Shopping For the Hard-to-Shop-For Guy
Well good grief my friends. The holidays are already upon us. The summer and fall just FLEW. BY. And now it’s almost December. Time to start thinking of Christmas gifts. And that means shopping for family and significant others.
My fiance is not easy to shop for. He likes some computer games, he likes hiking, he likes food, and tools, our dog, and building bonfires. He doesn’t make stuff for fun, he reads, but he buys his own books, and while he always gets needed clothing for Christmas, this year I wanted to get him something different and fun.
So I did a search for “manly gift ideas” and got results like recipes for beard oil and/or wax (apparently it makes your whiskers not grind your lady friend’s face off when you kiss?), coffee ground and whisky soap, beer- and sports-related stuff, leather luggage for hundreds of dollars, cuff links, and ties. WHAT. All of those ideas are terrible (except for leather luggage, but who has the cash lying around to get that?). And so stereotypical – most were related to coffee, alcohol, beards, suits, and/or sports. What do you get for a guy who doesn’t drink coffee, isn’t that into alcohol, is clean-shaven (but doesn’t do old-fashioned straight razors), doesn’t like sports, and hates suits and ties? Tools? How do you keep track of what he already has???
I decided to put together a list of ideas for others. My fiance, and some of the other guys in my life, have a lot of these already (but not all! Shhh! Don’t tell them!), and I thought I would share the wisdom. It should also be noted that most of these gifts are completely unisex and can be given to anyone who is hard to shop for and who has a practical bent. In fact, I love and use some of these gifts myself. So here it is:
12 Practical, They’ll-Actually-Use-It Gifts for Anyone, but Mostly Men
1. A pocket knife.
Be it Swiss army, folding Bowie, tough utility knife with built-in box cutter, or pearl-handled reproduction 18th century pen knife, knives are handy for opening boxes (and presents!), cutting up an apple, slicing through a piece of rope or string, whittling a marshmallow roasting stick, and lord knows what else. My fiance likes this one from Kobalt. The blades lock in place and its all-metal construction means its super-durable (he has an older one that is just the razor blade and the knife, but they don’t make that one anymore).
2. A heavy duty phone case.
If the man you’re shopping for is anything like my fiance, he drops his phone more often than he should, often with detrimental-to-the-phone results. Most phone service providers don’t have a wide selection of phone cases, and they can be really expensive, so it’s worth a quick internet search to find something more durable. I’m thinking about getting my fiance this one (Shhhh! Don’t tell him!).
3. Fleece-lined wool gloves with leather palms.
I mean, only if you live where it’s cold. Wool is the warmest fabric, but some people find it too scratchy. By getting fleece-lined wool gloves you get the best of both worlds and leather palms help you hold onto the steering wheel while your car heater is warming up on the way to work. Plus, if your significant other gets cold hands, they have the unfortunate tendency to want to warm them up on YOU, so…. it’s a semi-selfish gift. These ones are pretty nice. I live near an army-navy surplus store where I can get them for cheaper, which is a good thing, because my fiance wears them so much they wear out. He’s gone totally through one pair and his other two pairs both have holes in them (guess what he’s getting for Christmas this year!). If the man in your life does a lot of outdoors work that needs fine motor skills (like working on cars), consider getting him a pair of insulated mechanic’s gloves.
4. An external hard drive.
These handy little suckers can be a bit expensive, but for the person who never backs up their computer they can be a lifesaver. Especially effective if accompanied by a promise to help back up the computer. I’m not going to recommend a certain kind because ours isn’t available on the market anymore (we bought it several years ago), but you can get a whole terabyte (yes, TERABYTE) of space for around $50. That’s thousands of photos and probably hundreds of thousands of documents. Filler ‘er up!
5. Microwavable hand and foot warmers.
For the DIY-er. My fiance is always cold (maybe because he’s tall?), so these are going on the to-do list. Want the directions? Visit Kimberly at Fox Hollow Cottage.
6. A high-powered LED flashlight with spare rechargeable batteries.
My fiance and I and his brother each have one of these and we love them. They are perfect for nighttime dog walks, lighting up the car for everything from oil changes to troubleshooting, and looking for lost things under the bed. This one isn’t cheap, but it’s really high quality and we love the three that we have. The only thing? Don’t lose them. Their small size makes them easy to misplace, so use that clip it comes with and give them a designated spot to live, so you can always find them easily. Because when you lose them (and you will – hopefully only temporarily), you will really miss them! Other flashlights literally pale in comparison.
