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The ultimate gift guide for grads

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Six awesome gifts that will make graduates want to toss their caps

Commencement is a time of celebration, whether your grad is going on to middle school, high school, college, or the world. Mark this rite of passage with a gift that stays with them for the years ahead.

A great, long ride

It will be a long summer, so give your grad a longboard that will carry them forward, down the street, or across the quad. The RazorX Longboard Electric Skateboard ($199.99, ages 9 and up) features a 37.5-long, 5-ply bamboo deck and custom, reverse kingpin trucks for smooth traveling at speeds up to 10 mph, powered by 125-watt, geared, rear-wheel-drive motor, and operated by a handheld digital remote control. Way cooler than walking, and less hassle than locking up a bike, your board can be picked up and carried with you when you’re done riding. It makes getting to college algebra fun! Be sure to observe all regulations regarding use of skateboards on campus.

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Sound at your command

Whether your grad is a Wi-Fi aficionado, binge watcher, movie buff or a gaming fan, the Polk Command Bar ($249.95) will give their AV system a resoundingly smart make over. The Alexa-compatible sound bar can play and control music across multiple Amazon devices and be integrated into a television speaker set up and works with 4K and HD TVs, with built-in dual HDMI 2.0b inputs to ensure 4K HDR content looks great; or the bar can stand alone to deliver outstanding sound, activated by voice or remote control. The smart speaker features Bluetooth capability, modes for ideal music and movie listening, and the ability to adjust voice levels so that the user can customize their superior sound experience. A sub-woofer component adds even more depth for a full surround sound experience.

Big good wolf

Your grad is growing up, but you never outgrow your favorite blankie. Give them the comfort of a cuddly cover to snuggle up with on the couch, in their college dorm, or keep them warm in their first apartment. The Thermarest Argo ($89.95) throw blanket is filled with lightweight eraLoft insulation that is water-resistant and luxuriously soft, to keep them cozy and warm wherever they go. Its cinch cord at the bottom edge cinches around feet to keep out drafts, and stuffed into its own pillow pouch, it’s perfect for taking along on road trips. Comes in Tomato red or Wolf Print.

Grade-A shades

Grads will hear a lot of platitudes as they head onto the next leg of life’s journey, like, “May the wind always be at your back,” and, “May the sun shine warm upon your face…” But for those times when the glare is a bit too bright, they can look cool, and truly be cool, wearing Sunski sunglasses, the eyewear brand that is not just great for its winning styles and excellent fit but also because they are fairly priced and made from recycled materials and are 100-percent sustainable. Sunskis shield peepers from harsh rays with looks for the beach, sporting, outdoors adventure and everyday life, and even mini frames for kids. ($58-$98, kids $38).

Can you noise cancel me now?

Your grad can block out annoying college roommate, or they’re annoying squabbling brother and sister, or simply indulge in an immersive stereo experience with the MIxCder E9 ($69.99) noise canceling headphones. These premium-yet-affordable over-the-ear Hi-Fi stereo headphones won’t break the bank but will give your grad rich tones for their tunes to enjoy privately. They feature Bluetooth connectivity for wireless use, Active Noise Canceling technology, 30-hour battery life, foldable design, built-in microphone and an included airplane adapter for listening on the fly.

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Just-in-case case

Every grad knows that the school of hard knocks teaches life’s best lessons, but that doesn’t mean your phone needs to suffer slings and arrows, or scratches and dents, which is guaranteed not to happen if you keep it in a Pelican GO case ($39.95). This tank-of-a-phone-case seals out water, dirt, snow, and dust and is constructed so heavy-duty that it’s the preferred protector for divers, firefighters, police and military. It can also hold credit cards, keys and other personal items and can tag along on a backpack by a carabiner or hang from a tent hook by its handle.

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Dress down, up on the mountain

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Get mountain chic and elevate your style on your next alpine excursion

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Head to the hills in fashion, equipped with attire and gear that will outfit you for the outdoors.

A little ditty

Basic economy air travel can save you a few bucks if you pack right, or it will cost you an arm and a leg if you exceed the stringent airline requirements for a “personal item.” Sling the Eagle Creek 15L National Geographic Adventure Series ($24) backpack over your shoulder, and tote along all the essentials you need while you’re in the air and on the ground. It features a 15-inch laptop sleeve, a top zip pocket for quick access items, internal zip and slip pockets, and a padded moisture-wicking back panel, and durable and wipeable bottom. Plus, this handy bag gives back, as a portion of each purchase funds the work of scientists, explorers, and educators around the world.

