When you consider camouflage, you think of hunters, wearing a pattern that makes them one with the marsh, the mountains or the trees.
You could also think of a soldier or SWAT cop wearing tactical gear designed to fade into the background, or of military installations covered by that tattered-looking netting designed to hide them from observation.
And of course, we cannot forget the sniper or spy wearing a net woven with live vegetation in order to truly disappear!
Although all of these features are definitely within the realm of camouflage, did you notice what they had in common? The term “camouflage” is most often used to describe natural settings.
Be it a forest, jungle, desert or mountain, the majority of gear and supplies available to assist individuals and their belongings hide are designed for these sorts of areas.
However, there are situations in which no traditional camo pattern is worthwhile, and it happens to be the one where the majority of Earth’s inhabitants live, work, and play.
I’m talking about cities, particularly those that are major, built-up metro-zones. Although such locations may be regarded as the territory of unprepared, effete city-slickers who are nothing more than casualties in waiting, this would be a mistake.
These areas include some of the most common and thickly populated regions in the world, and the well-rounded prepper will know how to conceal not only himself but his home and his goals in such a place. Today’s post will assist you in addressing the tricky topic of urban camouflage.
If You Are Surviving in a City You Should Be Hiding
Hear me out before you dismiss this as a dumb thought experiment because I just said there is no true urban camo pattern and, besides, you can’t really utilize it to hide yourself in an urban environment that is jam-packed with people on every square foot.
The fact is this: Concealment should be a high priority for preppers or anybody else in a genuine societal breakdown, or any other set of circumstances where the laws and bounds holding society together are sorely tested.
To put it another way, if you are enduring a SHTF situation where desperate people turn on each other and criminals start growing damn bold, it is time to do the ol’ ninja-vanish act.
During these periods, everyone who sees you is assessing you for one purpose or another, and it doesn’t mean they’re always hostile.
Many of them will be, though, especially as their real survival needs approach the point where they’re concerned about the Reaper walking up the driveway.
Others who can see where you reside, what resources and gear you have on hand, and how many people you have within your group may use this information to make a plan. A plan involving you. A plan involving their needs at the cost of your own…
If it’s a needy refugee who notices that you’re well-stocked, they’ll almost certainly approach and beg for help. Sometimes they may be pretty hard.
Maybe they will give up on asking and make a grab for it. Others in this survival ecosystem will use a different strategy and therefore make different assessments.
Their survival “flowchart” could see you as a threat, competition, or just a “lootbox“. If you have valuable resources they can repurpose, they just might decide to take care of the problem right then and there.
It’s easiest to see how this could play out when you consider that, in an urban area, almost everybody will be armed in some way or another.
There are exceptions of course, but in general it is much more likely that somebody is carrying a blade or gun than it is out in the sticks.
Even if you’re not packing heat, there’s a good chance you’re wearing something that will identify you as different and potentially make you a target:
A suit and tie mark you as bourgeois, sporting gear identifies you as outdoorsy or rich, and shabby clothes might telegraph that you’re a criminal or down on your luck.
You can stop this from happening by not providing your “survivor credentials” to these strangers in the first place. Keep that in mind, and never let yourself be convinced that urban camouflage isn’t essential.
The Prepper’s Shortcut to Effective Urban Camo Techniques
Before we get into hardcore theory and camo science properly, it will be beneficial to get the straight info on things you can do to hide your presence in an urban area.
It may appear to be an impossible goal, and the chances are stacked against you if there are a lot of people in the immediate vicinity at all times, but it is totally feasible to blend in with carefulness and hard effort.
Use the following action items to implement an effective urban camo plan immediately.
1. Clothing or layers that are reversible provide more camouflage alternatives for changing environments and backgrounds without clogging your pack with an extra kit.
A dark green or black color top is ideal for nighttime use, while a coyote or concrete reversible side can be ideal when moving outdoors during the day.
2. With nothing more than a canvas tarp and the right paint or stain, you may make an excellent city blind that can be used for long-term usage.
Coffee, tea, and dry earth provide an excellent matte finish for this application. When it’s stiff, dusty, and positioned in the correct location, it may seamlessly blend into the background of most cities’ streets.
3. Keep several cans of matching, matte-finish spray paint on hand after carefully examining the colors in your city to create a palette.
