The Search for the One Product

or “Why You Should Only Have One Water Bottle”

Finding the “One Product” has fascinated me for a long time. The “One” is a product I’ve found in a certain category that meets my requirements so that I never look to buy another product in that category again.

Many “One” products are BIFL (buy it for life) — they will last a long time or have an unconditional lifetime guarantee. (Eddie Bauer and L.L.Bean both have such a guarantee.)

For example, I have a Yeti Rambler (the kind with the screw top lid) that I love. It’s durable, keeps water ice cold, and has a comfortable air-tight lid. I’ve used it when working out at the gym, doing yard work, hiking, and relaxing on the beach. It is everything I look for in a water bottle, so I made it my “One” water bottle. What does this mean?

Image credit: Yeti

It means the Yeti Rambler is my one water bottle for the rest of my life. It’s done. I can check buying water bottles off my list. I don’t need five cheap plastic bottles, I have one that fits all my water bottle needs. And if something does go wrong with it, I will replace it with the exact same bottle. Once something becomes a “One Product,” it hopefully stays “One” for life.

But my “One” products don’t have to be BIFL. There are some products that it makes more sense to replace when they break. Yet they are still a “One Product,” because you are still only replacing that product with the same thing.

Take my watch, the Casio F-91W.

Image credit: Nepomockl

I love this watch. I love the style, I love the small face size, I love the versatility. I never take it off. This watch is not BIFL though. I broke the first by nervously overtightening the strap too often. But it wasn’t a problem, because I was able to replace it for $6 (the price has since gone up a bit).

I could have bought a more durable watch, something that I could smash against rocks and use afterwards. But let’s say that watch costs $200. I could buy twenty of the Casio F-91W and still come out ahead. And it would be unlikely to have the style of the Casio that I love so much.

You could say, “But Thomas, you could buy 250+ Ozarka water bottles for cheaper than your Yeti! And it includes the water!”

But each category has different criteria that makes a product in that category “good.”

Think about it. A few benefits of the Yeti that aren’t shared with an Ozarka:

  • durability (no leaking or chance of puncture)
  • volume (carries more than a disposable bottle)
  • climate control (keeps water cold)
  • reusable (you can’t reuse an Ozarka as often as a Yeti)
  • hassle-free (you aren’t restocking, packing it in ice, finding water bottles everywhere, etc.)

So here it makes sense to buy something that costs more than the basic water carrying solution.

The watch is different. The purpose of a watch is to tell time, not much else (unless you want a smartwatch). Once a watch fulfills that purpose, these are the criteria by which I judge the quality of a watch: style, readability, and peace of mind. By peace of mind, I mean “do I have to be careful with it?” I don’t want to have to think about the watch when around water, so it has to be waterproof. Beyond that, it either has to be cheap or durable enough that I don’t have to be careful with it.

Now, having said that, the Casio is not a delicate watch. You can still wear it for years through all kinds of activities when used normally (not overtightening the strap every ten minutes.) I’ve swam, surfed, hiked, climbed, played sports, and showered with it on for nearly a year and it shows no sign of wear.

Anyway, recognizing that there seemed to be different standards for what could qualify as a “One Product,” I decided to dictate one standard. Here’s what I decided I have to be able to say about a product before it can be a “One.”

“I love using it enough that I tell people about it. It ticks every box in a way the competition doesn’t. It is either durable enough to last for years or cheap enough to replace like nothing. I am confident I will not find anything significantly better any time in the foreseeable future.”

Let me be clear: it is not easy to become a “One Product.” There are only four confirmed “Ones” that I own (the other two being the Eno Doublenest Hammock and my Ariat Heritage Ropers). A lot of use and research happens before a “One” confirmation.

Now, there are a few products that I’m 95% sure would become a “One” once I bought them. The Bose QC35 headphones, GORUCK GR2 backpack, and Akubra Traveller hat all seem like wonderful products, but I don’t own them so they can’t be the “One” for me — yet.

Then there are other products that I love, but I haven’t done enough research into alternatives to make sure they actually “tick every box in a way the competition doesn’t.”

For example, I write exclusively with Pilot G2 pens, from the 1.0mm to the .38mm. I talk about them everywhere. But, I recognize I have a very limited knowledge of pens and have not tried that many. And many prominent pen experts would laugh at my G2 selection. So I will suspend my judgement of finding the “One” pen until I’ve expanded my sample size.

There is the danger of overthinking when it comes to finding the “One Product.” You could refrain from purchasing something for fear that you’ll find a better option down the line. Notice that I don’t refrain from buying pens even though I haven’t found the “One” yet. It is the mental approach, the mindset, that I bring to my purchases.

My search for the “One Product” comes down to this: I find joy in using quality products. I love not having to worry about replacements or having a house full of half decent products. It gives me peace of mind, and takes a stab at the wasteful, consumer culture of the West. If I buy something, I want it to last. The idea of spending money on something that I will soon throw away almost scares me.

It also makes packing easy. I don’t have to think, “which one will I bring…?” I only have one. So I bring it.

It’s also about reducing baggage, ties, bonds — not being chained to possessions. I love freedom and despise feeling controlled. I can best pursue my goals with less “things.”

If you want another article on minimalism, check out this one by Jess Churchill: “From Hoarder to Minimalist in 27,478 Insanely Hard Steps”.

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