For many years ability to disappear or blend into one’s surrounding has become both necessary and popular, to the point that it has earned the right to be called an “art”. In this series of posts we will look at this art and how it plays a role for the Survivalist.
From hunters in centuries past to present day military and law enforcement, one common trait among these groups is the use of camouflage for cover and concealment. I’m sure we can all agree that all of the methods of camouflage and concealment are too numerous to mention them all. With that being said, I will cover a few of the basics in Part 1 of this series.
We’ve all seen and heard quit a bit about the “ghillie suit“, but I think it’s safe to say that not everyone is going to keep one of these on hand. Perhaps because of the cost or the time and effort it takes to make one. Not to mention if the situation were dire enough, there may not be enough response time to get into this type of gear. Therefore, I’ll refrain from covering that particular system.
But if that’s what floats your boat, then by all means, feel free to suit up! You can even buy a ghillie suit now on Amazon.
As common sense would tell us, the type of camouflage used would or should be determined by our surroundings. I think it goes without saying that you wouldn’t use an arctic camo pattern in a wooded or desert area and vice-versa.
When In Doubt, Black Out
Camouflage doesn’t have to be that involved or costly and whenever it’s possible I always say “When In Doubt, Black Out.” Simply put, “black” is a widely used color and easily obtained. Just look at the SWAT, Special Forces, burglars, and even the legend of the ninja. The list is almost endless but remember; nothing in nature is black and while it is better than hunter orange for concealment, it can still stand out in some settings like a sore thumb. The best time to use black is in low light or after dark. Let’s move on.
If you want to get a great insight on blending in, just look at the animal world. The knowledge found there is almost endless. It still amazes me when I see a deer at the edge of a tree line and with a few simple movements it completely disappears from sight. You can be looking right at it and not see it.
When we are dealing with the art of concealment, not only should we consider colors, light, and shadow, but texture and terrain as well. This is why whenever possible one should use some of the natural things around them, such as leaves, twigs, tree bark, grass, bushes, etc. When looking to camouflage yourself, look for areas of shine or areas that could potentially reflect light. Examples include a watch, your face, glasses, a rifle scope, jewelry, etc. I know this is probably a no-brainer for most of us, but those who may be new at this I hope this small amount of information proves to be useful.
In future articles I plan to cover a vast variety of techniques, so bear with me, keep checking back and by all means feel free to put in your two cents worth. Any and all knowledge is deeply appreciated, so start talking. Education is everything, but knowledge without application carries little weight!
Don’t Be Seen When You Cannot Hide -wait, what?
Picture this: You’re in a big city. Excrement has struck the fan, and it’s beginning to splatter. No, wait: Picture that you’re trying to walk to work in a big city after your car broke down, a city large enough to have a huge and ongoing problem with crime (muggings, pickpockets or even excessive panhandling.) Or, picture both, or pick one. Makes no diff, because this little system I’ve figured down will work either way.
When most folks think of wearing camouflage, they think of some guy wearing some green splotchy thing as he creeps about the woods. Add the word urban to that, and you think of some guy wearing some gray and black splotchy thing as he creeps around the city. Well, toss those thoughts out, because what we are going to do is teach you how to get about town without becoming a target, yet blend in perfectly, perfect example? Let’s pick on San Francisco. Why? Because, well, I’m currently typing this in SanFran, and it has all the elements we need for our discussion, so…
How To Be An Environmentalist Without Eating Granola
That’s right – we’re going to study our urban environment. It pays to know what you’re going to be walking around in, after all.
First up, what do we have here, people-wise? We have tourists, homeless folk by the metric ton, wealthy folks wearing incredibly expensive clothing, normal working schmoes wearing everything from dirty clothes (manual labor) to 3-piece suits (executives) to funky/off-beat crap (programmers and artists). If you’re a guy, the short skirts and revealing clothing on the ladies also rank way up there (especially in summer…) A wide variety of people about, no? Now – who do you notice first? The flashy dressers and executive types, right? Well, if you’re desperately trying to get out of a city mid-disaster, or just trying to walk through one at night without getting mugged, you probably don’t want to be one of them. Take notes of that kind of stuff, because we’re not done studying things just yet.
