[Note: This was originally written during Winter 2020-21 and titled “Creating a Perfect Outdoor Set Up During the Covid Winter,” but a couple of years later with milder temps, outdoor winter hangs can still be fun. Hence, I’ve updated this post and am bringing it back into the rotation.]
This post is a bit of a detour from the usual KFDC content, but in this continuing weird time of navigating life during a pandemic, I think (hope!) it’ll be helpful. Covid, generally, has changed the way we hang out with company at our homes. And the Covid winter has made it even trickier. Many of us have been enjoying backyard or front porch hangs with friends (and our own fams, of course) for awhile; when it was warmer last summer and fall, it was easy to do. But the cold season requires some extra planning — and purchases — to make those outdoor gatherings doable (read: comfortable and fun ). We’re finally getting our back patio together after it was inaccessible for a long time due to home renovations, so this is all fresh for us. Luckily, we got to hang in friends’ backyards for awhile to get ideas for a perfect Covid winter set-up — and here’s what we’ve found are must-haves. Happy Wintering!
You probably already have furniture for your patio or backyard. But if not, and if you’re going for cozy, I recommend including an outdoor sofa or sectional. It’s nice for lounging, curling up with a blanket, and snuggling with the kids. We have an older model of this Ikea sectional. It’s pretty comfortable, and a great thing about it is that you can add pieces to expand it on ether side. You can also set them up separately for more socially distanced hangs. The newest version also has storage, with the seat bottoms lifting up. Other stores to check: Wayfair, Pottery Barn, World Market, and Target. (Update: We also got this set for our front patio — making good use of all the outdoor space! — and love it.)
Smokeless Fire Pit
The Solo Stove was, hands down, one of our best purchases during the Covid winter. It really makes a difference in the enjoyment of hanging around a fire pit. Not only does it get really warm and give off good heat because of the innovative design, there’s no smoke blowing on one person (who always seemed to be me), and clothes and hair don’t smell like a campfire afterwards. Definitely worth it! Another good smokeless fire pit option is this Blue Sky that uses pellets. Friends have and love it, and I also like how it looks.
The right lighting can really make a difference in the vibe outside. Twinkling lanterns and string lights can be fun and festive, and also kind of magical. If you don’t have handy outlets, opt for solar powered lights. And for lanterns, don’t forget hooks to hang them on the fence or other spots.
Warm, Comfy Blankets
Some nights you may need a little extra warmth along with the fire, not to mention blankets add snuggly coziness to a winter space. I was at Dick’s Sporting Goods just buying a soccer ball recently when I saw they were having a great sale on blankets — buy one get two free — so I came home with bags full of them! That particular deal is over, but they have plenty of blankets that are reasonably priced, and I can assure you the fleece and velour throws are soft, warm, and so nice to have on hand.
A great way for kids to enjoy a fun activity with friends is with an outdoor movie night. A portable projector makes that possible, and it’s not too pricey when you consider what you’re not paying for movie tickets. We bought one for the kids a few years ago, but there is a wide selection of newer models now. (Of course, you can use them for family movie nights, too!)
Complete the outdoor movie set-up with a projector screen. They come in a variety of sizes as well as a couple of types. Opt for a foldable portable screen that you can easily put up on a fence or wall and take down. We went with a retractable screen that is mounted to a wall with these brackets. It stays outside, but rolls up when we’re not using it.
If you have cushioned seating outside, I strongly recommend one of these covers. We actually just replaced all of our cushions and cushion covers because our old ones were trashed from exposure since we got lazy about bringing them inside. With this cover, we just move one piece of the sectional to the middle, and put it over everything, blankets included. The whole set stays clean, dry, and ready for sitting. The cover comes in a variety of sizes.
Have a couple of acrylic serving trays to bring everything outside. They’re also good to keep on the sofa for setting down food and drinks for anyone who can’t easily access a side table.
I very strongly recommend Uggs or another shearling-lined boot for outdoor hangs during winter — keeping those tootsies warm makes a huge difference in comfort. I have and love these — easy to slip on and can be worn with cropped, straight, and wide leg jeans. I wear mine all the time, well beyond the back patio. For a cheaper option, Koolabura by Uggs is about half the price. I bought these for Sasha, and honestly cannot tell the difference and will probably buy them for myself next time. Target also has a cute budget option. And for guys, the Tasmans look very comfy-cozy.
*Are there any must-have items for a winter outdoor set-up that I missed? If so, please share in the comments!