call.

  • Legos: We're partial to building (and destroying) worlds with the bricks we have on hand, but now might also be a good time to dig into a fancy new Star Wars-themed set like Kylo Ren's sick-looking shuttle. Its 1,005 pieces should keep those kids busy for a while.

  • Other STEM toys: Legos are great, but here's a full list of other great learning toys we've tried and love.

  • Subscription boxes for kids: From Kiwi Crates to science boxes, these are some fun subscription services that could entertain your kids for at least a few days a month as this virus comes and goes.

  • Podcasts for kids: These audio programs are made specifically for the little ones.

If You're Working From Home
Photograph: Contigo

If office and school closures have you suddenly working from home, there's some gear that can make the job easier. As a mostly remote team, WIRED's Gear writers have nailed down a routine for getting work done without becoming too distracted—or distraught. For a complete run-through of our recommendations, check out our Home Office Setup Gear Guide. This story on working from home without losing your mind may be helpful as well. Here are a few of our favorite tools:

  • Logitech C920S HD Pro Webcam for $70 (Best Buy, B&H): You might find yourself in more video calls than usual. A good webcam can help you look your best, even if you're secretly wearing sweatpants. Webcams are out of stock everywhere, but new shipments are heading to shelves. Order now so you can have one earmarked for you when they come in.

  • Netgear Nighthawk Smart Wi-Fi Router or $98 (Amazon, Best Buy): You'll likely need a strong Wi-Fi signal to work from home more efficiently, especially if your kiddos are sucking up bandwidth watching videos on YouTube. If your router isn't up to snuff, Netgear's Nighthawk model is a good upgrade option. Check out our guide on how to upgrade your home internet for other ideas.

  • Contigo Autospout Water Bottle for $9 (Amazon, Walmart): Chugging coffee all day means you need to be drinking water. Staying hydrated can also keep you healthy and help you beat the midday slump.

  • Noise-canceling headphones: If your home is noisy, a good pair of noise-canceling headphones will help you concentrate. The best models, like the Sony WH1000XM3 (Amazon, Walmart), are a few hundred bucks, but you can find good headphones for less than $100, too.

These Services Are Discounted or Free Right Now
Photograph: Getty Images 

Whether you're ordering in while working or trying to remotely connect with your colleagues, a few companies are offering discounts or other perks during the pandemic. We also have a roundup about the companies and nonprofits helping to fight the pandemic.

  • Google is offering G Suite customers advanced video conferencing capabilities via Hangouts. This includes larger meetings, live streaming, and the ability to record meetings.

  • Microsoft is offering six months of its Teams service for free. Teams is collaborative work software that includes cloud storage, video sharing, conferencing, and more.

  • Zoom has lifted video call time limits for users in some affected areas as well as schools.

  • Raddish, one of our favorite subscriptions for kids, is offering $15 off a six-month subscription with the coupon ATHOME. This activity might help cure the no-school doldrums.

  • Comcast is offering two months of its Internet Essentials package to new qualifying customers for free. Equipment is included. You'll need to apply for the program if you're interested. Qualifying customers include those eligible for public assistance that live in certain areas and meet a few other requirements.

If You Need Something to Do

Stardew Valley, a peaceful farming game

Photograph: Chucklefish

On the upside, now's the perfect time to hunker down and read, play, or watch all the things that you've been meaning to! Here are a few of the WIRED Staff's favorite things right now:

Watch, Listen, or Stream Anew!

TCL 6 Series TV

Photograph: TCL

If you're stuck at home, now might be a good time to consider upgrading your home theater, audio setup, or smart home tech. After all, there's never more time to futz around with TV mounts or your old record collection than now. Be sure to check out our lists of the Best Smart Speakers, prettiest TVs, and easiest to use streaming devices if you need more inspiration.

  • Roku Streaming Stick Plus for $40 (Home Depot, Best Buy): The Roku Streaming Stick Plus is the easiest to use of all the major streaming devices and it looks great. Why watch Netflix on a laptop, iPad, or cell phone?

  • Audiotechnica AT-LP120 USB for $249 (Amazon, Best Buy): Now's the time to break out your record collection—and to buy some new vinyl to support struggling musicians. This is our favorite entry-level turntable.

  • 55-Inch TCL 6 Series for $549 (Amazon, Best Buy): If you're gonna be catching up on shows and movies, now might be a good time for an upgrade. With outstanding picture quality and built-in Roku OS, this is our favorite TV right now. In fact, Reviews Editor Jeffrey Van Camp just bought this exact model.

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