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

Recent purchases we stand by include an easy-to-assemble platform bed frame, a cult-fave digital camera, and an exercise bike for small apartments.
Composite by VICE Staff
Our editors' picks for the best stuff your hard-earned clams can buy.

If you haven’t noticed already [trips over anal plugs, cast iron skillets, practice amps, and disposable cameras], we at Rec Room are tireless seekers of stuff that feeds our souls, butts, stomachs, and egos. We live here: elbow-deep in different corners of the internet, drifting around on an inflatable Corvette in a sea of home goods, wellness stuff, decor, and treasures from the deep that absolutely no one needs, except you and us. (Prime example: the giant, cursed crab chair from Design Toscano.) But that’s a conversation for another day, and another bottle of poppers. 


The point is, there are the things we want, and then there are the things we actually buy. Sometimes, they overlap. They can be deceptively simple, like the quest for a pair of stretchy men's pants that won’t give you diaper butt, or they can be A Beautiful Mind-meme-level technical, like choosing a digital camera and comparing aperture widths and RAW file resolutions. Anyway, here are the purchases that we made this May that turned out to be a major thumbs up.

A point-and-shoot digital camera that fits in your pocket

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After a year of pervasive anxiety, surreal isolation, and getting the Johnson & Johnson vax shot up into my arm through my car window, it was time to make a Big Purchase—one fitting of my reemergence into society. (I'm also a big believer in buying yourself a birthday present, and a Taurus—we're a little materialistic.) I hadn't bought a digital point-and-shoot since 2014—the Sony RX100, which is a wonderful little camera, too, but mine had unfortunately recently kicked the bucket. My friend Dan has been using a Ricoh GR II for a while, and I've gazed on with envy as he's posted photo after photo with rich colors, beautiful white balance, crazy sharpness, and you know, a certain je ne sais quoi. So, with my first vacation in forever on deck and a happily vaxxed summer ahead, I finally pulled the trigger and got the Ricoh GR III. This camera series is known for being the perfect street shooter, because it's so compact, precise, and free of useless dingle dangles. The photos have amazing richness and depth even on auto settings. I splurged for the "Street Edition" because it looked cool [shrug emoji]. —Hilary Pollack


Ricoh GR III Street Edition Camera, $946.95 at B&H Photo

The book I couldn’t put down

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I found Hilton Als by way of Joan Didion (he wrote the foreword for her most recent book) and his voice shares a similar coolness, and clarity. Like Didion, Als has a way of reporting, and not just writing, about everything from his own life, to larger cultural shifts and figures. As the Chicago Tribune put it, "White Girls is about, among other things, blackness, queerness, movies, Brooklyn, love (and the loss of love), AIDS, fashion, Basquiat, Capote, philosophy, porn, Eminem, Louise Brooks, and Michael Jackson." —Mary Frances Knapp

White Girls by Hilton Als, $12.99 at Amazon

The best tea ever

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Like my fellow caffeine-sensitive colleague-comrade Jamie Steidle, I'm a jittery mess who can't drink coffee—but I do start every morning with a big, robust mug of tea. When I find a variety I like, I'm extremely loyal, and Harney & Sons Paris is it. English breakfast tea can be a little dull; Earl Grey can be overly flowery. Paris is the perfect happy medium, a black tea blend with notes of vanilla and caramel and just a hint of bergamot. I also figured out that it is likely the tea they use for the really good iced tea at Friends & Family in LA, an East Hollywood cafe that was my favorite place to sit and work on my laptop pre-pandemic. Now, I buy this tea in bulk, and it's literally all I will drink. —Hilary Pollack


Harney & Sons Paris Tea, 50 count sachets, $16.64 at Amazon

Highlighter, minus the glitter

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This was my gateway product into Tower 28, which is a vegan, nontoxic beauty brand founded by Amy Liu. If you want that dewy, highlighter look on your skin but don't want any (ANY!) sparkles, this is for you. It also doesn't clog my massive pores, which is a miracle. —Mary Frances Knapp

