The Best Products for Surviving Winter of 2019By Reviewed Staff, January 31, 2019
Do cold and blustery days make you want to hole up inside? Do you bristle at the sight of falling snow? Yeah, us too. With the polar vortex looming over us, we've got to prepare ourselves for frigid temperatures now more than ever. That's why we went ahead and tested the best products for surviving the winter season. From the most durable snow shovels to the softest comforters, there's something to help soothe all your winter blues.
The Best Products for Removing Snow
Forest Hill Homeowner Aluminum Scoop Shovel
Where To BuyClick for price Amazon Buy
Forest Hill Homeowner Aluminum Scoop ShovelBest Snow Shovel
While technically Forest Hill came in second in our scientific scoring, we like this shovel the best. Yes, it’s the most expensive among the shovels we tested (at the time of publication it was priced at $59.99 at Amazon), but it’s also the best looking with its beautiful wood handle and shiny blade made of thick aluminum. Aesthetics are not why it won, though.
In practice, the Forest Hill shovel isn’t just for snow. It’s more versatile and useful for garden or farm tasks. Its shorter handle makes it slightly more compact than most of the other shovels, and it’s well-balanced. This is a shovel that just feels good in your hands and is easy to use.
Objectively, there are a few hits against the Forest Hill shovel. It’s price, of course, but also the lack of a steel or composite wear edge for the blade, and a non-ergonomic design are both areas where other shovels, especially the True Temper 20-inch aluminum shovel, can claim an advantage. The thick aluminum of the blade didn’t show much wear after use, so even without a steel edge, you should still expect the Forest Hill to last a long time.
The design of the blade is best-suited for scooping, and it can pick up a lot of snow (or dirt, or other materials) at once. There’s a limited amount of plowing action, though. We were concerned that snow would stick to the aluminum blade, so we chilled it for a while in a snowbank, but we were unable to produce that result. It’s possible that our snow was just too wet and ambient temperature too high to produce the sticking that we’ve seen complaints about online. In any event, a shot of cooking spray or silicone lubricant will make snow slide off smoothly no matter what the temperature. At 5 ½ pounds, you’ll get a good upper body workout with the Forest Hill, but it’s a joy to use.
Ames True Temper 1613400 Aluminum Combo Snow Shovel
Ames True Temper 1613400 Aluminum Combo Snow ShovelBest Value Snow Shovel
Our other favorite snow shovel is the True Temper Aluminum Blade Shovel. It has all the things the Forest Hill lacks, from an ergonomic shaft to a lower price tag, to a wear strip (True Temper says it’s the industry’s only steel wear strip for an aluminum blade—putting those two metals together usually means corrosion). It’s heavy like the Forest Hill shovel, too—both shovels weigh almost exactly the same. But the True Temper feels heavier, maybe because it’s got a longer shaft or it balances differently. Either way, this is a good shovel that’s got it all on paper, but was less pleasant to use in practice. It wasn’t _un_pleasant, mind you, and its big scoop size and thick metal blade mean it should give you robust performance for many years. It’s also about half the price of the Forest Hill, so you can get two and enlist a helper to get the job done faster.
Both Forest HIll and True Temper are metal bladed which makes for a very sturdy shovel. The trade-off is weight, though the ease of use and features such as ergonomic design should help keep fatigue at bay.
PIAA 95055 Super Silicone
PIAA 95055 Super SiliconeBest Windshield Wiper
These are a sturdy, structured set of metal wiper blades that work just as they should. During testing, it seemed like the more they wiped, the clearer our view through the windshield became. The blades come with a glass cleaner/windshield treatment that promotes water beading, which we applied to good result.
The PIAA blades use an older-style open-frame design we found a bit tough to install, requiring several attempts to select the correct plastic adaptor so that the blades would mount to the J-hook wiper arms on our test car. That said, performance was the real deciding factor, and the PIAA blades impressed us with their ability to clear our windshield of any visual obstructions. This is a wiper we expect will perform for a long time and cope with the weather, no matter the season.
Aero Premium All-Season
Aero Premium All-SeasonBest Value Windshield Wiper
Aero is an independent company, which sets it apart from big names in wiper blades like Bosch, Michelin, and Valeo. But even though it exists outside the auto supplier mainstream, Aero blades are sold as direct OEM-quality replacement. That means you can expect them to fit and perform at least as well as the original wipers that came on your car.
