The Fire Pits, Tents, and Gear to Warm You Up Outdoors This Winter
(Bloomberg Businessweek) -- Once the initial shock of quarantining wore off in the spring, homeowners began to outfit their house-turned-office-turned-restaurant-turned-school for the sweltering months ahead. Backyard staples such as hammocks and inflatable pools became more popular and harder to find than they’d been in years.
Now the cold, drizzly months of late fall and winter loom. This year’s holiday season—a time traditionally reserved for entertaining while standing a little too close to the punch bowl and one another—will be like none we’ve ever known.
Even in the name of good cheer, indoor gatherings are a risky proposition as dipping mercury levels complicate responsible hosting plans. Consumers have been bingeing on sturdy tents, warming furniture, and heat lamps, provided they’re even in stock.
Miranda Jones, co-founder of heated seating specialist Galanter & Jones, says sales at her business have almost doubled over the last year. “It’s more important than ever to make outdoor spaces function as an extra room, an entertaining spot, and a place to relax,” she says.
Redwood Outdoors, which sells a range of wood-fired hot tubs and geodesic domes from its headquarters near Tacoma, Wash., has seen this increase firsthand. “Everyone is spending a lot more time at home as a result of the pandemic,” says operations director Steve Maguire. “They’re looking for products that help them enjoy their homes and gardens to the maximum.”
There’s also growing demand for safe, savvy shelters that provide ventilation while keeping everyone dry and warm. Tentmaker Alvantor LLC has seen customers use their tents “for a handful of purposes—over Jacuzzis, on the back deck, for dining—that we hadn’t even thought of,” says Sapphire Wills, operations assistant.
The most sought-after piece on the outdoor living checklist is the fire pit. “We sell fire pits every day, all day long,” says Elizabeth Przygoda-Montgomery, a landscape designer in Arizona and owner of the shop Boxhill & Co. Pre-Covid-19 sales of fire pits, she says, would max out at about 50 a month. Now, more than 200 commonly sell on a Saturday.
On the East Coast, propane and gas models do best. When advising customers who have small spaces, Przygoda-Montgomery suggests looking for dual-purpose elements such as a hidden tank that allows the piece to function as an ottoman or end table. In the Midwest, where real estate is generous and wildfires less of a danger, wood-burning units are more popular.
Fire isn’t merely a source of physical heat. Przygoda-Montgomery finds that her consumers are looking for a more existential warmth. Fire is, after all, the foundation of human survival and interaction, from the days of our cave-dwelling ancestors.
“People are not buying the fire pit to have it just look a certain way. They’re buying it to create a memory,” she says. “It’s one of the oldest ways to connect, just sitting around the fire and telling a story or bringing out a guitar.”
Here, we’ve compiled a master list of the most functional and luxurious ways to stay warm.
Putting the bulk of your effort into finding a separate sanctuary will pay dividends through the colder months. Redwood Outdoors’s Milky Way geodesic dome ($4,999; redwoodoutdoors.com) is constructed from steel pipes that can withstand high winds, and it contains a sturdy wooden door and a waterproof, fire-retardant cover. A built-in chimney bracket lets you add a wood-burning stove. If you like it really hot, the brand’s Cedar Barrel outdoor sauna (from $5,799; redwoodoutdoors.com) is made from Canadian red cedar, quickly heats to 195F, can be used wet or dry, and has a convenient porch for two.
The distinct, yurt-dome shape of Boutique Camping Supply Ltd.’s Luna Bell tent ($1,529 for 16-foot size; belltent.com) is characterized by a central pole and aluminum framework that stands up to gusts, and the fabric is mold- and water-resistant. “We’ve seen a huge increase [in sales] since lockdown,” says Hanna Rose-Wynter, the brand’s social media executive. “People are now purchasing stoves and matting to make them more winter-friendly.”
Alvantor, a tent-centric business founded in 2011 near Los Angeles, is seeing a substantial uptick in orders, too; its waterproof Bubble tent (from $600; alvantor.com) is a top seller. The pop-up clear shelter retains an impressive amount of heat while accommodating your own pandemic bubble: as many as a dozen adults fit in the largest, 15-by-15-foot option.
There’s no single correct way to bring the heat—which can mean an exciting and bewildering shopping experience. Like most furniture investments, fire pits depend on the space you’re working with. At a mere 4 feet tall with a base diameter of 22 inches, the Modfire Tribalfire ($1,750; modfire.com) won’t overwhelm a smaller area. Choose between propane or natural gas, and among a range of colorful finishes.
For larger backyards, Boxhill’s 80-inch Tavola 5 ($3,200; shopboxhill.com) doubles as a coffee table and includes an all-weather gas ignition system you can control with a tablet.
If you need a narrow, tall option, the stainless steel and aluminum Lightfire patio heater ($4,499; frontgate.com) emits infrared heat—so the surface isn’t hot to the touch—and covers a 450-square-foot area.
The Lil’ Timber Patio Heater ($849; woodpelletproducts.com) uses wood pellets, which run for a quarter of the cost of gas while producing twice the energy.
Looking for a showstopper? Koby Knoll Click’s steel fire pit chiminea ($1,800; 1stdibs.com) is reminiscent of a Richard Serra sculpture and fits standard split logs.
Or stay toasty sans flame with a heated seat from Galanter & Jones. The bestselling Helios lounge ($7,900; galanterandjones.com) is made of colorful cast stone and powder-coated stainless steel, and plugs in for hours of radiating warmth.
The key to a stylish, cozy look starts with a functional foundation. A pair of whimsical wool Chup socks ($35; chupsocks.com) keeps toes snug. Inspired by patterns from indigenous tribes around the planet, the brand sources top-quality yarns to create festive designs.
Working your way up, a pair of indigo-dyed unisex fleece joggers from Industry of All Nations ($140; industryofallnations.com) features a unique texture, thanks to a reverse weave. On top, think big with Babaà’s luxuriously oversized No. 17 sweater ($260; babaa.es), hand-knit from the purest wool in northern Spain.
Upgrade your accessories by adding a soft cashmere scarf from Begg x Co. ($460; beggxco.com) in a trusted neutral and a pair of gloves that go up to the elbows from the North Face collaboration with fashion house Maison Margiela ($490; maisonmargiela.com).
For a more intimate accoutrement, make Grandma proud with NakedCashmere’s Helen hot water bottle ($125; nakedcashmere.com), which comes wrapped in five-gauge ribbed cashmere.
©2020 Bloomberg L.P.