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Comparing Solids: A Case For Grey Part 1


More often than not when people start talking about their gear, environment, mission, etc., camouflage and solid colors come up. While it often feels that this subject is like beating a dead horse until it turns to glue, I'm going to keep poking people to beat it because it's fun. Now the main reason for this test in the first place was to determine how effective the color grey can be as a universal solid. Almost as the "multicam of solids." Many people have underlying beliefs that certain colors or patterns are for certain environments only. This is the same line of thinking as "I can ONLY use this pouch for what the name of it is." I repeatedly show that this isn't the case by using desert patterns in fall through early spring. Look at your environment and determine what color you see the most, and then run that color. Simple.

Now the main issue arises when you live in an environment like me. In Michigan we have 4 distinct seasons, with different levels of vegetation and different coloration in each season, with the added benefit of the fifth coloration added of snow. Winter can be dead and light brown when you go to sleep, and everything is white the next morning with 4" of snow. So what's the best solution for these environments where you can have so many different colors at the same time, and want to be able to pack as little as possible to reasonably conceal yourself in these environments?

This is where the case for grey starts. It was found that grey is less perceivable than many other colors. According to one study:

"University of Liverpool Orthoptics Department chair Gail Stephenson in 1996 attended a football game where one team wore grey uniforms. She noticed it was hard to see that team’s players and realized it was because of the color of their kit. This inspired her to conduct research in a bid to explain the phenomenon. Stephenson’s experiments with peripheral vision revealed that bright reds were usually detectable within a 120-degree field of view, whereas pale grey was detectable only inside a 40-degree field of view."

In addition to this, the United States Military fielded a shade of grey for the PCU layering system. This was used by various special operations and other troops needing a special issue of gear to protect them from the elements.

With this stuff combined, I wanted to do some tests in my backyard with what I had on hand to see how useful grey could be utilized as a camouflage color. Now the key thing to remember, is that your camouflage and colors are maybe 10% of overall camouflage. If you are behind foliage, you can be wearing almost anything and be fine. Once while doing force on force training, one of the other hosts of The Longhouse Podcast ambushed our friend while wearing a purple flannel. Proper use of foliage, shadows, movement techniques, and noise discipline will go much further than deciding between a few colors/patterns and thinking you will be invisible. Despite this stuff though, proper coloration to match your environment does not hurt.

For the test:

What I did was take pictures of a few articles of clothing in different colors, with Multicam as a baseline camouflage to show how effective the "universal" camouflage pattern is compared to these solid colors, and then I used a wolf grey plate carrier from Ferro Concepts over the clothing to see if it hurt or helped.

Items used:

NorArm Savage Green combat shirt, Helikon Tex Pilgrim Anorak in Coyote Brown, First Spear Windcheater in Manatee Grey, Beyond Clothing blouse in Multicam, and Ferro Concepts Slickster in Wolf Grey with Black shoulders and cummerbund.

For the first scenario: Caught in the open

This was supposed to be the "worst case" scenario, being caught in the open. No foliage to obscure vision, and your shape clearly visible.

For this set, the order of colors were the Savage Green, Manatee Grey, Coyote Brown, Multicam. The only one that did semi reasonably well was Multicam, and that was still clearly visible. The main lesson here should be not be caught in the open.

Scenario 2: Edge of the treeline

Same order for this one, Savage Green, Manatee Grey, Coyote Brown, Multicam. These are obviously working a bit better in a little foliage to help break up shape and add dimension. The issue with pictures though is that in real life when I could still see these colors, sometimes they don't show up as visible in pictures. For this instance, grey and green performed the best. Coyote Brown was a touch too bright, and so was Multicam. From this picture it would appear that Savage Green did the best. From talking to the fine gentleman that owns Norarm, he said that the coloration of the Savage Green was somewhere between Ranger Green and OD Green on the sleeves, with a greenish grey on the body.

Getting a little closer we can see that the Savage Green is still a little too dark, and that the Manatee Grey still blends fairly well. Coyote was a bit bright, and Multicam seems to do the best with the overall breaking of shape (makes sense since that's what camouflage does). All of these were propped up on my camera tripod, so they're not really a full human shape. A little more like a blob. The human shape has many recognizable V's where the shoulders meet the neck, armpits, etc. These are what make human shapes so easily to pick out. This test obviously is not the best display, and even then seeing what works in person will give you a different perspective. All of these were still fairly visible in person, but moving on...

Scenario 3: In the tall grass

Savage Green behind grass, and with line of sight view.

Same test, but with Wolf Grey carrier. Notice how the black shoulders and cummerbund add slight depth and shadow. They do not make the green combat shirt any more or less noticeable.

Manatee Grey. I didn't bother adding a carrier onto this because it wouldn't make any difference. Notice how the coloration matches the tree quite a bit, and with some foliage obscuring your vision, you're unable to see it. In this test it outperformed the Savage Green.

Coyote Brown: Similar results as the grey, however I think that through the grass the Wolf Grey carrier helps break up the shape better and makes it quite effective. From the line of sight picture however, the black attracts attention quite a bit. Unfortunately my order with a new wolf grey cummerbund and shoulder straps wasn't delivered at the time of these photos.

Multicam performed fine from behind the grass and worked the best in my opinion, on par with the grey. Adding the carrier didn't hurt or help it through the grass, and from the LOS view with the carrier on, it seems a little darker from the black, but I believe that from a distance this would be a very effective combination.

I took this picture as an added bonus of an actual human shape. I could clearly see the camera so my line of sight was good on the "target". First picture is just me with a Beyond Clothing A6 jacket in Coyote Brown, and Ranger Green Beyond Clothing pants. The second picture I'm wearing the Wolf Grey carrier. The carrier helped break up some of the distinctive shape in my opinion. Obviously I couldn't see this in real life since I was not behind the camera. Note I also am wearing a black hat with the hood up. The hat is still visible, and I'm not magically being found by everybody and their brother due to wearing a black hat.

Scenario 4: In the pines

Idea behind this scenario was being in a pine patch to take advantage of the shadows and foliage. This test was done with every color with and without carrier to see if the grey added or took away from any pattern.

First up: Savage Green

Clear LOS vs through the foliage, first without carrier and then with. The black in the carrier did more harm good in this sense despite being in the shadows, but the grey in the carrier doesn't hurt anything or help anything really. That seems to be the continuous theme with green.

Once again, not doing the test with the carrier since it wouldn't add or take away from the grey in the First Spear jacket. Through the foliage the grey is very difficult to spot, and it blends well with the tree trunks.

Looks like once again, the grey body of the carrier helps Coyote Brown.

Multicam performed pretty well with just MC alone, and with the carrier it didn't really hurt or help. I would say that Multicam performed the best out of all the contenders in this instance, which makes sense considering it has green, brown, and tan elements to it.

Final thoughts:

I was curious how grey would perform in this test, and considering it only took me about an hour to take all of the pictures and the environment is very tan and the foliage is still dead, I was pleasantly surprised that grey did as well as it did. I would say overall, using Multicam compared to these solids may be best option, which isn't surprising in the slightest, but since we're focusing on the solids, I think that grey is a great mix between the capabilities of Coyote Brown and Ranger Green. Using grey for PPE over an arid and woodland pattern may also be a good option to get the best of both worlds.

Feel free to comment and share your thoughts. I will post another test in the same spots once the foliage grows back this spring.

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