You may use these paints to blend your equipment or fabric with the greater urban environment. A sprinkling of the proper hue may be enough to hide you or your gear when far away.
4. The ideal location to be hidden in an urban environment is to remain where no one would consider searching.
Not the easiest thing to figure out with certainty, but there are several viable alternatives, such as non-public access, maintenance tunnels and other odd rooms in larger buildings
Also consider tunnel systems and securely guarded or fortified buildings with a completely hidden or secret entrance and exit.
5. Consider using blackout drapes during the night to be absolutely essential. This must be carefully considered ahead of time to ensure that no light escapes. Also, urban dwellers should use two sets of interior, spaced sets of blackout curtains in front of doorways to allow people to access an exit when required without allowing light out, for any doors that open directly to the outside.
6. Window coverings should be made of lightweight, sheer materials to avoid detection from the outside.
During the day, a screen of coarse gauze, muslin, or cheesecloth may be stretched over windows and other openings to conceal movement inside a room from outside observation.
This technique also has the benefit of allowing you to look out at the same time. Ensure the room is not backlit!
7. Choose footwear that will not make noise on the surface you are walking on. Although it is inevitable that some sound will result on most surfaces, choosing the proper shoes can minimize your audio profile significantly.
8. Mask your scent: odor-eating candles or incense may be used in conjunction with a charcoal air filter.
Placing these near an open window will help to draw out any odors that might give away your position.
9. Take advantage of the distraction. This could mean anything from waiting to make a move when people are focused on something else to using the noise of rainfall to hide your own footsteps.
The Trouble with Traditional Camo Thinking for Urban Environments
So, at the heart of the problem when it comes to camouflage in an urban area a prepper discovers it is not nearly as simple as it is in most natural settings! The following endemic problems obstruct successful concealment in an urban environment.
First and foremost, huge population density plus short sightlines means you get many more people observing an area or your person. If you want to stay hidden, this means a higher risk of failure over time.
Flat areas are filled with mostly vertical and horizontal surfaces, with little cluttering details. Organic shapes are made easier to see when they are backdropped by regular, relatively featureless geometric forms. With few exceptions, it is easy to spot human shapes in urban zones.
Many, many building interiors and outdoor elements appear similar in color, which makes for a more consistent aesthetic but makes any deviation from the “norm” stand out like a sore thumb.
This includes significant contrast changes between the many interior spaces and the outside world. However, the color of an entire neighborhood may vary considerably from one block to the next, and this variability between cities is significant.
All of this implies that many of our standard camouflage strategies are ill-suited to surviving in the concrete jungle, and those that do work may only be effective in a tiny area. If we relocate or even change our position inside the zone, camo could no longer be effective!
The majority of the time, the only way to hide your presence in an urban setting is to completely block off visual observation, but this alone is not enough to truly hide your presence.
This is a rather basic measure of success when there are so many other variables that may reveal our presence or disposition to interested and potentially hostile parties.
You Cannot Depend on Any Advertised “Urban” Pattern of Camo!
Furthermore, even though you can find and buy different types of camo for every situation, most off-the-shelf solutions will not be a pattern or palette suitable for our needs.
You can’t just wrap a camouflage tarp or net around a doorway or window to conceal it from view like you can in the woods or mountains!
I say this to drive the point home, because it’s an important lesson that you should never forget if you take nothing else from this essay.
There is no existing “urban” camouflage pattern that offers reliable concealment in any given urban environment! In other words, that “urban” camo pattern you just bought is worthless!
We must accept that standard camouflage patterns in most urban environments will be mostly ineffective!
Unlike other forms of camouflage, “urban camo” does not rely on the same fundamental principles of concealment.
The majority of these patterns are not tailored to any specific environment or event the generalities of the urban “domain”.
In fact, most of these patterns consist of any conventional pattern of camouflage- desert, badland, forest, digital, and others- only with the color palette altered or inverted to some variation of whites, grays, black and sometimes brick reds.
It’s ineffective in most cities for the most part, usually making you stand out more rather than less!
The answer is rather obvious if we consider the reasons for this. The majority of these colors are too bright and clash with both indoor and outdoor surroundings.
If that’s your thing, save them for looking cool, but ineffective urban camouflage will have to be sought elsewhere.
As a result, we should not anticipate camouflage to perform as effectively in an artificial setting and must instead accept that it will mostly be ineffective. This implies that we’ll have to rely on various user-determined camo techniques and concealment strategies.
