Thinking back to the time when I was a beginner in the sport of Airsoft, I can recall many times where I simply threw on whatever clothing was comfortable, grabbed my replica, and then headed out for hours of skirmishing fun. Like some beginners, I didn’t consider camouflage and concealment when it came to just getting out there to have some fun.
A great deal of the time, my game play would be in the backyard or at best a small wooded area not too far away. Since I anticipated that there would be a lot of movement in a rather confined area, I knew that any movement within the limitation of our skirmish area meant that we would pretty much be seen by one another which made camouflage seem more of a moot point.
Aren’t camouflage and concealment the same thing?
No. Camouflage is the use of colors, patterns, or objects when used effectively, provides a method to blend into the surrounding area. Concealment is the practice of staying hidden. They go hand in hand.
I never realized just how important both camouflage and concealment were until I learned a little more about both. I learned more about both as I became more involved in Airsoft. Once I was introduced to larger locations that provided different terrain and cover options I began to fully see how these two were beneficial in Airsoft.
In the beginning, I didn’t buy into a lot of what some players do. I just didn’t see needing a lot of what I considered to be “extras”, for example, a Ghillie suit, special camouflage, painting my replica or reviewing how I moved during game play.
However as time went on, there were some basics of camouflage and concealment that I learned which would later drive my need for a few of the “extras” as well as honing my skills to enhance my ability to take less hits and enhance my game play.
You can greatly enhance your game play with both knowing and employing some of the basics of camouflage and concealment outlined below.
Simply put, camouflage is effective when one is adequately disguised and avoids being seen or being targeted. This is accomplished by blending into your surroundings or to mimic your surroundings.
The idea behind camouflage is nothing new or recent idea. Many animals, etc. in nature make use camouflage as a form of protection thereby making themselves less likely to be the prey of another animal.
For example, a flounder employs a type of camouflage known as active camouflage to help itself blend into their surroundings almost seamlessly.
Active camouflage in animals is nothing more that the ability for them to change their own appearance to blend into their surroundings. In the case of the flounder, it can change its appearance in about eight seconds to match its aquatic surroundings such as the ocean floor.
While camouflage is used to blend into the surrounding area, to be truly effective, one must also break up their silhouette. Even when disguised with colors that match their surroundings, the human form when visible, can still give up one’s position.
To break up the human form, it is best to use more complicated patterns to break up the outline (silhouette of the human figure) with patterns and colors that match the playing location. These patterns can be either available commercially (hunting attire is a great example of commercially produced patterns) or military patterns. Either can be found in clothing and accessories.
Basic Camouflage Types
There are three types of camouflage that relate to and can be used in Airsoft game play. Using one or all can greatly enhance your ability to blend into your surroundings. When I first started playing, I just threw on a t-shirt and shorts without regard to even matching my surroundings.
Food for thought… While some colors could work, all are not necessarily suitable for every area where you may skirmish. For example, I have seen a lot of guys walk on field wearing black shirts and brown pants. While suppose this is better than a red shirt and jean shorts, hardly the best colors for blending in some areas.
Coloration or color matching is the most basic to blend into your surroundings. This may also be one of most inexpensive ways to blend in as a beginner. Color matching is often achieved with nothing more than wearing clothing or applying colors that will allow you to match your surroundings.
For example, if you are playing in a dry/warm area mostly consisting of raw earth, with little to no greenery, then a color pallet of varying shades of brown may help you blend in. On the other hand, if you are playing in the wintertime when snow is on the ground, then white and grey may be what helps you blend in.
This type of camouflage is an upgrade that goes beyond the simplicity of color matching. Disruptive coloration employs a combination of using more than one color or pattern to blend in by matching the surrounding colors and by breaking up the outline of the human form.
A great example of Disruptive Coloration would be in the available camouflage clothing designed for military use or commercially available camouflage outfits designed for sportsmen. The patterns produced can be simple colors in complex patterns that blend away the human outline and allow one to blur into the surroundings.
Self-decoration can be viewed as using what is available from your environment to further enhance your current camouflage scheme for better concealment. A good example of Self-Decoration would be in the photo before the beginning of this post. The use of leaves to cover the Sniper helps to take away his/her outline.
Likewise, a Ghillie suit with attached area foliage would also be considered Self-Decoration.
The following are just a few types of common camouflage patterns used by military’s worldwide but are also readily available online for purchase. In addition to Military patterns, there are some commercially available patterns used in clothing designed for the avid sportsman.
Commercially Produced, Non-Military Camouflage
Camouflage is also produced for sportsman or because for some, it is fashionable. Sometimes the patterns can resemble military designed patterns, while other designs are more abstract in nature.
It is produced with the same intentions as military camouflage is. Typically it can involve mimicry to obscure the person or abstract patterns to break up a silhouette of the human form.
