One of my favorite things about the holidays is gift-hunting. Whether I’m looking for something to add to my own wish list, or shopping for others, I love trying to track down the perfect present. So as you can imagine, I enjoy taking part in iDB’s annual Holiday Gift Guide.
My picks this year consist of both fun and practical gift ideas, that have proven to be well-made and well-reviewed. As you might have guessed, many of the suggestions are tech-related, but I did make sure to include a few non-tech ideas for those that prefer non-gadget gifts.
GoPro Hero4 Silver
The so-called “big ticket” item on my list this year is the GoPro Hero4 Silver. These mountable, waterproof cameras aren’t just for wild surfing and skydiving stunts anymore. We bought one this past year and used it to capture priceless footage on our trip to Mexico, as well as at multiple weddings. It’s so small and rugged that you can take it virtually anywhere, and it’s so easy to use that you’ll actually… want to use it.
The Silver is the middle-of-the-road model in GoPro’s latest Hero4 lineup, situated between the $199 Session and the $499 Black. As with most multi-level product lines, there are pluses and minuses for each tier, but I think the Silver is the best choice for most people. It has a built-in touchscreen for easy navigation and takes crisp photos and videos. That being said, if you’re on a budget the Session is a fine option, or if 4K video is a must have, I’d point you to the Hero4 Black.
The GoPro Hero4 Silver is $399 and you can find it here. Want to go the extra mile? Grab this highly-reviewed GoPro accessory bundle complete with carrying case and virtually every mount you could ever need for $37 here.
Tom Bihn Synapse 25 backpack
Whether you’re a student, a parent, an outdoorsman or a casual traveler, everyone needs a good backpack. The problem is, not everyone has a good backpack, and that’s where Tom Bihn comes in. The Seattle-based company makes some of the most highly-regarded bags in the travel industry, thanks to their use of premium materials and classic good looks. “The longevity of our bags also encourages me to be somewhat cautious in terms of aesthetics: you want a bag that’s going to last for 10 or 20 years to be more or less classic” – Tom Bihn.
There are a few backpacks in the Bihn lineup, but I suggest getting the Synapse 25 for its organization and size. It has a carry volume of 1526 cubic inches (or 25 liters), meaning it can easily hold a weekend trip’s worth of clothes and accessories, but is light enough for every day use. And like all Bihn bags, the Synapse is made in the U.S.A and is covered under their lifetime guarantee against defects.
UE Boom Bluetooth Speaker
As evidenced by my last 3 Gift Guides, I think that a good Bluetooth speaker is one of the best gifts you can give someone. My pick this year is the UE Boom. It offers rich, 360-degree sound, up to 15 hours of battery life, and it allows you to connect up to 2 sources and 2 speakers at the same time. Perhaps its major selling points, though, are that it’s easy to use and extremely durable. Our Boom has gone on several trips with us over the past few years, sitting anywhere from fireside to poolside without issue.
If you can find the original UE Boom on sale, which it is at Best Buy right now for $119, I recommend that one. It’s in my opinion the best bang for your buck. But if the price you’re seeing is anywhere near $200, you might as well get the second-gen version. CNET says the improvement in sound isn’t night-and-day, but it’s noticeable.
You can find the UE Boom 2 here for $199.
American Giant Classic Full Zip Hoodie
Would you believe me if I told you that there was once a hoodie so soft and so comfortable that people would actually get on a several-month-long waiting list to get one? It’s true. In 2013, the Classic Full Zip Hoodie by San Francisco-based startup American Giant became so popular that back-order shipping estimates grew to as long as four months, and customers happily hopped in line.
While the frenzy may be over, AG’s Classic Hoodie is still available, and it still makes for an awesome gift. It’s made from 100% heavyweight durable cotton with combed ring-spun fleece, reinforced elbow patches and double needle straddle-stitching. In other words, these hoodies are built to last. And they look great too—no crazy logos or designs here. Just a classic look with a tailored, slim fit.
Syma X8C Venture Quadcopter
Drones don’t seem to be as popular as they were last year, but I still think they make for a fun holiday gift. My pick this year is the Syma X8C Venture Quadcopter. I have a Syma-branded drone myself, the X5C, and I couldn’t recommend them more. Mine has survived dozens of crashes and several harsh winter nights stuck in various places. It’s also very easy to fly and comes with a fair amount of features such as a built-in camera, with one-touch remote photo and video capture. I chose the X8C as my Gift Guide pick because it’s a bit larger and more powerful, and it comes with a better camera.
