“Tried and True” Gift Guide

Doug Bardwell
9 min readNov 16, 2018


In the past, I’ve featured some crazy cool products for our gift guides, but this year I thought I would concentrate on tried-and-true brands as opposed to brand new items. Every brand here is one that I’ve used, abused, and continue to use today. Some sit in my office, and some travel with me — many have gone around the world and are still with me. These are all brands I trust, and I recommend them to you for your gift-giving occasions. I can predict they’ll last a long time and will certainly be appreciated by whomever you gift them to.


I bought my first Nikon SLR camera back in 1984 and I’ve been shooting with them ever since. Quality is top notch, but the thing I love about Nikon is that all the lenses I’ve ever purchased can be used with every SLR or DSLR I’ve had or still have. That saves tons of money.

I’m currently shooting with three Nikons. My workhorse is the D500 and it’s still available. ($1,796.95 at Amazon.) It shoots a wonderfully large 21MP image and has phenomenal low light capabilities shooting at 25,600 ISO with low noise. Great for indoor and night sports.

nikon D500

For birdwatching, I’m loving the Nikon P900 ($596 at Amazon). It shoots the equivalent of 24–2000mm which is an 83x optical zoom. I can capture amazing bird photos, even if they are a hundred feet away. It’s now been updated and is available as the P1000 ($996.95 at Amazon) and shoots with a 3000mm zoom and 4K video. Haven’t tried it yet, but it sounds awesome.

For everyday concealed carry (pun intended), I love the pocketable Nikon P7700 — still available used ($239.99 at Amazon) It shoots 12.2 MP images in RAW or JPEG and full HD (1080p) video, yet fits in most pockets. This was my backup camera on many worldwide trips. The newer model is the S9900 ($249 at Amazon)


I’m presently using three different Epson printers.

The Epson SureColor P400 is being used for all my fine art, frame-worthy photography. Ideal for large format, panorama and banner prints. With 8 inkjet cartridges and the option to print on tons of specialty papers, this is the best I’ve ever experienced. ($566 at Amazon) See my full review here. If you create a lot of black and white prints, by all means, check out the P600 ($677 at Amazon)

Epson SureColor P400 printer with fine art print

The Epson WorkForce WF-7620 is the day-in-day-out printer for my office. It prints, copies, scans, and faxes. It prints up to 11x17 in color and black and white. ($299 at Amazon) Love the quality and the speed. It’s been upgraded to the WF-7720 which is now on sale for a great price. ($199 at Amazon)

Epson WF-7620

The third printer is in my car at the moment and is the portable Epson WF-100. It’s wireless, battery operated and rechargeable via USB or AC. Holds up to 20 sheets of letter or legal-size paper, and prints standard pages in about 20 seconds. It has been a great printer to have for those times when away from the office and you need copies or prints right away. ($229 at Amazon)


If there ever were a “what-the-heck-is-that” camera, it’s the Light L16. The model number denotes the number of lenses in the camera — all firing simultaneously — and creating up to 80MP images. With a 28–150 zoom and the capability of severely cropping your images, it’s possible to pull out clear detail from great distances, yet the camera can fit in a large pocket. If you want the highest resolution images, with 13 stops of dynamic range, this is your camera. (List price $1950 at Light.co — on sale now for 35% off)


Keeping with the pocketable camera theme, I’ve been using the Sony CX-675 camcorder for some time now and am quite pleased with the compactness and quality of the unit. It features a 26.8mm wide-angle coverage and up to 30x optical zoom — much more than most camcorders. It also keeps the videos on a microSD card, so you are not limited by internal memory like so many other camcorders. My only regret is that there is no viewfinder like on my more expensive professional camcorders, which can make it hard to see on bright sunny days. ($598 at Amazon)


Lenovo has computers for just about any task you want to complete, and as an ambassador for them, I’ve had the opportunity to try a number.

Presently, I use a Lenovo M-800 SFF with 32GB RAM and 1TB hard drive with dual monitors as my office photo and video editing workstation. I love the power of being able to render huge resolution photo files and hi-def videos with ease. Not many machines come with this amount of RAM, but it truly makes a difference in editing. The small footprint of the CPU fits comfortably below the dual Lenovo Touch 23” monitors.

