Gray Man Theory: The Art Of Blending In During Disaster

gray man theory

The gray man theory is a way of disappearing into the crowd so you can move unnoticed when disaster strikes. The idea is that you can conceal your preparedness by blending in with the crowd before or during an emergency.

While it is generally referred to as the ‘gray man theory,’ this theory can, of course, be applied to anyone, man or woman, of any age, who needs to blend into a crowd amidst a disastrous situation to conceal the fact that they have survival skills and/or are carrying tactical gear.

When you think of ‘blending in with the crowd’ it’s generally a negative, right?

Nobody wants to be just like everyone else. You want to be unique, to stand out – that is, until there’s an emergency and you’re the only one prepared. As a prudent prepper, you’ll be ready when disaster strikes, but what will everyone around you be doing?

Panicking, most likely.

In states of panic, people become desperate, and desperation can lead people to do whatever it takes to stay alive – at this point, you certainly don’t want to be singled out as the one person prepared for survival.

gray man theory
Disappearing into a crowd is an extremely useful survival skill.

Why Use the Gray Man Theory?

There are lots of advantages to blending in with the crowd when disaster strikes.

For starters, by not drawing attention to yourself, you’ll be able to move more quickly and easily through the crowd without alerting others to the fact that you are prepared to handle the situation.

Also, by blending in and appearing to be among the unprepared, you are less likely to make yourself a target of those in desperation who may try and take your survival gear off you by force.

The gray man theory is really about protecting yourself and your family by concealing the fact that you are indeed prepared to survive in the face of disaster.

gray man theory
The gray man theory allows you to use the herd to your advantage.

The Benefits of Being a Gray Man

In a true disaster situation, your primary objective will be to move yourself and your loved ones as quickly as possible to a safe place – be that your home or bug-out location.

In a disaster, everyone around you will have the same goal – get somewhere safe – but most will not have a sound plan in place, leading to frantic behavior and desperate attempts for survival.

In this situation, disappearing into the crowd and not drawing attention to yourself or your state of preparedness can greatly increase your chances of survival.

gray man theory
How many of these people look prepared to handle a crisis?

As most around you will be unprepared for disaster, you will undoubtedly feel the urge to help those in need. However, your number one priority needs to be your own survival, and you should only help others if you can do so without endangering yourself.

By blending in, or becoming a gray man, you will be less likely to be approached by others seeking assistance and, more importantly, less likely to be targeted by opportunists looking to prey on those with the forethought to pack essential items for survival situations.

How To Be a Gray Man

The best way to not leave a lasting impression is to not leave any impression at all.

This is the concept behind the gray man theory, and it sounds simple enough, but execution can be challenging.

This guide will cover the basic concept behind the gray man theory and provide some key tips and tricks for effectively making yourself ‘invisible’ in a disaster scenario.

gray man theory

Steps to Becoming a Gray Man (or Woman)

The ultimate goal of becoming a gray man or woman is to camouflage yourself into appearing as though you are just part of the crowd to prevent others from identifying you as a potential gold mine of supplies or information. By exuding confidence and preparedness, you will draw in opportunists who will attempt to capitalize on your resourcefulness to the detriment of your own survival.

To conceal the fact that you are prepared with survival gear and skills from others, there are four key areas you will want to focus on: how you act, how you move, how you look, and how you carry your gear.

How You Act

The key to acting as a gray man is to appear average and non-threatening. Be careful about what you say and to whom you say it – being known as strongly antagonistic or too outspoken about your political beliefs can lead others to make assumptions about you and mark you as a prepared individual.

Maintain conversation topics within the norm of the group. If small talk seems to be the normal thing to do, engage with others to not draw attention to yourself.

While a good understanding of your surroundings is paramount in a disaster, be careful to play down any attempts to scan areas for escape routes or possible problems with security. This type of behavior will be noticed and lead people to question what you’re looking for, or worse, what you’re trying to protect.

gray man theory
The gray man theory relies on not leaving an impression. Eye contact stimulates the brain to form memories so keeping your eyes averted can help you remain unnoticed.

One important skill to learn in adapting a gray man persona is maintaining your privacy without appearing overly private or obviously standoffish. When speaking with others, keep eye contact to a minimum as someone is more likely to notice you if they look in your eyes. Even brief eye contact when passing on the street can form a connection, making you more memorable than those around you.

How You Move

Knowing the local landscape can be a tremendous advantage as the better you know local streets and landmarks, the better able you will be to navigate them and alter your route to avoid troublesome areas. When moving, appear as much as possible to go with the flow, walking with purpose but not urgency. Any rapid motion will draw attention to you and raise suspicions as to your motives.

gray man theory
An integral part of the gray man theory is the ability to move through a crowd without drawing attention to yourself.

When navigating a crowd, make gradual progress – cutting through a sea of people at sharp angles will draw attention to your movements and make you appear suspicious. Whether others perceive you as a savior or threat, either one can slow you down.

Unless it would impede your own safety, always appear to follow the herd. For instance, if everyone around you turns towards an explosive sound and gasps, join them. You don’t ever want to be the one person who is unaffected by an out-of-the-ordinary event.

gray man theory
Follow the focus of the crowd – notice the woman standing with her back turned? According to the gray man theory, in a SHTF scenario, this behavior could raise suspicion. Photo via Intel Free Press on Flickr.

If you need to break away from the crowd, try and make your exit alongside a small group of people, keeping enough distance so that they know you’re not with them but close enough that you don’t appear to be alone, which makes you appear less vulnerable.

