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Jason Ogaard: Cold weather gadgets

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As I write this column, I can hear the muffled scraping of blades along the street outside. A familiar sound for most of us in snow country.

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There are plows going up and down the street pushing snow off to the side and leaving salt behind them. Bobcats are driving up and down sidewalks filling up their buckets and dumping the snow out of the way so that people can still use the sidewalks in the winter. It is our first major snowfall (at least in the southern part of the state).

Last year’s snowfall was a letdown for a lot of people. Since resorts can make snow, precipitation isn’t necessary but anyone that’s skied on month-old snow can tell you that fresh powder helps a lot. There are also activities that require snow, like snowmobiling and cross country skiing.

I hope this winter is a welcome change from last winter. With that in mind, here are some gadgets that can help you deal with the cold weather.

If you spend a decent amount of time outside in the winter you’ll definitely need something to cover your ears. You might also want to listen to music while outdoors. You could just wear some of those gigantic beats headphones that actually cover your ears but they won’t keep your ears warm. Ear buds are definitely not going to keep your ears warm. Fortunately you can purchase ear warmers with headphones built in from 180s.com. They have several winter apparel options including many different styles of ear warmers that have headphones built in for $35.

If you’re going to use any touchscreen device outside you know that regular gloves won’t work with them. Today there are several options for gloves that work with touchscreen devices. The problem with most of them is that they are made so that only the thumb and pointer finger can use the touchscreen. There are tablets (and some phones) that require more than two fingers for many interactions. Fivepointgloves.com solves this problem by offering gloves that have touch points built in every finger for $30 to $40.

Animal owners often have to change their routines during the winter. Some will have to add boots for a walk and perhaps a small coat to keep them warm. Quite often dogs won’t go to the bathroom outside if it’s too cold (which can lead to indoor accidents). I’ve witnessed firsthand several dogs that were let outside only to just sit by the door. One possible solution to a cold animal is a heated bed. K&H makes a heated bed that can be found on Amazon. For $75 it includes a thermostat that keeps the bed at a constant temperature and won’t absorb water. All you need is an outlet to plug it into. Common sense dictates that you put one of these in a slightly sheltered area.

One of the things that annoys me the most in the cold are my feet. My toes always get cold quickly. Every time I go skiing I just deal with it but now I’ve found a fix for my problem.

Hammacher.com sells battery powered socks. For $25 my feet can be warm for 12 hours at a time. Cold at the office? How about a blanket that plugs into a USB port? For $29 you can order blankets from Amazon that plug into USB ports that will warm you while sitting in your chilly office. If you have a specific cold weather need chances are there’s a solution for it, a quick Google search will find it for you.

Stay safe this winter, and stay warm.

JASON OGAARD was born in Bemidji and is a software engineer for FICO, a Minneapolis-based public company providing analytics and decision-making services, including credit scoring credit bureaus.

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