Weathering Winter

Feb. 1, 2005
From ‘Dork Hats’ to bib overalls, dressing properly for the Ramp Warrior during the winter can be quite a challenge.

I can’t speak for our southern friends, but up here in the Midwest the middle of winter gets pretty darn cold. During the middle of winter, we Ramp Warriors are doing constant battle with the elements. We fight against freezing rain, heavy snow and biting winds on a daily basis. The really bad times are the days when that mercury drops through the bottom of the thermometer. I’m talking about those twenty-below days when the blowing winds make snowflakes feel like chunks of razor blades against your skin. Many people think it’s an exaggeration, but it’s days like these when the proper clothing and gear can mean the difference between life and death.

Now, how often are you outside every hour of the work day? I’m sure there’s a few days here and there where yes, you are outside all day (or night, in my case) long. Nine times out of ten, however, you go from one extreme temperature to another. Of course, the first thing one should do prior to going to work is to check out the forecast for the day or just prepare for the worst. I myself prepare for the worst every single night (some people call this mind set: pessimism).

Allow me to set the scene: It is twenty-five degrees below zero and the wind drops the temperature to a mind-numbing fifty-below. What is the most logical course of action here? Any sane person would call in sick. But, we are Ramp Warriors; we make the members of the US Marine Corps look like a bunch of mewling kittens! So, we don our battle gear and prepare to do war with Mother Nature.

Before I even leave my house, I normally put on a set of long underwear under my work uniform, as polyester doesn’t quite cut it in the cold. A pair of thin socks underneath heavier insulated socks works well and I always make sure to bring along an extra set of each in case my feet get wet. I wear my normal lightly-insulated boots to work but I always bring a pair of Sorel Snow-Pacs for extended periods outside. Since our ramp always has a little bit of packed snow and ice, I also have a pair of HT Ice Cleats. They’re relatively cheap and you can put them on and take them off very quickly, which is important because they tear the heck out of linoleum. I cannot stress how well these things have proven themselves.

For outer wear, I am adamant that nothing compares to Carhartt. I myself have a pair of their Extreme Arctics zip front bib overalls, coat, and quilt-lined detachable hood. I have used their clothing for years and they last longer and wear harder than anything else I’ve found. Not only do they hold up to the rigors of ramp work, but they also hold up to anything else I put them through at home and at play. I am also a fan of something my Grandfather calls a ‘Dork Hat.’ As a matter of fact, I don’t even know what the technical name for it is … but Mad Bomber makes a heck of a Dork Hat. True, they aren’t really stylish (hence the nick-name) but they keep your ears attached to your head.

In addition, I like to keep my face covered with something called a Balaclava. I myself prefer the three-in-one styles as they can be used in all kinds of weather and can be worn to suit your needs. For my hands, a pair of heavy wool gloves worn underneath a pair of leather mittens is essential when working with fuel, as leather doesn’t soak up fuel as readily as other materials. Under normal circumstances, a pair of insulated leather gloves works just fine.

Of course, when wearing all this gear, you get awfully bulky and sometimes it’s hard to move around.