Having fewer, better things will likely make you happier. “The things you own, end up owning you.”. Only invest in things you spend a lot of time with and where money invested will make a quality of life difference.
This is my “would buy again” list of items I’d immediately replace if needed.
(nb: I’m not receiving sponsorship or affiliate revenue for any of these things, just genuinely wanted to recommend them to people who might need them.)
In no particular order:
Would Buy Again
- Kindle Paperwhite
- Sonos Playbar
- Bose QuietComfort 35 II Noise Cancelling Headphones
- Minaal Carry-On backpack
- Apple 27” Cinema Display
- SecretLabs Omega 2020 Chair
- iRobot Roomba
- Fitbit Alta HR or Charge 5
- Prana Brion pants
- Ex Officio Boxers
- Solomon Quest 4D 2 GTX hiking boots
The Kindle has made me read more books (and retain more of what I read). Full stop. Despite a lack of love for Amazon’s book pricing model, the Kindle has been all win. It’s better as a single use device, readable in sunshine, carries a week’s charge, can carry a bookshelf’s worth of books, and has almost any book available I want to read. It’s become daily carry for me.
Furthermore, it’s so lightweight you never notice carrying it, tough enough it survives every time I drop it on the floor (read: often) while falling asleep reading. I vastly prefer it to reading on an iPad despite it being slower to highlight or write notes.
The latest model is also waterproof, further protecting my KIndle from a kill path from the past (beach accident). Backlighting and especially dark mode are great, though I’d love further blue-light blocking improvements for late night reading.
Along with simple highlighting and the Readwise service (a service for collecting up your highlights for easy perusal and digestion), I’d also argue it’s allowed me to retain and apply much more of what I’m reading and apply it (though I do take notes and have a better post-book review process now.).
Quite simply, it contributes highly to me consistently polishing off 35-50 books annually for several years running now.
The sound on my TV is ok and it has a decent but not spectacular screen (it’s a replacement tv after a better, more highly rated one with greater pixel density and blackness broke under warranty). I use it mainly for watching movies, documentaries, online courses, and some select series (I dumped Netflix and other streaming services after getting angry with myself for wasting too much time on mental pablum.).
The Sonos Playbar is a fundamental upgrade in watching quality of life (mine’ss 7 year’s old, but I imagine newer models are even better.). I think few people realize how integral sound is to the experience of watching, but I’m a true believer after the Sonos Playbar.
It transforms your home and any decent screen into a cinema experience and I would never want to go back. I’ve actually tried to see if just normal bluetooth speakers could cut it, but Sonos has really done an amazing job here at doubling down on 3D sound to the point that it pinpoints where you sit in the room to optimize your experience. The difference is surprising.
Sonos recently replaced the Playbar with its Sonos Arc for premium home theatre purposes, though now has compact soundbar products with its incoming Ray product and the Beam. Definitely will be upgrading when the Playbar gives out.
Bose QuietComfort 35 II Noise Cancelling Headphones
Instant and unambiguous quality of life upgrade for flights.
You will never realize how exhausting the base noise levels are on a plane when you are traveling until you start flying with a decent pair of noise cancelling headphones (I’m wearing them now as I type this post high above the Pacific - Mo Money, Mo Problems by The Notorious BIG, just in case you’re wondering. 😁).
Probably one of the best travel investments I have ever made (despite the volume they take up in luggage). The difference, besides just a more enjoyable flight, is how much less tiring flights are and the uptick in your mood and energy levels on the other side. The difference is dramatic. They have 22 hours of battery life so have yet to fail me on any long haul flight I’ve taken.
The only thing I can criticize them beside the size is that my ears tend to become quite warm after about the 12 hour mark on most flights. As well, I wish there were easy ways to bluetooth connect the speakers to your flight’s entertainment deck (ok, technically an issue with in-flight entertainment systems, and I think there may be a separate pin adapter you can purchase), but since I end up watching my own stuff on most flights anyway, not as big a problem and more a quibble. That said, if I could find a pair of in-ear buds that took up room like my AirPods do and were as good at screening out noise like the QCs, I’d probably jump on it.
Minaal Carry-On backpack
I’m a big fan of one-bag travel. Travel Light, travel happy.
I’ve experimented with nearly a dozen different carry-on suitcases, bags, duffels and garment bags, and this backpack with its indestructible ballistic material, lightweight and svelte design to move easily through airports and planes, and full clamshell entry has been the best by a long shot. I have the original model, though there is a 3.0 version available now which looks even better than the 2.0 which succeeds mine.
