Table of Contents
We’re all tired of spending money on stuff that breaks. Whether it’s a tool that wears out instantly or a pair of pants that gets a hole too soon, it seems like more things in this world should be something you buy for life. They’re not as common, but there are numerous companies that aim to make excellent products that last a long time and can be repaired when or if they fail.
Anyone who has spent time on the Buy It for Life subreddit on Reddit likely knows about many of these products already, but we have a few rules for our guide. For one thing, everything you see here can be bought right now. You can definitely purchase them used—buy them this way if you want!—but we wanted to make sure each item can be bought new with its original factory warranty and is still supported by the company that made it. The second major rule? A WIRED Gear reviewer has to have personally used each product for years and vouch for it. That way, you know who to scream at in the comments if yours breaks.
Here’s a good rule of thumb: Just because something is well made doesn’t mean it doesn’t require proper maintenance. Take care of your stuff, and it’ll last years.
Table of Contents
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A Quality Chef’s Knife
I’m a fan of all things Japanese, so my most prized knife is an 8-inch Shun chef’s knife, a Christmas gift from my then girlfriend (now wife!). I have used this knife nearly daily for about a decade, sharpening it every six months to keep it employed. It shows a few scuffs (my fault), but no signs of stopping. It’s also among the sharpest knives I have ever used. This is my personal recommendation, but there are plenty of other high-end knives worth considering, including those from German and American brands. Read our Best Chef’s Knives guide for more.
Premium Oven Mitts
Skip the Ove Glove, and step away from the dish towel you’re considering using on a hot pan. Silicone oven mitts offer better protection than fabric oven mitts and are especially safer than a dish towel that isn’t designed for heat protection in the first place. The silicone offers a strong grip, which is important when handling hot cookware. These mitts are also waterproof, so your hands will stay safe if hot liquids splash onto your gloves, a one-up over fabric mitts. They’re easier to keep clean and show less wear and tear from stains and spills too. Five Two’s pair are my favorite silicone oven mitts, thanks to the large size that provides plenty of protection and fits every hand in my household. Plus, they come in pretty colors! —Nena Farrell
Originating in France in 1927, these perennially popular glasses can be found in cafés and kitchens across the world. The scalloped look, heat-resistant glass, and chunky proportions make them almost impossible to smash, and while they lack the Michelin-starred sophistication of an Iittala or Reidel, we can’t imagine decimating steak frites and a bottle of chateau-du-plonk with anything else. They’re also equally suited to drinking espresso, having been tempered to withstand heat up to 130 degrees Celcius. Sadly, the carafe has long been discontinued, but WIRED’s own 15-year-old sample here stands as a testament to design and durability. Glass with class. —Chris Haslam
A Long-Lasting Rice Cooker
If you’re cooking any kind of rice dish, you deserve a good rice cooker. You might think to yourself, why change? My rice cooker is fine, isn’t it? Sure, it’s fine, but don’t you want rice to be delicious? With a better rice cooker, you’ll get rice that’s akin to stopping at a restaurant, with the help of a few more buttons. Zojirushi is the name of the game when it comes to rice cookers, not only for great cooking results but for its long lifetime on your kitchen counter. The rice cooker and warmer models like the NS-LCG05 are a great choice, but our favorite is the NP-NWC10, which is a pressure cooker for even tastier rice. —Nena Farrell
My Mom has made apple sauce in the same cheap Crockpot since the early 1990s and it still gets warm every time. Crockpots are still made well, as are, in my experience anyway, the more modernized version: Instant Pots. Most of them will last a long time and have replaceable seals and lids, including this model I’ve had since college. Just be sure to clean and dry it properly before storage and you can make all kinds of stuff in it for years. I prefer ones with simpler controls, but I’ve had the Wi-Fi connected model for a long time and barely used it with the app. I found it a buggy experience, but the buttons work just fine.
