Winter Picnic Essentials

by Lindy Zupko

Winter is an enchanting time of year for an outdoor picnic with family and friends. Nature provides a perfect backdrop for gathering loved ones in a pristine setting. Glistening snow, wood-burning fires, the smell of pine in the crisp, chilly air. Any occasion is more joyful when celebrated al fresco.

Winter picnics have some strong pros in their favor. No bugs. No bears. No crowds. More places you can go. Whether you’re planning a family picnic with the kids, a romantic first date, or your partner’s birthday party, a winter picnic represents everything we love about the season. Think comfort foods—s’mores, cocoa, or hot mulled cider with cinnamon sticks – while snuggling up in blankets around a fire, enjoying the best of Mother Nature with the ones you love most.

Winter picnics are hot.
Picnics are trending. Instagram loves them, and people love the intimacy of sharing a meal outside of a confined space. In nature, you can laugh as loud as you want, bring your dogs, and not feel rushed out the door. With these tips and a little planning, throwing a fabulous and festive winter picnic is a breeze!

But it’s going to be cold.
Prepare for the weather. Check the reports so you don’t get caught off-guard by an unexpected wind gust. Guests will appreciate having extra blankets around to bundle up and stay warm. Hand warmers and single-use heat packs are another welcome treat. Display them in a rustic basket or tool caddy. Lightweight and inexpensive, they provide hours of warmth and show your guests you care about them.

A woman in a Free Country vest and sweater sits at a camp picnic table.

Winter Picnic Attire
Someone smart once said, ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.’ On the day of your picnic, dress warmly. Layers let you control and adjust your body temperature throughout the day. A vest paired with a softshell jacket, or a 3-in-1 system will allow you to add or remove layers as needed, keeping you comfortable no matter the weather. (And you might want to bring a coat for your little dog, too!)

Like any party, you need a plan.
Elegant or casual, a little planning goes a long way, especially with a winter picnic. A romantic picnic for two takes less planning than a large reunion, but you still need to think it through. Public parks offer many advantages – easy access, easy set-up (benches and tables), and spectacular views. If a remote site is more enticing, make sure you’re not on private land. Seating can be fallen logs, toboggans, or collapsible chairs. Other things to keep in mind when choosing a location are any activities you might want to do (hiking, sledding, etc.) and proximity to bathrooms. Bring kindling for a bonfire if fires are allowed and the conditions are favorable and make sure it’s fully extinguished before you leave.

A winter picnic set up in the snow.

When it comes to your portable feast, convenience and food safety are key. Warm foods are rich and comforting but require special care. For convenience, pick dishes that travel well (like lasagna or chili) and cook them at home right before you leave. Pack everything in insulated containers (thermoses are great for soups), and then place the containers inside a cooler with a microwaveable heating pad to keep warm. When you’re ready to serve, place the heating pad under the dish and cover it with a lid to retain the heat.

Winter picnics are about enjoying the great outdoors, bonding with friends and family, and making memories that last a lifetime. Keep it simple. Pack the right gear for the location, foods, and proper attire – and your winter picnic will be a smashing success!

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