Our Staff Picks for the Best Gifts of 2021, From Ski Gear to Turntables

The best gifts don't just feels personal, but truly craved. These are the absolute most wanted items on our wishlists, from bagpipes to barrel saunas.

Nov 17 2021, 12:30pm

Every holiday season, you'll see about fifty gazillion gift guides out there, ranging from the basic (get Dad a tie! get Mom a robe!) to the advanced (CBD pajamas! phone cases that look like a butcher knife!). And while we're massively grateful for all of these guides—and truly wish to service our readers with all of the ones we've put together—sometimes, nothing really compares to a personal touch [squirts massage oil into hands].


What do we mean by that? Well, we're talking about gift ideas that are so unabashedly incredible, we literally want them for ourselves. We're talking about the shit we're bookmarking, screenshotting, DMing to the squad, and leaving open in a tab for weeks under the impression that somehow it will go way down in price (and occasionally, it does!). 

We gathered up our writers and editors and compiled a comprehensive gift guide to the stuff so maddeningly sick that we, ourselves, are obsessed with it. Read on for the best gift ideas for your boo, your mama, your piano teacher, your skate park crush, your club hookup, or just straight up yourself. 

A wacko phone case

I got a new cell recently and like, WTF is going on with the phone case industry? I mean that in a good way. People are just letting ideas fly. Puffer jacket phone cases, furry phone cases, Japanese fake food phone cases; they're all out there. For some reason I've become obsessed with this case that reminds me of airbrush food art from the 80s. —Hilary Pollack

Cute Checkerboard iPhone Case

An electric kettle with personality

I drink tea every single morning and love, love, love using an electric kettle instead of having to stand around the stove waiting for a whistle. (If you microwave water, something's wrong with you.) Anyway, my current electric kettle is kind of on death's door after years of heavy use and I've got my eye on this one for the future. —Hilary Pollack

Haden x Poodle & Blonde 1.8 qt. Stainless Steel Electric Tea Kettle

A rhinestone-encrusted water bottle

During peak quarantine I started hiking multiple times a week and also somehow managed to lose, like, five water bottles in a single year. My line of thought is that maybe if I get a really drop-dead gorgeous bejeweled water bottle from Collina Strada, I won't lose it. IDK though; risky. Might be best to just admire from afar.—Hilary Pollack

Doodle Rhinestone Water Bottle

Honorable mention: this exorbitantly expensive custom animal-print sofa

I'm the Fran Drescher of my friend group in that I can often be found wearing some form of animal print (usually leopard). That's why this tiger-print couch is my dream piece of furniture, even though it costs as much as a used car. —Hilary Pollack

Tiger Silk Velvet Sectional Couch

A big kid turntable

It’s time. After years of having those portable, all-in-one suitcase turntables that reaaaaally aren’t the best for vinyl and can even scratch up your records, I’ve decided it’s time to get a Big Daddi turntable. Audio Technica is one the best brands for the job, as a hot and scary vinyl snob from Amoeba Records once told VICE, and BOY, WOULD I LOVE if someone carrier pigeoned me this for Christmas/before my next dinner party. —Mary Frances Knapp

Audio-Technica AT-LP3BK Fully Automatic Belt-Drive Stereo Turntable Bundle

UGGs still slap

I lived most of my Y2K youth in UGGs, just like you, because they were perfect for everything from school to mall; from the beach to schlepping around the house and telling mom that sHe dOesn’t gEt iT. So let the record show, please, that as with all the other 2000s style staples that are going through a renaissance right now, UGGs are gonna be hot again. Trust me. I can’t wait to coddle my feet in fleecy goodness. —Mary Frances Knapp

Classic Short II Boot

A vacuum to suck my life of sin

This is another one of those things I keep putting on the back-burner (sorry, Mom; sorry, god) but I really need an Adult Vacuum. Not a small hand-held vacuum, not a chunky clunker, and not one that I will casually leave behind in my apartment the day I move out. I need the Tesla of vacuums, otherwise known as the Dyson V8, because it could probably suck blood out of my shag rug. —Mary Frances Knapp​​

V8 Absolute Cord-Free Stick Vacuum

Everyone says this sex toy makes you squirt

The horny people have spoken, and they can’t get enough of the Njoy G-spot wand; one sex worker and educator even says it’s her desert island sex toy, because it’s so well-designed that it will almost get to the G-spot for you. It also requires no charging, obviously, which is nice when you reach down in the middle of the night to grab a toy, and go to spank town. All of my buddies say this toy makes them squirt, too, and while everyone is different I’m curious to see for myself.  —Mary Frances Knapp

