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How to Hide

-or-

An Informative Article on The Art and Science of Personal Concealment

wherein

the reader will learn both the mystic and practical approaches to not being seen yet remaining present

As a bona fide hillbilly and child of nature, many many hours of my youth were misspent in the act of hiding. Later, as young man and Army ROTC cadet, my ability to hide had practical applications as well. It is the fruit of these many years of toil and practice I seek to share with you today.

Hiding is basically going or being where you want without being detected. This could mean not being detected by anyone, or simply not being detected by particular parties. For starters, there are two kinds of hiding. Hiding while remaining still, or concealment and hiding while moving, or more appropriately stealth. For the purposes of this article, I'm really talking about "Last of the Mohicans"-type, tactical-type laying-in-wait operations in 3-D real time, natural and manmade environments. I'm going to leave "How to Move Without Detection", stealth, for later. I will also leave "hiding in plain sight" social hiding, like "How to Hide at the Office", for another article. Since hiding while remaining motionless, still, is the easier of the two types, let's start there.

Concealment

  • Remaining Still
  • Remaining Silent
  • Breaking Pattern
  • Breaking Outline
  • Mystic Bullshit

Remaining Still

Please don't take this as patronizing. I may seem to be belaboring the obvious, but the number one thing you can do to not be seen is REMAIN STILL. Don't move. Stop even thinking about moving. Did you make the mistake of laying down on an anthill (I've pulled this one in a BB Gun fight, and was forced to make the difficult cost/benefit analysis, "Is is better to get bit on by these goddamned ants, or get shot in the ass by my brother with a Daisy at 10 pumps?")? I'm talking about being more still than you've ever been in your whole life, and staying that way until the threat of detection has past. Don't move, don't move, don't move. Pretend you are dead. Pretend you are a rock. More on that later.

The human eye is really sensitized to movement, or rather, the human visual apparatus, including your occipital complex. When you don't move, your opponent's brain is already starting to lump you in with the rocks and trees, landscape - as opposed to moving things like deer, or a motivated threat entity armed with an assault rifle.

Hiding is a perceptual war on your opponent's sensorium. Your opponent is walking around with a mental model of world around him in his skull. This model is constructed out of the data he receives via his sensorium, the aggregation of his sensory data. You obviously can't control all that data, but you can hack some of it. You want to move his perceptual needle down the spectrum from "Human Target" to "Background Clutter". People move around. Rocks don't. Don't move.

Remaining Silent

This is part of gaining control over your opponent's sensorium. Sound = movement. If you don't make any sound, there's one less exposure. Obviously, since much sound is generated by movement, following step #1 is a big help in lessening your sound signature. Here are some other tips:

1. Get into a position that is supported by bone, not muscle. Laying flat on the ground is a good example of this, or sitting. Hanging from a cliff, or leaning in some very uncomfortable position that you can't hold for long is not. If you need to observe, you can lay prone, fold your hands in front of you, and prop your chin on your hands. That's bone on bone. You could hold that all week, and never make a sound or movement.

2. Prep yourself. If you know you're going into a hiding situation, jump up and down and see what rattles, rustles, etc. Remove change, tape stuff down, change clothes, until you're silent.

3. Relax. This is about taking control of your body - your breathing, your musculature, becoming quiet in form and in spirit. More on this under "mystic bullshit," but try breathing through your nose. Inflate your lungs slowly, to about half, then just as slowly release. This will bring your heartrate down and help keep it down. It will also keep you oxygenated and alert. For your body, try tensing all your muscles in pattern before settling in, starting with your toes, and working up to your face. Release the tension in reverse order, face down to toes. It really helps!

Breaking Pattern

In addition to the human visual apparatus (HVA) detecting movement, it also detects pattern. More correctly, it detects breaks in pattern. When you're on a tactical exercise, the reason a soldier paints his face isn't to make himself look badass (ok, that's partly the reason), it's to break up the pattern of his face. If your opponent sees a glob of uniform skintone about 5.5-6 ft off the ground in the woods, his visual apparatus is going to very quickly go, "human face, must have a body attached to it." If you take a a grease-stick to your face, paint it green, black and tan, you break the pattern. You blend with the forest floor. It's the same reason people wear camouflage.

I never really noticed this during Field Training Exercises with ROTC, but maybe that's because we were all dressed up like trees. However, I was playing paintball once, and a guy on the other team, while dressed in dark, wood-tone clothing, was as obvious as a hooker in church. The big block of man-made color that constituted his shirt, in the midst of all that organic forest clutter, really picked him out.

Breaking Outline

Ok, so the HVA grabs movement and pattern. The 3rd thing is Outline. Outline is the distinctive "head, 2 arms, torso, 2 legs" form of the human silhouette. Presenting this "man shaped target" to your opponent is the worst thing you can do. Anything you can to do abrogate this, like kneeling, or better yet, getting prone, is an vast improvement. This is why standing next to a tree, right next to it, is better than standing between 2 trees.

So this also speaks to clothing. Baggy, loose clothes that break up your outline are good. A tophat and tails, something designed to accentuate the human form, is not. They make this thing called a Ghillie Suit for snipers. It's basically an enormous collection of muted colored fabric strips, sewn onto the outside of a jumpsuit. When you put it on, you basically look like an ambulatory compost pile. Sit down, and you are transformed into a hedge. It sounds and looks silly, but wow it really works.

The issue of cover.

This is, of course, why hiding behind something works - you completely block your outline from view. This is great if you can swing it, but there are some instances when you don't know where the bad guys are coming from ("unable to ascertain the axis of the threat"). You don't want to be hiding behind a rock only to be silhouetted against it from the reverse angle. Something to consider.

This is, of course, why digging a hole works so well, and why the Army is so keen on digging a hole everywhere you go. When you dig a hole, you are invisible from all angles but directly overhead. And if you build overhead cover into your position, then you're even hard to detect from the air.

Mystic Bullshit

All of this brings us to the closer - the metaphysics of hiding. The Apache Indians have a prayer, the Arrow Prayer, that they say to conceal themselves from their enemies:

Right here, in the middle of this place,

I am becoming Mirage.

Let them not see me, for I am of the sun.

I am the sun,

I am the sun.

In any situation that I don't want to be seen, I say this prayer, even in a meeting at the office. It's about not being human, and becoming part of the land. If I'm actively hiding, I think, "I'm this rock. I'm a cold sandstone rock, off gray, wet and covered in lichen. I'm part of this rock. I am this rock." At the risk of sounding like some wannabe mystic asshole, it actually works. Maybe it's a Jedi Mind Trick, or maybe it just gets you to settle in and become sensitized to your surroundings. Who knows? It just works. When you cease to be a person, and become part of the land, there is no way to be seen, because there is no person to find. There's only the land.

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