To be invisible, unremarkable, forgettable. This is the essence of a gray man. It is often referred to as the ultimate survival skill, and is one that every serious survivalist should become familiar with.
Being a gray man is sometimes criticized as extreme or only for those who believe in conspiracies.
But the practices and preparedness that come with this concept are simply good sense, given the changeable and unstable world in which we live.
The expert gray man (or woman) is hiding in plain sight.
When disaster strikes, they slip into the crowd – unnoticed – and are expertly prepared to survive for weeks or months despite any chaos around them.
Some will choose to have supplies and a safe space set up at home or a secondary location, whereas others will prepare themselves to live in the wild – although this is more uncommon as one must learn expert bushcraft and foraging skills.
Imagine you are out in a crowd when disaster strikes, and you must get home to your loved ones as quickly as possible.
There will be a huge amount of panic around you – which can be dangerous and lead to injuries and even death.
In this scenario, a gray man allows themselves to appear like they are panicking along with everybody else, so as not to draw attention to themselves by acting oddly calm.
They quietly remove themselves from the crowd, unremembered by anyone, and begin their journey home or to their safe space where they are fully-prepared to weather the storm - whatever happens.
Check out our prepper gear recommendations for Gray Men in our dedicated guide: Gray Man Gear.
When you think “survivalist” you may imagine a person dressed in camouflage pants, big leather boots, a paracord belt and military-style backpack.
This is not the essence of a gray man! This is just a sure-fire way to paint a giant target on your back.
The key is to be unnoticed and indistinct. Wear what those around you are wearing, with no obvious emblems or slogans which might be remembered.
If you live in a suburban area: choose plain, casual clothes that one would wear day-to-day.
If you live in a city with lots of offices and corporate workers: consider a casual suit or smart attire that your average city worker wears. Your clothes should reflect the world around you, as the key is to totally blend in.
Gray men will usually carry tactical gear with them; but big camo-pants with deep pockets look too obvious and may draw unwanted attention.
In a survival situation, a gray man will want to be able to move swiftly and silently.
Don’t dress in anything too tight, boots that make a lot of sound or jackets that crinkle as you move. Make sure you can walk easily in your chosen attire – and even run comfortably should you need to.
It is also a very good idea to have extra items of clothing which you can quickly throw on and immediately change your look – like a rain jacket, hat or sunglasses – if you fear you’ve been made a target or made yourself known to the people around you.
A gray man wants to move with purpose and agility, but without drawing unwanted attention from onlookers or others in the crowd.
The best way to move is to go with the flow of the crowd. If people are walking quickly, head-down: then change your pace to match.
If you walk too slowly or start to run, you’ll be an immediate source of attention.
Don’t cut through the crowd at sharp angles. Try to follow the flow of people, gradually making your way to your chosen escape point.
It really helps to know your landscape in detail, so spend some time getting to know the local areas where you find yourself most often.
You may well find yourself swept up in the crowd and unable to get to your desired point – so having alternatives and backups increases your chances of remaining unnoticed.
You will draw a lot of attention if you are seen carrying anything out of the ordinary. This means no camouflage backpacks, no clip-on accessories and no heavy-duty pocket-pants or jackets.
There are some simple things you can do to maximize your carrying capacity whilst not restricting your normal movement. Choose an everyday bag such as a simple duffle or messenger bag – common packs you see people carrying.
If you live in a more rural area then a sports or outdoor backpack would also be an acceptable option. Choose an overcoat with plenty of interior pockets for a knife, flashlight, cord and so on.
Every survivalist will carry different gear, depending on their chosen survival location and skills.
Whatever you chose to carry, make sure you practice packing and unpacking your bag so you can easily do it in the dark or in a confined space.
You don’t want to lose precious time searching through your pack for the items you need. Be organized and efficient and get into a routine when packing your gear, so that it becomes second nature.
Obviously, you never know when disaster might strike which means you always need to be prepared – don’t let the one day you have a “day off” from carrying your gear be the one day you need it!
There are some situations in which you won’t be able to break away instantly, and will be forced to interact with other people.
You may be stuck indoors, on public transport or find yourself part of a small “alliance” in the face of disaster. As we have discussed, the key to being a gray man is to be someone not worth remembering.
In a group scenario, you don’t want to be taking charge; nor do you want to be the one hiding away in a corner - both of these will spark others’ memories.
Try to maintain conversation within the limits of the group. Engage in small talk, discussions and plans but do not take charge.
Keep your opinions fairly neutral and try not to form close bonds as this will likely lead to personal questions, where others may become suspicious if you seem untruthful.
If you are asked direct questions, do not become standoffish; nor be honest about your levels of preparedness. Find a good middle-ground that sounds plausible but does not prompt further questions.
Try not to hold eye contact for too long when talking with others.
Eye contact is one of the best ways to imprint a face into someone’s memories, and may cause them to raise the alarm or come looking for you if you slip away from the group.
With the exception of extreme survival scenarios, most situations can be played out comfortably from home.
In a lock-down where you are forced to stay indoors, the biggest worry will be your supply of food and water. To be a true gray man, you must practice blending in at home as much as you do on the streets.
You do not want to make it obvious that you are stockpiling food and other resources, or else you leave yourself vulnerable to break-ins and even more sinister attacks when people get desperate.
Start preparing yourself early and bring home only slightly more food than you usually would each time you go to the store.
This way, you won’t arouse any suspicion by bringing in loaded pallets of food from your truck! If you do buy in bulk, bring it into the house in stages rather than all at once.
The same goes for any survival gear. Do not make it obvious that you are loading up on technical gear, and transport it to the house in several goes.
If you are building a structure or shelter somewhere on your property, try your best to disguise it as something else.
A wood store, a greenhouse (slightly opaque) or a tool shed are all common structures that won’t arouse suspicion, and you can build a bunker or secret compartment within them using the external frame to hide your work from view.
If you want to learn more about protecting your home, have a look over our guide about survival shelters for the home.
“Disaster” may come in many forms. One of the trickiest parts of being a gray man is not knowing what your survival scenario looks like, so you have to be prepared for them all.
Some situations will happen immediately, and may inhibit you from reaching your safe place.
Others situations may provide a little advance warning, giving you time to return home or reach your designated safe zone. Here is how to handle both of those scenarios:
Once you have successfully navigated your way home, this is your chance to put all of your preparation into practice as you hunker down and go off-grid.
Take charge and brief your family or housemates on your Plan Of Action and ensure that everybody understands the severity of the situation, and the rules which they must follow.
If, for any reason, you are unable to reach your designated safe place, or are forced to leave it behind - then there are still ways you can keep yourself protected.
We have already discussed how to dress, act and move about town. Keep these ideals close to heart as you prepare to go it alone.
One of the trickiest parts of being a gray man is not knowing what your survival scenario looks like, so you have to be prepared for all of them.
The art of being a gray man takes practice and patience. If you start now, you will increase your chances of being well-equipped should you ever need to disappear.
Check out the rest of our site for basic survival tips and tricks which will serve you well if you head out into the wild.
The most important thing you can do to keep yourself and your loved ones safe is to be prepared, keep your heads down and not get caught up in mass hysteria.