It’s that wonderful time of the year when you start freaking out about what worthy item you can possibly gift for others, or, taking advantage of various sales, gift for yourself. Have no fear, the 2023 Annual Bucket List Gift Guide is Here! As with previous years, I present a range of truly eclectic products that have stood out for their usefulness, cool-factor, deliciousness, and utility both on and off the road.
The Innovative Travel Pillow
It was only a matter of time before some genius applied science to a singular issue for anyone flying long-haul economy: What do I do with my neck when I doze off? Travel pillows come in various shapes and sizes, but typically follow the C-shape format. And while some are inflatable (and about as reliable as a politician’s promise) and some are memory foam (and as convenient to carry as a guilty conscious), at last we have a different approach. The TRTL Pillow wraps around your neck like a scarf, a scarf with an internal support system for “optimal” neck and head support. Unfortunately, nothing is optimal when you fly long-haul economy. While the TRTL Pillow is pricey and takes some getting used to, catching much-needed zzzzs is worth every penny.
The Sweat Pant Jeans
During the hey-day of the pandemic – peak masked-up and locked down 2020 – I remember thinking: if someone invents jeans that look like sweat pants, they’ll make a fortune. Well, the Japanese did, and I’ve been wearing UNIQLO EZY Extra Stretch Jeans ever since. Available in four colours, with an elastic waist and a draw string, they look like real denims except they stealthily have the soft feel of sweats. Smart and casual enough to wear out, frumpy enough to wear while you binge watch Foundation (my underrated series of the year) on the couch, jean sweats are perfect for your everyday slacker ninja.
The Boozy Chocolates
Maybe it’s the nostalgia of tasting liqueur in chocolates as a kid (it was the 1970s, and there’s not that much liqueur) but this beautifully packaged display of bottle chocs has become our personal dinner party favourite. High quality dark chocolate just works with when matched with whiskey, vodka, cognac, rum and other treats, and it’s not the plonk either. Danish-based Anthon Berg works with brands like Remy Martin, Contreau, Drambui, Mount Gay, Canadian Club, Famous Grouse and Sobieski. Pick your bottle carefully from the stylish choco-bar, unwrap, hold the neck and bite into the goodness. We found a great deal at Costco but they’re also well-priced on Amazon too. As for kids slurping back chocolate bottles filled with rum, I turned out alright. Sometimes.
The Drink-From-Anything Water Bottle
Last year I featured the Life Straw as a lifesaving little gadget that allows you to safely drink from any river, lake or stream. This is especially handy if you’re on a hike and need water, or if the zombies attack and the taps stop flowing. The Life Straw does however require some serious suction, which is why the Life Straw Go Series is a gamechanger, making the entire water-cleansing process a lot easier. Simply full up your BPA-free bottle with water, and the membrane filter will remove 99.9% of all bacteria, parasites, microplastics, dirt and sand. It also reduces chlorine and odours, improving the taste. Each filter can get through 4000 litres of water (about 5 years of daily use). It’s a no-brainer for anyone going to any country or destination where you can’t trust the water.
The Night Lights That Actually Work
They say you get what you pay for, except for nightlights, which don’t seem to work no matter how much you pay. Too bright, not bright enough, to white, too orange, too motion sensitive, not motion sensitive enough. I’m too sensitive myself, having gone through a half dozen of these damn things in my attempt to avoid walking into a wall when my kid starts screaming in the middle of the night because of his latest Huggie Wuggie nightmare. Here at last are some nightlights that are fully customizable for brightness and sensitivity. They also have fireproof casing, a feature I truly hope I never have to appreciate.
UVON Plug in Night Light
The Backpack Beach Chair
When did it become mandatory to require a wagon in order carry all the crap you need for the beach? The chairs and blankets, the shade tent, the beach toys, the food, the kids? The Tommy Bahama Backpack Chair is how I’m doing it from now on. Just a chair. On my back. A chair that has pockets for my phone and my ice-cold pilsner. A chair with a neck rest. A chair that is not a wagon. I’m done with wagons. The kids can carry their own lightweight chair too.
The Scrubba Wash Bag
Since we’re all doing our best to travel lightly with only carry-on luggage, consider this washboard in a bag. A cleverly adapted lightweight bag essentially becomes a washing machine, allowing you to easily and conveniently and effectively handwash your clothing in under a minute. The 13-liter Scrubba can clean two shirts, underwear and socks in a wash: just add water, some liquid detergent, massage your clothes, remove, wring and hang up to dry. Particularly handy if you’re hiking, camping, backpacking, or trying to go far with little.
The Toilet Ottoman The Disco Toilet Light
I truly give a crap about your toilet experience. So much so that I give bidets as wedding presents. A bidet will seriously change your life. Trust me, it just will. That was my choice recommendation two years ago. I was going to suggest a toilet ottoman in this year’s Bucket List Gift Guide (which straightens your colon and aligns your pooper to conduct a healthier, more efficient business), but then I came across a Disco Toilet Light. Exposing your posterior to a regular blast of disco lights has been proven by absolutely nobody to be beneficial to your health. But it is fun. First get a bidet, then a toilet ottoman, then a disco motion sensor toilet light. Throw your bowels a party, and thank me later.
The Muscle Massage Gun
Percussion guns (which is a great name for a band) became all the rage a couple years ago, and I’ve been testing them for 12 months to assess whether they are in fact a) a fad b) a poorly disguised sex toy c) a deeply beneficial therapeutic tool or d) a weapon of mass destruction. With a little imagination, it’s all of those things, but these muscle massage guns work, and they work well. Pop on a head (I usually use the ball, the bullet is for massaging Superman) and awkwardly point the gun on my offending muscle tissue. Better yet, find a partner or kid to work while you lie down skating the line between pain and bliss. These guns pack juice, and the long-lasting battery has a decent charge. Having tried several massage guns on the market, I recommend the Renpho Percussion Massager. Amazon is always having big sales with these things so look out for discounts.
RENPHO Active Muscle Massage Gun
The Weighted Blanket
When I slept over at grandmas, she had green blankets that were as heavy as a sack of potatoes. It made me feel warm and safe, and I used to sleep like a sack of potatoes too. Too many decades later, weighted blankets help millions of kids and adults sleep better by reducing stress and anxiety. Weighted with glass beads, ball bearings or plastic, sleep scientists say the equal distribution of weight relaxes the parasympathetic nervous system in preparation for sleep. I don’t know what that means, I just know you’ll sleep better, on the bed or on the couch. While there are a wide range of brands out there (spanning a wider range of quality and price), Toronto-based Simple Sleep offer quality weighted blankets with fantastic value.