Skip to Content

Gray Man Theory: Survival Strategy Guide

SHTFPreparedness may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page.

When you need immediate assistance overt actions rule the day. Yelling, waving your arms to gain attention may mean the difference between life and death. Most other times require a bit more subtlety. This is where the Gray Man Survival Theory comes in.

The gray man survival theory allows you to fade into the background or hide below the noise, even though you are fully loaded with skills and tactical gear. This strategy adds a layer on top of your skills and gear, leverages your situational awareness, and may just save your life.

Let’s look at the Gray Man theory and how you can add it to your bucket of prepper skills.

civilian clothes for the gray man

What Is The Gray Man Theory?

Wouldn’t it be great to hide in plain sight or melt into the background? That’s the goal of gray man survival theory. While a noble concept, it is at direct odds with all the other cool stuff that goes along with prepping.

Everyday life is filled with challenges that we want and need to be prepared for. That being said, without a gray man strategy, you may become a target. During normal times, this can lead to mocking and comparison to those crazy people on “Doomsday Preppers.” In an SHTF scenario, the presence of gear or survival mindset can make you a target.

Being gray masks your preparations via the veil of everyday life. The gray man concept builds a wall of normalcy around your looks, material preparations, and actions. The clothes you wear, the way you carry your gear, the tools in your EDC, even the manner in which you carry yourself should all construct a facade of a normal person.

Gray Man Survival Strategy

Why do we remember people? What makes a person stick out? Is it action or possession?

Our brain is extremely talented at filtering out the noise in our lives. There are very few experiences in our day that bubble up to the level of importance. The hundreds of people or cars we pass during our commute, most variety of smells and sights, simply don’t matter to our survival. In fact, processing every sight, sound, and smell would be debilitating.

It’s the rare person, place, or thing that stands out to a level of importance that we notice it. But when one does, we pay attention. Something that our “lizard brain”, that most primordial part of us that is only responsible for keeping us alive, wants us to pay attention to is worth the effort to focus on it.

This may be a car going a little too fast to stop at an intersection. Or a person walking against the crowd with too purposeful of a look on their face. These events grab our attention. This is what we avoid by deploying a gray man survival strategy.

Specifically, the gray man strategy touches on many aspects of your life. These include how you dress, how and what gear you carry, as well as how you present yourself to the rest of the world.

The good news is that the model for being gray and blending in is all around you. In fact, there’s a good chance that you’ve already spent a lot of time being normal. You simply need to duplicate this now that you have a bit more weight on your shoulders.

The strategy is all about paying attention while you compare and contrast yourself to everyone else. How do your clothes compare to those around you? How does your bug out bag compare to the bags that others are wearing?

Your gray man survival strategy moves you from a target into a place below the noise. Let’s take each aspect into consideration.

Clothes to Blend In

tactical clothes for the gray man

One of the easiest layers of gray man theory to tune up is your clothing. I love my tactical pants, shirts, and branded tee shirts. I even call these my tactical tuxedo. From a gray perspective, I also call them my “shoot me first” clothes.

Predators are not stupid. They do what they do, for whatever reason, and they become good at it. Their skills include success in the victim selection process.

Clothes weigh heavily into this.

If you have chosen to use violent force to rob a store, who do you strike first? Grandma or the well-built man in the tactical pants and “Kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out” t-shirt? They go after the threat first while they have the element of surprise.

To a lesser degree, we all do this. We associate tactical gear with strength, means, and survival skills. Going gray will have you trade out your beloved 5.11 pants for jeans. Even better, select professional pants that still carry what you need without the look that screams MILITARY!

For the rest of your wardrobe, be selective. Leave the Magpul, Tap Out, and Black Rifle Coffee Company tee-shirts for the range. Look at the people around you and dress like them. If hoodies are the rage, invest in a few. If flannel is in season, get a few shirts.

Do your best to have this layer blend in with those around you.

Gear and Bags

We collect stuff as preppers. We even have names for our groups of essential gear. Every Day Carry (EDC) and Bug Out Bags (BOB) are just a few of the common terms we use.

While I love my Maxpedition Gearslinger and its traveled the world with me, it’s not exactly inconspicuous. After a trip overseas, I switched to a much “grayer bag.”

The Vertex Ready Pack has the same capacity as the Gearslinger. What is different is the look. There’s no Molle, no hint of military or law enforcement. There’s no hint of “shoot me first” to it.

Give the grey-looking tactical backpacks a review. They are neutral in appearance and built with the prepper in mind. Especially the ones designed to conceal a firearm.

