We've spent the last two months testing grills, coolers, and also keeping tabs on various outdoor audio and lighting products, in other words, all the stuff you might need to put on a generally enjoyable outdoor social function.
You can (and should!) go down the rabbit hole on other outdoor tech like, , and . For this list, I tried to stick to a core scenario: you want to cook or entertain outside more this summer, you have the space to do it and the disposable income to throw at a few things to hopefully make the experience more pleasant for everyone. As follows:
The best gas grill
We reviewed six popular gas grills this year, and the Dyna-Glo 4-Burner offered the best combination of price and performance. Whether at high temperature grilling, low-and-slow cooking, or somewhere in between, this one scored highest on our taste testsi. It has an MSRP of $450, but you can find it for under $400 if you shop around. A convenient slide-out tray for the propane tank makes swapping fuel easy.
The best cooler under $100
Igloo MaxCold CoolerTyler Lizenby/CNET
For the last two years we've rounded up coolers across the price spectrum, from $10 disposable models to $300 coolers made of rotomolded plastic. The Igloo MaxCold isn't the best performer, but it's in the top five, above coolers that cost more than $200. If you want to splurge, Cabela's, Orca, and Yeti all have rotomolded designs that will keep their contents colder longer, but the small gap between those models and this $60-ish Igloo MaxCold make it hard to justify spending more.
The best waterproof Bluetooth speaker under $50
Tribit MaxSound PlusSarah Tew/CNET
This bass-heavy Bluetooth speaker can survive for up to 30 minutes in three feet of water. Knock it into the pool, and it will live on to keep your patio party going.
If you want to spend a bit more and you're looking for a speaker with a built-in voice assistant, Ultimate Ears Megablast Portable Wi-Fi/Bluetooth speaker will bring Alexa to the party for $180.
The best way be outside and listen to whatever you damn well please and also be a good host
Bose FramesSarah Tew/CNET
I'm not saying a middle-aged white dude should be embarrassed for liking Lizzo. I am that guy, and she's great. What I am saying is, it's nice to be able to listen to whatever music you like without anyone -- family, guests, neighbors -- judging you or asking you to change it, especially when you've taken on the semi-isolating responsibility of working the grill at an outdoor social event. That's what these Bose Frames, essentially sunglasses with a decent microspeaker built into the arms, will let you do, and without totally cutting you off from human interaction like headphones or ear buds will.
The best outdoor lighting
Philips Hue White Outdoor Floodlight LEDsPhilips
Keep an eye on a line of outdoor lights expected from Ring later this year, but right now Philips has the most comprehensive assortment of smart outdoor-rated LED lighting products.
The Hue White Outdoor Floodlight LEDs ($50 for two, $30 for one) offer all the great programmability, remote control, and support for all the major voice assistants as Philips' other Hue products, in a weatherproof design that's suitable to install on your back deck. Supplement it with Philips' new Outdoor Sensor for about as comprehensive a set of automation options as you can find in outdoor lighting. It's a great way to make sure no one falls to their doom down your otherwise poorly lit back steps.