When observing your surroundings, be as discreet as possible. Leverage your peripheral vision as well as decoy objects, such as a piece of paper, to give the impression your attention is focused on the object as you survey the area. If appropriate, wear reflective sunglasses that hide your eyes, allowing you the freedom to scan rapidly without drawing attention.

gray man theory
Sunglasses on a sunny day are a good choice for obscuring your face. At night, they would have the opposite effect, drawing attention as something out of the norm.

If you need to engage in activities that will make noise and draw attention your way, try to take advantage of predictable noises to help mask the sound of any breaching you may need to do. Predictable noises include ‘white’ noises that people are accustomed to hearing and therefore raise little suspicion.

gray man theory
You can take advantage of distractions to make small moves toward your destination.

For instance, wait for a loud bus to pass before climbing into a dumpster or synchronize busting a window with a loud siren. If you need to get into a building, choose a door near a noisy HVAC condenser. These preparations may take a little bit of extra time to execute, but those few moments of patience will ensure your activities go unnoticed and may save your life.

How You Look

It goes without saying that when trying to appear less prepared than you are, camo prints or other outwardly tactical-looking clothing are not the best choice, unless of course, you are in a situation where that type of dress is the norm, such as a hunting trip.

While you don’t have to dress head-to-toe in gray, subtle color choices blend best into crowds and make it easier for you to move unnoticed.

gray man theory
Which is the first person that you notice? Bright colors are easy to track through a crowd.

Ideally, you will want to keep any tactical gear concealed. This means packing your pockets and bags strategically to allow for quick access to key items. Reflective objects and bright colors will draw visual attention so ensure items such as your knife are tucked inside your clothing or bag, not hanging from your belt.

Avoid having any reflective materials or highly visible colors on your clothing and accessories, as well as any large text or memorable insignia. Any focal points can draw attention to you and hinder your attempts to blend in.

gray man theory
Even if this officer were in civilian clothing, the shiny handcuffs and holster would be highly visible and leave an impression on passersby.

If possible, carry an additional item with you that can instantly change your look, such as a hat, sunglasses, or jacket, as this can be quite helpful. If someone does happen to peg you as a target, you can use the item to slip under their radar as they scan for you in a crowd.

One last word of caution – be mindful of the way you smell. Yes, smell. Believe it or not, scent is a major memory trigger, so try not to have a noticeable scent about you when trying to blend in.

How You Carry Your Gear and What You Carry

The simplest solution to carrying your gear unnoticed is to find a discreet every day carry bag that blends well with your typical daily routine. Backpacks and messenger bags commonly seen on commuters are good choices as these tend to be less obvious. You can also find pocketbooks with compartmentalized interiors that can make it quick and easy to access your gear.

gray man theory
There are many options for a tactical bag with a low profile that can fit into your typical style without drawing attention.

Another good choice that lends itself well to blending is a jacket or vest with a streetwear outward appearance but hidden storage on the inside. Pants with pockets, especially cargo pants, are excellent for storing gear but may not be the most appropriate choice for people who work in an office with a formal dress code.

The gear you carry with you daily should also be discreet if you want to be a gray man. For example, for self-defense, you may opt for a tactical pen or a discreet folding knife such as the Boker Subcom folding knife, which can even double as a money clip.

A compact flashlight such as the Fenix E05 is so compact it can easily be carried on a keychain without attracting.


In the immediate aftermath of a disaster or in a post-apocalyptic scenario, the ability to conceal yourself as a gray man can be an extremely useful survival skill. The last thing you want is for all your time and effort put into prepping to be for naught by having your supplies taken off you by someone less prepared and more desperate.

To improve your gray man abilities, observe the way people dress and act as you go about your day – what stands out, what makes various people noticeable? This can help you hone in on the objects and behaviors that draw attention.

Combining this knowledge with the four key steps to becoming a gray man will put you well on your way to being able to ‘disappear’ into any crowd and increase your chances of survival when disaster strikes.

Your Thoughts

Do you have any thoughts on the gray man theory? Have you experienced a situation where you needed to conceal your preparedness? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments. Thanks!


Chris Ruiz

My name is Chris and I created this site to help ordinary people prepare for the uncertainties of the modern day world. I believe that a well-prepared society is the best safeguard against any natural or manmade disaster.

67 comments on “Gray Man Theory: The Art Of Blending In During Disaster

  1. This is good info for if you are bugging out or trying to make your way home but how would you go about making your house a ‘gray’ house?
    If your house looks protected (I.e if you have windows boarded up, curtains closed etc) people might wonder what you are protecting. Even if it doesn’t look particularly protected you may have some opportunistic looters sniffing about.
    One issue I keep worrying about is how to put off looters in the case of a serious SHTF.

      1. there are passive deterrent odorants that a facility may use to keep people from wandering down a particular corridor, similar to the synthetic odors they use to train cadaver dogs. Rotten dead smell would of course not be deployed until necessary…

    1. I think that once SHTF, there won’t be the possibility of having a ‘gray’ house. Why? Because EVERY house will be a target, no matter how nondescript it looks, unless it’s an obviously deserted, unlivable, maybe already-destroyed house.
      At that point, the only effective deterrent to pillaging would be either an invisibility net covering the house (ummm, love to have one), or making your home look like it wouldn’t be worth it to the trespasser.
      Security cameras, real or fake, all over it. Perhaps those boarded up windows aren’t a bad thing if there are obvious signs of firing ports in them. “Welcome mats” of upward-pointing spikes in the hedges. Glass embedded in the tops of property walls. You get the idea.
      I’ll never forget season three of “Doomsday Preppers” (I think), where the family had the quick-mount window covers and the plan to pour (again, I think) hot fluids from the roof onto attackers. Or maybe it was simply sniper positions on the roof…I can’t really remember now…think I’ll look that up…
      ANYWAY…both would be good lol.
      I truly believe that bugging-in will require an offensive approach like these, instead of the defensive ‘gray’ approach. Each has its place, but ‘gray’ to me will only work until civil obedience breaks down. After that…you better expand your threat profile to others like a puffer fish and make anyone decide it’s better just to move on down the road.