During testing, we found them among the easiest to install out of all the blades we tested, and they were able to handle just about every type of weather condition. That said, they did ride up and over a windshield coated in sticky honey, which indicates they might do something similar when pitted against sap or even slush. If you're worried about the durability of rubber coming from a company that's not a giant industry supplier, rest easy knowing that Aero backs its Teflon-coated wiper blades with a six-month warranty for your peace of mind.
Finally, the price for the Aero wiper blades is downright cheap, making it our best value pick.
The Best Products for Making Stews and Soup
Instant Pot Smart WiFi 6 Quart
Where To Buy$149.95 Amazon Buy
Instant Pot Smart WiFi 6 QuartBest Multi-Cooker
The recently-released Instant Pot Smart WiFi is everything a multi-cooker can (and should) be: fast, efficient, precise, intuitive, and perfectly capable of replacing most other devices in your kitchen. The Smart WiFi is Instant Pot’s update to the Smart Bluetooth, a middling product that suffered from poor app maintenance and connectivity issues. Luckily, this version faces none of those issues, and instead provides a handy 8-in-1 appliance with the convenience of WiFi connectivity, allowing you to set, monitor, and control your multi-cooker from virtually anywhere. Beyond this new technology, the Smart WiFi shares most of its DNA with the existing Duo Plus, save for the latter’s “Sanitize” function.
If a smart-connected device sounds too complicated to have in the kitchen, don’t worry—the Instant Pot Smart operates just fine without the app, too. While we did use the app at points throughout testing, we usually fell back into entering controls manually and found it incredibly easy to use. My coworkers and housemates loved both the risotto and yogurt made in this Instant Pot, and while the chicken for the soup was slightly “shredded” by the pressure-cooking process, the flavor of the final result was still strong. It’s worth noting that when the Instant Pot changes between modes, the beeps are LOUD, which can be helpful or annoying—but you can turn the sound off if you’re trying to sleep.
If you’re into micro-managing your dinner, this model also allows you to choose between “Less,” “More” and “Normal” settings for each preset. If you’re not that kind of person, it also comes with 750+ pre-programmed recipes that simply let you press a button and forget about the meal until it's done, something no other multi-cooker can claim.
If you’re looking for a more basic multi-cooker, the Crock-Pot Express Crock Multi-Cooker, which was our original best overall (and now our best value pick) or the original Instant Pot Duo may be more your speed—but the Smart can do everything you’re looking for and more at a very competitive price, making it our top pick.
Crock-Pot Express Crock Multi-Cooker
Crock-Pot Express Crock Multi-CookerBest Value Multi-Cooker
With decades of experience in making slow cookers, Crock-Pot clearly knows what it's doing in the kitchen. That experience shines through with the Crock-Pot Express Crock Multi-Cooker, a user-friendly gadget that aced nearly every test we put it through. Once our top choice overall for its ease of use, it’s now our pick for best value, as it’s available for $30-40 cheaper than comparable Instant Pot models.
For most multi-cookers we tested, we had to carefully read the recipe and then consult the manual before cooking. But with the Crock-Pot, you can simply skim the recipe and press the appropriate button. It’s the little things that really made this machine, like the button that says “Rice/Risotto” instead of needing to pick between “Rice,” “Multigrain,” or “Pressure Cook.” It was the ability to manually adjust both the temperature and the pressure, and the lid that slid perfectly into place every time. Even better, the Crock-Pot was only one of two multi-cookers we tested with a nonstick inner pot. This made cleanup a breeze, shaving precious minutes off the time it took to execute quick weeknight dinners. (If you’re not a fan of nonstick, or would prefer to use a metal spatula rather than silicone or a wooden spoon, it may be worth looking to the Instant Pot models instead.)
The only issue with this multi-cooker may be its size. It has a larger footprint than the other models we considered, so it looks like a behemoth if using it in a tiny kitchens. That said, no multi-cooker is going to squeeze into a corner or fit neatly on a shelf and we found this one well worth the space.
Staub Cast Iron 5.5-Quart Round Cocotte
Staub Cast Iron 5.5-Quart Round CocotteBest Dutch Oven
Solidly built, perfectly round, and easy to clean, the Staub Round Cocotte aced every test. From braising meat and vegetables to simmering a stew, this dutch oven nailed it. Sometimes there really is a correlation between price and quality — and this is one of those times.
