Enjoying the Great Outdoors

Labor Day has just passed, and that means that the sun will be setting earlier, the evenings will become a bit chilly, but the daytime will be just about perfect for being outdoors. It’s still warm enough not to need a sweater or jacket, but it’s usually not brutally hot. Of course, as I write this. it’s in the high eighties, since it appears that Mother Nature wouldn’t let summer come out and play until September. But when it’s comfortable outside, a pipe or cigar goes incredibly well with other outdoor activities, whether you’re on the golf course or just taking a walk. There are a few problems that can crop up while enjoying a pipeful or a stogie during the autumn weather, though, and that’s what I’m going to address.

Fall usually brings with it cool, damp air and moderate to strong winds. Wind can be a big issue for pipes, as a constant breeze can really stoke up your tobacco, and that can be a red flag, especially if you’re smoking a relatively new briar. If you don’t have a decent cake built up (and even if you do, for that matter), an overheated pipe can damage your investment. That’s why you’ll never catch me outdoors during the spring or fall with a pipe that doesn’t have a windcap on it. These spring loaded metal devices fit inside the chamber and have holes or slots to reduce the amount of moving air that can get inside. They also protect against flying embers that can burn you, damage your clothes or, God forbid, start those dry leaves on fire. To further decrease the chance of wrecking a costly briar, I strongly suggest smoking corncobs outdoors. In fact, I rarely smoke anything else when I’m outside the house. I’m fairly clumsy, so I don’t want to drop a pricey briar on the sidewalk, but if a cob takes a beating, so be it, that’s part of the reason I like them. And don’t blow off a cob because it’s inexpensive. I have cobs that smoke as well as pipes I paid 100 times as much for.

For cigar smokers, the wind presents some burning issues. Not only can they burn hot, but they’ll wind up burning unevenly, too. To make matters worse, if the wind gets a cigar going really hot, it may crack and split, making it look like a flower. So my best advice is to check for windy conditions, and find somewhere sheltered from the wind if there’s too much of a breeze.

Another thing is the damp air. When you draw on a cigar, you also draw moisture into the cigar, and if it’s really damp, the cigar can get spongy and may want to collapse a bit if you draw hard. Although I almost always keep my humidor at 67% relative humidity (I know, but I prefer them a bit dry), I may knock it down a point or two further if it’s really humid outside.

Last point – this is the weather that torch lighters were made for, but don’t use them on your pipes!

About Russ

Russ Ouellette is the blender/creator of the Hearth & Home series of tobaccos for www.pipesandcigars.com in Bethlehem, PA. He has been a pipe smoker and blender for over 30 years, and enjoys feedback from the pipe smoking public. You can reach Russ at russo@pipesandcigars.com or by calling 1-800-494-9144.