Published Nov. 18, 2021

Everyone’s thinking about holiday shopping early this year. Between two years of COVID living and a broken supply chain that threatens to keep presents out of people’s hands, there just seems to be more urgency than ever around the holidays this season. (We have some tips about dealing with the supply chain. As for COVID, I only have one tip, really: Get vaccinated!)

We here in the house of PopSci have been thinking about gifts, too. What we plan to give and, more importantly, what we’d like to receive. For the past few weeks, I’ve bugged the staff of Popular Science to find out what they’re hoping to find when they open their sensibly presented gifts at the end of the year. Here are all the things on the PopSci staff’s wish list.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Yellow Mountain Imports Magnetic Roll-up Go Game Set

Go On The Go

Go is an incredible game. This portable set is easy to set up and store.

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Price: $64.99

There’s a reason AI developers use the ancient strategy game of Go as a measure of our programming progress: It has easy rules but is nearly impossible to master. I’ve coveted a proper set since watching a pair of documentaries during The Great Pandemic Binge, but traditional setups can cost hundreds—even thousands—and the hefty wooden boards aren’t exactly easy to store in NYC apartments. This roll-up set fits the entire kit into a tube, and the magnetic playing stones hold themselves in place to keep my cat (or my own clumsiness) from messing up the board mid-game. The seller, Yellow Mountain Imports, also comes recommended by the American Go Association.

Corinne Iozzio, Editor-in-Chief

Bamboozle indoor food composter

Durable, Sustainable, Affordable, Stylish

Sustainability means a lot to us, so we’re recommending a great indoor compost bin.

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Price: $44.99

Anything that’s cute and helps you deal with food waste is right up my alley! This composter is small and looks like a display piece, so you can put it front and center in any kitchen. It features reusable charcoal filters to minimize the smell, which is great. More importantly, it’s a truly sustainable product: It’s made from recycled plastic and “excess” harvested bamboo. Both the composter and filters are dishwasher-safe, making it a little bit easier to live sustainably.

Sara Kiley Watson, Assistant Editor

Apple iPad Mini (6th generation) & Pencil 2

The Best Little Drawing Tablet

The new iPad Mini is just big enough for work and fun.

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Price: $499 for the iPad Mini, $129.99 for the Pencil 2

I’ve always wanted to pick up an iPad and now seems like the perfect time! The new iPad Mini is an excellent first tablet—it’s portable, powerful, and not outrageously expensive. It also works with peripherals like the 2nd-gen Apple Pencil. Personally, I’d use this a lot for content creation, like making merch designs for my Twitch channel or drawing text on YouTube thumbnails. But I also think it’d be nice to use the iPad Mini as a—dare I say—mini laptop to use while lounging on the couch or in bed. (Yes, screen time before bed IS atrocious, thank you for asking.) All in all, it’s a fun and functional gadget!

Jess Boddy, Associate Editor – Special Projects

Red Wing Shoes The Clara Boots

Boots Built to Last

Stylish and durable, you’ll be able to hold onto a pair of The Clara boots for a long time.

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Price: $339.99

I’m finally ready to stop buying shoes that fall apart after a single season, and a colleague swears by Red Wing boots as a fashionable option that lasts for years. I’ve been eyeing the Clara in Amber or Oro, so I’m really hoping to get a pair. The company offers repairs and resoling, so you really can make these shoes last for ages. They’re as good for the planet as they are for your feet.

Rachel Feltman, Executive Editor

GE Profile Opal Nugget Ice Maker

What’s Cooler Than Being Cool? Ice Cold!

Nugget ice is, to some connoisseurs, the ultimate soft drink chiller.

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Price: $589.99

If you know about the good ice, then you realize why I want this thing in my kitchen. GE’s countertop ice maker churns out small nuggets of frozen water that are crunchy enough to feel satisfying, but not so hard that you’ll destroy your teeth trying to chew them. It’s similar to the ice you’d get at Sonic. It’s not quite a slushy; it’s more refined. It makes every drink better and I’m shocked I haven’t sucked it up and spent the cash to buy one for myself yet. 

It’s a totally extravagant gift that’s expensive even when it’s on sale, but I can’t help but imagine how much better literally every activity I do around my home would be if it were accompanied by a frosty Arnold Palmer (half iced tea, half lemonade) poured over a mound of perfect little ice nuggets.

Stan Horaczek, Senior Gear Editor

Dyson Airwrap hair styler

Fantasy Hair

The Dyson Airwrap is highly coveted, highly expensive, and, like most Dyson products, apparently works like magic.

