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It’s been a difficult and unusual year for most of us—just the kind of year that could be improved by extra generosity this holiday season. The shortening days and cooling air are a good reminder to start thinking about what to give those special people in your life, especially the loved ones whose worlds have been turned upside down recently.
It’s impossible to offer a pitch-perfect gift idea for every person on our readers’ lists (though we’re going to try) and so it seemed appropriate to first offer some ideas in broad categories to get the creative process started.
If you have any specific product questions—or a friend who really has you stumped this year—feel free to reach out on the PopSci Deals Facebook group or by contacting Popular Science’s Commerce Editor Billy Cadden directly. Prime Day is also coming up on October 13th, so make sure to keep an eye out for deals.
If none of the products below speak to you, you could always browse these curated gift guides on Amazon. Here are some of the most popular categories:
For the friend who is always outside hiking, camping, skiing, and more, these socks from Smartwool will make a great gift. Chances are they already have a pair and are dying for more. Made of mostly durable Merino wool, these socks keep feet nice and toasty without overheating and fit comfortably with form-fitting athletic wear. They last forever and come in 15 different colors in a variety of sizes. While these specific socks are made for narrower feet, you can find many more options for wider feet made with the same durable material in the Smartwool style.
Considered Black Diamond’s fully featured rain shell, this jacket is made to withstand all foul weather. Crafted from BD.dry material—rainproof, windproof, and breathable—the durable fabric can stretch as needed. Convenient zip-front and pit zips allow for ample ventilation, and the hood is both adjustable and climbing helmet-compatible. This jacket is great for backpacking, as it can pack tightly into the right-hand pocket.
You can’t go wrong with North Face jackets, which are made to last. This one is lightweight and durable, so it’s ideal for rainy days before winter sets in. You can choose solid colors like black and light gray, or a mix of two different colors like laurel wreath green and spruce green.
Wearing that new pair of heels for the first time is often a problem. The compliments are a great ego boost, but is that worth the inevitable blisters and broken skin? Luckily with these heel cushion Inserts, you can flaunt your new kicks and not worry about painful blisters. Each insert sits in the back of the shoe and curves up the heel. The soft suede material protects your delicate skin from rubbing, while the plastic backing sticks into the shoe perfectly to prevent sliding. They’re also reusable and can be washed.
The world is your oyster with Sungait’s retro sunnies: they come in over 20 variations of lens and frame color, and buyers can choose from both polarized or non-polarized, and reflective or non-reflective lenses. This style utilizes a flexible TR90 material that can bend under pressure without breaking, and the composite lenses feature UV400 protection, so they’re ideal for travel.
Chacos are a great choice for those looking for more support, thanks to their high arches and adjustable straps. They’re comfortable for all day wear—especially after you’ve worn them long enough for the straps to best suit your feet—and great for hiking, camping, or fishing. The soles are tough, and will last you years.
These are your most flexible mask extender option, since the straps allow you to define the tightness to your exact liking. They also sit snugly on the bottom or your neck as opposed to the middle of your head. This keeps them from matting down your hair. Since the straps are made of cotton, they are not as simple to clean as other extenders, but they make up for this shortcoming in the comfort department. One order comes with four pieces: two for adults and two shorter ones for children.
These sturdy boots hit at your lower calf, which means they keep your pant bottoms dry but don’t make you feel like you’re about to hit up a cranberry bog. They come in green or pink, and have a waterproof rubber exterior with a stretchy, nylon shaft. A breathable lining keeps things comfortable, even as you trek through mud or rain or uprooted gardens.
Send a PajamaGram to yourself or to a love one’s door and step into these double-brushed flannel beauties made from pure cotton. If you’ve ever been annoyed that matching button-down tops and loose-fitting drawstring pants are cut and designed for men too often, you’ll appreciate this more closely cut set, right down to the piping on the long-sleeve cuffs.
These waterproof Coldspark UltraDry boots from Vasque are great for any season, but built to keep you warm and safe on slicker surfaces. They provide all the support you’ll need, whether you’re hiking up a mountain or trekking around the city. The boots are made of a breathable TPU Yarn Mesh and treated leather. Vasque uses their Retain insulation—an aluminized reflective material bonded to the lining—to reflect heat while keeping the shoe super-breathable. Their UltraDry membrane also keeps your feet from getting wet. You’ll stay warm without getting sweaty or soggy feet. The boots weigh only two pounds, so they feel more like sneakers. To protect you from slipping, the soles on the bottom have a multi-directional tread for particularly wet or icy surfaces.
This infinity scarf by trusted brand the North Face is simple, comfortable, and easy to take on and off without mussing up your makeup or ‘do.
For an underlayer that promotes circulation while insulating body heat, grab these Under Armour compression leggings. They’re made of super stretchy fabric that’s designed to flex along every axis, keeping you comfortable without inhibiting your movement. You can work out in them without a worry, too, thanks to their sweat- and moisture-wicking combination of polyester and elastane.
The Ozero winter gloves are minimal and super-comfortable, with their insulated thermal cotton lining and a leather outer layer. The outer layer of deerskin won’t harden, so you can take these gloves to the slopes. If you don’t like the gloves, Ozero will give you your money back—no questions asked.
Hate getting out of bed in the winter? This soft, snuggly, ankle-length fleece robe might help—it’s made from 330 GSM microfiber fleece to warm you up. Pull up the attached hood to hide from the world and keep your ears warm. A clever inside tie makes sure the robe doesn’t shift or slip. It’s like wearing a cuddly, cloudy blanket at all times. Get it in an array of velvety colors for both men or women.
Comrad compression socks are intended to reduce feet swelling and help improve blood circulation. Comrad’s products include toe and heel padding, as well as the moisture-absorbing fabric that can keep your feet dry. Both these qualities make for a more comfortable, full-day experience. Comrad’s socks also feature antimicrobial SmartSilver bound into the thread, which helps kill bacteria and odors, allowing you to wash your socks less often. This leads to a longer life for your socks. Their socks have a compression rating of 15-25mmHg, with the most pressure starting at the ankle.