16 September 2020

Buy nice stuff

Want to buy nice consumer products from providers I like? Here are unsolicited endorsements of some of my favorite places to get Stuff.

Other indices of nice things

  • Cool tools — Kevin Kelly’s index of reviews of all kinds of things, talking not just about the qualities of the product, but about how and why it's useful, like tongue depressors or those glue sticks made of post-it note glue ... and many tools are just tips and tricks that don't require buying anything.
  • Wirecutter — exceedingly in-depth reviews explaining what the best version is for numerous key products — especially electronics — including why that thing is the best and what difference it makes if you go for the best cheap or best spendy alternative
  • The Future Of Stuff Store — particularly resiliently-designed products, especially ones which take advantage of cutting-edge materials; the creator also maintains an open list “some things that are really quite good”: “it’s just amazing how good the quality end of manufactured goods is, particularly compared to the landfill-fodder which is the norm”
  • Better Living Through Design — various kinds of cunningly-designed kit; the bags and desk accessories are my particular weaknesses
  • Pack Hacker — advice for travellers, relevant here because they have a huge library of thoughtful product reviews and recommendations
  • The Strategist — a bit lifestyle-magazine-ish, but I forgive it because it has pretty darned good taste in a range of products
  • Buy Me Once — many kinds of solidly-made stuff, again described with a bit of lifestyle magazine flavor
  • The Ones — a site maintained by some hip but (mostly) practical industrial designers listing their favorite, rock-solid products
  • The Sweet Setup — a guide to applications for Apple devices, including not just the best solutions but a lot of advice about using them well
  • The Macrumours’ buyers guide — informed guesses about when new versions of Apple products will come out, reducing your chances of getting something and then feeling frustrated to see a spiffy new version released right after you buy it
  • “What life-changing item can you buy for less that $100?” — a wooly but fun and helpful Reddit discussion
  • Kitty Unpretty’s office supply recommendations list — some smart eccentric ideas

Catalogues of Various, Mostly Odd, Things

Stationery & pens

Computer-adjacent office gear

  • Anker & Belkin — the two big manufacturers I trust most for stuff like chargers, cables, and other USB accessories (and related kit)
  • BlueLounge — well crafted solutions to your cable clutter, and other goodies
  • Elevation Lab — good cables and device stands; it is worth watching the video for their QuickDraw desk cable clip
  • Twelve South — unique accessories for computers, phones, and other electronics
  • Grovemade — preposterously swanky desk accessories for your computer desk
  • Peak Design Mobile — a system of elegant, protective phone cases which lock to various stands and implements; if you use one of the newer MagSafe iPhones, these are compatible, which means that you can combine best-of-breed solutions to pair it with the slightly better magnetic card wallet / mini stand from ...
  • Moft — nifty portable stands for computers, tablets, and phones
  • DTTO — cases for Apple devices, including the iPad Mini case I settled on after a long hunt: inexpensive, protective, grippy without feeling gross, with a stand good for both portrait and landscape use
  • The Magic Sleeve — a cunning magnetic felt gear pocket/desk pad; watch the video to get seduced
  • Ergodriven — the weird ridged floor mat I use at my standing desk every day
  • Paperlike — a popular iPad screen protector ... though the Bellemond which you can find on Amazon is significantly better; if you use the Apple Pencil, you need one (and it means you can switch to using metal fine-point Pencil tips like these) and if do not use a Pencil because writing with it is unsatisfying you really need one
  • Conway Electric make nifty, very spendy extension cords and related gear with an Industrial aesthetic.
  • Fluidstance — balance boards for people who work at standing desks plus a line of steel desk whiteboards which I have all over my desk
  • Keyboario and Ergodox — cool weird ergonomic mechanical computer keyboards; I have a few words which may help you decide if you want one of these
  • Folding ergonomic bluetooth “travel” keyboard — this product is available branded a few different ways — I have seen it sold as GoTek Voyage, Targus, iClever, Perixx, Moko, Gomcv, and others — but it is always clearly the same product: compact, very handy, and surprisingly well-made
  • SuperCalla — USB cables with a set of magnets along the length which make them easy to wrap or fold neatly
  • Rolling Square make a handful of bits of charging gear and similar; I keep one of their tiny multipurpose USB cables in my go bag, and they have a nifty modular magnetic arm for attaching phones, lights, and chargers to one’s laptop


