Letter Re: Camo Pattern Clothing

Gentlemen:

An inexpensive and non-standard substitute can be made from off-the-shelf khaki and light gray trousers and oversize long sleeve shirts and some clothing dye.

I’d suggest one size larger than one normally wears, to hide body outline, permit freedom of movement, and allow for an insulating layer. Thrift stores are good sources, and faded colors are a plus.

If one is a purist, it’s advisable to take along a UV light source when shopping; once clothing is washed in detergent with brighteners, it’s UV reflective pretty much for the life of the garment. (Editor’s Addition: Ditto if they have ever been starched.) There’s debate about animals’ ability to see UV, but none about the ability of modern night vision equipment to see it; a small UV source will make one glow in the dark to anyone equipped with NV goggles.

If one is fortunate enough to locate clothing that hasn’t been washed with brighteners– a difficult task– always wash it separately with detergent that does not contain brighteners, and it’s best to first “flush” the washing machine with a plain hot water cycle to ensure all brightener-enhanced detergent has been flushed.

Lay the clothing out on a clean flat surface that’s protected from dye penetration (brown kraft paper on top of plastic sheeting works), mix the clothing dye a little thinner than the directions call for, and brush on lightly in random patterns, slightly overlapping the colors (medium brown, forest green, and charcoal gray are good for khaki, tan is achieved by allowing some of the khaki to remain untinted; for medium gray clothing, substitute a medium tan dye for the charcoal gray and allow some of the gray material to remain untinted). If the thinned dye doesn’t produce the desired result, it’s easier to add a second application than remove what’s been applied.

The goal is a non-sharp edged completely random pattern of light-to-medium density colors. When done, there should be no part of the clothing that stands out from any other part. (BTW, ironing is verboten; creases stand out, while small wrinkles create shadows and help with blending in.)

Needless to say, such camouflaged clothing is usually incompatible with urban environments. For those areas, gently faded grays and medium browns with a few slightly darker random areas works better, and a mix of faded colors is best (gray pants and shirt together, or the same combination in any shade of brown, even if “home camouflaged” will resemble a uniform, and that’s best avoided); the goal here is to present as non-descript and random an image as possible. – N.K.

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