      1. Kelsey,
        Thanks for the in-depth analysis. I think that whether or not the Gray House approach is suitable really comes down to individual situations and you are right, it will not be right for many people. Having an offensive plan in place is a good way to go, you certainly do not want to have to come up with one on the fly if unfriendly people are trying to knock down your door!

        Perhaps home defense would make a good article for the future!


      2. This is true about marauders and looters. The don’t discrimate in their looting. I responded to Katrina while in the military. Looters had boats they were going house to house stealing. The looters were being shot on the spot in the neighborhoods. There were some by homeowners, some by police. There is some need to not draw attention, don’t advertise you have food and water. Make your home a hard target, the looters will go on to softer targets.

      3. I’ve seen where people mention if houses are being looted, then scatter a few pieces of clothes around the front door to look as if you were already hit.

      4. You are correct, the “Gray Man” would not be practical for the SHTF scenario because everyone will be looking for any edge that can be gained to survive, regardless of whether you look tactical or casual. However, the “Gray Man” is not for the SHTF scenario, it is for the time leading up to SHTF. For example, the apocalypse or SHTF is the worst of the worst, but what about the events that lead up to causing this? It will be a steady progression of events of increasing difficulty/intensity that lead to such circumstances, not a sudden and incredible change of the world (most likely, its more likely to be a political thing, not say a zombie apocalypse style event) and that is the area in which the “Gray Man” is useful. It is for a time such as now honestly, its not quite apocalypse, but slowly becoming that. That is when the time for blending in and not drawing attention to yourself is important. So yes, you are correct, the “Gray Man” actions would not work in total SHTF, but that’s because they aren’t designed to (although blending in nd not getting found is helpful regardless of what the state of nature is).

    2. I like the ideas, I think that they might have to be modified somewhat for me because I am old and have some medical conditions.

      1. I am fit & have great situational awareness, probably because I have raised a child with a long-term disability.
        I would LOVE to hear the recommendations for someone like me who has an able-bodied 24 yr old son Yet he has cognitive disabilities (mainly in the area of :naivety). He is not as physically adept if we had to escape an emergency situation.

        Therefore, Home defense is my priority.
        But I’d love a “compound” in which to hunker down with other Survival Prep-minded people.
        Any suggestions? Great article. Thank you.

        1. Remember the Korean business owner during the LA riots? He barricaded the front and side of the exterior of his business with cars and posted rooftop people ready with rifles.He had dedicated friends/associates who helped defend.

    3. Saving materials from our recent remodel, plastic sheeting, paint cans, etc to scatter around the house in the event shtf. Our drive is unfinished (just sand) and the remodel junk along with that will make I look like it was ditched mid remodel (hopefully haha). This would also make boarding some entry points seem totally reasonable

    4. When SHTF I’m not going to stay in the house, I’m moving to the shed. It’s smaller which means I can cover all the angles and with some insulation, it’s warmer in the winter due to body heat. A shed can also be fortified a lot easier than a house E.g steel lined walls and bulletproof glass whereas doing so with a house would cost a fortune.
      A house also has much more surface area to breach. And in case you absolutely need to evacuate a tunnel could be built.
      Now assuming I have a family I’d likely have better chances holding my own in a house, however, a smaller one with one bedroom would likely be better.
      I would still fear that due to the house being a house it would attract more looters than a shed, thus wasting precious ammunition.

    5. Maybe we could look to the survivors in cities of Columbia, for example. The other day a person from Columbia informed me that there people have practically bullet-proof front doors and metal things they pull down over the windows. He said the police are not very good; outnumbered and maybe they’re scared too. I remember last year he said his mom, a banker in Columbia, was mugged. Anyway, what do survivors do in other countries that have been in a state of disarray for some time? By the way, in Columbia you have to show proof of citizenship when you buy stuff.

    6. Depending on where you live; the installation of “Hurricane” windows and doors would be an excellent option there. Expensive to be sure; they are resistant if not impervious to the local riff raff and the not serious burglars. They can be tinted so as to not advertise what you have and outwardly they appear like normal everyday windows or doors.

    7. I’m a retired law enforcement administrator along with doing undercover work. I can definitely tell you what’s conspicuous. Exterior doors that are heavily fortified with locks and bars along with windows having bars, lots of noticeable cameras, etc. That just screams either illegal activity or the person lives there has valuables. Either way, it’s a red flag. A robber will just wait for the resident to leave or come home, stick a gun in your face and demand you open the door. The key is “covert security” and “hiding in plain sight.” You want to make your house fit in, but have higher security than your neighbors without attracting attention. Here’s how I did it. I replaced my windows with hurricane certified replacement windows that have laminated glass and installed metal pins where the two sashes come together. Now, they are pry and break resistant. Also, I got a high security storm door from Lowe’s which looks like a normal all glass storm door. However, it has something called KeepSafe glass, continuous hinge, hook type deadbolts which lock into the frame and can be keyed the same as a quickset lock. They show someone hitting it numerous times with a baseball bat along with prying and it just cracked some. Furthermore, I had a window company install reflective window film on the storm door for extra privacy. For the exterior door, I also used a hurricane certified door. I’ve personally been on entry teams and they take quite a bit of time to break into. Also, no windows in the door or next to the door. Cameras are good, but they can be concealed in bird feeders, bird houses and other discreet places. That way you can see what is going on. My cameras hook directly into my main tv so I just have to push a different input button to see what is going on. This way if you have a neighbor over, then they don’t see a dedicated television monitor for the camera system. I replaced my basement windows with glass block that have a small vent in them. The exterior lights are normal looking, but they have the dusk to dawn feature. That way there isn’t a light left on during the day which is a telltale sign that someone is not home. My mailbox is locked and has a large drop area. That way there isn’t any mail sticking out which is another indicator that nobody is home. Landscape your house normally, but don’t put in things that provide cover and concealment. Also, paint and decorate your home’s exterior which reflects how your neighborhood looks. So, my neighbors just think I was doing home improvements for “energy efficiency.” My house completely blends into the neighborhood, but is much more secure than my neighbors.”

