Gifts that get better as they age

About 99% of consumer goods aren’t in use six months later. Let’s strive for something different.

Best for hikers

Timberland Men's Mid Waterproof Ankle Boot

Best for campers

The Lodge Seasoned Cast-Iron Pan is the best choice for frying meat.

Lodge Pre-Seasoned Skillet

Best for fermenters

Masontops Complete Mason Jar Fermentation Kit

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Of all the consumer goods we buy, only about one percent of it is still in use six months later. That is a dismal statistic, especially when you consider how many of those products are made of plastic and metal that won’t get recycled, but rather will sit in a landfill or float out to join the great garbage patch in the sea. Think right now about the last 10 items you bought. How many of them do you still like and use? Better yet, think of all the things you’ve given to other people because you felt obligated to give them something.

We’re so used to discarding things—clothes, shoes, gadgets—after mere months of use because so many products are designed badly or manufactured cheaply. Fight back against that degradation by buying stuff that will actually last. Your grandparent’s cast iron pan could get passed down to you just like a parent’s 1980′s-era flannel could be—and you could be that parent or grandparents someday. You just have to buy things that will outlast you. Here are some ideas.

Best for hikers: Timberland Men’s Mid Waterproof Ankle Boot

Made to last

We’re used to thinking of shoes (and clothes) as fairly disposable, but if you find a pair you love it’s painful to let them go. Enter: Timberland. Their leather is thick and tough, with a durable rubber sole that is both comfortable and treaded for added traction. Whether you’re hiking, on the job, or going about your day-to-day, these sturdy boots are an investment that can handle any task. With premium waterproof leather, seam-sealed construction, and speed lace hardware with rustproof lace hooks, your feet will stay dry and warm in any weather.

Best for travelers: Samsonite Winfield 3 DLX Hardside Expandable Luggage

Travel can do a number on your luggage, but the Samsonite Winfield 3 DLX Expandable Luggage is designed to ensure the most bruising baggage claim. With a polycarbonate shell that resists scratches, the 20-inch carry-on is designed for maximum storage, including a four-pocket reversible panel. The TSA locks help keep belongings safe and the four wheels and handle make sprinting to the gate a cinch. And the 10-year warranty provides extra protection. — Jen McCaffery

Best for cooks: WÜSTHOF Classic IKON 8-Inch Chef’s Knife

With seven generations of German innovation behind it, you can’t go wrong with the gift of the WÜSTHOF Classic IKON 8-Inch Chef’s Knife. This all-purpose tool can be used for tasks from slicing meat to mincing vegetables. Made from high-carbon stainless steel, this knife is designed with technology to keep the blade 20% sharper than earlier models. And the ergonomic handle is easy on the hand even during intense chopping sessions. — Jen McCaffery

Best for campers: Lodge Pre-Seasoned Skillet

Kitchen staple

The classic. The thing you want your grandmother to pass down to you. Get it today and every time you use it, the seasoning will just get more set, making it increasingly nonstick. Unlike a normal pan, cast iron pans have superior heat retention and no weak spots that produce uneven heating. While cast irons are a kitchen essential, seasoning them can be a stressful process—so this Lodge option comes pre-seasoned so you can get cooking right away. Use it to sear, saute, bake, broil, braise, fry or grill. From Dutch pancakes to cast iron pizzas, the possibilities are endless.

Best for music lovers: Bose Noise-Cancelling Headphones 700

Tune out distractions

Quality headphones are a staple item you can use every day—and this wireless, Bluetooth-connected and noise-canceling option from Bose has the durable design and powerful tech that will make them last for years to come. Whether you’re working from home or in the gym, this pick offers 11 levels of ANC, so you can tailor your auditory surroundings to your personal preferences. And with 20 hours of battery life, a crisp microphone system for calling, a super-comfortable padded design, and Alexa and Google Assistants, these headphones are ideal for everyone from audiophiles to commuters who want to tune out while on the train.

Best for fermenters: Masontops Complete Mason Jar Fermentation Kit

Gets better with time

A fermenting kit can add delicious elements to your kitchen, whether it’s a crispy pickle with a sandwich, kimchi in a noodle bowl, or sauerkraut with German sausage, it’s surprisingly easy to make these aged eats from home. One of the beauties of pickling is that there’s not a ton of prep upfront and then you pretty much just check the lid for a few days and voila: impressive homemade pickled delicacies. This is a perfect gift for the culinary-inclined and will last them years to come. Check online for recipes, then mix it up once you’ve mastered the basics.

Best for bread lovers: John Boos Edge Grain Reversible Cutting Board

The John Boos Edge Grain Reversible Cutting Board is not only an essential tool for the kitchen, it’s a display piece from a company that’s been making them since 1890. Handcrafted in Illinois, this handsome cutting board comes in four sizes and three types of wood: maple, cherry, and walnut. The 1.5-inch thickness gives these boards heft; plus, they’re reversible. And the company uses sustainable practices including planting trees and recycling sawdust. — Jen McCaffery

Best for casual dressers: L.L. Bean Men’s Scotch Plaid Flannel

Only gets softer

If you’ve been searching for years for the perfect vintage flannel at thrift shops, let’s face it: you’re never going to find the flannel of your dreams. Know why? No one in their right mind would give up a worn-in, soft-as-a-lamb’s-bottom flannel shirt if it were still in wearable condition. Just buy this one and enjoy how it gets better with every wash. This L.L. Bean pick is designed with longer-staple cotton that is stronger and higher quality and is brushed eight times on each side to create cozy softness right out of the box (and it’ll only get better from there).

Best for insomniacs: Tuft & Needle Hemp Sheet Set

Getting to sleep can be a challenge for some, but the right bedding can help make slumber come sooner. Tuft & Needle’s Hemp Sheet Set comes out of the box soft and will only get more comfortable with time. The recipient can also sleep easier knowing these sheets are made from hemp, a biodegradable material that’s also naturally breathable for those hot nights. And these sheets are available in four soft huesCloud, Honeycomb, Midnight, Morning—that can match any decor. — Jen McCaffery

Best for coffee drinkers: Welly Camp Cup (12 oz.)

The coffee lover will ingest a lot of java over their lifetime. But that doesn’t mean they have to use disposable cups. The Welly Camp Cup will upgrade the experience, whether they’re traveling in the car or in front of a campfire. Copper insulation keeps beverages hot or cold up to 14 hours and the slide top is leak-resistant. The handle is made from environmentally friendly bamboo and it comes in four fun colors: black, bone, berry, and navy. — Jen McCaffery


Sara Chodosh Avatar

Sara Chodosh


Sara Chodosh was an editor at Popular Science for more than 5 years, where she worked her way up from editorial assistant to associate science editor. In that time she slowly took over running the Charted section of the now-defunct print magazine. Her love of graphics eventually led to her current job as a graphics editor at the New York Times.