Pure Wand Stainless Steel Dildo

A puffer that makes you look like hot goo

I mourn the loss of summer the second the temps dip below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, because that means one thing: Jackets. Puffers. Big coats, covering up my cute shit. The trick to not hating myself is to embrace becoming a shiny, amorphous blob of warmth with a jacket like this for the winter. —Mary Frances Knapp

Hooded Quilted Shell Down Coat

Herbin’ indoors

When it’s time to take my plants indoors for the winter, grow lights can be a must. Clip-on lights are great, but when it comes to herbs I would love to have a one-stop-grow-shop like this baby, which would fit on the kitchen counter nicely. —Mary Frances Knapp

LED Indoor Herb Garden

Honorable mention: bagpipes

Knowing yourself means knowing that if you buy bagpipes on an emotional midnight bender, then realize that, yes, bagpipes are hard, and tuck them away to die somewhere in your closet, that maybe you shouldn’t buy bagpipes. But if someone else buys them for you? Tight. —Mary Frances Knapp

Handmade Scottish Mackenzie Tartan Bagpipe

A jacket that suggests I’m cooler than I am

Fall and winter are my two favorite seasons, so it’s safe to say my closet is almost completely full of jackets and sweaters. (The rest of the space consists of fermentation buckets and Vitamix blenders.) I could pretty much live in the virtual aisles of Huckberry—one of our favorite everyday carry/outdoor retailers—and this jacket would be what I wore to bed as I drifted off to sleep next to my personal concrete fireplace. Its shell is cut from British Millerain canvas and finished with weather-resistant coconut wax, and the interior is lined with a soft, cozy flannel from Abraham Moons, one of the UK’s oldest woolen mills that’s still operating. Mmmm. —Ian Burke

Flannel-lined Waxed Hudson Jacket

This dope, wrinkly anorak

I’m a huge anorak guy, since they look great, are perfect for light jacket season, and the front pouch makes me feel like a marsupial. I love the muted colors and subtle patterns on this one, and it even packs into itself for storage. Plus, anything you buy from L.L. Bean is going to last forever. —Ian Burke

Men's Mountain Classic Anorak, Multi-Color

A simple pair of Adidas

When it comes to footwear, I’m a white sneaker stan. I go through many a pair during the year, and most of them fall victim to the sticky floors of bars, spilled drinks, cooking splatter, or the general wear and tear of living in New York, a walking town. Adidas, though, seem to last me the longest, which is why I’m asking Santa God to bestow unto me these pairs of simple, sleek Adidas kicks. —Ian Burke

Continental 80 Shoes
Daily 3.0 Shoes

A sturdy bar cart

I recently moved, and my room is neeeeearly complete—I’m just missing one little thing: an in-room bar cart. Not for booze (we have a living room bar cart for that), but for trinkets, knick knacks, and general stuff that I’ve been plopping onto my nightstand ever since I moved in. This one from West Elm is durable, elegant, and, uh, from West Elm. (Yes, I will be telling everyone where I got it from.) —Ian Burke

Yamazaki Tower 3-Tier Kitchen Cart w/ Handle

Some tight NYC merch

There are, in fact, occasions when it’s appropriate to remind people that you live in the greatest city on earth, the birthplace of hip-hop and general coolness, and the center of the known universe. I’m talking, of course, about New York City. This dope MTA shell jacket will turn heads and subtly scream “oh, you still live in Jersey?” when you’re back in your hometown for Thanksgiving, but it’s also still cool enough to wear in the city. —Ian Burke

MTA Qtr Zip Shell Jacket

A vintage electric piano

I grew up playing the blues on a big ol’ Yamaha electric keyboard (we didn’t have room for a baby grand, and apparently giant pianos are like, expensive?) and I used to have a blast playing around with the different tones, until my mother would shout at me to practice what my piano teacher actually assigned me for homework. Now that I’m on my own, I have even less room for a piano, but I still miss playing. Ideally, I’d cop a Wurlitzer 200 or 206—because they look and sound quite sick—but a small synth would be cool, too, such as this affordable Korg Wavestation. God bless my neighbors.

