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How to Create the Perfect Patio for Chilly Weather

Embrace the chill. The season of backyard fires and mulled wine is coming.

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Though it looks like we'll have a few more weeks of warm weather ahead, autumn is assuredly on its way. Before we know it, leaves will change from a verdant green into shades of yellow, orange, and red (except in Florida, where seasons don't exist and alligators outnumber people).

I used to fear the cold. Curse its blustery winds and sleeting rain. But that was because I refused to acclimate to it and address what was really happening: my lack of preparedness for chilly weather. So I started investing in warmer gear, better beanies, a larger fire pit for my backyard. Before long, brisk nights became the best excuse to host friends. I'd light the fire up, get the grill going, and pour a few drinks. Now, I embrace autumn. I'll even drink mulled wine. 

Along my personal journey to winterize myself, I've come to winterize the things in my orbit, like my backyard. Lo and behold, there are a lot of ways to make your backyard (or patio, fire escape, porch, etc) super comfortable in chilly weather. Let's get started.

Warmth

There are two things aside from your clothes that'll keep you warm outside: a fire pit or a propane fueled patio heater. If you're determined to spend a few nights outside every week, get both. There's nothing like standing comfortably outside in 50º weather in only jeans and a t-shirt. Plus, with both, you'll open up more room so that people aren't huddled too close together around a small fire.

Lighting

Good lighting is imperative to set the vibe. I like to take a two-pronged approach: warm outdoor lights hung up above and solar lights put into planters (or into the ground) around the perimeter of the space. Another tactic I've seen is the employment of solar powered street lights. The latter is definitely the pricier way to go, but it'll really elevate your patio to another level.

Seating

When it gets chilly out, sitting on regular deck furniture won't cut it -- think wooden chairs, metal chairs, etc. Instead, opt for something weather-proof that's made for the outdoors and won't retain moisture. If you have the room, get a cozy sectional or loveseat. Some other options are a durable outdoor hammock (if you have the room) or a zero gravity chair. And don't forget to grab a couple of pillows while you're at it.

Entertainment

A lone fire is enough entertainment for some people, but you can take this a few steps further with a couple of small items. First, think about a Bluetooth speaker. One key benefit of this is that you're ensuring Tevin won't come over with his acoustic guitar and play "Wish You Were Here" for the 100th time. I've been rocking a portable speaker from Marshall and it's been great (battery life, sound quality, etc). 

Another small yet moderately priced item you can pick up is a portable projector. This is especially great if you happen to have pals with kids who need to be entertained...or if you just love movies and TV. This Anker Nebula Capsule is an excellent choice. It's the size of a soda can and will project a 100" screen onto a fence, wall, or even the side of an RV.

Food and Drink

This suggestions here will vary based on what type of space you have, but if you're able to throw in a fire pit you'll definitely want to grab a quality set of roasting sticks -- for s'mores, hotdogs, and/or veggies. No room for a fire pit? Don't even worry about it. Grab this full s'mores making kit, complete with an electric stove that sits conveniently atop a table.  

And although this is where I'd normally tell you to grab a cooler (which you should have by now), I'm going to go the opposite direction and try to persuade you to invest in an electric kettle. Who wouldn't want a hot toddy, hot buttered rum, or some variation of a warm Irish coffee? 

Lastly, you should have a grill. There are two glaringly obvious reasons why here: 1) it's a way to cook for your guests -- and hot food is always a great way to warm up on a cool night. And 2) it's another heat source. Namely for the grillmaster, but hey, heat is heat.

Creature Comforts

To wrap this all up, we're bringing it back to the basics. You're going to want blankets. Probably three or four. You'll want them to be cozy but not too expensive or nice. These should be outdoor blankets used for camping, tailgating, etc. Something you can throw around yourself just for that last layer of cozy. For yourself? Splurge on a wool blanket. It's your patio, treat yourself. For guests, a few Mexican falsa blankets will do the trick.

Alex Robinson is a writer & editor for Thrillist. Fall is his second favorite season. Follow him on Instagram @alexanderrobinson.
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