Pointer Chore Coat

This simple denim coat has been my everyday jacket for two years. I bought the coat because of the classic aesthetic, reasonable price, and potential utility of those large patch pockets. The pockets have far exceeded my expectations.

As a writer on reporting trips, it helps to travel light. I can comfortably stash a wallet, smartphone, charger, digital voice recorder, small notepad, and pen — plus, the bottom pockets are wide enough to fit an apple and even an 18-ounce stainless steel water bottle. I now routinely leave my shoulder bag in the car or at the hotel.

In San Francisco, where I live, this lightweight 100% cotton denim works year-round. Pointer makes similar, pricier barn coats with heavy blanket lining. Personally, if it’s colder, I find layering with a wool sweater works just fine.

The chore coat I own (pictured) is the cheapest, most basic version. Pointer also offers a range of colors (tan, white), patterns (stripes, camo), as well as a tab vs. standard collar. Their most expensive chore coat costs $112.

Other brands, including Carhartt, make similar chore coats. Pointer is the only brand I’ve found that offers X-Small (I’m 5’8″ 136 lbs.); they also go up to 5X-large.

-- Steven Leckart  

Pointer Chore Coat
Available from Pointer

Breast Shapers

I have a very long torso and always had difficulty finding a comfortable bra.

I’ve used Breast Shapers for over six weeks. They allow me to go completely braless, but with complete breast coverage and support.

I looked for something like this tool, but they were always pasties or similar in size or function. Or designed for only a few wears. Or the materials were cheap and didn’t hold up to sweat. Or they only came in one size (?!)

“Breast Shapers” are a cool tool that allow me to ditch the wire altogether. Saves me laundry money, brassiere-buying money, travel discomfort, and space in my drawer. They’re made of high quality silicone and can be washed and reapplied.

-- Renata Cateline  

Fashion Forms Bring It Up Breast Shapers

Available from Amazon

White’s Smoke Jumper and Farmer-Rancher Boots

If you are after a pair of work boots that are domestically made, are completely rebuild-able, and last forever, White’s are amazing. White’s Smoke Jumper has been the boot of choice for wildland firefighters for generations. The same boot, with a lower top and different sole is sold as the Farmer-Rancher. They make and sell shoes, hiking boots, and winter pacs, in addition to their variety of handmade work boots. White’s also sells other high quality boots from different manufacturers on their website, through distributors around the West, and in their Spokane store.

I have a pair of Smoke Jumpers and a pair of steel-toe Farmer-Ranchers. I had a pair of Packers, but the arch was too high for me. The literature that comes with the boots says it can take 80 hours of wear to break them in. That’s a bit more than my experience, but once broken in they are incredibly comfortable. They are heavy, but if you spend a lot of time on your feet, need reliable foot protection, and especially if you have difficult to fit feet, these are incredible.

These are not a fashion statement, unless you encounter someone who recognizes them.

-- Ed Delaney  

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by White's Boots

Timex Kids’ Tween Digital Clip Watch

I don’t wear a wrist watch — years of working and hobbies in which items on the wrist or hands is dangerous killed that habit. However, I still kept a digital watch because I need the time, stopwatch, and timer functions. I stumbled onto this kids’ watch for $12. It has all the features you would expect from a digital watch: time, alarm, timer, illumination, and water resistance to 50m.

My first one lasted 4 years before the spring on the clip failed. The timekeeping functions still works fine, so its now my gym watch. I replaced it with the identical model. I wear it on my belt loop most days, if I am out hiking with a pack I clip it onto the shoulder strap. As for the broken one, I will either carry it or use a silicone band to keep it on my water bottle.

It seems to usually be found online for about $20 which still puts it a half to a third of similar watches. It may not be stylish, but it is a nice durable utilitarian watch.

-- Sean Marvin  

Timex Kids’ T73751 Tween Digital Clip Watch

Available from Amazon

Ergodyne Chill-Its Cooling Towel

I take at least two daily showers and have problems with cotton towels getting damp, smelly, and yucky because they can’t dry quickly enough in the hours between. I recently turned to an item I’ve had for a year and used for the opposite intended purpose — the Ergodyne Chill-Its is designed to keep someone cool on a hot day by absorbing a lot of water and evaporating gradually. But, since it’s moisture-absorbent, it can also be used for the effectively inverse purpose: GET YOU DRY FAST!

Begone, caveman towels! The Chill-Its is made of reputedly NASA-friendly PVA, so consider it a space-age material. It’s extremely compact (and I do wish for a larger surface version because reaching behind my back can be hard), but you may very well feel amazed when such a small thing (it rolls up into a tight little scroll) gets you pleasantly dry in a couple minutes, and can be thoroughly wrung out for use. It’s actually a refreshing exercise to squeeze and feel how much water it’s collected — and is released.

Another drawback for some may be the Chill-Its’ rubbery surface, although I enjoy experiencing diverse textures, and got used to it fairly quickly. But conversely, a big plus about that: the surface won’t pick up sand or trap lint/fuzz as cotton does, so you can take it to the beach without residue.

As for this writing a Chill-Its runs about US$9 — the same or less than “the old way of doing things” — so thankfully here’s a case where better tech isn’t cost-prohibitive. I give it my highest recommendation for making such a regular thing so much more fun.

