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With the holidays around the corner and never-ending talk of supply chain issues that may prevent us from getting our items on time, we decided to get a jump-start on our holiday gift guide this year. If you're looking for some gift ideas for a loved one (even if that loved one is yourself), we've got some great ones for you to consider, hand-picked by the Autoblog staff.
There are so many Hot Wheels sets, it can be dizzying to figure out the best one for your child while reasonably maintaining a budget for other gifts. This one, which combines dinosaurs and cars, is a little bit of everything, though it’s expensive and intense. Instead, I’ve landed on the Hot Wheels Track Builder Barrel Box for my soon-to-be 4-year-old. It’s a nice blend of creative play and excitement. You can configure it into different layouts for jumps, stunts or just crashes. It’s reasonably priced, and setting it up is half the fun. — Greg Migliore, editor-in-chief
A few days after Christmas last year, I blasted my toe with an axe while chopping firewood. Six stitches later, I’ve added this Sun Joe hydraulic log splitter to my wishlist. It’s normally about $170, but the cost has gone up lately (supply and demand at work?). The equivalent offering at Harbor Freight remains at $150, though. In the meantime, I’m still using my Fiskars splitting axe, which is a nice workout — like Henry Ford quipped, “Chop your own wood and it will warm you twice” — but I’m rocking a pair of steel-toe Muck boots while I’m at it. I’m trying to not warm up a third time at the urgent care clinic this year. — John Snyder, Green editor
How about the gift of some martial arts instruction? My large son and I have been practicing Tang Soo Do with PKSA since this past spring, and it’s been an amazing experience. I’ve lost a little weight, built strength, balance and flexibility, while my son is benefiting from the confidence, respect and discipline involved. I love being a student of something again, and doing it with a family member is a bonus. There are a ton of martial styles to choose from, whether you’re more interested in grappling, weapons, cardio, practical self-defense or mind/body balance; we picked PKSA because it’s near home, but we’re super glad we did. — John Snyder, Green editor
I have several kids on my gift list this year, so the idea on the top of my list is this KidiZoom Creator Cam. A finalist for The Toy Association's 2021 Toy of the Year Award, this durable-looking HD video camera looks like a great first digital video camera for young creators.
- Recommended for children ages 5 to 10 years old.
- Built-in microphone.
- A flip-up lens for recording selfies.
- In-camera editing and special effects, like time-lapse.
- Comes with a tabletop tripod/selfie stick and wrist strap.
- To take full advantage of some of the built-in special effects, you need to use a green screen. This camera comes with one! But I’m also getting a larger 5’ x 7’ Green Screen ($10.99) that comes with two mounting clamps.
- 20+ pre-loaded animated backgrounds.
In addition to the green screen I'm also getting this kids camera case ($19.99) and this 32 GB microSD card to complete a nice young content creator bundle. The total gift package will cost $94.26. — Eddie Sabatini, production manager
I’ve always wanted to change my soap. The traditional bar of soap from the local grocery store always left my skin dry and irritated. I was stuck with the same scent over and over and the same grade of grit: zero. When I discovered Dr. Squatch I was hesitant, thinking it was a gimmick soap made by some internet entrepreneur trying to get rich quick, but I was greatly mistaken. The moment this natural soap hit my skin, it felt as if it belonged there. The smell was refreshing, and the saponification (suds) was more than enough to get me clean. Later, I found out it was a natural soap without the harmful ingredients that you would find in some traditional store soaps. Its level of grit ranges from heavy, to medium, to zero just in case you need to exfoliate your body when bathing. My go-to is the Birchwood Breeze medium grit. It smells amazing and has tiny birch bark and pumice for exfoliation." — Amr Sayour, producer
The BioLite Charge PD is not only a camping essential, but a life essential. As someone who routinely stores maps and takes photos with their phone (who doesn't these days), going days without the use of my electronics while camping just isn't an option. Even the newest of phone batteries won't last a few days without a charge, which is where the Charge PD comes in.
Available in three sizes (20, 40 and 80) this powerbank will get your phone back up and running in no time. The 20 is lightweight and can charge a smartphone fully 1.5 times, the 40 2.5 times, and the 80 will get your phone fully charged 5 times and is generally what I take with me car camping.
My favorite thing about the BioLite Charge PD is that it easily daisy-chains together when charging, allowing you to charge multiple powerbanks at one outlet. — Chris McGraw, senior producer
When it comes to travel bags, there are a few schools of thought. Some people prefer to have only one bag to take with them everywhere that can adapt to do everything, whether you're going on a two-day visit with family or a two-week vacation to South America. The Peak Design Travel Duffelpack 65L is made for those who want one bag for all of their travels. For more, check out our full review here. — Chris McGraw, senior producer
My coworker Eddie Sabatini’s suggestion of this tiny drone in last year’s holiday gift guide inspired me to run out on a chilly December morning and buy one myself, so I’ll just quote him here:
'It’s pocket-sized and light, weighing in at just 249 grams, making it perfect for bringing with you everywhere. Upgrades, to name a few, include camera performance — it now shoots 4K video at 30 frames per second — upgraded propulsion system and longer flight time. Technically, the 31-minute flight time is only an improvement of one minute over the Mavic Mini, but that's still an improvement. This is the drone’s biggest shortcoming and why we recommend the Fly More combo or at least buying some additional batteries a la carte. The 12 megapixel camera is attached to a 3-axis gimbal and features three three new panorama still photography modes (wide-angle, 180° and sphere) to an already great repertoire of Quick Shot video modes (dronie, rocket, circle, helix, and boomerang). — Chris McGraw, senior producer
If I could sit down to dinner with anyone living and listen to them tell stories, Rick Ridgeway is at or near the top of that list (Jimmy Chin, who is featured in the book, is also up there). He has done everything I could ever hope to do and more, from being a part of the first American team to summit K2, to exploring Antarctica and crossing the Changtang plateau in Tibet on foot.