An Espresso Machine
I bought the Barista Express for my now wife five years ago, and it’s been pumping out espresso almost daily ever since. We usually make an Americano, but we also make iced and hot lattes, depending on the weather. It still works just as new. You do need to maintain it by descaling the machine every so often and changing the water filter. Breville also sells tons of parts for years in case something gets damaged over time. I highly recommend getting the freshest beans you can (we get ours from Trade) because the Barista Express can be a bit snobby about the kinds of beans you pour in. That said, I see no signs of it stopping anytime soon. —Julian Chokkattu
A Handy Toaster
Every Classic Dualit toaster is hand-assembled at the company’s factory in West Sussex, and because the product was conceived to cope in commercial kitchens, they’re impressively robust and refreshingly repairable. You’ve got two choices if your toaster fails—you can either send it back for a quote and full repair or, if you fancy yourself with a screwdriver, Dualit sells spare parts including heating elements and timers, with prices from just £3.60 (roughly $4.50) for a new control knob. —Chris Haslam
A Reusable Water Bottle
Despite the more popular insulated stainless steel water bottles that have taken over, a Nalgene is probably the most durable water bottle you’ll find, and they remain beloved among adventurers the world over. I’ve dropped them from crazy heights, taken them on journeys, and drank liters and liters of water out of the lightweight plastic bottles, and they’re still the longest-lasting vessel I’ve tried.
An Everlasting Stand Mixer
Your grandma has one, your mom has one, and your brother has one: The KitchenAid stand mixer is perhaps the most universally beloved buy-it-for-life item in existence. This simple yet colorful mixer can be used to make bread, cookies, cakes, and even pasta (with the right attachments). I’ve yet to hear of one that can’t be fixed, and I’ve also yet to encounter a family member who actually had to do any repairs. This is the 7-quart version that lets you raise and lower the bowl, which makes it easier to make larger batches.
A Simple Cooler
This cooler is so popular that Igloo made the guard tower of the Igloo factory look just like it. A solid plastic lid that slides with a press of a button is the secret sauce here, making it easy to grab something and quickly pop the lid back on. They’ve been making them essentially the same way for decades, and they’re great for picnics, lunches, or bringing a few cold ones to a gathering.
A Multi-Egg Cooker
My wife loves eggs. On a trip to Japan, we went to a restaurant that offered all-you-can-eat eggs to add to your meal, and she returned to the table with five massive eggs on a plate. The Dash Rapid Egg Cooker was a natural fit. For three years now, she’s been using it regularly to make soft-boiled and poached eggs. She likes it because you can set it and forget it; a chime plays to indicate when the eggs are ready. (I know exactly what the chime sounds like at this point.) No need to stand over a stove. It’s cheap and plasticky, and I’m not expecting it to last my entire lifetime, but it has yet to show any signs of wearing down after all these years. —Julian Chokkattu
A Charcoal Grill
Weber’s basic charcoal kettle is a cult classic for a reason: This grill can be used for everything from charred veggies to smoked brisket if you know what you’re doing. The tried-and-true design is cheap and practical, with plastic wheels, metal legs, and a simple tub and ash catch. The secret to making these last forever? Get a cover, or store it in a garage or shed between uses. (They can quickly corrode if you don’t.) I also recommend snagging a set of cast-iron grates and a chimney for starting the thing, for ever better searing potential. Read our Best Grills and Best Portable Grills guides for more recommendations.
Pretty much any cast iron will last a lifetime. I’m a fan of vintage Griswold and Wagners, which are lighter and smoother than modern cast iron and come with mysterious markings you have to try to decipher using websites dedicated to their lineage. But there’s no need to spend your weekend thrifting or take your chances on the wilds of eBay when Lodge makes such excellent pans at such reasonable prices. A Lodge frying pan will set you back less than $30. It’s all but indestructible, comes out of the box well-seasoned, and will one day be sold on Etsy for way too much money by someone in your grandkid’s generation.
