I know this is a bit early, but I also know that unlike men women tend to be impatient and shop for these kinds of things fairly early. ;) More importantly, I only have a few ideas, so chances are the really good suggestions will be found in the comments section (which could take some time).
Suggestion #1: A next generation LED flashlight.
As you probably know, I always carry a flashlight. However, next generation LED flashlights are a very well kept secret so you may not already know about them. These new flashlights throw out incredibly bright beams and are extremely efficient. This is a huge leap in technology, and they are now available at very reasonable prices. These new lights are so much better and so reasonably priced I can’t imagine a reason to ever buy another flashlight with the older technology.
There may be other brands, but the lights I’m familiar with all have LED bulbs from Cree (the latest generation Mini Maglites appear to have their own brand of next gen LED bulbs, but I haven’t used them). No matter the brand of the flashlight, it should list Cree on the packaging or product description if it uses a Cree LED. From here all you need to do is decide what combination of brightness, runtime, and size best fit the needs of the father on your list. The last I checked Wal Mart had a good selection of Cree lights under the Coleman Max brand name. You can also find them online at Amazon.com and sites like dealextreme and creeledflashlights.net.
I just bought the flashlight pictured for under $10 with free shipping (two weeks from Hong Kong). It throws an extremely bright adjustable beam using a single Eneloop rechargeable AA battery (not included). They rate it at 120 lumens, but I’m not sure how accurate the figure is. Either way it is at least 10x brighter than my old Mini Mag flashlights and because it is so much shorter it is easy to carry in a front pocket. The only downside I’ve noticed is that it tends to get a little warm if left on for more than about 5 minutes. I’m guessing this is the battery getting warm due to the amount of current draw. However, given my normal use model for a pocket flashlight and how cheap and durable rechargeable batteries are I don’t see this as a real problem. It appears to be good quality and the product reviews were very favorable.
Suggestion #2: Craftsman 32 pc. Bit Screwdriver Set with Magnetic Screwdriver
Tool suggestions are tough, but I think most dads would find one of these useful. This should come in especially handy for fathers of young children, since nearly all toys have battery compartments with screws and no two seem to use the same size/format screw head. Additionally cribs and much of the other furniture often require specialty heads like allen wrenches. With this kit he pretty much has every option covered.
$22.99 from Sears
Suggestion #3: Hot Wheels Rev Ups.
This is a less serious suggestion, but I thought I would throw it in for fun. Our daughter plays with these, and I keep one on the steel filing cabinet in my home office. They have strong magnets and a flywheel which allows them to drive straight up or down a steel surface. This makes them a fun office stress buster. These little toys are pretty amazing. Our daughter has them start on the top of our chest freezer, and when they reach the edge they just drive down the side. If she starts them with enough of a push they then drive along the floor after getting to the bottom.
$4.99 at Toys R Us.
Note: I thought about doing a similar post just before Mother’s Day, but decided against it. My wife’s tastes in lingerie, UFC gear, and firearms are probably not representative of the tastes of most mothers.