The notion of Valentine’s Day being bathed in Barry White, rose petals and steamed-up windows is great — if not entirely realistic. Often, love (or affection) is best shown in the more humble, genuine, personalized approach. Dinner at home. A winter hike. A shared bottle of your favorite wine. It’s your relationship, you know what’s best — don’t let a soul icon decide for you.
And so when the Hallmark holiday comes around, cater to the relationship level. Is this a new endeavor? A committed relationship? Is there a ring in the room? From there, your decisions should reflect the pair’s level of interest — don’t over-gift, don’t under-gift and definitely don’t non-gift (unless that’s pre-arranged). To help guide your display of affection, we asked a few women to help guide the giving — but consider these to be guidelines. You know your significant other better than we do, so give the gift that shows you care, not the one that checks the box. At the end of the day, Valentine’s Day is a display of thoughtfulness — not a price tag.
About Our Gift Guide
Axie Navas is a senior editor at at Outside. She started at Outside in 2014, and previously worked as the managing editor at Blister Gear Review. She now oversees all gear coverage for the brand, including their Buyer’s Guide. She has been skiing and riding bikes for 23 years.
Jordana Rothman co-authored (with Alex Stupak) Tacos: Recipes and Provocations. She previously worked at Time Out New York, where she held the reins as the magazine’s Food & Drink editor for six years. She also posts prolifically on Instagram and runs a flower business, Semper Absurda, where she does arrangements for bars and other clients and leads various plant-based workshops. If anyone wants really awesome Valentine’s Day flowers, get in touch.
Coco Aramaki is a photographer based on the West Coast. She has worked for clients ranging from Nike to Rolling Stone, Patagonia to the Los Angeles Times. She travels the world taking pictures of people and things, and you can follow her journeys on Instagram or at cocofoto.com.
You just met, and then V-Day pops up. What gives?
Axie Navas: Because you can pretty much always get away with gifting a $28, totally rad ski beanie (from a young Colorado startup nonetheless) without coming off like a creep.
Jordana Rothman: Don’t schedule a first date on Valentine’s Day, and if you have, then you certainly, certainly should not plan to bring a gift. But for a fresh romance that just so happens to be blossoming as conversation hearts hit the shelves at the drug store, keep the gesture light and broad. I love these stylish pencils from Sideshow Press, inspired by the handles of vintage tennis rackets. Studio Cue in Topanga, California makes some really gorgeous apothecary products under the label Golda, like this gorgeous rose and coconut oil pyramid soap. Or, instead of flowers, get her an issue of On Flora, a weird but lovely zine that features film-only photography of plants and blossoms, jammed into Coke cans or styled with donuts.
Coco Aramaki: I would find it incredibly awkward if a guy gave me a present on the first date. Nevertheless it could be an endearing gesture to give a present in a way that gives me an idea on who he is, such as a cool thumb drive of a handful of his favorite bands, songs or movies.
This Is Dating
It’s been a few months, but things aren’t heavy. Yet.
Madewell Cape Scarf $60
Peachfuzz Magazine $16
Sony RX100 IV $850
DIY Print Shop Screen Printing Kits $200+
Small Spells Personal Astrology Drawing $150
K’ul Chocolate Variety Pack $30
Nike Air Max 1 Ultra $130
Axie Navas: Sure, chocolate is the most cliche VD gift, but the guys at Ku’l are trying to turn the candy into a superfood — and the result is a tasty treat that’s a safe, smart present a few months into a relationship.
Jordana Rothman: With any luck, you’re still having grade-A sex, so I think you can safely go a little lurid here. I love Peachfuzz, a sex-positive print magazine out of Austin that celebrates the deed with analog art and personal writings. For less on-the-nose intimacy, I think these personalized astrology drawings from Small Spells in Brooklyn do the trick. Or if you’d prefer to keep the gesture chaste, Madewell’s chunky cape-scarves are the ultimate multi-use travel accessory. (Is it a scarf? A poncho? An airplane blanket? YOU DECIDE!)
Coco Aramaki: There’s nothing better than a whirlwind honeymoon phase, but that also means you’ve been attached at the lips, eating ice cream in bed and skipping out on the regulars that make you fit and connected to life off boyfriend island. I would suggest giving her something that shows support of the hobbies she loves doing without you — being active, taking photos, making things.
A Long-Term Commitment
You’re exclusive. You’re in love. Show your feelings.
Axie Navas: The best part about GoTenna — a communications device (and safety tool) that lets you send texts and share your location off the grid — is that you can share it with your significant other. Buy the two pack and use it as an excuse to go on a backpacking trip together.
Jordana Rothman: If you’ve made it this far, ephemeral flowers feel less right than a hardy plant. David Haskell — amazingly not only an editor at New York Magazine and a distiller, but also a ceramicist and plant hunter — designs vessels around the needs and contours of specific cacti. The results are pretty psychedelic, if you can find them. Speaking of psychedelia, these iridescent serving utensils from ABC Home are pretty dreamy. I also think you can’t go wrong with any of the indigo dyed products or sashiko-stitched apparel from Salt and Still, a fantastic maker based out of Asbury Park, New Jersey.
Coco Aramaki: Now that you know each other to death it’s probably a good time to make a move that isn’t so predictable, and use the time away to solidify why you’re still in it. Take her away someplace new and surprise her.
Forever isn’t long enough.
Clockwise from Top Left
Ofuro Soaking Tubs $1,900
Studio Proba Print $55
Sleepy Jones Pajamas $48+
Woolrich Blanket $55+
Cedar Brook Sauna $1,680+
Pendleton Blanket $169+
Nemo Mezzo Loft Duo Sleeping Bag $290
Axie Navas: If you’ve been together for a while, chances are you can handle the close confines of a double sleeping bag, which makes a weekend in the woods that much more romantic. I love this super cozy three-season one from Nemo because, unlike some of its competitors, it actually accommodates two people.
Jordana Rothman: Is it weird that I just always think matching pajamas are the correct answer? Sleepy Jones makes beautiful stuff for him and her, including some great collaborative prints with artists like Mike Mills and Wes Lang. A cozy blanket is a nice touch, too, like something stylish and American-made from Woolrich or Pendleton. If you live together, bring new life into your home with a gorgeous print from the fantastic graphic design house Studio Proba.
Single? Even Better
It’s okay to gift thyself.
Axie Navas: Because if you’re going to treat yourself, might as well go big, right? The new wireless e-drivetrain for road bikes from SRAM is a game changer and surprisingly intuitive.
Jordana Rothman: A beautiful, handmade lockback knife is the kind of thing you should already own. The detailed hardwood and turquoise inlay work on the blades from Santa Fe Stoneworks is masterful.