Becoming the Gray Man – the Skill of Constant Camouflage

Becoming a gray man requires a great deal of self discipline so you can determine how others see you. You do not want to be perceived as weak or strong, well equipped or unequipped- you simply do not want to be perceived at all. Swapping the tactical bug out bag for a non descript bag is a step in the right direction, but does not complete the concept. Being aware of how you look, how you move, and how you act are all equally important.

Why Go Gray?

At some points in everyday life, emergencies, and SHTF situations you will not want to be noticed, and especially not noticed as a prepper. Balancing this idea of not being noticed with regular interaction is difficult to achieve, but can allow you to be a chameleon when you need to. This skill could be used to move to and from your bug out area or safe house. If supply runs are needed when SHTF, they are best accomplished as a gray man. While the term is “Gray Man”, this practice can obviously apply to both men and women.

Upgrade to a Gray Man Bug Out Bag

While it may not necessarily be a bug out bag, (it could also be an EDC bag or GHB) the main accessory you will be seen with can have a large impact on how people perceive you. Tactical pouches, MOLLE, ALICE, paracord accessories, and visible knives all can expose to an onlooker that you are a survival minded person and may be heading to a gear and supply cache. Picking a bag that does not convey your level of preparation for the situation is ideal.

You should not go too far and get a ridiculously out of place bag. There is a video making rounds showing a get home bag that a large bearded prepper is using that is a little girl’s bag. This is great deception for when you are not with the bag. However, when you carry the bag it is obvious that something is out of place, which is opposite of the gray man effect we are looking for. A hiking bag, tactical bag, duffel bag, or satchel are the preferred bags as long as they don’t have excessive markings and external gear. We go into much more detail in our breakdown of the best gray man backpacks:

The Best Gray Man Backpack for Survival and Prepping

Wear the Gray Man Style

Like the Bug Out Bag, anything camouflage is out. Camouflage, no matter how useful, has a distinct association with the military or a hunter- both of which ID you as having access to guns. Providing this information to every person that looks your way is not advised. Choose earth tones for your clothes, but not a monochromatic look.

Do not wear clothing contrarian to the style in the area. Knowing what is too much in the area is key to tweaking your look to fit in and not be noticed. Weather and culture both play major roles in what you should be wearing in a situation where you are attempting to go unnoticed. A ball cap and sunglasses are usually sure things in outdoor areas, weather permitting. These are great because it is best to cover as much of your face as possible.

People unknowingly make associations and observations when you look at another person’s face- it is programmed into our biology.  Precipitation and cold weather allows you to wear a hood- which is great for going unnoticed. Be wary of tactical and combat boots- hiking boots or shoes may be a better bet.

Simple wardrobe updates can have the largest impact. Dress to not be noticed.

Walk Like a Gray Man

Your gait and the routes you take say a lot about you. Try walking similar in style to others if possible. Do not go too fast or too slow and stick near crowds and clusters of people if you can. Avoid walking against the flow of foot traffic as that drastically increases your exposure. Most times it would be better following a group on a longer path.

Drive a Gray Man Vehicle

Alexandra Paul, a famous actress from Baywatch, said “The cars we drive say a lot about us.” She probably did not have preppers in mind, but she is correct in that our vehicles do reflect upon us whether we like it or not. A “Zombie Response Vehicle” with a 4×4 emblem, lift, and overhead rack does not fit the Gray Man ideal vehicle description. If you removed the 4×4 emblem and other stickers with bug and tar remover, returned the chassis to stock, and stored extra gear inside you are getting a step better. If you tint the windows and have a blanket or privacy screen over any items in cargo areas, you are driving a Gray Man vehicle while maintaining almost all functionality.

Custom Survival Jeep
Nice Jeep, but too flashy for the gray man concept!

Act Like a Gray Man

Acting the part of an invisible person can be tough at times. Even if you appear as common as they come, you could be unlucky enough to arrive at the wrong place at the wrong time. Your interactions are important in these periods. If someone asks you “Are you heading to a safe house, do you have someplace safe to stay?” you can easily respond with “I am looking for [my brother.]” Deflecting questions without stopping or compromising your security is ideal. Ignoring people is not the best plan, since many people become agitated and could pursue you. Creating an alternate explanation ahead of time on whey you are out and about can help in stressful situations.

The Final Word

Having the ability to disappear into a crowd is a great skill for those looking to attain self-sustainability. People cannot target what they cannot identify, so ‘laying low’ in public view can help you avoid confrontation. Whether you are dealing with SHTF or an everyday situation, hopefully these tips will help you stay safe and secure.

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Becoming the Gray Man

Rusty Collins

I am an engineer, Air Force veteran, emergency manager, husband, dad, and experienced prepper. I developed emergency and disaster plans around the globe and responded to many attacks and accidents as a HAZMAT technician. I have been exposed to deadly chemical agents, responded to biological incidents, and dealt with natural disasters. Check out my full story here: Rusty's Story

5 thoughts on “Becoming the Gray Man – the Skill of Constant Camouflage

  • I’d like to cite your work in this article. Could you send me your name so you can get proper credit?

    • Simply SG @ TruePrepper will do. We value our anonymity and OPSEC more than our ‘fame.’ Let us know what you come up with, as I’d love to take a look!

  • This will be difficult i think. My clothes may be unassuming, but I look like I came off safari in the outback; no Kakis though. My clothes, hat and boots look a bit worn and beat up, but it may still be a problem.

  • The First problem here, is in your fantasy SHTF world.
    Camo has become the new Norm, so have all kinds of Back packs.
    What do you think everyone will be wearing post SHTF, Business suits?
    Not after day 1. they will all be looking to dig out the camo, hunting gear, etc and wear that.

    The second problem is that as a ” grey man”, (post SHTF), you are one of the Sheep.
    Now Wolves like sheep, they are good targets. (Wolves do not target other Wolves).
    Just like criminals like soft , unarmed, or ill equipped targets, not armed ones, not Police or Military or those types of people.
    So guess who will be targeted? Sheep and “Grey Men”.
    Most likely you will not be facing one person, but a gang or group. This is where the dynamic changes.
    They will target, lone targets, small groups or unarmed groups. Groups that they can control, loot, rob or rape.
    If you really wanted to avoid confrontations, a ghillie suit and some good Escape and Evasion tactics would probably be a better choice.

    The same goes some what for the vehicle you are driving. (assuming that most vehicles are running.)
    The better prepared it looks, will project that you are prepared to fight to keep your stuff.
    Since most of these people will be bullies and thieves, they will look elsewhere for their stuff.
    Why get killed trying to take a well equipped persons stuff, when their are so many unprepared or only semi prepared fools, that you can easily take their stuff and not risk getting killed?
    These people are not stupid.
    Now if you choose to look unprepared, great. But plan on being a target and having to defend your self and your stuff and probably get killed doing so, while they will be leaving the more prepared looking people alone.

    In most of America, people are armed with guns and knives and if you don’t think they will be carrying them POST SHTF, think again.
    Once the ROL is gone, people will be carrying weapons openly.
    A new study found there were 11.5 million hunters in America.
    When the number of hunters in just one state, can be greater than most countries total number of military forces, you may begin to see the picture of what it will really look like POST SHTF.

    To much of this thinking is based upon what is considered ” normal” today, not what will be “normal”, Post SHTF.

    • Gray man is about fitting into your surroundings. If the surroundings change as you believe they will, then so would someone following the gray man principle.


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