The last thing you want when prepared for an emergency is to stand out in any sort of crowd. And there is a good chance that when the S initially HTF, you will be dealing with unpredictable, chaotic situations in which you might be vulnerable. In these situations, be the gray man.
You absolutely do NOT want others to know that you are more prepared than they are. That is a sure-fire way to attract the wrong kind of attention. Instead, you need to blend in. Becoming the gray man allows you to do this.
The gray man doesn’t stand out. The gray man doesn’t seem any different from anyone else. Most of all, the gray man is good at hiding in plain sight.
This makes you less of a target. People will be less likely to approach you for any reason. It also makes it easier to move through the crowd and get to where you want to go.
And becoming a gray man isn’t difficult. But it does take some knowledge and preparation. I have broken this information up into three different sections, which represent the three different broad scenarios in which you might find yourself. These are At Home, On the Move, and Nighttime Camouflage.
Let’s take a look…
We have a tendency to feel safe at home and this can lead to complacency. Do NOT let this happen. You need to be just as vigilant—if not more—at home than you are anywhere else.
At home you have friends and neighbors who know you. These people come into your home. They borrow your lawnmower. They have you over for dinner and drinks. And these are the people you’ll feel the guiltiest about when you tell them you can’t help them after the SHTF.
With that in mind, here are some tips to being a gray man in the home environment.
1. NEVER let anyone know you are prepared. They should not know about your extra food, water, and supplies. They should not know about your security and defenses. Everything should be hidden well enough that even your nosiest neighbors have no idea of what you have on your property.
2. When you engage in political conversation with neighbors, keep any out of the ordinary political or world views to yourself.
3. Don’t dress in tactical clothing on a regular basis. Just LOOK as normal as possible!
4. Engage in OPSEC at all times—even before disaster strikes. You always need to know what is going on around your home.
5. When you make purchases, especially large ones, bring them home discreetly. And when you have deliveries being shipped your home, this is even more important because it’s harder to do. Piles of boxes of MREs WILL raise red flags for the neighbors. Try to take care of these things when the majority of people are away from home (such as at work for the day).
6. Cut out shipping labels from deliveries with a box cutter. It’s best not to have the names of the companies you’re buying from sitting out in the recycling pile for everyone to see.
7. If you are going to the range to practice, be discreet when loading your weapons into your vehicle.
8. When the SHTF, it will take people a few days to really wonder what’s happening and a few more to get really desperate. The gray man is out there every day, asking the same questions as the neighbors. What’s happening? When is help coming? Have you been able to get gas or money? We’re going to run out of food soon if help doesn’t arrive. The key is, if you look as desperate as everyone else, they won’t suspect you are going home to a decent meal, security, and relative comfort.
9. If the power is out, keep your home as dark as everyone else’s at night. You don’t want to attract attention.
10. Don’t let the smell of food go wafting from your home at all hours. That will let everyone know from miles around that you have food. There are ways of cooking that produce very little smell. For example, boiling water and use it to warm up and hydrate freeze-dried foods.
11. Don’t announce your comings and goings on social media. Letting the online world know you’re going to be away from home for a while can set you up to get robbed or looted.
12. Know how to get off the digital grid. This means giving up your smartphone, getting off social media, and paying for purchases with cash or gift cards. If you have to be online, use HTTPS to keep your connection secure, use a virtual private network (VPN), and get a secret email address. Change all passwords frequently. Use Proton Mail!
On the Move
As much as staying at home would be the preferred situation, sometimes we need to bug out. And sometimes, we get caught away from home when disaster strikes.
Either way, we need to know how to become the gray man in the city or in a rural area when moving among people who aren’t prepared. Here are some tips to help you do that divided into a number of basic categories:
13. Always work out ahead of time the type of people, culture, and weather you are most likely to be in. Plan your general appearance based on that. Remember, staying concealed does not mean wearing a hoodie in the middle of August in Florida.
14. If you are able to plan ahead, wear neutral colors. You want to blend in with the surrounding city colors and the people as much as possible. Sure, people will still see you, but you won’t really stand out and attract attention the way someone in bright colors would. And NO tactical clothing.
15. The same goes for your backpack. This should be a neutral color, nothing bright that will stand out in a crowd. The less obvious it is that you even have a backpack the better it is for you.
16. Carry a get home bag. The chances of you getting caught away from home or a meetup point are high so you need supplies on hand to ensure you get there safely.
