Phil & Teds MeToo

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When our son was born, we were living in a tiny one-bedroom apartment in central London, and were about to move back to America. We wanted something minimal but effective, and we thought the Phil & Teds chair would be a stopgap measure until we had a bigger house.

Now that we have the bigger house, we still love the P&T chair. Our baby can sit at the table with us, and because he has the whole table in front of him much less food ends up on the floor than when he’s in a traditional high chair. We can also clamp the chair to the breakfast counter in the kitchen, so he can eat while we cook. And in some small way our house is less “babified” than it would be with a real high chair.

Some disadvantages: The specs say it can support up to 40 lbs, roughly a child 3 years of age. When our son is a bit bigger, we’ll have to find another solution. Also, the chair uses metal C-clamps that open about 2″ at most, and sit in about 1″. That limits the types of tables we can use it with: obviously no glass table tops, but also no tables with a wide lip. And finally, the fabric doesn’t come off the chair, so to clean it you have to use a sponge and a bit of perseverance.

The model that we have is called a MeToo. P&T have recently begun selling a model called the Lobster with a plastic ratcheting claw clamp. That model may be faster to attach, but could be less robust than the aluminum screw clamp on the MeToo. I haven’t used any other travel high chairs, but we prefer the P&T chair to the many traditional high chairs we’ve tried. For small-space living, it’s an excellent solution.

-- Ashish Ranpura  

Phil & Teds MeToo chair
$50

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Phil & Teds



Aeron

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I’ve been testing an Aeron Chair since 2001 and I’m ready to say, “Go for it.” Why now? Because I just realized that it is the cheapest chair I’ve ever owned. I’m 6′ 2″, 200-plus pounds, and put a lot of daily wear-and-tear on my chair. So I wasn’t surprised when, after eight years of use the seat cracked: I was sitting there and it gave way by about two inches. Except for an early problem with a slight wiggle in the base (which Herman Miller paid to have fixed) the chair has worked flawlessly.

I haven’t tried the previously reviewed Russel Executive Mesh Chair, but I’ve tried plenty of inexpensive office chairs that were not worth their initial low purchase prices. What makes this pricey chair so inexpensive to own is Herman Miller’s extraordinary warranty. Buy it from an authorized dealer and treat it with reasonable care and Herman Miller pays for parts, labor and shipping to have it fixed (for the original owner) for 12 years. You tell me where you can buy a product of this quality and style that is guaranteed to be good as new for 12 years? Additionally, the company makes having repairs performed pain-free. One of their authorized repair locations sent me a shipping box for my damaged Aeron, so that I could send it in. It was repaired and returned to me within two weeks. And I still have almost three more years on my warranty.

-- Chuck Green  

Herman Miller Aeron Chair, Posture Fit Medium Size (B)
$870

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Herman Miller



Toto Eco Drake

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A year ago my municipal water department in Portland, OR, offered a $100 rebate to anyone who replaced a conventional toilet with a WaterSense (EPA designation) qualified toilet. A review of my water bill encouraged me to give it a try. I’d heard that low-flow toilets don’ flush well. As someone — I’ll try to be discrete about this — who was a master of the plunger through frequent use, I didn’t want a toilet that would get clogged as much as my standard model. After some online research and a trip to a local green building supply store, I settled on a Toto Eco Drake, cheaper and more efficient than the previously reviewed Toto UltraMax.

The good news items: Water use is down through reduced flush waste. The SoftClose seat option has made a banging toilet seat a thing of the past. I haven’t used the plunger since I installed the toilet. The bad news item: I should have gotten the round seat, rather than the oval model I purchased. It isn’t as comfortable for extended-reading sessions.

Really, though, the flush mechanism on this toilet is amazing. It performs faster than the previous toilet I had, with less water and 100% reliability. Even if it used the same amount per handle press as my old toilet I’d be ahead; no more repeated flushes to finish a job. Yet it uses 1.28 Gal/flush and works the first time, every time. There are more expensive low-flow models available, but I’m quite pleased with the Eco Drake. The water savings are real and don’t have to come at the expense of flush performance.

