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A Brief Guide to Winter Gear That Makes Outdoor Dining More Comfortable

What to wear to stay warm and safe while supporting local restaurants

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G95’s biohoodie includes a zip-up face covering lined with filtration material
G95’s biohoodie includes a zip-up face covering lined with filtration material
G95 [official]

Winter has arrived, and many regular restaurant-goers will continue to brave the elements in single-digit temperatures if it means helping their favorite haunts weather a devastating public health crisis through what’s predicted to be a long, cold, and snowy season in D.C. and beyond

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed diners outside, leading eating and drinking establishments to set up improvised sidewalk and street seating while government officials order varying capacity restrictions on indoor dining (25 percent in D.C. as of December 14). While many restaurants have adapted quickly, installing igloo bubbles, overhead tenting, and as many space heaters as they can get their hands on, diners can proactively share the burden of keeping themselves warm at the dinner — or brunch — table.

Eating alfresco right now demands its own set of winter essentials: compression socks, texting gloves, and yes, even a battery-powered, heated blanket. Embracing the “friluftsliv” life — a Norwegian term for outdoor pleasures — is easier without feeling as if your fingers and toes might fall off, so anyone preparing to eat outside this winter should consider stocking up on the items collected below to stay warm and safe.

COVID-19 cases are spiking in the D.C. area and around the country. Even though studies indicate there is a lower risk of exposure when eating outdoors, there’s still risk involved. The safety of diners and restaurant workers is contingent on operators following strict social distancing and other safety guidelines.

For diners who are committed to supporting restaurants by dining outdoors, here are a handful of selections for helpful winter gear.

Compression socks

Let’s start with the feet. Outer extremities are usually the first body parts to get cold, especially for people who are stuck outside for a prolonged period of time. A thick pair of compression socks — just like my Nana wears — can help keep blood flowing through the toes. They also have the added benefit of preventing achey legs and easing swelling in the ankles, which is good news for anyone who’s ever been on a Zoom call that runs for hours. My favorite compression socks right now are these colorful options from Boldfoot Socks ($20). D.C. native Brad Christmann founded his company with a social mission, donating 5 percent of profits to U.S. veterans. Other options for serious comfort and warmth include Sockwell ($26), made with merino wool, and Vim & Vigr ($36) socks in both durable cotton and merino wool options.

For added warmth, I’m wearing the same sole-shaped foot warmers I used as a kid on ski trips. A five-pack of HotHands foot warmers is available for $12.95 on Amazon.

A hoodie that zips up over your face

Several brands are making hoodies with high, zip-up collars that cover the wearer’s mouth and nose, doubling as a cloth mask in a pinch or otherwise adding an extra layer of protection. My favorite comes from Voormi, which makes its “High-E” Hoodie ($249) in the United States. This Merino wool sweater fits the bill for comfort, and it keeps my face and torso warm whether I’m popping in to pick up a food order or sitting down to dine outside. It’s also washable and water repellent for diners who get caught in the rain. Other options to consider include the G95 “biohoodie” ($129) and Arc’Teryx’s base layer ($119).

Texting gloves

Taking off a pair of gloves to snap a photo or reply to a text can mean forfeiting all the heat stored up in your fingers. So, if you must Instagram a $4 Levain cookie, then consider buying a pair of touchscreen winter gloves. The Strategist has all the hot tips on texting gloves, from $8 Knolee women’s gloves to these battery-heated gloves from Velazzio ($85).

Battery-powered, heated blanket or jacket

The Cozee [official]

Anyone planning to brave a windy winter day at a restaurant would be wise to BYOB (bring-your-own-blanket). Tease me about pulling a Linus van Pelt if you want, but if you see me eating in the street any time soon, I’ll be toting around a thick blue blanket known as the Cozee. At $250, it’s a significant investment, but the Cozee is a tank of a blanket. It heats up in seconds, stays charged for over five hours, and it’s big enough for two people to share. The battery pack, which slips discreetly into the blanket, can act as a phone-charging outlet. It’s soft on the inside, made from micro-plush fabric, and splash resistant in the face of snow, sleet, or the occasional wine spill.

Some D.C. restaurants, like seasonal Italian outfit Centrolina, new American kitchen Nina May, or Latin hit Seven Reasons, offer throw blankets to outdoor dining customers, too.

For those who prefer to keep their heat closer to the chest might consider a battery-power heated jacket. The Nomad heated jacket from Gobi Heat ($148) has upwards of nine hours of battery power to keep your core warm.