Stealth and Survival

If we look at the broad term Disaster Preparedness and break it down into its different parts, we can see different scenarios:

1. Strictly survival based

◦ Short term

◦ Long term

▪ Stay

▪ Go

2. All hell breaks loose and violence is expected

Survival situations that add violence are much more difficult.

You can either do it on your own or have a survival community that has a planned link up procedure. Until you link up you have to remain undetected or unnoticed. This means that you have to have basic survival skills, have the ability to defend yourself, and go unnoticed. Being successful in an austere environment is exponentially more difficult and you need a jack of all trades mindset. Someone with a moderate skill level at all aspects has better odds then someone that is super specialized in one skill.

All of that said this is supposed to be about stealth.

Stealth is the ability to move about secretly and it is performed through 3 principals, Movement, Camouflage, and Concealment. The key to stealth is to look like you belong. Make yourself part of the environment and if your environment changes you have to adapt to it. Fitting in and being comfortable in the environment. A country boy in the city will be just a goofy as a city boy in the country.

Camo, Concealment and Movement are fluid and change depending on the environment. Just because you sneak through the woods doesn't mean you do that in an urban situation. Camouflage isn't always greens and browns.

In the woods camouflage has to do with breaking up your outline. Animal shapes are very intriguing to the eye.

Don't look like an animal and make your coloring similar to your background.

In an urban environment don't roll around in clothes that make you stand out. Look like those around you and wear something similar or wear something that is easily forgettable.

The easiest ways to get good at stealth in a rural environment:

  • hunting
  • tracking
  • hide and seek
  • games to support all of these
  • Hunting with a rifle sitting in a blind doesn't count! Get out there with a bow and kill something, then figure out how to do that with natural camo, not store bought. This helps with your outdoor navigation skills as well as your ability gather food. If a deer rolled up into your bedroom while you were in your house you would notice.

    The ability to move into an animal’s environment with natural camouflage and take its life- requires a great deal of skill. If you are not into killing something or it is out of season take photos (without the zoom).

    People think animals are harder to sneak up on than humans, but that is not necessarily the case. Sneaking around diligent humans stuff is more difficult. This is where hide and seek are important. As a sniper we played a very difficult game of hide and seek called stalking. Two observers, (people looking for us) were put into a position and we were given a lane to sneak through. The lanes would vary but think 1km long and 200m wide.

    We had 2 hours to get within 200 m of the observers and take a shot with blanks. The observers were on binoculars and would look at the terrain before we got close. So, when we occupied our FFP, (hiding places we shot from) and it looked different, the observers would send a walker (independent, neutral person) towards us. This really teaches you about the basics of stealth.

    Stealth is about being able to get into and out of a place without getting noticed, recognized or remembered. It is not about being invisible. Sometimes, being seen is the key to going unnoticed. While in the Marine Corps one of the guys' dad had been a high dollar thief. “Money, Jewels, and Weapons” was the father’s mantra. He began taking his son on “jobs” when the kid was 13. Their most common attack, was to drive up to a house (the mark) in a work truck and coveralls, then begin “building a new deck”. They were full out; cutting lumber taking measurements etc. while two guys broke into the house and wheeled out a safe. They would take their time and they made years of scores. They were seen, unrecognized, polite, unremarkable and successful. This is the key to stealth. Be there, don’t be memorable, and don’t stand out.

    Sometimes being invisible is important but this is extremely difficult while trying to survive.

    Rural Stealth and Urban Stealth are different because your environments are different. It is hard to track footprints through pavement. It doesn’t bode well for your aggressors, but in the woods learning to track is a fairly easy job- so it is easier to be tracked through the woods. (By humans and dogs!)

    Now surviving in either is pretty simple, maybe not easy, but with current EDC and Bug Out Kits it is much easier. Also with everyone and their mom teaching survival, prepping, and sustainable living it is not that hard to find a community that can teach you to be proficient in your local environment within 6 months. In a basic survival scenario this is great. However, what happens when you toss in the element of someone trying to harm

    you, hunt you down take what is yours, or kill you?

    This is a curve ball that is very seldom trained for. I know of one group that is doing it all, and they are very good at it!

    The key is to recognize the difference between “survival camping” and holy shit someone is trying to take my life survival. This is the difference between a survival kit and a bug out kit. Bugging out means shit went south and people are trying to cause you real harm, where every day survival is just something goofy happens and you have to survive. Another way to think about this is survival means other humans will try and help you where Bugging Out means other humans will try and hurt you.

    Surviving versus Austere Survival. (This is applicable for urban and rural)

    1. Do you want it or need it.

    ◦ Example do you really need a fire, if you don't have it will you die or just be cold?

    ▪ Rural, if you do- think about a Dakota fire instead of an above ground fire.

    ▪ Urban, if you are in a building will you smoke yourself out or give away your position?

    ◦ Do you need to build or erect a shelter or can you use garbage or something that is already around.

    2. Does your stuff stand out or look like it belongs?

    ◦ Passive Hunting versus Active Hunting

    ▪ Are you putting a ton of snares out trying to catch something and are they visible.