  • Bellroy — they started with thoughtfully-designed wallets, expanded to an array of accessories, and when I finally succumbed to sling bag mania, I settled on their cunningly-designed 9L Venture Sling, tucked a bunch of EDC gear into it (including my iPad Mini in a bulky case), and take it with me everywhere
  • Tom Bihn — simple but carefully-crafted and sturdy soft travel gear; their Aeronaut 30 bag has taken me around the world (and the newer laptop-friendly Techonaut incorporates the improvements I daydreamed about when I did that), while the Synik 22 or 30 laptop / travel backpacks have super organization
  • WaterField Designs — my absolute favorite makers of everyday shoulderbags and backpacks and such: their stuff perfectly straddles being classy enough to look professional without looking fussy in more casual circumstances, the videos explaining how their bags are meant to be used are worth a watch just an example of exploring thoughtful design — I think their Bolt Backpack is the ideal laptop backpack, and their newer Air Travel Backpack is the most professional-feeling one-bag air travel pack I have seen
  • Peak Design — camera gear and bags (and the phone cases mentioned above); their cunningly-designed Everyday Backpack is my hardworking EDC big backpack, and their travel backpack may be the most clever design of the type — note that Huckberry offers some handsome variants on their travel gear
  • Aer — intriguingly designed travel & EDC bags which I cannot vouch for having seen in the flesh, but reviews are encouraging; their Capsule Pack is another seductive member of the air travel backpack family
  • Babboon To The Moon — bags for people who share my sensibilities about how bags should be structured but want something more colorful
  • Freitag — an array of clever bags, each unique because they are made by upcycling the colorful tough canvas they use to cover trucks in Europe; the groovy stop-motion animations showing the bags in use are a delight even if you don’t want to buy one
  • Mission Workshop — my favorite fancy bicylists’ bags; they also make some interesting technical clothes
  • Saddleback Leather — gorgeous, heavy, sturdy leather luggage
  • Away — the most inexpensive sturdy rolling pullman cases (or the sturdiest inexpensive ones) I have found; their Aluminum Carry-On is spendy but satisfied my lifelong lust for an unattainably expensive Zero Haliburton case
  • Evergoods — bags and backpacks with clever, idiosyncratic designs; they have a travel bag with a well-integrated hip belt, and I have their CIVIC Access Pouch 2L, which is spendy for a dopp kit sized organizer but is the best item of its kind I have ever encountered
  • Notabag — a simple lightweight bag which folds up small and has a simple, beautiful design which makes it graceful to carry things in one hand, over one shoulder, or as a backpack
  • Nanobag — by far the best packable tiny bags I have ever found, they easily pack down to almost nothing but the material is neither flimsy nor weird, plus the bag shapes are thoughtfully designed — I recommend the sling, pack, amd XL formats
  • Eagle Creek — an array of well-designed and well-constructed packing cubes; you may prefer to use cubes from the same maker as your bag, but you definitely need packing cubes if you travel
  • Matador — a bunch of interesting travel kit; I have one of their nifty pocket blankets — and even though I am not on the road any more like I used to be, I am very tempted to pick up one of their unique little soap bags
  • The Ogio locker bag is cleverly designed to organize gym gear and fit into locker just so — for years I had one which I did not even take back and forth, it just lived in my locker


  • Norman & Jules — toys for actual children with a Montessori sensibility which I find seductive
  • Art Of Play — unreasonably beautiful puzzles, games, and toys for grownups
  • Unemployed Philosophers’ Guild — a range of nifty/cute/clever tchotchkes for intellectuals, if you need something like a Nicola Tesla action figure
  • aroundsquare — simple, beautiful hand fidget stuff
  • Areaware — beautiful toys suited for adults and kids, like wooden Blockitecture blocks, as well as playful home & office stuff

