I dislike shopping, but I love finding the perfect gift.
Finding that gift, though, gets harder with time. People seem to have everything they need.
Alternate versions of the shirts I got last year? No, thank you. More ring pops? I’ll pass. In the eternal quest to eliminate clutter, I now give Santa a not-to-buy list instead of a wish list.
After testing and vetting hundreds of products and gadgets this year, here are 17 that make the cut. I own all of these and have gifted them to friends.
Gifts Under $25
I’m a red wine guy. There are very few white wines that make me defect. The first I met was a 2004 Rombauer Chardonnay. The most recent is this delicious Butternut 2013. Every person at the table — all self-described red-wine people — loved it and remarked upon it. If those both sell out, try my current favorite sake, Hitori Musume.
I travel with one of these at all times. Many folks use the RAD for thoracic mobility work, but I prefer to focus on the feet and forearms (pressing down into a table and rolling). Tip… Think your hamstrings are tight? Try rolling out your feet, doing 30 calf raises, stretching your Achilles, then testing your hammies again. Both Amelia Boone and Coach Sommer would agree—a lot of “hamstring” inflexibility is related to lower-leg mobility.
I don’t know how I lived without these until now. I order almost everything I need on Amazon Prime, so I’m constantly opening and breaking down boxes. These puppies are so much better than knives or standard box cutters that there is no comparison. Perhaps I’m a weirdo (of course, I am), but these were a game changer. NOTE: These are ONLY for opening boxes. I stupidly used one to open a plastic package and almost cut my damn hand in half. Be careful!
This was given to me by Jeffrey Zurofsky (remember “JZ” from The 4-Hour Chef?) as a birthday present. It’s been a godsend. After testing every sleep mask imaginable, and tested black-out blinds, etc. over the years, this is—bar none—my favorite to sleep and travel with. It uses thin velcro instead of elastic, and satin wraps around your ears instead of over them. Remember the first time you saw luggage with wheels and thought, “Why didn’t someone come up with this earlier?” I felt the same when using the Sleep Master Mask for the first time. Simple, great design. One caveat: If you sleep in a very warm room, this mask may be too hot.
OK, I’m clearly biased on this one, but I (and dozens of proofreaders) think it makes the perfect holiday gift. The book is split into three sections–Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise–and there is something for everyone.
Over the past 2 years, I’ve interviewed 200+ of the world’s best performers – everyone from super celebs (Jamie Foxx, Arnold Schwarzenegger, etc.) to athletes (icons of powerlifting, gymnastics, surfing, etc.), Special Ops commanders, and black-market biochemists. In this brand-new book, I painstakingly distilled the best tools and tactics you won’t find anywhere else, including at least 40% brand-new content and tips from experts. Even if you’ve heard every podcast episode, you’ll have 250-300 pages of new goodies.
Everything in this book has been applied to my own life. I’ve used many of the recommendations in high-stakes negotiations, high-risk environments, or large business dealings. The lessons have made me millions of dollars, remade my body, and saved me years of wasted effort. I wrote Tools of Titans, my ultimate notebook of high-leverage tools, for myself. It’s changed my life, and I hope the same for you.
Gifts Under $50
The Soma Bottle is the healthy way to stay hydrated everywhere. Made from high quality, shatter-resistant glass, with an easy grip protective sleeve, it’s perfectly designed to fit into your bag, your cup holder, and your life.
OK, this isn’t a sex toy, but it sure as hell looks like one. Kudos to Kelly Starrett, the supple (sexy?) leopard and PT to the stars, for thinking multi-purpose. I travel with the Gemini and use it often for my chest and paraspinals (muscles along the spine). To dumb, reckless people reading this: please do NOT stick this tool inside yourself.
A Zen-like Etch-a-Sketch. Use the included brush to paint designs onto the board with water. As the water evaporates, your image will fade within 30-60 seconds.. This is a great tool for learning to let go… or rekindling your artistic side. If you have 60 seconds a day, you have time for the Buddha Board.
I’ve needed Adidas slip-ons for years. No idea why it took me so long to get them. They’re perfect as indoor Japanese-style slippers, or for wearing outside when you don’t want flip-flops killing your toe webbing. I’m typing this, I’m wearing them with socks. #GermanStyle
The all-American Chemex is unique because of its thicker coffee filters, which are 20-35% thicker than the usual paper filters. This means they hold back more of the lipids and sediment that can result in bitter flavors, delivering an incredibly clean, sweet cup.
This was recommended to me by a Cirque du Soleil performer (Andrii Bondarenko) after I pulled my shoulder and lat. In the Ukraine, he used this type of mat daily after strenuous practice, particularly for back pain. I’ve found 6-10 minutes per session, 1-2 times per day, to have a near-miraculous effect on mid-back issues (and thoracic mobility, oddly). Could be placebo, of course. Start slow, my eager little friends. The “thorns” are sharp.
Gifts Under $100
Epsoak Epsom Salt — $58 (39.5 lbs.)
I take hot baths every night when at home in SF. Nearly always, I add epsom salt (typically 4-8 cups), which facilitates muscular relaxation and recovery. Rather than buy small boxes at CVS or Safeway, I buy in bulk and store it in rolling dog-food containers.
This was introduced to me by a Navy SEAL who enjoys sipping this nectar while disassembling and cleaning firearms (unloaded, obviously). It is VERY expensive, but I have no hangover or cognitive slowness the day after a big night, which makes it worth it. If looking for something less expensive but also easy on the brain, try “Hitori Musume” sake mentioned up above.
Use this manual hand grinder alongside the AeroPress and you can make an incredible cup of coffee on the go. I’ve used this grinder and the Porlex hand grinder. I like both but favor the Hario as A) it’s half the cost and B) it has a single-dose measurement on the plastic for eyeballing when you can stop grinding.
I originally got these as a gift from Huckberry, and they are now my go-to shorts for nearly everything. I swim in them (quick drying), I wear them while working at coffee shops, and you can even wear them to a nice dinner if you have decent shoes. Multi-purpose rocks.
I’ll keep this one short. I have hated flossing my entire life. Each year, I got a lecture from the dentist, and each year, I’d attempt flossing for 2-3 days and throw in the towel. No longer. Using the WaterPik in combination with the free Coach.me app got me to floss consistently for the first time. Now, I look forward to it. Weird.
Happy holidays, all!
Much love to you and yours…