For those who want to know about the basic gray man gear you can carry every day and not draw any unwanted attention.
So, what is the most important urban survival skill in a crisis?
Many would argue it is blending in.
If you blend into the crowd, you greatly reduce the chances of you becoming a target. You are just one in a sea of people.
This is the essence of being a ‘Gray Man’.
Being a Gray Man means moving amongst the crowd undetected. Hide your preparedness by blending in during an emergency so you don’t become a target.
Now, everyday carry (EDC) gear is a very personal choice.
It depends on geolocation, seasonality, your routine (commute – train, vehicle), length of time in transit, potential threats, types of neighbourhoods you frequent or may find yourself in, etc.
So the gray man gear list below is a basic starting point.
It is a general all-purpose edc to get you started. You should modify it to suit your needs.
Note: We are not including clothing and apparel in this article. Clothing for the gray man needs its own separate article.
Just remember, this is what you can carry on you, in your pockets or jacket – without revealing that you are carrying gear and are prepared for the situation.
Why? communication is critical.
A cell phone is essential for trying to coordinate your family, meetup with them or direct them to safety.
For bug out or survival scenarios some people believe in dedicated walkie talkies, but that will attract too much attention.
This is a gray man situation – inconspicuous is key – a regular cell phone is better because everyone else around you will have one too. You talking on one won’t attract any attention to you.
Fixed blade knives are stronger and more reliable but are too large to carry inconspicuously.
A good quality folding knife can be concealed easily and will get the job done if you have to use it.
Having another self defence weapon on hand is a good idea in an uncertain situation. And nothing is less obvious than a pen.
Make sure to get one with a glass breaker (for car glass) on the end. Making a tool multifunctional is always the way to go.
Compact, light and powerful is what you want with your flashlight.
Just in case you have to be on the move after dark in an area with no light, or look into a darkened area to see what potential threats may exist there.
You’ll want a flashlight that can pump out at least 120 lumens (200 or more is preferable).
The Leatherman Wave Multitool is one of the most versatile tools you can have in just about any situation. That includes a situation requiring you to employ gray man tactics.
It’s larger than other gray man gear you may carry but is easily concealed in a jacket pocket. It’s a little more noticeable in your jeans pocket but not enough to draw unwanted attention.
With a file, saw, screwdrivers, pliers, wirecutter and solid backup knife with locking blade – this is must have gray man gear.
Holds much of your tools together. Handy way of attaching your tools to your keys and keep them looking inconspicuous.
There are several different types of carabiners that double as a multitool.
This is a great option for adding some extra tool capability or redundancy.
Having a length of paracord is important.
From lashing together an improvised weapon to binding hands or making a tripline, you should have a paracord braid or monkey fist attached as a lanyard to your keychain or tools.
For just what it says – a pry bar. It can help you get into a multitude of metallic covers, boxes or whatever.
Can also be used as another edged weapon if needed.
A mini pry bar with a knuckle protector is another solid addition to your urban survival tools.
If you find yourself moving out of familiar territory in order to get to safety, you can get disoriented quickly in unfamiliar neighbourhoods. Make sure you have a reliable small/button compass along with a map of the general area.
In urban areas, you can reorient yourself quickly with the compass and few landmarks. A compass is often overlooked in urban carry.
Wrap ductape around your keychain or a piece of cardboard to create a flat roll of tape.
The multitude of uses for ductape are known far and wide. From building improvised weapons to bandaging up wounds – you need ductape.
Keep your homemade flattened roll in your pocket and nobody will ever know you have the stuff.
Having a lighter opens up many options.
Melting things, creating a diversion by throwing burning trash into a dumpster, creating a fire as a barrier, a quick light source, etc.
The key reasons to carry a bandana are for dressing a wound or using it as a sling.
Bandanas are easy to carry in a pocket and have a bunch of uses.
Choose a dull colored, non-camo color or pattern. Navy or gray would be a good choice. Your gray man gear should be muted and toned down.
It’s better to know the area you are traversing. That way you know the safe areas, areas to avoid, and the alley ways.
But if you are forced into lesser known areas, you must have a map. It’s easy to get disoriented if the crowd is forced in a direction you didn’t plan on going.
A map and compass will help you reroute and get back on track.
A good quality watch is essential because time is of the essence in a critical situation. You need to know how long things are taking in order to track your progress and update/coordinate your family.
In a gray man situation though – flashy is NOT better. A good quality but – understated – watch is best.
If you look like you have a survivalist commando watch that sticks out like a sore thumb, people around you are going to wonder what else you have on you. Gray man gear should not attract attention.
Not a necessity. So why include it?
It’s so small and light it is a good tool to have. (See why we like ultralight here).
Remember, for a gray man, the point is to avoid situations where you would need a handcuff key. The gray man strategies and tactics should allow you to move through a crowd undetected and avoid any sort of trouble or detainment.
Can be used as a fire starter, lubricant for stopping squeaky hinges and good old lip protection.
Get lip balm with SPF 15 or 30. You may be travelling through a city or suburbs in the sun for a significant amount of time.
You should carry at least $200 in small bills. If you have to step into a store and get apparel or gear that will help you blend into the crowd, then money is essential.
It can also buy you quick transportation (cab, bus, bribe) if needed.
If desperate people take things from you by force, getting their hands on cash actually can save your life. How? It’s basic greed. An attacker will feel psychologically fulfilled once he has the money in hand and he will want to get out of there himself before someone else takes the money from him. Thus it can quickly stop an attack.
This is obviously the first choice for self defence.
The only issue is that in a gray man situation it needs to be concealed (and a legal carry of course). You don’t want to make it obvious that you’re carrying one. So it needs to be compact enough to go unnoticed under a jacket or shirt.
Otherwise, desperate people may do desperate things and try to take it by force. Remember, panicky crowds don’t act rationally.
This list of gray man gear is the essential tools to help you in an emergency in an urban area without drawing attention to yourself. You can carry these tools and still blend into a crowd and conceal the fact that you are carrying tactical gear.
For each item, it is important to note that they should be darker, dull colors.
No camo or bright colors.
That’s one of the differences between a survivalist and a gray man. If you do have to pull your gear out into plain view, the gear shouldn’t immediately tip anyone off that you have tactical gear or survival knowledge.
So this is just a starting point. Now it’s your turn. What gear would you add, eliminate or change to suit your needs?
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