In 2015, with the rollout of Operational Camouflage Pattern (OCP)—a slight variation of the Crye Multicam pattern, the U.S. Army announced that it is nearing the end of issuing the much-hated Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP, also known as the Army Combat Uniform or ACU), a conspicuous grayish blob pattern that is actually prominent against most natural backgrounds. The transition from the UCP to OCP Multicam is taking four years. The last day that the UCP uniforms are still authorized for wear for the U.S. Army will be September 30th, 2019.
All that I can say is, good riddance to the blob! In my estimation, the UCP is about the worst uniform issued since the French used sky blue tunics and pants in World War I. In the context of survivalism, the grayish UCP utility uniform is suitable for use perhaps only in sagebrush country. Because UCP uniforms and packs will be hitting the surplus market in huge numbers in the next two years, they will be bargain priced. I fear that some preppers might be tempted to buy them, just to “look military.” But unless you live in a region that is dominated by sagebrush, I must warn you: Don’t buy them! And if you think that you might be able to re-use them by adding more appropriately colored spray paint, then choose your paint very wisely. Many varieties of spray paint (even some “flat” types) on cloth are reflective to infrared (IR) and show up like a beacon to both active night vision equipment and to FLIR scopes. A study by HyperStealth Biotechnology Corporation found that one exception that has low near-IR reflectivity is Krylon Ultra-Flat, sold as “Krylon Camouflage.”
If you live in a forested region, the tried and true M81 Woodland BDU pattern is probably best. Alternatively, the British DPM 85 or 95 pattern or the very similar pre-2014 Dutch (a DPM-ish woodland pattern) also works quite well in the woods. But if you live a region with a mix of grasslands and woods, or even in arid country then the OCP Multicam is probably the best all-around choice, short of buying or making a ghillie suit to match your local flora.
A Horse of a Different Color
Preppers and survivalists who anticipate a breakdown of law and order need to think in terms of more than just the absolute ability to blend in to the background. They should avoid looking “just like the military issue”, because every Tom, Dick, and Harry out there will have access to that pattern. To explain: In a perimeter security situation where you need to rapidly distinguish friend from foe, retreat groups will need to set uniform standards that are fairly unique and hard for anyone else to replicate without considerable planning. This will minimize the risk of infiltrators just strolling into your perimeter. One such solution is easily sourced and cost effective: Simply standardize with wearing the pants from one camouflage pattern, and the shirts and jackets from another pattern. So, for example, you might standardize with OCP Multicam pants worn along with Woodland pattern shirts and jackets. This will provide effective camouflage yet also provide reliable friend-or-foe recognition at a distance.
Perhaps some SurvivalBlog readers would like to chime in with some other suggestions. – JWR