    8. The use of thorn bushes is a great way to deter people from going to your house without calling attention to it. An average looking house doesn’t have any items of value in them. If you see that the mob has maltof cocktails were any other device that would start a fire, you’ll have to take direct action against them.

  2. If SHTF in a major way, i’m talking full apocalypse not just a small incident then how do you go about being both a grey man and someone who has all their bug out gear especially if one plans to wear armor of any kind.

    1. Hey Hamish, thanks for your comment. I think most of the advice in the article can be applied. You can carry all the gear you want, just don’t do it in an obvious way. Use a normal looking pack and try on the body armor under a large sweatshirt or jacket.


    2. There are jackets, coats and shirts that look like a regular apparel, but they conceal soft body armor. Ebay has some really good examples.

  3. I remember my first foray into the Gray Man Technique back in June of 1988. What happened then, you ask? U.S. Army basic training lol. I called it “blending into the wall”, and other than for a couple amateur blunders (which earned me some time in the front-leaning rest position), I did pretty well!

    Chris, my compliments on the excellent service to all people who want to survive when SHTF, that you’re providing. I always read your emails to me top to bottom and inside-out. I appreciate everything you’re doing to enlighten folks, and my friend what goes around, comes around. These good deeds you’re doing will come back to you in spades.

    Peace, God be with you, and I hope I don’t notice any of you in a crowd. 😀

    1. Kelsey,
      Thank you for your kind words, they are very humbling. The team over here works very hard to produce the best possible information that will be truly useful to the folks out there and I am glad to hear you are getting something out of it!

      That is a funny story about your first foray into Gray Man, the front leaning rest position is no fun!

      Thanks again and good luck prepping,

  4. This is very useful information! It sounds easier than really will be too. Thanks so much! It’s made me aware &
    that’s a good start, Right?

    1. Just curious, I’m starting my own I don’t know, column, book, whatever I call it “Grey man for teachers and other non-tactical people) (Im a teacher and can’t bring weapons to my worksite, because its a danger, so how would you grey man with a “personal minimum requirement?” (Meaning carry the absolute minimum) this is not for bug out but my GHSbag. (well box) I don’t want anything bigger than a medium size makeup kit.

    2. What if you are with a really obnoxious person who just can’t help but call attention to themselves, and then also to yourself ?.

      I have a good Friend named Al Crain who gets extremely belligerent in public and if we were in a society breakdown and/or zombie infestation situation I think I would go down with him.

      What should I do to counteract his lack of greyness ??.

  5. I have stored the miniature “Tea Candles” for emergency use at home. These are the small candles in a little metal container used for decorative purposes etc. You can also get glass or metal housings for them. Although each one has a shorter burning life, they are widely available in large bulk packs at low cost, & they do not pose the major fire risk of larger candles that can fall over. I consider fire risk in an emergency something to take special notice of. Some places also have citronella Tea Candles to stop insects.

    Insect concerns are often overlooked in bug out lists but if you have to leave your house or your house gets damaged, especially in wet weather, then insect bites are likely to be a concern & they can really make you miserable.

    One small, light weight, cheap aid is the Mosquito Zap or Mosquito Click devices available cheaply from eBay. These use a piezo crystal like the gas stove ignitors use. You put the device on the bite & press the button & it puts a small electric zap into the area. You just zap around the area, & the sting & itch goes away, & the swelling goes down. It sounds strange but they work really well & even work for skin rashes & disease rash. There is no excuse not to grab a few because they last for ever, are only physically small & light weight, & only cost a few dollars on eBay.

  6. Great well thought out article. Becoming a gray man definitely needs to be practiced now rather than later. In the early stages of a SHTF everyone is a target. Right now while things are more or less still together though is the time to hone your skills. Even a quick check of the news will let you know that there is no shortage of violence.

  7. I would also like to bring up social media. While it is fine to discuss prepping with other preppers on line. I would be careful about being detail specific about what preps you have, bug out locations, etc. Just a little common sense and an operational security mindset can go a long way. Also, as a former professional magician, I always think in terms of misdirection. For example, having a small amount of food preps in a hall closet, so that someone searching will think they found your stash and that you don’t have much and perhaps they take that and leave. But your real preps are better hidden and hopefully never found.

    1. Hi,

      I have also thought of misdirection because there were many burglaries in my neighborhood.
      The last 11 years have been quiet after the burglars were caught 🙂
      But, I continue with my little system of misdirection.

      This is how I welcome the burglars in my house:

      They can easily find a mobile phone with charger by my bed
      and a laptop almost “hidden” under a pillow on the couch.
      In the hall they will find a wallet with money and credit cards.

      Sounds nice?

      The only thing they do not know that the phone has never worked.
      I think it’s a dummy. It can light up and show a “finished charging”…
      That’s all it can do. I found it in a recycling shop and they gave it to me for free.