Next up, what do the streets look like? Are there a lot of narrow streets, or is there enough room to walk near the curb without getting too close to a building corner or blind alley? Where do the homeless folks curl up at night? Believe it or not, this is actually easy enough to tell if you know where to look (and, let’s face it, smell). Building facades with a lot of nooks and crannies that are perfect for blocking wind are also perfect hidey-holes and sleeping-perches. The same goes for small blind alleys and parking/loading-dock entrances. They also happen to be perfect places for some unkind soul to lurk in wait for an unsuspecting victim, so learn to recognize where those potential spots are before you stroll up to them. If you walk certain routes frequently, get to know those spots intimately so that you’ll know when to get your butt out towards the curb or –if necessary– across the street. Also, while you’re peeking around, do you notice that some streets are natural for places like trucks and delivery vehicles to drive down, where loading docks and service entrances normally face? Yeah – may want to avoid those initially, but if you’re dressed and behaved right, you can put them to good use if needed. Be sure to keep tabs on buildings which are unoccupied, dilapidated, or worse – squatters (and folks with ill intent) like to put such places to use if they think they can do so without getting caught. Vacant lots are also places to keep a good, hard watch for.
Now, go back and check these places and routes out at different times of day and night (the latter only if you’re certain that you can safely do so). Notice that after a certain hour, the only tourists out on the street are either drunk , sniffing around for prostitutes, or sniffing around for some illicit substance (and yes all three types are idiots, but notice them anyway). During midday, you’ll likely notice a lot of working stiffs out there on lunch break. In-between, and depending on where in town you are, you’ll notice a mixture of just about everyone. Be sure to take notes on all of these and everything else. You’ll get to know when the 5am deliveries start rolling in to the stores. You’ll get to know when the janitors finally call it a night. You’ll get to know all of this and more. Again, start taking notes, eh?
One other thing to note – obviously if you’re visiting on business, or vacation, you won’t have (or want to waste) time to do all this homework beforehand, good news is, you don’t have to do it while you’re there. If there is another big city nearby you can take a few exploratory trips to (or you live in one), you can at least get a feel as to what to look out for, and catch up quickly.
Dressing For Success – The Success Of Going Unnoticed
Now – remember all that talk about clothing earlier? Well, let’s revisit that.
When you go to packing for a trip (or want to flesh out your get-home bag for those commutes downtown), that would be a very good time to look into what you intend to wear while you’re there. I have a few ideas you need to consider…
- Muted colors are your best friends. Avoid stuff that burns the retinas, and stick with grays, blacks, faded colors, or the like.
- Get comfy – unless there is something dressy that you absolutely have to wear (like at some kind of ceremony or sales presentation), stick to well-worn and comfy clothing. If you have to wear a suit okay, but stick with clothing that you would wear if you were mowing the yard, or working on your car. Keep it clean and serviceable, but make sure it’s not new or crisp. The nearest thrift store is a goldmine of clothes like this – I strongly suggest availing yourself of one.
- Logos and controversial sayings are bad, so don’t wear any. This goes for your jackets, shoes and outerwear too. Aside from the whole gang-sign thing (which can be an issue), a logo often betrays a lot more about you than you would like, and a logo unfamiliar to the area will advertise that you’re not from around here. If you otherwise think you must, stick with neutral and non-specific stuff, preferably faded.
- Speaking of shoes, always include a pair of worn, comfy but dirty shoes or boots. Something that you can (literally) walk for miles in. Be sure that you can walk for miles in them, because you just may have to, you know? By the way – this means that unless you’re going to be on a beach, open-toed shoes, sandals, or flip-flops are also out.
- Ladies? I know you like to look sexy (and Lord knows I like the sight of sexy women!) but… skip the revealing and “cute” crap if you can. Stick with “sensible” wherever possible. Let’s talk about why for a moment: The idea in a potentially dangerous situation is to be ignored, not to wear clothing that screams “rape me!” to the wrong people. It doesn’t matter how big and strong your spouse/boyfriend/whatever is; it only takes seconds to slit his throat from behind, leaving you rather defenseless. Suffice it to say that revealing clothing in a bad place (and/or bad time) puts you and your man-friend in potential mortal danger, so, well… don’t.