For day-in-day-out, carry-in-my-backpack computing, I use the Yoga 900 — a 13.3” screen, 16GB RAM, 512GB HD which always does the job. ($1,999 at Amazon)

Lenovo Yoga 900

Its newest cousin is the 14” C930 which starts at $1244 and includes the world’s first dual-display and a digital pen with 4,096 points of pressure sensitivity.

If you are looking for a tablet, but want a detachable keyboard for serious typing, look at the Miix line starting with the 510 model like mine or the latest Miix 630 starting at $899. You’ll enjoy a 20-hour battery life, 12.3” screen and it’s loaded with Windows 10S.

Feel free to use my Insider access for potential savings. Find the computer of your dreams at this special site: http://www.lenovo.com/insiderseppus


Yes, it’s the Victorinox Swiss Army Classic pocketknife that’s been around for years and still the best in my estimation. The blade stays sharp and the mini-scissors are so valuable when only scissors will do. Pack in a toothpick, tweezers, screwdriver and fingernail file and it’s still smaller than your thumb. They are inexpensive enough to buy them by the half dozen so you’ll always have one handy. Available in 32 colors/designs. (Starting at $13.99 at Amazon)


One of the most amazing purchases I still own and use every single day is the Ogio Renegade RSS backpack. I’ve had the option to try many backpacks since 2013 when I got this one, but none of the others surpass the ruggedness and flexibility of my beloved Renegade RSS. I’ve taken it to five continents and it’s the one I won’t leave home without. Holds up to a 15” laptop and has a padded interior pocket for a tablet as well. (Starting at $111 on Amazon)


The Big House 4 is the tent I wish I had when my young kids were camping with me. Super easy to carry and one person can set it up easily. With the additional, optional vestibule you can store all your wet gear outside and still have plenty of room inside the tent. (Tent only $299 at Amazon)

The Big Agnes Men’s Farnsworth Hooded Jacket has been my cold weather protection for the past three winters. I love its lightweight, and ultra-warm synthetic insulation. It’s wind-proof and water resistant. ($199 at Amazon)


I first rented one of these for a cross-country road trip a few years back and immediately fell in love with it. As a multi-purpose vehicle, it can’t be beaten. The back five seats all fold completely flat into the back floor, so you can sleep in comfort there. Or, do as I did and build a storage box along the back driver’s side, still enabling three of the seats to be accessible on a moments notice. Chrysler has outshined all the other automakers on how to do mini-vans right.

When I switched from my beloved Chevy Tahoe, I hated to lose the road clearance, but a mini-van was the only way to get a garageable vehicle in my development. Since I’ve had it, I’ve had no regrets.


I’ve used many brands of power tools over the years, but I think the best value for the buck goes to DeWalt when it comes to battery operated tools. If you want the complete package for 90% of the jobs you’ll ever handle, this DeWalt DCK620D2 20V MA compact 6-tool combo kit should definitely fill the bill and won’t break the bank. ($360 at Amazon)


Away from home, and you haven’t bought that Town and Country van yet with the 110v outlet? Well, myCharge has an answer for you with their AdventureUltra Portable Charger. It’s a 13,400mAh battery power pack that has one AC port, one USB-C and two USB-A ports for just about anything requiring less than 45 watts of power. ($109 currently at Amazon)

If you can live without the 110-volt option, check out their HubPlus 6700mAh Power Bank with integral wall recharging plug and built-in Lightning and Micro-USB connectors. There’s an additional USB port for a third device or one that requires USB-C charging cords. ($79 at myCharge)


We’ve been using the Wusthof Ten Piece Block Set Gourmet for about three years now and still love the feel of the knives and their inherent sharpness. The 10-pc block set has about everything you’ll ever need for meal prep. ($199 at Amazon)

Also, for you backyard grillers, be sure to check out their BBQ tools set. Super high quality, these will serve you well and probably last a lifetime. ($99 at Williams Sonoma)

Disclosure: Many of these products were provided to us by the manufacturer for our initial testing and review some time ago. None have paid for placement in this gift guide and all opinions are strictly our own — as always on this blog.

Links to many of the products are affiliate links and we do receive a small payment if you purchase from them — which we use to subsidize the cost of running this site. For that we thank you; but, rest assured that we really do believe in all the products mentioned here and recommend them unequivocally.

Originally published at Doug Bardwell.



Doug Bardwell

Writer & photographer in print & online. Proud husband, father & grandfather. Engaged volunteer with Red Cross, human trafficking prevention & social concerns.