      The laptop is old, but looks pretty. Nothing of value on it.

      ..and the “want to be stolen wallet”?
      The money is genuine, but not of high value.
      There are different credit cards. Most of them are expired.
      There is a post-it note on one of the cards. It says “Remember! My code is: 4711″…
      (that’s an idea that my grandmother used for her cards. Yes, it’s true.
      But, don’t write your real code like she did..)

      For the non-expired card you do like this:
      You report your card stolen or disappeared,
      but you still have it (you just do not use it – ever again)
      You then need to prepare the card for its new life:
      Destroy some of the numbers with a small file.
      Pull some sandpaper back and forth over your signature and the three security numbers.
      All you need the burglars to read is expiery date and most numbers on the front page.
      It must look worn out. The post-it note may also look a bit worn out.
      Put the card with the post-it note in your pocket for a day or two, and it will look right.

      (Then you pay for a new credit card with a new code – this is for your real wallet).
      The “stolen” card may then be in the “want to be stolen wallet”.
      I also use this wallet when I’m on vacation.
      That’s what people see. I have only a small amount of money in it.
      I transfer money to it from my real wallet,
      which is locked and hidden away.

      Hope you got some ideas 🙂
      I don’t belive in apocalypse, SHTF or any paranoid stuff.
      I belive in good people.
      People who are afraid hurt other people.
      We should not be afraid. Read “The speed of trust”.
      Be the good person you want to see in others.
      Stories of Apocalypse are made to scare people.
      Religion does not help anyone. It’s an illusion.
      Folding hands and prayer is not a real job.
      It only builds more illusion.
      It is good to be prepared for natural disasters,
      but the best way to prepare for war is to learn languages.
      Communication is what creates trust, friendship and society.

      1. Hi Angelo,
        I suggest you read the book, ” The Survivors Club”. This is a book that explores the reasons some people survive disasters and some don’t. One of the biggest traits the ” survivors” had that the non survivors didn’t, was faith in God. I’m a counselor and I see it everyday… People of faith CONSISTENTLY out perform, adapt and overcome trama over those who are agnostic/athesist. Whether you want to admit it or not, faith gives a tremendous psychological advantage over non believers. Yes, I am a Christian, but I was raised an athesist – I lived life both ways, my relationship with God – my faith, is a source of strength I could never put into words. It’s the absolute gut level awareness that I ALWAYS have somewhere to turn, I am completely loved and God will always hear my prayers and He always gives me strength no matter what I’m facing. Good never promised an easy life, or that I’d always get what I asked for in prayer, but what He DID promise is that He would always love me, He would always strengthen me and no matter what happens He WILL work it for good in my life. THAT knowledge gives me strength I pray one day you can experience. Blessings and Peace.

        1. God started answering my prayers about six months ago, all of my prayers every day by the end of the day, no matter how implausible, I don’t know what to make of it, of endless miracles, sometimes I stop praying, but I like the fun of getting results so I start by again, never dissapointed, always wowed, life is so easy when you just have to ask in order to get everything that you want. Today I am going to pray that I win the next multi-million dollar lottery, cash as a fallback is always good. I feel protected by God but money is good protection from stress. Before God decided to answer me my life was one suffering persecution and disenfranchisement, need is a magnet to victimizers and predators, now I have no one targeting me, I’m stunned by the change by a life where I can come up for air, and wake urefreshed rather than in terror, Worthy is a concept that challenges me

    2. This is one of the best, most simple yet most effective ideas indeed. Looters, marauders, burglars and criminals in general just want something from you. Unless they’re really informed about your situation and possessions (and in that case you failed being a gray man and concealing it properly…), they will leave if they get whatever that something is, as quick as possible because… well, they have their own set of risks too so they try to minimize it as possible.

      I live in a country where crime is rather high and violent, and for years I have what I call “the thieve’s pack”: an old wallet with some cash, a few unamed/disabled/empty cards, an old cell phone and other non-valuable stuff that looks (and in fact is) legit enough and would take some time and attention to assess by anyone, even more so for a hurried thieve. Just hide my real stuff better and give this away on demand.

      Same goes for home: everything valuable is well hidden so not to show we’re peepers or have possessions. Everything else is just regular stuff, some cash here, a few fake jewels and dollar bills in a “thieve’s safe”, food for the week… so anyone who comes in can just take something and go as quick and safe as possible.

      It’s very important not to show signs and giveaways in everyday life, so no neighbor or visitor or contractor can tell thieves about your real status. That’s an everyday training, gotta internalize and make a habit and natural otherwise it may not work or get things worse.

      Being a gray man is a lifestyle not something you can improvise in a week if things get rough.

  8. This is a great article and a concept I have heard before but never knew the name.

    I have been looking for around for a premade 72 Hr bag/BoB and I have run into two different types. There are cheap emergency kits for beginners or those who just want to some things squirreled away just in case. Then there are the more expensive tactical molle bags (coming in black, tan, or green) though muted makes your look more prepared.

    I guess the question is do the molle bags make sense in a gray “man” scenario or should I be looking to put my gear in a normal hiking day pack? Don’t get me wrong I love the molle packs but not at the expense of my family and gear. Thoughts?

    1. A muted tactical backpack, such as the Rush 72 in black, would be a top choice for carrying a serious bug out bag kit while remaining somewhat of a “gray man.” If your bug out bag gear list is on the smaller side, then you may opt for a much more low key option such as a school bag or hiking pack.

      1. the rush 72 is on many LE and Military gear websites… even in black, it fits military uniform regulation, it does not fit a “gray man” profile. Some police departments even have it on their uniform purchase contracts

    2. All you need for 72 hours is water may be shelter like a coat and tarp. People that carry more are targets. I will trade in the armor for speed. If you can avoid the fight, you don’t need to survive it. Carry a book. GRAY! Remember when you have out ran the threat to stop running and conceal. If you are in a car, keep your foot off the brake pedal. Simple stuff. Quit making it hard.

      1. I laugh at all the elaborate preppers with thousands of dollars of gear… they are so sure something is coming and they will be in the right place at the right time to escape. They are the same people who go around thumping their chest, puffed up about and boastful, loudmouth wingnuts who can’t help but make themselves a target. How about hitch hiking cross country for a while in the winter with little to no cash, and just a sleeping bag, to figure out how to escape with the least possible gear. Be that hermit who lived in the woods for 20 years.

        1. Yep, so true. Just try to live like a homeless in any big city for a couple of days. We do that here all the time as training, street survival exercise that also works to keep in touch with a less fortunate reality. It’s rough and cold.

          Just a small backpack, beat-up and muted enough not to attract thieves or other homeless/street thugs but also not trashed enough to draw the cops. Same with clothing and looks. No weapons, just pepper spray at most, the everyday folding knife and yrs of hand combat training.

          We go out and wander the streets, training awareness, gray man tactics, observation and survival. A bit of food and cookware, no water (get from atrium fountains and others and filter/purify), just a bit of cash, compact shelter (a poncho and sleeping bag). Basic gear, nothing tactical.

          Avoid crowds. Avoid much contact. Be patient and observant to get what you want/need. Try and get food or water by asking in exchange for minor works. I get harassed, looked down, turned off, expelled, kicked out or blocked, by folks of spectrum of society. I also get some sympathy and help on occasion, to be honest and fair.

          The first nigh out is intimidating, I remember barely sleeping a couple nights in the beginning when I went alone. Then I relaxed and adjusted sleeping times, places, etc. It becomes more natural and you get confident yet remain humble. Never lose sight of your gear, not even for a minute.

          Get out of the bubble. Try and find a decent and safe place to cook, eat and sleep. It’s hard, I’m now more thankful for the life I lead than I ever was and compassionate of people who have no option but to face this hardship. It’s not a game, take it as training. Stay away from drug hotspots, crime heavy areas, places like that. Don’t push luck, like in any training of life you’re not trying to get hurt or killed just better at something.

          Now go and do the same out in the woods. After a couple yrs at this you may become confident in your survival abilities and see survivalism in another light.

  9. I only have but, one thought on this gray man theory. When and where is it needed most? Take for example from what I have read over the inter webs It would seem more for the urban environment such as a large city or suburban areas. What If said person lives in a more rural area? Does the gray man option fade out and more tactical, camo come in? Or if a person lives in the middle of both environments what then in terms of packs, colors and load out?

    I for one would like to keep things simple as possible. An EDC bag for going to a friends which would hold basic stuff for games, books clothes etc.. However have extra stuff in the car ready. Then have the main pack waiting at home which would be the big one completely kitted to the teeth. To note the main bag is what is in question whether to have it look normal as can be or go tactical. Along with it being chosen for the surrounding environment.

    1. Your EDC is what should fit the gray man theory. This theory is more for urban environments where human profiling is most effective and exploited. Many people in rural areas already know to prepare for disasters ahead of time (i.e. have a pantry full of food, etc.) because it’s more of a trip to get supplies for them. For people in urban environments the gray man theory is necessary to often get to their vehicle, reach home or other designated meeting spot for family, and get the heck out at some point.

    2. think of it like this: you are equally afraid of cops and robbers, and want to make them both think you are nobody, but also you want them to think you’re possibly a psychotic fugitive that they don’t want to deal with today, and by ignoring you they will go home alive in one piece.

  10. I actually have a few…if I may…and IMHO…
    1) The last photo…everything about this guy I relate to being a gray man, except one thing…looks like he’s walking down the middle of the street. Doesn’t appear to be crossing the street, unlike the one in the background. 2) If you live life every day as a gray man, it would take very little if any effort when you really need to be one. 3) Being a gray man should be synonymous with minimalism, owning/having the bare minimum, at the very least, the three basics, food/water, shelter, and clothing. There maybe times when you don’t have time to be messing with all your stuff. Stay portable and mobile.

    1. Gray Man Theory is not necessarily meant for people that are untrained/unprepared. For a person that has training or has taken the effort to have supplies for emergencies, it actually may take some effort to not seem that way. If a person is a minimalist, they by nature of minimalism, do not have extra items for survival/preparedness. the theory would be to look like the minimalist without actually being the minimalist because you have resources to get you through emergency situations.

  11. All this is good info. If you want to use a cane, learn how someone using a cane walks. The cane(most of the time) should be on your good side, the cane being support as the bad leg is moving(wider support). A gimp(like myself) can tell a fake a mile away, but if you try to learn, maybe it won’t be so obvious(a cane can be a great gray man weapon).
    If you walk like someone that goes to the gym on a real schedule, learn how the regular people walk, shuffle, don’t pick up your feet and look winded.
    Anyone who drives in city traffic knows that drivers telegraph what they are going to do to those nearby. Learn how to drive without these tells.
    If you have something different about you(like long gray hair, or a beard, or even a fake arm or leg, just go for it, paying attention to it any trying to blend, could just out you. Most people do not notice these things, so do not force them to do so. Printing with a handgun is another problem. If you walk differently when you are packing, get a smaller gun and hide it in sewn in pocket in a baggy spot,or maybe carry both and be ready if called on to surrender the first.

    1. I’m using a rollator. 🙂
      That makes me a real gray man.
      We are 60% old people in my town.

      If you want to blend in, then make yourself old and weak.
      Nature will help you with that.
      Just focus on having a young brain.

      The only thing people forget when they want to survive with their “gray man”,
      “bug out bags” and their stories about SHTF are that they have lived unhealthily on a daily basis. They don’t make any brain work out and they eat things that are not food.
      It is not possible to buy healthy food in the United States.
      I know. I have visited the country many times. I can compare with Europe.
      The food from the United States is like poison for the body.
      Your vegetables and meat are dipped in chemistry, your bread is filled with gluten and everything else filled with hidden sugar.
      My advice is to grow your own vegetables, in small communities, like in Detroit.
      Then you would know what you eat.

      The only apocalypse is the one you create for yourself.
      It’s called obesity, Alcohol and drug abuse, depression, alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, ALS, cancer and many other names.

      I have had a depression myself (for one year).
      I created it myself by not listening when the body said stop.
      Now I know better. I do not let stress control my life.
      I have friends and family with all the other diseases.
      People say it’s genetic, but many genetic diseases become hundred times worse when you live unhealthy and feel unconnected to yourself and others.


      1. Angelo, I call BS on your statement, “It is not possible to buy healthy food in the United States.” You just have to learn how and where to correctly shop.

  12. Gray man is a good concept the difficulty is how far you have to go and how long will it take.
    If you have to travel through a different ethnic neighborhood or through one where you may blend easier but are not a familiar face you become a target.
    After day three people will kill you just to see what is in your backpack. Hunger is a driving force. Packing for 72 hours is a myth, plan on two to three weeks.
    Thirst, hunger, and warmth will cause chaos that will produce death. By the end of week one any movement will be noticed. A backpack will make you a target. You will need to look for ambushes everywhere.
    Again distance and time to get there are critical. If you carry a long gun, you are a target. If you pop a cap you give your position and intentions away, you are a target. Look at this as a long range recon, a massive hide and seek.
    A hand held IR scope is a plus. Travel at night or day will have to be decided. Use the OODA loop.
    After a week dogs will be an issue as dead bodies will be too rotten to eat.
    This is not walking down to Wal-Mart. Still trying to gray man blend in. Remember Gen Mattis, be polite and courteous but have a plan to kill everyone you meet.

  13. JohnMole2
    At first, i was confused after reading these comments. Then i realized that i also have two gray-man stories, both from the real world, to tell.
    Gray-man Story No. 1: I was 17 years old, and in a rumble (i.e., a battle between 2 gangs). The cops had found out about the rumble and were now raiding the rumble. Now, everyone else from both gangs were panicking and running in jerky motions, trying to get away from the cops. Not me. I was walking slowly and calmly out of the rumble, and attracting a lot less attention than everyone else, who was in panic and running. I was the only one who escaped. Nobody ratted on me, not even the members from the other gang. And i sure would not rat on anyone else who had escaped.
    Gray-men Story No. 2: I was in the Army, and was the leader of a patrol which was scouting out a bridge to figure out how much explosive would be needed to blow down the bridge, and where to place the explosive charges. Our demolition people had just made sketches of the bridge and how to blow it down. Now, we needed to get back to our unit with the sketches. Our first objective of our egress was a deep, dry creek bed which led to a river. The creek bed was 15-20 yards from the bridge. I lined up the patrol in a skirmish line facing the creek bed, so that when one of us got into the creek bed, all of us would enter the creek bed at the same time. I got into the middle of the skirmish line and silently signaled to move out. We were not 5 feet out from under the bridge when the Aggressors at the top of the bridge called out: “HALT, OR WE’LL SHOOT!”. Immediately all eyes were on me. I stretched out my arms horizontally with my palms facing forward (the signal to move the skirmish line forward), then dropped my arms back and to the rear, to a 45-degree angle to the ground. Then i moved my arms forward very slow, and the patrol started to slowly, silently, move toward the creek bed, even while the Aggressors were watching us slowly disappear (I think the Jews would call this Chutzpah). At the river bank, there was a canopy of trees where the Aggressors could no longer see us. Once the last man reached the river bank from the creek bed, i ran to the front of the patrol and silently signaled Double Time. I waited for the patrol to run past me; and then took up rear guard. I was NOT going to wait for the Aggressors to wake up to the fact that we had disappeared from them in plain sight, because they would have been madder than wet hornets. Every person in the patrol had become a Gray Man, and we escaped. End of story.

  14. I am a single woman who travels a lot for work. I unknowingly have been practicing Gray Man tactics just to travel safely. My point is that this is a good way to live everyday even when there is no threat. I don’t want to be noticed.

  15. It depends upon the situation, but bugging out should always be the last resort. I prefer bugging in. Have a plan to get like-minded neighbors involved with defending their properties as well. It’s best to have allies, safety in numbers applies. Minimum 2 weeks food & water for each adult. Easily stored with today’s freeze dried & emergency food preps. Fortify your shelter and arm all capable individuals. Sleep in shifts & invest in good night vision capabilities as it’s highly likely any attacks by looters will occur at night. In the morning the deceased corpse(s) in the front yard will act as an intimidating deterrent to anyone else wishing you harm.

  16. Good article, Chris.

    “Gray Man” principles and mindset should be applied as part of our daily routines when away from home and family. Drawing too much attention to one’s self can be a threat to personal safety and to the safety of family and property during good times, let alone during SHTF/ TEOTWAWKI. I see in many boards and posts an emphasis on weapons, armor and massive amounts of ammunition to be carried by the “Gray man” during “bugout”. If, during a SHTF event, you can remain at home, stay there! Reach out to neighbors and nearby relatives. Watch out for, and support each other. If you must bugout, have a destination in mind- a friend or relative’s home (who is expecting you) or a planned and prepared bugout location. If you can safely and inconspicuously carry, then do so. If you can’t- I would avoid doing so. Keep in mind that the police disarmed innocent, law abiding citizens during Katrina.

