Tradecraft: 50 tips on blending in as a ‘gray man’ during an insurgency or disaster

(SurvivalSullivan) – Prepping is not about showing off your gun or your bunker or your survival skills. It’s about staying alive and rule #1 is to avoid conflict altogether. In this article, I’m going to show you 50 ways to keep a low profile and stay alive, because that’s what being “gray” means. To stay out of trouble, to blend in, and mind your own business.

Update: For more info on what a gray man is, the definition and further explanations, check out this other article.

#1. Don’t wear camo or bold colors

You don’t want to be labeled as a prepper by angry/starving mobs or as a troublemaker by the law enforcement.

#2. Don’t look cleaner than most post-disaster

I know that sounds somewhat counter-intuitive, right? After all that stockpiling lots of water and other hygiene products, you’re gonna want to afford the luxury of using them, right? Sort of…

If you’re gonna go bartering, you don’t want to look cleaner than everyone else or they’ll just assume you’re doing so well that it might worth paying you a visit to find out how you are doing better than they are.

#3. Don’t cook if it’s not safe

The smell will surely attract your neighbors like a magnet. Sure, you can eat your supplies that don’t need cooking but we all need warm food in our stomachs. The workaround is to do so in cooking bags (which trap most of the smell inside).

#4. Don’t burn your trash

Trash will be a problem, particularly if you live in the suburbs or cities. Burning it in your back yard might not be an option since the smoke and smell will attract people who will want to know what’s going on. Having trash is a sign of food.

There are lots of ways to deal with this: you can bury it, you can repurpose some of the items (cans of food can still be used to store things etc.) and you can even use food scraps as compost for your garden.

#5. Cover your windows with black curtains

You may not want people to know there’s someone inside. You may not want people to know you have electricity when the whole country has gone dark. Whatever the case, installing thick black curtains on all your windows (which I suggest you start doing today) will ensure that you reveal as little as possible about what’s happening inside.

#6. Start begging

What? Start begging for food and water even though you have enough of? Yes, if you don’t want to let people know that you’re doing well, you’re gonna have to start acting like them. Besides, you may actually end up getting it.

#7. Put bio-hazard signs on your doors, windows and fences

That should scare them enough not to bother you.

#8. Make your house look like it’s already been looted

Broken windows, graffiti, and a front yard that hasn’t been cleaned up since it hit the fan should do the trick.

#9. Stay inside and away from windows (urban)

I know it’s tough to do that for weeks on end but consider some ways to entertain yourself.

#10. Negotiate hard when you barter

If you don’t, people might thing you’ve got plenty of resources and if the rumor starts spreading, it won’t be long before someone follows you home to investigate.

#11. Do your cooking at night

Same goes for burning your trash (if you don’t have a choice). Since most people are sleeping, you stand a smaller chance of getting noticed at night than in the daytime.

#12. Don’t use firearms unless you have to…

Guns are as loud as they are effective. Use alternative survival weapons if you can to avoid drawing attention to your house. A few gang members nearby might hear a gunshot and come running to find out what’s happening – you don’t want that.

#13. Take your crying baby inside the most isolated room of the house

Maybe that room is your safe-room, maybe not, but this will be a big problem if you live in an apartment building. Neighbors will easily hear your crying toddler.

A trick to keep him quiet is to give him cough medicine, although that’s obviously NOT something you’d want to use on a regular basis. Please keep in mind that I’m not a doctor so I’m not recommending you this, I’m just telling you about it for your consideration.

#14. Consider bugging out on a boat

Retreating on a boat in the middle of the sea or a large lake is like disappearing into thin air. However, there are a lot of things to consider before you do this. You’re going to want a sailboat that’s at least 30 feet in length to be able to sail without fuel and to be able to have space to stockpile all your preps.

#15. Consider a quiet bug out vehicle

While the Ford F250 is probably the best all around bug out vehicle, it can also draw attention not just because of its size, but also because of its running engine.

Mountain bikes, bug out canoes, and inflatable boats are the quietest BOVs you can find, although they have the disadvantage of not being able to carry as much of your stockpile or of offering any kind of real protection.

