Five Plus One is our weekly series of buyer’s guides. We pick a specific category and dig up five great options along with one that’s a little outside the norm.
There’s a dissatisfaction inherent in almost everything we buy. We rarely acquire an end level item, it’s all just a foothold in the long climb up the mountain to getting The Good Thing, if it even exists. We’re mystified into thinking that every purchase is a compromise and an the start of lusting after some rarefied new thing that will also fail to quell this urge.
Let me tell you, I have reached the top of the mountain (for at least a half dozen things) where I don’t want the new, I want the same. The following are items that have transcended the hunt, and when they’re lost or break beyond repair, I just buy them again without a second thought.
Charlie’s out this week, and rather than step in and rather than ape my own Five Plus One, I’d like to share with you my Five Plus One things I’ll buy til I die.
1) SIGG: Touch 1L Water Bottle
You might look like you’re drinking camp stove gas (and you very well could with it), but this is my water bottle of choice. I’ve drunk probably a swimming pool’s worth of water out of these bottles. I used to be a Nalgene person, but the wide mouth was always awkward to drink from. The Sigg’s slim opening is easy to fill, easy to empty, and the little plastic cap makes it easy to carry with one finger. Also, where other water bottles crack or break, the Sigg is all metal so it just gains character in the form of dents (also no BPAs). I mostly lose these, but the green one I had before my current yellow bottle finally kicked the bucket after 5 years of drops pinched a tiny hole in the bottom. We should all be so lucky to die such a warrior’s death.
First purchased: 2007
Number owned: 5
Available for $22 at Depor Village.
2) Oakley: Frogskin Polarized Sunglasses
Ugh, Oakley, seriously? Yes, seriously. Frogskins haven’t changed since the mid 80s so they’re spared all the tacticool styling of current spec Oakleys but have all the tech advancements. They just look like normal sunglasses but they’re incredibly light, cheaper than a pair of Ray-Bans, fold flat so they can fit easily in a pocket, still made in USA, the lenses cut glare without losing any clarity and you can change them out with your fingers. Also if you sit on them, the arms just pop off like legos and you can snap them back on just as easily, unless you sit on them especially wrong like I did a couple months ago and break the bridge and have to repair with a dremel and a paperclip (see pic).
First purchased: 2012
Number owned: 2
Available for $136 at Sunglass Hut.
3) L.L.Bean: Wicked Good Shearling Mocs
I’ve waxed on about these before, and for good reason. Even before the pandemic, these are hands-down the shoes that I log the most hours in. They’re on my feet anytime I’m at home and not in bed. They’re easy to slip on, made of soft shearling that’s warm in the winter and breathable in the summer, cushioned and with a slim rubber sole for brief jaunts outside. This pair is about in the middle of its life cycle, the fur on the heels is the first to go, but they only need to be replaced once that leather breaks through to the padding. We’ve still got time.
First purchased: 2006
Number owned: 3
Available for $79 at L.L.Bean.
4) Victorinox: Classic SD Mini Swiss Army Knife
The coin pocket on my jeans always blows out because of these. But it’s worth it to have a pair of scissors, flathead screwdriver, emery board, toothpick, tweezers, and a little knife on hand. I used to buy them new, then my dad showed me you could buy them used for 1/3 the price on eBay (I’m guessing the ones the TSA take at airport security). My latest get is a blue one that once belonged to a Karen.
First purchased: 2002ish
Number owned: At least a dozen (mostly confiscated by the TSA)
Available for $6 used on eBay.
5) Casio: F-91W Digital Watch
Ah, the watch that’s been seen on the wrist of Barack Obama, Osama bin Laden, and nearly everyone in between. This is about as basic and as cheap of a watch one could get, but it does everything you’d ever need: time, date, day, timer, alarm, and it’s water resistant to 100 feet. Longtime readers will know I mostly wear my other watch, but this one is for running, swimming, traveling, and everything else.
First purchased: 2011
Number owned: 1
Available for $14 at Amazon.
Plus One – The Real McCoy’s 991BK Jeans
I’m often asked, “You write for a denim site, how many pairs of jeans do you have?” And I usually disappoint people by saying, “One.” These ones tick all the boxes for me: midweight, slim straight fit, unsanforized, black, minimal details, cotton stitching, button fly. When my first pair became unrepairable (see the Fade Friday), I immediately purchased another and plan to keep buying them for as long as I can.
First purchased: 2016
Number owned: 2
If you know where to find them, please tell me.
Already Dead: Apple iPhone SE (1st gen), iPod Shuffle (4th gen)
These are things I would love to keep buying, but the fast march of technology has already left them long behind. Like many other obtuse nerds, I think the iPhone 5 (the basis of the SE) was the high water mark of iPhone design. It’s small enough to be used with one hand and fit easily in a pocket, it’s flat on all surfaces so it doesn’t wobble on a camera bump while resting on a table and it can be stood up on its base or side to take a picture or do a video call, it has a headphone jack (that I use almost every day), and the sturdy design doesn’t need a case and can take a bunch of drops without breaking the screen. I downgraded from a dead-battery 6s to an $80 refurbished SE last year and it still runs like a champ. I am dreading the day it dies/won’t update and I am dragged into our wireless monoport present. Anyone else I see with this tiny cheap old phone is immediately +10 respect.
The iPod shuffle is a similar relic, but the ideal music player for running. It’s literally the size of a postage stamp, holds 15 hours of battery charge and about 50 hours of music on its 2gb memory, and has a built in clip that can go on a waistband or pocket. This version came out in 2010, was discontinued in 2017, and now that iTunes is gone, it’s going to be playing the same 100 songs for the foreseeable future.
Thank you for listening to me vent in Charlie’s absence. What are your “Buy Til You Die” items? Let me know in the comments!