Emergency preparedness from a Counterintelligence Agent

How to dress for OPSEC and protect yourself

The Gray Man doesn’t wear gray.


Ok, maybe that’s not true in some cases because I have worn gray during surveillance, but hopefully you’ll get the point. Deciding what to wear for SHTF clothing to be the Gray Man is a simple concept, and it’s not just about color.

You typically want to wear what everyone else wears, keep they style and color mute, and dress for the weather; but not always; especially if you would be noticed wearing it. The problem is that you also have to wear what’s going to leave the least impression in addition to what’s tactically and logistically smart. It’s about visual Operations Security or OPSEC.

Imagine yourself at a fancy party. Guests with their hair perfect, wearing expensive jewelry and expensive designer clothing. Everyone is dressed to impress. Coming in dressed like a hippy may help keep people from knowing who you are but it’s is sure to draw attention from everyone but consider that if you dress like the rest, you may also be noticed. After the party, you may remember that person who had the suit that was obviously tailored to suit him perfectly. You may also remember the shimmering crimson silk dress as it flowed like it was under water.

You many not, however, remember the server who was silently making his rounds bringing drinks and taking away empty glasses. He’s the gray man. I’m not saying that the best answer is to always be the hired help; it is quite difficult to pull that off if you’re not trained and actually work there. What I’m saying is that the rules for dress aren’t always so cut and dry that you just need to wear gray to be the gray man.



Disguise is not cover

A lot of people assume that they should wear a disguise as a cover during a SHTF or disaster scenario. That’s not the point. The point is to not be noticed or remembered so you support your OPSEC or even PERSEC.
The first step is a proper recon of the area and its inhabitants. In order to fit in, not only do you need to have an idea about what stands out, you need to know just what does fit in at a particular location.
If you find that you’re in a semi-permissive environment and have to go into town or frequently travel through one, take some time to study the locals. What are they wearing? What are they doing? Is it normal for people to pass through the area or are strangers immediately noticed?

If you have an opportunity, sit for a while in the area of interest and observe. Some people call this ‘people-watching.’ What do you notice? Do you see the man directing a group of people on some task? Do you see the obvious prepper guy with all the 5.11 clothing on carrying the M-4 with all the goodies? Do you see the girl in the wife-beater t-shirt and shorts?

If you first take notice of why you take notice of something, you can start to see what not to wear. If you take time to analyze what you can gather about people by what they wear, you’ll start to see what others see. Basically, first you have to see what not to wear. From there, you can decide what you should wear. The gray man is the one who you didn’t notice.

Some clothing denotes social status, wealth or a great deal of resources. These are items such as designer clothes, dress shoes, jewelry, expensive tactical equipment etc. When you see someone wearing things like these, you automatically make certain judgements about them. You might assume that they have more than most. Most people know that if you walk around with a Rolex watch that people are going to take notice. That’s the whole reason they’re so popular even though they’re expensive.

Granted, they make a superb product and stand behind their name but people don’t make their decision to buy one based solely on the warranty. They want to be noticed. In a SHTF scenario, it’s not just the Rolex that will be noticed. For someone looking for a target of opportunity, this is fresh meat. People who wear these things get noticed. That’s why these things exist. The only exception may be if it’s the norm to wear these things. Then you have to consider if it would be better to change your normal routine to fit in. Just keep in mind that getting there and back may have you go through areas that may make you stand out.

What your clothing says about you

tactical pantsSome clothing makes people assume you have certain abilities or skills; or think you do, especially survival clothing. People in the prepping world, NRA supporters, hunters, veterans and other groups sometimes wear their own form of a uniform; baseball hat from a tactical company, untucked short-sleeved collared shirt to cover a concealed weapon, cargo pants, combat boots, tactical watch, 550 cord or POW/MIA/KIA bracelet. They typically wear SUUNTO survival watch, Timex Expedition or something similar. They go for utility for sure but they’re also going for style. Do you really need to know the atmospheric pressure? Even if you do, do you need it to be immediately available at the flick of your wrist?

Wearing a watch like that is an indicator that you’re either a prepper or some kind of survivalist. It tells everyone that you’re at least interested in being tactical. The only thing your watch needs to do is tell time. Other items that may give away more than what you want could be shirts that display; military support, a favorite gun manufacturere, a local karate dojo, patriotic images or sayings, anti-establishment or racial slogans and more. They may make certain assumptions from that point, such as the assumption that you have a weapon or have stockpiled food. Anything else starts to peel away the gray.

41rp2kCHc6L__AA300_SHTF clothing, and clothing in general, that puts you in a certain group will make people assume you have the intentions of that group. When you walk through the inner-city and see someone dressed like a thug, you may automatically assume they have the intentions of a thug.