-- Michael Rasmussen  

[Note: Those interested in learning about toilet performance should check out MaP Testing, a site dedicated to evaluating toilet flushing.--OH]

Toto Eco Drake Toilet 1.28 GPF
$225+

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Toto



Brooks Saddles

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We have three points of contact while riding a bicycle: pedals, handlebar grips, saddle. As anyone who’s been uncomfortable on a ride knows well, the latter’s by far the most significant in terms of comfort. Saddle choice is as personal as musical preferences; the only way to know if a saddle works for you is to plant your butt on it and take a spin. One general design, however, made by an English company since the late nineteenth century, has proven itself a tried and true favorite.

Brooks leather saddles come in configurations for nearly every type of rider and every mode of riding. Among the choices for leisurely upright cafe bikes is the B67 model, which I use on my utility/errand bike. It’s the most comfortable saddle I’ve ever owned. I’m obsessive about bike fit (bike fit is more important than bike quality), and there isn’t a component I’ve used that makes my bike fit me better than my Brooks saddle. Brooks’ B15 model has been around since 1937, and is best suited to a racer hunched over in the drops. Other options include women’s models, and wider models with bigger springs.

Like baseball gloves, Brooks saddles require a break-in period, though under you instead of your mattress. After a couple of months mine became noticeably more contoured to my contours. It’s felt custom-made ever since. Also like baseball gloves, bike saddles should be chosen for your size and position (on the bike). A wider platform is better suited to an upright riding position/wider body; narrower is better for racing-oriented cyclists/narrower bodies.

Leather saddles don’t tolerate wet weather as well as modern synthetic models. They’re also heavier and more expensive, too expensive for me to have a Brooks on all of my bikes, though I would.

-- Elon Schoenholz  

Brooks B67
$122+ (price varies with color)

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Brooks England



WeeRide Kangaroo Carrier

Traveling through other countries, we’ve often noticed child cycling carriers where the child sits forward of the rider — this allows them better visibility and puts them in reach/view of the rider, unlike seats that mount to a rear rack. My sister even went as far as to bring one back from the UK to use with her kids. We hunted, but couldn’t find the same thing in the US until two years ago. Now we use it once or twice a week when weather permits. Aside from being a much safer and secure version of the one my sister has, the WeeRide Kangaroo has some other very clear advantages.

The injection-molded seat mounts to an extremely sturdy bar that clamps to the seat post and steerer tube. This allows the seat to be removed quickly and easily when not in use. This is done by unscrewing a single large bolt. Also, the carrier features a padded “face pad” which 1) keeps your passenger from messing with your handlebars and controls; 2) protects your passenger from smacking his/her face on the handlebars (assuming you left the four-point harness too loose); and 3) gives your passenger a natural place to rest his/her head when sleeping. In addition, the Kangaroo’s foot cups are adjustable and flexible, but I’ve never seen a child get his/her toes anywhere near the front wheel.

A few caveats: The harness probably has six feet more webbing than it really needed, but I was able to clean up ours with a handful of safety pins. The seat is wide enough you have to ride somewhat bow-legged, but you get used to it pretty quickly. The footrests don’t go down far enough for larger children. Don’t expect to fit a three-year-old kid into it.

Our youngest just turned one, so we have at least another season with it, which we’ll relish: We love being able to interact more with our passenger, and I’m sure the kid likes the view a whole lot better.

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-- Yitah Wu  

WeeRide
$60

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by WeeRide



Nada Chair

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A couple months ago, before I finally bit the bullet and purchased a quality desk chair similar to this one, I found this terrific back brace. It fits around your waist and a padded strap loops around each knee (clipping together at mid-thigh). The tighter you cinch the adjustable straps, the greater the pressure applied to your lower back. You still have plenty of forward movement, and the way it supports the lower spine is wonderful.

It’s a little pricey, but pays off immediately. For the past two years, I sat on a dingy secondhand chair at a low, makeshift desk (home office = a walk-in closet). The result? Regular slouching and hunching and frequent backaches, pains and stiffness, especially in the morning. The first day I strapped this thing on, I felt the difference — and I still use it whenever I head to the library or travel and I know I’m going to have a marathon desk session in less than stellar conditions.

There are a variety of models. Mine is an all-black “S’portBacker,” which was the cheapest one available at the time. I really enjoy how it folds and zips together into a convenient package (8 1/2″ x 6″ x 1″).

[Please see the previously-reviewed Slouch!Buster, which is the same product.]

Nada Chair S’portBacker
$41
Manufactured by Nada-Concepts, Inc.

