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

We've got tried-and-true recs for everything you need to surf into summer, including SPF skincare, aesthetic bug spray, and a rad home pizza oven.

Welcome back to Backed Hard, our monthly cornucopia of the best stuff your trusted Rec Room staff tried, loved, and now wish to evangelize. It's been a rollercoaster of an April, filled with showers (except in LA where we bask in sun and smog every day), weed (happy belated 4/20), and Way Day deals (we love going deep into the caverns of Wayfair and emerging with statement decor, shag rugs, and fancy floor lamps). We apologize for the N*SYNC song that this will trigger inside your vacant skull, but in just a few days, it's gonna be May. That means one thing: It's time for us to take a crab-walk down memory lane and reflect on our most worth-it purchases of the month, because they improved our lives so thoroughly that we can't help but sing their praises. 

Last month, we yapped your ears off about how stoked we were to stroll around in our platform Crocs, swaddle ourselves in the ultimate dad bathrobe, and ecstatically snack on Sichuan-spiced smoked salmon. This month, we're celebrating the oatmeal that gets us out of bed in the morning, the Ukrainian dumpling art that graces our walls, and a tool for getting all of the nasty earwax off of our AirPods. Read on for our editors' picks for the best products we tried and loved in April 2022.

Nam Coffee’s roasty Orange County blend

I’m a sucker for Vietnamese coffee prepared in a phin, or a metal filter—especially when there are robusta beans involved, which tend to have a higher caffeine content and a bold, unique flavor despite being maligned by the majority of the coffee industry as “inferior” beans. Nam Coffee, an immigrant-founded and -led company that launched earlier this year, recently dropped its Orange County blend, a 30/70 split of robusta and arabica beans, which is perfect for anyone looking for high-strength, yet approachable, coffee. This stuff is incredibly drinkable for being such an assertive coffee, with delicate notes of lemon peel, nuts, and dark chocolate. —Ian Burke

Nam Coffee
Orange County Blend Coffee

$16.95 at Nam Coffee

Sheets that make you feel naughty (in a good way)

I feel like the MOFO Venus de Milo when I emerge from these bedsheets in the morning, because they have the luxurious sheen of a rich, illegally harvested saltwater pearl, and the silky texture of a pampered baby seal—which makes sense, given that they come from Quince, which specializes in finding out where some of the best luxury brands and hotels source their products, and sells their nearly-identical dupes to us humble plebs for less. The organic bamboo material in this sheet set is not only naturally cooling, but one the planet's most resource-efficient materials for bedding, according to the Quince Queens, so you know you’re doing right by not only your pores, but by Mama Earth. —Mary Frances Knapp

Quince
Organic Bamboo Viscose Sheet Set (Queen)

$229.00$99.90 at Quince

Ooni's idiot-proof pizza oven

I was recently back at VICE's Brooklyn office, and we had the fortune of taking an Ooni Karu 16 Multi-Fuel Pizza Oven for a test run. Check out the full review here, but wowee, this thing was so fun and shockingly easy to set up and get going. We took it out of the box, and about an hour later we were pulling out pizzas that were some straight–up pro Neapolitan-level shit, with perfectly melted bufala mozz, gorgeous bubbly crusts, and the je ne sais quoi terroir of Brooklyn, since we were throwing all available wood scraps into the fire, including random sticks that we found on our office rooftop. (It also didn't hurt that L'Industrie hooked us up with amazing pizza dough.) I've known for a while that Ooni home pizza ovens are cult-faves, but I was still wildly impressed—and now, I can't stop thinking about getting one for my own patio and inviting a bunch of friends over for an afternoon of natural wine and fancy homemade 'za. —Hilary Pollack