Oven-Friendly Glass Pans
All Pyrex is not the same. The Pyrex familiar to most Americans and often made in America is made from soda lime glass. It’s fine. However, the French have their own special Pyrex, made of tempered borosilicate glass through a unique manufacturing process. French Pyrex can endure an extreme temperature change without breaking—a 200-degree shift from the freezer to a preheating oven is no sweat. You’re going to want the one that’s all in capital letters with a French flag or marked “Origine France Garantie.” It does tend to be expensive and is a bit of a hassle to acquire. (Think $40 for a measuring cup that you can buy at Walmart for $10.) But, you’ll never want (or need) to replace it. —Martin Cizmar
A Drip Coffee Machine
A welcome antidote to all the pod machine waste and artisanal barista BS surrounding the coffee industry, the Moccamaster has been hand-made in the Netherlands since 1968 and makes a delicious cup (well, four to 10 cups to be precise) of filter coffee. The secret lies in the heating element, which maintains an optimal brew temperature of between 92 and 96 degrees Celcius to help produce a smooth, flavorful drink without bitterness. It’s fully repairable, is available in cool colors, and is completely recyclable. —Chris Haslam
The Best Cookware
I’m frugal first and a gearhead second. Here’s what my fellow gearheads are sometimes reluctant to tell you: Sometimes “the best” gear isn’t all that much better than second- or third-best. But when it comes to kitchenware, All-Clad gets first place, and it’s not even close. Cooking gets so much easier when your pots and pans have heat retention! All-Clad nonstick holds up well over time, and the vast majority of its pots and pans come with lifetime warranties. I have yet to use an All-Clad product that didn’t impress me. It might be an investment, but you’ll only have to make it once. You’ll never regret it. —Louryn Strampe
Nonstick Steel Pans
WIRED UK managing editor Mike Dent has been enjoying these tri-ply stainless steel pans (yes, these actual ones) for the past eight years, and his guests have appreciated not being served up Teflon flakes from compromised nonstick pans. There are various sets you can choose from, but the premium-grade pans offer fast and impressively even heat distribution, as well as infinitely scrubbable surfaces. “Life after nonstick has been a revelation. Beyond a decent frying pan, you should go steel for everything else. I honestly can’t see myself replacing these anytime in the near, or far, future,” Dent says. —Chris Haslam
Decade-Lasting Baking Sheets
One of the first things my grandma gave me when I moved out was a pair of Nordic Ware baking sheets. Those sheets have now lasted me well over a decade and are still working great with no warps. Pair them with any cheap silicone baking pads, and you’re liable to be baking cookies for decades with no problems.
A Paper Towel Holder
I love mounting stuff to the wall. Why waste valuable counter or desk space when you can just have it floating? For years I’ve had a simple aluminum paper towel holder for my Bounty rolls that sat on the countertop, but that’s where this SimpleHuman holder comes in. It’s incredibly sturdy on the wall, super easy to remove the exact amount of paper towels you need, and swapping in a new roll is dead simple. It’s been holding up well for years, and SimpleHuman offers a five-year warranty in case anything goes wrong. —Julian Chokkattu
A Perfect Desk Chair
They may not last you as long as a cast-iron pan will, but Herman Miller chairs are some of the most revered (and copied) in the industry for good reason. WIRED reviews editor Julian Chokkattu has been using the Embody since 2020, and it still feels new. It does take some time to get used to the seat—it’s more comfortable the longer you sit in it—but it improved his back problems after years on a gaming chair. It’s not the only Herman Miller chair you should consider. The Aeron ($1,410) is another staple in the office chair world. Both come with a 12-year warranty too. The kicker? You can most definitely find them far below the MSRP on eBay, Facebook Marketplace, and local furniture resellers. Read our Best Office Chairs guide for more options.
