Wondering what to buy a 17-year-old boy? Learn our cardinal rule for finding presents and consult our age-targeted list of tangible and experiential gifts.
A 17-year-old boy is right in the middle between being a kid and a man. One minute he’s embarrassed that you accidentally called him honey, and the next he’s laughing at the top of his lungs about something ridiculous from “Shrek.” Or in the morning he’s shaving, and in the afternoon he’s perfecting his Just Dance 2019 moves in front of the flat screen.
When shopping for a boy of this age, be sure to acknowledge both the young adult and the maturing kid trapped within the same growing body. Err too far in one direction, and you’ll humiliate him; go too far in the other, and you’ll bum him out.
How We Choose Our Top Picks
The goal is to find balance. The cardinal rule goes like this: When you buy your teen a more adult gift, make sure it has some youthful zip and style. When you go for a gift targeted younger, make sure it offers a little sophistication. That way you won’t go wrong.
So what are the best gifts for a 17-year-old boy?
The simplest gifts are the tangible kind, the ones you order online and have shipped or that you buy in a store and wrap up.
Timex makes awesome-looking and durable yet affordable watches. Choose from their wide variety by narrowing down the search: Fabric, metal, or leather band? Digital or analog? Simple or fully loaded: waterproof, with a stopwatch feature, alarm, timer, heart-rate monitor, and chronometer? They range in price from about $23 up to $350.
Our choice for a 17 year old is the Timex Men's Expedition Field Chronograph Watch. You can choose a leather or fabric strap. The watch has a retro, rugged look that a young man will enjoy.
It’s water resistant down to 100 meters, and so it will work for swimming. It also comes with a date window and an Indiglo night light so you can read it even in the dark. The chronograph feature allows the wearer to track minutes, seconds, and fractions of a second. The teen will never use the tachymeter, but it looks cool.
If your teen is sprouting facial hair, an old-style shaving kit might be just the thing. For a teen, a generic razor blade or electric razor makes a most unexciting gift. But an old-style shaving kit is different: It will help your teen embrace and feel pride in the ritual of shaving and learn to take care of his face.
Our choice is the Gentleman Jon Complete Wet Shaving Kit, which comes with a safety razor, five razor blades, a stainless steel shaving bowl, a badger hair brush, an alum block to fight razor burn, and a shave soap. You get all that for $55.
This gift can spawn more ideas for future gift-giving occasions, like a Perfecto Deluxe Chrome Razor and Brush Stand, a Feather Styling Razor Disposal Case, and a Moonster Vintage Mens Dopp Kit.
Tactical Backpack with MOLLE
Who doesn’t need a backpack? For a teenage boy, you can’t beat a tactical pack with a Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment, or MOLLE, system. Tactical packs look tough, and the MOLLE system enables them to adapt to all kinds of situations, from school to sleepovers to camping and hiking.
With MOLLE you can add modules for different uses, expanding the versatility of the backpack. For example, if you’re hiking, you can strap on a first aid module, a knife holster, or a water bottle pouch. You can strap on your sleeping bag and fishing gear.
Our choice for a tactical backpack is the 20-Liter Mil-Tec MOLLE Tactical Backpack. It is light and water resistant and loaded with MOLLE loops and compartments. Although it has a rugged tactical appearance, if you choose one of the solid colors as opposed to a camo option it doesn’t look too military for a young civilian.
The best thing about it is its size: Although it’s compact, it comfortably hauls a lot of gear. The second best thing is the price: $37.
When used responsibly, drones are a lot of fun. The Tello Quadcopter Drone packs a lot of punch for a reasonable price. The drone comes with a 5-megapixel camera that can capture still images as well as 720p MP4 video.
Your teen will be able to fly the Tello as high as 10m in the air, at a distance of 100m, and for 13 minutes per charge. The drone is relatively stable. Use a virtual reality headset with it to see what your drone is seeing.
Throw & Go technology means you can start your drone by tossing it in the air. The Tello can do aerial stunts. It will land on and take off from your hand. Finally, your teen can use Scratch, a coding system developed at MIT, to program the Tello.
A multitool fits in the pocket but provides your teen with many uses—when camping, when working on a project, or at school. You have many multitools from which to choose. Our pick is the Leatherman Skeletool because of the combination of price, weight, and features.
For $60, you get a stainless-steel 5-ounce tool with:
Choose from blue, green, and stainless steel.
The newest commuter fad is the electric scooter. Teens can benefit from this craze too, using it to get from home to school to after-school activities to work. You should make sure your teen wears a helmet and reflective clothing and uses the scooter responsibly.
