The Second Advent of Camouflage

Hunters, like all other people, are also judged by their clothes. The topic that naturally piqued the interest of hunters, and sometimes envy, in the early 1980s and 1990s in Russia, was, of course, camouflage.

It was worn by the lucky ones – those who brought it from the military or happened to acquire it somewhere. Since then, the wardrobe of Bulgarian hunters has changed significantly. It is true that even today there is considerable interest in camouflage. However, not in the simple kind, but in the digital.

Camouflage, like many other innovations, transitioned from the military to hunting. But despite the fact that wars have occurred throughout history with alarming cyclicality, it might seem strange at first glance that the need for camouflage clothing was considered relatively recently – a little over a century ago. They were engaging in hand-to-hand combat more frequently, but how else could they differentiate their own soldiers from others in the heat of battle if not by the color of their uniforms?

During 1899-1902, there was the Anglo-Boer War for the independence of the Transvaal. The colonial forces were easily spotted from a distance due to their attractive red uniforms, but they suffered heavy losses. It became evident that something needed to be done. A solution was found: the army was outfitted in khaki uniforms (Persian for “dust color”). This undoubtedly helped.

History doesn’t explain why this form of clothing was named in the language of sworn enemies (translated from French, “camouflage” means “disguise”). Perhaps representatives of good old England attempted to distance themselves from innovations, somewhat contradicting the renowned knightly spirit, or maybe there were other reasons. The main thing is that camouflage emerged and its rapid development began.

Naturally, camouflage is related to the protective coloration of certain animals, which arises as an adaptation to the environment. There are quite a few examples. For instance, not only chameleons, but also octopuses, squids, and cuttlefish can “adapt” the color of their bodies to match their surroundings. Monkeys, too, employ a more sophisticated “disruption” camouflage: their white tails, laid over their black bodies while asleep, disrupt the outlines of their figures when viewed from the side.

These and other facts are included in the book by American artist Abbott Thayer, “Concealing-Coloration in the Animal Kingdom,” published in 1909. For scientists, the principles described therein became the foundation for the theory of scientific mimicry, while for the military, it became a starting point for developing military camouflage options. Initially, these were limited to simple or dappled camouflage patterns. Then, in 1939, the Russian-born French artist Vladimir Baranov-Rossine patented a spotted military uniform (known as “pointillist-dynamic camouflage”). And things progressed. Camouflage started becoming monochromatic with patterns (small and large), light, dark, contrasting. The German army went further than others, utilizing almost 30 different camouflage colors during World War II. Some of these (like the “birch” camouflage) successfully “migrated” to the Soviet army and remain relevant to this day.

Civil society did not remain unaffected by camouflage. Interestingly, its wearing in the 1960s began as a protest – an expression of negative attitudes toward military conflicts. The protest sentiments subsided, but the interest in camouflage persisted: a few prominent designers incorporated it into their collections. And patterns like leopard or zebra (also types of camouflage) seem to be permanently registered in fashion houses worldwide. Representatives of various subcultures also embraced camouflage as part of their everyday attire – goths, punks, cyberpunks, stalkers, and others.

Well, hunters pay attention to camouflage, as they say, because it’s destiny or fate, right? No, of course not. Even before, when going hunting, they resorted to camouflage – wrapping themselves in hides and adorning themselves with natural grasses, but in modern conditions, of course, this cannot be compared to designer clothing.

The fact that there is no universal camouflage quickly became clear to both the military and hunters. Each color “works” only in specific conditions and must be adjusted for the time of year. Camouflage, with all its diversity, can be divided into several major groups: “woodland,” “desert,” “jungle,” “bush,” “winter,” and so on. The main thing is to choose precisely what is needed for a given situation. And at the same time, be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of your camouflage, as the art of camouflage primarily depends on the individual and only secondarily on the camouflage itself.

It seems that in the future, experiments will continue with cutting, fabrics, membranes, accessories, etc., but a revolution is not imminent. This is how experts unanimously described the “digital” camouflage, developed in 1984 for NATO forces. (Interestingly, the United States and Canada still dispute which of them holds primacy in its development.) They attempted to apply a pattern to the fabric similar to the pixel configuration of a monitor screen, and it turned out that this made a person’s movement almost imperceptible.

And so, the second advent of camouflage began both in the military and in hunting attire. The initial advantages of the “figure” were recognized by American manufacturers.

Without a doubt, the most well-known brand is Sitka Gear. The company was founded in 2005 by two hunting buddies, Jason Hairston and Jonathan Hart. After hunting in the mountains and realizing that “good people shouldn’t suffer so much in their hunting gear,” they began developing clothing that could effectively withstand all natural whims.

Including challenging hunting conditions.

The main distinctions of the Deerhunter brand include a specialized clothing design that combines a “civilian” appearance with ease of use for hunting; the use of the most modern materials, membranes, insulation, and accessories; meticulous attention to detail. One of Deerhunter’s collections, Recon, is directly related to the theme of this article. It is based on the Equipt® digital camouflage. The “pixelization” easily adapts to the desired background – open plains, forests, etc. Similar to a chameleon, a person in a suit of this color is capable of completely blending into the landscape.

Naturally, the suit follows the layering principle – the combination of various elements of the collection (in addition to several types of pants and jackets, it also includes gloves, a mask, a baseball cap) allows you to equip for different seasons and weather conditions in a temperature range from -30°C to +15°C. The prices, by the way, are quite reasonable: F. Engel consistently aims to provide an optimal balance of price and quality. Consumer reviews are quite positive. 


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