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The first official day of winter has only just arrived, and if you’ve been lamenting the cold weather since first frost, that’s a daunting thought. Three more months of being cooped up inside, Zooming with family and friends while bundled up in pajamas and a blanket on the couch? No one could blame you for deciding that your best-bet coping mechanism is zoning out with Netflix for the rest of the pandemic, or at least until the temperature hits 70 again.
But with the right clothing and gear, and some warming beverages in hand, you could be perfectly toasty at an outdoor, socially distanced, very small gathering. You could see an actual human in person this winter! So space out a few deck chairs (more than 6 feet apart, of course), make yourself a spiked hot drink and call a friend who has got to get out of the house.
Oh, about that: Motivation helps when it comes to spending time outside in winter. I’ve always loved winter, but after a tough wildfire season here in Colorado that kept me cooped up indoors much more than I’d like, I’ve become a true winter evangelist. The air’s clean and crisp, I get to sport some of my favorite hats and boots, and it’s never too warm for a hot coffee. What’s not to love?
If you’re not feeling it, try faking it ’til you make it.
Remember, the CDC says you really do need to be at least 6 feet apart to stay safe, even outdoors. The idea is to limit your exposure to an asymptomatic person — because obviously you’re not going to get together with a pal if one of you isn’t feeling well. Exposure is about time plus distance, and since you’re going to want to socialize for more than a few minutes, maintaining your distance is really important.
Here’s to a more comfortable winter outdoors for all.
Just Add Heat
Adding some heat to your deck or even your driveway is going to go a long way toward keeping your small, socially distanced gathering going for more than five minutes.
Patio heaters have been selling out for months, but unlike dumbbells, they’re not completely gone. This propane-powered Hampton Bay patio heater was available on Amazon when I wrote this. Will it still be there when you click through? It’s 2020, so who knows.
Surprisingly, fire pits are not sold out, and this cute little Piedmont 30-inch steel fire pit is just $99 at Home Depot.
You can add a unique aroma to the flames dancing in your fire pit with a scented fire log or fire starter. From coffee to apple to even KFC’s fried chicken, there’s a deliciously (or weirdly) scented fire log for every fire pit.
If you’d rather snag a heat source that you can also use for camping and tailgaiting, you might want to check out this nifty two-in-one heater-stove from Ignik. Use it to warm your hands or keep a chili simmering, or both at the same time. Clever!
Dress In Layers
The extra heat won’t matter if you fail to dress warm enough for the conditions. Donning a giant winter coat and insulated boots will certainly get you there, but dressing in layers — each of which traps heat — is a smart way to make sure you can fine-tune your comfort as needed.
Layering by starting with base layers, then an extra insulating layer, then a shell outer layer is the classic way to do this. But it’s easy to think of layering with our tops and bottoms and forget our feet, hands and head.
For your feet, you might pull some soft and toasty merino socks out of your drawer, like Swiftwick’s pursuit hike six, to wear with something like a classic Sorel winter carnival boot. Need one more layer? Add an REI co-op merino sock liner.
Same goes for your hands, and there’s a good reason to use a touchscreen liner glove, like these Icebreaker merino liners, under a bulkier pair of gloves. Bare fingers go cold quickly. But if you need to answer a text and can do it without removing your liner glove, you’re protecting them from that exposure.
And I know it sounds a little funny, but layer on your head! I spent a few nights camping in cold weather this fall wearing a Thermonet Buff under my hat, and it held in way more heat than my hat alone. There are plenty of different ways to use a Buff — you can even wrap one over your ears to seal out the cold, though you might find yourself saying “WHAT?” to your friend who is talking to you from more than six feet away.
Give your pal one of these Buffs, though, and she’ll understand why you’re resisting pushing it back off your ears.
Even sitting by the fire pit decked out in your warmest layers, you might want one final toasty layer to top it all off — a blanket that you can wrap around your shoulders and legs, too.
Therm-a-Rest’s puffy stellar blanket has a poly outer layer that cuts the wind and makes it easy to brush off dirt. The eraLoft insulation compresses — into its own pocket! — which makes it easy to toss into your car for visiting a friend.
Fill A Thermos
Since the CDC recommends minimizing contact with surfaces, bring your own everything, or ask your guests to do the same. Insulated coffee mugs are a great way to have something warm to sip while you sit outside, but a vacuum-insulated thermos holds the heat in better than your standard lid.
If you want to bring more than a coffee or tea, a large-mouth thermos, like the Stanley vacuum insulated food jar, is a great way to tote along some hot soup, noodles or anything else you want to keep warm.
Stay warm, stay social — and stay safe!