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Leaving your warm, cozy bed to get to the office can be hard for everyone at any point in the year. But most people in the Northern Hemisphere can agree that it becomes a little more difficult between December and March, when your bed feels even more warm and cozy than usual, and simply walking out of the door can feel like a slap in the face. (Possibly a near-literal one, depending on how windy a day it is.)
Unfortunately, calling in sick all season or working from home indefinitely—or at least until the first thaw—is frowned upon at most offices. But, there are some ways to make the commute better, by investing in some of these products.
1. Gloves that actually work with your phone
If you spend any part of your commute walking in the cold, the simple act of switching a song or skipping a podcast ad becomes a huge, momentous decision. Do you pull your hand out of your glove, getting the desired access to your phone, but at the cost of frozen fingers? Or do you keep your hands warm, at the cost of enduring an unlistenable song or ad?
There’s an easy solution to this first world problem: touchscreen gloves. You’ll want ones that actually work, which is why you should get the Harrms Leather Gloves, which came out on top in our test of touchscreen gloves. Every finger on the leather pair has touchscreen sensitivity—not just the thumb and index finger—so you can do almost everything you might normally do with your bare hands with the gloves. If you prefer fleece to leather, The North Face’s Etip gloves offer similar functions with a polyester fleece fabric that feels like a second skin.
2. A travel mug to keep your coffee toasty
Whether you’re driving, sitting on a train, or walking to your office, having a hot mug of coffee or tea to swill on the way can make the commute that much more enjoyable. The problem is when your warm beverage goes cold mid-journey, leaving you with a cup of what was supposed to be a steamy pour-over, but is now an unintentionally iced coffee.
If this has happened to you, you need a better travel mug. We love the Zojirushi mug, which can keep beverages hot in cool temps, even overnight, and has a slim build that allows it to slip into backpacks and cup holders with ease.
3. A portable charger to ensure your electronics never lose juice
Even the best of us can forget to charge our electronics sometimes, which can lead to phones and headphones dying mid-commute—particularly in the winter, when cold temps can drain your battery even faster than usual. That’s why you should get a portable charger. We like the Jackery portable charger, which is compact yet holds enough power to charge an iPhone XR three times and has several ports so you can charge more than one device at once.
4. A great umbrella to protect you from the elements
Rain, sleet, and snow make a commute feel much worse than it has any right to be. But elements are what they are—that is, unstoppable—which means you have to put up a shield between you and them, in the form of an umbrella.
Our favorite is the Davek Solo umbrella, which has an automatic open-and-close button, a wind-resistant fiberglass frame, and a wide cover that kept our testers almost entirely dry during a mile-long walk in the rain. For a less expensive option that works fine in a pinch, get the Totes Neverwet Umbrella, which deflects rain and wind well.
5. Socks that keep your feet comfy and cozy all day
Do you mostly sit on your commute, in a car or on a train, only to mostly sit at a desk all day? Get a pair of wool-based compression socks. Compression socks provide gentle pressure to the feet and calves, which helps promote blood circulation in the body and can help reduce aches and pains, whether you’re sitting, standing, or walking around. Both Sockwell and Smartwool socks performed well in our test of compression socks, and both contain merino wool—32 and 49 percent, respectively—in addition to nylon and elastane to keep feet warm and happy all day long both in and out of the office.
6. Boots to keep your feet warm and dry
The one thing that’s worse than your feet getting wet on the commute is your feet staying wet all day long. If it’s raining or snowing (or it’s in the forecast for your commute home), you’ll want a pair of sturdy, insulated boots that keep moisture out and heat in. Blundstones are great for this purpose, thanks to their tractioned soles and waterproof leather exterior. They come in a classic Chelsea boot style with a pull tab, which makes them fine to wear in a casual workplace and easy to pull on and off if the office dress code requires more formal shoes. Blundstones come in women’s sizes 7 to 11and men’s sizes 8.5 to 13.
7. Comfy shoes to slip into at the office
Even if you may wear your snow boots to the office, you might not want to. In this case, it can’t hurt to have some comfy-yet-office appropriate shoes to change into once you’re there. Some great ballet flats in women’s sizes are Allbirds Tree Breezers and Birdies Starling Loafers flats, which offer a slipper-like feel in a sturdy, stylish package. In men’s sizes, look for sleek, office-appropriate sneakers, like Allbirds Wool Runners (which also come in women’s sizes) or Stan Smiths.
8. A hat to maintain optimal temperature
Sometimes, a jacket hood just doesn’t cut it. But you can make sure you stay warm the whole way to and from work with a simple hat. One great option is the Turtle Fur fleece cap, because the fleece will insulate your noggin without causing hat hair and is lightweight enough to fold up and stick in your pocket if you warm up on the way. “Very thick and soft,” writes a reviewer. “Fits well, stays put, and doesn’t ride up as many fleece hats do.”
9. A snow shovel so you can leave the house
It might seem that you have a pretty good excuse not to show up to work if you cannot leave your home on account of snow drifts. But on days or for jobs when you really need to be present, you need a great shovel to clear the way. We tested snow shovels and love the Forest Hill Homeowner Aluminum Scoop Shovel, which has comfortable handles and the ability to scoop up a lot of snow at once, so you can get on your way.
10. Extra gear for your car
The full list of things to keep in your car during winter is enough for a whole other article. You never know what might befall you on the road, so it’s best to be prepared. At the very least, if you live in a place where it dips below freezing, you’ll need an ice scraper, a snow brush, and a collapsible shovel, and anyone should tote along a first aid kit and a blanket.
An ice scraper, snow brush—or a two-in-one, like this one from OXO with easy-grip handles—and shovel can help you dig your car out of snow if inclement weather starts when you’re at the office and you can’t leave right away. A first aid kit is good to have in any just-in-case situation (including, say, accidentally scraping your hand instead of the ice), and the blanket is great if your heat or engine give out mid-drive or you just get really cold on the road.
11. Hand warmers to prevent numb fingers
If you have a long walk (or wait at the bus stop), and live in a chilly climate, gloves alone may not be enough. Give your fingers that extra warmth with some hand warmers, which you can stick in your jacket pocket or gloves (if they’re roomy enough) and grasp onto for heat. You can get disposable hand warmers, like Hot Hands, which are sold in bulk and can be used for ski and snowboard trips in addition to your commute, or a gas-powered option, like the Zippo Refillable Hand Warmer, which you fill with lighter fluid and can turn on and off to get about 12 total hours of heat.
12. Wireless earbuds
No one wants to use their cold-limited finger mobility to untangle headphone cables. Wireless earbuds (obviously) have no cables and and slip in easily beneath a cap, so your ears stay covered while you listen to music.
They don’t have to be AirPods—but those are a great option. They’re the best truly wireless earbuds we’ve tested thanks to their surprisingly great sound quality and carrying case that provides an hour of listening time in five minutes. For a less expensive option, try the Mpow Flame bluetooth earbuds, which offer qualities AirPods don’t have—like waterproofing and hooks that keep them secure on the ears—at a fraction of the cost.
13. A Kindle to make train and bus rides bearable
Reading can be a great way to make a train or bus ride speed by, even as the actual conveyances poke along due to winter weather. The space and weight commitment required to take a novel with you on the commute? Not quite as great. Get the time-passing abilities of a book without the bulk with a Kindle Paperwhite. It has a glare-free, paper-like screen, a backlight to make reading possible in the dark, and the ability to store tons of books, magazines, and more. This Kindle is also waterproof, which is an essential feature if you travel with a water bottle and sometimes forget to close the top all the way.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
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