How to Please the Person Who Always Chooses Function Over Style

You know the type.

Apika Slippers
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Amazon.

In search of the perfect gift? Read more of Slate’s holiday gift guides here.

We all have people on our gift list who delight in the practical. They may take exceptional pleasure in things that make their days easier. They may relish in having just the right tool to solve a problem. They live to be prepared. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite gifts for these sensible people in your life. Even if you’re not the type to get excited about a tool kit, we’re willing to bet they will be.


It’s common to find yourself at a restaurant or theater (or, at least, it was in pre-pandemic times) having to choose between precariously balancing your belongings on the back of a chair or resigning yourself to dirtying your handbag on the ground. However, there is a solution: Future Tense editor Torie Bosch loves the Clipa2 bag hanger, “a handsome little ring that you can use to hang your bag from any surface.”

Those still working from home will welcome the chance to make their daily routine more comfortable. A pair of house shoes can relieve a bit of the stress people’s feet may feel from walking around bare- or sock-footed all day. Former staff writer Ruth Graham wrote: “These slides are not about style. They’re about performance: They are built to help you shuffle around indoors with maximum ease.”

Your loved one who likes to be prepared for any situation will appreciate the gift of a mini flashlight. “This superlatively tiny flashlight … has come in handy so many times since my dad gifted me one last Christmas,” wrote Shannon Palus. “It easily hangs out in a purse, ready to save the night when you realize you could use a little more light and don’t want to wear down your phone battery. It’s also perfect to throw in your daypack for peace of mind, in case you get stuck on a hike past sundown.”

A portable water filter is also a helpful item if you want to be equipped on the go. Former Slatester Christina Djossa wrote, “Whether you’re camping, traveling, or living in a place where clean water is scarce, the LifeStraw bottle can easily filter water from lakes or streams and remove any bacteria or chemicals.”

The winter blues are real, and with the pandemic leaving us housebound, we’ll be feeling them more acutely than ever this year. Back in March, Palus wrote of this sun lamp, “I’ve been turning it on for a bit in the morning to fill my bedroom with a full-force ray of light for 20 minutes or so. … That little bit of ‘sun’ light is nice; it is really truly nice, and I need as much of that as possible right now.”

Constant hand-washing coupled with cold weather makes good hand cream a necessity. Evan Rieder, a dermatologist at NYU Langone, told Cleo Levin he recommends CeraVe Hand Cream “because it’s hypoallergenic, nongreasy, and blends into your skin nicely.” He advised buying a few tubes and placing them strategically around your house.

Everyone’s internet has needed an upgrade as we work from home and Zoom for school. If your loved one is constantly grumbling about poor connections or frozen screens, consider gifting a mesh network to vastly improve your home’s Wi-Fi. “Reviewers have praised this version for its easy setup, reasonable price, and reliable coverage,” we wrote when this three-pack went on sale recently.

If someone in your life has just moved out on their own (or is an apartment dweller or homeowner who simply has yet to invest in a full set of hex keys), they may appreciate this 39-piece tool kit. “When I moved into my first apartment, my roommate’s toolkit quickly became the most popular item on the block; everyone was texting her to borrow it,” Natalia Winkelman wrote. “Hanging pictures, building furniture, small home repairs—we hadn’t realized it, but a toolkit was basically a prerequisite for living on our own.”

Beyond tools and gadgets, clothing is also a good place to get practical. Winter accessories can be essential for surviving the outdoors in the cold parts of the country. Staff writer Rebecca Onion said, “Insulated, waterproof gloves are … key. For years, I tried to tell myself that the thin fleece ones I used for running were enough for a couple of hours in the snow with my kid. They were not.”

As long as masks remain a part of our daily lives, we may as well wear ones that we really like. And by now, we could all benefit from refreshing our supply. Palus (who’s Slate’s health reporter) prefers Old Navy masks, because they “do not pull on the ears, and the ear loops are soft. The fabric feels crisp. They do not feel suffocating to wear, and because they fit comfortably over my nose (you have to cover your nose for masks to work!), I don’t find myself fidgeting with them.” They’d make a great stocking stuffer too.