Available from Amazon



Slouch!Buster

The Nadachair and Slouchbuster are based on the ropes that Tibetan monks use to sit upright for hours on end when meditating. The monks use these ropes between their knees and back to help them stay upright. The Slouchbuster is a small, much more elegant version than ropes. The Nadachair is a larger version.

I’m a yank who lives in Perth Australia (West Coast). I fly often to the US and Europe, in coach. I’ve found this little thing is what allows me to sleep and survive 19-22 hours of crowded coach seats. I use the Slouchbuster when I travel because:
(1) It is very small. It is the size of a paperback book when folded up.
(2) It folds up and then zips up inside itself. It is totally self contained. No bags or anything needed.

I also own a Nadachair, too, which I keep at work. I use that a couple times a day to keep my back straight. I write software for a living, so I’m sitting for hours on end. It really makes a difference, especially if you have any sort of lower back problems (like me). I owned them for a couple of years now and I found that I no longer need a monthly chiropractor visit. So it has paid for itself within a month.

-- Ron Larson  

[This is the same produce as the more-recently reviewed S'portBacker -- SL]

Slouch!Buster
$50

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Nada- Chair



This tool has been UNRECOMMENDED and is now in the DEAD TOOLS category. See the FAQ for more info.

Toto UltraMax Toilet

Everone knows the standard 1.6 gallon low-flush toilet does not work as advertised. The three different models we installed in our bathroom in as many years did not easily flush large turds. Finally a maniacal plumber who methodically reviews low-flush toilets on his website (O, the glory of the web!) pointed me to a 1.6 gallon toilet that really, really works: the Toto UltraMax. It has garnered unanimously great reviews online.

I can categorically say that if you have trouble with non-flushing 1.6 gallon toilets, than the Toto UltraMax will change your bathroom life. You can store that plunger away. Created by clever Japanese engineers who figured that if you could make a toilet that worked in space, why not one that worked at home? They rethought the standard design, and came up with the G-Max system. It inserts a vortex in the bow of the throne’s bowl which satisfyingly sucks everything down in a split-second quiet whoosh. Shit be gone!

Even better, I found a site that would mail me the Toto UltraMax to my home via DHL (and with free shipping!) Two days later I had a very large box on our front porch, and a few hours later, a low-flush toilet running that has not clogged once since installation. (Previously we needed a plunger every third time).

I’ve been so happy.

-- KK  

[For a cheaper, low-flow toilet, see the more recently-reviewed Toto Eco Drake.]

Toto Ultramax Toilet
MS854114S
$400

Available from Amazon



Mesh Manager’s Chair

I haven’t tried the Russell Executive reviewed earlier, but I found a similar mesh chair for even cheaper.

The arms are attached to the base and screwed on, but I personally have no need to ever remove them, and the height adjustments are easy. It has tilt lock, adjustable tilt firmness, height adjustment, and an up/down adjustment on the lumbar support.

I managed to pick one up on sale, but even at the standard $180 with free shipping, I think this is a pretty good deal. I can’t speak for its longevity, having just purchased it recently, but it does come with a 15 year warranty. I’m happy so far.

-- Adam Fields  

Situations Mesh Manager’s Chair
$100
Staples



This tool has been UNRECOMMENDED and is now in the DEAD TOOLS category. See the FAQ for more info.

Russell Executive Mesh Chair

The Russell Executive Mesh Chair is the Aeron for people on a budget. I’ve had to sit in many, many different kinds of chairs in my inglorious temping career, and this one is by far the best. Both the seat and the back are mesh, so the chair breathes. The ergonomic control, while not nearly as complete as the Aeron’s, is still definitely superior to any chair I’ve found in the sub-$300 range. As with the Aeron (which goes for twice that amount, or about $600-650 new), the arms are attached to the back, not the seat – and they’re easily removed. It’s light but sturdy (steel frame) and pretty easy on the eyes (a little bit biomorphic). I’ve been using mine since late last year and it’s vastly improved my relationship with my desk.

Best of all, it’s only $230 new at discounters.

-- Finn Brunton  

[This chair is no longer available. Regardless, the more recently-reviewed Mesh Manager's Chair is a cheaper option. -- SL]

Russell Executive Mesh Chair
$230
Previously available from Office Depot
Office Depot