2019 Christmas Gift Giving Guide

Here’s a collection of items, ranging from under $10 to over $100, from the highest of high tech (digital audio players, cell phone signal boosters) to the lowest of low tech (belts with no metal and good old fashioned printed books).

Within these suggestions you’re sure to find something  to help you fill the stockings for even the hardest of people to buy for.  We’ve split our suggestions into five categories (Audio, Road Warrior, For Your Car, Gadgets, Miscellaneous) although there is some overlap as to which categories some items should best be placed.

Audio Gear

Bose QC25 Noise Cancelling Headphones $129 - $178

Our favorite and, in our opinion, the very best noise cancelling headphones are the Bose QC25.
More and more self-proclaimed high-end noise cancelling headphones are appearing, and increasingly they suffer from ridiculous "featuritis". Instead of a simple On/Off control for their noise cancelling, they have all manner of unneeded choices for the noise cancelling "profile" you might wish. This is totally unnecessary, because the only choice that ever makes any sense is "maximum noise cancelling".

Equally distressing is that most of these headphones now try and force you to use a Bluetooth connection to whatever device it is you are wishing to listen to. That's always a woefully complicated process full of inexplicable colored flashing lights that you can't hope to remember, and the quiet reality that these companies try and obscure is that often a Bluetooth connection gives you poorer quality audio than a simple wired connection. So, no upside and a massive amount of downside.

But, good news. The classic Bose QC25 is the last of the great models of headphones prior to the latest craze to over-complicate a really simple thing. There's only one control on them - an On/Off switch, and nothing else. And they use a nice old-fashioned wired connection.

The even better news. Because Bose too has gone to the craziness of Bluetooth and multiple noise cancelling levels with their latest QC-35 II headphones (normally $349, currently $299 on Amazon), they're reduced the QC25 model down and down in price. Originally $325, it is now generally around $180, and at the time of writing, Amazon is extending their Black Friday/Cyber Monday bargain price of $129.

So, quickly, buy a set (or two or three), whether for you or for other people!

Fiio M3K Portable Music Player $60

The Fiio family of portable digital audio players offer very high value and even higher quality sound.
These days Apple no longer markets its iPod - the device that signified the "new" Apple when it was first released back in 2001.

It might seem that our smartphones have obsoleted the need for a separate music storage and playback unit, and what little that hasn't been obsoleted by our phone has been vanquished by the rise of streaming music services.

But in reality, the value and convenience of a separate dedicated music player remains as strong as ever, and the Fiio high-quality players allow you to store music at much better quality than you ever could on an iPod, and of course, at a fraction of a price.

While Fiio (and other companies too) offer units for 10 or even 15 times higher prices, the $60 entry level M3K player does just about everything anyone would ever want, and provides an indistinguishably almost identical high quality sound. Why pay more for the extra features on the more expensive units - features you'll seldom/never need nor use.

We write extensively about high quality music - for example here and here.

Sonarworks True-Fi Headphone Audio Correcting Software $79

Sonarworks has a simple easy interface and gives an amazing sound result.
We love this software, and have it installed on our computers and also on our phones, both iOS and Android. It costs $79 and you can then install it on multiple devices.

You start the software and tell it the type of headphones you're going to listen to the audio from the device through. This app then adjusts and compensates the tonal quality of the sound output to exactly match and balance the idiosyncracies of your headphones, giving you a purity of sound quality that you'd not otherwise achieve, other than with the most ridiculously expensive of headphones.

We reviewed the Sonarworks True-Fi app here, and as the headline says, it is a great way to make your $80 headphones sound like $800 headphones. What's not to like about that!

For sale on the Sonarworks website.

Headphone Splitter $10

Now two people can conveniently listen to the same music and watch the same movie.
Not all audio gadgets and accessories have to be expensive!

Here's a wonderful $10 item that can be tremendously useful if you want to watch a video or listen to audio together with a friend. It simply splits the audio into two streams, one for each of you, and with individual volume controls too.

We review this item here. $10 from Amazon.