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Thin is in

Less is more when it comes to packing for an outing in the outback, which is why though Cotopaxi Fuego Hoodless Down Jacket ($230) fits perfectly in your to-go wardrobe. This lightweight fitted jacket is big on warmth but can be compacted into its tiny drawcord ditty bag to fit in your backpack, or even a purse. It’s 800 fill RDS – certified down insulation, baffled in a ripstop nylon shell, is built to last and is versatile enough to go from a hike in the hills to your next night out.

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Under the hoodie

For the man who likes to live life large and outdoors, the Black Diamond Forge Down Hoody (sale priced $149.25) jacket, featuring the super insulation power of ALLIED Feather & Down, the most premium quality down fill on the planet,  is the perfect packable, versatile outerwear for alpine missions of any discipline.  The adjustable hood can accommodate a climbing helmet, and the underarm gussets allow for added arrange of motion when you need it. When the weather warms up, the jacket compresses into its own chest pocket and can be hooked on your belt with an integrated carbineer clip loop.

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Warm kid, happy kid

Kids love the outdoors, but when they’re cold, the fun is over for them and everyone who’s along on the adventure, so keep young outdoor enthusiasts warm and keep the adventure going with the Helly Hansen Jr Barrier Down Insulator ($120). It features ALLIED down in a super lightweight poly rip stop shell that’s reversible for two different looks. It has two handy pockets and Lycra bands on the hem and cuffs to keep the jacket snug. When the adventure’s over, it packs up into its own pocket.

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Catch a case

In the backcountry or back at the lodge, your smartphone can be essential equipment, loaded with trail maps, navigation apps, and of course a camera to capture those selfies at the peak, so protect your device with an Otterbox case that’s made to withstand bumps and drops. The shimmering Stardust case from the Symmetry Series Clear Case ($42.46) features fortified drip protection yet has a slim profile so it can easily slip into your pocket. For extra protection cover your screen with the Alpha Glass Screen Protector ($39.95) to shield against scratches and smears.

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Casual comfort

Dressing down doesn’t mean you can’t be stylish. Unwind after your alpine adventures in Mountain Khakis, the casual but fashionable clothing line built for comfort and function. The designers thought of everything when it comes to active apparel, with strategic pockets, articulated knees, and packability, such as the Classic Fit Cruiser Pant II ($94.95) in flattering styles for men and women, made of stretchy, quick-drying, wicking fabric, perfect for hiking and trout fishing or power lunching and jet-setting.

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Top off your classic casual look with a the go-anywhere gauzy plaid Women’s Jenny Tunic Shirt ($74.95) or the Men’s Passport EC Long Sleeve Shirt, ($89.95), made with a silk-weight, easy-care fabric, and featuring a hidden right chest security pocket with zipper closure perfect for passport, phone, cash and cards.

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If you want to really get down to nature, try Mountain Khaki’s newest collection made with soft, warm, and quick-drying SeaWool, a blend made of crushed oyster shells and blended with recycled Polyfill and PET bottles.

Global clothes

Sustainability means using natural resources in a balanced way in which the resources can be replenished, now and in the future. When it comes to clothing, Toad & Co., knows something about sustainability, as spring 2019 marked the brand’s crossover to 100 percent sustainability. The company also sustains its community with a social program that donates funds and helps people with disabilities. The eco-clothing line features garments made with a minimum of 80 percent sustainable fibers, such as hemp and bamboo, in fashionable, versatile styles suitable for outdoor adventure, or suiting up for casual day at work, such as the breathable, feminine jersey shirt, the Tamaya Tres Tunic ($65) and the comfy form-fitting Flextime Skinny Pant ($85). To find out more about Toad & Co. and their social program, check out this video.

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Down under

No one will know what you’re wearing underneath, but you will know, by the comfort and performance, that in Runderwear you’re wearing power underwear. Runderwear’s Women’s Support Running Bra ($60) is designed specifically for runners looking for reduced bounce, maximum support and comfort. A soft fabric layer against the skin prevents chaffing, along with non-slip, adjustable straps, vs. a one-size-fits-all racer back. Sizing runs small, so larger busted women need to order up one or two sizes. Men can enjoy comfortable, chafe-free running adventures with maximum support in Runderwear Men’s Long Boxer Briefs ($35).

Right step

You’ve heard of slow cooking, now there’s slow fashion, which means buying items that last. Step out in style and sustainability in ethically produced Mohinders’ slippers and flats for men and women ($145-$185). These classic woven sandals are made using a 37-step process in Athani, India, by a multi-generational cooperative of master shoemakers. Made with water buffalo leather, each shoe is hand-tanned using a vegetable-based solution of water, acacia tree bark, myrobalan nuts and no chemicals. These raw-looking sandals soften with time and wear to become your favorite footwear, for years and years.

