Here is this year's selection of items at varying prices that people will love getting from you. Or pick something for your own wish list.
All the items come in from the vendor for a test (so we're sure they deliver on what they claim) and are presented in categories. Happy hunting!
In the office
If you like having a writing instrument that won't roll off the desk and has a solid feel, the machine pen ($72) from Humpreys is a pleasure. The solid brass pen is machined with a screw thread on either end and a threaded brass block that acts as a cap. Remove it from the pen, put in onto the back, and you have a pen that can't roll off your desk. It doubles as a paperweight.
While a pen helps you create more paper store, the ScanSnap iX1500 document scanner (list of $495 but available at $420) helps you clear out what you don't need by scanning it in. The document feeder holds 50 sheets up to 11-inch by 17-inch size. There's also an adapter to scan receipts and business cards. You can scan wirelessly to a computer or through a computer or phone to cloud storage. Duplex scanning at up to 30 sheets per minute lets you run double-sided sheets through once, while OCR can convert scanned images to text.
Like keeping your smartphone at the ready on your desk? The Rock Dock natural stone charging station ($44.50) from Sea Stones is stylish. A granite base and smooth sea stone support lets you dock and remove the phone with one hand. The support is steady so you can take a call or check a text if you like. There's a choice of micro USB, USB-C, or Lightning connector cable (with a lifetime guarantee) and, as I found, a set screw underneath the base keeps it in place. If you change phones and connectors, loosen the screw, swap cables, tighten again, and you're ready to keep going.
Sitting for long stretches puts strain on your body. A lumbar pillow from Cushion Labs ($35) is made of dense foam with a strap that keeps it in place on your chair. You'll have greater comfort and--who knows?--maybe better posture as well.
If you have a group that needs to be on video calls, the Meeting Owl ($799) is a terrific tool. Offering 720p HD video resolution, 360-degree coverage with a 12-foot radius, the system sits on a table to bring everyone into the call. It works with many popular video conferencing systems and automatically shifts the video focus to the current speaker.
On the road
A good bag can make all the difference when traveling. The Nomatic 30L travel bag ($270) is well designed and organized with such features as a ventilated shoe pocket, TSA-ready laptop sleeve, a spot for a water bottle, and easy-access pockets. You can use it as a duffle or a backpack. There's also a sleeve that fits the handle of a roller bag, so you can keep both together.
When you're on the road a lot, convenience and comfort are important. Merino wool is long prized by hikers for its breathability, comfort in all sorts of weather, and a natural antibacterial quality, so after two or three days it won't pick up body odor and advertise your current state. Unbound Merino has all sorts of clothing. I checked out the t-shirts ($65) that are ultra-fine and comfortable. There are also women's v-neck t-shirts for the same price.
When you're on the move, there will inevitably be times when you need to rest but you're between hotel rooms. The company Lets Just Sleep has a sleep mask ($28) that are contoured to fit the face and block out the light. At the same time, Bluetooth speakers rest over each ear to let you tune out the world and tune in your favorite soothing music.
To go along with the sleep mask, try the Casper travel pillow ($35). It comes with a travel bag and is machine washable. Great company when you're on the move.
Working from the road (or home, for that matter) can demand two different types of audio: conference calls and playing music. Get them both with the Jabra Speak 710 ($300). Immersive sound that connects through USB or Bluetooth offers up to 15 hours of working time per charge, coverage for up to six people on your end, an omnidirectional microphone, and compatibility with many conference call services, such as WebEx, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting, and Skype for Business, to name a few.
There are few things handier than a multi-function pocket knife on the road. Screwdriver to tighten a wayward connector, small blade to open an envelope, tweezers to remove a splinter--they are great, but may not look so good in the pocket of a suit. But the Victorinox Swiss Army's SwissCard ($30) offers an alternative. About the size of a credit card, although thicker, you get a nail file, screwdriver blades, scissors, a small blade, tweezers, and more. Keep it in your wallet, bag, or briefcase.
The reMarkable tablet ($499) is one of those items that could appear under a number of categories. It lets you write, even draw, and has a feeling similar to paper using some version of electronic ink. You don't get social media or email, which means you won't get distracted. You can rack up page after page, group and arrange them, and even use handwriting recognition to generate digital text. And you can read PDF files and ebooks. A great change from devices that want to overwhelm you.
It used to be that seltzer-drinkers were fairly hard to find. Now the product is incredibly popular. Make your own with a SodaStream carbonator. The electric model starter pack ($120) lets you press a button and charge from a CO2 cartridge a supplied bottle that you fill with water. The result is near instant seltzer, with three possible levels of carbonation. Delightful.
Speaking of drinks, let's talk about the Ember coffee mug ($100) with Bluetooth connectivity and an app so you can control it from a smartphone. The sort of thing I'd generally mock, except it's very cool. Or hot. The app controls a battery-powered heater in the base to set the temperature you want that the mug will sustain. Having your coffee stay hot--or come up to heat after the milk you poured in takes the temperature down again--is really delightful and it's safe to wash. You don't have to worry about messing up the electronics. There's also a travel mug version ($180).
Smartphones may be amazing tools, but they're also designed to be as addictive as possible. The device maker and software vendors want as much of your attention as they can get. The result can be far from productivity. Some designers from Samsung and Google weren't happy with how people were glued to their phones, so they developed a new product under the old Palm brand. The new Palm phone ($349 unlocked) is about the size of a credit card and designed to let you focus more on life and less on your phone, even though it uses Android and lets you download apps. You can connect to social media and email if you want while not getting absorbed.