17. A backpack rain cover is your friend. Many preppers have tactical backpacks. These are definitely the better choice when it comes to utility and durability, but they stand out too much—especially in the city. For this reason, a rain cover is ideal. This makes it easy to cover the backpack so it isn’t obvious and the tactical features are concealed. Absolutely no tactical clothing or accessories should be visible.
18. Use pockets in clothing and your backpack to conceal tactical gear. Nothing shiny or obvious should be visible.
19. Extra camouflage NEVER hurts. Scuff up your rain cover or backpack to make it look less desirable. Put duct tape, dirt, or anything else on it that will make it look less desirable.
20. Carry an item or two with you that you can use to change the way you look quickly. This might be a hat, a different jacket, or a wig and sunglasses.
21. Avoid strong smelling deodorants or perfumes. Smells can attract attention. That attention might be innocent at first, but then people might notice you have more than they have.
22. Behavioral camouflage is critical. This is the same idea as when you were at home, asking the same questions as all the neighbor. Act as though you are just as lost as confused as the rest of the crowd to avoid drawing attention of your unnatural level of confidence.
23. Confrontation must be avoided at all costs. Keep your head down and act like everyone else. If someone seems aggressive, do your best to stay away from them.
24. Avoid eye contact with everyone. Even if you act as though you are panicking like everyone else, your eyes will tell the truth. Plus, once you make eye contact, it will be a lot harder to ignore others who need help and it will be a lot harder for them to forget you.
25. Always make it appear that you are simply going with the flow of the crowd. Move as naturally as possible and gradually make your way in the direction you want to go.
26. If something extraordinary happens, act as astonished and panicked as everyone else.
27. If you do speak to anyone, be very careful about what you say. Antagonism is not your friend. Keep your speech in line with what you are hearing around you.
28. Even when you are doing something relatively normal, make it as mundane as possible.
29. Maintain situational awareness, but don’t make it obvious. You might be acting like everyone else, but in reality, you should be assessing who and what are around you at all times.
30. Do a risk assessment of any potential destination. You might not be able to head home. Maybe you need to take shelter or get off the streets. But before you head to any location, you need to be sure it is safe and accessible.
31. Know your surrounding area, including streets and landmarks, as well as possible. This will allow you to better navigate the crowd while appearing natural. It will also help you avoid areas where there is more likely to be trouble.
32. If you need to move away from the main crowd, try to blend in with a smaller group of people. Get just close enough to look like you are with them.
33. If you need to do something that will be noisy, then try to time it with some sort of natural background noise. For example, breaking a window can be done as a siren or bus goes by.
34. Carry all your important documents on you at all times via an encrypted USB. If you ever need to go off the grid at a moments notice, at least you’ll have all the documents you need with you, just in case.
35. Protect your credit cards from RFID thieves. Use an RFID blocking wallet.
36. Clean up after yourself while traveling during an emergency. Leaving trash or poop behind can alert bad guys that there’s prey in the area. Having a trowel in your backpack could help you bury the poop.
It might be dark, but that doesn’t mean you won’t attract attention. Camouflage at night requires some special considerations, including the following:
37. If things are really bad, move at night to avoid being seen. Keep to the shadows as much as possible.
38. Keep the noise down. It is likely to be quieter at night and sound carries, even in the city.
39. No fire! Use a JetBoil type of system instead of building a fire to avoid extra light exposure.
40. Avoid smells. Cooking food will create smells that will attract people. Use water to rehydrate freeze-dried foods or simply eat your meals cold if necessary.
And Above all…
41. Know when to go from being the gray man to not being noticed at all, to not existing. After all, there may come a time when being “one of the crowd” might not be to your advantage. Maybe they are being attacked or reigned in by the military.
At this point you need to camouflage and completely disappear. A quick donning of a poncho is good. Ducking out of sight at the first opportunity is good. Using chaos as a distraction is good. You will have to gauge the situation and use what is available to you to perform your vanishing act.
The goal behind the tips provided above is to avoid any stimuli that would either attract attention immediately or make someone more inclined to remember you later on. You simply do NOT want to make any impression on anyone—no matter how innocent or ordinary and non-threatening they are.
Your number one goal is to get yourself and your loved ones to safety. Being the gray man significantly increases your chances of doing that so you can live to see another day.
If you have any other tips on becoming a gray man, please let us know in the comments section below!