I'm a 39-year-old dad, husband, woodworker, and writer. A huge part of my job involves evaluating products, so I think I've developed a pretty keen eye when it comes to tracking down the best-of-the-best - whether that's something as mundane as the best nail clippers (you'll find them here), or the most comfortable pair of boots (hint, they're also here, and they're ridiculous).
I'm happy to share a few dozen of the best things I own here - these are things I use nearly every day, things that have made my life at least a little bit easier, or better. I've even tossed in a few ingenious finds that I don't own just yet, but can't wait to try. Whether you're in search of some great finds for yourself, or just desperate to find a Father's Day or birthday gift for that Dad in your life that he'll actually use, I think you'll find plenty of great options in the article below.
Maybe it's a "Dad Thing", but there's something immensely satisfying about a well-crafted tool, and they don't come much better crafted than this Rotring 600 pencil. I've got one in silver and one in black (one for the wood shop, one for the house), and I love them. They're heavy, basically indestructible, and just get better looking the more you use them.
I believe I've convinced nearly everybody I know to buy a pair of these Harperton nail clippers. They're constructed of heavy-duty stainless steel, with ultra-sharp cutting blades that give a perfectly crisp, clean cut - which was a revelation after getting by with dollar-store clippers for most of my life. An absolute steal at around $10 for the pair.
I've always claimed that I "don't care" about what pillows I use, but these Beckham hotel pillows have spoiled me. The two pillows arrived in a strangely small box. About 15 minutes after unpacking them, they lofted into the fullest, squishiest pillows I've owned. They're the perfect mix of invitingly soft, yet perfectly supportive. Easily the best pillows in our house, and a ridiculous value for the price.
I held off for a long time on Airpods, but after a fantasy football season victory, I made the splurge about three years ago. North of $150 seemed like a steep price for a pair of headphones, but I loved them so much (and so quickly), I spent the rest of my winnings on a second pair for my wife (b/c I'm the husband of the year). Now they're often available for around $99 (a steal at that price). I use them all the time, everywhere: Zoom calls for work, cooking, washing dishes, exercising, you name it, I've got them on me. Except for when I somehow lose them in the house, which is how I found the perfect cheap backup pair (read further).
I found these earbuds in an article on our own site, and at around $20, figured I had nothing to lose. Ever since getting them, my wife and friends have had to listen to some refrain of "How - how - are these $20?" They've got almost everything I love about the Airpods: easy connectivity, great battery life, even touch control on the buds themselves. And did I mention they're basically $20? Even better than the Airpods, they've got a wireless charging case, AND they seal my ears, blocking out noise when I'm working in my workshop, playing music, or just trying to drown out the world during work.
The makers of this clip light sent me one to try, and I've been using it all the time since. It's a fantastic reading light, but I've found it particularly useful working in the shop. It's heavy duty, features multiple brightness and color settings, and clips anywhere so I can direct bright light right where I need it. I've shopped around for work lights like this before, and haven't found anything that compares with the combination of build quality and price. This one's a great guy-gift!
I'm lucky enough to have an Aunt who always finds the best clever stocking stuffers, and these Wrap-Its were one of them! They're a simple-yet-brilliant solution to easy storage of extension cords, hoses, power cords, and more. I'm particularly fond of them as they're the invention of a Minnesota Dad, and the company is entirely family-run. Check them out!
As someone who's constantly on the lookout for ingenious inventions, I've been aware of Joseph Joseph for years and happily grabbed their ingenious Drawerstore for the house. This thing is great! Made of heavy, easy-to-clean plastic, its design makes incredibly efficient use of our much-needed drawer space, while keeping every utensil at easy reach. One of those little things that make daily life just a little bit easier.
There's nothing my Lodge cast iron skillet can't do: it makes amazing eggs, perfect pancakes, serious steaks, crazily great chicken, and deep-dish pizzas. These come pre-seasoned, and I've proud to say that I've managed to build up some truly beautiful seasoning on mine over the years. While we've got a few pieces of high-priced cookware (thanks, wedding gift-givers), the Lodge is hands-down my favorite option.
I've seen this stuff all over the internet and had to give it a try. It's basically a clean-smelling slime that cleans anything. You just mash it into hard-to-clean places (car air vents, keyboards, etc.), and it grabs up the gunk like magic. It's also addictingly fun to play with (remember Gak from the '90s? Imagine that but with a better smell).
I've never been very picky when it comes to bedding, but these sheets have struck a chord with me, and I'm not going back to 'normal' bargain sheets again. They're incredibly soft - so soft that they drape right over you, rather than just kind of 'sitting' on you as regular cotton sheets do. They're made from bamboo viscose, which keeps you warm without building up too much heat. This set is relatively new in our house, but seems quite well made and has washed up very nicely.
I got a few pairs of these crazily popular leggings from the manufacturer (because I'm also brother of the year) for my sister to try, and she loves them: "They've got everything I want in leggings for working out and daily wear: they're extremely comfortably, TOTALLY opaque, high enough to cover a bit of mom belly, and seem like they're going to really last."