Road Warrior Gear

Multi-Port USB Charger $35

An eight port charger with helpful display to tell you the status of each port and its charge rate.
These days the chances are you travel with not just one, but multiple portable battery powered devices that need recharging pretty much every day. A phone. A tablet. Maybe a Bluetooth headset. Maybe a music player. Perhaps a smart watch. An eBook reader.
Possibly various other devices too.

If you're traveling with a companion, you've just doubled the total number of devices that need charging. Just how many plugs are there in your hotel room, and how many chargers do you want to carry?

This is why we carry a single charger with eight outlets on it. That allows us to efficiently get everything charged at the same time. We write about this and review a multi-port charger here.

$35 on Amazon.

Portable Light for Dim Hotel Rooms $9

This light folds up into a compact space and can unfold to shine in your choice of convenient direction.
We really dislike dimly lit hotel rooms. It is so miserly of a hotel to save a penny or two of electricity each night, and can be so impactful if you want to read a book or do some work.

We write about this problem and the three solutions that are possible, here. The best of these three solutions is to travel with a compact high-efficiency and light-weight supplementary light of your own.

$8.70 on Amazon.

Memory Card Case $7 - $11

This very sturdy and brightly colored memory card case is hopefully impossible to lose.


A more minimalist but still good approach is this "credit card" that you slot the Micro-SD cards into.
We add this recommendation having recently lost a Micro-SD card. These tiny little things measure about 0.5" x 0.25" and are wafer-thin. But, while tiny, they can also contain a tremendous amount of information (up to 1TB at present) and can be very expensive. That makes them inconvenient to lose, plus there's the other side to that loss - do you really want someone else finding your Micro-SD card and all the data on it?

We have resolved to get better at keeping all our memory cards in carrying cases, so as to make it harder to lose them. Carrying cases sometimes are multi-purpose, with spaces for regular SD cards and possibly for phone SIM cards too, although keep in mind that phone SIM cards these days can be found in three different sizes.

Memory carrying cases come in a couple of different styles and formats. With some, you friction-fit slide the cards into slots in what looks like a credit card. With others, you have an actual case that opens and shuts, so even if the cards should fall out of their slots, they won't fall out of the case entirely.

We've used both styles over the years. The friction slot type has never seen cards fall out of the slots, which was an initial fear of ours, but perhaps some designs might be looser than others and allow that, so it is something to check for.

Our most recent case might be thought by some people to be overkill, but - as we said - we're still hurting from our most recent memory card loss. It is colored bright yellow, making the case itself more difficult to overlook. It securely fastens shut, and when you open it up, you see, inside are eight spaces for SD and/or Micro-SD cards. Other bright colors are also available if you prefer.

It isn't the cheapest option out there, but we think it might be the best. $11 at Amazon.

Also shown is a red "credit card" type holder with space for ten Micro-SD cards and either a regular SD card or a SD card adapter for the Micro-SD cards. These are available on Amazon at a price of $7 for two.


USB Data Condom $7

A USB "condom" or "data blocker" allows you to safely charge your electronic devices without worrying if the charging unit is secretly stealing your data or loading viruses onto your equipment while charging.
We're sure you're wondering what this is!

Did you know that when you plug your charging cable into a USB charging outlet, there's a small chance that what you think is just an ordinary power charger is actually something much more nefarious?

Your cable has just connected whatever device you have at your end to some other device, which might be much more than a charger. It might transfer a virus over to your device, or access it and read/copy all your personal details.

We write about this growing problem here.

Fortunately, the problem is very easily protected against. A typical USB connection has four wires - two for power and two for data. A USB "condom" or "data blocker" simply breaks the connection on the two data wires, while leaving the charging wires connected. That way, you get the power you want, but nothing you don't want.

The price? A mere $7 on Amazon. The potential cost if you don't use one? You don't even want to ponder that question! Buy these for yourself as well as all your friends.

Plastic Travel Belt $8.50

This is a small and very simple "trick" known to frequent fliers. Rather than take your belt off when going through metal detectors, wear a belt with a plastic buckle.

The belt might not be quite as fashionable, but these days, it is no longer necessary to wear your finest clothes on a flight anyway, so who cares.

Amazon has a veritable sea of plastic buckled belts. Here's one that is available in a number of different colors, and which costs a mere $8.50.