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Outdoors

The outdoors enthusiast’s essential gear list

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Must-haves for your next adventure

Get out and enjoy the great outdoors with these proven products that will keep you going – climbing, camping, fishing, hiking, mountain biking and doing whatever you do in the wild, in style, comfort and with gusto.
  

Get down tonight

When the weather outside is frightful, it’s time to get down. Really good down. Every outdoors aficionado knows that not all down-filled puffy jackets or sleeping bags offer the same warmth, wearability and durability. The difference is the quality of the down. ALLIED Feather & Down insulation is the industry gold standard, with superior loft and a proprietary multi-wash cleaning and drying process for freshness and allergen-free comfort. Their down is also certified as sourced ethically and responsibly. Look for ALLIED Feather & Down in top-rated outerwear and sleeping bag brands like Slumberjack, Helly Hansen, and The North Face.

Puffed up

Cuddling up by the campfire or huddled in a camp chair for a chilly soccer game, the Rumpl Original Puffy Blanket ($159) provides a comfortable layer of warmth that goes anywhere. This all-purpose throw blanket, made with the same technical materials found in premium sleeping bags, comes in bright colors and patterns, including the latest design, a collaboration between artist and outdoor adventurer Stickfort and camping gear companies Rumpl and Yakima, is a beautifully printed blanket inspired by the Pacific Northwest sunset. A portion of the proceeds will directly benefit the environmental preservation non-profit group Friends of the Columbia River Gorge.

Lock and ride

Most cyclists love their bikes, but they don’t love lugging around a heavy, bulky bike lock for securing their wheels when they park. The lightweight but sturdy Otto DesignWorks Ottolock ($55 and up) is a tough, smash-proof cinch lock that is compact enough to tuck one into a pocket or seat bag. They unlock using a resettable, three-number combination, so there’s no key to keep track of—perfect for a stop by the brewery at the end of a ride.

Boom tunes

Remember the boom boxes of yester-yore, balanced on a shoulder and pumping out tunes people could hear a block away? The go-anywhere compact bottle-sized BoomBottle MM ($129.99) has captured that grand, satisfying surround-sound acoustics of the famed traveling stereo with its two 12W speakers and two 45mm passive radiators, providing a full-range of crisp highs and deep bass tones, all situated in an IP67 rated dust and waterproof enclosure. This rugged, waterproof wireless speaker can travel anywhere, and it even has a MagicMount magnetic base to keep it stuck to metal surfaces. Available at Costco and other retailers.

Soft hands, warm hearth

Out in the wilderness, catching dinner, chopping wood, and building a bonfire, your hands can get dry, rough and sore. Take along Lansinoh’s HPA® Lanolin Minis and apply soothing salve to hands, lips, heels and any exposed skin that needs protection from the elements. Originally developed as a nipple cream for nursing moms, this ointment is 100 percent natural, containing just a single ingredient, HPA Lanolin, providing a barrier layer that hydrates skin without perfumes or other harmful additives. A three-pack of .25-ounce minis is $10.99, available at CVS and Walmart.  

Eyewear for life

Good eye wear is more than a fashion statement, but who says you can’t look stylish while shielding your peepers from glare? Sunski sunglasses, the recycled plastic eyewear that supports the environment with every pair sold, are ideal for the beach, the mountain, or anywhere the sun shines. Sunski’s polarized lenses protect her eyes from harmful rays, and they stay put thanks to a fit for active lifestyles. Designed by San Francisco surfer dudes and tree huggers, Sunski frames, are quality crafted from industrial scraps and guaranteed forever.  Available at sunski.com. $55-$68, kids frames ($38) also available.

Best foot forward

As Del Griffith expressed so eloquently, nothing’s worse than when your dogs barking. Whether you’re pounding the pavement, hiking through the woods, or standing in a stream in waders all day, your feet will thank you if slip Sof Sole insoles into your footwear. Freshen up the insoles of an old favorite pair of boots or give new life to your worn-out trail running shoes with the Sof Sole Airr Insoles ($27.99), for all-day comfort of a COOLMAX moisture-wicking top-cover and the and shock-absorbing relief of Polymer Gel that your puppies will love.

