Each of the categories below has undergone numerous hours of testing from our esteemed weather gurus at The Wirecutter and Sweethome, some even during the first polar vortex freeze of 2014. Whether you need to warm up your office, shovel your driveway, use your smartphone in the snow, go to war against layers of ice, or just want to hole up in your bed until springtime, we have suggestions that will keep you covered—literally and figuratively.
(illustration by Molly Snee)
L.L.Bean's Baffle-Box Stitch Down Comforter will keep you warm throughout the night while still allowing your body to breathe.
Sure, a thick, heavy comforter might do a good job of keeping you from freezing at night. But you can use this winter’s extreme temperatures as an excuse to bury yourself underneath a comforter that’s light enough to ensure you don’t wake up in a pool of sweat, but still fluffy enough to keep you warm.
We’re smack-dab in the middle of testing more than 20 comforters, but we put up a sneak preview earlier this month. Right now, we think you should go with L.L.Bean’s Baffle-Box Stitch Down Comforter, which kept our testers toasty even on the coldest days. (If you’re among the coldest sleepers, bump it up to the “warmer” option.) Better yet, it managed to regulate the heat of two very disparate sleepers—one very hot, one very cold—without any blanket-tugging or frustration. It’s made from down, however, so if you’re allergic, we’ll point you towards the $110 wool-filled sateen comforter on Overstock. Both did very well in our testing, which involved four testers in two different cities on opposite coasts (New York and San Francisco).
True Temper's Mountain Mover already takes the stress off of your back with its curved shaft, but with the addition of the Stout Backsaver Grip Attachment, its ergonomics become even more back-friendly, saving you from injuries down the road.
If your lot contains a sidewalk, chances are good you’re required by the city to keep it snow-free. And of course, there are lots of other ways a good snow shovel will come in handy: shovel out your car when it’s buried, clear out your driveway, or help out elderly neighbors. Most snow shovels suffer from terrible, ergonomically flawed design, so we put 14 of them to the test
and found our winner, the True Temper 18 in. Ergonomic Mountain Mover Snow Shovel
(we recommend picking up the $15 Stout Backsaver Grip Attachment
as well to, well, save your back).
Shoveling snow can be brutal—it’s a great way to throw out your back—so the True Temper’s curved shaft and flexible handle make that work a little easier. Its nylon wear strip means you won’t bang up your patio or any delicate surfaces, and it’s super durable. Our writer, Doug Mahoney, has had one for more than six years and his only complaint (after all those harsh New England winters) is that the “corners of the scoop are beginning to crack a little.” Overall, it’s the best snow shovel we could find.
Glider Gloves Winter stand up to the cold while maintaining accuracy even on the smallest touch screens.
There’s no need for bad weather to keep you incommunicado. Touchscreen gloves will keep you both warm and in touch. We tested
nine different pairs of gloves over a period of three months and like the $30 Glider Gloves
, which are double-layered, meaning they toe the tricky line between warmth and accuracy. In our testing, we found that most touchscreen gloves make you choose between the two. To be fair, the Glider Gloves won’t keep your fingers toasty in the worst of winter—they should perform great above 0°F, but once you get down to -15°F or so, you’ll still be chilly. But that’s better than most of their competitors, and their accuracy on small touchscreens was downright impressive. If you like the leather look, Glove.ly’s leather glove
offers a classic look while maintaining touchscreen capabilities.
Even though you'll have to replace the Zippo's burner after about 80 uses, it will keep your hands toasty for up to 20 whole hours.
Cheap disposable hand warmers are tempting, but when our cold weather guru Seamus Bellamy tested the category, he found the best option was actually refillable: the sleek $16 Zippo Hand Warmer
. It’s a bit tricky to light, but once it’s going, it will keep your hands super toasty for a full day.
Don’t worry—there’s no fire inside ready to burn up your gloves and send you to the hospital. The Zippo uses a catalytic reaction, which is (to quote Seamus) “heated by the catalytic reaction of the hand warmer’s platinum-coated filament burner head coming into contact with fumes from white gas lighter fluid.” He found it stayed warm for more than 20 hours, far more than the 12-hour estimate given by Zippo, and other reviewers agreed. Chris Owen at Gadling said it was “a way better value than the next best thing: disposable hand warmers.” Sure, it isn’t perfect: You’ll have to replace the burner after about 80 uses, and refilling the chassis is a bit tricky. But it’s by far the best option for the coldest days.
The Zojirushi keeps hot drinks a full 10 degrees hotter after eight hours than its competitors and only allows cool drinks to drop four degrees over eight hours. Additionally, its spill-proof top and button opener make it perfect for on-the-go drinks.
You really need a travel mug year-round—coffee isn’t just hot in the winter—but let this most recent blast of cold weather be the impetus you need to treat yourself to our favorite
travel mug, the $30 Zojirushi
, made of heat-retaining stainless steel.
During our testing, we found it kept drinks 10 degrees hotter than its competitors after eight hours in the mug, meaning you can drink your coffee or tea right away or later in the day, your choice, without sacrificing heat and flavor. That’s pretty impressive and well worth the price tag. It’s not hard to use, either, even if you’re opening it one-handed on the walk to work. It opens with the press of a button, and has a secondary locking mechanism to make sure it doesn’t pop open and spill all over your car, bag, or shirt. Even when winter’s over and snowstorms are finally in the past, it’ll be useful: We found it did a great job insulating cold beverages as well, allowing the temperature of ice water to rise only four degrees over eight hours.
