I’m a big believer in buying quality and buying less. As a product designer, you’d think I’d be good at finding great products for my own use. However, I find that very few of the products I own stand out as being great. While it’s true that I am pretty picky, I think the real issue is that most products just aren’t created with nearly enough care for the end product or the environment.
Below is my shortlist of products I’m currently using that are truly well designed, well made, and a pleasure to use.
Arcteryx rain jacket
Every time I put this jacket on I find myself thinking, “damn, this thing is done right!” Of course there’s some personal fit with wearables but this jacket just feels right in every way and all the materials and construction methods convey quality. I ride bikes through NYC rain and snow and this jacket keeps it all out.
Wera tool kit
I really like nice tools. A friend I ride motorcycles with carried one of these Wera tool kits. Each time I used it I said something like, “I have tool kit envy!” Being the nice friend he is, he surprised me with my own kit. Yes, it’s just a socket and ratchet set, BUT they really worked out every detail, from the way you hold the tool, to adapters that make it super versatile, and even the satisfying little clicking sounds.
Gransfors Bruks axe
I love when someone can take something most people don’t think much about and make it into something exceptional. You probably have to try a Gransfors Bruks to appreciate how special these axes are – you may also need to be a redneck, mountain man/woman, or outdoor adventurer with a use for an axe! Beyond the quality and feel of the product, I’m also a huge fan of Gransfors Bruks’ commitment to both old-school craftsmanship and environmentalism.
I grew up on a farm and we heated the house each winter with a few truckloads of wood. If I got in trouble at school my punishment was to split and stack wood every day after school until that truckload was done. At the time I never thought I’d split would by choice but oddly I now really enjoy it.
Fun bonus: every GB axe is stamped with the initials of the smith that forged it in their Swedish workshop. They have 20 people producing their axes and mine came stamped with the initials “MF”! The fun “Axe Book” that came with it even tells me MF’s full name is Martin Forslund.
MF to MF: You did a great job and your masterpiece is being fully appreciated in the woods of North America.
My wife is a chef and I have to credit her with turning me on to Vitamix blenders. When she first started using one in a commercial kitchen, she raved about it. Before long we had one at home, but it had to go everywhere with us. We’d drive out of the city for a weekend getaway and on one side of the backseat was our dog, on the other was her Vitamix strapped into the seatbelt. At first I thought it was ridiculous but now I understand and fully endorse taking it.
We make a lot of smoothies and she cooks amazing meals with all kinds of natural and tough ingredients. This blender makes quick work of anything you throw in and gives the impression it can do it all day every day for decades to come.
Kona Sutra LTD
A wise bike builder once said, “Even if you can’t be one with the world, be one with your bike.” This bike is a relatively affordable production frame but it fits and feels like a much more. The bike is designed for adventure touring covering long distances off the beaten path with camping gear and supplies. Every time I ride it I just want to keep going and going. Maybe I will soon.
The other bike I’m loving right now but which doesn’t have enough miles on it to say whether it makes the list is an Evil Calling mountain bike. I’ll report back soon.
This is not a shameless plug, I swear! Of course, I'm a little biased since Pakt is my company and I lead the design of this product. On the other hand, if I don’t think our products are exceptional, something is wrong. Luckily I feel strongly that the One deserves to be on this list. I believe the main thing our team nailed with the One, where other bags miss the mark, is organizational hierarchy. Any seasoned traveler will appreciate how the layout compliments the way you pack to keep things you need while on-the-go accessible, and everything you won’t need until you arrive at your destination safely tucked away, out of the way.
I also wrote a post over at Pakt about how striving for our products to make it on your shortlist guides us.
What products are on your list of exceptional products? Do you agree that most of the products pushed into the world are sub par? How do you balance environmentalism and your needs as a consumer? I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions.