The subject of the "best" camouflage pattern is often similar to the seemingly never-ending debate over 9mm vs. .45 ACP stopping power. I don't think the discussion will ever reach the explosive polarity of the Hatfield and McCoy feud or even current American politics. However, I figured I would take a couple of jabs at the high-definition (HD) camouflage establishment.
Almost every hunter knows that in order to see game and fill game-tags, they have to keep still. Hunting camouflage is designed to help maintain the illusion of stillness, even while making minor position shifts, using binoculars, or any other movement possible that otherwise may compromise your location/presence. Game animal eyesight, with the exception of game birds, is far worse in regards to the color spectrum than that of humans. Despite the monochromatic limitations, several species do have superior vision in the ultraviolet spectrum.
Most camouflage hunting patterns are firmly rooted in a static or stationary context. Tactical camouflage must be abstract in design, and blend in well with several elements within a given environment. The only exception would be surveillance operation conducted from a suitable hide. The pattern must use colors to blend without taking on the exact shape of anything within that environment. The wearer is required to advance on targets or objectives, meaning that any portion of his camouflage that contains discernible elements that don't exist or have now moved can cause detection. Because of the need for dynamic mobility, camouflage with realistic trees, branches, leaves, and grass don't work. These things in nature have no way of self-initiated mobility or the ability to migrate, so from a tactical movement standpoint, it is clear why these types of patterns don't work in this application.
Most of my hesitation with HD patterns occurs when people attempt to apply it universally to the concept of effectively concealing themselves from other humans. This typically manifests whenever I teach classes on camouflage or consult with a client, especially younger hunters and airsoft/paintball clients, I often address their misguided faith in HS camo patterns. My greatest defense of my position on HD camo focuses on the reality of its inability to defeat the deductive reasoning and detective mind of a trained human adversary. I often send them the following picture to discuss and demonstrate the drawbacks of civilian HD camouflage patterns. It is for these reasons listed below that I never recommend HD camo patterns for any type of tactical application. If additional colors or textures are needed in an environment, the augmentation of some sort of ghillie-type apparel should be utilized.
Visual Downfalls of HD Camouflage
You can bet that highly trained military SPEC-OP units and tactical law enforcement are trained to spot these anomalies. Their lives and their mission success depend upon the ability to see things that are out of the ordinary. If you'd like to learn more about what it takes to have a truly effective camouflage and concealment strategy, I highly recommend you look for my soon to be released book, Appear to Vanish: Stealth Concepts for Effective Camouflage and Concealment available from Paladin Press in the next couple of months.
Matthew Dermody is an outdoor and hunting enthusiast, camouflage expert and author of Hidden Success: A Comprehensive Guide To Ghillie Suit Construction and the upcoming Appear to Vanish: Stealth Concepts for Effective Camouflage and Concealment. He currently lives in eastern Washington with his wife and twin daughters.