Shades of the Gray Man: Blend in and Survive

MOLLE webbing and Velcro pouches are ideal for attaching and securing gear, but this type of bag also attracts a lot of unwanted attention. While very practical and effective for carrying gear and supplies, these “tactical” looking products significantly increase the risk of getting noticed.

Imagine that a serious crisis is unfolding right before your eyes. Almost immediately, conditions begin to deteriorate in ways few ever anticipated. Widespread panic and desperation quickly follow as the downward spiral accelerates.

After careful consideration, you determine that the only relative safety lies outside the hot zone—you need to get moving right now.

But between you and your intended destination are obstacles and lots of frightened, hungry, thirsty, highly stressed-out people. Many of these folks have no plans, no preparations, and no idea what to do next. Crowds are literally standing around waiting for someone “in charge” to tell them what to do.

Oh, and let’s not forget the criminals, hoodlums, degenerates, and overall scum-of-the earth types just itching to capitalize on the panic and confusion. They’ll be on the hunt for easy victims and soft targets. These vermin are constantly all around us. During a crisis, however, they always seem to be the first to hit the ground running.

Ordinary-looking book bags say very little about you or what you may be carrying in those bags. While every situation is different, book bags have become commonplace in just about every corner of the world. It’s always best to avoid logos, emblems, flags, and other symbols that may attract attention.

Now, imagine that you must make your way through all this madness and somehow come out the other end in one piece. What’s your plan? You need to keep a very low profile, but you seriously need to put some miles behind you. Your very survival depends on getting out now, quickly and quietly. But how?

Wouldn’t it be great if you could become invisible and just move about unnoticed? Maybe you can. Enter the Gray Man—the next best thing to being invisible.

In this article, we take a fresh look at basic strategies and techniques for hiding in plain sight, and blending in with the environment. No matter the circumstances, or how you choose to get around, the idea is to remain unnoticed while maintaining your mobility.


Ever look into a crowd and notice that certain individuals stand out? It could be their physical characteristics, their attitude, or maybe just the way they move. Sometimes people draw attention to themselves on purpose, and other times without even realizing it.

There are certain triggers that catch our eye, and our mind immediately focuses on that person. We’ve all seen these folks, and it’s difficult not to notice them.

Conversely, the people we associate with the Gray Man concept are those on the opposite end of the noticeability spectrum. We cross paths with many of these individuals every single day without ever noticing their presence.

What is commonly referred to as the Gray Man is a person who can blend seamlessly into their environment and can move about without attracting attention or leaving any sort of impression.

Why be the Gray Man, you may ask? Quite simply because there can be times when your survival may depend on your ability to remain undetected, for instance, during a natural or man-made disaster. Standing out during a crisis situation will, at best, dramatically decrease your chances for survival, and at worst, could get you killed.

By blending in, the Gray Man uses the environment as camouflage and inconspicuously becomes just one more among the herd. In other words, looking ordinary and common reduces the likelihood that you will attract attention.


This is a sweet-looking Jeep, but needless to say, it stands out! This vehicle will, no doubt, serve its owner very well in an off-road scenario, but it will come at the cost of attracting lots of attention. Consider this vehicle a rolling billboard advertising to the world, “Come and get me.”

By now you may be thinking that all this Gray Man stuff sounds really complicated, and that the average person could never pull it off without some level of specialized training. But in actuality, anyone can do it.

Blending into an environment and moving around while attracting minimal attention requires a heightened sense of awareness, observation, and the ability to quickly assess situations and adapt accordingly.

These are not abilities you will master overnight, but the best time to start honing your skills and developing solid habits is now. It all begins with observation and learning to perceive details in the environment.

Here are some tips, ideas, and suggestions to help you get started.


Looking ordinary can mean many different things depending on where you are, and who and what are around you. In general, having features similar to others around you will make you look like just one among the many.

One of the first steps in becoming Gray is to accurately analyze your surroundings, while identifying and mimicking those features that will help you blend into that particular place and time. If you doubt this, notice how easily locals can immediately spot tourists anywhere around the world.

Demeanor and Mannerisms

Our brains tend to notice movement, especially obvious movement that differs from the natural pace and flow of the surroundings. To minimize notice, identify and try to imitate the natural situational tempo and move with it, never against it.

To emulate the rhythm of a particular location, carefully observe movement, direction, and overall speed. In general, slow, subtle movements and gestures usually go unnoticed, except to a highly trained observer, or unless everything and everyone around you are moving at breakneck speeds. Adjust your movements according to the situation.