Gray Man Packs I like:

Beyond bags lies your EDC. Unless it fits your day job, keep the Leatherman, utility knife, or box cutter in a pocket. Skip the big rigger’s belt and tuck your gear into your pockets. Likewise, if you work in law enforcement and the community knows you as such, then you’re the exception.

The rest of us need to keep the gear quiet.

Word and Deed

Gray man theory isn’t just about what you wear and carry. It’s also about what you do and how you carry yourself.

The goal is to drift into the background and be immediately forgettable. This includes how you present yourself in to your peers and in a crowd, particularly in urban survival scenarios.

The average commuter on the way to work isn’t overtly “checking their six” in store windows or making unexpected route changes to draw out a tail. No, for the average person on the way to work, life is much more mundane.

Even in an emergency, most people will just follow others like lemmings. It’s the A-hole in the crowd that gets attention. Moving against the flow. Barking orders. You know the type. Don’t be them.

Mix with the crowd. Keep to the edges, know your exits, and be confident of your routes if the crowd turns ugly.

During normal times, it’s best to blend in as well. Most folks surf on their cellphones while mindlessly drinking coffee. It’s amazing how much you can exercise your situational awareness while appearing to do the same. Look around, mimic others, but observe as much as possible about your surroundings.

Gray man theory applies to your words in normal times as well as SHTF. Being gray during quiet times is pretty simple. Keep your mouth shut, don’t stand out, and don’t make a scene about prepping.

Ok, let’s back up for a bit and take the edge off.

The gray man specializes in hiding in plain sight. During normal times, this consists of staying below the noise. I know this idea conflicts with our desire to build a prepping community of like-minded people we can count on.

What you need to focus on is keeping your prepper discussion close to the vest until you have a high degree of confidence that this person will keep your discussions private if they choose not to join you.

In short, be selective about all topics prepping and sharing with anyone you don’t have 100% trust in.

Gray Man Practice: Before, During, and After

Going gray is one of the easiest skills to practice but one of the hardest to master. Additionally, we don’t experience the end times every day, so practical application can be a challenge. For this, you simply need to plan.

Hiding in plain sight and avoiding drawing attention to yourself is currently pretty simple. Observe your footprint on the world and ask yourself a few questions.

Do you regularly wear tactical clothing?

Are you always the one that has to sit in the tactical seat in the restaurant?

How about your social media footprint?

Basically, are you drawing attention to yourself?

During an event, it’s necessary to double up your efforts. A well-prepared person may become a target.

Appear unprepared! This may mean caching gear rather than carrying the uber-BOB. It may mean taking the long and lonely road rather than the direct route. Regardless, review your emergency plans and see where you can tweak them to draw less attention.

After a SHTF event, it may be more difficult as it’s hard to stay gray while you are fit and everyone else is suffering. This may\will require some avoidance or deception on your part. Avoidance will be as easy as the situation allows. Regarding contact with individuals, you can always mimic their physical mannerisms be they slower walking, difficulty thinking, and halting speech.

Appearance may be a little more difficult. Purchasing clothes that are a size or two large can give the illusion that you are losing weight, but that, admittedly, goes only so far. It’s best to minimize contact.

Final Thoughts on Going Gray

Gray man survival strategy doesn’t just need to be theory. You can easily put it into practice.

All it takes is attention given to your dress and actions. Take a critical eye to the clothes you normally wear. Do they signal law enforcement, military, or 1980’s survivalist? Or do you look like everyone else at the strip mall?

Does your bag betray its purpose and contents? Will a few molle attachments make you a target when you need your supplies the most? Or will it look like every other traveler’s bag? Like the other sheep on that long walk home, your normalcy bias has left you incapable of leaving your business papers behind. That’s how you want to look and act.

Sharpen your critical eye and take a walk on the grey side!



Bonus: Root Cellar That Can Be Used as a Bunker

root cellar that can be used as a bunker

Do you remember the old root cellars our great-grandparents used to have? In fact, they probably built it themselves, right in their back yard.

If you want to learn how to build a backyard bunker like your grandparents had, without breaking the bank, then you need Easy Cellar.

Easy Cellar will show you:

  • How to choose the ideal site
  • Cost-effective building methods
  • How to protect your bunker from nuclear blast and fallout
  • How to conceal your bunker
  • Affordable basic life support options

Easy Cellar will also reveal how a veteran, with only $421, built a small nuclear bunker in his backyard.

Also included:


How to Build and Stock a Prepper Pantry
← Previous