On Camouflage

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October 8, 2013
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October 10, 2013
A couple of points to follow up on this topic:
This post isn’t about camouflage pattern clothing. So long as you are wearing appropriate camouflage or earth toned clothing, you are mostly good. I mean, for example, don’t wear desert camo in the woods, etc. Other than that, if you start getting into detailed discussions of things such as IR performance of camouflage clothing, when wet, when soaked in tabasco sauce, when soaked in Budweiser etc., then…..yawn….you are losing me…wake me up when you are done please…..my point: wear something appropriate, don’t disappear down a rabbit hole over it, just make it work. I wear Brit DPM because I like it, that’s all: it reminds me of the good old days and it works pretty well in the woods. Nothing more.
Oh…but don’t wear jeans in the field if you can avoid it, it’s nothing about the color, and blue jeans get dirty easy anyway – its just that they are appalling when wet and are very hard to dry. Never hike in jeans! Or bring on the chafing…..Also, if you find yourself bugging out having thrown your gear on, wearing inappropriate colored clothing, then just get it dirty and you will be good. 
On to the topic:
I posted some good old school video on Camouflage & Concealment and also Snipers. Lot’s of good info in those videos. A few points on camouflage & concealment:
Just go online and buy a ghillie suit, right? Job done, throw a bit of money at it….
Well, in fact a ghillie suit will mostly be impractical for you. A ghillie suit is designed for snipers. Are you a sniper? Have you the patience for a painstaking stalk followed by laying still for hours? Are you primarily a battlefield sensor, patient enough to lay for hours observing, logging, reporting, rarely considering taking an actual shot? I’m not a sniper, but I know a little bit about them, their capabilities and deployment.
Anyway, a ghillie suit is heavy and hot, it will mostly not serve you well except for specialist applications. Let’s look at alternatives. If you are defending your own AO, then rather than planning to go out with a ghillie suit you are best off digging in actual static OP positions. Depending on your ground, you may have a main overwatch position, but you may also have several positions that are required to observe your AO. 
The concept here is to camouflage the position, which is occupied by a sentry, rather than having to camouflage the sentry. So you will dig in a foxhole, with overhead cover and camouflage. Make sure it is not sky-lined and the background of the sentries head is blocked from silhouette. You will also need a covered way in and out so that changing the watch does not give the position away. Screening cloth can be used for this if there is no natural covered approach. This kind of LP/OP is a camouflage position that you use to observe your AO. 
If your AO does not lend itself to a single overwatch LP/OP than you can either have several covering all the sectors, or without manpower you may have additional hides that remain unoccupied most of the time. These can then be utilized by whoever is on patrol duty, in the form of a temporary OP or more accurately a standing patrol. A standing patrol is a short term patrol that is used to cover obstacles or dead ground that is not observable from the main position. If these temporary positions are elaborately dug in and concealed, just be aware, because there is a danger of an enemy finding and occupying them, so you will have to approach cautiously and clear them. For the temporary type position, it is better to have a basic place to lay down in cover, knowing you can observe the sectors from there. You may do this as part of your patrol rotation, just spending some time observing, or you may be tasked to go out and occupy the standing patrol position for a period of time. 
If you are moving, then it is useful to have a way to camouflage yourself more than the usual wearing of camo clothing and web gear. This is where you should consider the idea of ‘ghillie lite’ where you will add additional camouflage primarily to your head, your shoulders and your back. The aim is to break up the shape of your head and shoulders so that when you go prone, or when you are observing over or around cover, you are harder to spot. 
The first permanent part of this is to create a head net or helmet camouflage of permanent material,  of strips of burlap or camo style material sewn, glued or otherwise attached to your boonie hat/helmet (or to a net that you can put on, like a micro-ghillie) and also attached to the shoulders and back portion of your equipment/web gear/PC/harness etc.
You then need to have elastic strips sewn onto your hat/helmet and the shoulders/back of your gear so that you can add garnish of local vegetation appropriate to the environment.
This kind of camouflage system will be more than enough for standard infantry tasks, such as patrolling, raid, ambush, and will not impede you like a ghillie suit will.
If you are wearing a helmet, beware of the obvious shape and often shine/surface of these and you really need to use a helmet cover/elastic straps/ranger band to attach ghillie strips or a partial cam net and break up the shape of it.  Helmets are very obvious and easy to spot, particularly with no helmet cover on. Yes, I know it is tacticool and all ‘SOF’ to have no helmet cover, but that’s only because you are so high speed enemy rounds can’t catch you. For us mere mortals, camouflage the helmet!
Why are you wearing a helmet? Well, there are lots of reasons. It gives you ballistic protection, granted not against direct hits from high velocity rounds, but it will stop incoming low velocity rounds, shrapnel and you may get lucky with a glancing blow or a ricochet. However, even if you are not going to wear a ballistic helmet, for its protection, there is good reason to wear a lightweight helmet, pro-tech or even a cheap air-soft knock off. What is the reason? To avoid wearing a head crusher for your NVGs at night.
So, you may want to carry some form of helmet with an NVG mount to wear at night. If your helmet is kevlar, then you should also really put it on in the day if you are expecting contact. By which I mean you may not wear it if you are doing a sneaky activity such as a recce patrol, or in an OP, but you may want to put it on for an ambush, raid, or otherwise high risk activity where you expect incoming. 
The use of a kevlar helmet for protection also goes the way of the firepower/mobility/protection argument for plates – it may not be practical for you if your fitness is not up to it, and you may not be bothered with it anyway, because wearing a helmet is a pain – hence my suggestion to wear a lightweight one at night simply to mount NVGs to. If you don’t have NVGs, then forget everything I just said.