Mimicry camouflage is produced to make the wearer appear to mimic specific surroundings. Mimicry camouflage can resemble man-made or natural elements such as trees, bushes, leaves, etc.
Break-up camouflage is produced to blur the outlines of the wearer allowing them to blend in with little to no discernible silhouette. Break-up camouflage patterns do not contain natural elements and in many instances can be similar to digital camouflage.
These are by no means a complete list of Military camouflage patterns but can be found in use around the world and lend themselves well to Airsoft.
DPC (Disruptive Camouflage Pattern)
DPC is a five-color camouflage pattern also nicknamed “jellybean” for elements within the patterns resemblance to jellybeans. It is used by the Australian Defense Forces.
DPM (Disruptive Camouflage Material)
DPM is camouflage consisting of four-color woodland pattern, or desert patterns in two, three or four colors. It is used by the British Armed Forces as well as other armies worldwide.
Multicam is a camouflage pattern designed for use in a wide range of conditions. It is used by U.S. Armed Forces as well as other armies worldwide.
Multi-scale is a digital camouflage that combines patterns at two or more scales, often created with computer assistance. Multi-scale provides camouflage over arrange of scales. It is used by U.S. Armed Forces as well as other armies worldwide.
Tiger Stripe is a series of patterns developed for use in a dense jungle environment. This type of camouflage was typically used in Vietnam but still see use by U.S. Armed Forces as well as other armies worldwide.
Woodland is a four color, high contrast pattern markings in sand, brown, green and black. This was a default camouflage pattern used by the U.S. Armed Forces for many years with its use still to this day. It is even a pattern now that can be commonly found in commercially produced civilian clothing.
Concealment encompasses elements that help hide you from observation. These elements go well beyond just the use of camouflage. Camouflage is but just one element in concealment. Concealment can also include other things not contemplated such as the scent that you give off, sounds of your movement and even the signs of your activity at a location.
When it comes to concealment, try and consider some of the following elements to help improve your ability to go unobserved during game play. Some of these may be elements you might have overlooked or not considered but can make a difference in your ability to go undetected. For some items below, they may seem to be overkill for a simple game of Airsoft. Do what works best for you…
Use of camouflage or natural elements can help break up unnatural shapes or outlines. Unnatural shapes or outlines can easily draw attention to you making it easier for the opposing team to discover your position. Here are some tactics to help you blend into your surroundings.
- Use colors which would naturally occur in nature.
- Use camouflage patterns with work well with the area you plan to skirmish in.
- Don’t move yourself into positions which create a contrast between yourself and the surrounding area. For example, don’t move to a position on top of a hill as the sky or area behind you would provide enough contrast to create an outline of your shape.
- Before playing at night, review the pattern of your camouflage. Some camouflage patterns create solid outlines when viewed through night vision whereas they do not during the day.
- Your person is not the only thing that needs to blend in. Your gear as well as your Airsoft replica should blend into the surroundings to avoid standing out and making you noticeable by the opposition.
- Look around or through cover as opposed to poking your head out when trying to get a look around.
Movement & Activity
While you may have not considered it, movement and activity can certainly point the other team in your direction. Movement not only creates sound which can give away your position (more on this below), but some movement can leave evidence of where you are or had been.
- Try limiting your movement to only necessary movements to reach objectives. Movement not only draws attention to yourself as it makes you stand out (remember blending in), but evidence of movement such as footprints, broken limbs, unnatural elements in the surrounding areas, etc., can also point the opposing team in your general direction.
- Avoid running unless absolutely necessary. Running can make a lot of noise as well as breaks your ability to blend into the surrounding area.
While it may never have crossed your mind, sunlight can reflect off of many surfaces, not just metal. Reducing the amount of shine from reflected light can help reduce or eliminate the chance that the opposing team will detect you. Here are a handful of ways to accomplish this:
- Cover up your hands, face and any other exposed skin. Sweaty, oily skin can reflect light just as well as any metal can.
- Metal areas on your clothing or personal accessories should be rendered non-reflective. Everything that is a part of your personal effects such as your belt buckle to the eyelets in your shoes can reflect light. Be aware that jewelry can reflect light. Consider not wearing unnecessary jewelry. Try wearing a matte finished belt buckle or covering your belt buckle with fabric to prevent shine. If the eyelets in your footwear have lost their paint, touch them up with some matte paint or color with a permanent marker.
- Likewise in regard to your Airsoft weapon, touch up any scratches or nicks that allow shiny metal to become exposed.
- Avoid unnecessary added accessories that can reflect light. While the brass in your belt-feed SAW may add to the awesome realism of your replica, the brass itself can provide sufficient shine to give away your position to the opposing team.
