Overall Appearance During SHTF: Tips For Not Standing Out

Samantha Biggers Samantha Biggers  |  Updated: November 28, 2018
Overall Appearance During SHTF: Tips For Not Standing Out

If you have prepped well, then you may find yourself in a position of being able to maintain your appearance and well being during a longer emergency.

The problem is that there can be great danger in that. Looking too good and put together during SHTF can backfire on you.

People lose weight with less food available, after a given length of time, this will become more noticeable.

While the average American is extremely overweight, that can change a lot during a SHTF situation. Everyone is going to lose weight and if you don’t that is going to be an indicator that you are holding out or have supplies that others may desire you may have much more than needed and be considered a bad person for not sharing regardless of how deserving someone is of anything.

It is in your best lose some weight like everyone else if you have some to spare. You can also disguise your weight and give the illusion of weight loss by wearing baggy clothing.

Looking like you are not better fed than the majority can keep the wolves away from your stash or hurting your family in the hopes of some gain. It doesn’t even have to be the promise of much at all during a real SHTF situation. Of course, this is more important if you are in an area of higher population density or have to be seen by others regularly. Ideally, you could just stay put and not be seen by many people.


Keeping up on hygiene is one of the most important things during a real SHTF situation. It gets overlooked because food water and shelter take the top spots regarding what is important. Staying clean becomes very important when you are just a scrape away from a life-threatening infection with no help of medical care or antibiotics beyond what you have been smart enough to stash back yourself. This is one reason why antibiotic ointments are so important. They can prevent problems and help you to avoid using more serious meds.

Keep yourself clean but don’t take it too far. Chances are that washing clothes is going to be harder and at times not even possible.

If you are changing pants more often than every 3 days, I suggest you get in a different habit. Not only is it wasteful, but it also makes people think you are a very fancy person during SHTF. If you got the time to have a clean pair of britches every day then you probably have some great preps and you are obviously not having to scrounge for a meal or water. You can stay healthy without showering daily. In fact, even just a weekly shower is more than what some people can manage during a SHTF situation they are not really prepared for.

Living without the luxury of being able to clean oneself easily or not having hot running water or a flush toilet is not easy. I have been there. It was my life not that many years ago.

I lived with Matt without hot water for more than 5 years building this house. Part of the reason was an order of operations for codes, then money, and other causes. It was not easy but we managed. I had no real bathroom for 4 years of my life. We hosed off in the yard and heated water for sponge baths. If you have water to spare then you just have to take some time to stay clean. Soap helps but the water that has been boiled or is very clean is far better than nothing at all.

There is a big difference in having very old filth caked on and just giving the appearance of being a little worse for the wear in terms of cleanliness. Of course, as times get tougher and darker, you need to seem as dirty as everyone else if you are out where you can be observed.

Make an effort to not stand out too much

Standing out in a crowd during times of stress is a big mistake. I may have some fun with fashion or hair now, but you can bet that I will not be in town during SHTF. If it has reached that point then going to town is not going to do me any good. Being prepared before is the way it has to be when you live out in the sticks. Chances are even now; you probably wouldn’t recognize me at the grocery store if you saw me. During SHTF or even if things just are starting to feel off it is a good idea to wear clothing that looks like everyone else. Don’t wear bright colors or patterns that make you memorable. Basic colors with no logos are good.

Attractiveness is not something to put on display during SHTF or any time of civil unrest

Some try to make the argument that women should make an effort to make themselves appear less attractive. I think that while it is not a good idea to flaunt your appearance in a situation, it is also probably not going to do a lot of good in general during an extended SHTF situation.

Rape is a sexual act, but often it is not really all about sex. Rape is used to break someone, to control them and to inflict as much psychological injury on that person and those that care about them. The perpetrators of crimes of this level during a major situation are using it as a tool or method of war. Making yourself less attractive may not help that much or any at all. Just being a woman, especially one on your own, is enough to make you a target during SHTF.