7 Comments

  1. Chuck says:

    Helmets also have the added benefit of protecting you from concussion or other head injuries when operating inside structures or vehicles. My ACH (current issue Army helmet) kept me from knocking myself out more than once when entering Afghan compounds with very low doorways and from cracking my head open inside my vehicle traveling over some very rough Afghan “roads.”

  2. Diz says:

    Agreed. As long as you are wearing something earth tone, I think movement technique usually trumps any camo pattern. The range at which a camo pattern makes any difference is so narrow that shape and movement will probably get you noticed way before it comes into play. Visible light vs NIR, wet/dry, etc. the counter-measures are still the same, terrain masking and movement technique.

    Ghillie suits are way too hot/heavy for most terrain, especially when moving. A simple garnish with sewn loops or small net (cut-down “sniper veil”) works well to break up head and shoulders silhouette. This is where 3-d camo comes into play- shape, texture as well as color. More important than any camo pattern.

    Helmets need covers. And preferably 3-d camo. Good place to mount NV if you have it.

    DPM is good kit but practically unavailable this side of pond. Old school woodland is still good camo as well. Not what the cool kids are wearing but probably just as effective, if not more so, than some of the current stuff.

  3. Anonymous says:

    LP OP AO IR SOF NV . . W.T.F.?

    • Chuck says:

      @anon October 11, 2013 at 6:05 AM:

      LP/OP = Listening Post/Observation Post
      AO = Area of Operations
      IR = Infrared
      SOF = Special Operations Forces
      NV = Night Vision

  4. Anonymous says:

    Do You like the pro-tec bump helmet ?

  5. Dirty Bill says:

    Hey Max,I have been enjoying reading the blog. I have a helmet question. I have a carbon fiber/kevlar motorcycle helmet that i may recycle into a battle helmet when I buy a new motorcycle helmet. It would be better than nothing,Ii think.

    Do you think it would be a waste of time and effort though,and I just pass on ahelmet entirely and just wear a boonie hat or something similar? I don’t have any training,but I would sure like to take your course. Thanks for any input. Bill