Our preferred scooter is the Voyager Ion Foldable Electric Scooter, which runs for $178. The Voyager, which has a weight limit of 220 pounds, can take you seven miles on a single charge. It’s foldable and weighs 18 pounds. It comes with a built-in LED headlight, a blinking tail light, and a display that shows speed and battery level. It fully charges in four hours.
Digital Action Camera
A digital action camera captures your teen’s adventures. You attach it to a helmet or a surfboard or a bicycle, and with voice activation, you command the camera to start recording.
We like the GoPro Hero, which is waterproof and runs for $183. The Hero links to the GoPro app, which allows you to share your videos on social media. You can also control the camera remotely via your smartphone. The images offload automatically from the Hero to your phone as well.
Even though the Hero is small, it can capture 1440p and 1080p video and 10MP images.
LEGO Collector Sets
Your 17 year old will still enjoy Legos if you choose the right sets. Make sure they are detailed, and the finished construction is something your teen might want to display on a shelf.
Pick the set that fits your kid. If he’s suave and debonair, try the LEGO James Bond Aston Martin DB5 10262. Have an eternal Star Wars fan? Then choose the LEGO Millennium Falcon 75105. If you’ve got a surfer dude, you’ll want the LEGO Creator Volkswagen T1 Camper Van 10220.
A good board game gives your teen the opportunity to spend quality time with friends or family. Rising Sun, is a work of art, a gorgeous game with highly detailed pieces. It will involve three to five players for an hour and a half to two hours.
Although this is a battle game set in feudal Japan, you win by out-bluffing and outthinking opponents, through diplomacy, and from forging alliances.
One of the best gifts to spend your money on is one that helps your teen keep his money. A thief with a radio frequency identification (RFID) reader can swipe your teen’s credit card information. But the Ridge Wallet will block RFID readers. Just as important to a 17 year old, it’s slim and slick looking.
The wallet holds up to 12 cards that you can fan out for examination, using a simple thumb notch. You keep your cash in the attached money clip. The whole thing fits in the smallest pocket and weighs only 5 ounces. You can purchase the Ridge for $72.
SOL Survival Kit
Everyone needs a survival kit, and teenage boys will be thrilled to have one as terrific as the SOL Survival Kit. SOL stands for Survive Outdoors Longer, and this compact kit will enable your teen to do just that.
The case, which fits in the palm of your hand, is waterproof. It includes a range of supplies including:
The Sphero Mini is an “app-controlled robot ball.” What the heck does that mean? Imagine a programmable ping-pong ball that responds to your facial expressions or digital commands. Your teen can code the little round robot and use it to play games, like bowling or racing against other Spheros.
The ball includes a gyroscope, LED lights, and an accelerometer. The Sphero Mini retails for $50.
If you’re feeling a little more ambitious, why not give your 17 year old an experience? You might need to be more involved, maybe offering to drive him to the event or you might even have to participate, but a gift like this will be something that can have a long-lasting effect on the kid. Here are some suggestions for experiential gifts.
Turntable and Record Shopping:
Modern teens don’t know how great vinyl sounds. Buy your 17 year old a turntable and then take him to your favorite wax outlet to shop for music.
The Crosley CR6019D-BK Executive Portable USB Turntable with Bluetooth runs for just $75, but it offers decent sound—you need to pair it with the speakers your teen probably already has. It occupies minimal space, plays three speeds, and comes with some good enough built-in speakers.
Give your teen the gift of independence, done right. A course might run around $200.
Mixed Martial Arts Competition:
Take your teen to an official Mixed Martial Arts event. Tickets run upwards of about $120.
Day of Go-Karting:
Go-kart racing is fun. Expect to spend around $15 per race.
You and your teen can learn to shoot a compound bow. You’ll pay about $20 per lesson.
Teens love comic conventions like this one. A junior ticket will run about $33 for one day of attendance. Yours will be near double that.
Your teen might love Crossfit. A membership to a gym will run from about $150 to $300 per month.
Ski Lift Pass:
Passes range wildly in price, depending on the slope. You’re looking at between $60 and $200 for one full day of skiing. That does not include equipment.
These are some of the best gifts for a 17-year-old boy. But if you don’t see something that resonates with you on our list, use your imagination and discover what you can dig up. All you have to do is follow our guidelines about combining fun with style and bridging the gap between adult and kid.
Think in terms of three general categories of gifts:
Grooming and Fashion:
What does your teen need to take care of himself and rock a style?
What does your teen need to respond quickly and effectively to the unexpected?
Action and Play:
What is exciting and fun for your teen?
Everything we’ve listed in our best gifts for a 17-year-old boy wrap-up fits into one of these categories. If you choose well, you might even help your teen more smoothly make the transition from a kid to a man.
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