If you don't like that style, this page has lots of other styles of belt and buckle, including some that look like regular metal.

Business Style Backpack $120-$140

The ECBC Hercules backpack. Both it and the slightly larger Lance are available in a range of colors.
We know that most people love to bring enormous and usually illegally sized rollaboards onto airplanes with them. We even understand the reason for this if it means you can avoid checking a bag.

Sadly, for us, our insistence on traveling with a Swiss Army Knife. The TSA see this as being so multi-functional and multi-purpose as to include a "take over the plane and crash it" feature too, and so they ban them from carry-on, so we have to check a bag, even if it contains no more than our SAK.

So we have a large checked bag, and a smaller backpack to take onto the plane with us. The backpack doubles as a business bag if we have meetings, and as a day pack if we're on vacation. It is neither too flashy nor too casual, it is just a perfect anonymous style bag that doesn't shout out "mug me, I'm a foolish foreigner" but which doesn't look out of place in the board room or on the beach.

Our favorite has for a long time been the ECBC Hercules, which we review here. $120 on Amazon.

We also like the slightly larger ECBC Lance backpack, reviewed here. $140 on Amazon.

Suggestions for Your Car

Dash Cam $30 - $60

The Yi dashcam is attractive to look at and one of the two best performers from the five we tried.



The Sansco dash cam in some respects out-performed the Yi dash cam, while costing half as much. Definitely the best value of all five dash cams we tested.
We've a very detailed series about Dash Cam units, and how to choose and use one, starting from here.

We've tested five different units at all price points and with a wide range of varying features. The most expensive unit ($200) worked well when it was working, but failed twice and was replaced, and still wouldn't record reliably. Two others had problems and very poor picture quality. That left only two that we deemed acceptable.

We ended up with two units that we deemed acceptable. One was a Yi Smart Dash Cam costing $60 on Amazon and the other was a Sansco 2K Dash Cam, costing $30 on Amazon.

You can see a set of comparison videos on YouTube, the Yi here and the Sansco here. Now that we have only two rather than five to compare, we might do a further test, but at present, as you can see, they are reasonably closely matched and there seems little sense in paying twice as much for the Yi.

Cell Phone Booster Unit ~$500

The Drive Reach and other units in the WeBoost family of cell phone signal boosters can literally be a life-saver if you go to places with poor cell phone signal.
Most of us don't need one of these, and at $500, that's perhaps just as well.

But if you, or someone you know, regularly goes places where cell phone signal is weak and often missing, this unit might make all the difference between signal and no signal. It can also give you much better/faster data speeds in areas of weak signal.

We write about cell phone boosters in general and explain what they can and can't do here, and review the WeBoost Drive Reach cell phone booster unit here.

$500 at Amazon.

Emergency Car Battery Starter $56

Hopefully you'll never need this, but equally hopefully, if you do need it, you will have it.
As we get into winter, our car batteries are more stressed and more likely to fail.

Maybe you have a battery charger at home, and maybe you have jumper cables in your vehicle in case of battery problems. But what happens if there's no-one nearby to let you jump-start your vehicle from their battery? Of if you don't have a battery charger at home, or even if you do but can't wait the hours it takes to get enough charge into your battery for the car to start?

Modern Li-ion battery technology has now created a small portable emergency battery starter unit. We tested a series of different units, all claiming to start a vehicle with a dead battery, but only one of them actually worked as promised. Here's our review of the Imazing unit that worked.

$56 at Amazon.

Car Battery Trickle Charger/Repairer $33+

This and the other units in the Noco Genius family restore and keep your vehicle batteries fully charged and in best possible condition. They've added years to my vehicle battery lives.
Do you have a "summer car"? Or maybe a "winter truck"? Or any other vehicle that you only drive occasionally?

If you do, you'll know the hassle involved with finding its battery has died during the time it was unused. You might not know that allowing a battery to fully discharge is very harmful and massively reduces its total lifespan.

We review a lovely unit that simultaneously keeps your vehicle battery perfectly charged and also works on rejuvenating and restoring it if it is a bit "tired" and worn.

$33 on Amazon.