Next up, let’s talk about your grooming habits.
- leave the hair spray at home, or keep it to a minimum. Your hair will thank you, and fly-away hairs leave you slightly unkempt, increasing your odds of being ignored, or being thought of as not a worthy target.
- Gents- thinking about shaving? Maybe every other day, or perhaps get a beard going. Again, the unkempt thing.
- Certainly keep your teeth brushed and suchlike, but avoid strong-smelling mouthwashes, as they tend to impede your sense of smell of up to an hour or two after brushing.
- Don’t do cologne and perfumes. It makes no sense to look like an ordinary impoverished schmuck if you smell like you just stepped out of a ritzy perfume shop from half a block away.
- Same with bright or stand-outish makeup, ladies. Keep it muted and light. Let your natural beauty shine through instead, so you can avoid standing out or looking like a wealthy target.
- Yes, shower regularly while you’re traveling… duh. It’s the best way to keep clean and avoid a lot of germs. However, avoid strong-smelling armpit deodorants and such. Same reason as #4, eh?
How To (Properly) Walk The Streets
This part is harder than it looks, but if you’ve been following the advice in the book, you’ll find it much easier to do. Here’s a few good, hard rules of etiquette when you’re walking the city streets. There’s a lot of them, so take your time…
- Unless a cop is giving you an order, never ever answer a voice spoken in your direction, even if you know it’s you being spoken to. From panhandlers to criminals and con-men, all they need is for you to grant them a moment’s attention, then they have you. Ignoring the voice lets you keep walking. Be sure to keep an eye in the speaker’s general direction just in case, but 99 times out of 100 during the day you’ll be able to keep walking without incident. Night carries a different ruleset, but only insofar as you need to start thinking about weapons and escape if you hear that call and it’s not coming from a panhandler. Note that in a pure SHTF situation, if a cop is giving you an order, you may want to start thinking immediately about escape as well, but use your judgement.
- If you bump into someone gently, just keep walking, muttering an “excuse me” as you pass.
- If you bump into someone hard or anyone bumps into you at all, immediately (but discreetly!) put a hand over your wallet, grip your purse tight against you, and insure that any luggage (e.g. backpack) you’re carrying is still secure (as you’re still walking!). Inspect of any suddenly opened zippers on that backpack.
- Keep your wallet in your front pants pocket if possible, otherwise in a jacket or folded over your pants front. You’ll know immediately if someone is reaching for your chest or your crotch long before you’ll notice someone reaching for your back pocket.
- Ladies – you probably already know about safely carrying a purse, but as a reminder? In the city, it’s not a purse, it’s a football, and you’re the linebacker. Short straps are better than long, and thick better than thin.
- Backpacks? Wear both straps, like it was built for. use a twist-tie (same color as the backpack material) to keep the zippers tightly closed while walking through dangerous areas – that way you’ll know if someone is trying to get into it from behind while you walk. Wearing the backpack on fully also prevents someone from snatching the thing off your shoulder. As a bonus, it’s more comfortable over long distances. If you insist on wearing it over one shoulder (because everyone else is), keep a very tight grasp on the strap, and use your non-dominant hand/shoulder to hold it – this frees your dominant hand to fight back (grab, punch, etc) if someone tries to grab it.
- Always keep a look out ahead of you, on the sides, and occasionally behind you. Increase those looks back if the situation turns to crap.
- Walk confidently, always. A confident walk means you’re not a timid target.
- Never, ever, ever look lost. Go over your route beforehand – in the age of maps-on-a-phone, you have no excuse anymore, and paper maps are still very plentiful.
- If you do think you’re lost? Duck into a nearby store if one is open, and only then get out your phone or map, checking it while inside. This camouflages the idea that you’re lost, and helps you get your bearings in a relatively safe place. If nothing is open, find a safe indoor place to check (bodega, hotel, gas station, whatever) – be sure to buy something if it’s a small shop, so you don’t arose the suspicion and/or ire of the clerk.
- Don’t buy anything with a bill larger than a $20, and never keep cash in your wallet (keep the cash in a front pocket or something.)
- Standing around (let alone sitting) is a really bad idea. If you have to rest, do it in a shop, store, or restaurant.
…there’s lots more, but this should be a good start.