    My job, at times, takes me several hundred miles and multiple state lines away from my home. Some of these states do not have concealed carry reciprocity with my home state- leaving one at risk if choosing to travel with firearms. As a recreational hiker and backpacker, I understand that 10 miles per day is a reasonable estimate as to how far one can realistically travel, when moving defensively and cautiously in possibly hostile areas. When 400 miles from home, it could take longer than a month to get back, worst case. There is no one who can carry shelter, first aid supplies, sleeping bag, minimal change of clothes, H2O purification, knife- compass- fire- map- etc….. AND food necessary for this trip. Realistically, one can carry a small to medium sized pack with a minimal amount of temperate camping/survival items and 4-6 days worth of calories needed; 7-8 days with a large- and not so “Gray man” pack. Much time will be spent foraging for food- or hunting/fishing if you’re fortunate enough to be in an area with ample natural resources. A commercial slingshot and small fishing kit could be of benefit for those familiar AND experienced at hunting small game and fishing.

    If there is ever a SHTF/TEOTWAWKI event- most people will not be able to adapt to the absence of 4G coverage, an ATM card that no longer works, an no available double whipped lattes or happy meals. Most will be desperate and all should be suspect. Learn skills; learn how to forage; learn how to hunt and fish- now! Practice camping and hiking with your “bugout” bag. Learn how to start a fire in the rain; learn how heavy your “bugout” bag is in the wintertime with cold weather kit. Practice camping in the snow or in sub freezing conditions. Learn how to protect yourself- and build and strengthen relationships with your neighbors. Live the “Gray man”.

    1. Bing,

      You speak the truth. Short term plans for long, or even intermediate situations are in direct conflict with each other. It’s skills, knowledge, and practice, practice, practice that allows one to triumph over adversity. And those things, go with you wherever you are, with or without gear to support you.

  17. In being a GRAY MAN, im not really worried about the SHTF stuff, as I am just blending in the everyday society rat race. The older I get, the less I want people to notice me. I don’t go to concerts anymore, I hate large crowds, and avoid them if all possible. That means no sporting events, etc. If I have to go to a function of any kind, a party(usually work related, me or my wife) I love it when people say, NO, Sorry, I don’t remember him at all. That really pleases me when Im there, but not there, according to the guest. That’s the way I like it. The less people notice and/or remember me, is a great thing for me.

  18. ”How you move” Lol. That’s the most difficult thing for me.
    It’s difficult for me to make the turtle walk in a crowd.
    It’s even more difficult when i try to walk stairs up or down.

    Why? Well the left leg goes a little more forward and it pushes to give speed to the rest of the body instead of regular walking.
    It is regular walking but it stands out a little since it has a somewhat faster tempo and some may notice that i just had enough 1,2 1,2 1,2 left, left, left, time in the military…

    It requires higher concetration for us to appear normal.
    The easy thing though is to keep moving and don’t stop unless the task demands it.
    Best thing is getting to know every corner you walk and plan ahead.

    God how i like the woods and the wilderness!

  19. Certainly the concept of Gray Man is valid because it ratifies my conception of survival that is: Mobility with Autonomy.
    People! I laugh when I see certain comments because I remember some facts of the story; Do I need to say more than Masada, Maginot Line, Atlantic Wall, and so many other static defenses that have been routinely defeated more or more days?
    If those powerful defenses have been overcome, how mentally sane can you believe you will be victorious in the face of hundreds of waves of attack from hungry people / groups who, among other things, are already practicing cannibalism?
    If you want to stay alive and find a way to restart a new way of building a new society. . .
    Get ready to get out.
    And say goodbye to your current little life full of amenities that eventually destroyed it.
    I am ready for whatever comes because, as we have seen in recent years, every day mankind strides to its own destruction.

    I’m ready because I don’t think like the herd.
    I am a survivor in the past, present and future – however bad it may be – since 1950.

    1. You named fortified positions that were assaulted by the strongest military forces of their day. Looters don’t have battleships firing 16 inch shells at you while hundreds of thousands of trained infantry with air support attack your beach defenses. Castles existed for a reason. They worked most of the time. Being mobile only works if you are in a large group willing to fight, and have somewhere safe to go to, and even then its much less safe than that same group holding a fortified compound.
      I think the rule of thumb is that in cases of actual war or genocide RUN, in case of social breakdown, or where there is no place to run, hunker down in your bunker with as many armed friends as you can find and live as normally as possible.

  20. Been with the military for 23 years,(submarines), practice grayman all the time even now during COVID19, thank you for the info you have, I’ll continue each day with this practice. Thanks

  21. Any ideas how we can Hide from the real threat? Law Enforcement. During SHTF they are not your friend (they’re not your friend ever even in good times) They will restrict movement and try to disarm you or detain you. So how can we identify the LEO plants in the crowds and avoid them?

  22. As a newbie prepper (1 year) I’ve made lots of errors; However, after reading this article on “The Gray man” I’m changing my approach and attitude. Gone will be the tactical gear for the gray man gear. It only make sense to avoid trouble rather than confront trouble.
    Make no mistake, I’ll still be well prepared if trouble is unavoidable, but the gray man may be the safest way to survive most SHTF situations. I’m already seeking a few acres near a small, rural town from which to bug-in or bug out, stocking up on foods, seeds, ammo for the weapons, etc. Whatever happens… I’ll be wearing gray.

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