Letter Re: To Camo or Not To Camo?, by J.M.

Good morning, Hugh,

J.M.’s letter on camouflage is a good one. As for group members procuring the more expensive camo patterns, digital camo is nearly impossible to duplicate, but “generic casual camo” can be home made. Begin with clothing of an appropriate base color. Desert requires tan shirts and pants, woodland a medium brown, urban a medium gray, and so forth. (Don’t get shirts and pants in exactly the same base shade; it’ll look like a suit.) A few dollars of clothing dye, rubber gloves, and some rags or inexpensive paintbrushes will allow adding random shapes of complimentary colors. When fully dry – give it a day or longer – washing inside a cloth bag will help soften the colors. Other than fall leaves, there are very few naturally occurring bright colors in nature. Use warm water and no common household detergents to avoid restoring the UV brighteners. No detergent “kills” UV dyes, but most household detergents restore UV brighteners with every wash, and check the labels on the dyes you plan to use. Atsko makes soaps and a spray that reduce UV reflectivity, but by how much seems to depend on the fabric material and if brighteners were incorporated during manufacture.

Pro tip: If you’re serious about homemade camo, carry a UV flashlight to test the “base” clothing before you buy it. Amazon sells several, from about $7 to $20. Not a bad idea to test manufactured camo as well. It may have been manufactured with UV brighteners or washed in them.

2nd Pro tip: Since few people outside of the military, LE and serious hunters use UV lights, it’s possible to use dark materials as “guide material” if they will fluoresce dimly under UV light. They won’t show up well under a white light flashlight, but glow under black light. They will stand out somewhat under direct sunlight because it has a lot of UV in it.

Don’t forget “urban camouflage” – generic, nondescript clothing. Medium gray, light-medium gray, faded medium brown, or faded dark blue pants, faded medium brown or green T-shirt, faded loose fitting overshirt with a nondescript pattern, faded medium blue, worn gray, dark blue or charcoal baseball cap, scuffed leather shoes or boots, or dirty and worn generic running shoes that didn’t start out as white. FYI, many running shoes have reflective strips built in; it’s hard to find ones that don’t, but they can be located. Don’t forget laces; white ones will have had UV brighteners added during manufacture. The look you’re striving for is “unremarkable and forgettable.” Avoid anything with logos, they’re usually contrasting colors and too easily noticed and remembered. If what you need to carry won’t fit in pockets or on belts, smaller backpacks are less noticeable than large ones, scuffed and dirty is better than new and clean. Avoid jewelry, including wrist watches, or anything unique. Fit should be large enough to conceal, but not so large it’s baggy and raises suspicions about what you may be hiding. Avoid sharp creases and matching garments among couples or groups. Nothing says “pay attention to me” like several people wearing the same thing, even if that thing is only one article of clothing.

An oversize lightweight overshirt, in either generic “urban camo” or homemade field camo, can be tightly rolled up (folding produces creases, creases produce shadow lines, and straight lines shout “man made”) and used as temporary camo, even covering a small backpack if necessary. Urban camo can be easily covered with, or switched for, a woodland pattern as one leaves the asphalt jungle, and vice-versa.