6 Concealment Tactics from an Army Scout

6 Concealment Tactics from an Army Scout

Are you looking to buy some new camo for your next hunt? A prepper trying to determine how to stay hidden for recon patrols and hide your fighting positions? A Soldier wanting to learn some new concealment tactics for that upcoming field exercise? Or an airsoft maverick wanting to one up your next opponent? This article is for you! I am going to share with you the 6 secrets for mastering the art of camouflage, any seasoned vet knows, and a lot of you may have heard of, just never thought about putting it all together. So without further ado lets get started.

#1 Sound Is Your Enemy

Sound is one of the easiest ways to detect someone or something in a tactical situation. Often hunters or someone conducting an ambush will first be alerted to enemy presence by sound. How many airsoft players or Soldiers hunkered down in an ambush position are just waiting for a sound? Then you begin a visual search in the direction of the sound until you find what is making the sound. Here are some great tips for reducing your audible signature.

  • Use hand and arm signals whenever possible (click infographic for larger view).
  • If you MUST speak, whisper directly into person’s ear.
  • Use an ear wick with all radio transmitters.
  • This is obvious, but completely silence your cell phone, even on vibrate it can be heard.
  • Tape up buckles, slings, hanging straps on packs, dog tags, etc. You can also use rubber bands or cut up inner tubes to make “Ranger bands”.
  • Be mindful of the material your clothing and pack is made from as nylon and Gore-Tex, tends to make noise when rubbed against branches, brush, or itself.
  • Avoid Velcro closures on clothing and gear, use buttons or zippers instead. Take some ChapStick and apply a thin layer of it to zippers to make them not only work better, but be more silent.
  • Remember that engines on vehicles and generators can be heard for long distances. Stack sandbags around generators to help dampen the sound.
  • Avoid stepping on twigs and branches in the woods, step down toe first to help with keeping quiet.
  • Move during the rain to assist in the masking of noise you may produce.
  • Water sloshing in your canteen can be heard further than you think.
  • Soundproof gear in your pack by wrapping it in clothing (camp stove, canteen cup, tent stakes/poles, ammo, etc.
  • Use background noise to your advantage. Trucks, generators, aircraft, strong winds, people talking, and gunfire can mask your sound.
  • Reduce your pace to avoid emitting a pattern of noise (i.e. several broken twigs in a row will alert the enemy).

#2 Smell Can Be Detected From Miles Away

If you have ever known a former smoker, they can attest to how far away cigarette smoke can be smelled.

I remember when I first left for basic training at Fort Knox, KY I was a smoker. Then I was forced to quit at basic training. We were billeted (assigned to sleep) at the Disney Barracks. I swear to you I could smell the drill sergeants smoking from the third floor, and they were 300 yards away outside in a smoking shack.

If you have ever been in an austere environment without the ability to bathe for more than a week or more you know how far away perfumes, deodorant, soap, and laundry detergent can be smelled.

I’ve been deployed several times to Iraq and/or Afghanistan and anyone can tell you a female’s perfume or deodorant can be smelled longggg before you ever see them, because we rarely smelled perfume.

I have several tips for you on how to mask or remove your scent below.

  • Do not use scented laundry detergent! Tide, Gain, etc smell clean but are loaded with perfumes that can be detected from a distance. Instead, use unscented detergents or make your own with baking soda and borax. Click here to check price for my favorite unscented laundry detergent.
  • Same goes for dryer sheets. Don’t even use a dryer if you normally dry clothes with dryer sheets, instead use a clothesline to avoid scents that may be trapped inside your dryer.
  • Avoid tobacco when trying to remain camouflaged. Smoking and/or smokeless tobacco can give your position away (especially cigarettes or pot).
  • Do not build a fire. The smoke can be seen for miles during the day and the light and smell will give you away at night.
  • Do not cook food. If someone has been without food for several days they can detect even the smell of an MRE heating up in the chemical heater from a distance. If stalking or setting an ambush, try to eat dry trail food if you must.
  • Clean your body with just water, no soap. Once you are done do not splash on aftershave or deodorant.
  • Avoid handling or using gasoline or oil, as they too emit a strong odor that can be detected.
  • Pay special attention to wind speed and direction, and approach game or your objective from downwind, to avoid the wind carrying your scent directly to your adversary.
  • Avoid contamination. You can follow all these rules, but if you go to the local Waffle House to eat, your buddy smokes half a pack of cigarettes en route to your tree stand, or you spill coffee on you, all this will be for nothing.

#3 Avoid unnatural shapes/outlines on yourself and equipment

Unnatural things catch your eye in nature. Things such as straight lines, curves (like your ACH), or your shoulders all stand out; therefore, the pattern should be broken up with branches, or cloth. Below are some general tips to help eliminate patterns in outlines and shapes.

  • If wearing a cap or helmet break up the perfect curves by sticking fresh branches or long grass in it.
  • Once in position, conceal your area with branches/brush from your surrounding area. Pro Tip: Remember to change out your concealment every so often, as dead brush/branches can draw attention.
  • Don’t build a blind in an area it would not be normally found in (i.e. Don’t build a brush blind in an open field of tall grass).
  • If stalking game or establishing an observation post to observe your adversary, use a ghillie suit. You can make or buy a ghillie suit at reasonable prices, click here to check out the ghillie suit pictured at Amazon. Pro Tip: Pack your ghillie suit and put it on when you get into position. They can be hot and heavy, especially during foot movement over cross-country distances. There is a great article on the Outdoor Life site that shows a DIY Ghillie Suit click here to check it out.
  • If digging earthworks or bunkers of any type remember to disperse the spoil (dirt that comes out of the hole). Freshly disturbed dirt can be discolored from topsoil and stand out.
  • Camo netting is a good way to disrupt shapes and outlines from the sky. Some netting also contains a wire mesh which can distort radar.
  • Avoid skylining yourself or vehicles. This means creating a perfect outline on hills or ridges because there is nothing but sky behind you. In the illustration on the right, the Soldier at the top of the hill is skylined, the other is not.
  • When crossing obstacles such as logs, walls, or fences stay as low as possible when crossing to reduce the change of you creating an outline over the top.

