Pro Tips for Making Your (Socially Distant) Outdoor Hangs This Winter Cozy and Fun

Three cold-weather experts give us the inside scoop on staying warm outside.

outdoor winter hangouts

These pro tips will make your outdoor winter hangouts warmer, safer, and more fun. Illustration by Sol Cotti


  • Alisa Tongg of the Bacon & Lox Society, a Poconos collective specializing in outdoor gatherings
  • Matt Wetzel of Thomas Matthew Designs, a Main Line interior/exterior design firm
  • Nick Ciafre, a die-hard Eagles tailgater from Delco


1. The right foot gear is crucial: Wear insulated boots, double up your socks, and use toe warmers.

2. Dress up from the neck up: Bold accessories will keep you feeling festive in a scarf and mask. (Speaking of masks: Go for performance fabric over straight cotton — it will wick cold moisture.)

3. Invest in Sunbrella-covered or water-resistant cushions and pillows for patio furniture. They don’t require covering in inclement weather — and thus require less work to enjoy.

4. Cafe lights and candles (place in amber-tinted votives for a cozy windproof glow) add visual warmth.

5. A bar cart stocked with warm bevvies placed right by the door makes it easy for the host to replenish supplies and minimizes the need for guests to venture indoors. (Slow-cooker hot chocolate is a booze-free crowd-pleaser.)

6. Wetzel’s top pick for portable space heaters is the Bromic Tungsten Smart-Heat, which throws warmth remarkably well and isn’t a total eyesore.

7. Made in Lancaster, the Breeo X Series smokeless fire pit doesn’t coat clothes with that burnt smell.

8. Give each guest a lap blanket. The fabric should be soft and not itchy.

Penn physician and epidemiologist David A. Pegues answers your most pressing pandemic at-home-gathering questions.

Is it okay to go inside to use someone else’s bathroom?
Yes — just wear a mask and wash your hands.

Can we eat and drink around others?
Yes, if they’re in your immediate family or quarantine pod. If they’re not, masks should remain on at all times, even outside. (The issue isn’t sharing utensils or food; it’s the need to remove face coverings.)

Do we need to increase distances in colder, drier months?
Though drier air does generate smaller respiratory droplets that can travel farther, outdoor air rapidly dilutes them. There’s no current evidence that social distancing needs to be increased beyond six feet.

The safest approach for any gathering is limiting it to immediate family and those in your “bubble” of regular close contacts. Check local regulations for the most up-to-date guidance.

Published as “We Embrace the Outdoor Hang” in “The Big Chill” guide in the January/February 2021 issue of Philadelphia magazine.