I don’t have a problem with gift guides, exactly. I have a problem with crappy gift guides. When it comes to gifts, it’s the thought that counts. And the enemy of thoughtfulness is generalization.
The problem is that most gift guides don’t give guys enough credit. They assume that you’re completely at a loss as to how the women in your life – your mom, your sister, your friend, your co-worker, your boss, your girlfriend/fiancée/spouse/partner – like to spend their time. So they tell you that most women want perfume, jewelry, makeup, soap, or candles.
Well, yes, sort of. Many of us like *specific* perfume, jewelry, makeup, soap, or candles. Certain brands, certain scents, certain colors, certain styles.
But that’s not ALL we like. One of my friends is an incredible knitter. Another is a serious runner. Another could give Ina Garten a run for her money. It’s these interests that make us unique, and a gift that acknowledges those interests (and helps us pursue them) is going to be far more appreciated (and used) than a Generic Lady Gift.
Now, if there’s a fragrance, necklace, lipstick, etc. that you know one of the women on your list would love, go get her that. But don’t get it just because it’s a Generic Lady Gift. Get it because it speaks to a specific aspect of her preferences and personality.
Below, some original gifts for the people in your life (who just happen to be women).
Que Collapsible Water Bottle
When space is at a premium, even a few inches can make all the difference. This lightweight, 100% plastic-free container is considerate of both your giftee’s carry-on and the environment.
OMG or OG Overnight Bag
Lo & Sons, $193 (OMG) or $203 (OG)
I’m team All Carry On, All The Time, and it’s astonishing how much stuff you can cram into even the smaller version of this low-profile, high-performance bag. Plenty of pockets and compartments make it easy to find your stuff, and the sleeve that slips over your suitcase handle makes sprinting for a connecting flight a breeze. If one-shoulder or crossbody bags aren’t your giftee’s style, you can’t go wrong with the Hanover Backpack ($90).
It might sound a little (or a lot) dorky, but organizing your suitcase makes living out of your luggage for days or weeks at a time much, much easier. And if your giftee likes doing any shopping while she’s out of town, the chic Paravel Fold-up Bag ($60) that packs down to the size of a tablet is a travel must for the trip home.
Few things are as anxiety inducing as watching your phone’s battery get lower and lower, knowing you’re too far from an outlet to save it from powering down. This device harnesses the power of the sun itself, and also functions as an emergency flashlight.
Second to a chef’s knife, a peeler can be one of the most useful (or useless) tools in the kitchen. Switching to a Y-peeler was nothing short of life-changing; this one combines three blades in a single device, making it easy to switch between traditional peeling, julienning vegetables, and peeling soft fruits.
The top chefs have knife skills that most of us can only dream of – but they also have an army of sous chefs to do all the dirty work. A mandoline makes slicing, shredding, and grating mountains of ingredients much easier.
Margrethe Nested Mixing Bowls & Specialty Lids
Food52, $95 (Small bowl & lids set) or $115 (Large bowl & lids set)
The original Margrethe mixing bowl was dreamed up by Danish industrial designer Jacob Jensen, whose functional touches (handle, pour spout, anti-slip ring on the base) enhance the bowl’s sturdy yet lightweight construction to create the perfect vessel for pretty much everything from egg whites to ganache (it’s also heat-resistant up to 158F). The regular lids are great for storage – no more plastic wrap! – but the special lids for grating and immersion blending truly make prep a breeze.
Salt Fat Acid Heat
The titular “elements of good cooking” are a hit Netflix series and the Winner of the 2018 James Beard Award for Best General Cookbook. Salt Fat Acid Heat is more about techniques than recipes (although it also contains recipes), so anyone who enjoys learning the “why” as well as the “how” will enjoy getting a glimpse of the science of delicious food.
The Fitness Enthusiast
Gym Bro Bag
Flag Nor Fail, $68
Yes, it says “Bro” in the name, but I have it and love it. This bag is designed for weightlifters, as the belt slots indicate, but it’s also a very good “stuff it all in and go” type of bag. The separate shoe compartment comes in handy, as do the neoprene-lined section, hidden laptop compartment, and multiple pockets for all the small crap one needs.
TRX Suspension Training System
Amazon, $150 ($110 with coupon at checkout)
It’s tough to give recs for exercise lovers, because runners, bikers, lifters, yogis, etc., all tend to have very specific gear preferences. Or already have a lot stuff they like. The TRX rig is one set that is universally liked (or at least grudgingly acknowledged as painfully effective) for all sorts of cross-training. There are moves for every need and skill level, and it makes a good minimalist gym set-up on the go.
Shiatsu Massage Chair Pad
Aches and knots are an accepted consequence of working out, but that doesn’t make them fun. Myofascial release (a fancy way of saying “applying pressure to sore spots”) hurts, but it hurts so good. The Trigger Point Vibrating Massage Roller ($77) is a great portable option.