As far as trying to be invisible is concerned, your intentions are irrelevant. It’s what they think your intentions are. If you dress like you are in a subsection of society that likes to rob people, someone is going to take notice. If you dress like someone who is going to help others, they may notice that too. If you dress like the group that they are in dresses like, they may not take notice of you.

Just be careful not to go too far with this. To take this to extremes, wearing a police uniform from the small town you’re going through may fool outsiders but not the locals, and especially not the real cops. Choose your disaster or SHTF clothing carefully, even before disaster strikes.

What you carry is at least as important as what you wear

Learn concealment

The gear you decide to carry on you is a major consideration, and one that’s not easy to figure out sometimes. Due to operational requirements, it’s often the indicator that will give you away. Gear is basically everything that isn’t designed to cover your body.

If you need to bring a lot of things with you, you’ll need some way to carry them. It’s not like you can just hold your food, water, clothing and spare ammunition in your hands as you travel. Most people who are prepping will go for Camelbak or similar tactical backpacks with a military camouflage pattern. Bags like this are very tempting because they were designed for situations such as this, and it’s difficult to find bags with the cargo capability and durability that these ones provide.

Unfortunately, they give away those who’ve made prior preparations. Try to get backpacks and other bags in other patterns or solid colors. Even the flat black police-style bags would be a better choice. Optimally, you need to find civilian bags in boring colors that don’t draw attention to themselves but will still do the job.

Watch what you put on your belt. Preppers and those who pride themselves in being ‘handy’ will often have leather-sheathed tools such as knives, Leatherman multi-tools, flashlights, lighters and more snapped to their belt. It’s a very convenient place to put them and preppers and survivalist-types love to carry them. If you do this, consider wearing an overshirt that will cover these items from view.

Weapons in a SHTF scenario can hurt you

concealed weaponOk, that sounded stupid but here’s what I mean. The biggest indicator of someone with prepared resources is a weapon or ammunition.

Concealing a weapon can be very difficult to do if you want it to be available at a moment’s notice.

Concealing ammunition is just as important because no one’s going to carry ammunition without something to put it in.

One of the biggest mistakes people make when concealing a weapon is not learning how to avoid printing. Printing is when you can see the bulge or outline of a concealed weapon through the clothing or bag that’s hiding it. Wearing more than one layer of clothing and choosing stiffer fabrics will help diminish your printed weapon signature, as will being careful when bending over or moving.

Practice in front of a mirror to see if you can tell there is something hidden under your clothes or better yet, have someone else look for you. If you’re in a group, be mindful of when the weapons or ammunition of others become evident and let them know. If they give themselves away, they’ll give you away.

When you’re doing your OPSEC plan, make sure you consider what you wear and what you carry. It’s a very important part of protecting you and yours.

About graywolfsurvival.com

I am a former federal agent and military veteran who has deployed to combat theaters in Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan and have almost three decades of military and military contracting experience.

My goal is to help families to understand how to intelligently protect their family and their way of life against real threats, without all the end-of-the-world doomsday crap.


  1. milkinit says

    Outstanding article, the idea of being nondescript or “invisible” has become a focal point for me at this time. A valuable skill. I found that this has to be practiced a bit, a conscious effort made. This also provides the ability to observe actions from people who are not actively practicing this skill, it becomes very obvious how and why those folks might be targeted. Coupled with the OPSEC article this gives lots to do and think about, Thanks Graywolf, really enjoy your insights…..

  2. One of the best go to sites

  3. No bumper stickers.

  4. These insights are what distinguish the true prepper from the arm chair quarterback preppers. Unfortunately, 90% of the sites about shtf preach the latter… This is how I know what you say and teach is 100% on point. Those that learn and apply what you teach will be leagues ahead of all the other so called “prepared” souls. Thank You Grey Wolf!

  5. bob bobington says

    i believe this is the first artical of this nature written by someone who has more intelligence than a 5 year old and receved there military training from x-box we do nead a shtf just like when to many deer in an area you cull the numbers so the spiecis survives we need culled the idiots who want think they need a chain-gun iron man suit and tank would be good corpeses to look for to get there caned chilly they died before eating give me a rock overhang a knife and some string i should be ok

  6. John Smith says

    Concealed carry is a matter of degrees. I certainly do not want to advertise the fact that I have a weapon and where it might be but if I compromise too much in that regard- it may become costly to the extent that the weapon is no longer effective.

    I teach/train a good number of students that seem to fixate on the concealment aspect almost to the exclusion of the weapons effectiveness. Tiny guns, complicated concealment schemes and further compromises add up to the “feeling” of security that a weapon may bring- not the actual benefit.

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