Buy This, Not That: NileGuide’s Holiday Gear Guide

Gear Guide — By Alexi Ueltzen on December 9, 2010 at 6:00 am

The shopping habits of Americans mirror – not surprisingly – their eating habits. Convenience, overindulgence, and poor quality are often attributes in both the foods we consume and the gifts we purchase. Thank goodness you have us.

Get ready for a shopping “diet”; a shift from cheap, mass-produced and largely useless goods to high quality, unique and truly useful items for the people in your life who don’t annoy the snot out of you. In the style of “Eat this, Not That!” please scroll down to enjoy NileGuide’s Holiday Gear Guide.

Jumpin’ Jammerz vs. Union Suits

Image: Jumpin’ Jammerz/Amazon

What not to buy: Jumpin’ Jammerz

Full fleece entrapment – these are the least-sexy sleepwear ever. EVER. You’ll know someone out there hates you and wants you to die a sweaty-footed death if you get these crammed into your stocking on Christmas morning. Why are all the models smiling? Because they’re paid to.

We’ll let seasoned product reviewer and yellow-speedo-owner Mike Barish tell you all the reasons they suck:

What to buy instead: Union suits

Or, what Santa wears to bed.  What looks fantastic, covers the entire body, is comfy as a bunny wrapped in awesome, is footless and comes in the color of love? Union suits. In this instance, the model is smiling because he is genuinely happy – also, because he has a butt flap.

I can’t recommend this gift strongly enough. If you know a lumberjack, someone who spends most of their winter in the snow, a gold prospector or a hipster on your list, you’re pretty much guaranteed a win.

Travel Books vs. eBooks

Image: Amazon/photog209/Flickr

What not to buy: Aspirational travel books that torture your cubicle-dwelling existence

How about a slap in the face instead? If the recipient hasn’t been to all the places in the book yet, it’s because of that job/money/kid situation holding them back. Plus, Books like Once in a Lifetime Trips or 1000 Places to See Before You Die basically say “Hey, I think you should just quit your job and take off for a really long time” 

Chances are your friends and families already have a long, long list of dream vacations. If they don’t, they’re boring, and you should stop hanging out with them right now.

What to buy instead: Books of the future

Kindles. Nooks. iPads. These are as cool as hoverboards – well, they would be if they had more neon graphics, but I’m sure those are coming. Quick list of why these make awesome presents:

  1. Magic. You can fit 100s of books into one reader and, therefore, into one suitcase. Kind of like Mary Poppins.
  2. Choice. Recipient can choose what they want to read, instead of pretending to enjoy that historical fiction romance novel from Grandma.
  3. Freedom. Decide on a whim to read a specific book and get that book instantly.
  4. Time Travel. They’re from the future. I think I said this already.

Tugo© vs. Klean Kanteen Insulated bottles

Image: Tugo/Klean Kanteen/Flickr

What not to buy: the Tugo©

A Tugo© is a drink holder that suspends a coffee cup between the handles of a rolling suitcase to free up hands and prevent spills, kind of like a baby-bouncer for your drink. We imagine anyone who uses one is constantly thinking:


This is the kind of product insufferably important people use. The only positive aspect is that this VIP may spill coffee down the back of their legs. Important to remember: if you are pulling a suitcase and don’t have any extra hands with which to hold your beverage, I’m pretty sure that’s life’s way of saying “have your coffee later.” Maybe you like getting eye rolls and bemused stares from your fellow travelers;  I’m not judging.*

*Yes. Yes, I am.

What to buy instead: Klean Kanteen insulated bottles

Want something that doesn’t spill and looks about 8,712 times cooler than a tugo? Buy one of Klean Kanteen’s new double-walled, insulated bottles. Use the café cap for sipping and the loop cap for totally leak-proof liquid transportation. Use it for coffee, smoothies, soup, oatmeal, ice cream, boxed wine, tiny potato chip crumbs or anything else you want to drink … and never worry about lingering smells or tastes. Now please get your face ready, because the following numbers should blow your mind:

  • Keeps hot things hot for up to 6 hours.
  • Keeps cold things cold for up to 24 hours.
  • Has two lids – one for sipping, one for transporting.

Chyah. I know.

GlamBags vs. any other toiletry bag

What not to buy: GlamBags

The day plastic Ziploc baggies have stopped being good enough for you is the day you need to reevaluate your life.

What to buy instead: TSA-compliant toiletry bag

Comes with three three-ounce toiletry bottles (and a funnel!) and is clear for easy TSA screening.* Plus it has an airplane on it.

*Do not use this as a reason to wear only a translucent raincoat on your next flight.

SunSwivel vs. Thermarest Trekker Chair

Image: Sunswivel/

What not to buy: SunSwivel

Only reasons I can think of for someone needing the SunSwivel

  1. They do not have use of their legs but need to supervise fifteen children at the beach.
  2. Couldn’t get the barcalounger out of the RV.
  3. Against their religion to sit on a non-rotating surface.
  4. They want to watch pretty girls in bikinis walk towards them and away from them.
  5. They want pretty girls in bikinis to be impressed by the smooth rotation of their beach chair.*

* A lot of people think pretty girls love rotating beach chairs. They’re wrong. Pretty girls in bikinis love sand dollars and Coke Zero.