Stay Focused

Standard, nondescript cars and SUVs may have limited off-road capability, but they attract almost no notice. Ideal vehicle is one that looks dull, standard and routine, but has components and capabilities that remain hidden to all but the most discerning eyes.

There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned public spectacle to get people’s attention. Notice how even the slightest, most insignificant fender bender can cause traffic to back up for miles as the curious slow down, or even stop, just to get a better look. There is, of course, nothing to look at, but the non-event still attracts attention.

Avoiding attention sometimes means making a judgment call and deciding what your priorities are. Do everything possible to avoid confrontations, arguments, disagreements, or any other situation that could quickly escalate.

If need be, swallow your pride and keep on going. Keep your goals and objectives front and center, and don’t allow yourself to get distracted or sucked into a kerfuffle.

Keep to Yourself

As a good person, you may be tempted to help others, especially during difficult times. There is nothing wrong with helping others, but understand that being a Good Samaritan can come at a very high price.

At best, it will slow you down and get you noticed by others who may also need assistance. This may turn out to be a lot of people. At worst, it can get you seriously injured or killed.

Even during normal times, predators use women and children to bait good people into stopping to offer assistance.

While it’s important to retain our humanity even under difficult circumstances, make sure you fully understand and accept the risks. At times it will be most prudent, and a lot safer, to mind your own business and keep moving. Your priorities should always be your own safety and security and that of your loved ones. You can only help yourself, your family, and others if you are operating from a position of strength.


Getting into the proper mindset is often the most difficult part of becoming Gray. Remember, this is a topic most people don’t ever consider in their daily lives. Keeping a low profile for tactical reasons requires an accurate assessment of your surroundings, and being mindful of how you look, including any characteristics that may make you more memorable. All this requires conscious effort and practice.

Having the proper mindset is crucial to your success. And the sooner you begin to slip in and out of these roles, the easier it will be, and the more natural it will appear when you actually have to do it under stressful conditions.

Get into the habit of observing your surroundings and taking notice of things that most people never even see. Stop rushing through your daily routine and make a conscious effort to observe the fine details all around you.

Dress the Part

The clothes you wear send a powerful message about you. The average person dresses to look fashionable, professional, stylish and, in too many instances, to impress others. Some folks also want to stand out from the crowd—they want people to take notice.

In becoming Gray, you are going for the exact opposite—discreet, average-looking clothing. The environment, weather and, to some extent, social norms almost always dictate what you should wear and how you should wear it.

“Tactical” looking outfit, sometimes referred to as “shoot-me-first” attire. Why? People who dress like they are likely to have a gun, supplies, and gear tend to attract attention everywhere they go. Your clothes should say as little as possible about who you are, what you are, or what you may be carrying.

In general, avoid loud, flashy clothes, bright colors, logos, flags, symbols, and other such designs that stand out. Neutral colors and fabrics are best.

Don’t Advertise

Choose gear and accessories that are plain and ordinary—the opposite of gear and attire that have a “tactical” or military/police look.

Your goal is to blend in, not to stand out. For example, if you look like a police officer, you’ll immediately become the focus of attention and will have to deal with (a) people who hate cops, or (b) people looking for help.

During a crisis, there will be many folks from both camps. You can carry all sorts of defensive and tactical gear, as long as it’s concealed. No one around you will ever know.

Playing the Part

Looking the part will only get you so far. You must also act the part. Does the situation call for confidence and bravado, or humility? Each situation dictates what is required. Your part is to accurately read the moment and proceed accordingly.

Think about what you would need to do in order to disappear into a crowd within a large metropolitan center. Now consider what you would do differently in a quiet, rural setting. The process is essentially the same, but the results may be very different.

As always, the first steps are observation and assessment.


While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, it all begins with mindset. Blending into any environment and remaining mobile while attracting minimal attention require awareness, observation, and the ability to perceive, assess, and adapt.

Possessing the skills to go Gray can be a tremendous addition to your preparedness toolbox and may one day dramatically increase your odds of surviving a crisis. If you see the potential value of going Gray, there’s no time like the present to start developing your skills.

Stay safe and be prepared.

Richard Duarte is an urban survival consultant, writer, and firearms enthusiast. He’s the author of Surviving Doomsday: A Guide for Surviving an Urban Disaster, and the Quick-Start Guide for urban preparedness. For the latest news and updates, connect with Richard on

  • (will not be published)

No Comments