My dad told me (years ago) that the first thing he reaches for on any job is his tape.
It's so important to get one that is accurate and lasts. All I have is some rinky-dink plastic thing that works today, but as soon as I drop it I fear it will bust into 1000 pieces shooting the tape across the room with that unique boooooinnnngggg sound.
I wear out a tape measure roughly once a year! There are a lot of variables but I like a 25' tape since it fits the hand well. I generally get Craftsman, Stanley FatMax, or Kobalt from Lowes. Good luck with your projects.
During projects, I have my metal Stanley 12' hooked on my waistband. It's small enough so that it's not in my way when bendding over to pick something up. The 12' size is perfect when working with 8' sheets of lumber.
I use my 25' Stanley in the garden when staking my rows. It's the one that truely has a dirty job - which means cleaning it or getting a new one more often...
I love my Stanley tape measures, got several of 'em. They used to have a really small one (about 1 1/2in diameter) that you could attach to your keychain. I had one of those but somebody I liked asked for it and then I couldn't find it anymore. Does anybody know if that's still available anywhere?