The woodland camouflage usually worn by American troops is poor. The small blobs blend together a few meters distant, allowing a dark body outline to be seen. In addition, the inclusion of green coloring was appropriate for battle in the German forests, but does not reflect the typical terrain on earth. Most of the world is brown, and even woodland areas are barren half the year. Urban warfare has become more important, and most cities are far more brown that green.
The U.S. military needs to adopt All-Season All-Terrain (ASAT) camouflage, which has already been perfected by a civilian company for use by game hunters. ASAT uses sharp contrast like the jungle "tiger stripe" pattern popular during the Vietnam conflict. It consists of a tan background covered by large irregular stripes of black and brown. The tan color blends in better with exposed human skin than green. This "sticks" camouflage (below) is a better choice for the U.S. Military, which is expected to rapidly deploy anywhere in the world at any time of year. Some examples can be found at the ASAT Camouflage Photo Journal.
ASAT camouflage should also be required for new orders of tents, flak jackets, field jackets, and helmet liners; and become the stand paint scheme for equipment. This will eliminate the burden of maintaining both desert and woodland stocks, In addition, the green web gear should gradually be replace with brown. The U.S. Marine Corps recently adopted a superior "pixel" camouflage pattern (below) with more brown, but it still contains too much green. ASAT or brown "pixel" camouflage will boost morale with a new look, and enhance the stealth of units which may rapidly deploy anywhere.
Carlton Meyer editor@G2mil.com
Randy Cox is a camoufleur -- He designs military camouflage for a living. Randy works for Teledyne Brown Industries. Randy also makes Ghillie Suits. .
Military camouflage should be broken into two categories: clothing and nets. Clothing is simply what personnel wear -- fatigues, jackets, coats, ponchos, etc. Nets are used to place over other things to hide them from observation. Military nets are LWCSS - Light-Weight Camouflage Screen System -- available through surplus stores. Only one manufacturer of military camouflage sells to the civilian market (through distributors). It may be found in Cabela's, U.S. Cavalry, Ranger Joes's, Bean's, and other catalogs under the Bushy Ridge(tm) trademark. Nets are of limited use in paintball -- unless you make want to make a blind for some position. The military camouflage net industry has fallen on hard times recently -- no market, and it's really overkill for the hunting and paintball -- deer don't use night vision goggles or radar.
However, camouflage clothing is doing pretty well. These are sometimes lumped under the moniker "BDU's" -- even though BDU is actually just the U.S. Army acronym for Battle Dress Uniform. There are camouflage patterns for just about everything: regular 3-color green BDU (USA and USMC issue); desert 3-color BDU; 5-color desert (AKA "chocolate chip"); night BDU (a grid of green over green); the ever popular tiger stripe (several patterns); tree bark (various manufacturers -- most popular is probably RealTree(tm)); and various forest patterns (like ASAT(tm) and others). Foreign military is becoming real popular -- British, French, German, and Russian clothing is now commonly available. Mail order sources for all of these are the same as in the camouflage net paragraph.
I am going to offer no opinion on what works best, because it all depends! It depends on how you use it. If you attack all the time, it doesn't matter what you wear. If you go defensive, it matters until the fire fight begins. If you creep up and pick off the enemy one-by one, it matters a lot.
General rules of thumb for using camouflage:
What should be worn where?
In the U.S. and Europe, most deciduous forested areas will need a general pattern like the USA green BDU. Tiger Stripe in subtropical areas (heavily forested with undergrowth, vines, etc) like the southeast and northwest. Grassy lands, use overall olive drab fatigues (live grass -- California in winter) or, believe it or not, 3-color desert (dead grass -- like California in summer). Desert and rocky areas (southwest U.S.) use the 3-color desert BDU (this is the new desert pattern-- not the the old 5-color 'chocolate chip' pattern). Tree Bark patterns can be used anywhere there are large enough trees, but I think most of the patterns are for pine or oak forests (which mean they blend in well in temperate and alpine forests such as in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.
What about Tiger Stripe?
The camouflage pattern most familiar as Tiger Stripe was developed for U.S. Special Forces during the Vietnam era (circa 1965) for jungle fighting. It is an adaptation of an earlier British design developed during the Malyasian "difficulties" (1950's). It is for ultra-close range (50 yards or less) fighting in heavily foliated jungle. Again, it should be effective in similar areas like the heavy subtropical areas of the southeast U.S. and pacific northwest. If you have trouble walking through the forest, and it is impossible to walk a nearly straight line, Tiger Stripe might be appropriate
What difference does the size of the "blobs" make?
The average size of the "blobs" (actually known as the predominate or average spatial frequency of the pattern) is directly proportional to the expected range of engagement AND the expected environmental background. The spatial frequency of the camouflage pattern should match the spatial frequency of the background at that range of engagement. It is possible, using fractal patterns, to match the spatial frequencies over some span of ranges -- but no one makes a good fractal pattern yet -- and that is a hot area of pattern research.