File these under unglamorous-yet-invaluable. This huge pack of cleansing wipes keeps my glasses clear, my computer screens clean, and my iPhone looking as new as a five and a half year old phone can look. They're packaged like tiny wet wipes, so good to stash in a backpack, glove compartment, wood shop, wherever!
As a perennially itchy person, I've spent years in search of a decent back scratcher, and everyone I've tried has paled in comparison to the Cactus Scratcher. It's perfect. A two-sided plastic head features different levels of spikes for different levels of itching, and the telescoping pole is robust enough for some serious scratching sessions. Add to all that the price point, and it's a must-have for anyone who loves being scratched.
While my wife would sleep under any number of down comforters, I tend to run hot, and this down alternative comforter is the perfect blend of down-like feel, without too much heat. Best of all, it's inexpensive and washes up so easily (no tennis balls in the dryer, like real down comforters).
Fortunately, I don't get adult acne too often, but when I feel a real zinger coming on, I like to use these acne patches. The hydrocolloid construction helps to draw out oil, pus, and all that gross stuff, and in my experience, limits the severity of the breakout and speeds healing.
After spending years - YEARS - with sub-par, too-short, constantly-malfunctioning charging cords, I found these Anker braided cords. They're not the cheapest (nor the most expensive), but my two-pack of six-foot cables still looks and charges like new.
This Anker charging block charges my phone up at least twice as fast as my original Apple chargers. I've got an iPhone 7+ and can go from dead-as-nails battery to 50% in less than an hour! Best of all, it's got two ports, so both my wife and I can juice up our devices at the same time.
These Uggs were a gift, but even if they weren't I'd buy them all over again. After male Uggs caught my eye in the timeless Paul Rudd / Jason Segal vehicle, "I Love You Man", I had my eye on these bulky, fluffy, somewhat ridiculous pieces of footwear. Now, after more than two years of regular use, I can say honestly: they are fantastic. Like a woolly, hilarious hug for your tootsies. They keep my feet warm (but not hot), resting in a cozy chamber of softness. I fully advocate shameless Ugg ownership for any and all gentlemen out there.
I was able to get a sample from Quility to gift my niece, and she loves it! According to my sister: "It's stylish enough to use as a couch throw. It's heavy-heavy, luxuriously soft, and she loves it for calming restlessness and sensory pressure."
As the resident dishwasher in the house, I can't stand colanders, especially with little bits of dried pasta on them. With the Snap-N-Strain, I can just clip it onto the edge of my pot and I've got an immediate colander-killer. I was pleasantly surprised at the build quality of this thing, which is constructed from thick, dishwasher-safe silicone, and heavy-duty metal clips.
My mother-in-law got me one of these magnetic pickup tools as a Christmas present, and I use it all the time in my shop, where I seem destined to drop nearly everything behind a very heavy, hard-to-move workbench. It's got a long, telescoping neck, a built-in flashlight head with a strong, rare earth magnet that can hold pretty much anything. It's even got a magnetic base so you can set it up as a useful spotlight or work light. This is one of those 100% dad-gifts that they'll actually use.
I recently upgraded our backyard, tree-mounted swing from a baby bucket swing to this "big kid" swing, and I've been impressed since the moment I set it up. For less that $20, you get a very high-quality, obviously durable swing, rubber-coated chains (no pinched fingers here) and a professional quality mounting kit that makes short work of getting the swing ready for action. Our daughter's used it to master her ability to swing herself (as I move one step closer to paternal irrelevance), while my wife is quickly tiring of my regular observations about the "bang-for-your-buck" factor of a simple child's swing.
My wife bought these Dickies socks randomly off Amazon about four years ago, and I've bought them every two years since - not because I don't love them, but because they actually last that long. I churn through socks, wearing them with shoes, sandals, sometimes by themselves in the garage or the backyard. Dickies wash up very well, maintain their thick, padded soles, and I can count on one hand the number of holes I've been able to wear into them.
I grew up in Minnesota, which - when it's not covered in snow - is basically covered in lakes, and I always pined for RC boats as a kid. Well, now as a grown kid, I got one, and it's awesome. The boat's about a foot long, extremely easy to control, and it's SO FAST. The only downside (as with all battery-powered RC vehicles) is its battery life, but I still get more than 20 minutes of very aggressive driving on a charge.
You can use these simple sheets of silicone for almost anything. They make great placements for kids, easy-to-clean work surfaces for crafts (glue peels right off of silicone), and even a solid option for a jar opener when you fold them up. They're made from tough silicone, have stood up to markers, glue, the culinary experimentation of a four-year-old, and a few dozen dishwashings, and they still look brand new.
I was into the whole haircut-at-home thing years before the pandemic hit (after one too many truly awful professional cuts). These Wahl clippers - paired with a decent set of shears - keep my hair and beard in check. They're built like a tank, and come with every attachment you could ever need for usually around $30-$35.
The day he arrived (a Black Friday splurge), this Eufy robot vacuum became forevermore re-named "Scrobot" (Scrubbing Robot) by our daughter and has worked his way into our family structure one two-hour daily cleaning session at a time. We have mostly hardwood floors, and Scrobot is a champ, cleaning randomly yet exhaustively every day, and providing a very satisfying, "Where does ALL this junk come from!?" experience every few days when we empty him. Like and robot vacuum, cords are not his friend, but we've learned to adapt.
