Last week, I went through a few things I've learned from experience during the last couple years about how to be comfortable while smoking outside during the colder months. Most of last week had to do with what to wear; today's collection of tips is more about other things you can do to keep warm...
But I am starting with an apparel tip...specifically, wear layers of clothing. When smoking outdoors this month, I generally have a t-shirt, with a heavy flannel shirt over that, with my wool jacket over that. Before I found out about the flannel-lined pants, I would occasionally wear my jeans with a pair of sweat pants over them...yes, it looked goofy, but my legs stayed warm. I guess this is a basic tenet of staying warm no matter what activity you are engaging in, but it does work so that's why I'm including it.
Find out where your closest electrical plug is...hopefully on the outside of the house...purchase a heavy-duty extension cord long enough to reach to your normal smoking area and set up an electric heater near you. The tricky part is what kind. I have used several different space heaters to see what works best. We have a forced-air heater that just does not force air enough outside; maybe it works inside, but outdoors it is pretty worthless. I am currently using a radiant heat dish type of heater. It works fairly well if positioned correctly. Someone else told me about a heater attachment you can put on the top of a propane tank that is supposed to give off much more heat. I have no doubt that would work even better, but then I would dealing with an open flame of sorts on a wood floor...and I'm just nervous about that. My current space heater is very much like the one pictured above. In the minibarn where I set up to smoke, it keeps the area about 10 to 15 degrees warmer than the outside temp. Which brings me to the next point...
The worst thing about smoking outdoors is often the wind chill. It doesn't matter so much if it's a "dry cold" or a "wet cold," if the wind is blowing at 20 miles an hour, it is blowing all that cold air into your face and blowing your body heat away. Find away to beat the wind. Put up a tarp, build a wall, hide behind a building...or in one! When we moved here, the house did not have a garage, so we bought a mini-barn. After 2 winters of suffering in the cold, my wife said okay to me smoking in the barn during the winter months. We cleared a spot near the door, I hung a tarp to partition off the front and back halves a bit (keep the heat and smoke in the front), and I keep the door open a crack to allow ventilation. Has it helped? You bet! The downside is that the mini-barn is bare wood inside and readily absorbs the smell of the smoke, so the barn does not have the better aroma anymore...well, actually I'm okay with it, but my wife is not nearly as keen on it!
One other thing I learned the other night about smoking in the cold is choosing the right cigar. I smoked a stick the other night that was a Connecticut Shade wrapper and despite my efforts to keep the temperature regulated, the coldness and dryness conspired to cause the wrapper to pop and break before I was done with it. If you are smoking outdoors in cold, dry weather, your best choice is a cigar with a thicker, more resilient wrapper leaf like a Broadleaf Maduro. Actually, I think most maduro leaves would work, but the point is to choose carefully and stay away from very thin, delicate leaves like Shade and Sumatra.
I hope this has been fun and informative and I would also like the information to continue. If you have more tips about herfing in the cold, please leave a comment below.