In our tests, the Staub Round Cocotte Oven narrowly beat out the well-known (and well-loved) Le Creuset. This mostly came down to the shape of the dutch oven, and how much better it fit on the stove and in the pantry. While a little heavier than some of the others, the evenness of cooking and the large sauteing area that doesn’t bar you from putting other large pots on the stove bumped this one all the way to the top.
Lodge 4.6-Quart Round Dutch Oven
Lodge 4.6-Quart Round Dutch OvenBest Value Dutch Oven
Despite its lower price tag, the Lodge performed like a much more expensive model in our tests. Our soup tasted great and wasn’t a mess to clean, the chicken and vegetables had plenty of room to cook, and our bread delivered a perfect crust. So at a fraction of the cost of the Staub, the Lodge easily secured our coveted Best Value spot.
In every test, the colorful Lodge was with the top of the pack. However, the only place it faltered was in size. The smaller-than-average base made sauteing onions take longer, and the bowed out sides took up more room on the stove than ideal. This just means that if your stove is already a tight fit, you’ll want to plan ahead for Thanksgiving dinner and not have this on at the same time as three other pots.
The Best Products for Staying Warm
Pottery Barn Linen Silk Comforter
Where To Buy$209.00 Pottery Barn Buy
Pottery Barn Linen Silk ComforterBest Comforter
After hours of testing, we still struggle to find a negative about the Pottery Barn Linen Silk Comforter. This beautiful piece of bedding came out on top in terms of appearance, warmth, and upkeep, making it our top pick among today’s best comforters.
The Linen Silk Comforter is available in three sizes—Twin, Full/Queen, and King/California King—and it stands out from other products thanks to its unique double-sided construction. The top of the comforter is made of a beautiful textured linen fabric, while the bottom is a luxurious cotton-silk blend that’s soft and smooth against your skin—you can easily sleep without a top sheet, if you want! The comforter is filled with a polyester batting that keeps you toasty warm all night, and its box stitching is high-quality, ensuring the fill will stay in place without settling out.
In terms of upkeep, this comforter is surprisingly easy to take care of. It doesn’t wrinkle as dramatically as other products, and during stain tests, most liquids simply rolled off the surface—which is perfect if you frequently find yourself snacking in bed. The stains that did set in came out easily with a bit of detergent, but you can also throw the whole comforter into the washing machine if you want a more thorough clean.
As if its grade-A performance isn’t enough, it's also made from sustainably sourced materials, so it’s a purchase you can feel good about.
Linenspa All-Season Down Alternative Quilted Comforter
Linenspa All-Season Down Alternative Quilted ComforterBest Value Comforter
High-end comforters can put you out several hundred dollars, but why break the bank when there are amazing budget options like the Linenspa All-Season Down Alternative Quilted Comforter? We decided to test this product thanks to its 6,000+ glowing reviews on Amazon, and it exceeded expectations, easily claiming the title of Best Value Comforter.
This Linenspa Comforter comes in every size you could want, from Twin XL to California King, and there are several basic colors and patterns to choose from as well. With the exception of the white option, these comforters are reversible, giving you two styling options, and they’re super soft thanks to their microfiber fabric. Plus, the comforter is incredibly warm, as it’s filled with a hypoallergenic down alternative.
Don’t worry about getting this comforter dirty—stains come out quite easily with a little bit of scrubbing, and you can always throw it in the washing machine for a more thorough wash. Its microfiber exterior doesn’t hold too many wrinkles, and it boasts box stitching to keep its fill evenly distributed throughout the blanket.
The only downside of this budget-friendly comforter is that the color doesn’t exactly match what is shown online. In real life, the gray has a noticeably blue undertone, while it looks more neutral in the pictures on Amazon. However, you can choose to put a duvet over this comforter, as it comes with eight fastening loops on the corners and sides.
BodyMed Digital Moist Heating Pad (14" x 27")
BodyMed Digital Moist Heating Pad (14" x 27")Best Heating Pad
The BodyMed heating pad is our top pick because of its fast heating, ability to maintain high temperatures and overall ease of use.
According to our data collected during testing in the open air, the BodyMed heating pad took an average time of about 12 minutes to heat up to its peak temperature, which is one of the faster ramp-up times among the heating pads we tested. Additionally, after reaching its peak temperature, this heating pad kept those high temperatures; its temperature decreased by less than a degree during the remainder of the hour of testing. When we actually placed this heating pad on the tester’s body, its maximum temperature was about 122°F.