At the same time, you should tone it down. Don’t wear clothes that are intended to arouse curiosity and attention. During a real SHTF, you won’t care or have time for makeup. Don’t do things to draw attention to your appearance. Fashion and colors are fun, but everyone needs to tone it down in a major civil disruption.

Don’t wear jewelry. You may want to hide even a wedding ring. That is valuable and flashy.

Be cold and hard. Now is not the time to be the friendliest person on the block. This can be seen as a sign of weakness.

While I have been in situations where I felt I was at risk of harm, I have pretty much always had some knowledge of self-defense and 1-2 weapons on me. Yep, from the time I was 7 or 8 I had at least a knife. At 13 I added pepper spray to that. There are things you can do to be on more level footing if someone wishes to harm you. While this may seem extreme, I have not feared men as much over the years.

I encourage you to teach your daughters as well as your sons’ self-defense or take some classes together if they are old enough. Girls don’t have to feel like walking soon to be victims. Give them the skills they need to help level the field so they are confident and ready to defend themselves.

Don’t smell pretty

If times get tough, there is going to be some odors to deal with. If you walk around smelling like Prada perfume and roses and everyone else has a two-day-old gym sock odor permeating the airspace around them, you are going to have all eyes on you. When people are on edge, a strange scent can draw a lot of attention and give away your location.

Also, any smells are a good way to give yourself away if you need to be stealthy. SHTF is not about pretty or nice smelling!

Acting too happy is a bad thing

Ok so you have spent years of your life and all your spare money preparing for a long emergency or SHTF situation, and finally, something happens, but you and your family have everything to keep your standard of living good and not do without too much for more than six months. Well good for you but you can bet that the majority of people are going to be feeling pretty low. Make sure you don’t act too happy when everyone else is miserable or at least slightly depressed. It can be annoying and even make others loathe your existence and happiness all at the same time. That is a very dangerous position to be in and not at all necessary. Act low and depressed when around others. Make them buy it that you are in the same shape as them or very close to it.

Learn to be the best bluffer or bulls***** you can because it could save your life.

When it comes to bluffing, I have to say it takes a smooth operator that can stay calm and collected to pull something major off during a real SHTF scenario. Look, I know that lying to everyone is not something that you want to have to do, but if it hits the fan, then you should be ready to be the best liar you can be. The art of BSing has saved a lot of people just as it has got a lot in trouble.

Playing dumb can work sometimes. Also planting information or rumors could be helpful. Honesty is not the best policy all the time when you are trying to protect your life and those that you love.

Be hard to figure out

Being too interesting has its disadvantages, but at the same time, you don’t want someone to figure you out entirely. Having a bit of mystery about yourself can be helpful. People don’t like the unexpected. If there is an easier target that they have figured out, it may at least buy you some time before you are the focus of their attention.

Household appearance

I live on acres of land on a dead end of a 4 wheel drive only road. Seriously I have seen cars sink in holes to the point of looking like they are on their noses. This means you are not just going to drive by and see my house, vineyard, barn, or any of that. In town, it is impossible to not have a lot of people able to drive by on any given day. Having a place that blends into the surroundings or fits into the neighborhood helps you just be like everyone else from the outside. This is great if you can pull it off. Of course, if you make it up our terrible road you would see the farm and everything. It stands out. You cannot always blend in if you have a lot going on or even a place that doesn’t have garbage piles.

If I wanted my house to blend in I would need at least 20 old tires and 20 buckets thrown randomly about. That is not something I want.

At the same time if I was in a small town or neighborhood in a city I would make more of an effort to make sure everything looked like it belonged. That might mean as SHTF progressed, throwing some junk around or not keeping up the yard. You have to do what you have to do if you want to make it through some situations.

Wait until after SHTF is over to worry about having everything in perfect order. Take a glance around your neighborhood and take note of overall appearance and who and what stands out.

Have you thought about how you are going to blend in for SHTF?

Samantha Biggers can be reached at samantha@backdoorsurvival.com.

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23 Responses to “Overall Appearance During SHTF: Tips For Not Standing Out”

  1. Do not wear camouflage clothing unless it is well worn and old looking.

    Wearing patched jeans are better to wear than new or almost new jeans.