Since my invitation to dinner will likely never be answered, his recently published memoir, "Life Lived Wild," will have to do. If you like it, pick up his other six books. You will not be disappointed. — Chris McGraw, senior producer
A Trip to Iceland
OK, hear me out. Yes, a trip to the world’s northernmost capital might not be the place you think about traveling to in the middle of winter, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start planning now. On my most recent trip to this Nordic country, I lost count of the waterfalls and breathtaking views on the first day, the lamb soup was unforgettable, and Sky Lagoon left me more relaxed than I’d ever been in my lifetime. If you time your visit right, you have a chance to see the Northern Lights as well, which should be on every traveler’s bucket list. Pro tip: Make sure to budget for a legit Icelandic wool sweater. It’ll keep you toasty even on the chilliest of nights." — Chris McGraw, senior producer
How incredibly cool is this kids Ride On electric car? So many re-creations of real-life cars are awkwardly proportioned and just kind of embarrassing, but this tiny re-creation of the iconic BMW 507 roadster certainly isn't. Be it a Barbie Corvette or Power Wheels Jeep, convertibles always seem to make for better miniature representations, but you have to hand it to whomever designed this 507 for Costway, cause it looks terrific. The same cannot be said for their smaller Mercedes 300SL, which is rather unfortunate. With both, however, it's great that classic cars are getting some love rather than bougie luxury SUVs and modern exotica (plus the ubiquitous Jeep). I've bookmarked this one for when my son is old enough to drive a ride-on. — James Riswick, West Coast editor
I grew up salivating over radio-controlled cars and trucks. I had subscriptions to all the magazines I could find, and I'd spread them out on my floor, picking out just what I'd buy if I actually had any money. Now that I do have the money, my tastes have changed dramatically. Whereas 10-year-old me would have absolutely parked the most outrageously overpowered off-road machine on the planet on my shelf, today's me leans more toward realism. I'd still want the thing to have some performance chops, but I don't have any interest in racing.
So that's why the trio of old Volkswagen replicas from Tamiya appeal to me. There's a Beetle, a Karmann-Ghia (my first car!), and a Bus (my camper!). All three are based on the brand's M chassis, with a rear-mounted motor (scale realism!) and four-wheel independent suspension. There are plenty of upgrades available, from improved battery packs to custom motors, which is fun as a hobby for all ages. — Jeremy Korzeniewski, consumer editor
The way things are going, I'm probably never going to be able to afford to own a Porsche 911. Or at least, not a real one. But the Lego model is something that's still very attainable. Plus, you get the satisfaction of building it yourself. It has lovely details such as opening doors and other panels, a little engine and the fact that you can pick whether you want to build an open-top Targa or a widebody Turbo. It should look great alongside some of the other excellent large car models Lego has released. — Joel Stocksdale, news editor
Hot Wheels Unleashed was a most welcome surprise when it launched this year. It's a fun, fast-paced arcade racer that's so refreshing in a world of realistic simulation racing games. It's more worried about letting you go really fast, drift really wide and go over big jumps than nailing the apex of a slow hairpin. It's beautiful, too, lovingly re-creating the casting details of the toy cars, and giving you the feeling of racing around tiny cars in big rooms. It does have some flaws, but it's a seriously fun game at its core, and it's even available for a little less than the average new video game. — Joel Stocksdale, news editor
If you were ever looking to invest in comfort and warmth, Pendleton blankets are great way to do it. These Chief Joseph wool blankets not only look great, but they are super well made and trap a lot of heat. Pendleton even has a crib size version so you can match with your new baby. — Michael Ferrara, social media manager
Throughout my life, I've never been a big reader. In fact, I was somewhat envious of people who always seemed to be reading the latest exciting novel or series. During the beginning of the pandemic when everything was extra shut down, I decided that if I didn't make a concerted effort to turn myself into a "reader" with all this extra time on my hands, then I never would. Luckily, I was able to, and I've now read 16 novels in 2021 alone! Although the biggest thing that helped me achieve my goal was simply just willpower and a change in lifestyle, I would also never have been able to do it without my Kindle. It's made a bigger positive impact on my life than any other recent piece of tech I can think of. It allows me to read in bed without having to fiddle with reading lights, it holds all of my books in one convenient little device, and it seems to almost never run out of charge. If you're looking for an excuse to get more into reading, or if you know someone who is, in my opinion this is the best thing you could possibly get them to encourage the new habit. — Erik Maier, multimedia producer