Korg Wavestation Synthesizer Keyboard

Honorable mention: a barrel sauna

Not that I have anywhere to put this, but my Finnish heritage demands that I air fry myself from time to time. While I probably won’t be assembling this on my fire escape anytime soon, I’d be eternally grateful (and sweaty) if someone were to give this to me. —Ian Burke

Vienna 2 Person Fir Canopy Barrel Sauna

A juicer to ensure my immortality

I intend to live forever, and part of my road to eternity will involve acquiring a great juicer. You want one that’s going to extract the most juice possible, which is why I’m pretty set on a high-quality masticating juicer from Omega that has the technology for slow-squeezing and cold-pressing my produce. You think I’m amped in the morning after two coffees and my anti-anxiety medication? Wait ‘til I add fresh ginger-turmeric-wheatgrass shots into the mix! —Adam Rothbarth

Vertical Square Low-Speed Juicer

A cozy bathrobe just like Dad had in the 80s

There's no one item of clothing that can quickly improve your quality of home life better than a proper, thick, terry cloth bathrobe—this I firmly believe. I've been eyeing Tekla's robes forever; they're the perfect length, have amazing color combos and retro styling, and best of all for us longhairs, have a hood, so your wet hair won't soak the back of your couch when you make the transition from bath to binge-watching. Plus, they're at a rare big-time discount right now over at SSENSE's holiday sale. —Angel Kilmister

Black & White Striped Classic Bathrobe

Little bowls for everything

In the immortal words of Gucci Mane, "If a man does not have sauce, then he is lost." (There's more to it, but let's leave it at that.) While Güc might have been speaking metaphorically, I'd say that this quote can also be interpreted literally, because a proper meal must be served with the appropriate condiments, lest it be dull, dry, and unfulfilled. I love having tiny bowls that I can use for soy sauce, flavored olive oil, spicy mayo, or whatever else my meal calls for. These ones from Leti, which makes cool homewares and kitchen goods, are perfect for dipping and dabbing, or for putting out tiny servings of berries, nuts, or candy. —Angel Kilmister

Yori Ceramic Dip Bowls

A decanter for feeling like a real Wine Person

This super, super highly rated decanter allows your wine of choice to breathe, prevents spills, is easy to clean, and looks très chic in the middle of a dinner party table. Plus, it's 20% off right now. —Adam Rothbarth

Le Chateau Wine Decanter

The hippest album of 1965 (and 2021)

Everybody knows that John Coltrane’s 1965 masterpiece A Love Supreme is one of the most important jazz records ever made; what non-heads might not know is that he almost never performed its music live. Recently, a private recording of a small show from later in ‘65 surfaced, and now you can pick up a pretty damn good-sounding vinyl of it. Literally anybody who claims to be a fan of music should enjoy this (unless they’re a liar). —Adam Rothbarth

A Love Supreme: John Coltrane Live In Seattle

Cross country skis to make me a true Vermonter

I recently moved to Bernie Sanders’ homeland, which means I need to reverse a lifetime of hating winter by, like, yesterday. Since I have no intention of letting my body fly down a mountain at the mercy of ice and snow—but still want to befriend people who can invite me to cozy ski lodges—I need to master cross country skiing. Naturally, I have none of the equipment, so this bundle is looking pretty good to me. —Natalli Amato

Cross Country Ski Package of Boots, Bindings, Poles, Skis

A pasta maker

In quarantine, I made gnocchi that was (almost) as good as my grandmother’s. Now, I’m ready to climb the next mountain in Italian cooking: homemade pasta. But my 24-year-old self just can’t shell out 200 dollars for a piece of kitchenware—no matter how beautiful it is. If someone were to give this to me, though, I’ll show my love and appreciation with a plate of pasta! —Natalli Amato

3-Piece Pasta Roller & Cutter Set

Grown-up spices

This may seem like a gift that’s more at home on a wedding registry, but I don’t care. Me being single should not prevent my friends and family from showering me with expensive, sophisticated pantry items. —Natalli Amato

Essential Spice Set (24 Spices)

Just some solid wool socks

Now that I’m in my 30s, I understand that a good pair of socks is the ultimate comfort item. Judge my boringness all you want, but my toes will be cute and cozy in this nearly-seamless, merino-wool blend. —Mel Compo

Everyday Saturnsphere Crew Socks

The coziest candle

The winter dream is chestnuts roasting on an open fire, but I’m an artist on a budget living in Brooklyn. Enter this sumptuous, locally crafted candle: all the smoky, wintery joy of being curled up by a fireplace, no actual fireplace required. —Mel Compo

Woodsmoke Minimalist Candle

Philips Hue color-changing light bulbs

As a queer person, I’m physically allergic to overhead lighting—the vibes are unacceptably bad. Thankfully, these smart light bulbs give me the power to customize the color of any room, to match any mood on the gay spectrum (which ranges from seasonal depression to excessive holiday cheer). —Mel Compo

E26 Light Bulbs (3 Pack)

Happy holidays, dudes.

The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story.


shopping, Gifts, kitchen

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