Sound by far, is one of the top ways that an Airsoft player can give away their position or the position of their team. A player’s presence can be detected with even the slightest noise. Airsoft Snipers assuredly know this better than anyone on the battlefield. Even the slightest sound can draw unwanted attention to their location. Here are some ways to help reduce the amount of sound made by players during a skirmish.
- This should probably go without saying but is just one of those things that can skip our human minds. Silence your devices. That text message or call (even when on vibrate) can be heard and give you or your teams position away.
- Limit the amount of talking by use of hand signals. There is a reason that you see soldiers or swat team members using hand signals in the movies. That’s because they work well at minimizing unnecessary noise. Additionally, if it is mission critical to talk, whisper close to the ear of the person you intend to communicate with.
- Review your clothing and gear for anything that can shake, rattle and otherwise make any detectable noise. Things like zipper pulls, dog tags, buckles, even the material your clothing is made from can make noise. You can reduce noise by taping or banding items that rattle. Wear clothing or carry gear that uses zippers or buttons as opposed to Velcro. Velcro is faster to open or close but makes a wonderful amount of noise. You can silence zippers with a little coating of lip balm.
- Don’t run. Running can make a lot of noise, so move swiftly but carefully. Additionally, be aware of what’s on the ground when moving about. Avoid stepping on dry leaves, sticks or twigs and avoid a pattern of noise. Repetitive crackling from walking through dry leaves can alert the opposition to your presence. Dry foliage can let off quite the attention getting noise.
- Use other noise to mask your own sounds. Louder background noise can easily mask noise from your own movements, etc. Take full advantage of the opportunity to move with stealth.
Scent can give you away just as readily as sound can. A new smell can immediately draw attention over smells we have gotten used to. Game hunters will attest to wild game such as dear being able to pick up your smell a human at least a quarter of a mile away. While our sense of smell is not as nearly as great as a deer or a dog, we do pick up on new smells. Here are few things about smell that will help you go undetected.
- If you are a smoker, forego smoking tobacco before and during game play. The smell of smoke can travel hundreds of yards making you detectable. This is especially true to a non-smoker who can pick up on this readily.
- While we all love the smell of freshly cleaned clothing, avoid cleaning your Airsoft clothing with perfumed detergent and dryer sheets. Nothing beats giving away your position, repeatedly because your freshly cleaned uniform is emitting the snuggly-soft smell of fabric softener.
- Same as dryer sheets and perfumed detergent above. Avoid slapping on cologne or scented deodorant prior to game play. I go as far as using a non-scented soap when showering before a game as the shamrock colored bar soap I use has a pleasant but lingering smell.
- Make your moves downwind of the opposing team if possible, to avoid any breeze from carrying your scent directly to their noses.
Here are some other areas for consideration that will help improve your stealth abilities in an Airsoft game.
- Don’t overlook covering you head, neck, face and hands. Aside from the glint of light off of your skin, your natural tone may not blend into your surrounding thus creating a solid color that is unnatural to your surroundings. Use face paint of colors and patterns which work with your location. Gloves can cover your hands. Long sleeve clothing can also cover from your shoulders to your hands. A solid colored or patterned hat/helmet can supply camouflage for your head.
- The gear you carry, your clothing, and accessories all contribute to your outline against the surrounding area. Carry only what you need. Additionally, camouflage and conceal these items so they too blend into the area where you play.
- Don’t neglect making your replica blend into your environment. Aside from touching up shiny parts which can reflect light, dressing up your replica with a painted camouflage pattern or foliage from the area can reduce the silhouette of your Airsoft gun.
When beginning in Airsoft, the thought of camouflage and concealment was not something I gave a whole lot of consideration to. I just wanted to get my Airsoft gun and get out there into any game I could get into. However, as time passed, I played at different locations with varying terrain and cover. My eyes were opened, giving me a better perspective on ways I could improve my game (and ultimately to take less hits).
Camouflage and concealment are both important for effective maneuvering on the battlefield. Wearing a t-shirt and jeans no longer will do. The right camouflage can mean playing longer and better. Camouflage doesn’t have to be fancy at all. It can be as simple as wearing the right colors or a combination of patterns in order to reduce your outline and blend in.
Concealment goes beyond just camouflage (although camouflage is but one element of concealment). Concealment encompasses other elements that can help hide a player while in plain sight. Concealment can be anything from reducing unnecessary noise, avoiding actions that make you stand out like extra movement or even reducing your scent profile by avoiding the cologne or perfumed detergents used to clean your Airsoft clothing.
While some suggestions above may seem overkill for Airsoft, one thing applies and that is in order to extend your game time, you have to be hit less often. This only can occur if you utilize cover well and go undetected when moving into position. Effective camouflage and concealment helps to accomplish this.
See you out on the battlefield!