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The key to getting through the next few months? Learn to love winter.
While every new year comes with a sense of possibilities, this one feels a little different. I know so many people who are forgoing their warm weather winter vacations for the first time in years. We could all complain (let’s be honest… we are all complaining, and it’s ok to do a little of that), or we could reframe the narrative.
What if we entered 2021 believing winter is FUN! I personally love winter, snow, and cozying up in front of a fireplace after a day in the elements (okay, I watch a fire on Netflix, but I swear it brings the cozy!). The key to embracing winter is stocking up on the right gear. It makes it so much easier to get outside, or making the most of that weekend away at a winter lodge. You will get through this winter, even if you aren’t sunning yourself on the beach (and if you do live on the beach, no need to brag in the comments).
Invest in Solid Outdoor Gear
There’s an old Scandinavian saying that there’s no such thing is bad weather, only bad clothes. If you want to embrace the outdoors, you gotta stock up on outdoor gear that’s about function over fashion.
It’s all about the buildable layers! If you want to brave the elements, you need a good set of long underwear. Look for fabrics that wick moisture—nothing worse than getting too hot and sweaty, then freezing your buns off in damp clothes. Patagonia makes seriously good gear (not to mention their sustainability and customer services practices are the best in the business), but if you’d prefer to spend less, LL Bean and REI also sell excellent gear.
People talk a big game about how you must keep your head warm. But in my experience, the hands and feet are always the first to go. If your feet get cold, you are done. That’s why you need to start with solid socks. Merino wool is my go-to, and some of the best options are from Darn Tough. They’re based in Vermont, where people know a thing or two about warm gear. Great for skiers, hikers, or daily wear.
Not all parkas are created equal. If you want to brave the elements, you need one that’s more about function than anything else. On really cold days, I prefer one that covers my butt but isn’t so long that I feel like I’m walking in a sleeping bag. Great pockets, and water resistant (or waterproof) is a must.
Look for a jacket that isn’t too tight to accommodate base layers, along with a little air flow. And if you’re looking to keep your face warm, get a parka with a ruff—the fur (or faux fur) trim on a hood. They’re scientifically proven to keep you warmer.
There’s a brand I shall not name that has become all the rage with celebrities and socialites—with a price tag to match. I’ll be honest: I bought one, and I’ve never regretted it. BUT! I spend entire days outside in below freezing temps, so I felt justified. If you aren’t spending entire days outdoors, this parka may be overkill. You do not need to drop a ton of cash on a parka! Patagonia has an excellent selection of used gear on their Worn Wear site.
If you want to brave outdoor activities (especially outdoor happy hours! This is definitely a thing during Covid), snow pants will really help give you stamina. And no, you don’t have to look like a giant marshmallow in order to stay warm—there are some seriously sleek snow pants that will fit nicely under your parka! Cross-country ski pants work great for blocking wind and water without being too bulky.
The age old question—mittens or gloves? Gloves offer better dexterity, but mittens are warmer. I say go for a little of both! These Swany mittens are waterproof, but have a zipper so you can access your hands without taking the whole thing off.
And here’s an honorable mention: the 80’s kid will love to know that Freaky Freezies are back. Those gloves that change colors in the cold that your parents wouldn’t buy you? It’s the winter blah pick me up we all could use.
I know “they” say keeping your head warm is so important. But I gotta be honest—I want a hat that looks good and is comfortable in and outdoors. Because once I put that thing on, it’s staying on until I wash my crazy hat hair. So with that in mind, for day to day wear, I just look for a hat I like. Etsy is a treasure trove of fun options! I will say I’m always a little apprehensive about 100 percent wool because I fear they will itch.
Neck gaiters make all the difference—whether you’re walking the dog or hitting the slopes. You can get simple fleece ones or more technical merino wool options. Nice to have a few of these as they tend to get wet, and nice to put on a dry one if you’re headed outside more than once a day.
So many things to consider with boots—do you want them easy to walk in, super warm, or excellent at keeping snow from annoyingly falling into your socks? I personally think it makes sense to have two pairs—a hiking boot style for walks, and one heavy duty pair for everything else. Danner, Merrell, Oboz, Keen and Salomon make great options—none of them will earn you sex symbol status, but your feet will be warm and dry!