In short, don’t buy this unless you a) have leg issues or b) really want pretty girls in bikinis to think you’re a strange, rotating duck.

What to buy instead: Therm-a-rest Trekker Chair

This kit converts any therm-a-rest or inflatable sleeping pad of at least 20 inches wide into a comfortable, light and versatile chair. Backpackers, beach-goers, fisherman and anyone who’s had to sit on a stadium bleacher for more than fifteen minutes are all enthusiastic fans. Save yourself from butt-lock – buy the Trekker chair.

Battery-powered hand-warming gloves vs. Burton’s Mittens

Image: Hammacher/REI

What not to buy: Battery-powered hand-warming gloves

Relying on batteries for hand warmth is a mistake. Batteries run out. Batteries are bulky. Batteries contain acid. Batteries come in different sizes, and stores don’t always have every size. When you suddenly realize this, you will be left with a pair of cold, heavy gloves weighing down your hands and – I suspect – your soul.

What to buy instead: Burton Gore-Tex 3-in-1 Mittens

Really concerned about cold hands? Buy mittens. It is a fact that mittens are warmer than gloves, based on the surface area ratio of skin to material. Don’t understand? That’s okay. Science is hard.

Science aside, Burton’s gloves also come with a wealth of features, none of which require batteries to work. Dryride liners for extra-cold days, chamois wipe for cleaning goggles, wrist cinches and a heater/vent pocket for handwarmers that won’t give you cancer. I think.

Wearable tent vs. Hennessy’s Hammock Tent

Image: Japan Trends/xmacex/Flickr

What not to buy: Izat’s Wearable Tent

This is a for-realsies, zip-up garment of clothing (IZAT = Immediate Zip Aid Structure) that can be turned into a tent. Buy more than one IZAT and they can be zipped together into one larger structure. I’d say this is cool but, really? Are ultra-lights not good enough? The tents look insane when worn and awkward when turned into tents.

Also, you can’t go commando.

What to buy instead: Hennessy’s Hammock Tents

Instead, be a backpacking pirate. Hennessy’s hammocks are the end-all, be-all in portable sleeping structures. They are very light – one to three pounds, depending on the model you choose – and are really freaking customizable:

  • Rain coming in at an angle and getting your GORP all soggy? Nothing is worse than moist nuts. The asymmetrical fly and hammock shape let you adjust for optimal coverage.
  • Tired of hanging out by yourself (pun intended) and want to chat by the campfire? Hennessy’s hammocks easily morph into a chair/lounge. Chair you go (again, intended! Stop making that face).
  • Grab your hiking poles and easily turn it into a snug little ground structure for when there aren’t trees. Like on frozen lakes or in ballrooms.

Plus, PLUS, there’s a mesh canopy to keep out the bugs and vampire bats, an internal ridgeline design that keeps the hammock level, a gear pocket and – I’ll let the experts explain this one – a patented “easy entry that is through the bottom; automatically snaps shut behind you as your weight tensions the entrance with VELCRO® brand closure.”

Teva Stilettos vs. TOMS wedges

Image: New High (M)art/TOMS

What not to buy: Teva Stilettos

Tevas just got worse. From the website:

Teva, leader in the sport sandal industry is known for their innovation of performance products and advanced technologies in the footwear industry teamed up with Grey Ant, the two collide to bring you the best of both worlds. Introducing the most comfortable performance high heel on the planet! …Limited quantities. First-come, first-served. Of course we recommend pairing with some outdoorsy-style socks!

All I can say is: Don’t wear these. Ever. If you’re in a situation that requires Tevas and stilettos, you are in the wrong place Ed note: Or the VERY right place, amiright? No? No, I’m not.

What to buy instead: TOMS wedges

Heels that say “I care,” and don’t require woolen socks. These are shoes for people who…

  • Like the way their calves look in heels.
  • Want the children of Africa to have shoes.
  • Think that stilettos worn with socks is about the stupidest thing they have ever heard of.

Still don’t have any good present ideas for the holidays? Leave a comment with your particular challenge and our team promises to come up with a creative idea. It may not be a good idea, but we can guarantee the creative part.

Tags: bags, batteries, Burton, butt flap, chair, gloves, guft, hammock, hennessy, holidays, jumpin jammerz, mittens, santa, stilettos, sunswivel, tent, teva, thermarest, toms, travel books, trekker, TSA, union suits, wearable, wedges, woolen socks, ziplock


  • Sherry says:

    Klean Kanteen is popular, but I prefer Contigo travel mugs. Only one unleakable lid to keep track of!

  • Alexi Ueltzen says:

    Fair enough, Sherry…I guess I just love things that can hang from a carabiner. I promise never to buy you a klean kanteen.

  • Neil says:

    What I want to know is if the kids in Africa also get the Toms wedges?

  • Alexi Ueltzen says:

    According to the website, the shoes are “especially designed for children’s environment and terrain.”

    So, yes.

  • Sonja Holverson says:

    What amazing gifts you find (the “What not”s as well as the “What to”s). I would love to go shopping with you! But this post is a good start to explore some original and guaranteed-to-be-appreicated holiday gifts for my pals. Thanks!

  • Bed Bugs Extermination says:

    Well at least bed bugs are revitalizing the economy, the exterminators are earning a killing.


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