Don’t: hoard toilet paper and medical masks. Do: make sure you have plenty of food, water, and indoor activities.
It’s a scary time to go shopping. There are shortages of all sorts of odds and ends, and knowing what you actually need to get you through the novel coronavirus pandemic can feel super stressful. The WIRED Gear team has talked 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 check out our full coverage of all things Covid-19, and to pay attention to any new information coming from the Centers for Disease Control and other reliable sources.
If you buy something using the links in our stories, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Here’s how this works. You can also support our reporting and reviewing by purchasing a 1-year print + digital WIRED subscription for $5 (Discounted).
Updated April 9: The CDC has changed its guidance on cloth face masks, so we’ve added new information below. We also added more retailer options and replaced links for items that are out of stock.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 cloth face maskand keep your distance from others (about 6 feet). Avoid groups of 10 or more.
- 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 areas frequently-touched surfaces (here’s our Covid-19 cleaning guide).
Food and Supplies You (Might) Need
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.
- A Cloth Face Mask: The CDC has updated its guidelines on the use of masks. It now recommends you wear one 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 a severe nationwide shortage of N95 and other professional masks right now, so even if you find one, don’t buy it. Leave them for healthcare workers.
- 3 Weeks of Food: Grocery stores will have food next week. Don’t buy more food than you need, but try and stock up so that you can stay at home and do not have to go to the store for a while. Now is a good time to cook some of the dry stuff that’s been sitting in your pantry, though! 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 panic-buy a bunch of bottled water to reach the recommended two weeks of water in any emergency kit. It’s just a lot of wasted plastic. It’s unlikely anything will happen to your water supply. The easiest method? Snag 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 for most emergencies. The straw is selling out fast so this Lifestraw bottle is another alternative (Amazon, Target).
- Water Kettle/Boiler: You’re likely not going to lose power, so a water boiler is also a great option. 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). Again, don’t hoard bottled water!
- 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 deal with childcare if local schools or daycare get shut down, 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 IDand emergency contact information are up to date. Make sure you have a good medical emergency plan in place, including the names/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).
- A Month of Needed 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, but they’ll be in stock sometime soon (hopefully). 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
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.
- 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 healthcare facility. The site GetUsPPE.org 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: They are impossible to find toilet paper right now, but will be back. 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 an Insane Amount 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
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 from $63 (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 appto 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
If you have small children, odds are you’ve spent the past week or so 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 on 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 $68 (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 set like this Millennium Falcon.
- Other STEM Toys We Love: 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
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 more ideas, check out our Remote Workers Gift 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 for $103 (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.
- Mr Coffee OneTouch Coffeehouse Espresso Maker and Cappucino Machine for $255 (Target, Amazon): If you can’t get your caffeine fix because the coffee shops nearby are closed, then this is a machine that can help, and it’s also our top pick in our guide to the Best Espresso and Latte Machines. If you want to make the best espresso in the comfort of your own home, then splurge on the Breville Barista Pro, our upgrade pick. But consider how much you’ll make caffeinated drinks as this one’s $900.
- Contigo Autospout Water Bottle for $10 (Amazon, Walmart): Chugging coffee all day means you need to be drinking water. Staying hydrated can also keep you healthyand 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
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 10,000 free Swedish Eats cooking kits. 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.
- Postmates rolled out the option for non-contact deliveries. You can request that your Postmate leave your food at the door. Uber Eats allows you to request the same thing in the notes section when ordering.
- TripIt has made normally paid, $49 per-year Pro-level features available to the masses for free for the next six months. That means better air travel tracking, interactive terminal maps, and baggage claim info is available now for free, if you or a loved one is stuck somewhere.
- Travel: If you have airfare or other travel plans that have been affected by Covid-19, you may be able to alter or cancel those plans at a free or reduced rate. Check with your flight provider, travel agent, or hotel. This is also true for Airbnb.
If You Need Something to Do
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:
- Video Games: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s expansive game world (Amazon, Best Buy) and rich story make it an excellent choice for anyone with a lot of time on their hands. Stardew Valley (Amazon, Best Buy), on the other hand, has a smaller focus. You take on the role of a character restoring an old farm and living in an idyllic country town. It’s relaxing, engrossing, and the soundtrack slaps. We’d also be remiss we didn’t mention our staff’s current obsession with The Witcher franchise (Amazon, Best Buy). Looking for something free? Pokemon Go has also changed its rules to be more indoor-friendly. We also rounded up all the games we at WIRED are playing, and have recommendations on educational games for kids along with mobile games to play on your phone if you don’t have a console.
- Co-op videogames: If you’re stuck in the house with family or roommates, consider local multiplayer games like Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime or Jackbox to pass the time. If not, there are plenty of great online multiplayer titles to keep you entertained like Overwatch, Final Fantasy XIV, and the new Animal Crossing: New Horizons. We have a guide for some of the best games to play right now while stuck indoors, and if you want more options, check out our guides to the Best PS4 Games, Best Xbox One Games, and Best Switch Games.
- Movies and TV: The new season of Netflix’s Ugly Deliciousdives into more than just regional delicacies—the first episode is actually a very compelling hour on acclaimed chef David Chang’s transition to parenthood. We’ve also been liking the new Star Trek: Picard, despite the fact that it requires a CBS All-Access subscription. If you’re looking for something longer, check out Knives Out, a star-studded murder mystery that just showed up on Amazon. Already seen them? Senior Correspondant Adam Rogers says you’ve got to go international: Queen Sono offers great spy action set in South Africa, and The Ghost Bride is paranormal romance mystery in 1930s Macao.
- Board Games: Board games like The Grimm Forest and others can be a great way to keep your mind off of being stuck inside. Check out our full guide to recent favorites.
- Break a Sweat and Work Out: Now’s a great time to get outdoors and go running or cycling (in less populated areas), and also a good time to get a bike trainer or Yoga Mat and embrace the trend of smarter at-home fitness. If you’re used to logging steps or miles on a treadmill, consider nabbing a fitness tracker to pair with your running gear on outdoor adventures. Looking for inspiration? Check out our story on how WIRED’s Editor-In-Chief Nicholas Thompson started running faster in his forties.
Watch, Listen, or Stream Anew!
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 (Roku, 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.
All Rights Reserved for WIRED Staff