Long Handle Shoe Horn

You can get a long bamboo shoe horn at any Asian market for $3, or the previously reviewed one from IKEA, but I have one I really like that is sturdy and long-lasting and expensive. But it is SO worth it. Because of the spring at the bottom it is more maneuverable than regular long shoe horns, ending a lot of frustration. Over the lifetime of the shoe horn, the price is justified in my book.

-- Olivia M. Brown  

21″ Shoe Horn
$22

Available from Amazon



Architect’s Wallet

Over the past 10 years I have slowly converted to the “small wallet in my front pocket” club. My last was minimal but it fell apart quickly as my other everyday carry items, like my pen, rubbed against the apparently cheaply made wallets I was getting. Four months ago I purchased this Architect’s Wallet after looking at other slim models. The combination of three items I always carry into one package sold me. This wallet holds a Fisher Space Pen (another Cool Tool), a small Moleskine Volant notebook, and about 10 or 11 credit cards, which is more than I carried before I owned this.

The leather is handsome and sturdy and has worn in so that it mimics the shape of my thigh, making it all but invisible in my front pants pocket. The perfect EDC (everyday carry) pocket organizer.

-- Matthew A. Walker  

Manufactured by Form Function Form



Bellroy Note Sleeve Wallet

I’m a thin-wallet fanatic, and have tried several varieties, including the previously reviewed All-Ett. The problem I continually run into, however, is the construction. What good is a wallet if your cards slide around and fall out when you open it? Or when it’s threadbare and falling apart after a few months of regular use? Because of this, my enthusiasm for the latest thin wallet design would eventually cool, and I’d end up throwing the thing out and going back to a regular wallet. Again.

That is, until I discovered the Bellroy Note Sleeve. While not as thin as a wallet made of nylon fabric like the All-Ett, the Bellroy is admirably slim as a result of ingenious product design. This includes nifty little touches like a pull-tab that allows you to easily access seldom-used cards. It even has a tiny pocket where you can stick an extra sim card, for über-nerds.

The greatest thing about the Bellroy, however, is the construction. This wallet, with its stamped blue leather, tastefully contrasting stitching and patterned cloth interior, is a terrifically handsome accessory that brings a smile to my face every time I take it out of my pocket. It exudes quality and durability, and just feels good in my hand. There is no doubt in my mind I will still be using it for many years to come.

Bellroy Note Sleeve Wallet from Bellroy on Vimeo.

-- Glenn Davis  

Bellroy Leather Note Sleeve Wallet
$90

Available from Amazon



Jockey Bras

Every women’s magazine in the world will tell you that you are probably wearing the wrong bra size. Of course, actually going to get fitted is awkward and inconvenient, and your results depend on the skill of the person fitting you. To deal with this problem, Jockey has released a new line of bras with an at-home fit kit. For $20, they mail you a special tape measure and a set of plastic cups in a cute bra washing bag. You get $20 off your first bra as well.

The band sizes are standard; their numbered cups, 1-10, seem to go from about an A cup to an F cup. They do combine smaller band sizes with larger cups, which is very helpful for those of us with small rib cages. They currently only come in black, white, and beige. The bras themselves are comfortable; they have good straps and molded foam cups that help keep everything in place. I’ve worn mine for four months and with daily use they still look good. (Bras’ lifetime varies, but with good care — i.e., hand wash, drip dry hung by bottom, not straps — my bras usually last 12-18 months. Eventually, the elastic wears out, or the underwire escapes. The jockey bras are not showing any signs of stretching yet.)

Most importantly, they have replaced the traditional thin metal underwire with a larger, plastic piece with a broad tip. No more ninja assassin underwire escaping your bra and poking you in the side! That alone is worth the price of admission.

The bras themselves are $60 each, which makes them about mid-range in price: more expensive than a bra from Walmart, less than a specialty bra. Jockey’s marketing for the line is a little overenthusiastic, but the product is solid. I highly recommend them for anyone who is a tough fit or hates traditional underwires.

-- Sylvia Richardson  



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
$71
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
$16

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
$20

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
$9

Available from Amazon