#16. Hide your guns well when you travel

If you have business in the city, make sure your handgun isn’t visible and that no one can’t tell it’s there. Same goes for that rifle in your car.

#17. Keep your mouth shut

As long as you’re not talking to anyone about your preps, your food stockpile, and the fact that you’re a prepper, you’ll be fine. This applies pre-SHTF as well as post; people will remember you and turn to you in the darkest times.

#18. Don’t get a HAM radio license

I know HAM radio is the absolute best when it comes to post-collapse communication but if laying low is something that keeps you awake at night, you don’t want one. To get one you need a license, which means you’ll be in the registry and Big Brother might pay you a visit post-SHTF.

Using HAM without a license isn’t an option either, you can get fined by the FCC and even thrown into jail. It’s really up to you to decide if you want one after examining the pros and cons.

I guess it all depends on how you think things go down and how much you hate the government. Not all preppers are the same, everyone’s getting ready for a different disaster, everyone has their own frustrations. So if you’re a Big Gov. hater, you might want to consider avoiding HAM licenses.

#19. Forget tactical vehicles

They’re not only really expensive but people will instantly label you as a prepper, a hardcore enthusiast, or some army hotshot who thinks he’s tougher than everyone else.

#20. Cut your ties with everyone who you’re not close with right now

I know it will be hard, particularly since there are dark times ahead and some of them are life-long friends and even relatives, but post-SHTF, it’s every man for himself.

#21. If you’re bugging out using a boat, travel by night

You’ll draw a lot less attention to yourself. During the day, you’re better hiding with your boat in a good place you find along the river.

#22. Choose the right site to camp

You can’t just make shelter anywhere. It should be a place that’s relatively inaccessible, where the are no visible human trails. You don’t want to set up camp too close to water, either. If people are looking for you, they’re gonna search a mile or two around that body of water, knowing you might be close by.

If you can, avoid using shelters previously made by others. Find a place that’s as secluded as possible, where most people will never think to look (or run into you by accident).

#23. Make a Dakota fire pit to dissipate smoke

This will ensure that less smoke will come out of your fire. In addition, you should make it under a tree so the branches disperse the smoke even more. However, you need to make sure you don’t set the tree on fire – be very careful!

Also, always use dry wood and make sure you add extra kindling to make it as hot as possible. This will result in less smoke.

#24. Start losing weight

If the S has hit the F and you’re the only one with a big belly while everyone else is starving, that’s an obvious sign you have food. Try to stay away from your comfort foods as much as you can.

#25. Get a collar for your rooster

You need your rooster yet it’s going to be noisy post-SHTF. A simple rooster collar you purchase now will fix that.

#26. Talk to your kids about the importance of staying quiet

Kids like to brag but that could be detrimental post-SHTF… and even pre. Make it a priority to teach them not to share your prep planning with anyone, no matter what.

#27. Don’t store food in your kitchen

That’s where hungry neighbors are gonna look first when they break into your house. Store it in your closet or inside furniture.

#28. Avoid eye contact

I don’t know why but when you look at someone for more than a second, it instantly draws the other person’s attention. You don’t want anyone to interpret this as “I’m confident because I have food”.

#29. When caught in a riot, stay away from where all the action is…

Stay as close to the walls of the nearest building as possible. As you’re moving away to safety, try to stay in the shadow as much as possible to avoid being noticed.

#30. Always move with the riot, not against it

Actually, try to move with the crowd but at an angle until you find a moment to break away. Going against it is not only very hard but will cause other rioters to realize you’re not with them.

#31. Don’t wear any jewelry, piercings etc.

While we’re at it, it’s probably best to avoid getting tattoos in obvious places. The less attention you draw to yourself, the better.

#32. Never get into arguments about politics, religion or guns

These things can escalate pretty quickly and you do not want to be a part of it. In fact, try to avoid long conversations altogether, particularly if you’re a bad liar. You don’t want people to ask you sensitive information so, if you can’t lie, don’t put yourself in that position in the first place.

#33. Don’t walk too fast or too slow

Post-collapse, someone who walks too fast has something to hide and someone who walks too slow is probably up to no good. You want to be neither.