Ooni
Ooni Karu 16 Multi-Fuel Pizza Oven
$799 at Amazon

$799 at Ooni

A Hagibis Cleaning Pen for de-gunking your AirPods

AirPods are one of my modern-day survival essentials, but I’ve always been confused by Apple’s recommendations for cleaning them. Apparently you’re just supposed to wipe them clean with a slightly damp cloth… which begs the admittedly gross question, what about the ear wax that tends to accumulate? I have, it would seem, genetically waxier than normal ears (confirmed by my dad and a 23andMe test), and that telltale build-up of yellow gunk doesn't come loose with a gentle wipe-down. So I finally caved and got a little cleaning pen designed to get into all those nooks and crannies; this particular model has a sponge, tiny brush, and metal tip. I’ve used all three to give the AirPods a gentle dry cleaning, but the real gem is the metal tip, which is blunt enough to not scratch your tech and narrow enough to really dig out the mushed-up corners of the ear buds in a satisfying, Dr. Pimple Popper way. —Marshall Bright

Hagibis
Multi-Function Cleaning Pen for AirPods

$15.99$7.29 at Amazon

For jokers, tokers, and midnight smokers

This odor-eliminating spray is formulated specifically for getting rid of pot smoke, my dude. Not only is it hella killer at getting that dank musk out of the house, but it also actually smells amazing. I'm not just saying that—it has notes of sweet orange, black pepper, and virginia cedar. I’m already down to the end of my first bottle and am about to buy another! Oh, and it’s great for getting rid of all kinds of gross house smells too, not just weed. —Becca Blasdel

VEIL
OG Air Freshener Spray

$19.99 at Veil

Seriously tasty Power Crunch protein bars

If calories didn’t exist, I'd slam down a sleeve of Oreos daily. To satisfy my shameful urges, I found a protein bar that gives me a decent fix without getting gross about it. Power Crunch Protein Bars have a similar vibe to sandwich cookies, with delectable, protein-infused cream in between each layer of frosted wafers. Believe me when I say these are the best protein bars I’ve ever ingested. Usually, protein bars make me super bloated from all those icky filler ingredients, but not these, and they still clock in at 13 grams of protein. The best part is I’ve never seen a gym Chad eat them once. And—hint hint—the best flavors are key lime, strawberry cream, red velvet, and peanut butter fudge; you can't go wrong with giving them a shot. —Nicolette Accardi

Power Crunch
Whey Protein Bars, Red Velvet, 1.4 Ounce (12 Count)

$21.85$19.95 at Amazon
Power Crunch
Whey Protein Bars, Peanut Butter Fudge, 1.4 Ounce (12 Count)

$19.99$14.38 at Amazon

Pre-framed Ukrainian art

My sister’s family is Russian and Ukrainian, and I wanted to gift her something that paid homage to their ancestry for her birthday. Maria Primachenko is one of Ukraine’s most-beloved folk artists, and for some wild reason Walmart has pages upon pages of her beautiful work as pre-framed prints. It arrived perfectly packaged and framed—she was so stoked. —Mary Frances Knapp

Maria Primachenko
Dumplings on the Shelf Framed Art Print (20" x 24")

$49.99 at Walmart

A magnetic power bank

Call me uninformed, but I will bet cold hard clams that I am not the only person who didn't know about MagSafe charging. I’m too cheap to purchase a completely unnecessary charging pad, but I just realized that this technology has allowed for tiny, magnetic, rechargeable batteries to exist. For someone whose phone is constantly dying, this mini power bank is a godsend. It’s also half the price of the Apple version and in no way inferior. (I secretly bought this just so I could charge my phone while I watch TV, because no cords reach my sofa.) —Becca Blasdel

OISLE
Magnetic Wireless Mini Power Bank

$49.95 at Amazon

An Instagram-famous lipstick that's worth the hype

This purchase was one of those semi-shameful situations where I bought something served to me in an Instagram ad—but weirdly, every time I've done so, I've ended up solidly stoked on what showed up in the mail, so I guess the algo is working. Violette FR is a newish cosmetics and beauty brand founded on the principles of "French girl beauty"—taking good care of your skin, keeping it natural, and opting for a smear of color on your lips, a little mascara, and not much else. As you may recall from that one scene in Mad Men (or your high school French class), "bisou" means "kiss" in French, and this sheer balm is supposed to look like your lips are flushed with that telltale pink of a recent snog. The color is matte without being too creamy and old-ladyish, and subtle for that glorious MLBB ("my lips but better") effect. Thanks for doing me a solid instead of just boring me with other people's vacation photos, Insta. —Hilary Pollack