    Try to know what the local gang colors are and avoid them. In some places red or blue clothing or bandana can get you killed.

    Do not wear any “tactical gear” around ether this is a sign that you have supplies.

    Do not throw out food cans or containers. Burn the cans and containers in the trash if you can than bury the cans. You may have to bury all your trash. You do not want to advertise that you have any supplies other than what every else has. Like Government hand out.

  2. Not a time to be wearing you $200.00 or $300.00 basketball shoes or “Fashion” shoes. I would recommend wearing well worn work boots. These will protect your feet and if they have steel toes will help if you have to kick someone to protect yourself. And these are not going to be something some will generally try to steal from you.

    At the same time to not wear “Tactical Boots” ether this mark you as someone with equipment and supplies.

  3. Do not shave unless most men around are still shaving. Time to grow that shaggy beard and hair. Good grooming is a bad idea.

    Always show up at any government hand out and take any food and supplies given. Show up at any food or supple hand out just stay to the back and do not cause anyone to notice you.

    DO NOT discuss any religion or political views. These can get you killed.

    If you are in a very stick religious zone you will need to follow what is being done to blend in. Do not stand out for any reason this can be a death sentence.

  4. The smell of food/cooking on clothes in times of shortage will be huge. You may not notice it but hungry people will have a heightened sense of smell. They will follow you (or odors from outdoor cooking) right to your door if you aren’t careful/stealthy. Best to stay home. If you MUST go out, have a couple sets of dirty clothes kept in a bag and stored out of the living area to change into. Always assume you are being followed; take evasive action. Never go directly home. Develop subtle ways to check your six frequently. Slip behind a structure or natural obstacle, hide, and wait a few minutes. Cooking wise, use anything that needs to be grilled (meats in particular) early when food is plentiful. You’ll need to clean out the freezer quickly anyway. Start using things like dehydrated/freeze dried/no prep food as things get tougher. Boiling water doesn’t make any odor (but fuel does). Use low/no odor fuels (e.g., propane/alcohol/etc.) for cooking as even a wood fire will draw attention, especially when it’s cold. At some point wood/bio-fuel will be the only option. I suspect the competition will be much less (yet more hostile) by that point. Prep food/eat in a room with a door so “visitors” won’t smell food from the front door (if you answer/open it; that’s a debate in itself). Always be prepared to defend yourself. It’s all about thinking like (sad to say) “them”. Take comfort in knowing God is in control.

  5. Avoid eye contact because it leads to conversation. The conversation you have with a predator may get you and your family killed for what you have!

  6. If you have one use a sun oven whenever possible, no cooking smell, no smoke and you don’t need to tend it while it cooks other then to adjust it to the sun.

    Long before SHTF avoid advertising that you are a prepper, people who don’t prep will have long memories. Worst thing you can hear before SHTF is someone telling you they know where they will going when it does hit the fan. Either have enough to allow them in or be prepared to stop them, best to not let them know in the first place.

  7. What about all the advice about getting to know your neighbors and having a community to back us up? They would know about each others’ supplies and preps. Do we share info now and regret it later?

  8. It’s a soldier saying. It basically means watch your back and the six refers to the hands of a watch, so if you had to watch six o clock it would be behind you.

  9. Count on having your house checked out during SHTF by those looking for what they need…it will happen eventually and you are going to have to handle whatever happens. If you were a “have not” and were looking for a place…where would you look for food, water, or shelter. Have that mindset and think about not only how you would need to protect yourself (as a person who “has”), but what you would do to get what you needed (food, water, shelter, medicine, etc.) if you were in need (and you will be). Having solar panels is a standard thing in living off grid (now), but when SHTF happens, you will be a target. Additionally, if you think you can get through SHTF by yourself (staying awake 24 hours/day), you won’t last long. Prepare for this by forming a community of like-minded individuals beforehand. Prepare for all that you will need…the list is endless, so having help only reinforces the need for community. Read, read, read every post-apocalypse book you can, covering every possible scenario to see what you might be facing and how you might handle each problem. I could write a book…and have read many!

