SHTF Preparedness: How to Mask Noise and Light Signatures

This article is an introduction on how to mask the signatures of light and noise that are given off if not controlled.  We are talking primarily about a scenario taking place in the forest, but the techniques can also be applied to an urban setting.  The tougher one of the two to overcome is the noise; however, each poses a challenge that if not handled can lead to a problem when you wish to remain incognito in the field.

How to Diffuse Light in SHTF Environments

First let’s deal with light.  The reason light poses a problem is we need light to see optimally, but in using it at night, the light can be seen by others, giving our position away.  Flashlights and any kind of hand-held lantern, battery powered or otherwise are the main problems here.  There are a few simple ways to cut down on these signatures, and all of them take practice.

  1. No white lenses with movement: you need to obtain a red lens for your flashlight. This will not defeat NVD’s (night vision devices), but it will cut down on being compromised by the unwanted naked eye considerably.
  2. When using the flashlight, cover it up: preferably a poncho over top of yourself and the flashlight, to perform whatever task you need to accomplish when moving at night, such as checking your position on the map, or fooling with equipment of some kind. Keep that light covered.
  3. Adjust your eyes and learn to move in the dark without a flashlight: this will take some practice, and some people may not have the night vision abilities to perform it, especially those with eye problems. For everyone else, practice makes perfect.  Most nights have a little illumination and are not pitch dark (except for the New Moon and a day before and after).
  4. Smokers: you must hide the signature of the end of your cigarette. Through NVD’s it appears to be a flare going off from a distance.  Either cup it within your hands, or inside of an aluminum pouch, such as found with MRE’s (Meal Ready to Eat).  When you light that cigarette you also tend to give off a big signature.  Best thing I can tell you is to quit smoking and really nip it in the bud.  Not to mention the fact that you can smell a cigarette from several hundred feet away.

How to Minimize Noise Levels in Dangerous Situations

Noise is an entirely different animal.  We make noise as we walk.  We can’t help it.

What we can do, however, is control the amount of noise we make…and reduce the amount that would give away our position.  You must practice noise discipline in order to perfect it!  Looking where you walk and where you take your next step is key.  Be keenly observant of where you are moving and through what.  Are you facing a large area covered in dry leaves, with dry weather?  Are there dried branches and twigs strewn all over the place?

How about sticker bushes and nettles in the summertime?  If you’re not crushing them underfoot, how about if one of them whips you across the face?  Unless you are prepared to take the pain of it, you may yell, curse, or cry out.  You should practice moving through all of these different types of substances.  In addition, how about the noise made just as a consequence of your movement?

Many people carry so much stuff, such as keys, change in their pockets, etc., that they mimic a tambourine when they walk.  Let’s not forget our happy, singing, laughing, chirping tracking devices…our cell phones.  Your cell phones: I don’t use one.  You can believe when Uncle Ed tries to reach you or you get a call from Gram-gram, or some other family member, and you’re out in the woods?  The whole world (animal, vegetable, and human) will hear that ringtone.  Clattering gear that is rattling around, the sounds of trampled branches and vegetation, the occasional grunt in fatigue or pain…all of these will give you away.

Any and all of your rattling gear needs to be silenced.  Everything that is loose must be tied down and secured.  This is not just prudent: this is survival.  “What is the situation?” you may ask.

The situation is anything: our happy “Betty Crocker/Holly Hobby” society can change with the blink of an eye into “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy.

Choose the situation.  The situation is unimportant.  What is important here is that you ensure noise and light discipline in order to avoid being obsequious and potentially to evade a pursuer.  Practice walking at night in the woods, and listen to yourself.  When you’re stationary, practice listening to the things that are around you.  If you’re patient and open your eyes, ears, and mind, the woods will come alive for you. Your senses will experience what your normal Western-Consumer marketing environment deadens them to.

Learn to pace yourself by the amount of noise you make and also practice leaving fewer tracks and/or a trail.  Practice negotiating close (thickly-vegetated) terrain and making as little noise as possible.  Skills need practice in order to master them.  Now that the weather is warming up, try some training that won’t cost you anything except time and effort to master these skills.  JJ out!


