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I spent years putting together furniture, or screwing things into the wall by hand, before I finally decided to go to The Home Depot and buy a $30 power drill. Oh, the time it has saved me (bonus: the rare feeling of ruggedness)! I asked a bunch of people around the Internet: “Excluding your phone and laptop, what is your favorite tool or gadget?” Here’s what they said:
Mark Armstrong, founder of Longreads, editorial director at Pocket
My Contigo travel coffee mug. It’s the first one I’ve owned that has not completely leaked. So it has (mostly) stopped me from spending money on that first morning coffee during my commute to work.
Archie Bland, deputy editor of The Independent
Maybe my digital radio? Tons of stations, crystal clear, and it makes the days of endless sifting through static to find something you actually want to listen to a pleasingly distant memory.
Matt Buchanan, editor of Buzzfeed FWD
A kettle is a really simple thing: A vessel that holds water in place so that it can be heated until it’s time to pour it out. So a kettle that costs $60 is sorta kinda completely and totally absurd. But the Hario Buono is perhaps my absolute favorite possession. It’s the platonic ideal of form following function: The handle, which stands at the perfect angle away from the kettle body so you don’t burn your hand, is rippled in a way that your fingers slide neatly into the grooves. The long, craning spout allows you to precisely control the flow of water so you can make coffee in a V60 or Kalita Wave or whatever cone-shaped piece of plastic you want. It also makes your tea taste very fancy. Basically, everything about it is perfect, except that it’s not an electric kettle. Hario just released a version that is, which I would buy, if this kettle ever like, died. But I’m pretty sure it won’t, ever.
Jodi Ettenberg, travel writer, Legalnomads
I’d usually say portable chopsticks or my Kenu highline, which I love because it lets me take photos and not drop my phone. Or my safety whistle, but that’s just because of the monkeys—it scares the monkeys away.
Rubina Madan Fillion, social media editor for The Wall Street Journal
I would have to say my Kindle Fire because it provides me with plenty of distractions, especially during my subway commute. It’s smaller than a paperback, so it fits easily in my small handbag. And while I use it primarily for reading, at home it serves as a substitute for my laptop.
John Herrman, deputy tech editor for Buzzfeed FWD
Last year I had burned through a couple fans, both toy-like and irritating. There was a small metal desk fan, which was out of alignment and would slowly creep across hard surfaces, and one of those baby red plastic Vornados, which sounded like an overheating laptop and looked like it came from a Skymall catalog. Both fans were impulse buys as so was my next: a Stadler Form stainless steel fan, about a foot in diameter. I got it from this weirdly seasonal hardware store near my house (for three months it’s almost entirely A/C units; for the rest of the year the floor is stocked with vacuums and microwaves) by asking for “just a really nice fan,” at which point the owner smiled and said, “oh, I’ve got exactly the thing,” which made me nervous.
It was about a hundred bucks, which seemed like too much at the time. The mount connected to the motor gets loose every couple months, letting the fan droop. The dial is extremely hard to turn. It wobbles a little, and sometimes it hits a sort of resonant frequency with something on the shelves next to my bed.
But the lovely majority of the time it reproduces the sourceless, soft sound of flowing air, like a small ceiling vent connected to a distant central A/C. It’s not so much white noise as a very slight recalibration of what feels silent, and it reminds me of walking through pretty much any front door on a hot day in North Carolina, where I grew up. Love it so much. iPhone, laptop, fan.
Nicholas Jackson, digital editorial director at Outside magazine
I had to think about this for a minute. My giant iMac, my iPad, my iPhone, my MacBook Pro (there’s a theme here—Apple should totally pick me to be a spokesperson). Oh, wait, excluding my phone or computer, you said. That was the tricky part. There aren’t many gadgets or tools I use on a regular basis aside from those. But I realized I was just too focused on electronics. My favorite tool is my bottle opener/corkscrew. It’s sitting right next to my as I type this because I’ve yet to put it away after a long Saturday night. It’s not a particularly nice one, and I’m not entirely sure where I got it, but when I decided to move out to Santa Fe from D.C. with only what I could fit in my Jeep Wrangler (almost nothing), it’s the one kitchen utensil that came with me. I unloaded all of my pots and pans along with my bed, desk, and other pieces of furniture to cut back to as little as possible. But I found room for the bottle opener. It’s every editor’s best friend (and, if you stick to beer bottles, you’ll be able to work much later into the night than if you turned to the easy-open bourbon). And I’ve yet to master that thing where you pop open bottles with your fist and a lighter. And I don’t even have a lighter. I left that in D.C.