A Great Stool
French café culture has produced some of the most iconic, and indestructible, designs of the past 100 years. Based on Xavier Pauchard’s 1934 Tolix H chair, the stackable Tolix H stool was originally designed for factory workers and is available in eight heights to suit a range of tasks and desks. They’re still in production today, and available in some 28 finishes, including perforated seats for outdoor use. But we’re taken with this set of three 70-year-old originals, sourced by Merchant & Found, that illustrates just how durable they really are. —Chris Haslam
While Swedish couple Nils and Kajsa Strinning conceived the versatile String shelving system in 1949, it’s Dieter Rams’ deliberately “timeless” 1960 design for the 606 shelving unit that tops our modernist wish list. The system, manufactured by Vitsoe, has been in production ever since and is based around the versatile E-Track system that can be wall-mounted, semi-wall mounted, or fitted to ceiling and floor and then adorned with a wide collection of interchangeable shelves, cabinets, and tables. And because the design hasn’t changed in decades, a 50-year-old shelf unit will slot in perfectly with those just out of the factory. —Chris Haslam
A High Chair for Kiddos
No middle-class family is complete without at least one—and there’s a rabid secondhand scene on eBay for them too. But far from it being just another totem for Scandi style, the Tripp Trapp is a true icon of versatility. Launched in 1972 by Peter Opsvik, the height-adjustable beech- and oak-ply chair was designed to fit your child from newborn to adulthood, with the angled form and large footplate enabling the user to get close to the dining table at the correct height to feel involved. It’s simple, effective, and robust, and little wonder you can find it in the permanent collection at MOMA in New York, the Design Museum and Victoria and Albert in London, and the Vitra Museum in Germany. —Chris Haslam
A Simple Bed Frame
There was a period in my life after college when I moved around a lot. Let me tell you, bed frames are annoying to break apart and put together. I used to have a cheap, bulky, and ugly one from Zinus that was a pain to move around. In 2020, with nothing better to do at home, I decided to upgrade and spend some serious cash (for me) on The Bed from Thuma. It’s gorgeous and made from repurposed wood, with cork-padded bottoms on the legs to prevent scuffs on your floor. The slats have a felt lining made from recycled plastics to keep them protected, and they have never fallen out of place after all this time. But the best part? It is dead simple to take apart and reassemble. You don’t need any tools. The company uses Japanese joinery to keep the pieces together with zero screws. (OK, there are two screws in total, but you can insert them without a screwdriver!) I’ve moved once since I bought it, and it was a relief to only spend minutes putting the whole thing back together so I could get some much needed rest. —Julian Chokkattu
A Washer and Dryer That Lasts
I used to live in a rental house with four roommates, and we did a number on the washer and dryer. But once the landlord paid for Speed Queen washers and dryers, we were good to go. These machines are still made with metal baskets and other easy-to-replace parts that are stocked for years. I had a repair done on our older model for less than $100 after it failed, and I know many folks with newer models that have been able to do simple fixes. That said, this is an appliance, and the chances of it lasting a whole lifetime are slim; they just tend to last much longer than other washing machines I’ve used.
A Wet/Dry Vaccum
This particular Henry vacuum cleaner is now 18 years old, and thanks to the 10-meter-long cable, it has bounced up and down the stairs of a tall London townhouse without complaint. He’s not as presentable as he once was, but we can’t picture a posh Dyson taking this kind of punishment. True, Henry lacks the bells and whistles of the latest battery-powered and bagless designs, but the availability of spare parts makes him an affordable and highly modular option. There’s a whole family available, with Charles happy to suck up liquid spills and George adept at washing carpets, so it’s little wonder more than 14 million have now been sold. —Mike Dent
Clothing and Apparel
A Classic Leather Belt
They might not last a lifetime, but they sure last a long time. My first proper leather belt came on a pair of shorts I got from J.Crew in middle school, and it finally bit the bullet when I turned 30 (thanks in no small part to my expanding waistline). As a replacement, I bought an even sturdier model from Tanner Goods that has been going strong now for two years. Given that it’s even nicer than my last one, I expect this to last me until my 50s.
A Nice Wallet
Leather wallets or clutches are an excellent way to store your cards and cash, and they also have the benefit of lasting a very long time. I have an Italian leather wallet that’s now five years old and looks brand-new, despite being tossed around, sat on, and generally mistreated. My dad, I’m fairly certain, had his last one for three decades.