Violette FR
Bisou Balm (Bêtise)

$25 at Violette FR

Studio Null’s Prickly Red non-alcoholic wine

I’ve been on a low-alcohol kick lately and have been guzzling the best non-alcoholic beers and NA spirits with gusto. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find a non-alcoholic wine anywhere—until a friend sent me a bottle from Studio Null. Frankly, I didn’t think you could make a passable NA wine until I tried the brand’s Prickly Red. Made with organically grown Tempranillo and Syrah grapes from Tierra de Toledo, Spain, it’s still got the look, smell, and dry finish of a full-strength, alcoholic red blend, just without any of the booze. For wine lovers who are drinking, but not drinking, this is a great choice. —Ian Burke

Studio Null
Prickly Red

$32 at Studio Null

A serotonin-boosting Topshop jacket

After wearing sweatpants pretty much every fucking day for two years (I remember multiple mid-COVID convos with friends about how long it had been since we'd even worn jeans), there are a lot of days now where I just straight up want to flex a look, if not straight-up self-bimbofy. I'm too millennial to feel interested in reverting to full-blown, thong-baring Y2K fashion like the Zoomers, but I am really enjoying dopamine dressing and the revival of fun, femme looks that don't take themselves too seriously, which is why I picked up this Topshop jacket that would have looked at home in Clueless. I'm not the only one stoked on it; the compliments have been rolling in, and all I wanna do is wear this to the heavy clam bakes. It's sold out a few times, but there are plenty of other fun pseudo-Saks Potts dupe jackets on ASOS.  —Hilary Pollack

Topshop
Short Light Blue Jacket With Faux Fur Trim

$111 at ASOS

Skincare for mushrooms hos

I, as with many of my goblincore peers, identify as a mushroom ho. I’m also starting to care more about my skin now that I’m 30, so when I was offered a test-run of the new Nano Emulsion face lotion by Hanacure, I was jazzed; the skincare brand recently went viral on TikTok for its Benjamin Button-esque face mask, and its latest skincare product is packed with a high concentration of peptides, squalane, sodium hyaluronate, and a patented “ruby of the forest” mushroom extract. According to the Hanacure team, it has been used in Eastern medicine for centuries to help detoxify and support liver health, and can only be ethically harvested with special permission from government-protected trees. Very VIP, as Anna Delvey would say. But most importantly, it’s become a one-stop-shop for giving me hella smooth skin since I’ve started using it the last few weeks. Like, Swan Lake smooth.  —Mary Frances Knapp

Hanacure
Nano Emulsion

$47 at Hanacure

Adidas's Adizero Boston 10 running sneakers

Running shoes can be seriously fugly, but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your aesthetic while trying to rack up the miles. I run almost every day and I refuse to wear those absolutely heinous clodhoppers that every dad in suburbia owns. Besides my beloved Hoka Bondi 7 sneakers, I must rave about the Adidas Adizero Boston 10 sneakers. I’ve hit so many personal best times with these babies that they’re honestly my good luck charm. I’m convinced that its spring-back technology and “Lightstrike Pro” foam has everything to do with it. Sorry Hoka, forgive me. —Nicolette Accardi

