Letter Re: Should I Buy Camouflage Web Gear?

I’m looking at various load bearing equipment (LBE), spurred by today’s writing contest entry and several pro-gun friends who have been harping on my lack of LBE. They make the same point as you do – if you can’t carry it, why have it?

I see a lot of very nice, military or military-looking LBE equipment. Like a tactical vest with magazine pouches and hydration bladders and so forth. And I can get nice military or military-looking clothes (in [digital camouflage] ACU [pattern], for example). I drool over the cool looking gear.

However, other than the magazine pouches, most of the same equipment (hydration, backpack, medical kit, et cetera) can be bought from outdoor equipment stores. In non-military-looking forms. Think REI vs. ACU. [JWR Adds: For our foreign readers: REI is a major chain of outdoor gear stores that caters to the Sierra Club backpacking crowd, that sells lots of backpacks and parkas in colors like red and royal blue.]

So here’s my question: In a TEOTWAWKI situation, where you are moving to a safe(er) place because you had to leave your refuge or you are out gathering supplies/trading/patrolling, do you really want to look like a well-put together military man in matching ACU clothes and gear? All nicely kitted out in black, olive drab, or ACU ninja wear™… Or do you want to look like somebody in a civilian outdoor camping/survival clothes that just happen to conceal a LBE with mags etc.? Same even goes for your rifle – the all black ninja AR-15 is a nice useful gun (I love mine!), but can you dress one up to look more like a bolt-action hunting rifle?

It just struck me that perhaps being all Rambo looking has its downsides. Upside is you might scare bad guys off, downside is if I was observing from concealment, nervously, Commando-man vs. REI-man I might just rather shoot Commando man in the head from as far away as I can and I might just want to observe/talk to REI man first, all other things being equal. Not 100% rational, but certainly real… Less extreme, looking more ad-hoc put together in your equipment and dress certainly helps not imply you have plenty of food, ammunition, and other supplies hidden away somewhere. (That is, you look like less of a target…)

Doubly so if it’s not all the way to post-apocalypse TEOTWAWKI and I’m a law enforcement officer. – Hugh

JWR Replies: When buying CamelBaks, rucksacks and various pouches, flat earth-tone colors are almost as effective as a printed camouflage pattern. I agree these solid color items are less likely to attract attention when walking down the street in “normal ” times. If need be, you could always spray paint a few blotches and streaks of contrasting color, after the balloon goes up. OBTW, I avoid buying black nylon gear just as much as a I do red or blue, since solid black is not a color that is often found in nature. Remember to stock up on some cans of truly flat (no gloss) brown and green spray paint!