7. Ceramic and silicone travel mug.
I have one of these and I love it. The silicone protects your hands and makes a decent seal (but not spill-proof) on top and the ceramic is easy to clean. So if you know a guy who, like me, has a tendency to leave hot beverages out for several days to get cold (and potentially moldy), get this easy-to-scrub mug. This particular brand is also microwave and dishwasher safe. Perfect for coffee, tea, hot cider, or the fiance’s favorite – white hot chocolate.
8. Ratchet Straps.
Does the man in your life haul things on top of his vehicle like a canoe, mattress, bookcase, lumber, or Christmas tree? Does he have a trailer or hitch rack he needs to secure things like luggage, a tool box, a bicycle, jetski, or snowmobile to? Or a pick-up truck or hatch-back he needs to secure things in? Ratchet straps are his savior. These babies hold way more securely than bungee cords and/or rope and once they’re tightened down, they’re easier to remove. These look like nice ones.
9. DIY first aid kit.
When we first started hiking, we looked at buying a first aid kit for our pack, but the $10 ones didn’t have much in them and the more advanced versions were not only big and bulky, they were also really expensive for what you got. So for like $15, we built our own. First, buy a water-proof resealable food box. We liked these snap-able lid ones. Then buy bandaids, sterile gauze, athletic tape, antiseptic ointment, a travel bottle of liquid biodegradable soap (like unscented Dr. Bronner’s), a sewing needle and thread, matches, travel ibuprofen or aspirin, a pocket mirror, and whatever else you think would be handy to have and would fit. Be sure to remove everything from its box and pack loose bandaids, gauze, tape, and matches (don’t forget a striker!) in zippered plastic bags in the event that moisture gets inside the box or your liquid soap leaks. Even if you’re not a hiker, it’s handy to carry one of these in your car in case of emergency. To make a first aid kit into a survival kit, get a bigger container and add a couple of those foil emergency blankets (they really do work), some flares, a compass, a pocket knife (if you don’t carry your own) and/or wire saw, water purification tablets, and some long-storing, lightweight foods like vacuum-packed tuna, energy bars, hard candy, and dried fruit. Just don’t forget to change out the food every year or two (impromptu survivalist picnic, anyone?).
10. Anti-fatigue floor mat.
If the guy you’re shopping for spends a lot of time on his feet, get him one of these. I got this for my future father-in-law for Christmas a few years ago because his garage has a gravel/dirt floor and he spends a lot of time working on all of our cars (including mine), the tractor, mower and a variety of other machinery. Which means a lot of time on his knees and back. Mechanic’s dollies wouldn’t roll on that surface. But then I saw this in the tool section of Sears one day and went for it. This inexpensive gift was HANDS DOWN his favorite gift ever. His cousins and friends rave over it when they visit the garage and he says oil wipes up off of it like a charm and dirt can be just hosed off. His only complaint? It curls a bit in the cold. If you know someone who spends a lot of time under cars or other equipment, on their feet or knees doing woodwork or anything else in a workshop with a hard floor, this is the way to go. Apparently they can also be used to cushion your floors from exercise equipment. Who knew?
11. Unscented super-moisturizing hand cream.
This was another surprise hit for the future father-in-law. Anyone who works with their hands, is outdoors a lot, or has to wash their hands a lot (like medical professionals or people in food service) would appreciate this unscented hand cream. A little goes a long way and it’ll get more use than you think. Get this well-reviewed brand here.
12. Stainless steel insulated water bottle.
We have one for cold beverages only that we take on hikes. Even on 90+ degree days, ice water stays ICY cold for hours and hours and it collects far less condensation (mostly none) than regular water bottles. Plus, the stainless steel is easier to clean and more durable than plastic. This one which does both hot and cold drinks looked nice. Even nicer than ours, which does not have a convenient handle to slip a carabiner through. So if the man you’re shopping for works out, works outside, hikes, runs, bicycles, camps, or takes his lunch to work, this is a nice little investment.
Okay, that concludes our list. Readers, do you have any other man-friendly gift ideas that will actually get used?