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Jeremiah Johnson is the Nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces (Airborne). Mr. Johnson was a Special Forces Medic, EMT and ACLS-certified, with comprehensive training in wilderness survival, rescue, and patient-extraction. He is a Certified Master Herbalist and a graduate of the Global College of Natural Medicine of Santa Ana, CA. A graduate of the U.S. Army’s survival course of SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape), Mr. Johnson also successfully completed the Montana Master Food Preserver Course for home-canning, smoking, and dehydrating foods.

Mr. Johnson dries and tinctures a wide variety of medicinal herbs taken by wild crafting and cultivation, in addition to preserving and canning his own food. An expert in land navigation, survival, mountaineering, and parachuting as trained by the United States Army, Mr. Johnson is an ardent advocate for preparedness, self-sufficiency, and long-term disaster sustainability for families. He and his wife survived Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Cross-trained as a Special Forces Engineer, he is an expert in supply, logistics, transport, and long-term storage of perishable materials, having incorporated many of these techniques plus some unique innovations in his own homestead.

Mr. Johnson brings practical, tested experience firmly rooted in formal education to his writings and to our team. He and his wife live in a cabin in the mountains of Western Montana with their three cats.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published April 15th, 2017
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5 Responses to SHTF Preparedness: How to Mask Noise and Light Signatures

  1. Kregg Deur says:

    Good call on the smokers. I’m a former nicotine junkie and have been able to pick up tobacco smoke smells as far as 100 yards away if the wind is right at my BOL.
    Sound and light travel a lot further when you are out in the country, where there is virtually no light or noise pollution.
    During an overnight survival campout a couple of years ago, I woke in the middle of the night to a buzzing noise. The next morning when packing out, I heard it again at the road (about 250 yards from my shelter), it was the power lines buzzing because of the cold.

  2. genann59 says:

    I live out in the country. I get amused at times when I go out on the patio at night, especially when I don’t turn the patio lights on. You hear everything. I can hear cars on the highway about two miles away. I can hear the various night critters. You can tell, after awhile, by the sounds, if the noise is mice or rats or some other larger critter. I do not see well in the dark, never have been able to, so I don’t wander out in the yard except in the winter, when the rattlesnakes tend to hibernate, unless I have good lighting and even then only if I have to. I have never had anyone so far wandering around on my property at night. I do know the dogs would let me know if anyone got near, but if I can easily hear the mice and rats, figure it would be fairly easy to hear your average human, especially if he/she was not trying to hide their noise. Also we have lots of geese and guinea hens and they also make good guard animals and will let you know for sure if any predators are in the area, four legged or two legged or winged (they will carry on like crazy if owls land in the trees). If the dogs and the birds sound the alarm, I just go inside and lock the door behind me, since they are telling me something is out there that I probably don’t want to deal with. When it is really quiet outside I can sometimes hear music in the distance which I presume is a radio from someone 100s of acres away. Sound really travels around here for sure. I can sometimes hear helicopters which even during the daytime I cannot see, usually border patrol out looking for reported illegals wandering the area. So far as I’m aware, none have been seen or caught right around here, but most people carry guns when out on their property since the illegals are known to wander through the area and are often affiliated with drug cartels and their violence. Most of the neighbors not only carry guns but have dogs to give warning if unfamiliar people are in the area.

  3. GRAMPA says:

    light and smells can also be used for diverson. lead your stalker where you want them to be. I worked mignite shift for some years. this ment I had to sleep during the day. I covered cardboard with tin foil and made a flap edge that would fill the gaps in the windows edge. it was light tight and with a piece of towel in front of the door no light entered. this would be needed to prevent others who would want to see if a house were occupied. as for smells save the bacon grease and activate a hand warmer and wrap the paper towel with the bacon grease on it and it will last for hours. put the small dollar store battery flicker candle with partial cover and it looks like an attempt to hide a camp. it will draw the people to it putting them in your line of sight for a good shot.

    • Tess says:

      Grampa – Thank you for sharing this info. I don’t think people realize how far light, sound and smells travel and any tips to prevent it are helpful.

      • GRAMPA says:

        your welcome at seventy five I picked up a few facts when light wasn’t as prevalent as today. I am an electrical contractor and many have questions about air and sun power. I am going to collect the regulations and practices designed to keep you safe. when I compile them I will send them to all to use as they wish. Grampa….Mullan Elect. Michigan

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