There’s a just-right gift for everyone on your list. Here are the products that turned my head and perked up my ears this year, along with the personality types I think will love them. With brilliant innovations and winning design, these objects d’wow will bring style, sophistication and excellent taste to your roster of gift recipients and seal your status as the ultimate Secret Santa. This is what’s hot (and very, very cool) this 2017 holiday season.
For the Urban Explorer
Thousand Helmets, created here in Los Angeles, makes vintage-inspired headgear with chic and thoughtful modern touches. To put it another way, this is accident protection that won’t make you look like a goober. As with all its models, the limited edition Stay Gold ($95) has a secret peephole that lets you string a coil lock through the helmet to fasten it safely to the bike (Get this: Thousand will replace the helmet if it’s stolen). A magnet clip secures the unit to the chin along with hip “leather” straps that are actually vegan. The top-of-the-line Epoch collection comes in Scandinavian wood grain that makes every bike commute feel like a stylish spin through Denmark.
For the Pro On the Go
Be everywhere from anywhere with Skyroam’s puck-like SolisSkyroam Solis is a mobile hotspot that delivers wi-fi almost anywhere you are in the world. The bright orange hockey puck design uses a per diem pricing model, which means you buy usage only on days you need it. At under $10 a day and with service in more than 100 countries, the USB-rechargeable unit lets you stay connected and working virtually everywhere, and without needing to hunt down signal bars (or coffee bars). The device costs $149.99, plus $9 per 24-hour day pass. You can connect up to five devices simultaneously. Until international data plans get folded into the monthly phone bill, the Solis is an uncomplicated way to travel without losing touch.
For the Chill Griller
Stephen and Chris Muscarella, the brothers who founded The Field Company, inherited some vintage iron pans from their grandmother’s side of the family, and couldn’t understand why modern cookware didn’t measure up. With a 1930s Wagner pan in hand, the Muscarellas went around to foundries to recreate a new version as light and smooth as the original. Through trial and error and consultations with a European metals expert, they invented the Field Skillet, a pan 25 percent lighter than most, and with a finer finish for perfect searing. The $100 #8 Field Skillet works as well on gas, electric or induction burners as it does on a campfire. In 2016, the idea hit a nerve on Kickstarter. The Muscarellas set a goal of $30,000 and overshot that funding number by $1.6 million. Grandma would certainly be proud.
For the Exacting Gourmand
The Joule sous vide immersion circulator will instantly become your favorite kitchen tool. Seattle-based startup ChefSteps created a sleek cylinder that’s half the weight of other sous vide devices and ridiculously easy to use. The wand heats a pot of water to a specified temperature and keeps it there so you can cook foods at a consistent temperature without a chance of . All you do is Ziplock and submerge your beef, poultry, fish or vegetables, and let the Joule do the rest. It’s all controlled through a Bluetooth phone app that gives you cooking temperatures and visual guides for doneness. For a finishing sear, toss it quickly on a hot griddle or that cast iron pan I just mentioned. Honestly, the device can change everything about the way you cook, and you’ll never turn out another rubber chicken or tuna steak again. ChefSteps recently introduced an accessory clamp that works on large coolers (and, yes, one Joule can heat the water for a partyload of steaks and chops). $199 + $24 for the clamp.
For the Footloose and Fancy-Free
Dead Soxy is a Dallas-based company makes the first socks that actually last. Founder Jason Simmons couldn’t stand the way standard socks stretch, develop holes and slip off the heel, so he set out to design pairs guaranteed never to shrink, fade, slip or loose elastically. Recycled poly-blend yarns let your feet breathe while providing comfort and durability. The socks are antimicrobial and odor free, and look cool, too. But don’t take my word for it. Dead Soxy is the only company ever to offer a money back guarantee if their socks fail. And you thought buying socks for the holidays was boring! From $14.
For the Trash Talker
This is the kind of trash talk I enjoy, actually. Simplehuman’s rectangular sensor bin with voice and motion detection opens with the wave of a chicken-gooped hand or an audible, “Open can!” The 58-liter receptacle has enough packing room for a week’s worth of family recyclables or one very big Christmas dinner. It’s not just a rubbish collector; the bin actually sparks excitement and conversation–and not just between you and the can. Guests want to try it, dogs try to wag it open, kids find rhymes to make it work (“Broken man!” also lifts the lid). $250.
For the Intelligent Biker
I spotted the SmartHalo for sale at an Apple Store this fall and see it as the future of intelligent bike connectivity. The handlebar-mounted security and navigation system contains a visual speedometer, fitness tracker, compass, light, theft-deterrent alarm, and turn-by-turn directional display. I love the minimalist look and ingenious use of 25 LED lights that keep you safe, get you where you’re going, and alert criminals to go find another bike to steal. $150. You sort of have to see it operating to understand it, so here’s the video.
For the Security Hound
Nest pioneered home thermostats and visual doorbells. But it was the Nest Cam outdoor security camera ($149) I saw at a friend’s house that got my envy buttons a-poppin’. On the surface, Nest Cam is a video device that saves 10 to 30 days of continuous history in the cloud. But it’s more like your very own private security detail. Say some creepy guy shows up at your door while you’re away. You get a phone alert that directs you to your phone feed where you see the dude sneaking around. You speak into the app and, pow, the terrified offender runs away. Nest Cam IQ ($249) takes protection a step further. It can tell a person from, say, a pesky raccoon, and it even recognizes faces. The IQ’s speaker also has more volume–to really scare the pants off the rat fink who tries to jimmy open your door.
For the Fairest of them All
Simplehuman makes a second appearance on the list, this time for the ultimate travel mirror. I was tipped off to the device by a million-miler type who can’t go anywhere without the five-inch-round, ten-times magnification mirror. What sets it apart for her, she said, is Simplehuman’s sensor-activated Tru-lux lighting system that allows you to see subtle variations in makeup color. It folds up neatly into a zippered black travel bags and packs flat at two pounds. A single charge keeps the unit energized for five weeks. $130.
For the Vrooming Groomer
Exactly how rapid is the BaBylissPRO Rapido hairdryer? Consider this: its ultralight, 2,000-watt engine is made by Ferrari. My months-long search for “the perfect hairdryer” this year led me to this well-reviewed, stylist-level product that boasts a 50 percent faster drying time and 50 percent quieter operation at 40 percent less weight than other dryers. It also claims up to 10,000 hours of life at full power, which puts this thing in true Gladwellian outlier territory. $179.99 at StyleSource.com.
For the Smart Fryer
I’m not usually someone who buys those “as seen on TV” products, but after our friend Cindy made dinner for us out of an airfryer she impulse-bought one late night, I was all in. Air is the new oil, apparently. These compact machines let you fry in a healthier way with up to 75% less fat. The best of the bunch is Philips HD9641/96. More than 7 million of these units have sold worldwide, and for good reason. You get to enjoy your favorite foods by heating them up to 400 degrees with a mere tablespoon or less of oil. Hot air never tasted so good. $299.
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