Is There a Go-To Urban Camo Color?
In order to successfully conceal ourselves in an urban environment, we must first understand the many challenges associated with this type of camouflage.
We know we cannot rely on pre-packaged solutions or conventional camouflage patterns designed for other environments, as they will usually be too bright and clash with our surroundings.
How do you pick which color is best for an urban setting where you might expect to live? Once again, it’s a question of experience. Visit your city and observe it carefully.
Pay attention to how the ground and street surface appears, as well as the overall color of the buildings, though there will almost certainly be significant variation.
Try to find a color that is not too light, one that will blend in with the surface or the backdrop of the buildings.
For most city settings, the ideal basic colors for concealment appear to be medium dusky tans (think of a squirrel) and medium grays known as “urban” or “stone” grays.
Of course, in certain regions there are definite exceptions to this rule! Earth tones and medium gray hues are still the preferred choices.
The main consideration for an urban environment is that you should avoid colors that stand out and make you easily visible at any time and in any place. For instance: white, yellow, light green, or any other bright or fluorescent color.
Use this advice to guide your color selection. You should be able to spot certain patterns, trends that will assist you in making color selections and developing camouflaging techniques for your gear. More on that topic later.
Keep in mind that a city undergoing natural disasters or man-made calamities, complete with fires and damaged, crumbling buildings, will have its color palette altered somewhat toward the darker owing to the amount of debris, dust, dirt, and soot in the air.
For the most part, though, I’d say the idea that you should pre-plan your camouflage based on what a completely destroyed or devastated cityscape would look like is probably excessive, an exercise in fantasy.
Only the most extraordinarily devastating events or long military conflicts complete with aerial or artillery bombardment result in cities being reduced to rubble like that.
You should always plan your camo for the environment you are likely to occupy!
You Must Hide Your Presence, Not Just Your Clothes and Gear
If you don’t take steps to conceal your presence in its entirety, all of the camo in the world won’t help you.
As previously said, other city residents will have no trouble detecting human presence or signs of lengthy human habitation.
It’s easy to spot a survivor when no one has power: Lights on at night or within the dark interior of a building are utterly obvious, as is the noise that humans generally associate with.
Talking, the clatter of equipment, footfalls, laughing or crying, and more all provide excellent evidence of your presence.
The aroma of cooking will be another aspect to consider; while it is typical anytime during the day and night in most urban areas, enough where you won’t have to worry about it changing after a major event takes place, the same may not be true in the weeks after the event has taken place!
Even if you are vigilant, even if you are diligent, smart criminals or other survivors may discover other signals of frequent arrivals and departures around your living space or regularly traveled paths.
Things like normal footpaths’ dirt and dust being worn away by traffic, door and window hardware that remains “use polished”, and other traces.
Because of this, it is mandatory that you take extreme measures to conceal your presence across all spectrums of possible discovery.
Your Attitude and Bearing Should be Similarly Concealed
One last thing. In a city, you’ll almost always be surrounded by people, which means that you won’t have much opportunity to hide your presence from detection. What you can do is disguise yourself, though.
It entails overcoming the attitude of being a “nobody.” This does not mean we should necessarily dress in the drab hues we discussed previously, at least not right away.
Being a nobody implies blending into the crowd. You don’t want to be recognized as a prepper, as a hardened survivor, or as a scared dog just waiting to get put down.
All you want is for people to believe you’re “normal” when they look at you initially. Just another city dweller. This also applies to your attire, mannerisms, fundamental equipment, and every outward element of your appearance.
It takes practice and a certain level of refinement to apply this survival persona consistently and correctly.
If you do it right you will quite literally be just a part of the background scan most people conduct all the time in a city, meaning that you’ll be merely a face in the crowd.
If you can go unnoticed entirely, you won’t be in any danger from the wolves roaming among the sheep!
Disappear in the Concrete Jungle
Many problems arise in urban areas when it comes to successful camouflage. Although the principles of concealment do not change, their application in city settings is quite distinct from that of natural environments.
In conjunction with the exceptionally high population density of urban zones compared to other places, this implies that detection may be unavoidable under the circumstances without strict adherence to proper urban camo techniques.
Use this article as a start-up guide to help you learn how to camouflage yourself in urban areas!
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.