dad week

The Strategist Haul: What Our Dads Can’t Live Without Edition

Photo: Retailers

If you follow our monthly Strategist Haul, you’re familiar with the idiosyncrasies of our editors’ and writers’ shopping habits in everything from underwear to work bags. To celebrate Father’s Day and the conclusion of Dad Week, we wanted to do something a little different: We asked our dads about their favorite things, and the items they can’t live without. Read on for their picks, including everything from a Tibetan singing bowl to an eraser pen.

Maxine Builder, managing editor

Patagonia Black Hole duffel with resting Bichon.

My dad is an early Patagonia fanboy. He climbed across the United States in the 1970s and 1980s and still has a set of pitons that were hand-forged by Yvon Chouinard himself. My dad’s uniform includes one of his many synchilla fleeces (though he’s convinced Patagonia has changed its sizing so that a men’s large now is about the size of a men’s medium, back in the day). But the one thing from Patagonia that my dad absolutely cannot live without is their Black Hole duffels. He was an early adopter, picking up his first one in 2014 for a trip to New Zealand, “because I knew I was going to go up by helicopter, so I needed a duffel you could throw your gear in and not be too big.” He’s since collected “more than [his] fair share” in different colors and sizes, from the smallest 40-liter to the largest 100-liter. His favorite size is the now-discontinued 60-liter, which is actually a little smaller than the current 55-liter. “It was just a very handy, convenient bag for my outing trips like that. The whole top opens up, so they’re more convenient than regular duffel bags,” he tells me. Plus, he can run through an airport wearing it like a backpack, easily throw it into the overhead compartment of a plane as a carry-on, and still bring a week’s worth of clothes. Turns out these bags also make excellent dog beds, as my dad regularly sends us photos of the family Bichon plopped on top.

Chloe Anello, junior writer

My dad bakes weekly — mostly bread, and gluten-free things for me. He has lots of fancy equipment (or, well, it’s fancy to me, a non-baker, but pretty normal for an avid baker), but out of all the tools he uses and talks about, this King Arthur dough whisk probably gets the most attention. “This is my favorite tool for baking. It whisks everything together better than a regular whisk and nothing clumps,” he says. You can find a similar bread whisk anywhere, but he happens to be a big King Arthur fan. He almost exclusively uses their flour (including gluten-free), parchment paper, and other various ingredients because he says it’s better than any other brand.

Alexis Swerdloff, editor

$8 for 6

I’m going to let my dad speak about this beloved eraser for himself …

“I erase a lot. I know you’re not supposed to. I know you’re supposed to commit to the line when you draw. Live with it. Learn from it. But that’s not me. Some writers can’t complete the second paragraph until the first is right. I can’t draw until the first few strokes are where they should be.

Pens and pencils get good press. Erasers not so much. Nevertheless, there’s one that’s functionally perfect. It works — and looks — like a cut-rate ball-point pen. It consists of long stick of white eraser stuff wrapped up in a plastic tube. When you wear it down you press it to extend some more. It’s like the un-pointy end of a No. 2 pencil — except it doesn’t run out, like those do, weeks before the pencil’s even close to being finished.

My favorite eraser is from ‘Mr. Pen.’ Odd name for something that isn’t a pen at all. That’s rather the opposite in fact. But there it is. And it’s cheap. Six for about six dollars in a brightly colored bubble pack.

Great sculpture, they say, is simply subtracting what isn’t needed from a block of marble. I do indifferent drawings the same way. Eraser first.” Peter Swerdloff

Lauren Ro, writer

From $325

I got this for my dad in dark brown for his birthday five years ago, and he’s been carrying it ever since. He takes it to church every Sunday, where he’s an elder and therefore has many meetings. “It holds my bible, folders, and files, and it’s formal enough to go with my suits,” he says. “I also use it during the week. I like that it’s not too modern but has a more traditional look.” He also appreciates that it has many pockets, with a wide strap that doesn’t dig into his shoulder. “Everything is made out of leather or canvas and it is very durable,” he adds. “The zippers are heavy duty and look like they will never break.”

Jenna Milliner-Waddell, junior writer

“Growing up in Gary, Indiana, my mom would stop at the candy counter in the department store and buy warm, salty cashews. These aren’t as good, but they’re close,” says my dad of these Planters cashews. My dad is in his 70s, and I’m in my 20s, so I can hardly even picture a time when department stores had an elaborate candy counter, but what I do remember — and am witnessing now while quarantining with my parents — is my dad eating cashews almost every day and shaking them in his hand before actually eating them, which apparently all dads do. I personally hate everything about cashews, and used to turn my nose up at him for eating them, but now knowing the nostalgia they bring my dad I at least have to respect it.

