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Camouflage Infosheet
by Randy Cox (

Randy Cox is a camoufleur -- He designs military camouflage for a living. Randy works for Teledyne Brown Industries.  Randy also makes Ghillie Suits.  See his web page for more info.

Military Camouflage

Military camouflage should be broken into two categories: clothing and nets. Clothing is simply what personnel wear -- fatigues, jackets, coats, ponchos, etc. Nets are used to place over other things to hide them from observation. Military nets are LWCSS - Light-Weight Camouflage Screen System -- available through surplus stores. Only one manufacturer of military camouflage sells to the civilian market (through distributors). It may be found in Cabela's, U.S. Cavalry, Ranger Joes's, Bean's, and other catalogs under the Bushy Ridge(tm) trademark. Nets are of limited use in paintball -- unless you make want to make a blind for some position. The military camouflage net industry has fallen on hard times recently -- no market, and it's really overkill for the hunting and paintball -- deer don't use night vision goggles or radar.

However, camouflage clothing is doing pretty well. These are sometimes lumped under the moniker "BDU's" -- even though BDU is actually just the U.S. Army acronym for Battle Dress Uniform. There are camouflage patterns for just about everything: regular 3-color green BDU (USA and USMC issue); desert 3-color BDU; 5-color desert (AKA "chocolate chip"); night BDU (a grid of green over green); the ever popular tiger stripe (several patterns); tree bark (various manufacturers -- most popular is probably RealTree(tm)); and various forest patterns (like ASAT(tm) and others). Foreign military is becoming real popular -- British, French, German, and Russian clothing is now commonly available. Mail order sources for all of these are the same as in the camouflage net paragraph.

I am going to offer no opinion on what works best, because it all depends! It depends on how you use it. If you attack all the time, it doesn't matter what you wear. If you go defensive, it matters until the fire fight begins. If you creep up and pick off the enemy one-by one, it matters a lot.

General rules of thumb for using camouflage:

  1. Brightness difference with the background (contrast) is the initial detection cue to the human eye. Therefore, light colored camouflage will give you away in dark, shadowy foliage -- however, it will blend well in rocky, sandy areas, or in dead grass. Conversely, light green single color BDU's might blend well in short, green grass, and dark green night cammys might fit well if you crouch in the shadows at a tree line.
  2. Patterns and shape are the next most important cues. Try to get a camouflage pattern that matches the "blobiness" of the range you fight at. Too large a pattern -- the color patches on your camouflage are larger than the average patch of color in the background -- generally increases shape cues, while too small a pattern generally increases contrast cues. General patterns -- like the USA green BDU -- are a compromise to try to give some reduced detection in as many scenarios as possible. Specific patterns, like tree bark, work very well in very specific locations, but not as well generally.
  3. Avoid, AT ALL COSTS, being back lit. Do not allow brighter objects behind you, like sunlit patches, the sky (coming over a ridge, or boulder, or log, for instance), or a lighter colored bush, rock, or field. In such a case the camouflage pattern simply disappears to the human eye, and you appear as a human silhouette.
  4. If you are not found, stay still, or move as slow as possible when advancing. Movement is a great give away -- equivalent (to the human eye) to increasing your brightness about an order of magnitude. Of course, once discovered, this advice goes out the window.
  5. If you mainly just run and shoot, pick camouflage that you like, and look cool in, because then none of the stuff I've discussed matters.
What should be worn where?

In the U.S. and Europe, most deciduous forested areas will need a general pattern like the USA green BDU. Tiger Stripe in subtropical areas (heavily forested with undergrowth, vines, etc) like the southeast and northwest. Grassy lands, use overall olive drab fatigues (live grass -- California in winter) or, belive it or not, 3-color desert (dead grass -- like California in summer). Desert and rocky areas (southwest U.S.) use the 3-color desert BDU (this is the new desert pattern-- not the the old 5-color 'chocolate chip' pattern). Tree Bark patterns can be used anywhere there are large enough trees, but I think most of the patterns are for pine or oak forests (which mean they blend in well in temperate and alpine forests such as in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

What about Tiger Stripe?

The camouflage pattern most familiar as Tiger Stripe was developed for U.S. Special Forces during the Vietnam era (circa 1965) for jungle fighting. It is an adaptation of an earlier British design developed during the Malyasian "difficulties" (1950's). It is for ultra-close range (50 yards or less) fighting in heavily foliated jungle. Again, it should be effective in similar areas like the heavy subtropical areas of the southeast U.S. and pacific northwest. If you have trouble walking through the forest, and it is impossible to walk a nearly straight line, Tiger Stripe might be appropriate

What difference does the size of the "blobs" make?

The average size of the "blobs" (actually known as the predominate or average spatial frequency of the pattern) is directly proportional to the expected range of engagement AND the expected envrionmental background. The spatial frequency of the camouflage pattern should match the spatial frequency of the background at that range of engagement. It is possible, using fractal patterns, to match the spatial frequencies over some span of ranges -- but no one makes a good fractal pattern yet -- and that is a hot area of pattern research.

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