How to Be a Gray Man

This is an updated guide on How to Be a Gray Man from the original several years ago. We updated content regularly as we learn new skills ourselves and as the world changes around us.

Becoming a gray man requires a great deal of self-discipline so you can understand 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 nondescript 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.

Contents (Jump to a section)

What is a Gray Man?

The term ‘Gray Man’ (or ‘Grey Man’) is a description for someone that is downplaying their skillsets and resources by looking unassuming and blending in.

While the term is “Gray Man”, this practice can obviously apply to both men and women.

Why Be a Gray Man?

At some points in everyday life, emergencies, and SHTF situations you will not want to be noticed, and especially not noticed as someone with resources or specific skills.

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 in SHTF situations, they are best accomplished as a gray man.

How to Be a Gray Man

Here are some tips on how to be a gray man:

  1. Dress conservatively: Wear clothes that don’t stand out and are appropriate for the environment you are in. Avoid wearing bright colors or clothes with large logos or branding.
  2. Keep a low profile: Don’t draw attention to yourself by being loud, boisterous, or overly friendly. Avoid making eye contact with strangers and keep your body language neutral.
  3. Don’t advertise your wealth: Avoid wearing expensive jewelry or carrying expensive electronics, as these can make you a target for thieves.
  4. Be prepared: Have a plan in case of emergency or threat. Know the layout of the area you are in and have a way to escape if necessary.
  5. Blend in: Try to match the behavior of those around you. If everyone is walking quickly, don’t walk slowly. If everyone is speaking quietly, don’t talk loudly.

Remember, being a gray man is about being inconspicuous and not standing out from the crowd. It takes practice and awareness to master, but it can be an effective way to stay safe in potentially dangerous situations.

Gray Man Clothing

Overly tactical clothing and camouflage are 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 contrary 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. Our survival and gray man clothing picks can usually check the boxes:

Condor Tactical Cap
Carhartt Midweight Base Crew Shirt
Helikon Tex GTP Greyman Pants

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. Wearing masks is still popular in some areas reminiscent of the pandemic, and are good to wear if it will help you blend in.

People unknowingly make associations and observations when they look at another person’s face- it is programmed into our biology.  Precipitation and cold weather allow 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.

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 why you are out and about can help in stressful situations.

Noise Discipline

Being loud and boisterous obviously won’t help you blend in, but you can do even better than that. Moving quietly can go a long way to being unnoticed.

When you have gear on you, have it secured so it’s not clattering around when you move around. Usually, this means keeping gear inside a bag rather than strapped to MOLLE on the exterior, but we’ll get more into that below.

Walk Like a Gray Man

Your gait and the routes you take say a lot about you. Try walking similarly 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 to follow a group on a longer path.

Use Your Nose

Smells can be offensive, nostalgic, and everywhere in between. Food smells can be detected from a distance by hungry people, and some cultures can even be identified by the smell of the food they recently ate.

The sense of smell is often overlooked but it can betray you and give you information. Be aware of how you smell to others- even pleasant smells may not blend in.

Use Mindfulness

Mindfulness gives us a powerful toolkit to regulate ourselves in any situation- especially the stressful ones.

Focus on your thoughts so that you don’t act brashly, and use breathing exercises to keep your heart rate down and mind clear. One mistake in a survival situation as a reaction to a stressful event can throw all of your survival skills and preparedness out the window.

Of course, we have a whole guide on mindfulness for survival.

Prepper Zen - Mindfulness in Prepping

Situational Awareness

You don’t have to be hyperaware of your surrounding to have situational awareness, but you can pick up some habits that’ll help you notice more.

You can improve your situational awareness just by following a few tips:

  1. Keep your head up: Don’t walk with your head down or with headphones on. Be aware of what is happening around you. At the same time, do not make unnecessary eye contact (this is more of a gray man tip, than situational awareness).
  2. Trust your instincts: Trust your gut if something doesn’t feel right.
  3. Be an active listener: Listen for noises or weird sounds that are out of place.
  4. Assess potential threats: Be aware of any suspicious individuals or behaviors, such as someone loitering near you or following you.
  5. Stay alert in crowded places: Crowded places such as airports, malls, and public transit can be especially risky. Public transit attacks are up in the US.
  6. Be prepared to act: Have a plan in case of emergency or threat. Make it a part of your basic emergency plan if it relates to a routine activity.
  7. Face the entrances/exits: Being able to see ways in and out of areas can be important to know of any developments and knowing the accessibility of these routes.

By practicing these tips, you can improve your situational awareness and be better prepared to respond to potential threats. Here is a good exercise on how perceptive you can be:

Drive Like a Gray Man

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.

Applying the gray man concept to your vehicle is smart, whether it is your daily driver or your bug out vehicle.

Low Profile Bags and Accessories

While you may not be carrying 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. We researched and tested the best gray man backpacks and we cover all of this much more in-depth.

5.11 Tactical COVRT18 2.0 Gray Man Stealth Backpack

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 which is a little girl’s bag. This is great deception when you are not with the bag.

However, when you carry the bag it is obvious that something is out of place, which is the 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.

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.

Here are some other guides our subscribers have found helpful:

Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.

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How to Be a 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 “How to Be a Gray Man

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

    • Simply Rusty @ 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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