If you can't tell, I've got a lot of hobbies, and I've used this inexpensive set of acrylic paints for most of them. I got them to paint a guitar with a very psychedelic, intricate pattern (great colors, bad technique), and have used them for plastic models, small furniture, and arts and crafts ever since. They're not pro-quality paints by any means, but I don't think you can beat this set for the price.
I still remember our family's first Dust Buster from 1992. It was beige, loud, and seemed to provide about 3-5 minutes of suction before the battery died. Well, today's handheld vacuums are a world apart, and I think we found the perfect one with our Bissell Pet Hair Eraser. Originally bought to keep our couch clear of dog hair, we've used this thing for years in any application possible. The battery life is fantastic, the noise level is low, and the switchable, powered head can even deep-clean carpets.
These Germ Guardians aren't cheap, but boy do they work. We've used this to get rid of pet odors, musky old-house smells, residual post-fire smells, you name it. After four years we just replaced the filter, and it's working even better.
LittleHippo - the maker of this genius device - calls it the Mella, but in our house it's known as "Clocky", and it has proven to be so much more than an alarm clock. Beyond its alternative roles as a nightlight and noise machine, Clocky can be programmed to turn colors to indicate when it's ok - and when it's not ok - for your kiddo to get out of bed. This simple functionality worked wonders for our daughter, who doesn't exactly love sleep, and has kept our oft-diminishing wellspring of sanity at least half full for the last three years.
I don't own a Bladebrush myself, but got one for my mom as a stocking stuffer, and she uses it all the time. It's another clever design from Joseph Joseph, which allows you to quickly clean both sides of a knife (or any utensil, of course), without risking some injurious slippage. I think it'd also make a pretty great hand scrubber, but have yet to give it a try!
We're still making the most out of a 1990s-era fridge, and these bins have been a massive upgrade. Making a sandwich? Grab the sandwich condiment bin. Breakfast time? Yogurt and berries bin. Need to feed an almost problematic La Croix addiction? Grab one from the can-holding bin. In all seriousness, these are some fantastic, heavy-duty additions to the fridge that clean easily and hold up to daily use quite well.
This thing works like magic. It heats up quickly and churns out steam, which quickly and effectively releases even the most stubborn wrinkles from my shirts. After years of awful ironing jobs, the ease and simplicity of this handheld steamer nearly brought tears to my eyes (I'm only slightly exaggerating).
We've been using these cheap, flexible strainers for years to keep food from clogging up our sinks (life without a garbage disposal...sigh). They work beautifully, capturing nearly every bit of errant food during my dishwashing, and emptying out clean each night. I think we're on our third pair of strainers after about eight years, so I've been quite pleased with their durability.
These abrasive washcloths are seriously effective at scrubbing away every last bit of dead, dried skin on your body. Just shower normally, then use these with some soap and you'll start seeing hundreds of little skin-rolls amassing on yourself. Rinse 'em off and you're left with perfectly exfoliated, soft-as-a-baby skin.
It's called The Ringer, and this chunk of medieval-style chain mail is the only way that I've kept my beloved cast-iron skillet perfectly smooth and seasoned. The metal loops help knock charred food off the pan's surface, without doing any damage to the seasoning itself. It's constructed of stainless steel and still looks basically brand new after years of use.
Every winter I get incredibly dry knuckles that inevitably split open into very painful, sometimes bloody messes. I've tried switching soaps, using lotion, and even adding a humidifier to my home office, and nothing worked -- except this O'Keefe's Hand Cream. I saw results within days of use, and my knuckles healed up entirely within 10 days. Now I use it proactively every fall and winter to keep my hands in decent shape, and I haven't had a cracked knuckle since.
Real Magic Sponges are basically magic, but they're also a heap of cash for a simple melamine sponge. We've been drawing from this bulk pack for well over a year now, erasing marks from walls to floors to vintage guitars.
These cheap bits of plastic have saved us hundreds in plumbing bills over the years. Whenever our sinks start to get slow, I pull one out, plunge it into the sink, and generally pull out what appears to be something resembling the scary girl from "The Ring" movies. Fortunately, they're so inexpensive, you can toss one in the recycling after each use.
These Nite Ize twist ties were another great stocking stuffer some years back. I use them to organize my plethora of USB cables that I refuse to winnow down. They're easy to bend and twist, and should last basically forever.
Part memoir, part instructional guide, and part pure, inspiring shop-talk, King's On Writing is one of those books I pick up at least once a year to page through, and find myself reading through once again. King's love of story is infectious, and his ability to guide us through his own childhood and early professional life is captivating. Whether or not you're a writer, there's much to glean from this unpretentious, lovely 'memoir on the craft'.
This gadget looks entirely unnecessary, and entirely amazing. It takes the place of your toothpaste cap, allowing you to dispense toothpaste as desired, then pinching itself closed when you're done. No more messy toothpaste tubes, or lost toothpaste caps. It's definitely one of those "huh" inventions that I'd love to try out.