The Hopkins Subzero Extendable Crossover can clean a 750-square-inch area of snow off of your car in a mere three minutes, 10 seconds thanks to its bowed handle and angled head.
The world doesn’t stop when it’s snowing, and to participate, you’ll probably need access to your car and a clean windshield. We like
the Hopkins 14039 Sub Zero Extendable 50″ Crossover Snow Broom
—which is, despite its name, an ice scraper. In fact, it was the fastest ice scraper we tested, clearing off a 750-square-inch rear window in only three minutes and ten seconds. That speed owes a lot to its clever design, with an angled head that slips easily under ice and a long, bowed handle and cushioned grip that make deicing feel a lot easier. At 36 inches long, it’s long enough to reach across a car windshield, and it can extend up to 50 inches for the short-armed. We also like its snow broom, which rotates into whichever position you find most comfortable, meaning you can use it to push or pull snow off your car, not just brush it from side to side.
Haflinger's boiled wool slippers will keep your feet warm all winter long without causing them to sweat.
Shuffling around your house in the cold without slippers is possibly the worst thing in the world, not just because it’s cold (which is, to be fair, extremely terrible), but because even the cleanest floors are magnets for dirt, crumbs, and dust bunnies, which love to cling to your feet and get under your covers and all over your furniture. Use slippers for your own sanity.
We’re still writing our full guide to slippers, but here’s a sneak preview: So far, we like the Haflinger AT Classic Hardsole slippers, which cost $87 and are made from boiled wool. They’re soft inside and warm but not stifling. Your feet won’t get gross and sweaty after trotting around in them for a few hours.
“Not fleece, or faux fleece, or sheepskin!?” you might ask. We understand: There’s something luxe about walking around in a big pile of fur. We’ll get into this in more detail in the final article, but in short, we found sheepskin did a poor job ventilating, plus it ended up dirtier inside and out compared to our boiled wool slippers. Unless you really want something fluffy, go with the Haflinger.
After our testers wore the Columbia Bugaboot Plus IIs in 23-degree salt water for an entire 10 minutes, not only did these boots not leak, but they also only dropped eight degrees. Additionally, after hours of shoveling snow, our testers' feet stayed warm and bone-dry.
Winter boots will keep you warm and protect your feet (and body) while you’re trekking through the snow and ice. After more than 30 hours of research with two testers, we just published the results of our research
into the best winter boots. The consensus? The Columbia Bugaboot Plus II Omni-Heat (women’s
) will keep you warm and dry, and it provides enough grip and traction to tackle almost anything winter weather will throw at you. Our intrepid testers wore the Bugaboots in a four-inch deep tub of salt water chilled to 23°F (-5°C) for 10 minutes, and not only did they not leak, but the temperature inside the boot only dropped 8°F (10°F for the women’s boots). They were among the warmest boots we tested and by far the driest. After Seamus wore them for an hour shoveling snow, he said, “At no point did my feet feel cold, or wet. After taking off the boots, I found my socks to be bone dry—there wasn’t even any sweat.”
If you're looking for a space heater to heat up a small room quickly, the Lasko can raise the overall temperature in a room by 26 degrees while staying cool to the touch. On the other hand, our pick to heat a larger room, the Delonghi, can quietly run while you sleep.
If your indoor heating can’t keep up with the cold outside, or if you don’t want to expend the energy to run it at full blast all day, a space heater can help keep you warm. We spent more than 20 hours researching space heaters and brought in a PhD physicist to help design and perform our tests. If you’ve got a small space to heat, like a bathroom, bedroom, or office, we
‘ve been recommending the Lasko 754200 Ceramic Heater
: in our testing, it raised the ambient temperature in the room 26 degrees in an hour. And it had the lowest surface temperature of all of the heaters we tested, making it incredibly safe and easily transportable, so you can carry it from room to room while it’s running. (But we’ve seen some stock issues in recent months, so if you see it for around $25, get it while it’s hot.)
If you’re looking to heat a large room, or want a quiet space heater that can run while you sleep, we like the Delonghi TRD0715T Safeheat 1500 W. It’s $55 more than the Lasko and it takes a little longer to heat a room—in the first hour, it only raised the room’s temperature six degrees—but it’ll keep a larger room consistently heated, and it’ll stay super quiet while doing so.
During the course of just three hours, the Air-O-Swiss has the ability to raise the humidity of a room an entire 15.6%. The Air-O-Swiss also regulates itself to maintain your chosen level of humidity and to turn itself off when that level is reached.
Winter air can be dry in addition to being soul-sucking. A humidifier won’t save your soul, but it will help soothe dry and cracked skin and make your nights more pleasant. We’re currently testing out new models, but at the moment, we like the Air-O-Swiss 7135
, which costs $180. It’s truly set and forget—once you’ve found a humidity level you’re comfortable with, it’ll maintain that level consistently without any stress or prompting, and its timer feature will switch it off automatically. Seamus, who tested humidifiers, loved how quiet, portable, and easy-to-use the Air-O-Swiss was; it weighs only 7.7 pounds bone dry and has a built-in handle on the reservoir for refills, which are required after about every 24 hours of use. And most importantly, it did an excellent job raising the humidity level of a room, raising our testing room’s humidity 15.6 percent over three hours.