Multiple Power/USB Outlet Box $14

This convenient multi-outlet box gives you three switched 12V outlets, four fast-charge USB ports, and shows you the vehicle's battery voltage too.
We remember the (good?) old days when the "cigarette lighter" in our car was never used. Not for cigarettes, and not for anything else. After all, back then, what could you possibly plug into it?

Now, our car comes standard with three "accessory power outlets" as they are now called, and that is nowhere near enough. We need USB power for some devices, and 12V power for other devices. Rather than have a series of double plugs connected to each other, we decided to get a single unit that offers three 12V sockets and four high-current fast-charging USB ports.

At a price of just under $14 on Amazon, it has greatly simplified the mess of cables and connectors in the car. A great "little something" to stuff someone's stocking with this Christmas, perhaps!

Gadgets Galore!

Apple Watch $199+

The Apple Watch is currently available as either the Series 3 or Series 5 model.
An expensive gift, for sure, but also likely to be a treasured one.

We wrote extensively about the Apple Watch in a series of articles - perhaps here is a good place to start.

If you're considering an Apple Watch, the newest Series 5 watch is nicer, but of course more expensive than the Series 3 watch. Amazon sometimes has discounts on the Series 5, has refurbished Series 4 watches (almost identical to Series 5), and often has discounts on Series 3 watches.

Amazon Fire Tablet $80 - $150

The Fire HD 10 gives amazing value for a large-screened good performing tablet.
We love Amazon's Fire tablets. They are astonishing value and a perfect way to watch movies on a long flight, or in a motel room, or pretty much anywhere else as well.

They're also good for all usual things too - email and web-surfing, and many of the instant chat type programs.

Generally our recommendation is for the 10.1" screen Fire HD10, which is $150. Note this is backordered at present, with more expected on 20 December. Its screen supports full-resolution HD 1080P movies.

But for children or a "spare" tablet, the 8" screened Fire HD8, at only $80, is a very high value alternative.

There is also a 7" screened tablet, for $50, but we don't recommend it. The screen quality is not nearly as good as the other two units, and we feel it is false economy to choose it.

Amazon Kindle eReader $90 or $130

We love our Kindle Paperwhite and feel it to be the best choice in the three model Kindle eReader range.
You could be forgiven for overlooking the Kindle eBook reader these days. The Kindle software now can be used on your computer, on your tablet, and on your phone, no matter what make and model it is.

But we suggest that a dedicated book reading device is still a useful thing for those of us who still love reading books. A Kindle eReader can be astonishingly lightweight (6 ounces) and because of its black and white "e-ink" display, it can have a tremendously long battery life.

The e-ink display also works as well in bright sunlight as it does in low/no-light, and some people think that its lack of glare and none of the "blue light" makes it easier on the eyes for long reading sessions.

So, yes, a Kindle eReader remains a useful device. Although we travel with tablets and phones too, we generally also pack a Kindle to read with.

There are three model Kindles currently. The top of the line Oasis is crazy-expensive at $250 (although that's a slightly strange statement to make - when the original Kindle came out, it was priced at $395!). We don't recommend the Oasis.

The middle product, the Paperwhite, is the best choice for most people. It has a better quality screen with higher-resolution, making smaller sized type easier to read, twice as much memory storage for books, and 50% more battery life than the entry-level priced Kindle, while only costing $40 more.

The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite is $130.
The standard Amazon Kindle is $90.

Amazon Alexa Echo Dot Deal! $8.98

The newest 3rd generation Echo Dot is the best yet, and this special promotion makes it a "must have".
This is a crazy deal that seems too good to be true, but we tested it ourselves and it works, although who knows for how much longer.

You can get a brand new latest generation Echo Dot and a one month trial of Amazon's unlimited music streaming service all for $8.98. The Echo Dot lists for $50 and currently is $25 on special (see next entry); and the Amazon music service is $8/month.

There are two catches. It is only available if you don't already subscribe to their unlimited streaming music service, and be sure to cancel the music streaming before the end of the free trial month (unless you want to keep it, of course).

We're not sure how long this deal will remain, and it says "while stocks last", so grab it while you can. We did.