For serious outdoor activities (like sledding or shoveling), you can’t beat a pair of Bogs or classic Sorels. I once asked a Maine Lobsterman buying winter boots what brand he wears when he goes out on the Atlantic in frigid weather he said, “I only wear Bogs.” So I bought a pair, too.
Just because it’s below freezing doesn’t mean you can skip on the sunscreen—in fact, UV rays can be even more intense when reflected off the snow! Slather on the SPF before heading outside. Better yet, opt for one with a moisturizer to help keep skin from drying out.
If you plan on spending a lot of time outside, make sure to bring ample lip balm so you don’t get those dreaded dry and cracking lips. A little tube of something like Aquaphor does wonders for protecting both your lips and cheeks from the elements.
One of my favorite products for protecting my face I actually bought for my twins when they were babies. It’s the Mustela Hydra Stick. Roll it over cheeks, lips and under noses. You’ll find it in major drugstores where Mustela products are offered in the baby aisle.
Fleece Lined Leggings
Ladies (and maybe gents… they probably make these for you too): If you plan on exercising outdoors, treat yourself to fleece lined leggings! LL Bean sells a great pair that makes an incredible difference.
As a New Yorker who loves to walk, icy sidewalks are my nemesis. Waddling down the sidewalk like a penguin is not fun, nor is it efficient. That’s why I love YakTrax. These rubber grippers can be added to any shoe or boot, and provide traction for commuters, walkers, runners, or hikers. They are a game changer!
Fun Winter Activities
We’ve made a pact with our friends with kids that we will head out doors on weekends, no matter how cold. We also like to work in a nice picnic lunch because keeping warm makes you hungry (we also just love to eat). If you’re looking to infuse a little more outdoor activity into your life, here’s some gear to consider.
Walking in a winter wonderland sure gets a lot easier when you’re wearing snow shoes! An aluminum pair with super-simple binding can be added to most winter boots, and will help with float and traction on flat to moderately hilly terrain.
I’ve never quite mastered the art of cross country skiing, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like trying! It’s great exercise and a fun way to get out in the winter. Best part is that you’ll really have earned that apres-ski IPA or Irish coffee.
Do you have a nearby outdoor rink? Lucky you! Finding used skates is so easy—from eBay to Facebook Marketplace or a used sporting goods store, you can easily find a pair that’ll do. Make sure they have adequate ankle support, and keep the blades nice and sharp by wiping off all moisture after use. You’ll need a pair of guards as well. Now start practicing that salchow!
Is there anything more fun than flying down a hill on a sled or tube? You can certainly buy a cheap plastic one at any ol’ hardware store, but investing just a little more will give your sled some longevity. If you have the budget (and space! Not something we have much of in Brooklyn), LL Bean’s Sonic Snow Tube is as good as it gets! With a rubber inner tube and nylon shell, this thing is fast, sturdy and will last FOREVER. For something more economical, check out Lucky Bums toboggan sleds or LL Bean’s saucers.
It’s like a sleeping bag meets blanket and even though its not water proof-just resistant, it offers a dry space to sit down and not soak your tush.
Stanley Camp Crock
Socializing with friends only outdoors doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy a meal together (more than 6 feet apart of course). So I bought this to transport soup or chili. The 3-quart capacity makes it much more convenient than a thermos and it keeps things hot for 12 hours.
I’m still searching for a fondue backpack like the one I had in my episode from Gstaad—no luck! If you know of one, do tell!
Are you blessed with outdoor space? This is the year to invest in a great bonfire pit. Outdoor happy hours with friends is very 2021! Solo Stoves are gorgeous, and allegedly reduce smoke—which is nice when you don’t want to walk away from a campfire completely reeking of it. But you can find much more affordable options at your local hardware store, on amazon, etc etc.
If a bonfire pit is too much of an investment how about something a little more manageable? I live in the city with lots of fire ordinances that prohibit having a fires, keroscene burners and grills, but these fit the bill and you can make s’mores over them!
And since we’re on the subject, level up your outdoor happy hour game with a Stanley insulated beer thermos. It even comes with an attached beer opener.
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