Feb 20 2014

Covert Camping- how to Avoid Detection in the Wild

Covert Camping Avoiding Detection in the Wilderness covert camping set up

Virtually every military in the world teaches covert camping in some form. Covert camping is a very necessary part of wilderness training and to make things easy the forces have a name for it:

  • SERE
  • Survival – Evasion – Resistance – Escape

The philosophy of those that have been through the training is that if you can master “Survival and Evasion” you do not need to worry about Resistance and Escape.

In other words, learn how to survive and evade others in the wilderness so you are not detected and captured.


Blend in with your environment by changing the way things appear to the human eye. Shiny metal or glass objects are not natural in the wild so they have to be subdued. Your outline and the outline of your shelter and equipment must be changed so it does not obviously look like a vehicle, tent, or other forms of shelter.

Your shelter cannot be an unnatural bright color or have any highly visible ropes or poles  – if you’re in the wilderness, Camouflage Tent is essential to avoid obvious detection – the Texsport Camouflage Dome Tent, shown here, is ideal but you must still break up the outlines by using materials natural to the area.

However, ripping out bushes, and cutting limbs to cover a tent or vehicle can leave an obvious trail into your camp area –  so you have to be able to camouflage without leaving a footprint.

Vegetation,  once cut, will turn brown overtime so if you expect to be in the area for an extended time you want to avoid having dead vegetation laying about covering things, because this is a giveaway for anyone paying attention.

Take small amounts of vegetation from one area, move to another, and then use the materials a distance away from your shelter or camp.

Cover and concealment,

Many people get them confused and assume they mean the same thing. Cover is protection from direct or indirect fire whereas concealment means you are hidden visually to avoid detection and does not necessarily mean you are protected from enemy fire.

Natural Shades and Color

Certain colors are natural to nature and the human eye will pass over colors when scanning if they belong in the environment.

Browns, forest greens, and even certain colored flowers are to be expected in woodland areas. However, bright oranges, blues and certain other colors are easily detected because the brain immediately realizes they do not belong.

You can use mud, sticks and leaves as a means of concealing yourself and equipment, as well as a Hunters Specialties Face Mask, shown here or some Camo FX Face Paint – you can get his in all different camo shades.

In forested areas, blotches work best because of how the sunlight dapples the forest floor during the day. Solid colors would stand out so dab mud, sticks and leaves in various places.

Fill in the gaps with other materials found in the area such as green foliage from conifers to achieve the blotchy look.

The Human Body

Instinctively humans are programmed to recognize faces and will always fix on any object that appears to have a face and people even imagine faces in the clouds.

You have to break up your face and to cover shiny skin – camo face paint is a favourite, along with mud and weaving sticks and vegetation in your hair or headgear. This breaks up the shape of the human head and face.


Humans and most animals’ immediately recognize the silhouette/shape of the human body as it is standing and moving, so it must be broken up so it is not easily recognized.

Fast movement attracts attention, and experienced trackers and hunters know never to stare directly at anything. They catch movement out of the corner of their eyes and this is especially true in low light conditions.

Do no climb over objects such as downed trees or over large boulders. Your silhouette is exposed. Never walk up right over the crest of a hill or over any high spot in the terrain for this reason as well.

When walking upright such as when stalking game or eluding other humans take half steps and feel what is under your feet before putting your weight down, a turned rock or snapping twig can reveal your location.

Try to intercept animals if they are moving instead of trying to stalk them from behind. You will always be playing catch up if moving up on an animal this way. Pick a route that will intercept with the animals and make sure the trail conceals you as much as possible.

Stop when the animal does and avoid looking directly at it, because the animal can see the contrast of white to the color of your eyes so close them slightly to break up the contrast.

Body Scent 

Anyone that has been in the wilderness for any period soon realizes the nose becomes more tuned to the smell of the natural surroundings,  and scents not normal to the environment can easily be detected – this includes human scent.

Tobacco smoke can be detected by the human nose from several miles away in some cases. You simply cannot use deodorants, colognes or other unnatural scents while trying to be covert in the wilderness.

Smoke your clothes and body with hardwoods from the area, apply fresh mud to your clothes, and body if you need to mask odors while hunting game.

Obviously, anything that rattles on your body will rattle and make noise so it must be taped or you can use what is called “Ranger Bands” to secure items. Ranger bands are made by cutting bands from a rubber tube such as a bicycle inner tube and use as you would a rubber band. The bands should be a part of any survival pack


Concealing Your Camp Fire

One of the better ways of concealing a fire is by using a fire pit. Dig a hole between 12-18 inches deep and then dig a ventilation tunnel to feed oxygen to the fire.

drawing of a survival fire pit

Build your fire pit under trees heavy with branches and foliage to disperse any smoke. The flames cannot be seen at night if the fire is going in the pit.


Once the pit is built, construct a tripod to hang cooking utensils on or build a cooking rack over the pit using green saplings. Seasoned wood would likely burn up if you used it as a cooking grate.

Also see: Basic Survival – How to start a fire in the wild.