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Civilian or Tactical Clothing

Wednesday, 27 June 2012 00:40

As you outfit your prepping gear and clothing, you may have debated on whether to take a military/law enforcement approach or use civilian/camping gear. Like me, you have probably searched several prepping and survivalist forums or watched YouTube videos to find out what others are using, and have come across the civilian-military SHTF debate. On one side of the debate is the low profile approach, which uses civilian gear to blend in with the local populace. On the other side, some believe the high profile approach using military gear, is best to deter threats and provide group cohesion. Personally, I believe whatever you feel comfortable using is the best. There are benefits of both, and I blend civilian and military products throughout my inventory. 

Civilian Gear Approach

There are benefits using strictly civilian clothing and gear. If your goal is to blend in with the masses during a grid down situation, you can accomplish this goal if you look like everyone else. If you look like everybody else, you are less likely to bring unwanted attention to yourself, whether from thugs trying to steal your supplies or the scared and overwhelmed law enforcement officer. The truth is if you look like you belong to a paramilitary group, you will be viewed as a threat. This also extends to the visibility or concealment of firearms. If this is your mindset, don’t worry. The camping industry provides some of the best, but more importantly affordable gear on the market. In some areas, camping gear exceeds that of military equipment, and quality camping gear is readably available. However, if you look like everyone else, you may be viewed as a target, just like every other unprepared individual. 

Military/Tactical Gear Approach

Some preppers are of the mindset that military clothing and gear is the best approach. They discredit the belief that blending in with the populace is important. They believe that by wearing military clothing, the clothing alone may deter a possible attacker. This originates from the belief that if someone knows you are armed, they are less likely to target you for a crime. Think about it, who would naturally pick a fight with the biggest guy in the crowd. Most tactical preppers also believe that having your weapon at the ready is important, to ensure you have quick access to it if needed.

Since American troops have been in combat for the past 11 years, there have been many advances in military and law enforcement gear. Notably, military style back packs with Molle attachments have greatly increased your options to fully customize your Survival Bag. I currently use a 5.11 Rush 24 backpack, but have also used a Rush 72 in the past. These advances also extend to weapons customizations, holster systems, and fully integrated Molle plate carriers and tactical vests. Today, your arsenal can be placed on your torso in a logical and easily accessible manner.   

A few draw backs for using only military gear, especially clothing, is cost and access to the items. In most cases new military gear is expensive. Additionally, patterns such as Multicam can come at a premium. I recently purchased a tarp for my survival bag, and the Multicam pattern costs nearly twice as much as the sand colored tarp. If you are lucky enough to live around a military base, you may have access to surplus stores which sale new and used military gear. Surplus stores allow you to see an item in person before purchasing. Sure, there are other options such as EBay or surplus websites, but I do not like conducting blind purchases for used gear. 

Probably the most significant drawback for taking a military approach is an increased threat posture. Whenever you come in contact with someone, they will instantly view you as a threat, even if threatening them is not your intention. US military units take a soft approach in deployed areas where the threat is lower, with hopes to not worry or threaten the local populace. While I am not a fan of these policies, I do agree that a soft approach can ease tension, especially the tension with local law enforcement and host national military units. If a SHTF situation would ever occur in the United States, or other Westernized states, military and law enforcement would be on the lookout for potential threats. If you look like you belong in a combat zone, I personally believe they would do everything in their power to disarm you, or worse engage you and/or your family. 

My Approach

Personally, I am flexible. I have tactical gear (plate carrier, plates, magazine pouches, etc), but I also have clothing and equipment that can blend in. Which one would I chose in a grid down or survival situation? It depends on the level of chaos and police and military involvement. If the situation is totally lawless, I will take a tactical approach, guns-a-showing and magazines maxed.  If it is a moderate collapse and law enforcement is still active, I would likely take the civilian approach with concealed weapons. 

I would not use military uniforms, but I can see their relevance especially if you are part of a larger group. However, I am not against hunting camouflage, if the good ole boys normally wear it in your area. 

I believe it is important to be able to blend in, but also have items at arm’s reach. Therefore, I take a modular approach. For clothing, I wear 5.11 pants and a 5.11 long sleeve shirt, and use a moisture wicking T-Shirt (UnderArmour). I always wear a pair of boots. My clothing and boots are in desert tan (Coyote) or another neutral color. I believe that by using the tan color you are less threatening to the average person, but still mean business for those who know what to look for. This setup is common for defense contractors working abroad, or undercover police officers. 

To ensure I have a full combat load nearby, I carry a Blackhawk Enhanced Commando Recon Chest Harness. This carrier has built in storage for 8 x AR-15 magazines, Molle attachments for further customization, and can be put on in a moment’s notice. In addition to the AR magazines, I have additional pouches to carry five pistol magazines, knife, multi-tool, and a flashlight. For my sidearm, I always carry a Spetz Gear holster on my belt which allows concealment. On my plate carrier I use a BlackHawk Serpa Holster. This allows me to have my primary sidearm on my belt, or move it to my plates whenever needed.  


I would classify my system as a modular civilian/military approach. I use civilian clothing as a base to blend in, but also have the capability to conceal a sidearm and ammunition. I can easily transition to my military gear and bulk ammo by simply putting on my plate carrier. While this article was written from my perspective, and my experience with the system that I have used and modified in combat over the years, it may not work for everyone. Please let us know what you thing about this article, and what you use. We learn from each other. Be Prepared. Get Connected. 

Last modified on Tuesday, 12 March 2013 18:06
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