In any environment, blending in can be an important survival tactic. It is no different in urban or suburban situations where fitting in keeps you under the radar and safe. Everything you do is either useful camouflage or dangerous attraction, from the cloths you wear, the car you drive and how you gather and store your preps as well as how you talk and the body language you use.
Do you wear forest camo around town and carry an Alice Frame pack or an olive green tactical bag? Do you drive a 4 wheel drive pickup with “Insured by S&W” and “Support the NRA” bumper stickers? Does your garage door up up to the street displaying your 5000W generator, gas cans, canned goods, water jugs, flash lights and batteries to the whole neighborhood? Do you wear that cool paracord bracelet you made? Do you talk to your friends and neighbors about your preps going so far as to give tours to display your level of preparedness? Can people who work on or clean your house see that solar array and battery bank you have in the back yard? Do you tell people other than your wife you carry a concealed weapon?
Answering yes to any of these questions may mean you need to work on blending in instead of standing out. Of course, this is not only about camouflage, but Operational Security.
Clothing: If you aren’t in the field hunting, ditch the camo. Wear clothing that fits with the general atmosphere and style of those around you. Houston is a very casual town so that means jeans, dockers, or cargo shorts and a short-sleeved business shirt, polo top or t‑shirt. In your area, it may mean different styles and standards. Look around an notice what people are wearing so that you fit among the natives. Dressing too good or not good enough makes you an unnecessary target of opportunity.
EDC Bag: Sorry, an olive green tactical bag may look military-cool, but you stick out like a sore thumb. Trust me, I know. Look around. In the urban environment in general and in Houston specifically, I have never seen another person sporting a tactical bag. If they are, it screams “concealed weapon”. I am sure law enforcement officers view an olive-green tactical bag with an extra level of suspicion. Normal people carry either a computer backpack (if you are an old geek like me) or a messenger bag (if you are cool, young person). When you look at them, the back pack says “laptop”. Those bags can carry a lot of prepper stuff and are excellent camouflage. For a GHB, I have a regular backpack in a plastic, lockable tub in the back of my hatchback, hidden from view via a cover. If I had to deploy the GHB, it looks like I am going for a walk on the trail.
Automobile: I see a lot of people who use their cars to spout their philosophy. Bumper sticker statements can be cute, but they are often shallow. Bumper stickers related to guns shout “this person either has guns in their truck or in their house.” Sure, they are less likely to break into your house while you are there, but they can always wait until you are gone to steal your guns. In Texas, it is almost mandatory to drive a pickup truck (just in case you need 4WD to go through the McDonalds drive-through), so that does not necessarily signal prepper and all that goes along with it. Whatever you do, keep your prepper, gun and government philosophy off your bumper.
Home preps: These should be stored such that casual observation cannot determine the overall level of preparation. My generator and gasoline cans are not visible if the garage door is open. All the canned goods and food are in plastic crates out of view. The jugs of water are behind bags of dog food and a dog crate. There are more preps in the house that are never obvious. My home 72 hour bag is innocently in my closet. There are more crates with food under the bed. The document bag is in a desk drawer. Frankly, to any casual observer and even my wife, I don’t appear to be prepared. The only thing that is on display is the small solar setup I have outside. I tell people who see it that it is my little science project.
Mouth: In two words, “shut it”. Say nothing to anyone who does not have a need to know. If they ask, either lie or tell them, “we have some food, water, flashlights and batteries for hurricane season or if the lights go off.” That’s it. Not, “I’ve got 51 days of food stored up spread amongst canned goods, beans and rice. Do you want to see my latest inventory list?” Sure, you are proud of your preps, and rightly so. Don’t tell your neighbors, friends or family. Period. If you want to brag, get on the chat boards or start an anonymous blog and spout off there. Otherwise, “shut it”.
I recently was leaving my house to practice at the gun range and had my gun bag in my hand. My neighbor was out in the yard doing yard work. He is a hunter and it is common in Texas for people to have guns. Because I want to cultivate my relationship with him if I want to eventually start hunting, I told him I was going to the range. First, I was cold busted because my not-yet-replaced gun bag is army surplus and we have talked about guns in the past. Second, he is my neighbor, not a zombie. If the SHTF, I would share some limited preps with him if he did not have them. We would be a good allies in most situations should it come to roving bands of hungry people. Plus, he might teach me to hunt birds some day. The lesson is, pick your spots and cultivate allies where you can, but keep most of your preps private.
Social media: This is another place where you need to keep it zipped. Don’t post how you got a great deal on a 5000W generator and finally got your concealed-carry permit paperwork back from the state and how you can finally pack that 1911 on trips to the supermarket. Don’t post pictures of your canned goods and water jugs so your in-laws can see that their little girl is taken care of if a hurricane strikes your area. Don’t post videos of you running around in the woods shooting your AK-47 with your old college buddies. I occasionally post about taxes, the economy, and the government, but nothing radical like “we need to throw off the shackles of our oppressors”. You may feel that way, but do you really want to write something that may be used later against you by the authorities or a future employer? Even if you blog “anonymous” or post on chat boards using a screen name, make no mistake, the government can find you. After all, those IP addresses are tracked. Make the assumption everything you post on the web is connected to you, tracked and logged. You still have freedom of speech and expression (for now), but think in terms of blending in, not sticking out. Temper your comments with rationality, because the radicals are the first to be pushed to the margin and written off as mentally defective.
Language: Try to avoid using words like survival and survivalism. They have a bad connotation. Instead, say you are just trying to be prepared, just in case. After all, the the Boy Scout’s motto is “be prepared”. Everyone likes Boy Scouts and distrust survivalists. If you feel comfortable, tell people you are a Man Scout, carrying the tradition of the Boy Scouts into adulthood. I also have learned to avoid alarmist scenarios, like flu pandemic, total grid failure or financial collapse. If you de-escalate the language to rolling blackouts or job loss and how we are preparing for those situations, you sound less radical and more reasonable. I also restated the goal behind my small urban garden to trying to develop a sustainable hobby and have some fresh food straight from the garden. I definitely did not say “this is my survival garden in case the SHTF”. This is how I got my wife on board.
At the end of the day, blending into the urban jungle is a survival skill that needs practice. Standing out increases the risk of an issue developing while blending in lessens the chance you will create a problem where none really exists.
In the comment section, tell me what you do to blend into the urban environment.