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Buying a gift for my husband Jonathan has been a struggle for me since our first Father’s Day. I want something meaningful, something that tells him I see all of the hard work he does to balance work and life, and that communicates how much I love tha he’s intentional with our kids. Instead, the options range from kitschy (does he need another “World’s Best Dad” mug?) to boring (he could always use another shirt for work, I guess).
Over the years, Jonathan and I talked about the lack of products for men that recognize that dads care as much about work-life balance as moms do, that focus on every aspect of a connected dad’s life. There are so many more products targeted to women to help them stay organized and transition between professional life and family life, or that show women that they are appreciated and loved.
Jonathan and I decided to start a company making products that fill in the gaps we saw. He spent drawing on napkins and sketching in notebooks. Then he began to do some serious market research and designed products that focused on three different areas: First, he wanted bags and accessories that were high quality, that would last for years—if he’s going to spend money on something, he wants it to last for a while. Second, he needed to make things that he and other dads could use at work or at home: diaper bags that doubled as work bags, dopp kits he could use to travel or as snack kits for the kids. Third, he focused on products that weren’t just for babies—he didn’t stop being a dad once his kids turned two, but every other company seemed to think so.
It took us several years, but this past fall, we launched Otter Pass, a company that makes leather and waxed-canvas products for dads. Each of the products has multiple uses that work for every aspect of a dad’s life—they go easily from daytime to dad-time.
We intentionally crafted them to last; they’re made by the same company that also manufactures products for Madewell and J. Crew. We want these to be the kind of products that kids find in their dad’s closet years from now and immediately associate with their childhood with one whiff of oiled leather.
I love all the clever uses Jonathan came up with for each of the products. During our beta testing period, we had friends and family members use everything for months, and we kept coming up with new things these products could do.
The Travel Case is perfect for diapers and wipes, but it can also hold paperback books, mini iPads or Kindles—it’s great for computer cords too.
The Dad Wallet is Jonathan’s favorite—he wanted something he could take with him when our kids got older. It can work like a traditional wallet, but he intends for this one to take the place of a bag or a fanny pack (which he would never wear!). He can put band-aids, a small notebook and flat pen, a pocket knife shaped like a credit card, hair things, as well as all of his cards into the wallet and have everything he needs for a few hours out with the kids in his pocket.
The Bag Insert is genius—it holds a laptop or iPad snugly in the lined inner pouch, and the pockets hold everything from a portable mouse, pens, notebooks, and ear buds (which fit in the loop on the front) to crayons, activity books, small snacks (granola bars and fruit strips!) and sunglasses. It’s the ideal grab-and-go item for work or time with kids. It’s also great for travel—it fits into the seat-back pocket of most airplanes.
The Dad Dopp Kit is lightly insulated and lined with easy-to-clean coated cotton, so it can hold toiletries for travel. It’s also the perfect snack kit for kids—we use ours with a small ice pack and it holds all of the snacks we need for the day, from fruit pouches to bananas to crackers.
The Bottle Holder is designed to hold a tall 8-ounce baby bottle, a 12-ounce water bottle, two as well as a bottle of beer. It’s also lightly insulated, so it works like a coozy, keeping your drinks cool. Whether he’s got the baby bottle at the ready or grabbing a bottle of beer for a guys’ night, the Bottle Holder is perfect for dads on the go.
The Lined Pouch works for credit cards, receipts, or anything else you need to keep with you (I keep mine clipped to my keys) but again, it has a clever touch: it’s also perfect for pacifiers. The same lining we used for the Bottle Holder and the Dad Dopp Kit makes it easy to clean. It’s also great for crayons or anything small you want to have at the ready.
Finally, Messenger Bag is the perfect work- and dad-bag. It’s designed to hold the other products, but it’s also roomy, with just the right number of pockets. There’s room for a laptop plus a Bag Insert or other work necessities, but it can easily hold a change of clothes, bottle, snacks, and diapers for a little one. We made the bottom wide enough that it will stand up on its own and it’s easy to open one-handed, a must for all parents. It’s also designed so you can put a lot in it without it feeling bulky, so it’s always easy to carry. It’s almost impossible to find one bag that can do it all, but this one does.
This year, when you’re thinking of buying something for the special dad in your life, consider these bags and accessories designed by the best dad I know. It takes someone thoughtful, considerate, intentional, and very good at connecting with his kids to intuitively understand what every good dad needs. Jonathan spent years painstaking analyzing every detail, making sure every inch is well-organized, so that you can give the best gift of all to the dad in your life: the freedom to focus on his kids.
For more tips on styles for dad check out Your Guide to Winter Cold Gear.