#4 Use Color and Texture to Blend In

With camouflage, you either try to break up any patterns to look like you are not there, or you try to look like something else. Color and texture both help with this process. Texture helps to add shadows or the appearance of shadows and color allows you to blend into your surroundings (or make you stick out if done incorrectly). I have put together some tips to help with color and texture outlined below.

  • Black is not a good camouflage. No matter how many ninja suits or PMCs you see on TV, professionals do not wear all black as it never occurs naturally in nature. You think it looks like a dark shadow during the day? It looks like a black spot that contrasts against most environments.
  • Each climate and environment has unique patterns that blend in better than others (i.e. swamp, arctic, jungle, desert, deciduous forest, and pine forest). A pattern with a slash tends to work best everywhere except deciduous forests and arctic regions (for those use blotchy patterns). Use items from the area when you can; mud, pine boughs, tall grass, etc as they make some of the best camos.
  • Equipment should be painted with blotchy patterns, and always a matte or flat paint to avoid shine. Camo netting is also great for quick camouflage for vehicle garage sites, ATVs, etc. as it adds some texture and shadows. Amazon has some great deals on modular camo netting that you can piece together with zip ties or 550 cord as needed. Check prices by clicking here.
  • Digital camo gets most of the rage these days, and for good reason. While I have never been a fan of the Army’s UCP their OCP pattern works well in many environments. Just remember that it was selected because it works well in MOST environments, but not BEST in any environment. If you are going with a commercial camouflage pattern, do some research on what the environment looks like around where you plan to use it.
  • Don’t forget to cover areas you wouldn’t normally cover such as hands, face, and neck. You can use a scarf or face veil to assist with your neck and face. Camo face paint works well, paint the areas that catch more light (forehead, cheekbones, nose) with darker colors and cover recessed areas (around eyes and below the chin) with lighter covers. Don’t forget the ears!
  • Pro Tip: Makeup remover, if available, is what I have found to work best to remove face paint.

#5 How to reduce glint (reflection off binoculars or scopes)

Reflective surfaces are all around us, and most of the time we do not realize it. Sunshades, binoculars, scopes, windshields, and greasy skin are just a few of the things that can reflect sunlight and give away your position. Here are my tips to mitigate that shine…

  • Keep scopes and binos covered when not in use. There are also some mesh covers that allow you to see through them while reducing the shine. My favorite is an ARD (anti-reflective device) and is also known as a kill flash. They look like a small honeycomb and are made to fit most scopes and binoculars. To check them out on Amazon click here.
  • When we sweat our skin gets oily. Oil reflects sunlight more than you think. The easiest way is to use camouflage face paint, a mask, or scarf. If using paint reapply often as your oily skin will make it run.
  • As weapons become scratched and banged up with use, the metal will shine. Use a weapon wrap, burlap, or dab scratches with a sharpie to knock the shine off.
  • Metal buckles and boot eyelets can also shine if the paint is scratched off, use a sharpie to color them in.
  • Cover vehicle windows with a camo net when not in use. During use, pre-apply a thin layer of dust or ash to knock the shine off. (don’t forget the mirrors.
  • Remember your watch and jewelry can produce shine if the sun hits it just right. You can get a special watch band that covers it when not in use, or wrap with a olive green bandage.
  • Sunglasses, even the army approved protective eyewear, will shine if the sun hits it right. As annoying as it may be, a thin layer of dust will help reduce the shine.
  • If using a belt-fed machine gun remember the brass from the belt ammo will shine like there is no tomorrow. Don’t put dust on the ammo (really?), instead cover with a cloth bandanna, at least until you need to make it talk.

6 Night Camouflage: Light Discipline and Staying Invisible to NVDs

The Army works hard to own the night, and these few tips can help you remain undetected when the lights go out.

  • Don’t build a fire, if you do use a Dakota fire pit, just remember the smell can travel miles.
  • Don’t smoke. If you absolutely must smoke, put a poncho or tarp over your head and do it. That small ember at the end can be seen for days in thermals, night vision goggles, or even with the naked eye of your game or adversary.
  • Use a red filter on your flashlight. It can still be seen, but not as far away, and it will protect your night vision.
  • Camouflage patterns matter when viewed through a night vision device. Some appear as solids, even though during the day they do not.
  • If you have to use your flashlight, throw a blanket or tarp over your head first. If someone is injured and needs treatment do the same thing, do it under the blanket.
  • If firing a weapon there is a nice device called a flash hider. It will help with the flame that will come out of the barrel, which is what your enemy will focus all their fire towards.

In Conclusion

I hope you learned something in this post. I know it was a great refresher for me. After reading these tips, you should have a better understanding of camouflage and why the military and hunters care so much about it. Being undetectable to the enemy or that trophy buck is a lot easier if they don’t detect you first. Did I forget something? Do you have some good tips or secrets for camouflage or remaining undetected? Please share in the comments below.

Chris Mathis

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