I end up using it for both business and leisure travel though sometimes carry a lightweight garment bag with me if I’m doing a longer than 3-day business trip that requires suits and fancy shoes.
It’s taken every condition I’ve thrown at it and has not let me down from sweltering jungles to the sub-arctic. Worth every penny and outperforms any other bag I’ve tried. Perhaps the happiest luggage-related purchase I’ve ever made. Easily the best travel bag I’ve ever owned.
Just buy it. Such a great bag.
Apple 27” Cinema Display
You can’t even buy this monitor anymore, but I did want to give it a shout out that I would totally buy this product in a second again if Apple made them still.
I bought this screen more than a decade ago and it has been great. I’ve dragged it across three different continents (and power supplies and plugs) and its been fantastic as both a second display and an ersatz TV when needed.
Not sure what I’m going to do when it dies, but have to admit I’ve been super impressed with it despite Apple’s lack of support on it (I actually had to buy a USC-C to displayport off-market dongle since Apple doesn’t even make a way to connect to these any more with their newer hardware.).
(btw, if anyone has a monitor they’d recommend as enthusiastically as I have this, definitely listening. Will be surprised if this monitor lasts another year or my next upcoming move.)
SecretLabs Omega 2020 Chair
During covid, I started working remote for an out-of-country company and spending too many hours in a chair on back-to-back Zoom calls. Pretty quickly, I started experiencing mild lower back and hip aches.
Probably primarily the combo of not gymming or walking at lockdown start, plus the fact remote meetings got a little out of hand during the pandemic (people love keeping busy with back to backs it seems), my friends all attributed it to the cheapo Ikea office chair I had been using.
Replacing it with this proper gamer chair from Secretlabs made a huge difference (built, apparently, for people who spend marathon sessions grinding away on DOTA2 or the like).
This was a smart purchase despite the price. Any body discomfort from long days in front of the screen, pretty much instantly vanished and in general it’s just been a so much better experience for WFH time in front of Zoom or long study or coding seshes.
Much like your bed and the 8 hours a night you should be sleeping, if you spend a lot of time in your job WFH and at your desk, I heartily recommend investing in a top quality gaming chair to save your back, hips, and legs.
SecretLabs came highly recommended from people I asked and I have to say the chair is super comfy and spectacular. Worth it.
The original of this was actualy a gift I was given. I love a clean house, but hate cleaning myself. I bought a replacement model when I moved to Singapore.
The Roomba has been a really nice quality of life improvement which works super well in my flat (and my previous one). You simply set it up to run around the house on pre-determined intervals and it will happily roll round your house sucking up dirt and dust and startling you at how much cleaner your place will feel and slightly astonishing you at how much junk gets picked up in its receptacle.
I usually set the Roomba to vacuum when I am out of the house (which you can trigger remotely from your phone also), which it merrily does and then returns to its charging station. I like it so much I keep meaning to try out one of the mopping robots that iRobot make since I can imagine that would make everything just that little bit nicer, but seriously happy someone else (who won’t complain) is doing the vacuuming for me.
Fitbit Alta HR or Charge 5
I stopped wearing a watch years ago, but after a slight health scare false alarm, I started wearing a fitness tracker to do a better job of quantifying my health.
I’ve had a few iterations of Fitbits now, and while I’m not as happy with the direction they’re going with bigger and bulkier watch-styles with the Charge to compete with Apple (I vastly preferred the thinner and less obtrusive Alta HR want less obtrusive ), the fact of the matter is, having the device and tracking app make me play closer attention to health. And there is nothing bad about that.
They’re durable, tough, waterproof-ish, and the battery last about a week (the Apple Watch needs to be charged every day and I find onerous. The app for tracking fitness activities, eight, and other notables is pretty decent. Also, you can decouple the fitbit easily from anything but health tracking. I want to shake friends whose Apple Watches are always buzzing with notifications and alerts.). The Charge 5 is highly rated by virtually every reviewer it touches (which is what I have currently, I just preferred the Alta HR style.).
I still find the watch more obtrusive than I like as I often have to take it off while typing or at home whereas i would wear the Alta HR almost always, so the fact they’re going bigger with the watches instead of the other direction is irksome. I just noticed writing this up that Oura just released a new v3 of its ring and I want to see if it works better for fitness than the pervious version which focused on sleep. Stand by for a review on that.But, every time my fitbit has broken down (ok, mostly watch bands have snapped or I did something stupid like smashed it with a dumbbell or such) I’ve gone out and replaced it.