A Safety Razor
When I decide to be clean-shaven (it does happen), my favorite tool is a safety razor. Not only do I feel like an action hero when I lather up my face and slot in a new blade, but I also haven’t spent more than $10 on razor blades in nearly a decade. There are many decent brands and options, but I highly recommend you get a stand, brush, and bowl with soap for the full luxury experience. Safety razors and straight razors are actually quite easy to shave with (and get you a close shave), but there is a small learning curve. Be sure to have a quality aftershave balm for when you’re done.
A Duffel Bag
I have been dragging trusty North Face duffel around for 23 years, and, like its owner, despite looking a little worse for wear these days, it just keeps going strong. Tardis-like with space enough for ski boots, helmet, and a week’s worth of outerwear and evening clothes, the extra-wide straps help distribute the weight more evenly than other bags he’s tested. Unlike all the other identikit cases on the luggage carousel, it’s always easy to spot. The latest iteration features the same robust build and chuck-about-ability but has been consciously upgraded with phthalate-free, recycled PVC and recycled nylon that’s treated with a non-PFC water-repellent (DWR) finish. Got a battered old one like ours? The company repairs “pre-loved” versions. —Jeremy White
Rainbow sandals are a staple in my house for a reason. The leather sandals aren’t just iconic for the little rainbow logo on the toe piece, but for their ability to last, which is a refreshing change from typical flimsy plastic sandals that barely last a summer. The brand guarantees that the classic problems with sandals—straps coming undone, layers coming apart—won’t happen. And if they do, Rainbows will repair or replace them for you. That’s right, no more toe-snapped sandals. If you walk through the soles, you’re on your own to replace them, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes you a lifetime to deal that kind of damage to these sturdy sandals. —Nena Farrell
Danners aren’t the lightest hiking boots around. Nor is the fit the most dialed in (especially if you have narrow feet), or the sole the most nimble. However, they are iconic and will last you decades. Each piece of the upper is made from a single piece of dense, smooth, full-grain leather, including the attached tongue. No leaking, no seams coming undone. All you need is a wipe-down with a damp cloth and to dress it with Danner conditioner, one tin of which will also last you a few years. When you’ve finally beat them to hell—which will take a while, because mine are 15 years old and still going—you can send them back to Danner for a full recrafting. It gives a whole new meaning to the term “breaking in.” —Adrienne So
My mom bought me my first pair of Birkenstocks as a part of my first-day-of-school outfit in the fifth grade. They were light brown Boston Clogs, and I wore them for years. Eighteen years later, Birkenstocks are still my shoe of choice in the warmer months. I’ve had the same Arizona Suede Leather sandals for so long, I can’t even remember when I bought them. They’ve survived rainy days, beach days, and accidental spills. When I dusted them off while spring cleaning last month, I had no doubt they’d be able to get me through yet another summer. My partner, who has the same pair, has owned his for about five years now, and they’re also still going strong.
Birkenstocks require a certain level of care to shield them from the elements. Depending on the type of shoe you own, the company offers a variety of products you can buy—cork sealer, water and stain repellent, and cleaner and refresher—to help protect them. I admit I haven’t used any of them on my Birkenstocks, and they still look acceptable, but they’d look even better if I gave them a little TLC. —Brenda Stolyar
Originally designed for the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain, the Copa Mundial remains one of the most popular football shoes, which is some accolade given all the hyperlight 3D-printed, micro-chip performance analyzing tech being used in the modern game. The classic firm-ground K-leather shoe (that’s kangaroo leather) has been upgraded over the years and worn by such legends as Zinedine Zidane, Diego Maradona, Gary Lineker, and Eric Cantona, and it remains the official shoe for officials in leagues all over the world. —Chris Haslam