Jared Keller, director of social media for Bloomberg News and Bloomberg Businessweek
My current favorite gadget is my Leatherman. My brother gave engraved multitools to the members of his wedding party a little over two weeks ago and I’ve used it for virtually every menial task I’ve needed to address since then: mounting my television, repairing my bag, peeling various edibles. The Leatherman is the perfect tool for those times when you didn’t know you were going to need a tool.
Brian Lam, The Wirecutter
My favorite gadget is the iPhone, but that’s boring so I’m going to say my favorite gadget is my speargun because it is amazing to catch food at dawn and eat it for breakfast.
Elizabeth Lopatto, reporter for Bloomberg News
I was thinking about devices I never go anywhere without and came up with, um, a pen. Not just any pen, though. The Pilot Precise V7 Rolling Ball pen, with a fine point in black. Very fine (that’s the V5) is also all right but the thickness of ink you get with the fine point is more authoritative.
I type most everything but I like to print to edit and fact-check; I find that changing format makes it easier to see mistakes. Also, sometimes when I’m reporting, my laptop or phone die. Or they’re just unwieldy. The V7 is especially satisfying to use when crossing items off a to-do list; the thing I did hangs out there, vanquished, with a nice firm line through it. This small bliss motivates me to finish doing the things on the list, for the reward of crossing them off.
I’m more interested in the pen than the paper because it doesn’t really matter what I’m writing on, although I like blank 3×5 cards for to-do lists. What matters is whether my hand cramps. I’m a little obsessive about the V7 because it’s easy to write with—some pens require too much pressure, others are too thick to hold comfortably, still others do that very irritating thing where they refuse to produce ink at my writing angle. Plus the ink in these pens lasts for ages.
Anyway I’ve got two mugs full of these pens in my house. And of course there’s pretty much always one in my bag.
Meaghan O’Connell, Kickstarter, Meaghano.com
I think my favorite gadget is my coffee grinder, because 1. you don’t really have to clean it, since you just put more coffee in it and who cares it’s just coffee, so that’s liberating. 2. It’s small enough to just stay on the counter and you don’t feel guilty about it—it just hangs out and reassures you that you can press this one big button and grind coffee whenever you like, and, 3. I always thought coffee grinders were for really fancy people and I couldn’t afford one but it turns out they are about $20. So while I honestly don’t know the difference between grinding it yourself and not, it is cheap fun/feels right—it’s a nice thing to do while your toast is toasting. Oh, and 4. you can grind other shit in it if you want (but sadly that means you have to wash it out—twice! Unless you want bread crumbs in your coffee, which, no judgment).
Logan Sachon, The Billfold
A fan. It’s not that I can’t get to sleep without one, it’s that, the sleep is so much better and more wonderful when wrapped in a cloud of fan-sounds. And I don’t do white noise machines. I’ve tried, does not work. I require the real thing. Maybe it also has something to do with air movement? My other favorite gadget is my parents’ robot coffee machine, the kind with the little cups and you put them in the slot and close it and it makes you coffee, ta da. I would consider getting one maybe except the coffee is so expensive and also the environment, etc. My parents have bought ones that you can reuse and refill but … adding steps to the robot coffee machine seems to defeat the point. Also I used to get really annoyed at having to fill it up with water, but the last time I was home I moved it on the counter toward the sink so the extendable thing can just pull out and fill it. Amazing. Better living through technology.
Jesse Thorn, host of Bullseye, proprietor of Put This On
Brannock Foot-Measuring Device. I’m not much of a gadget person—I have a nice phone and computer, I’m not a technophobe, but my preference is usually for the simple over the complex. I’ve always loved the Brannock Device. It’s simple, and beautiful, and it does exactly what it’s supposed to. It’s also been exactly the same, aesthetically and functionally, since it was created in the ’20s. Properly used, the Brannock measures not just the length of your foot, but also the point at which it flexes (which is the most important measurement), and the width. It’s all the information you need for a good fit.
The shoe store—the classic shoe store, with a knowledgeable salesman and shoes in lots of fits and so forth—is a rarity now. Only a few brands even sell shoes with sized widths, and they’re mostly either high-end makers or specialists, like shoes made to fit orthotics or for runners. To me the Brannock represents a time when people cared about getting the right thing, rather than getting the most things. I bought mine at a flea market, in a bag of other shoe-store stuff. I gave the rest to my friend Raul Ojeda, who’s a shoemaker, but I kept the Brannock, and it’s on display in my office. I’m a 12B.
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