Amazon Alexa Echo Controller $25+

Amazon's range of Echo voice control units is getting more and more extensive. Is there something in this range for you and the people you're buying for this Christmas?
The concept of voice controlled services is taking the world by storm. It is even more convenient than lazing on a sofa with a remote control - you don't need to worry about losing the remote or even have the hassle of reaching for it.

An increasing number of functions and services can be controlled by the Amazon Alexa service, of by Google's competing Assistant service.

We prefer the Amazon Alexa version, just so as to split our "data sharing" between Amazon and Google, perhaps, and because Amazon seems to be a bit further ahead in terms of functionality and have their products priced at better value points.

We've written regularly about Amazon's Alexa/Echo units. Here's a page with a link to a "cheat sheet" setting out the most useful voice commands to use with an Echo unit, and here's a review of the latest Echo Show unit.

To put your toe in the water, try an Echo Dot. They list for $50, but currently Amazon is selling them at half price.

If you want to try something even easier and more interactive and helpful, you could consider an Echo Show. This adds a screen to the Echo unit, and while it isn't quite as transformative as it could be, the cost of adding the screen can be modest. The Echo Show units come with 5", 8" and 10" screens, and are currently discounted to $60/80/170. The five inch screened Echo Show is more than sufficient for most purposes.

We find we use our Echo units quite a lot for streaming music, and so we upgraded from a small Echo Dot to a larger regular Echo, with a bigger/better speaker setup within it. It does sound a bit boomy in the bass, but we adjusted the settings for it in the Alexa App, and now it sounds better than the Echo Dot. The regular Echo is currently on sale for $80.

Amazon Alexa Echo Connect $13 - 35

Simply plug the Echo Connect anywhere into your phone line and all the Echo units in your home will announce and screen phone calls and allow you to place/answer calls.
We wrote about the growing range of Echo controllers immediately above, but there's one device in particular worthy of a special "shout out", and that is the Echo Connect, not least because it is currently on sale for only $13.

This device turns your entire set of Echo Controllers into call screeners and hands-free phones. You simply plug it into your phone line and when calls come in, your Echo units tell you who is calling (they connect to any shared contact list you have as well as using caller ID), plus you can accept/reject calls through the devices. And you can make or answer calls through your Echo units, too.

About the only bad thing about this lovely unit is that it will encourage you to buy more Echo units!

Currently $13 on Amazon (normally $35).

Laser Measure $23

Instantly measure exact distances up to 260 ft, plus or minus 1/10th of an inch. Amazing.
Here's a gadget that not many people even knew they needed, but which they'll love after getting.

It is a "laser tape measure". It uses a laser beam to measure the distance between itself and objects. It can also automatically measure square feet, heights, and volumes. You can set it to measure from the front or the back of the device.

All it needs is something to bounce its laser beam off. The device has a nominal range of 262 ft (ie 80 m), but its actual range depends on the ambient light and the reflectivity of the object you're shining the laser light on. It appears to be extraordinarily accurate, measuring to a tiny fraction of an inch (2mm), which is massively better than I ever manage with a tape measure when sizing rooms, etc. And it is instant - shine the light and in less than a second, the measurement appears on its display.

Plus you can use the laser to annoy (play with) your cat or dog. Just be careful not to get it in their eyes.

$23 on Amazon.

Three-in-One Cable $18

The Anker 3in1 cable is a very convenient solution for when you've different gadgets requiring different connectors.
One of the frustrations of our modern life is that different devices use different connectors. Sure, things are a lot better than they used to be, when every manufacturer deliberately used non-standard connectors unique to them, but even with the modern standards, there are a range of connector types.

Apple of course (until recently with it seeming to now be rethinking its pariah status) has its own type of connector. Then there's the USB connector in its common "micro" version, and the newer USB-C connector too. A few older devices have the earlier type of Apple connector, or the earlier USB mini connector.

But for most of the time, we know that we have devices with one or two different types of connectors. Rather than doubling up our cables, we have two-in-one and three-in-one cables, too. That's particularly useful in the car - if someone is traveling with us and needs to urgently charge their device, the chances are that our three-in-one (Apple plus USB micro and USB C) cable will work, no matter what it is.