Travel Sport Bottle Blender
This powerful blender makes it easy to hit those #macros or turn fruits and veggies into delicious shakes. Everything gets whirred up in the sport bottle, so there’s one less piece to wash. Nice.
International Rescue Committee
International Rescue Committee offers a range of Rescue Gifts that provide people in need with the necessary resources to rebuild their lives. Dedicate a gift to a friend or loved one and make the world a little brighter for them and many others.
Founded on the “teach a man to fish” proverb, Heifer is working to turn hunger into hope through strengthening local economies, empowering women, and teaching sustainable farming techniques. Families who benefit from Heifer become donors in turn, passing on the help they receive to others in their community.
Fair Trade Coffee
Banshee + Cinder, $20 per pound
Building a better world is hard work as it is, and attempting that feat uncaffeinated would be unthinkable. Enter Banshee + Cinder, which offers sustainably sourced coffee that’s 100% organic, fair trade, and Rainforest Alliance certified. Each roast is created exclusively for this small, woman-owned business. Choose the blend, roast, and grind, and pair with some upgraded coffee tools and gadgets from our Coffee Lover’s Gift Guide.
Succulent Jewel Garden
Lula’s Garden, $35
Plants are said to promote serenity and peace of mind; this beautifully designed miniature planter is also designed to improve the lives of those other than the recipient. Each sale helps fund organizations around the world that provide access to safe water.
Cairn Subscription Box
Get Cairn, $60 (1 standard box) to $1,000 (4 premium boxes)
Help the adventurer in your life discover new gear, apparel, snacks, and more. You can select anywhere from a single month to an entire year’s worth of outdoor-themed surprises; the recipient will fill out a profile to ensure she’s only getting items she’ll like and use.
Performance Socks 4-pack
Socks are usually near the top of the “bad gift” list, but I’ve never understood why – as long as you’re giving GOOD socks. Anyone who’s ever spent a long run or hike with wet feet or developing blisters knows the value of socks that stay up, cushion high-friction areas, and wick away heat and moisture. Like these. Plus, Bombas donates one pair for every pair purchased.
Shoe and Boot Dryer
Okay, so there might be a bit of a “wet feet are bad” theme, but…wet feet ARE bad, okay? Unless your recipient has multiple pairs of her favorite hiking boots or sneakers, she’ll appreciate being able to quickly dry out (and deodorize) her footwear. So she can get them all wet and muddy again the next day.
The Original Sand-free Mat
Amazon, $51 (6’ x 6’) to $130 (12’ x 12’)
This durable ground sheet was originally developed as a heli mat for the military, so it can certainly stand up to whatever camping trips, picnics in the park, and days at the beach can throw at it. Watch the video on Amazon, it’s pretty neat how it works.
Sloth Heating/Cooling Pad
Urban Outfitters, $30
Sometimes you just gotta lean into the desire to surround yourself with warmth and coziness for a few…months. This adorable little sloth can be stuck in the microwave or fridge, so it’s also great for soothing muscle cramps and headaches.
Toast Hand Warmers
Whether it’s an office or an apartment, being where you aren’t in full control of the thermostat is the stuff of nightmares. These snuggly little fingerless mitts keep chilly hands warm, without restricting her freedom to type, write, knit, play the guitar…anything that’s hard to do with gloves on.
Faux Fur Throw Blanket
Nothing says “Queen of the Frozen North” like a luxuriously soft faux fur blanket. This will 100% get worn as a cape when you’re not around, and maybe even when you are.
Hot Chocolate on a Stick
Amazon, $38 for 12
Cute packaging. Delicious results. Simply stir into a mug of hot milk. Plus, if you heat the milk, your recipient doesn’t even have to leave the comfort of her couch (and cocoon of blankets) to enjoy an indulgent treat. Fancy marshmallows are a nice add-on.
Deco Stacking Game
West Elm, $130
Take everyone’s favorite beer garden game, render it in crystal-clear acrylic, and suddenly it’s a fancy design accent? Yes! These grown-up building blocks look great stacked up on an end table or cascading over the living room rug.
Cocktail Aromatics Bourbon Lover’s Set
Most of what we “taste” is actually what we smell. This set of distinctive “edible scents” – sweet, citrusy, herbaceous, smokey – will add a special dimension of fragrance and flavor to a bourbon lover’s beverage of choice.
Electric Bottle Opener
Hosting a get-together is difficult enough even without struggling with a stubborn cork in front of dozens of friends and family members. Boasting the ability to open 30 bottles on a single charge, this opener should be more than enough for all but the rowdiest of holiday bacchanals. Include a bottle or two of their favorite vintage for an extra-nice touch.
Üllo Wine Purifier
Just pop this simple, sculptural purifier on the top of a wine glass or decanter and pour – it filters out sulfites (a common culprit for wine-induced headaches) and results in a smoother, more delicious tasting experience. Bonus: the built-in aerator means that your recipient doesn’t have worry if they forgot to let their favorite red “breathe” before serving. (Probably a good idea to include a bottle to test this on, too.)