From the brand that famously told customers not to buy their clothes, Patagonia knows more than most when it comes to getting gear repaired. If one of its products fails, the company will repair it no question, but it now also offers the means to fix your clothing at home (or halfway up a crag) with a range of superb Tenacious Tape peel-and-stick patching kits and the Worn Wear Repair Roll, made from recycled polyester and sewn under Fair Trade principles, that has space for repair tools and supplies. Plus there’s a handy QR code that links you to a host of how-to repair videos. —Chris Haslam
A Rain Jacket
Barbour makes jackets so great for dreary weather that Queen Elizabeth II had hers rewaxed multiple times throughout her long life. The iconic jacket costs a lot up-front, but it can be repaired by the brand for life. In fact, during November and December 2022, Barbour’s South Shields repair center in the northeast of England rewaxed a remarkable 4,233 jackets. These extraordinary numbers—and Barbour estimates 60,000 jackets are rewaxed globally through its service centers each year—highlight how consumers are starting to think more sustainably, but it’s by no means a new service. Barbour has been rewaxing its classic cotton jackets for more than 100 years, helping to maintain performance and extend product life. It also sells over 100,000 tins of wax annually, for an ever-expanding DIY audience. —Chris Haslam
A Rolling Suitcase
It’s not the extravaganza of the larger check-in or trunk, but a metal Rimowa case of any size is a solid airport flex for those who know, and WIRED managing editor Mike Dent has had many an approving nod since first rolling this one out back in 2014. On the rare occasion it’s been checked in, it’s come out the other side, if not unscathed, then at least with some impressive (dare we say, sexy?) battle scars that belie its status as a casual traveler—though Dent tries not to think of what exactly the handlers did to put a ding in anodized aluminum. Perversely, he’s looking forward to the unlikely day when the gorgeously smooth wheels need replacing, as Rimowa does a natty line of swap-ins in popping colors, to further burnish your case’s unique patina. —Chris Haslam
Tools and Outdoor Gear
A Quartz Watch
Battery-powered quartz watches, which use speedy oscillations of a quartz crystal to tell time, are some of the most durable watches on the planet, as well as some of the cheapest. Invented in the 1970s by Seiko, they’re now the global standard for all but expensive mechanical watches. Classics like the Casio F91W are mainstays on the wrists of many people you know (and even some famous ones you don’t) for good reason. Once you buy a quartz watch, all you need to do is swap a battery every few years (or never, in the case of solar-powered watches). The kicker? These watches are also nearly always more accurate (and durable) than your friend’s 007 Omega ($8,480). You might not look as rad, but you can take comfort in knowing that if James Bond were real, he’d probably wear a Casio G-Shock.
A Mechanical Watch
OK, it’s hard to recommend one mechanical/automatic watch, but they are extremely robust. They’re made of small parts like springs and balance wheels that can be replaced if damaged (for a relatively high price, it must be noted), which makes these a great option if you’re looking to purchase a functional heirloom to wear and pass down. Or if you’re just someone who likes the idea of a bunch of tiny cogs and gears allowing you to pretty accurately tell the time. In any case, there’s no reason to make fun of your buddy who splurged on a Rolex: They’re likely to have that watch in good working order for as long as you know them. Brands that will last a lifetime worth checking out range dramatically in price, but the most popular options many folks wear include Seiko, Hamilton, Rolex, Omega, Tag Heuer, Tudor, Cartier, Longines, Sinn, Tissot, and more. We’ve linked a few popular automatic watches below for some ideas.
A Fountain Pen
A nice refillable ballpoint or fountain pen is a great tool that can last multiple lifetimes. I often use a Parker Vacumatic fountain pen from the 1930s, and it works properly, which is an incredible feat for a nearly 100-year-old object. A testament to this fact: Lamy hasn’t changed the design of my beloved Lamy 2000 since the 1960s, and it remains among the best-selling pens of all time. I recently found out that the dean of music at Juilliard also uses and loves his Lamy. Write like a musical pro!
A Pocket Knife
A quality folding knife can last for years of hard use. Here at WIRED, we open a lot of boxes, which means I use my Benchmade every day, often multiple times a day. I have yet to get it sharpened after nearly a year and a half of use (Benchmade will do it for free for life), and it still works great. They’re also awesome presents. My coworker Scott Gilbertson and his wife gave each other Benchmade knives as a gift, and they still look as shiny as their relationship after a few kids.