There are also sometimes astonishing difference in cable quality. We don't mean in the ridiculous sense of some of the overpriced cables that are used to connect audio and video equipment, but in the sense of high/low resistance (to slow down or speed up charging).

We wrote an article on this with a detailed demonstration of a bad cable as part of it, and a recommendation for a pricey but excellent 3-in-1 cable made by Nomad.

We unreservedly recommend the Nomad cables, but they have sold out until after Christmas, so if you wanted to give this type of cable as a Christmas gift the generally very good Anker product would be a good alternative, and half the price. Beware of cheaper products that aren't Apple (MFi) certified - and, in our experience, of fake products that claim to be certified but which aren't!

$18 at Amazon.

Everything Else

Allett Coin Wallet $28

The Allett leather coin purse is great for storing all the coins you amass during international travels.
Something we manage without while in the US, but need the minute we leave the country, is some type of coin purse or wallet.

Because most other countries don't have the equivalent of our dollar bills, but do have higher denomination coins, and because the nature of our purchasing in other countries seems to involve more cash transactions, we inevitably end up with pockets full of coins, and as you surely know, they can eat their way through a pocket liner in dismayingly quick time.

So we have a set of coin wallets, one for each of the major currencies we need - Euros and Pounds, and a third wallet for use in any other country we might be traveling to. This greatly protects our pocket and makes it easier to get our change and work through it when needed.

We've tried many different styles of purse and wallet over the years. It is hard to find a sturdy wallet that will itself also withstand the stresses of a weight of coins, all eager to cut through the material. Even heavy leather wallets have failed due to the stitching coming undone.

We really like the Allett coin wallet/purse. At $28, it isn't the cheapest out there, and it isn't available on Amazon (ugh!) but it isn't the most expensive either, not by a long shot!

It is the simplest and most functional design we've seen and, at least so far, is standing up to the stresses of carrying coins. It is a quality piece made from real leather, we think, so it is a gift you can proudly give and not have the recipient feel that you chose something conspicuously cheap.

It has a spring clip that keeps the opening closed; press the sides together, and it will pop open, but if you don't do that, there's no way the coins can work their way out by themselves (we've tried!).

Travel/Pocket Flashlight

Flashlights of all sizes and features, and an equal range of batteries too. At least one of these might be exactly what you or your gift recipients want/need!
One of the things we always carry in our pocket is a small flashlight. Usually it is a small ($38) Fenix LD09, and we see there's now a newer ($27) Fenix E12 that doesn't have quite as bright a high-power setting, but is a little less expensive. Both use a single AA battery so they are wonderfully small and light.

We show not just one or two but three other possibilities in this picture.

At the top is an interesting product, the Keysmart Nanotorch Twist. This has a rotatable head. You can stand the flashlight on its base and have the head point in any direction at all, which is great when you're trying to do something with both hands and need to have a light pointing in a particular direction too. The flashlight also comes with a Li-ion rechargeable battery that is about the same size as an AA battery, so, as you see, it isn't much larger than the LD09. The battery has a very clever feature - you can recharge it by plugging a USB cable directly into a slot on the battery itself. Lovely. The unit lists for $60 on the Keysmart website, and is the same price on Amazon too.

The other two flashlights are much bigger, and much more powerful. The Nanotorch goes up to 600 lumens, but if that's not enough to "get the job done", then you're going to want to turn to one or the other of the larger Fenix flashlights.

We love the Fenix flashlights. They are extraordinarily well made. We've owned them for maybe 15 years, perhaps longer; they never break, but sometimes get lost! The Fenix website shows a huge variety of different models, and generally each model comes with different combination choices in terms of batteries and other accessories.

The ($65+) Fenix LD30 (on the right) goes up to 1600 lumens, as does also the ($85+) Fenix TK22 on the left. But the TK22 has a narrower beam, so it can be used at a longer distance. For close in illumination, you'd probably prefer the broader beam of the LD30, but if you want to see what's down the end of the road, reach for the TK22. The other impressive feature of the TK22 is that, as a direct result of its narrower beam, it has a very intense brightness in its center beam - 41,133 candela, one of the brightest we've ever seen. This makes it almost in the category of a stun-light - if you shined that in an attacker's face at night, he's not going to be seeing much at all until his eyes adjust back from the visual overload you've just inflicted on him.

