Paranoid Prepper: How to be a Gray Man!

How to be a Gray Man!

Salty suggested writing about being a Gray Man.  He asked the wrong guy.  After all, here I am blabbing about the subject all over the Internet.  First rule of being a Gray Man is don’t be noticed, yet here I am doing something that will make me noticed!  Fail!  😊  This will have to be a “Do as I say, not as I do.” post.  I hope that works for you faithful readers, both of you.

Maybe he thought because I live in an urban environment, the issue had relevance.  He is going to be tucked away at “The Place”, somewhere in flyover country, but here I am in the Peoples Republic of New Jersey, dodging Social Justice Warriors (SJW) and stuck in traffic, so maybe the concept has relevance, particularly if I am trying to hide from Black Bears.  After all, I don’t have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun the other guy.  The bear doesn’t care since we all look alike.  😊  I certainly don’t want to stand out for the bear!

Gray Man, played by Clint Eastwood

What is a Gray Man?

Being a gray man basically means to blend into a crowd in order to not be noticed.  To do that you must first have a crowd, which we definitely have here in the Peoples Republic of New Jersey.  You can’t blend into a crowd without a crowd!  😊  This also says something about the type of disaster you’re dealing with.  You don’t want anything to do with a crowd during a Pandemic.  Crowds imply something more along the lines of Venezuela.  That place is clearly a disaster.  ☹

Not a Gray Man  😊

Why be a Gray Man?

The idea behind choosing to be a “gray man” is that there is some insidious government that you would prefer not to interact with.  “Peoples Republic of New Jersey”?  I guess we have that too, and we haven’t had SHTF yet.  A gray man here needs to avoid pumping his own gas!

When we have had local disasters, e.g. 9/11, Hurricane Sandy, etc. the authorities have all been occupied with screwing up traffic, so the goal of a gray man is generally going to be to get home without getting harassed by TPTB.  Once home, don’t leave until the disaster is over and TPTB have returned to base.  😊

How to Act Like a Gray Man

Since I have been saying that you can prep anywhere, including urban and suburban areas, where crowds exist, it behooves me to have an idea how to be a Gray Man.  It might come in handy.

Surrounded by this crowd, I’d look at my phone too!

In order to blend in, you need a sense of what the crowd looks like, and how it behaves.  You can start observing that now.  On my morning commute, the crowd on the train pretty much ignores each other and stares at their phones.  I can do that!  Of course, if all those phones just went dead due to some disaster, then they’ll stop looking at their phones and start looking around, probably with relatively poor focus or situational awareness.  In other words, their behavior will change.  You probably don’t want to be looking at your dead phone, when everyone else has stopped looking at theirs.

During past disasters I have been in, e.g. Escape from New York, the primary activity of people around me was simply trying to get home.  Interestingly, many of the folks began conversing with those around them, trying to get some information about what was going on, or what transportation options were operational.  On a normal day, people in this area pretty much ignore each other, or at least try to ignore each other.  Disaster changes behavior.

When disaster strikes and everyone is asking each other what happened, you might want to listen.  Maybe one of them will actually know something useful.  In the meantime, try to keep moving toward your goal, i.e. home.

On 9/11/01 after several hours of walking, moving, etc. I finally made it to the train that would take me home.  I sat down on the train and listened to the other passengers, figuring maybe I would learn what happened.  The group was all speculating whether anyone had gotten out of the World Trade Center alive.  I thought this was pretty strange, since I had gotten out alive, and as far as I knew, so had everyone else.  I listened to this conversation go on for about 15 minutes and learned that both buildings had collapsed after I left.  I had not known that, didn’t know how to take it, and wondered whether I would need to get a new job.  After all, the office was gone.  ☹

Ultimately, I spoke up and provided the tidbit that I had been in the building, and here I was breathing and everything.  😊  I then shut up again and the conversation went on like I hadn’t even spoken.  I guess I had succeeded so well at being inconspicuous, that nobody cared when I answered their question.

