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.
Camouflage face paint is a reasonably priced item in our hunting arsenal compared to a lot of other necessary items. The typical military style paint sticks or even some of the civilian grade counterparts are not going to set you back financially. But, with hunting season right around the corner and the onslaught of Halloween merchandising and marketing all ready in full swing, I figured I would give you a couple good reasons to stock up on Halloween make-up.
REASON 1: Halloween make-up is less expensive than face paint marketed towards hunters.
The cheapest and most abundant face paint is now flooding the seasonal retail market. Halloween make-up is everywhere from the specialty/seasonal stores to Wal-Mart. Most of the make-up is still packaged in squeezable tubes and has all of the same benefits and qualities of the higher priced "hunter" versions. One particular brand I found at Wal-Mart was selling for 98 cents a 1 oz. tube. If you only bought a tube of black, brown, and green, you have only spent $2.94 before sales tax. The lowest priced hunter version I could find retails at $3.99. You save at least a dollar. So why not add another color?
REASON 2: Halloween make-up has a better selection of colors.
Can you bow hunt successfully or survive a military operation with the standard black, brown, and green color scheme? Sure, but when you REALLY want to blend into your surroundings, the color choices offered by Halloween make-up is like the icing on the cake. Just the availability of yellow and white allows you the opportunity to mix it up a bit. Yes, the pun was intended. You create lighter hues and really enhance your camouflage and concealment strategy by mixing and blending colors together. Some retailers have textured face paint for the appearance of rotting zombie flesh. From a natural environment point-of-view, it would not be difficult to imagine this as having a rock or stone-like appearance, minus the associated fake blood and gore. Having some non-standard colors in your face paint kit will open up some concealment opportunities that the plain black, brown, and green cannot do.
REASON 3: Halloween make-up is hypoallergenic.
As more people who typically don't wear make-up everyday are going to be applying their annual Halloween make-up, the stuff aimed at the Halloween crowd is often hypoallergenic. With the exception of a few cases, most people can wear Halloween make-up with little or no trouble at all. It also washes off easily with mild soap and water, just like the face paint hunters would normally buy. I would even venture to say that the same supplier is probably making the product for both markets.
As the Halloween season winds down and retailers begin marking down Halloween supplies for clearance, you can save even more money as retailers now must make room for Christmas merchandise...before Thanksgiving...again.
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.