While it did use a little bit more energy than most of the other electric heating pads, this one really impressed us with its easy-to-use controls, option for moist heat, and customizable automatic shut-off. Cleaning this heating pad is a breeze; all you have to do is remove the sleeve and hand wash it in the sink. The BodyMed is large enough and flat enough that it can be folded to a variety of sizes, so it fits just as well on your back as it does on your leg. However, because of its large size, it may be a bit ungainly when folded up and applied to smaller areas, such as your neck.
Last but not least is the included strap that will help you to secure the heating pad to your body. While it seems like such a minor addition, the ability to use the heating pad while moving around a little bit, or keeping your hands free, is a real bonus.
If you want a heating pad that can give you all of the heat you need, and is also convenient and easy to use, consider investing in the BodyMed Digital Moist Heating Pad.
Caylee's Creations Microwavable Corn Filled Heating Pad and Cold Pack
Where To BuyClick for price Amazon Buy
Caylee's Creations Microwavable Corn Filled Heating Pad and Cold PackBest Microwaveable Heating Pad
From the beginning of our testing, the Caylee’s Creations heating pad stood out for a variety of reasons. First of all, it is filled with corn kernels, which, when heated, smell deliciously of popcorn. So not only are you getting some serious heat relief, but this heating pad also makes you crave popcorn. This heating pad is about the size of a laptop, and has a removable sleeve that is hand-stitched, has a nice pattern, is machine-washable, and feels soft to the touch.
As for its heating ability, when it was tried out on a tester’s body, it reached a toasty 122°F. During testing in the open air, the Caylee’s Creation heating pad reached its maximum temperature after about 13 minutes and then experienced an average decrease of only about 3°F over the rest of the hour-long testing period.
Additionally, this heating pad doubles as a cold compress; all you have to do is put it in a freezer bag and let it freeze overnight. Our tester’s only complaint was that the pad was a bit too small and bulky to sit comfortably on the back of his neck. If you need short bursts of really hot heat, this corn-filled heating pad is the one for you.
DeLonghi HMP1500Best Space Heater
If you want a space heater that does it all, this space heater is the one for you. The Delonghi HMP1500 aced our spot-heating and room-heating tests. Our thermal sensors recorded the HMP1500 outputting a maximum temperature of almost 95°F. It also raised the temperature of a 1350-cubic-foot room six degrees in an hour, more than enough to warm a chilly room.
Performance aside, the HMP1500 also has design elements that can fit any lifestyle. Users that want their heater to follow them from room to room can install the included wheels. Where stairs are a concern, a handle on the back lets you easily lift the eight pound frame anywhere. If you have one room in your home that needs supplementary heating, the HMP1500 can be mounted to a wall as a permanent fixture.
Lasko 754200Best Value Space Heater
When you think personal space heater, the Lasko 75420 is what most people imagine. It's compact, light, and relatively powerful. However, its power is highly directional. When it's on, you can only heat part of your body. While this Lasko does not have the versatility of our top pick, it's still a good value.
The Best Products for Combating Cold, Dry Air
Vicks V745ABest Humidifier
The Vicks V745A is the poster child of the humidifier world. With its one-gallon tank, we estimate you can run the V745A for about 10 hours on the medium setting, and about six hours on full tilt. So, if you're getting a humidifier to tackle a snoring problem, this humidifier has the capacity to run all night.
In our five-hour test run, the V745A brought the humidity of our testing chamber up 34 percent, to a staggering 80 percent relative humidity. To put that in perspective, that's the same as a hot shower that fogs up your mirrors but using half as much water and energy.
Also of note, a medicine cup sits right over the exhaust. The manual says to place Vicks Vaposteam, but we're sure you can get away with other types of medicinal inhalants as well.
TaoTronics TT-AH001Best Cool Mister Humidifier
When we first tested the older Taotronics TT-AH0001, its performance landed it in the middle of the pack. Now there’s a new and improved model and it passed all our tests with flying colors. The AH0001 uses ultrasonic technology to created millions of tiny water droplets that form its cough-soothing mist. While in operation, it’s virtually silent. Over the course of five hours, it raised the humidity of our testing chamber over 23 percent, more than any other cool mister.
Aside from bringing the humidity, the Taotronics had a pleasant user experience. You can control the exact level humidity in 5 percent increments, perfect for room preservation needs. It also has a nightlight and dark running modes so you can find it in the middle of the night or make it go dark when you want to sleep. If you want a humidifier that won’t heat up your room, this is the one to get. However, if you want a more streamlined user interface, check out the Crane.