This post has been updated for 2020.
As you may have guessed, this is more or less a gift guide for my husband, Chris. And I suppose I should clarify: it’s not that he buys himself a ton of stuff, all willy nilly. It’s that he’s a bit more of a minimalist than I am — and extremely particular about what he likes. So when he realizes he has the need for something, he researches the heck out of it, and then he buys it. Done. He’s not baited by promos or sales. He’s not particularly trendy. And he despises the accumulation of extra stuff.
And then there’s me. I take pride in giving Really. Freaking. Good. Gifts. No Starbucks gift cards here, friends. (OK, well, for my stepdad, yes, but only because he requests them, I swear.) So imagine the challenge I face attempting to buy gifts for a partner who not only doesn’t need anything, but also doesn’t particularly want anything new.
Thoughtful Gifts For Men Who Have Everything
The result? This super-tightly curated list of gifts that Chris never even knew he needed. (And actually, a few of these are things he already has, so I know they pass the test.) Mostly practical. Thoughtfully designed. (Did I mention he’s an engineer?) A little bit nerdy. And not a bit of junk.
Pssst…When you’re done here, head to our page of holiday gift guides for more seriously cool gift ideas for all your loved ones (or whoever).
1) Packable Backpack // This surprisingly spacious daypack packs down to something like the size of a CD jewel case (remember those?) — perfect for travel, stashing in the glove box for unexpected adventuring, camping, backpacking. Basically all the low-key, crowdless 2020-21 adventuring you can think of. The perfect price point for a stocking stuffer and LOADS of colors.
2) Walkie Talkies // If I’ve learned anything from post-apocalyptic young adult novels, it’s that my cell phone isn’t going to mean diddly in a dystopian future. And really, here in the land of earthquakes, power outages and rural internet, backup connectivity is pretty key. These aren’t the most high-end walkie talkies on the market, but after a fair bit of research, they do what they claim to do really well for a reasonable price (and also allow you to scan up to 10 weather channels to monitor severe weather alerts). He’ll keep ’em in the Earthquake pack if nothing else.
3) LEGO Technic Porche 911 // Chris will always have a soft spot for LEGOs (we both had impressive collections that we’ve since passed down to Lana), and this is something he’d totally geek out over but never buy himself. Bonus points for the fact that he’d love involving Lana in the build. And it’s chic enough upon completion that he could display it in the home office without much complaint from me.
4) Pendleton Water Repellent Cotton Hooded Jacket // I stumbled across this jacket while looking for the ladies’ equivalent for myself: a raincoat that doesn’t necessarily look like a raincoat. We both have anoraks, ski jackets and high-end waterproof performance apparel, but sometimes you just want to stay dry without looking particularly outdoorsy. This would be the perfect topper over Chris’ generally biz-casual work wardrobe — and a stylish piece to grab for foggy strolls on the coast, too.
5) Hydroflask Wine Tumbler // Speaking of strolls on the coast, we reach for this wine tumbler for evening walks to see the sunset, trick o’ treating, caroling, dropping into a block party or just keeping our chardonnay chilled on beach days. Basically we have a lot of opportunities to walk around the neighborhood with booze in hand, and this is for that. (Also available as a mug — pictured in the image up top — when coffee or tea is more appropriate.)
6) Nisolo Waxed Leather Boot // Chris already has one pair of Nisolo boots, and he loves them. I love everything the brand is doing in terms of fair wages and transparency, and the quality can’t be beat. The waxed leather makes these weatherproof, and the Vibram sole means they’d take a serious beating, and yet they still look cool enough for the office. Definitely the perfect multi-tasking shoe for big city living or logging major miles traveling.
7) Aesop Hand Wash // Admittedly a little (a lot) spendy for a bottle of hand soap, which is why it makes such a lovely gift. Both scents smell incredible — fresh and slightly masculine and not at all cologne-y — and the finely milled pumice suspended in the soap makes for a mini spa treatment every time you wash your hands. (Would be a fun housewarming gift, too, with a cool set of hand towels. We have these and are asked about them by literally everyone who uses the powder room. SO SOFT.)
8) nest Thermostat Temperature Sensors // These have to be used in conjunction with a nest Thermostat, but they essentially allow you to register the temperature for multiple rooms in your house and then set the thermostat to respond accordingly. (Lana’s room runs warm, for example, so in the evening we have the thermostat set to use her sensor so it doesn’t waste time and energy warming up the rest of the house and overheating her room in the process.) Nerdy, practical and cool. Perfect.
9) The North Face Rolling Luggage // I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this is the best piece of luggage I have personally owned. I’ve had it for something like 10 years, it’s been all over the world, and it’s not suffered in the least. There’s nothing fancy about it, but it wipes clean, rolls like a gem, stows easily, resists water — and its cavernous single main compartment, which initially feels like a bit of a shortcoming, is brilliant in its simplicity. (Packing cubes to the rescue if you’re craving more organization.)
10) Blunt Metro Umbrella // Just a really, really well-designed and executed umbrella that’s been tested for up to 55 mph winds and comes in plenty of tasteful colors. Bought one for Chris last year, and he agrees it’s the perfect gift. We now have one in each car. (Also in a larger size at Nordstrom.)