    ▪ Can you use a pellet rifle/pistol, can you use a slingshot.

    3. Can you see your surroundings better than your surroundings can see you?

    ◦ Most people try and hide and crawl into brea rabbits briar patch

    ▪ These folks cant see out,

    ▪ These folks can get away

    The same applies to them in a building. Folks put themselves into positions that if someone where to show up they would not be able to notice nor get away.

    You have to be able to see bad guys coming after you before they can see you. You have to have an escape plan, and you have to be able to observe flora, fauna, and wildlife (for eating).

    ▪ Pick a location that provides that you can hide in, protect, and gives you an escape plan.

    4. Keep most of your crap packed.

    ◦ If you aren't actively using it. It is packed. This way if you have to escape you don’t leave stuff you need behind.

    ▪ Have a secondary last ditch survival kit on your body ALWAYS! If you are naked in the river washing you better have it on your body! In a survival situation DO NOT TAKE IT OFF, at least until you are safe!

    5. Defense, do you kill someone or a group that is hunting you or do you let them pass you by?

    ◦ You have to decide are they going to continue hunting you or are they going to give up.

    ◦ Are they trying to harm you?

    ◦ Can you get out of it safely?

    ▪ Can you get the whole team

    ▪ If the team does not return will bad guys send a secondary team after them?

    ◦ Does it give you the upper hand?


    Building your shelter, if you build one make it look like everything else. Also if you are hiding in an austere environment then use some Mylar between your shelter/hide site and your body. Although keep it off your body.

    This will keep a heat signature from showing up on thermal imaging or greatly reduce it. Many times a bivy sack over a sleeping bag can lower heat signature but I would probably err on the side of caution and place some Mylar between my sleeping bag and the bivy sack. Know that if you do that, you will sweat a lot. It becomes a vapor barrier and your bivy sack won’t be able to clear the moisture. Suffering wet and cold is better than suffering as somebody’s POW. The other thing I try and do is sleep more in the day and less at night. Night time you can move about more freely.

    Dogs and human trackers in the woods will be able to find you. Stay on top of that. If you have to harm a dog tracking team and you have a weapon, kill the handler. Dogs don’t work well with other handlers.

    Next set a trap to injure the dog. This can be a typical trap that you would set to catch any animal, it can also be an antipersonnel booby-trap that has a lighter trigger. I like the idea of a bear spray trap. Get your scent all over something and rig it so as a dog finds your shirt it sets off a bear spray trap and ruins the dog’s ability to track.

    This is not too much of a worry in an urban environment. Dogs have a hard time tracking in an urban situation.

    Urban environments are kind of cool because there is so much available that we don’t think about. Food is abundant:

  • Pets, Birds, and Animals that are used to being around humans, Squirrels, Pigeons, Rats etc.
  • Gardens and public parks are full of plants both edible and extremely poisonous. You can eat them or make a protective poison.
  • Bugs galore. High in protein and easy to gather!
  • Plus if you know your environment it is hard to follow you. There are so many places to hide and still keep a view of others. Go and watch a homeless group at night. You can learn a lot about what is possible in urban places.


    Tracking is difficult and needs practice. However when you get good at it you begin to notice the small stuff in the woods. In the context of stealth and survival it is important because you know where animals and humans are. Take a tracking class and practice.

    Spy versus Crew. This can be done in an Urban Situation and a Rural Situation.

    Get some friends and a control. The Control makes the rules and gives each group only the information needed to complete their mission. Build a team of hunters and one rabbit. Have the rabbit move through a designated area and accomplish tasks (legal tasks) while a team is looking for them. The team has a rough idea of when and where the rabbit is going. The rabbit has to accomplish designated tasks and do so with limited interception from the team. The team is trying to maintain contact and decided what the rabbit is doing without the rabbit catching them. If anyone is “caught” being observed pretend it didn’t happen. Think spy, if a spy is made they are not often abducted, they are often followed to see what they are up to. The goals, fox, gather info and a detailed report of the rabbit’s behavior, the rabbit is trying to accomplish things without foxes seeing them or being able to follow them.

    Here is another version done in Universities all over. (I modify my rules slightly)

    Urban Survival

    Go out and learn local flora & fauna, find the edible stuff and use it. Stay in an Urban setting with limited supplies for a couple of nights. Be homeless for a couple of nights, these folks are resilient and know how to get around.

    Do this with a friend and realize that street folks are territorial and may try and kick the crap out of you and in some places (railroad track, yards) kill you.

    Don’t be an idiot!

    Good Luck

    Adam Ticknor

    Here is a short bio:

    Adam Ticknor, is a former Recon Marine and a Scout Sniper. He currently works as a fitness instructor, rehab specialist and a bodylanguage instructor. You can see him as a member of Discovery Channel's Season Two of the Colony, he has a blog that he sometimes gets around to updating, and if you are in the Austin area and need info or training (shooting, fighting, surviving, fitness or bodylanguage) contact him. [email protected]

    You can watch him on his YouTube channel