Seven essential winter products

by Tom Albrighton 28 November 2014 Fun

Everyone’s doing native advertising these days, so now it’s my turn. Here, pitifully disguised as a helpful advice article, are affiliate links to seven of my personal favourite items for the colder months. Buy them all and I’ll be able to afford a book on writing interesting blog posts.

Fleece snood

Those of my generation may remember Nik Kershaw making dangerous fashion waves with his designer snood on Top of the Pops. Suddenly, everyone wanted one – well, all the girls in my class, anyway. It’s like a legwarmer for your neck!

Fast forward 25 years, and I’m given one of these for Christmas. It’s sober black rather than Nik’s mustard yellow, but on reflection that’s probably for the best. I will never be Nik Kershaw now. I won’t even be Karel Fialka.

I decide to road-test my noo snood in the most demanding conditions – a winter walk along the coastline at Horsey to see the seals. The experience is revelatory. Suddenly, I see what Nik was on about – so much so that I can’t rule out wearing mine indoors, like he did.

With a single unassuming fabric tube, the snood addresses every shortcoming of scarves, hats and hoods. Once you’ve got it over your head (admittedly a bit tricky with specs on) it forms an airtight thermal seal (no, not the Horsey kind), delivering a dramatic increase in headic temperature in exchange for minimal extra weight. Pair it up with a hat and/or big winter coat and you’ll be echoing Nik’s lyrics: ‘The heat is stifling, burning me up from the inside…’ And all this for just a little bit more than the cost of a 7” single in 1984!


They laughed when I sat down at the DeskCycle. But when I started to pedal…!

Undeniably risible at first glance, the DeskCycle is actually indispensable if you want to lose weight, warm up and get a bit of work done, all that the same time. With its low profile (lower than some cheaper rivals, note), it will fit under most desks, allowing you to blitz a few adipose cells while you trim the fat from that article you’ve been working on – and, of course, raise your core temperature a few precious degrees in the process.

There’s a resistance control to make it easier or harder. At the top setting, I can burn about 260 calories an hour, which is not to be sniffed at. After anything over half an hour you will definitely feel like you’ve had some exercise. Put in four half-hour sessions in a day and you’re getting near the equivalent of a three- or four-mile run – but, crucially, without jeopardising your extremities.

Three tips before you start. First, you need a chair that provides resistance – i.e. not one with castors – and probably also a mat for your chair, so you don’t wear the carpet out. (An old bathmat works well, although it obviously looks terrible.) Second, bear in mind that some tasks are easier to do while cycling: it’s great for reading or checking, not so good for sustained typing. And third, take it easy – it can be a bit hard on your back, so don’t try to pedal away all day long.

De’Longhi convector heater

If, like me, you work at home, you’ll be familiar with the guilt of using the central heating to warm up the whole house when you’re only sitting in one room. Yes, the ends of your fingers are turning blue, but what about the environment? Stupid environment.

This fantastic little heater is the answer. It will heat a medium-sized room in literally a few minutes, then keep it warm while saving energy with its built-in thermostat. My version has a fan to blow the hot air around, but it works best just sitting near the wall (in front of the radiator is a good postion) and quietly convecting away. If your Raynaud’s is really bitchin’, you can go and stand right over it to warm your hands directly. And at £32, it really is top value.

Crabtree & Evelyn Gardeners Hand Therapy

Yes, the missing apostrophe is irksome, but believe me, that is the only thing wrong with this product. If you suffer with constantly chapped, cracked hands from November to April, you’ll forgive the punction when you feel the unction.

There’s no fiddling with caps or tops – just press down on the nozzle for a squirt and rub it in. The cream smells really nice – kind of flowery and gardeny, but not cloying – and is quickly absorbed. Admittedly, it ain’t cheap, but the container lasts a good few months, and what price skin that actually has some sort of flexibility, as opposed to resembling a dried-up riverbed?

Falke Walkie socks

Since discovering these babies, I have basically given up on all other types of sock. I actually wear them all year round, at least in the evening, but it’s in winter that they really come into their own. Thick, soft and thoughtfully shaped to your feet (with ‘L’ and ‘R’ markings), they really are the socks you’ve been waiting for all your life. Yes, they’re expensive, but when you wear them, I promise you will know where those extra pounds went. (Women’s versions are also available.)

Heat Holders socks

‘But if I don my Falkes in October, what will I do come February?’ you ask. It’s the familiar hibernal anxiety – peaking too soon with the warm clothes, so that when it gets really cold, you have nowhere to go. At which point you die of hypothermia, despite the fact you’re wearing a huge brown cardigan, drinking eggnog and sitting in front of a roaring wood fire. In a greenhouse. On Kefalonia.

It’s like your mum used to say – don’t put your coat on indoors, you won’t feel the benefit. But you always knew that was rubbish, if not borderline fascist. We should treat our feet the way we treat the most vulnerable members of society. In other words, if we’re not feeling the benefit, rather than cruelly deferring action in the hope of somehow enhancing our perception of it, we should step up our action now until said benefit is duly felt.

What am I on about? Basically, wearing thicker and warmer socks, and more of them, until your feet actually warm up. And Heat Holders are a powerful ally in that endeavour – perhaps the most powerful humankind has yet devised. They even qualify for a tog rating (2.3). Yes, the ‘science bit’ isn’t just for shampoos and loo cleaners any more.

Imagine a deep-pile fleece turned inside out and made into a sock, so the warm, fleecy bit is facing your foot. The second you put the Heat Holders on, the temperature of your feet leaps by about 10º. In fact, since they’re made of artificial fibre, your feet will probably sweat a bit, which can be slightly unpleasant – until you remember they were like blocks of ice half an hour ago, and stop moaning.

But it doesn’t end there. If you really want to feel the benefit, you can take it to the next level by wearing them on top of normal socks. This is some real next-level foot-heating, but it is sometimes necessary – for example, when wearing wellies in the snow.

As the Heat Holders slogan should (but doesn’t) say, Your Feet Won’t Know It’s Winter!

Taylors of Harrogate Half Caffeine Lazy Sunday ground coffee

Forget Sunday. This is my coffee of choice every day of the week. Because with half the caffeine, you can drink twice as much, giving you two times the hot-beverage warming power if you’re not such a big fan of tea. Don’t forget to cradle the mug in your hands like a traumatised female character in an ITV drama, or someone off a soup ad. And remember, if you do suffer from the demon Raynaud’s, caffeine is known to make it worse – so this is practically medicinal! (The price you see here is for three bags, not just one.)

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