11) Pendleton Washable Wool Blanket // A luxe *washable* wool blanket that would be campy and classic over the end of a bed, but I love it even more for stashing in the car for road trips, unexpected picnic stops, beach trips, camping, impromptu star-gazing (before kids this was a thing, I swear…) — you get it. This buffalo plaid pattern is going fast, but I love the classic Camp Plaid, too.
12) Kiehl’s Men’s Groom-On-The-Go Gift Set (on sale!) // All the men in our family have become diehard Kiehl’s fans, and this Gift Set includes four stocking-stuffer sizes of the products Chris routinely reaches for. (I even buy the face wash for myself — it’s such an invigorating face wash, especially while traveling.) Total no-brainer.
13) Hand Out Pro Ski Glove // The premise of these gloves makes so much sense — they unzip so you can free your fingers for full dexterity, as needed, without having to actually remove your glove. Anyone who’s ever tried to check their phone on a ski lift while tucking one glove under their arm and then getting said glove back on and appropriately cinched and tucked before the bar goes up can appreciate the genius of this design.
14) Benchmade Pocket Knife // This knife was one of the gifts I gave Chris for our first Christmas together, and he still uses it all the time. It’s invaluable when camping, but it also comes with us on all sorts of daily adventures, just in case. (It’s also opened hundreds of Amazon boxes over the years.) A good, mid-priced blade from a super-reputable manufacturer that stands the test of time.
15) Levi’s 511 Slim Jeans // I’ve written about it before, but 90% of the pants in Chris’ closet are Levis 511s. Between a skinny and a straight, they are literally the perfect cut for his build. (For reference, he’s 6’2″ with a slim-to-athletic frame.) They’re available in loads of washes and fabrics (literally everything from dark rinse and black denim to more chino-inspired trousers) — and he loves them all. I particularly like this medium wash — it breaks in perfectly.
16) Nisolo Waxed Canvas Weekender // A weekender is such an easy piece of luggage — it doesn’t feel as formal to pack up as a rollie, and lugging one around somehow looks…cool. (Even if you’re keeping your getaways real low-key and local this year.) This one from Nisolo (told you I’m loving the brand) is super-classic in its styling, and it’s made from waxed canvas, which is nice departure from leather but no less durable.
5 More “Gifts for Him” Worth Mentioning (Chris-Approved)
Somehow, these didn’t make it onto the list when I was first putting it together, but I have to add a few pieces Chris has picked up recently that he specifically endorsed for the Ultra-Picky.
See more of this jacket (and Chris!) in all its glory in this post. Arc’teryx pieces can be a bit of an investment, but they’re super-technically designed and the fit is front of mind. (Plus, this one is 30% off!) Chris says it’s always the right temperature — never too hot, but plenty warm when it needs to be, so it’s easy to grab without overthinking things too much. And he noted that Arc’teryx collars and hoods are perfectly proportioned so they look “cool and not dorky” zipped up. Cozy 850-fill goose down, and yet it’s still compressible and packs into its own pocket. Lots of colors, too. Fit is TTS.
Chris has loads of Vans. Practically collects them. (OK, we all do.) These are the classic Sk8 Hi sneaks, but with a bit more of a winterized, on-trail edge. They’re lined, with a more insulative layer on the insole, weather-proofing and a grippier sole. Easily his most-worn shoe in the winter. He’s even been using them for après ski for years, so he can confirm they hold up in true cold weather conditions. Would be such a great gift. TTS.
I recently bought this hand cream for myself (more on that in my recent Nordstrom Beauty post), and it’s quickly become the favorite hand cream of the house. (Read: Chris nabbed it from me.) It’s truly non-scented, non-greasy and fast absorbing. No, really. No greasy phone screens or computers. In a land of very frequent handwashing, it’s essential. I love the metal tube, too. Feels very clinical, in a cool way. And just enough of a splurge (well, for hand cream) to be gift-worthy.
Chris has a past-season version of this and has used it for 90% of our travel for the past 10 years. It has backpack straps that stash when not in use (super-handy if you have to walk a ways from the metro to your hotel — awh, I miss travel) and is roomy enough for a fews days’ clothes and toiletries, and there’s a padded laptop sleeve and loads of pockets.
I know, we’ve all waxed poetic about our Nespresso machines before, but Chris insists this is The Best Gift I’ve Ever Given Him. So. Here it is again. This is the exact Nespresso machine + milk frother combo that we have, and after nine years, it looks like it’s finally on clearance. (Yay for you!) I have ZERO complaints about this machine. It has held up to daily use for almost a decade (and triple-daily use this past year) — and with a little Original Oatly in the milk frother (we are Oatly die-hards), it’s coffee house-quality every time. Easily worth the initial investment. Oohhhh, and if you have just a wee bit more in your budget, the newer Nespresso Citiz version looks very Euro-chic.
I’m always looking for ideas to add to this list, so if you have hole-in-one gifts for your, uhhhh, particularly particular partners or friends, I’d love to hear.
Guys! Follow me on Instagram for more peeks into our life on the Northern California coast. And if you feel so inclined, pop over to my personal food + lifestyle blog, The Pig & Quill, where I share salty scribblings from my kitchen and home life. Byeeeeee!