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Price: $599.99

One of the tasks I dread the most is drying and styling my hair—it goes all the way down my back and is seemingly incapable of holding anything but a stick-straight style. So when I saw the Dyson Airwrap creating beautiful voluminous curls and waves all over TikTok, it piqued my interest. I like my current hair-dryer brush, but it doesn’t produce the kind of curls or volume that my stubborn hair refuses to retain throughout the day. Obviously, the Airwrap is quite an investment, but the head attachments mean that this pick would also be easy to pack up when I go on trips (because the hotel blow dryer never cuts it).

Quinn Gawronski, Editorial Assistant

Samsung HW-Q800T 3.1.2 Soundbar

TV Speakers Just Won’t Cut It Anymore

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Price: $424.99

Sometimes, you buy someone a gift and it goes so well that you make yourself jealous. I bought my dad a Roku Smart Soundbar for his birthday this year and he loved it. He generally ignores me when I tell him to consider replacing or upgrading his tech, but the difference between his normal TV’s speaker sound and the powerful depth of the soundbar blew his mind. As the family tech person, buying a tech gift also meant I was on the hook for setting it up, so I got to hear it as well, and I was also very impressed.

So now I want a Soundbar too.

I generally use gaming headsets with my TV because I’m testing all the time, but I want to be able to kick back sometimes and get really great sound. And, while I wholeheartedly endorse Roku’s soundbars if you’re looking to spend $200 or less, I am a tech snob so I have my eyes on something a little fancier. Samsung is generally well-known for making soundbars across the board, but I’m personally eyeing the Samsung Q800T, which delivers great sound in a relatively compact form factor and checks all the boxes for me as someone who cares a lot about gaming, as it includes true Dolby Atmos support with upward-firing speakers and 4K/HDR passthrough. It also helps that retailers like Amazon and Walmart seem to have cut its very serious $899.99 price in half ahead of the holidays.

Mike Epstein, Reviews Editor

Ninja Creami ice cream maker

Ice Cream Creator

If you want to make ice cream at home, the Creami’s a good place to start.

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Price: $169.99

I make “ice cream” all the time with frozen fruit and milk in my blender, but it’s always a little bit … off. An ice cream maker would be a game-changer for me. The Creami, in particular, is relatively inexpensive and has separate settings for ice cream, sorbet, and milkshakes. It also has settings for mixing in chunks of fruit or chocolate. The world is my oyster ice cream.

John Kennedy, DIY Editor

All Yesterdays: Unique and Speculative Views of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals

Expand Your Mind

“All Yesterdays” challenges what you think you know about dinosaurs.

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Price: $35.29

This book came out almost 10 years ago, but it still stands out for exploding stereotypes about what dinosaurs must have been and poking fun at the limits of our ability to imagine how weird the world can be.

Philip Kiefer, Staff Writer

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 5G (in green, please)

Future Nostalgia

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 is easily the most interesting folding phone of the year.

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Price: $999.99

A touchscreen flip phone with 5G, a solid camera, and a next-level graphics card … my early 2000s brain can’t comprehend. The fact that Samsung pioneered this bendable screen glass is also something worth buying into. Hopefully, it holds up after 60,000 open-and-shuts, for the 60,000 times my mom calls me each week. 

Purbita Saha, Senior Editor

Thousand Chapter bike helmet

Wear A (Stylish) Helmet!

Thousand’s Chapter bike helmet is built to take a beating, and the company will replace it if it gets damaged.

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Price: $135.00

This helmet literally saved my life. I got hit by a car on my bike earlier this year and the helmet had a bit of a dent in the back where I would have been hit. It also features MIPS technology, which basically keeps your brain from bouncing around inside your skull and giving you a concussion. If you’re involved in an accident, Thousand will also replace the helmet for free! It also comes with a magnetic light that sticks to the back of the helmet and has a hole in the side you can loop your u-lock through, so you can safely stash your helmet with your bike. Plus, it’s one of the most stylish helmets on the market.

Katie Belloff, Art Director

POJ Studio Incense Kit

Make Your Own Relaxation

The POJ Studio incense-making kit is a fun way to take some time back for yourself.

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Price: $52.00

Gifting a DIY kit is like gifting a hobby—the person not only gets a cool present, but also the highly satisfying experience of making it themselves. POJ Studio’s incense-making kit is a simple project that yields up to 20 cones of deliciously yuzu-scented incense. Making them is easy and deeply relaxing, so you’re basically giving somebody the gift of self-care. You’re welcome. 