Nerd-ish art


  • Outlier — my favorite maker of spendy-but-worth-it technical clothing; there is a part of me that wants to never wear anything else
  • Bluffworks — technical fabric clothes for a traveller who wants to look like a professional rather than a cyberpunk shadowrunner
  • American Giant — exceptionally well-made cotton basic clothes for men, including “the greatest hoodie ever made”
  • Mack Weldon — more cotton basics; my enthusiasm for their One Mile Slipper proves that I am a middle-aged guy
  • Unbound Merino — perfect, simple basics in merino wool; well worth the cost
  • Woobie Coats — simple, very warm hooded coats cunningly designed to take advantage of existing mil-spec blanket material: inexpensive enough that you can buy them in bulk to give to your whole camping crew, or to houseless strangers
  • Gustin — clothes “like they do not make any more”, especially denim jeans, using interesting fabrics; they keep expenses relatively low by pre-selling short runs, so their mailing list offers fresh temptations on the regular
  • Voidmerch & Boredwalk — T-shirts and such with geeky/gothy words on them which are actually witty, including my Hallowe’en costume
  • Vestige — T-shirts with abstract graphics that are just really nice
  • 2046 Print Shop — T-shirts with crisp, almost-abstract science themes
  • Winkworth Ladies’ Goods — a Brooklyn designer of my acquaintance whose cozy/classy/sexy work I admire (and I gotta say that the models on their Instagram are all dreamy)
  • Katherinesummer — nifty knitwear


  • Hairstory — New Wash is a no-shampoo shampoo which will change the chemistry of your scalp, and they also have other cool haircare stuff, including a really nice scalp brush
  • Acne.org — a line of good, simple skincare products which are great even if you don't have acne; I cannot describe what AHA+ does but it is good for your skin
  • The Tangle Teezer does one thing very well; my hair will start to tangle in five minutes if I just stand still and will quickly turn to locs if I let it, but this magic device sets it right in just a few swipes
  • Gilette Mach3 razors — in my experience, categorically better than any other disposable solution, but ...
  • Henson Shaving — years ago I gave up on safety razors as leaving my skin too raw and failing to deliver the close shave I prefer; these beautiful precision-machined safety razors brought me back, delivering a shave every bit as good as the Mach3 — and while the razor costs a lot more, the blades cost a lot less


  • TubShroom — bath and sink filters which catch gunk without clogging
  • Kaufmann Mercantile — a range of well-made housewares and “accessories” and whatnot
  • Skurareally nice kitchen sponges and related cleaning stuff
  • Ovalware’s cold brew coffee maker is just a pleasing, solid bit of kit
  • Purist Collective — nifty insulated cups & bottles for home or on the go
  • Mighty Mug — the insulated travel cup I use at my work desk; it has clever suction device which keeps it from spilling when set on a smooth surface
  • Gigogne Tumbler — stackable glass tumblers from French makers of classic nearly-indestructible glassware
  • Onsen — waffle-style towels which sucked me in to a Kickstarter; they are really nice
  • The Swag is a cotton bag which one dampens and uses to keep vegetables fresh in the fridge; it works


  • Slate Milk — shelf-stable lactose-free not-too-sweet quality chocolate milk in a can; these make such a great afternoon treat that I have a subscription
  • Nickel Dime Cocktail Syrups & Portland Syrups — a treat I have taken to now that I have slowed down enough that I am enjoying soda concoctions more often than actual cocktails
  • U-Haul paper packing tape — so much better than all other box packing tape that it is worth going out of your way; it sticks nicely to cardboard but does not tend to get stuck to other stuff, tears easily by hand, and you can write on it
  • Hydro Seal Band-Aids & Tegaderm Dressings — are two different styles of hydrocolloid bandages which are flexible, comfortable, waterproof, and stay on for several days; if you put one on properly, you can trim the edges as they pull away over several days until the whole thing finally comes off, at which point minor wounds have usually completely healed
  • Spenco’s moist burn pads — an essential adjunct to those bandages; they belong in every first aid kid because for a burn there is no substitute

Everything else

  • Graf Lantz — a bunch of cool things made of wool felt, and their standout item is the best fabric face masks I have found, which I now wear over a silicone-frame filter mask from ...
  • Gata — emergency bug out kits and related stuff for disaster paranoia
  • Garrett Wade — such beautiful tools that their gardening implements tempt me to take up gardening
  • The Gerber Prybrid — the best pocketknife I have ever owned, it stays sharp through the magic of replacable boxcutter blades, and also serves well as a pry bar and bottle opener
  • Oxford Pennant — camp flags that are just cool
  • Bibliotheca — an exceptionally handsome edition of the Bible, designed for one to enjoy reading; it uses an idiosyncratic Protestant translation which attempts to marry formal literalism with contemporary language
  • Manta — by far the best sleep blindfolds I have found
  • Upcart — a sturdy little folding dolly with a wacky triangular wheel design which enables one to use it to carry things up and down stairs

Of course the real reason I made this list is so I have a place to tuck cool stuff I find so I can go shopping for toys later. Or if you want to get me a present ....

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