How to Keep a Low Profile in Urban Situations

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Written by Dan Stevens, Modern Survival Online

Spoiler alert: keeping a low profile in urban settings is a lot harder than if you lived in a small town. The bigger the head count, the more likely it is to be spotted, attacked and so on.

Nevertheless, there are ways to become a gray, as us preppers like to say. There are a number of things you can do and they aren’t hard but need to be practiced.

Keep in mind that urban survival situations are fluid, with news and new developments arriving and happening very fast. Another thing to keep in mind is that you’re most likely be forced to bug out at some point, making the advice below that more important.

#1. Don’t Look Tacticool

This means:

no tactical vehicles, you need a long-range diesel that fits in urban settings
no “I’m a prepper” stickers on your car
no camo (which is more suitable for the wilderness) on your clothes, tarp, bandanas etc. UNLESS many folks already where them where you live (they are quite popular)
no tactical/military backpacks; get a quality one that looks “normal”
no tacticool looking gear (eg. flashlights that look tactical)

What should you get, then? There are plenty of quality items that look “normal”.  Just go to and look at the reviews to always get the best gear.  With so many reviewers, it’s hard to make a bad call these days, although going to a physical store to personally test some of these items is even better.

#2. Walls Have Ears… and Eyes

Even the slightest noise can be heard by your neighbors.  Not a good idea if your point is to let everyone think you left.  If they hear you, it’ll be a matter of time until they come and ask you for something.  Not that there’s anything wrong in helping your neighbor (quite the opposite), but whether or not you’ll be able to help without putting yourself and your family in jeopardy – that’s another question.

Walking on your tiptoes in your apartment, not making any loud noises, whispering and even keeping your toddler in the most soundproof room of the house (in case he starts crying) are a few of the things you can do.

In addition, it’s common sense to not let anyone see light from the outside. The best way is to install thick black curtains on the windows of the room you’re using the most and to use a flashlight when walking around the rest of the house. Unless you can put curtains on all windows, that is.

#3. Dress for… “Insuccess”

Why?  Because ties, jewelry, fancy briefcases, Segway electrical scooters and anything else that shows you may have money could get you robbed (or worse).

Dressing to be a gray doesn’t necessarily mean you should wear clothes with holes in them, or to avoid showering to smell like a homeless person. What you want is to look like everyone else. You want to be average. You want to be the guy whose photo deserves to be in the dictionary next to the definition of Average.

Grey, brown or black clothes, jeans, a grey backpack (preferably one that has a cheap brand on it such as FILA), a cheap watch… don’t be afraid to wear accessories, but don’t go for an all-black look, either; you don’t want to look like a thug.  Be more concerned with what those accessories say about you, be more concerned with dressing for the season (you don’t want to be the only one wearing t-shirts in November).

If they say “I’m poor, leave me alone”, then you know you’re doing it right… and there’s a big “but” here, there’s a difference between looking non-threatening and looking like a victim that can easily be raped for instance. So let’s talk about that for a minute.

#4. Don’t Look Like “Prey”

Sometimes, wearing generic clothes, avoiding eye contact and even slouching can signal to others that they can do anything they want with you.  Rape is the obvious thing they would want to do to a woman who doesn’t look like she has money… so how do you tackle that, given that we talked about not looking tacticool?

It all depends on your body language. Take a rugby player, for instance. If he maintains strong eye contact, keep his shoulders straight and his head high, a lot of people are intimidated. It’s my guess that many larger people use “defensive body language” to look friendlier.

So if you’re a slender woman who wants to show she will not go down easily, strong body language will definitely help. It’s all about BALANCING how the world sees you, making an image that’s right there in the middle. Average.

Keep in mind that thugs at masters at sizing people up FAST. They know very soon after they first lay eyes on you whether they’ll take a shot at you or not. It’s all about first impressions.

In fact, you may even go as far as breaking the rules and go for open carry if you can. The message you’ll be sending would be: I’m not a trouble maker but I will defend myself if I have to. On the other hand, if a rugby player walks in with an attitude and a gun, he would send a totally different message.

#5. Timing Is Crucial

It’ll be hard for you to just go outside and get supplies or meet someone anytime you like. You’ll most likely have to do your business at night, when most people are asleep, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be safe.

Thugs and thieves never sleep, and besides, going out of your apartment building at night might will make you stand out more than during the day, when a reasonable number of people will be doing the same.

It’s up to you to figure out the best times to leave your apartment. One is by reading or hearing the news and learning about anything special happening in your close vicinity, near your destination or somewhere in-between.

Are there tanks patrolling the streets, like they were in Brussels after the Paris attacks of Nov 2015?  Is the local gang rallying every evening at a certain hour next to your building?  The only way to know those things is to stay informed.

What? Did I just say you should contact your neighbors or other people?  You bet… But only if you need to, don’t do it just because you’re afraid.  Ultimately, it’s up to you to know when to keep quiet and when to approach others.  That being said, the next step for you would be to make a survival plan when it comes to OPSEC (operational security) and COMSEC (communications security).  Join a prepper group and see if you can find alternate channels of communications besides the phone and the Internet to share information.   All of these things sound simple but they go a long way.


About the Author:  Dan Stevens writes  Modern Survival Online You can find more of his articles here.


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  1. This is a very good post, as as it indicates, the tactics you use will change as the situation changes. One thng about backpacks though, you want one of quality to last you, however if it has brand name cloth patch you can always switch it for a cheaper brand from the thrift store. As indicated, also avoid high end jackets (a Canada Goose jacket is $400-$600 and shouts that you have money) and anything that gang colours (shoelaces colours used to be a skinhead look, and of course no blue/red bandanas in Crips/Bloods areas).

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