(For more hardcore DIYers, POJ Studio also makes a very nice kintsugi kit for repairing ceramic and wood. It’s very cool, but definitely a larger, more intense project.)

Sandra Gutierrez, Associate DIY Editor

Been There, Done That: A Rousing History of Sex

The Birds & The Bees+

Coming this Spring, “Been There, Done That” explains the wild history of what we thought we knew about sex.

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Price: $27.00

Well, this is a little awkward, but my first book is coming out in May and I personally think it’s a pretty great read. It’s a light-hearted romp through the history of sex—weird medical tales, bizarre evolutionary insights, heaps of cultural myth-busting, and everything you never knew you needed to know about herpes. It won’t arrive in time for Christmas, of course, but now is still a great time to preorder it. And, in my defense, any preorders will be a great Christmas gift for me.

Rachel Feltman, Executive Editor

Hydro Flask 40oz steel bottle

Drink More Water

The 40oz Hydro Flask is a great everyday carry.

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Price: $34.99

I got one of these for my birthday two years ago and I have used it basically every day since. I never would have spent more than $30 on a bottle, but this Hydro Flask really is excellent. The double-walled stainless steel construction has survived plenty of bumps and bruises. It has fallen out of my car and smashed against numerous trees and it’s still totally fine. Plus, it keeps drinks cold for way longer than it takes to drink them. 

I opted for the additional straw lid, which requires cleaning more than I would like. But, it makes the bottle a lot easier to drink from since I don’t have to unscrew the cap all the time. 

And while 40 ounces is a lot of capacity, I enjoy making fewer trips to the water dispenser. It also still has a relatively small footprint considering its volume. It fits into my favorite camera bag and the lid fits securely enough that I don’t have to worry about it soaking all my gear during transport. 

There are other solid brands out there, but I’ve used several of them and none have been nearly as durable or more temperature efficient than the Hydro Flask.

Stan Horaczek, Senior Gear Editor

Modernist Pizza

The Path To The Perfect Pizza

Some would say taking three giant books to explain everything there is to know about pizza is excessive. We respectfully disagree.

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Price: $425.00

Pizza means a lot to the PopSci staff. It’s how we mark pretty much any occasion—wins, losses, birthdays, Wednesdays. Even during COVID, gift certificates stood as stand-ins for our go-to grub. We don’t just like pizza, we respect it. As do the culinary minds behind the Modernist Pizza compendium, who literally science’d the living hell out of every single facet of crafting the perfect pie. Case in point: They tell you how to dial in a crust recipe based on your oven’s altitude. Respect.

Corinne Iozzio, Editor-in-Chief

Sunrise Sensations BrightBox Light Therapy Lamp

Light Up Your Life

A little light therapy can do wonders for your mental health in the winter.

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Price: $109.99

It’s approaching the darkest and coldest part of the year, where most peoples’ energy and mood take significant dips (myself included). Vitamin D is in short supply and working from home means I’m inside most of the day, so the appeal of a therapy lamp has increased—especially after daylight savings. And while SAD lamps might improve my current condition, their design typically looks like something straight out of a doctor’s office, which doesn’t suit my somewhat particular sense of style. That’s why this elegant wood-framed pick stood out to me—because, obviously, I want to fight seasonal sadness in style.

Quinn Gawronski, Editorial Assistant

Breville BSB510XL Immersion Blender

Magic Wand

A hand blender, like the Breville BSB510XL, doesn’t seem like an essential kitchen tool until you need one.

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Price: $119.95

After years and years of watching the Food Network and cooking shows on YouTube, I’ve finally become a somewhat decent cook in the latter days of the pandemic. When I can find the time, it’s one of the few things that really helps me decompress, since watching TV and playing video games count as work for me. I’ve inherited a pretty decent kitchen arsenal from my family over the years so I’m generally well-equipped, but there are two gadgets I don’t have that my cookbooks seem to keep calling for: a spice grinder to blitz whole seeds and peppercorns and an immersion blender, which is essential for making certain sauces and creamy soups. I would be thrilled to receive either one, but the immersion blender is the pricier of the two. The most highly recommended I’ve heard of is Breville’s BSB510XL, which our sister site Saveur praises for its ergonomic grip. As a long-time gamer with horribly broken hands, plus I’m something of an ergonomics connoisseur, that’s a big deal for me.

And, loved ones, if you’re reading this and are wondering what spice grinder would make a great gift, Saveur and I both like the Cuisinart SG-10.

