Black clothes and hiding

From: Andrew Priestley <>
Date: Fri, Mar 27, 1998 10:27 EST

The Armies of most western nations have been working for years on better
camouflage for their troops. The US Army has settled on the current
Woodland pattern as the best all around camouflage pattern for troops in
nearly any terrain. It is a mottled green, tan, brown and black fabric
which breaks up the silhouette nicely and blends in well in a variety of
terrains (especially with some natural garnish thrown in). About the
only places the woodland pattern doesn't work too well is in open desert
during the dry season, on icepack and snowy environments, and in an
autumn wheatfield. It's also prett distinctive in the middle of a
city. But since most combat is fought in the coutryside, that isn't too
much of a problem.

Coloration is not so much the problem at night, (though any bright or
light color would be bad) as is pattern and shape. The human mind sort
of expects to see human shapes and is remarkably adept at picking them
out. Any person wearing a solid color will quickly resolve into a human
shape in the human eye at night, whether the person is wearing blue,
gray, black or brown. The idea behind camouflage is to break up the
human shape and eliminate patterns that the eye can translate into a
human form. Mottled patches of color and shades do that wonderfully.
Of course getting caught standing in the open against a blank wall is a
bad thing. You want to stay concealed among shifting patterns, shadows
and other low contrast backgrounds.

Movement is the primary giveaway at night. The human eye is pretty bad
at picking up shapes at night, there just aren't enough of the right
kind of photosensitive cells in our retinas to see well at night. There
is, in fact a very significant blind spot, right in the center of our
retinas where nearly all the cells are designed to pick out colors, and
there are very few light sensitive cells. This results in an odd
phenomenon in which objects vanish from view when you stare directly at
them at night. That is why it is best to freeze in position if someone
is looking directly at you at night. Another reason why this is wise,
is because the fringes of vision are extremely sensitive to movement and
are much more likely to pick up an infiltrator at night than the direct
view. That is why sentries are taught to scan constantly rather than
staring at a certain spot; this enables them to "catch things out of the
corner of their eye."

Stealth is more than just moving quietly, and dressing appropriately, it
is also a method of moving where and when you will not be observed, it
is also a matter of patience. Carlos Hathcock stalked something like
1700 meters across an open field over the course of three days, with NVA
patrols moving around him within arms reach in broad daylight, without
being spotted. He then killed an NVA general with a seven to 800 yard
rifle shot and sneaked back out across the field to escape. The whole
stalk took four days to accomplish, Hathcock ate little, drank almost
nothing, had blisters all down the left side of his body from dragging
himself across the terrain, and a multitude of bug bites etc. He also
had to relieve himself in his clothing as necessary, and still was able
to "get inside his bubble" to take the shot. Amazing.


Geoffrey Brent wrote:

> >Hayes points out something that military
> >people eventually learn. Black clothing,
> >even at night, creates deep, dark shadows
> >and silhouettes that are so distinctive you
> >might as well be standing in a spotlight.
> Yes, the principle's simple enough: the best colour for
> camouflage is something like what you're hiding against.
> If it's dark enough that your Black Suit of Doom doesn't
> stand out against a grey wall, it's dark enough that a
> Grey suit of Doom wouldn't stand out either.
> Geoffrey Brent

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