The LD30 can also fit in a pocket, and uses an 18650 Li-ion battery, including those that can also be directly recharged via USB cable. The TK22 is not so well suited for pocket carry, due to its larger lens area and crenelated finish around the front. But both units come with belt pouches too. The TK22 can use either 18650 or larger 21700 style Li-ion batteries.

To summarize, for a tiny personal flashlight, the Fenix LD09/E12 or the Keysmart Nanotorch are your best choices. For an area/working light, the LD30 is the best choice, and for a spot/long range light, the TK22 is a stunning solution.

Haeleum Insect Repelling T-shirt $35+

The Haeleum shirt with built-in insect repellent - use it as well as, rather than instead of other protection against mosquitos and other nasties.
If you're going somewhere foreign with malarial mosquitos, or to Scotland with its midges or New Zealand with its sandflies, you know how troublesome such things can be, especially with mosquito-malaria becoming more and more drug resistant.

Sure, we all spray ourselves with DEET and other concoctions, but it doesn't hurt to back that up with clothing that is also impregnated with insect repellent.

These Haeleum brand shirts have a coating of Permethrin which helps dissuade the nasties from coming after you. The coating is said to last for 70 washes, which is apparently the typical life of a typical shirt. They also have a high sunblock factor as well, making them dual-purpose and all the better when in tropical countries.

A range of styles and sizes, for men, women and children are available on Haeleum's website, but not on Amazon. From about $35 and up.

External Battery Pack/Emergency Light $10+

An emergency power source for your electronics, and an emergency light too. Great value for as little as $10.
Now that we're entering into winter, we have to contend with the possibility of power outages. Are you prepared?

One of our favorite "dual purpose" gadgets is an external battery that can be used for recharging our phones and other portable devices, and which has a built in flashlight, too. The wonderfully efficient LED lights on these products can light up an entire room, and not just for hours, but for days at a time. Not bad for a product costing as little as $10 (such as this item on Amazon).

We write and review about this more here.

A Book - either print or electronic

"London's Underground" is a very detailed and beautifully presented history of the world's first underground mass transport system.



A very readable story of the rapid success and surprising failure of a US high tech company.
We love our Kindle eReader, and buy most of our books in eBook format these days. But sometimes it is great to treat oneself to a good oldfashioned print book.

Here are two books we've recently enjoyed. The former is very much better suited as a print book because it is full of glorious high quality illustrations. The latter can be either eBook or regular book, depending on your personal preference (and remaining bookshelf space, perhaps!).

Our review of "London's Underground" can be seen here.

Our review of "To Feel the Music" can be seen here.

Easier/Better Cooking With a Digital Thermometer

Pull the trigger and a laser dot shows you where you'll be getting a temperature reading, which appears on the LCD screen.



Insert the narrow tip of the probe where you want to check the temperature and within a second or two, the exact reading appears on the display.
I've always looked disdainfully at people who are forever sticking thermometers into their steaks and otherwise using them as crutches in their cooking. "Real cooks", I told myself, just "know" when food is perfectly cooked.

But then I found myself randomly attracted to a thermometer on special on one of the Chinese websites that specialize in selling low-priced gadgets, usually with instruction sheets that are impossible to read and twice as difficult to understand.

All of a sudden, I found myself delightedly testing the temperature of (almost) everything. And, best of all, no more under (or over) cooked food, no more reheated leftovers that weren't hot enough, and so on.

We liked the first thermometer so much, we got a second one. So now we have an IR "contact" thermometer to test the outside of food items, and to help us judge how to simmer liquids, and a "probe" thermometer to check the internal temperature of foods too.

Sure, we've long had old-fashioned probe thermometers with really thick probes and really slow response times. But now we've one that is surgically small and with almost instant response.

We suggest you get the cook in your life (and if it is yourself, definitely treat yourself) to both these items.

IR "gun" style thermometer - about $14 at Amazon
Probe style thermometer - about $16 at Amazon

We hope you’ve found some items you might not have otherwise considered!  Merry Christmas and happy New Year.

 

 

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