Adidas
Adizero Boston 10 Running Shoe
$139.95$98 at Amazon

$140.00$98 at Adidas

Matcha-flavored oatmeal for a morning boost

Oatmeal isn’t the sexiest breakfast, but it is good for you—and since I’ve been trying to stay on my #health grind this year, a little long-lasting energy from some good carbs has been a great way to start my mornings. These Matcha Latte Oatmeal Cups contain natural caffeine, and are easy to prepare, delicious, and have five grams of protein, three grams of fiber, and no added sugar. Matcha not your thing? Opt for the variety pack—other flavors range from Taro Bubble Tea and Red Bean Berry to Toasted Black Sesame and Sweet Osmanthus. (Plus, you know how much we love the fact that it's easier than ever to buy Asian snack foods online.) —Ian Burke

Yishi Foods
Matcha Latte Oatmeal Cups

$16.99 at Yishi Foods

Vitamin-packed eye cream for bag-free eyes

Not to brag, but I sleep like a baby almost every night. But for some demented reason I still manage to wake up looking like I got punched in both eyes. Clearly I wasn’t blessed in the under-eye circles department. Good thing the skincare wizards over at Origins have a product that fixes my face just a bit—the GinZing Refreshing Eye Cream. It brightens and depuffs with a potent cocktail of vitamin C, niacinamide, panax ginseng, and caffeine. I’ve been using it for just under a month and already see an improvement in my au naturel black eyes. —Nicolette Accardi

Origins
GinZing Refreshing Eye Cream
$32.71$26 at Amazon

$34 at Ulta

Kinfield’s great-smelling Golden Hour bug spray

So, it’s still a little too early in the season to gauge just how effective Kinfield’s deet-free bug repellent really is, but if we're going off the assumption that nobody can tolerate the smell of deet, then this product is already a 100% improvement. If this even cuts down on the amount of red itchy lumps on my legs by a third, I will be ecstatic. But the scent is pleasing and the bottle is chic either way. —Becca Blasdel

Kinfield
Golden Hour DEET-Free Repellant

$22 at Kinfield

Candlesticks for Victorian vibes

I wanted to feel like a Victorian woman reading poetry and journaling by candlelight, but my jar candles weren’t giving “Victorian,” so I bought these candlesticks in an attempt to live out my fantasy. They make any space that was once unaesthetic to look like an eclectic, dark academia dream. Have a water-damaged window sill? Add a candlestick. Have an awkward empty space on a table? Add a candlestick. Have a bland, musty bookcase? Add a candlestick. —Erica Sullivan

NUPTIO
Set of 3 Candlestick Holders

$20.96 at Amazon

To add atop my new candlesticks, I then needed candles themselves. I appreciate the variety of options, but ultimately I chose these lovely green candles. They’ve also come with unintended perks like matching with my slowly dying houseplants and they make me feel fancy while cooking and eating. I light these babies up and suddenly my kitchen is filled with elegant dining ambiance. —Erica Sullivan

CANDWAX
8-Inch Taper Candles (Set of 12)

$17.55 at Amazon

Tower28's summer-saving Tinted Sunscreen Foundation

I’ve been assiduously working my way through a tube of Supergoop!’s Glow Screen for two summers now — long before the TikTok girlies blew it up. And while I generally feel like I have pretty good skin for 32, I still have skin that’s over 30 years old. GlowScreen, for all its appealing marketing and virality, does little more than highlight every bump, crevice, and bit of texture on my face. Looking for a summer-friendly base, I tried Tower 28's SunnyDays tinted sunscreen and I feel like I’m finally living the summer glow fantasy I always wanted. It applies like a perfect mix between a glowing primer and a tinted moisturizer and leaves my skin looking glowing, not shimmery. My friend even asked if I had a filter on when I sent her a selfie, which is about as high a compliment as I can imagine getting. On a day where I just put on the tinted SPF, blush, and mascara, a coworker asked if I had a photoshoot planned. —Marshall Bright

Tower 28
SunnyDays SPF 30 Tinted Sunscreen Foundation

$30 at Sephora

There you have it: personal, tried-and-true recs for bug spray, weed spray, sunscreen, a home pizza oven, and everything else you need to kick off the summer of serious good times that we all deserve after years of collective hell! Love you, readers, and see you next month.


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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editors picks, Backed Hard

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