Prana Brion pants
These are basically lightweight yoga pants cut to look like business slacks. I always choose dark ones.
They are super lightweight, water repellent, easy to wash, and have been the best travel and casual pants I’ve ever owned since they can move seamlessly from business to social situations. No one has ever noticed I’m effectively wearing yoga pants unless I tell them!. So, kinda love these. They are phenomenal for travel and all I really wear that isn’t a full-on business suit pantaloons-wise.
Being so lightweight they do not provide a lot of insulation, so if you’re spending a lot of time in sub-zero temperatures (as I just had to do recently ranging from -10°C to -25°C), I heartily suggest investing in a nice pair of thermals under them if this is all you take (I’m a fan of Icebreakers merino wool long underwear - which I also use for snowboarding) but other than that, these have been amazing and fashionable for everything I do that no one has ever tagged them as clandestine sportswear.
Ex Officio Boxers
Yeah, alright… since we’re on the pants might as well also mention these underwear. Ex Officio started out specializing in travel underwear: comfortable, quick drying, treated for outdoor wear and active travel lifestyles but has evolved slightly, but still makes a fantastic boxer.
The latest incarnation of their Give-N-Go travel boxers are still great and basically what I wear. Since I travel light, I am often carrying just over a week’s worth of clean undies with me so for longer trips I inevitably end up doing some laundry and hanging some stuff up to dry in the hotel at some point. These have been amazing, super comfy, long lasting, and easy to care for.
If you are optimizing a bit more for travelling, I heartily recommend these.
Hear me out. While I’m not a hipster-level coffee snob, I like a good cup of coffee. Perhaps it’s better to say I can’ t abide a bad cup of coffee as a barometer, but my goal here originally was to find a reasonable way to make a good cup of coffee every day without ridiculous fiddling and preciousness (and avoiding too much equipment to stay nomad.).
I certainly understnd why you might be sceptical, but these inexpensive little doodads make a surprisingly good cup of coffee. Every. Single. Time. I also find them less wasteful because most of the time I want to make a cup or two rather than a full-on carafe of coffee (though bit of a pain when guests are round). Matched with a decent grinder, good beans, and a filter for water, you are going to get a very good cup of coffee from these things which is a quality of life improvement I would wish for everyone. They’re also quite portable for travelling if you’re going someplace where the coffee is going to be bad (I feel no shame in admitting I have boycotted hotels that make bad coffee alongside their breakfast.).
So, upgrade your coffee experience, get some good beans, and start learning to press a great cup of joe.
Also, small note: the regular aeropress is much better than the new travel version. I do wish they’d puzzled out how to make a better travel version of this that didn’t skimp on the overall experience or volume though you are fine with this in your luggage if you are a serious coffee maven.
Solomon Quest 4D 2 GTX hiking boots
And one last one, since I still feel these are the best hiking boots I’ve ever owned and made a big difference in travel and terrain when running about foreign lands.
Calling these hiking boots is a bit unfair because they’re more like trail runners on steroids, but they are comfy, dry through use of gore-tex, and were super reliable getting me up serious mountains (Kilimanjaro), across deserts, through jungles, and other than being a little warm in the feeties in tropical climates and beaches, have been super reliable and amazing. Also, unlike “serious” hiking boots, they required virtually no time to break in at all and were more like breaking in sneakers. So good.
They’re based on a design that Solomon made for the US Navy Seals and one fine piece of footwear. Recommended.
I wish all my stuff were things I’d enthusiastically buy again.
So, would love pointers from people if you’ve got strong opinions on things I should try that you love on the categories below.
- Running shoes (I’m a 5k-er, not marathoner, but pretty much wdaily wear. Also, gym shoes for lifting)
- Light, packable jacket (had an Arcteryx Alpha I liked, but it’s fit for slim, tall Nordic types, not a more muscle-y guy like me and cost a bomb, so bit upset I’ve lost it somehow. Also, colours were bizarre..)
- Linux laptop (to date, most seem suboptimal to Apple’s Macbook Air)
- Plug adaptor set for travelling that doesn’t suck
- Boardies (loved a pair of Slam69s I had, but they don’t make ’em anymore)
I hope my “Would Buy Again” list had you finding some recommendations that excited you or helped round out your purchasing decision. I’m always curious to hear how it’s gone for people or hear more about what may have worked for you or other things that have made a huge difference for you. Feel free to mention me as @awws on twitter or email me at via email firstname.lastname@example.org.