The Fine Art of Camouflage

Amongst the various aspects of survival is the problem of keeping others from killing you. The unfortunate reality is that mankind really isn’t as civilized as we pretend we are. In the face of a crisis, it’s easy for us to fall back to our base instincts, strip off the cloak of respectability and become almost animal-like in our quest for survival. That includes killing others if it increases your chance for survival. Of course, to kill you they have to find you… and that’s where camouflage comes in.

The idea of camouflage (at least on a military basis) was actually invented by the Russians, who used it to great effect in hiding from the Germans. As armies are wont to do, the rest of the world quickly saw the benefits and followed their example. Before long, the bright-colored uniforms that soldiers had worn to identify their nation were replaced by camouflage uniforms to help them blend in to their surroundings.

But the idea of camouflage goes back even farther than that. The American Indians were masters of camouflage, blending into their surroundings as they fought the westward settlement. Some tribes, like the Apaches, were so skilled at camouflage that they could sneak up on a man holding his horse’s reins and steal the horse, without being seen.

In the Revolutionary War, the American militia used this skill of the Indians, essentially fighting a guerrilla war against the British Army. Not being a professional army, they didn’t know that they were doing things wrong; but it worked quite well for them.

What Makes Camouflage Work?

When we talk about camouflage, most people think of the colors, as camouflage uniforms and clothing are usually printed in colors and with patters to match the surrounding country. While color is an important factor, it’s not the major factor. Camouflage is more about breaking up the outline of the person and their gear, than it is about blending in to the surrounding colors.

Break up the Shape

The human body is one of the most easily recognizable shapes. That’s mostly because it is one of the shapes we are most familiar with. It is easy to spot a person in the woods, simply because of the shape of their body. To make it hard to spot them, it is necessary to break up their outline.

This breaking up of the outline is done by a combination of things. First of all, the pattern of the camouflage provides a lot of irregular shapes, allowing the eye to follow the lines of those shapes out of the perimeter of the body and into the surrounding landscape. When the colors of the camouflage come close to matching the surrounding foliage or terrain, the outline of the body can virtually disappear.

The second thing that helps to break up the outline is to wear baggy clothing. That way, the cloth makes folds and bumps that don’t conform to the shape of the body. If you look at the camouflage uniforms that the Army and Marines have used since the Vietnam War, you’ll see that the clothing sizes are designed to allow the cloth to hang loosely about the body, unlike the Fatigue uniform, which was supposed to be worn like fitted clothes.


Don’t Forget Your Equipment

This idea of breaking up the outline has to go beyond the clothing and into the individual’s equipment as well. Nature doesn’t have any straight lines in it. About the closest you can get is a tree branch, but that’s not really straight. Yet, the things that we humans make almost always have straight lines. That stands out in the wilderness. The solution is to use camouflage netting or sacking around those objects, breaking up their outline as well.

Loosely wrapping a rifle with camouflage cloth in such as way as to not cover the working parts can do wonders to hide that rifle. This is much more effective than having the rifle painted in a camouflage pattern. While the camouflage pattern will help the color to blend in, it really doesn’t do much to hide the straight lines. The same camouflage pattern on cloth will break up the straight lines, helping it blend in to the environment.

Camouflaging the Face


The hardest thing to camouflage is the human face. The face is actually the first thing that a baby learns to recognize and we spend our lives looking at the variety of faces around us. This indelibly imprints the basic features of the face into our memory, in such a way that we easily recognize the various different styles of faces, regardless of where they come from or what they look like.

To camouflage the face, it is necessary to play tricks with the eye. We don’t readily recognize it, but much of what we recognize as shape and form comes from the shadows that are created by the object we are looking at. That’s why artists learn to shade the bottom side of a ball, making it look like it is in shadow. Our minds recognize that shading as the ball having shape.

The face has its own shadows, which help us to identify it for what it is; so, we need to mess with those shadows, in order to break up the shape of the face. This is easy to do with camouflage makeup.

Military camouflage makeup is two-toned, although some civilian versions come three-toned. The idea is to use the darker colored makeup on the
high points of the face and the light colored makeup on the areas that would normally be in shadow. So, the forehead, nose and cheekbones receive the dark makeup and the area under the nose, the eye sockets, the lower parts of the cheeks and under the chin all receive light makeup.When looked at in normal light, this camouflage patter makes the face look flat, without form. The natural shadows are falling in areas where the light makeup is applied, making them appear darker. The natural highlights from the sun are falling on areas that are dark, effectively lightening them. This creates an overall impression that is indistinct, making it hard to recognize the shape of the face.

The Ghillie Suit

Through the years, military researchers have worked to find better and better camouflage patterns to use. This has caused the tiger stripes of the 1960s to be replaced by the BDUs of the 1970s. This, in turn, was replaced by the Army Combat Uniform, which is currently in use. However, this will not last, as in 2014 Scorpion W2 pattern will be replacing the computer-generated square dots of the Universal Camouflage Pattern currently in use.

One of the most ingenious uses of camouflage has been the Ghillie Suit. Ghillie Suits vary considerably, depending upon the terrain they are intended to be used in. Invented for use by snipers, they attach strips of loose cloth to the uniform, created to look like foliage. This breaks up the outline of the individual to the point where when lying prone, they are virtually invisible.

Camouflage for Your Survival

If you are forced to bug out from your home, you should consider having some camouflage clothing to wear. Don’t wear it as you are bugging out, as that will give away the fact that you are a prepper heading for the hills. But once you make it out to the wild, wearing camouflage can help you stay hidden from those who would try to take what you have. If they can’t find you, they can’t kill you.

Don’t just stop with camouflaging yourself either; camouflage your camp. Build it somewhere that you can hide it and then cover it up with foliage taken from the area where you are. Be sure to replace that foliage every couple of days, as it will change colors as it dries out.

Dave Steen

About The Author: Dave is a 58 year old survivalist; father of three; with over 40 years of survival experience. He started young, learning survival the hard way, in the school of hard knocks. Now, after years of study, he's gray-haired and slightly overweight. That hasn't dimmed his interest in survival though. If anything, Dave has a greater commitment to survival than ever, so that he can protect his family. Click Here To Read More About Dave

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