You can find the Syma X8C Venture Quadcopter here for $84.99. Side note, this is what I would call a “budget” or “beginner pick.” If the person you’re shopping for already has experience with a drone, I would point you to one of DJI’s Phantom quadcopters.
The words ‘gift basket’ used to mean stale crackers and bad cheese, but that’s just not the case anymore. Today it means everything from a crate of gear for the impending zombie apocalypse to a movie-night-in-a-box. There are literally hundreds of websites offering one-time and monthly subscription gift boxes of curated items, so if you can’t figure out what to get that special someone, let them help.
Contents and prices vary greatly from site to site, but I’ve listed some of my favorites below to help get you started.
Man Crates – as the name implies, man crates are essentially gift baskets for men. They start at $19.99, and there are several pre-made packages to choose from including NFL Barware, Pit-Master and Zombie Annihilation.
Loot Crate – this is a subscription service that promises to deliver the coolest stuff in pop culture and gaming right to your doorstep. The fees are cheap, starting at just $12 per month, but if you want to make this a one-time thing, they offer standalone gift baskets as well. Things you can expect in a Loot Crate include t-shirts, coffee mugs, action figures, comic books and Field Notes notebooks.
Cratejoy – a website that offers a wide variety of themed gift baskets and monthly subscription boxes. There is a lot to choose from here, but I really like the Movie Night Box, which comes with a critically acclaimed movie, time-stamped scene trivia and some sweet and salty snacks from artisan shops across the US.
Gifts under $50
Amazon Fire tablet – my default recommendation to anyone looking for a tablet is a newer iPad, but if that doesn’t fit your budget, you may want to check out the Amazon Fire. It’s a smaller, 7-inch tablet, and the specs are very low-end, but it’ll work just fine for most folks who want to read books, watch streaming content, surf the Internet and play games. You can find the Amazon Fire here for $49.99.
Victorinox Swiss Army Tinker Knife – well-made, useful tools make for great stocking stuffers, and a Swiss Army pocket knife more than fits that description. I have one that I use everyday to do things like open packages, remove tags and tighten loose screws. There are hundreds of models to choose from, but I particularly like the Tinker because it’s not too big and it includes a Phillips screwdriver. You can find it here for $19.99.
Timex Weekender Watch – whether you’re out camping, or relaxing in the yard, sometimes you just want to get off the grid for a bit with a good ole fashioned, non-smart watch. In this price range, I like the Timex Weekender. There are a variety of face and band combinations available, starting at just around $20, but I’m fond of the Expedition Scout for its rugged appearance. You can find the Weekender here for $22.99.
iTunes Gift Cards – as long as Apple continues to make Macs and iOS devices, iTunes Gift Cards will continue to be a staple stocking stuffer. You can buy them in various denominations, and they can be used to buy everything from apps and games, to movies and books. They are available at just about anywhere these days, but I always check Target before I buy, because they frequently have them on sale.
Roku Streaming Stick – similar to Bluetooth speakers, I think streaming devices make excellent gifts for folks who don’t have one. They can open up a whole new world of digital content and hours of casual gaming fun, making them the ultimate bang for your buck. My favorite device in this category is the $149 Apple TV, but in this price range, I would go with the Roku Streaming Stick for its physical remote control and wide selection of content. You can find it here for $39.99.
Yeti 10oz Rambler – this travel cup will keep your cold drinks cold and hot drinks hot for hours thanks to its 18/8 stainless steel construction and double wall vacuum insulation. The average user review goes something like “I started my day at 8am and by the time I got home at 6pm, my Yeti was still full of ice.” Any other time I’d recommend the larger 20oz or 30 oz Ramblers, but they are on backorder everywhere, so the the 10oz model is going to have to do. You can find it here for $22.99.
That about does it. Hopefully these suggestions have given you a few new gift ideas, but if not, that’s ok too. Sebastien and the rest of the iDB crew will be along shortly with their own recommendations. And as always, feel free to leave your own ideas and other feedback down in the comments below.