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fgoodwin

Camo vs. SAR

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I don't want to start another range war on whether or not camo comports with the Insignia Guide.

 

But it occurs to me that, given the annual spate of Scouts lost in the woods, and the subsequent search and rescue effort: how much more difficult is it to find kids that are wearing camo vs. some other bright color?

 

I just returned from summer camp; most of my troop wore bright red shirts every day -- but invariably, there are Scouts and Scouters who wear camo pants, and sometimes green, brown or olive drab shirts.

 

Since such apparel hides the wearer in the surrounding greenery, is that reason enough to ask that kids (and adults) *not* wear them to camping events?

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Though I've no clue how many do get lost, I like the idea of wearing clothing that is brighter or lighter. Cub Scout day camp uses colors to identify who's who: adult staff in yellow, den chiefs in green, and youth in yet another color. Today, while at camp, I noticed that the den chiefs weren't visible from a distance. However, the adults and Cubs stood out from quite far away. It made it easy to keep track of the Cubs when working on camp staff, so it certainly seems logical to suggest it for Scouts.

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Just as a small aside- one of the early uses listed for the bright colored, large sized neckerchiefs used to be as signalling devices.

 

That is a great point, however. I think the next time I am involved in working on unit T-shirts, I'll try to remember that!

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When my son was quite a bit younger, he was always dressed in bright primary colors, reds, yellows, greens, and bright blue, it was done so he could be easily spotted. I didnt engineer that feat, it was his mother's design, but it worked well.

 

When we joined the Troop, another father started at the same time, he always had on bright almost neon colors and I asked him about it. He is the Deputy Chief of a SAR unit and he said the worst thing that can happen to a SAR unit is to lose one of its members, so they always dress in brilliant colors so they can be spotted, especially since they work a lot at night.

 

Ever since then I have taken to buying brighter colors, a red rain shell, a flurorescent orange (hunters) sweatshirt, that sort of thing. No, I am not as much afraid of getting lost myself, as I am wanting to be sure a semi-lost scout might catch a glimpse of me and find his way back. I wear red sweat pants to sleep in so I can be spotted even at night if need be. When I see a kid all decked out in full camo, I do hope he doesnt go down with a twisted or broken ankle because he might not get spotted for quite awhile.

 

Usually I look to the pros to see what they do and try to emulate them. If SAR wears bright colors, so will I and I will try to influence as many as possible to do the same.

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I tend to wear camo when hiking. Why? Because when I bought the stuff I think I was kind of like a military wannabe. Now, I have learned more about it and am no longer really a military wannabe, but a military praiser and supporter. I wear it now because it is what I have. Would you rather I wear jeans?? Also, though, when I hike, I carry brighter colored items; carry a twoway radio, as well as other survival items. Typically the hiking I've done in the recent past I'm leading 25+ others so we aint gonna be hiding.

 

I dont mean to start a debate over the camo... I feel it can be useful. You carry the right gear, your clothing wont matter as much. With the recent events in mind, I intend to ramp up my effort to be seen-- when I want to be seen. Otherwise, it's LNT for me.

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Is it OK if the adults wear camo so the boys can't find us when we need a little peace and quiet? ;)

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Most of the boys - and some of the adults - in our troop wear U.S.Army BDU (camo) trousers because they are comfortable and durable (What a concept!). A bright jacket, shirt, or poncho is almost a must in the woods.

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Just so the color of clothing doesn't become more important than the buddy system and adequate/qualified supervision...

 

In our ESAR post, we all had blaze orange caps but many of us had Swedish military trousers (wool that wore like chain-mail) and warm woolen sweaters (hard to find back then in anything but OD and navy). We also stuck to our buddies like glue. The Olympic Peninsula was a place that few walked out of alive if lost. Our blaze orange caps would disappear within 20 feet.

 

Outdoor ethics also infer that your clothing, tents, etc., not mar the wild landscape that others may have travelled great distances to enjoy. A great compromise is to have a reversible jacket with blaze on one side and a more natural tone on the other. Our older scouts now practice something called "ghost camping" where their goal, beyond Leave No Trace, is not to be noticed by neighboring campers... really trips out other groups at camporees who think our campsite is still "open." ;)

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Wearing all camo and not carrying proper, easily reached, signaling devices in the back country is highly irresponsible. You should certainly carry both a bright colored item and something reflective to use to get attention if needed. Also, you should probably carry something that would enable you to make noise even if unable to speak for some reason.

 

 

alki,

 

Could you tell me a bit more about your new camping idea? It sounds interesting.

 

 

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'Ghost camping'? I'm intrigued as well. I think they guys would really like to try this. Tell us more.

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I can't honestly say that it was my idea, more a spin-off of an activity we did at a winter camp.

 

The idea is fairly simple. Avoid drawing attention to yourself by being seen, heard, or smelled.

 

I don't let them do it unless they each have two-way radios and signalling devices. All other safety precautions (buddy system, etc.) are standard and accepted.

 

Not sure how this would work in a large unit, but the Venturing Crew that does it only numbers 6 active members. If you'd like some more details about how they do this, we oughta spin-off a new thread...

 

 

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One warning about some colors that seem bright in sunlight and close range is they do not appear that way at a distance. Red is a perfect example of this, at a distance or in dim light conditions, red appears black. If you are looking for colors that can be seen beyond the range of a voice I would pick hunter (flourescent) orange. Also cammo is only effective if the person wearing it is perfectly still and against an object of simular color such as white in snow or treebark pattern standing against a tree trunk. In most cases there is a contrasting background which can be seen easily. Someone wearing green camo, walking through the forest can be seen as easily as someone wearing blue jeans.

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As those of you who may know me know I'm a Search and Rescue geek with the US Air Force Auxiliary (Civil Air Patrol [CAP]). I do SAR for fun and pack and repack my gear when I'm bored, yes, I'm that bad...

 

Colors, as many of you have stated, don't make a lick of difference, you're 1/2 correct.

 

Although many of you may do SAR on the ground and be with ESAR posts, remember there are different types of SAR (ground, aerial, urban, etc). Well, from the sky, you can see more... A LOT more. Our ground team has worn Orange helmets since the Midwest Express crash back in the 1980's when one of our leaders (now a Lieutenant Colonel) was standing under a tree, looked up and saw wreckage swinging above him. The helmets serve as two tools, one... protects our heads, and two (back on subject) you can see them from the air!

 

If the search for someone, in particular a scout becomes large enough or the need arises, we're called and we release aircraft to find them. Although on the ground orange, yellow, red, etc don't make much difference, in the air it's like night and day, brighter colors stand out dramatically.

 

On the ground, a trained SAR team will look for man-tracking clues. Bright colored clothing does help us on the ground. Although you may appeared burried, the means in which we find you can be largely helped by your clothing.

 

Red shirts are semi-traditional scoutwear, they help, they're "fashionable" in scout terms.

 

Your best bet is still: map and compass! Learn to use them, they can save your's and other's lives.

 

Matt Kopp, c/2d Lt, CAP

WI-156, Ground Team Leader

koppm@msoe.edu

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P.S.: Camo, OD, and natural colors are Ok too... just as long as the scout wants to be found, they will be... They are harder to find with rustic colors, but they still leave traces of whereabouts.

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