Kayla Levy, junior writer

In addition to “my family and my cats,” my father says he can’t live without meditation — in fact, he’ll be the first to remind you that a longer lifespan is actually one of meditation’s many benefits. “I’ve been meditating for 45 years, but a couple of years ago my friend introduced me to Tibetan singing bowls, which are traditional in some Buddhist practices and produce a deep vibrational tone when you gently play them with a mallet. I like to sit with the bowl or lie down and put it on my chest when I’m meditating, the vibration gives me a feeling of harmony and calm,” he explains.

Casey Lewis, senior editor

My dad has had a Weber grill “since ’79 or 80,” he says, and he’s gone through half a dozen of them — not because they don’t hold up, but because he uses it most days of the week, even in bad weather. It’s not an exaggeration to say he’s grilled 5,000 chickens over the years, and every one of them has been perfect because of his Weber (and because of his bible, Weber’s Big Book of Grilling). After decades of using the standard model, he upgraded to a more souped-up version with a table and ignitor in recent years, but the meat remains the same: perfect.

Peter Martin, senior editor

We haven’t always gotten my dad the best presents. Although it’s been more than three decades, he still reminds my sisters and me about the time we gave him a cassette-tape rewinder for Christmas. (From our adolescent perspective, it all made sense: We needed one — didn’t want to get charged a dollar when we returned un-rewound videos to Blockbuster — and none of us had another idea for him.) I think we finally made up for that a few years ago when we bought him this rotisserie attachment for his grill. It plugs into a regular outlet and mounts on the side of the grill, slowly rotating whatever he puts on the spit so that it’s cooked evenly and perfectly. He uses it to cook whole chickens, mostly with adobo spices and lemons. ”If I were cooking chicken breasts or thighs on the grill the regular way, I have to be there. I have to watch it and keep flipping to make sure it doesn’t get burned,” he says. But with this, “I just put it in and check it every once in a while to make sure the legs aren’t falling out, and in 1.5-2 hours, it’s done.” He and my mom use it at least twice a month, year round and often for company, which, for much of the coronavirus pandemic has included my wife, daughter, and me. “Most people think it’s delicious, and the skin is phenomenal.” The three of us who don’t live here definitely agree. [Editor’s note: If you’re purchasing a rotisserie, be sure to check that it is compatible with your specific grill model.]

Hilary Reid, writer

For as long as I can remember, my dad has listened to audiobooks on his commute to work and while doing projects around the house. While he could add them to his phone, he prefers this tiny MP3 player: “I’ve had it for probably five years, and it’s worked perfectly that whole time,” he says. “It runs for 20 hours on one charge, has enough space to hold dozens and dozens of books, and it’s absolutely perfect for audiobooks because, when you wish to continue from where you left off, all you have to do is press the play button and you’re there.” The SanDisk is especially easy to take on the go: “It’s much lighter that a smartphone, and very easy to carry,” he says. “When you buy it, the package comes with a little gadget so you can actually wear it.” He’s listened to everything from Sherlock Holmes stories to Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep on the SanDisk, and as for quarantine listening, he says, “I haven’t started yet, but I have Dickens’s Tale of Two Cities on there.”

Anthony Rotunno, senior editor

According to my dad, Strategist contributor John Rotunno, “this mobile shaver has been a life-saver for me over the years. I keep one at home, one in the office (which isn’t getting much use right now), and one in my travel bag (which also isn’t getting much use right now). It’s great for a touch-up before a big meeting or night out for dinner, and equally good for a full shave. Did I mention I don’t leave home without it?”

In my 34 years as his son, I’ve never known my dad not to be perfectly clean-shaven — the one year he grew a beard for Movember, he was virtually unrecognizable. But I also didn’t really know how he managed to never have a five o’clock shadow. Now I realize it’s because he has one of these guys in every nook and cranny. And for good reason — apparently, they are the little secret behind his perennially perfect shave.

Liza Corsillo, writer

My dad is a graphic designer and a master of making the most restorative comforting dinners. So it’s fitting that the two things he can’t live without include a really good pen and a humble but mighty frozen food. He does a better job of talking about these things so I’ll let him speak for himself.

“I’m kinda superstitious, I knock on wood and count birds. At my graphic design desk and beyond I have to have my Bic Soft-Feel Ball-point pen(s) (Med/Black). I buy them by the box. They write really well and are even great for sketching. If I’m signing something important, I have to make sure I use that pen. Susan (my wife) even refers to them as my good-luck pens.” —George Corsillo

“There have to be frozen peas in the refrigerator at all times. A meal will be sitting on the table and I’ll race to boil some peas. I eat them with everything and must have them mixed in with my spaghetti sauce. Trader Joe’s frozen petite peas are the best.” —G.C.

Katy Schneider, senior editor

When I asked my dad what he can’t live without he said: “my pacemaker,” then meandered out of the room. I called him back to ask if he could provide me with an actually shoppable item, and he said: “Oh. My Timberland boots,” then walked out again. Called back a third time, he explained that he has worn the classic 10061s since junior high, and still owns his high-school pair. “They give me confidence,” he said. “When I put them on, I feel like I’m walking tall.”

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

The Strategist Haul: What Our Dads Can’t Live Without