Mike Epstein, Reviews Editor

Nintendo Switch OLED

It’s Mario Time!

The Nintendo Switch OLED has an incredible roster of games, and its OLED screen makes portable play a pleasure.

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Price: $349.99

Now is the best time to buy a Nintendo Switch! (Editor’s note: If you can find one.) The Switch OLED is so worth it, especially if you play handheld. There are incredible Switch games out the wazoo right now—Metroid Dread, Animal Crossing: New Horizons (with the recent 2.0 update), classics like Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, and new games like Splatoon 3 are right around the corner.

Jess Boddy, Associate Editor – Special Projects

ISOtunes Pro 2.0 wireless earbuds

Turn The Music Up And The Work Noise Down

The ISOTunes Pro 2.0 earbuds are made specifically for loud, workplaces like construction sites, machine shops, and your favorite maker’s garage.

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Price: $109.99

Most noise-cancelling headphones feel like a luxury, but the ISOTunes Pro 2.0 wireless earbuds are built for keeping noise out when it’s a necessity. Designed for workshops, construction sites, and other loud work environments, the ISOTunes Pro earbuds are OSHA-rated for 27 dB of passive noise reduction and feature a noise-suppressing microphone for when you have to take a call, but can’t turn down the volume.

John Kennedy, DIY Editor

Pottery With a Purpose Beginner Pottery Kit

Project In A Box

Pottery with a Purpose has a great starter kit for people looking to make something small, but useful.

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Price: $57.60

Listen, it’s been a tough year and we all need to take some time to relax and reconnect with ourselves. Making something (anything) is a great way to do it, and Pottery With a Purpose’s beginner pottery kit makes it easy if you aren’t an artist or a builder. For a little over $50, you get everything you need to make your own mug or flower pot, including clay, tools, and a tiny instruction manual. Full disclosure: you’ll need to bring your creation over to a pottery oven or kiln if you want to make it watertight. Otherwise, your mug will turn to mush in no time. You can still use your creation as a pen holder even without firing it, though, and enjoy the satisfaction of making something with your own hands. 

Sandra Gutierrez, Associate DIY editor

Wynd Plus smart personal air purifier with air quality sensor

Fresh Air Everywhere

Keep the Wynd Plus on you to filter the air in your car and other closed spaces.

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Price: $199.00

It’s fair to say the last couple of years have been a time when people had to remind themselves to “just breathe” more than once. Pandemics, politics, pollution—a lot of factors made me very conscious of the current climate we live in. There’s now even more of a premium on personal space, but also the need to decompress. Attempting my own take on “hot vax summer,” I decided to work from the road for a period, loading up the car with an early Christmas gift to myself that I’d recommend to anyone traveling for the holidays. Whether driving through wildfire smoke or putting out fires at work, I’ve turned to the Wynd Plus as a sort of security blanket. A cordless, compact particle trapper with an informative real-time app, the water bottle-sized Wynd Plus is at home in a cup holder, hotel room, or cubicle. It’s refreshing to be able to check the air quality and open a little “window” at my workstation or in the car while still maintaining my bubble.

Tony Ware, Associate Tech Group Commerce Editor

Minuendo Adjustable Earplugs

Hear Today, Not Gone Tomorrow

Not having a ringing in your ears gets my ringing endorsement. Minuendo

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Price: $159

Every Christmas season I ask for the same thing: “Santa, I haven’t been too, too not good, so can I visit my teenage self but with the wisdom I have today?” And every year, I don’t get my wish. But if I ever do, I’m taking that idiot a lot of advice and a good pair of earplugs. I didn’t value my hearing early but now, in my mid-40s, I understand how precious a commodity it is. And, with the world opening back up, concerts are a serious consideration again. So, to keep the hearing I have left, but also keep hearing what got me out of the house, I want a pair of these Minuendo adjustable earplugs. Unlike with disposable foam earplugs, these use a variable membrane that attenuates decibels but doesn’t mercilessly dampen the highs. The ability to slide between stepped adjustments (-7 to -25 dB) means I can have a conversation between sets but also listen comfortably till the encore, all without removing the earplugs, which offer a fit familiar to anyone that uses earphones/in-ear monitors. While I might lose a little more top end than with custom-molded options, no one will pay $300 to help me effectively filter noise (plus you can loan universals to other family members). Whether you’re a musician or music fan, earplugs should make your wishlist, too, so you can embrace your inner teenager responsibly.

Tony Ware, Associate Tech Group Commerce Editor

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