Tower 28 SuperDew Highlighter Balm, $18 at Tower 28

Men’s jeans that are stretchy without being skintight


I’m a sucker for a well-placed Instagram ad, and the perfect jeans got me good. Thankfully though, these stretchy-ass jeans are actually awesome. They're true to size, and they might be the most comfortable pair of pants I've ever worn. While they're pretty much looser-fitting jeggings, they feel and look like the real deal. —Ian Burke

Men's Slim/Bandit Jeans, $79.99 at The Perfect Jean

Earrings that are straight outta my Matrix club fantasy

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Hannah Jewett is an extremely talented jewelry designer, and I am frequently drooling over all her futurist-surrealist stuff. She's making wildly unique, next-level forms like nothing else out there. These earrings are small enough to wear every day, but still eye-catching and look-making—helping me transform into the alien I wanna be. —Hilary Pollack


Hannah Jewett Silver Small Wet Look Hoop Earrings, $165 $140 at SSENSE

An exercise bike that fits in a tiny Brooklyn apartment

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It's no Peloton, but this exercise bike gets the job done at a fraction of the price. It folds up and can be tucked away behind a standing mirror, which makes it perfect for smaller apartments. Don't expect to ride along to in-shape people zooming through mountain ranges (or whatever Peloton is), but do expect to get a solid sweat in. —Ian Burke

ADVENOR Exercise Bike, $159.99 at Amazon

An easy-to-put-together platform bed that you can fit stuff under

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A bed that's lower to the ground will give the impression of more visual space in a bedroom, which is important to me because I live in a railroad-style apartment. This bed still has room for storage underneath, though, and is super easy to assemble. You don't need any tools or drilling or anything. It's like adult Lincoln Logs, but the vaguely mid-century bed frame version. —Mary Frances Knapp

Zinus Wen 12 Inch Wood Platform Bed Frame, $186.20 at Amazon

A cult-fave, do-it-all serum for under $25

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This is my first serum, and it was recommended to me by so many of my coworkers at VICE. It's a relatively affordable (a lot of serums can be over $100) everyday serum, and it keeps it looking healthy and regenerated (there's a lot of vitamin C and some retinol) without getting too intense with the salicylic acid. —Mary Frances Knapp


InstaNatural, Age-Defying & Skin Clearing Serum, 1 fl oz (30 ml), $23.49 at iHerb

The appropriate glass for me Guinness


It's a lovely day for a Guinness! [Wipes sweat from forehead.] Seriously, though, it is. And there's no real comparison to knocking back a few pints of the dark stuff from a legit Guinness glass. The nitro cans are pretty good these days as well, which means you can bring the bar to you. (Guinness, for strength!) —Ian Burke

Guinness Gravity Official Beer Pint Glass, $13.95 at Amazon

The best version of a classic sci-fi book

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Warning, this is a gateway drug into Douglas Adams, Monty Python, PG Wodehouse, and British humor et al. The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a compilation of all five sci-fi humor novels and one short story by Douglas Adams, is one of those books that I can revisit again and again. It’s not like I don’t already own a physical copy, and maybe a few, at that. But you can never have enough books, and that’s especially true of a singular book that you like a lot: You need a reading copy, a lending copy, a bookshelf copy, a nightstand copy to be the strong sturdy base of your stack, and a digital copy for travel. Since my copy (or copies) are somewhere in a box waiting to be misplaced around the house, I decided a digital copy was needed. It’s been a while since I’ve read all five Hitchhiker’s books, but they have been a true delight. Who doesn’t want to read a story that opens up with the destruction of the earth to make way for a hyperspace bypass? Filled with rich similes like “He paused and maneuvered his thoughts. It was like watching oil tankers doing three-point turns in the English Channel,” it’s hard to not smile while reading. —Jamie Steidle 

The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, $8.07 at Amazon

The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story. VICE may receive a small commission if you buy through the links on our site.