If you see one of these, the guy carrying it is not a gray man!

Dressing Like a Gray Man

When I first began working in New York, the standard attire was a business suit and a briefcase.  The briefcase might just hold your lunch, but you carried one.  Over time that gradually changed.  Briefcases were replaced by laptop bags, and eventually by laptop backpacks, which are now just backpacks, albeit a lot of people have dispensed with the backpacks in order to avoid being searched, or just because they aren’t carrying anything.  At this point carrying a briefcase would stand out, so it would be a bad idea for a gray man.

Business suits are still in vogue for senior executives and people in sales roles, but have been largely replaced by “business casual”.  Now you might be thinking that your favorite 5.11 cargo pants would be perfect “Escape from New York” apparel.  Unfortunately, they would be weird, even if they were acceptable in your office.  Places that have gotten more casual than “business casual” might draw Dockers or even jeans, but cargo pants are still weird.  Maybe someday “tacticool” will become fashionable, but don’t hold your breath.

The best part of the change in fashions started with women wearing comfortable shoes to commute, then changing to dress shoes in the office.  A lot of men are now doing the same thing, or wearing more casual shoes with their casual attire.  Either way, if you have to walk home, this is a helpful trend for a “wanna be gray man”.  Just stay away from bright colors.

Those kid’s sneakers that flash lights every time their heel hits the ground are probably a bad idea, though I understand they are catching on with the homeless.  😊

Nine months out of the year, the weather requires some sort of jacket, so wear one that is slightly oversized, has lots of pockets, and a hood.  Again, stay away from bright colors or anything that says “tactical”.

Summary of Gray Man Rules

Be quiet, but listen to what is being said around you.  Dress inconspicuously, whatever that means in your area.  Dress codes change over time.  If you run into government induced traffic problems, don’t complain, just go around and find another way.  If I could get off an island, twice, surely you can find a way around the tie ups.

Being a gray man will get you home.

Paranoid Prepper


  1. Heh. The People’s Republic of Massachusetts isn’t much different. Backpacks have become the norm for the urban commuter type. That’s good for the gray-man prepper among them, but something I’ve observed is that all the backpacks are limp or flat. They have almost nothing in them. My Get Home Bag is a good gray-man color (olive-gray and beige) but it’s full of stuff. That fullness would stand out as odd in the commuter crowd. To really blend in, I’d have to be carrying very little. It’s a tough mix — looking unprepared while actually BEING prepared.

    — Mic

  2. Good observation. If you have a car, you can just put the backpack in the trunk, but as a mass transit commuter, you are correct. The typical backpack is carrying lunch and not much else. You might want to check out my previous post on preparing for an Escape from New York. If your backpack looks overstuffed, you might want to consider caching some stuff in a desk drawer at work. Jacket pockets can also be used for small items.

  3. I’ll check out your earlier post. Per carrying less, that’s kind of what I’ve done. The main bag (the olive and beige one) stays in the truck, fully loaded and too fat to blend in. The urban commute bag is a laptop bag with reduced gear (to leave room for the laptop, of course. A plump laptop bag doesn’t look as out of place as a fat backpack.

  4. This is exactly the type of person I am working on being.

    Occasionally, though, I do have to say “Get Off My Lawn!”

  5. In Az. back packs are very common, and mic above, said it well,
    flat and frankly, poorly made packs (book bags, really) are more numerous than well made ones and only a few of us seem to be carrying anything useful besides a wallet and lunch. In my pack (plain and black) I carry a small pouch with a few necessaries like a Leatherman, fire kit, water bottle, cordage, etc.I also carry a fixed blade knife and a handgun. This kit is designed to be worn on my belt should I need, except the water bottle which stays in the pack. My car kit is more extensive but is designed to be carried on my back..
    The point is to keep my stuff close but not LOOK like I am prepped with desirables ripe for the taking.
    Being the gun laws in Az. do not infringe on my rights intolerably, I carry openly where possible which for Az. is very normal. This adds a level of security without drawing undue attention.

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