Patch it up

A great down jacket will last for a decade or more, but accidents happen, and that’s why there’s NOSO Puffy Patches. Fix up those tears and snags in your favorite outerwear with this permanent rip-stop nylon fixer that will seal up holes in your coat, backpack, sleeping bag, tent or other gear with just the sun or a clothes dryer to activate the adhesive. They come in six colors and 13 shapes that are so fun and stylish, you might just want to stick them on for fashion. $14.95 for a pack of 3.

Eat, love, tell

Pack a picnic basket that will tantalize your taste buds, with True Story Foods, purveyors of ethically sourced meats that are wholesome and delicious. Every meat-loving and health-conscious foodie will find something tasty to chew on, like organic apple & wildflower honey chicken sausages, organic grass-fed beef hot dogs, or organic bacon and tenderloin from Non-GMO fresh pork. The culinary carnivore on your list can enjoy premium flavor every day in a brown-bag lunch, with sliced deli cuts like black forest ham, oven roasted turkey breast or uncured Italian dry salame.

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Tech

Happy new gear: tech trends for 2019

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Plug into the latest tech trends for 2019 and stay smart and charged up year-round

Smart stuff

Never again have that empty feeling when you run out of your favorite snack, with Weplenish ($39.99, Amazon). This amazing smart endless snack dispenser takes count of your snacks and automatically re-orders them when the container is running low. Weplenish also holds your favorite k-cup brands like Starbucks, Green Mountain, Nespresso, Dunkin Donut etc., and is compatible with a variety of snacks like KIND Bars, RXBARs, GoMacro Bars, Quaker Chewy Granola Bars, and Keebler’s Cookie Variety Pack.

Smells like millennial spirit

Add some atmosphere to your living or work space with Moodo, the first smart aroma diffuser. This room-freshening device sends scents into air with the touch of a button, using an app on your phone, or on the device itself. You can even link it to Alexa or Google Home and control the fragrance with voice commands. Starter packs ($189, with special sale pricing up to 40 percent off) include one aroma diffuser and three scent families. Refill capsule collections are priced at $17.94 to $29.90.

Cable keeper

If you love to be plugged in, but you hate the tangle of cables on your desk or nightstand, you will love the Cable Wrangler ($19.99). Created by Austin-cool Silk, makers of a variety of unique smartphone cases, wallets and accessories, this upholstered magnetic mound will hold her cables with a satisfying “click.” For non-metal cables, the holder features tiny metal collars to place around the necks of those pesky errant cables.

Get your headset in the game

Get into the game with the Audio Technica ATH-PG1 ($129), a headset for serious gamers with immersive audio that makes you feel inside the action. The 44 mm drivers provide powerful, lively sound specially tuned to accentuate all the sonic detail of the gaming environment. The closed-back, lightweight headset stays on snuggly with complete comfort, allowing extended play. The ATH-PG1 also comes equipped with a flexible, 6″ boom microphone for live-sounding in-game voice communication with other gamers, or you can use the headset for everyday media listening, and even for calls and controlling audio and video on smartphones and other portable devices. Compatible with PS4, iPad, iPhone, laptops, PCs, and other gaming devices with standard 3.5mm TRRS connector.

Eh I?

If the new era of tech has got you thinking, then The Fourth Age (Atria Books, $23.25 in hardcover, Amazon), Byron Reese’s thoughtful new book about smart robots, conscious computers and the future of humanity will give you some virtually real intelligence to ponder. Reese, the CEO and publisher of the technology research company Gigaom, offers this essential reading for anyone who enjoys probing the deeper questions about how tech has revolutionized our society and our very selves. The Fourth Age will make you wonder, and it will make you smarter for your next dinner party convo, or online chat.

Hit the Hi-Fi Bottle

Remember the boom boxes of yesteryore, balanced on a shoulder and pumping out tunes people could hear a block away? The go-anywhere compact bottle-sized BoomBottle MM ($129.99) has captured that grand, satisfying surround-sound acoustics of the famed traveling stereo with its two 12W speakers and two 45mm passive radiators, providing a full-range of crisp highs and deep bass tones, all situated in an IP67 rated dust and waterproof enclosure. This rugged, waterproof wireless speaker can travel anywhere, and it even has a MagicMount magnetic base to keep it stuck to metal surfaces. Available at Costco and other retailers.

What’s old is new again

Kids of all ages will enjoy a trip in the way-back machine via Bandai Namco Flashback Blast ($18.88, Walmart). This collection of old-school classics, such as Pac-Man, Dig Dug, Galaga, Galaxian, Mappy, Sky Kid The Tower of Druaga and Xevious, will take you back to when video games were simple and pixelated. The game set includes a wireless controller and HDMI dongle that easily connects wirelessly to your HD TV, for hours of timeless fun.

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