A Knife for Camping
Don’t want to fork out hundreds on a higher-end pocket knife? Opinel’s folding wood-handled pocket knives are the ultimate classic. The design of this French-made knife is the same as it was during the Benjamin Harrison administration. The carbon steel blade will keep an edge about that long too, if you keep the blade dry. The No. 8 indicates the blade’s size in inches, a measure that still made sense to the average Frenchman in the late 1800s. The wood handle has a satisfying feel and gets darker with age, but the real genius of the design is the simple and elegant spinning ring to lock and unlock the blade. —Martin Cizmar
A Knife With Plyers
An essential in every toolbox, camping kit, or, if you’re so inclined, utility belt, this Leatherman has interchangeable wire cutters that can be removed, sharpened, or replaced, two exceptionally sharp CPM S30V steel blades, file, and saw—all of which are accessible from the outside, without opening the pliers. Inside there’s a screwdriver, bottle/can opener, bit holders, scissors, and pliers, which all lock when open for safety. Leatherman products come with a lifetime warranty. —Chris Haslam
A Trusty Hatchet
Like a good knife, a nice hatchet is a tool that’s simple and will last you forever with proper sharpening. They’re great to have on hand for splitting kindling or banging in tent stakes, and they make you feel like a real woodsman. This one is forged in Sweden and features heirloom-quality construction; I’ve used mine for a couple years now, and it still looks brand-new.
Round balls of iron? Yeah, they’re pretty durable. That makes kettlebells some of the best tools you can buy for working out. I have owned my set of four kettlebells for years now, and they still look brand-new, despite repeated slams on my concrete floor and countless thousands of swings.
A Cool Lighter
I’ve had my Zippo since I was 14 years old. It was from an Army-Navy surplus store that advertised its existence with a giant road sign that said “There Ain’t No Such Thing as a $50 Jeep So Don’t Ask.” It’s the slim size, chrome with pinstripes on one side, and it’s been all over the country with me. Zippo lighters will last forever with new flints and wicks, both of which I’ve replaced over the years. I’ve bought a few other Zippos since, including one of the new butane ones, but like all bomb-proof and timeless products, the one I’ve had for 30 years is my favorite and still works like it did the day I got it. —Martin Cizmar
A Tool Box
Designed by Keiyu Hisashi in 1947, the Trusco toolbox is still made in Japan to exacting levels of quality workmanship. Blue, of course, is the classic color, and once unfolded you’ll find a series of containers, dividers, and clutter controllers to keep all your assorted tools—or, in our case, piles of screws and Ikea pencils—in check. —Chris Haslam
A Hex Set
Not only is this set of hexagon socket screws aesthetically pleasing and beautifully color-coded, but the combination of 100-degree angle and ball-point ends makes it considerably easier to access hard-to-reach screws and bolts. Each is made from an alloy based on that used to manufacture steel springs, combining both durability and elasticity. —Chris Haslam
A Steel-Framed Bike
It is difficult to describe the grip the iconic Surly Cross-Check has on a cyclist’s psyche. Surly released it as its first complete bike in the late 1990s. It’s a burly steel road bike that can take almost any damage and do pretty much anything. In the intervening years, people have repurposed Cross-Checks as gravel racers and cyclocross racers, and they’ve loaded them up with racks and fenders hither and yon for touring. It comes in the most striking colors I’ve ever seen, and most importantly, the company accommodates a wide variety of people—I’ve always owned a Surly because it’s one of the few manufacturers that makes a frame in a 42-cm size. For adults, anyway. Paint it, beat it, bang it up, pass it on.—Adrienne So
A Camping Cooler
When camping season kicks around, we’re always asked if Yeti’s hard coolers are “worth the money,” and while value is subjective, we can’t fault its ability to keep our drinks cool, even in the most extreme situations. We’ve seen videos of charred and melted Yeti coolers pulled from truck and house fires, with still-cold beer safe inside! Made using rotomolded rigid plastic with pressure-injected polyurethane insulation, the cold will not prematurely escape (unless you leave it open), and they’ve even been certified as “bear-proof” by the wonderfully titled Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC). —Chris Haslam
Music and Instruments
Physical records are pressed into plastic, which means that unless you treat them horribly (you never clean them, use them on poorly set up record players, or store them improperly), your favorite music will last forever. Grab your favorite LPs, EPs, and singles whenever you see them, and snag a few simple plastic covers and a record bin while you’re at it. Store them upright with as little pressure on them as possible to prevent warping, and try to clean your records every 10 to 20 plays, and every time you get a new one (solutions from the record press plant can mean new records collect grime faster). I highly recommend you look for local record shops, but Discogs is always a safe bet.