#34. If you’re the only one wearing a hat, take it off

#35. Avoid wearing large tactical backpacks post-SHTF

I get that your BOB is mandatory when disaster strikes but large backpacks will attract attention because, from a bad guy’s perspective, there’s a big chance you have something worthwhile inside. Sure, camo might get some to think you’re military and therefore dangerous, but there’s a higher chance that they’ll look at the man, not the bag. So if you look like you haven’t done a push-up since high-school and you have this big, MOLLE bag, rethink your strategy.

#36. When bugging out, avoid main roads

Two reasons. One, most people are going to take them to get out of the city. Two, there might be roadblocks set up by the police. Find secondary roads, bug out by water, or even on the rail tracks.

#37. Never travel alone

And this goes double for when you’re bartering.When you’re all alone, you become a target because you seem like you’re unable to defend yourself.

#38. Blend in

If you’ll be the only one having a bike, you will become a target. If you’re the only one wearing shorts and a t-shirt while everyone else is dressed warmer, you will become a target. Always try to look like everyone else. Clothing that’s gray in one scenario may not be gray in another scenario. Become one of the crowd and you’ll be safer.

#39. Forget body armor…

…not completely, only when you’re trying to keep a low profile. When you’re looking puffed up, you might unwillingly signal trouble to the others.

#40. Hide your money in your shoes

I used to do that as a kid to just in case a bully decided he wanted my lunch money. It was a tough world when I was a kid and history always repeats itself.

Tip: you may want to keep a little bit of money in your pockets just in case you need to pay off an aggressor to leave you alone.

#41. Trim down your EDC (Everyday Carry) Kit

More stuff doesn’t always mean more chances of survival. Your everyday carry kit should have as little items as possible to get you home when SHTF. You don’t want people to ask you why your pockets are always full, do you?

#42. Pretend you’re sick

Start coughing even if you’re fine, look pale and disoriented. Do this only if people around are like that, NOT to avoid confrontation. If you appear too weak when everyone else isn’t, you become a target.

#43. Let your burglars get away

That may sound crazy but there’s an exception when it’s for your own good. If you’re upstairs with your family and they’re downstairs looting, it’s probably best not to interrupt them. If they leave without knowing you’re there, you avoid a confrontation that could potentially get very bloody.

#44. Make yourself useful

If a post-disaster society starts forming, you don’t want to be the only guy with the “screw you” mentality. You’ll just sub-communicate that you have better things to do and, potentially, more resources. Start making yourself useful by sharing your skills to help others out – it’s the best way to blend in.

#45. Start growing indoor plants

How hard it is for people to steal all your veggies one night while you’re sound asleep? The food you grow inside in containers is going to be there when you wake up.

#46. Avoid carrying bags

You can wear cargo pants and overcoats with extra pockets sewed on the inside to hide a lot more stuff than you could carry wearing regular clothing.

#47. Communicate anonymously

In the event that the phone lines and even the Internet are going to work, various people and organizations are going to spy on you for various reasons. Heck, they’re doing it to us right now!

So go ahead and use an anonymous search engine such as, secure messaging apps such as Pidgin, and remove as much of your online and offline trails as possible (e.g. cancel your newspaper and magazines subscriptions).

#48. Get creative when it comes to hiding your stuff

If you have a backyard or a large property, what you can do is dig holes in various places and hide a little bit of your stockpile in each. To remember where they are, a neat trick is to take photos of your family on the exact spots you dug. You and your loved ones will be the only ones knowing the secret meaning behind the photos.

#49. Hide your tracks in the wilderness

Don’t leave trash behind and don’t break tree branches as you advance. Don’t try to cover your tracks with a branch, it won’t work and you’ll just be wasting valuable time.

Don’t move through the river thinking it will confuse a dog that’s chasing you. Since most of your body is still going to be above water, it won’t work.

What you can do is to step on rocks as you move through the woods since this will leave no footprints whatsoever. This works in places with plenty rocks, of course, such as river beds.

#50. If you can’t get out of a riot, find shelter in any nearby building

Literally any place will do as long as you can get inside and hide well (just in case the gangs decide to get inside as well to loot it).


This article prepared by Dan F. Sullivan for SurvivalSullivan.