-- Torley  

Chill-Its 6602 Cooling Towel

Available from Amazon

Butterfly Wallet

I swore by leather bifolds as the best option for an unobtrusive men’s wallet. When my last one was beginning to wear out, I looked around at other more minimalist options. The Butterfly Wallet stood out because of its low price and very small footprint. This isn’t like the velcro-closure nylon wallet that you had as a kid, it’s a simple arrangement of credit card slots and a place to put cash.

I was skeptical because I thought the trifold design was inherently less efficient, requiring bills to be tripled over in thickness. That turns out to be a non-issue and my Butterfly Wallet with 14 bills and 6 credit card like objects is about 1/2 inch thick. As a bonus, there is now little enough material around my Metro SmarTrip card that I can scan it without removing it from my wallet or even the wallet from some pants!

I used to remove my wallet from my rear pants pocket when I got in the car to take a long drive or even just at the office, and I’m certainly now George Costanza. My wallet is now so small and light that the biggest problem is thinking that I’ve lost it because it’s not a notable bulge on my buttock.


-- Drew Stephens  

Butterfly Wallet

Available from Amazon

Orient Mako Automatic Dive Watch

Looking for a nice and reliable watch is a challenge, and doubly so if style and cost are both considerations. Quartz watches are great devices, usually inexpensive and highly accurate, but there is a certain romance to a precision mechanical watch. Where a quartz timepiece will eventually break down and need to be replaced, mechanical movements may last for decades if properly maintained.

Orient — a subsidiary of Seiko, and one of the few Japanese companies that make mechanical watches — produces solid timepieces with self-winding movements, meaning that as long as you wear the watch regularly it will power itself from the movement of your hand.

I purchased my Mako about a year and a half ago on sale for US$100, and I wear it every day. For a watch at this price level it has some nice features, including a stainless steel double-locking bracelet, rotating bezel to allow time keeping without having to do any complicated math, and an impressive 200m (660 ft.) water resistance, which is a feature seldom encountered in watches costing less than $200. And for those concerned with aesthetics as well as function, it comes in a variety of colors.

According to the manual this watch is not recommended for diving (and many retailers will caution against using any watch not rated to at least 300m/30 bar), but I’ve taken it well below 30m/100ft on several dives and have not experienced any problems that tend to occur when using watches not intended for diving (condensation being the most common).

Two caveats to the otherwise unreserved praise: the first is that any mechanical watch (Rolex and other ten thousand dollar watches included) will be less accurate (on average) than any quartz watch. Second, for those with extreme OCD the Mako has one significant design flaw: you cannot hack the movement, which means that even when you are setting the time on the watch, the second hand continues to move. It is the one thing I dislike about this model, but admittedly this is seldom a problem for anyone who is not a special forces commando who must be able to synchronize time to the second.

Overall, this is a beautiful line of watches for an eminently reasonable price, and if you are interested in a watch that holds up under pressure, this is the best around for the price.

-- Adam Wunker  

Orient Men’s Stainless Steel Automatic Dive Watch

Available from Amazon

Merrell Barefoot Pace Glove

A great pair of barefoot-like shoes for everyday wear. The style is much more unassuming than the Vibram FiveFinger shoes. They’re comfortable, light, and I feel what’s underneath my feet. I don’t like to walk around (foot pain), which is why I’m writing this recommendation; as this shoe has made walking more enjoyable for me. I’m somewhat surprised that a no-cushion shoe has caused less foot pain than my usual casual sneakers. I’ve worn them for three solid years and they’ve held up well, though the label has broken off and it looks like some non-essential threads have started to fray (the Vibram soles look like they’re still going strong). The shoes are made of thin material, so I don’t wear them much past fall or in early spring. When I do need to replace them, I’ll be getting the exact same pair!

-- Maria Angeles  

Merrell Women’s Barefoot Pace Glove

Available from Amazon

HexArmor Hercules Heavy Duty Gloves

I bought these for my husband about five years ago. I’m a member of Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and these were included in an equipment briefing by Norwest Safety staff. HexArmor is used by public safety and emergency responders because it protects you from cuts and scrapes — including knives, broken glass, dirty needles, and other stuff you might find in debris. These have a better level of puncture protection than regular work gloves.

These are long gauntlets, so they protect your forearms as well as your hands. I find them wonderful for pruning roses, but in our area the big battle is against Himalayan blackberries, which are prolific, invasive, and have nasty thorns. These work really well on our own property and in the extensive volunteer land reclamation my husband does. My friend Jerry says they are also great for wrangling cats through unwanted baths.

-- Normandy Helmer  

Hexarmor Hercules 400R6E Gloves

Available from Amazon

Posture Support Jacket

I have a bad shoulder and have struggled with shoulder pain most of my adult life and specially while lifting. Four years ago, my doctor recommended Alignmed S3.

This is a jacket that I wear while working out and it does not let my shoulder get into a bad position. In addition it keeps my posture correct. This has been a wonder product for me and has kept me injury free for 4 years now. I am on my second S3 and have just ordered a 3rd one.

They have an OTC product but I have experience only with the S3 which you get by prescription. Even though the cost of the product is $345 (it was higher when I first got it), my insurance helped offset some of that cost.

Note that I don’t have any financial affiliation with Alignmed; I’m just a very satisfied customer. This product has helped improve my quality of life so I can’t talk enough about it.

-- Amit Agrawal