A Record Player
A quality record player with a replaceable stylus and cartridge is a great long-term buy. If you are especially low maintenance, look for direct-drive models, where the motor is directly below the disc, rather than off to the side and connected by a belt. Belt-driven models are fine, you just want to make sure you get one with a new belt (or a new turntable, which will come with one). The LP120 is iconic, with fantastic durability and USB so that you can plug it into your computer to rip your records as MP3s to your PC.
A Stereo Amp
Much like guitar amps, high-quality stereo amps can last a long time if they are properly maintained every few years. They are often easy to repair, with replaceable parts like tubes and capacitors instead of PCB boards and more confined enclosures that are hard to work in and troubleshoot. I know multiple people rocking decades-old amps at home, and all of them sound as good as ever.
A Pair of Speakers
Since they’re not powered and have robust build materials, high-quality speakers need only basic maintenance every decade or so (replacing capacitors in crossovers between drivers, or re-foaming speakers that have become separated from their surrounds). Other than that, a good quality pair will last you your entire life, letting you jam out forever. The KEF LS50 Meta are my most recent favorite pair, with clever dual drivers that sit the tweeter right inside the woofer for better imaging. These also feature KEF’s proprietary metamaterial acoustic baffling (hence the name), which helps the low-end stay smooth and tight.
Just About Anything
Because they’re made to be played for hours a day, and they’re designed to be repairable from the ground up, musical instruments are a perfect thing to buy once and maintain for life. I play cymbals from the 1950s and snare drums from the 1920s, and I regularly perform on a drum set from 1963—and guess what? If anything, they sound better with age. Even electric guitars age just fine: Sting still plays his original 1950s P bass, and folks like Jason Isbell can regularly be seen rocking a 1959 Gibson Les Paul. Go into Western classical or global classical instruments and you’re likely to find instruments in use that are much older. In college, a friend of mine played a bass that was built in 1850s Germany, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Violins that are hundreds of years old still have seats in the top symphony orchestras around the world. Safe to say, a quality instrument is a good bet to pass on, provided you store it and care for it properly.
A Guitar/Instrument Amp
You’ve Got a Lot of Options
Not all amplifiers are built alike, but classic tube amps from Fender, Vox, Marshall, and many others are a great long-term investment in your sound. Most of them use relatively simple point-to-point wiring, tubes, and transistors—all of which can be repaired if something goes wonky. Plus, they hold value! I bought my 1963 Fender Bassman amp for $700 a few years ago, and now they cost well over $1,000—a testament to how long these things last and how many folks still use them daily.
An XLR Microphone
Some of the most revered microphones on earth are vintage tube mics from the 1940s that were made in Germany, which still regularly see use in the top studios on earth. But they’re not the only ones! Because microphones are relatively simple and durable, they’re also easy to repair. Classic mics like the Shure SM7B, Shure SM57, and SM58, and many, many others last for decades in studios and at home and barely depreciate in price on the used market for a reason. If you are looking to up your sound for podcasts, making music, or just work calls, buying a decent mic is a solid investment that will last you a long time. The SM7B is the mic you’re likely familiar with from podcasters, with a crisp midrange that’s great for the human voice. The other two, the SM57 and SM58, are iconic studio and stage workhorses that you’ll see everywhere. They sound great, take a beating, and don’t cost too much, but they’re not quite as hi-fi as the more expensive vocal mic if you’re singing or podcasting.
As we continue to test gear here at WIRED, we’ll be updating this guide with even more products that you can rely on for many years.