  10. Linda, I think what SparkyR is talking about when he says “check your 6 frequently” is watching your back. Melt into the naturally occurring scenary whether in a city or country to see if someone is following you. Envision your body as a clock. 12 o’clock is in front of you, 6 o’clock behind you , 3 is to your right and 9 to your left.

    Others may share different thoughts on what watching your 6 means but that is my understanding.

    Regarding your second post, I also have those questions. I live in a condo complex which is a lot of elderly but also some younger families. It would be a good place to establish community structure and work teams, resource sharing, etc. the questions are: when, how, should we? I’m not sure what the more knowledgeable people would say about this but would be nice to have some input.

  11. Ben: “Do not wear camouflage clothing unless it is well worn and old looking.”
    “Try to know what the local gang colors are and avoid them. In some places red or blue clothing or bandana can get you killed. Do not wear any “tactical gear” around ether this is a sign that you have supplies.”

    Baloney. It sounds to me like you are a city dude. In my part of the country that manner of dress doesn’t garner a second look, nor does the sight of an open carry firearm. I wear “tactical” pants every day of the week. Seeing other locals in camo is just about as routine as watching the sun rise in the east. We don’t have “local gangs”, either. If you came into our community, my guess is that you would stand out like a sore thumb, regardless of what you were wearing.

  12. Knowing you neighbor and having a community to back you up is not the same as letting people know what you own/have stored. I KNOW my neighbor and we have discussed how to get water out of our shallow wells if the power is out. We share garden tips, let each other know there is a predator around the yards so we can protect our respective flocks of chickens….(I only have one neighbor) They have NO CLUE I have anything beyond a butler’s pantry full of food. My adult children know I “prep” but have no clue how much or what I have, so they can’t spill the beans to anyone in their social circle. I am not sure that the person I share my life with knows the full extent of what I have prepared. You can be part of a group without spilling your guts to everyone. I trust no one with information about what I have available to me in times of trouble. They know the minimum amount they need to know to assist in their own survival if they have been invited to join me in a SHTF situation.

  13. Linda,
    Check your six means to check behind you.
    Your direction of travel is always 12 o’clock,
    3 o’clock is your right flank,
    6 o’clock is your rear,
    9 o’clock is your left flank.
    Check your six often, make sure no is is following you.

  14. “Linda,”

    You ask “Six of what?”…

    I realize you may just be trolling; but if you sincerely want to know, I happen to think your question is worthy of a serious answer; so with all respect I’d like to offer this explanation that I hope enlightens you anyone else who might have been wondering, too:

    “Check Your Six” — and often simply, “Check Six” — are well-used expressions of military origin from long ago, dating back at least to WWII if not earlier. In both examples, the “Six” part refers to that relative position represented on the face of an analog clock, with “Twelve o’clock” being directly in front of you, “Nine o-clock” being directly off your left side, etc. So, “Six” refers to the position directly behind you. Therefore, “Check Your Six” means “LOOK BEHIND YOU”.

    In a dynamic situation, such advice or warning would likely come from a teammate watching out for you to alert you to a possible or known threat coming from behind your position or direction of travel. Such a warning may come in the form of sign-language of some kind, or a radio transmission, or simply one’s speaking voice, depending on circumstances.

    A corollary expression, with roots in aviation, “Keep Your Head On A Swivel”, reminds pilots and ourselves always to be supremely vigilant and literally to be constantly scanning visually below, above, and all around us to identify possible threats existing in — or coming towards us from — some quarter, including our “Six”, which is behind us.

    And there ya go, my good deed for the day.

  15. To Linda:
    “Check your 6” is 6 oclock position on your body. 12 is ahead, 6 is behind you…
    I agree with your comment on neighbors somewhat. If you prep and they don’t, they won’t be very neighborly in 25 days without food. It’ll be hard to trust/deny or extend a hand to those you know, when in reality they are only taking food away from your family due to lack of effort on their own.

  16. If/when SHTF the first thing I’m going to do is head to my sheriff’s office and volunteer for whatever he needs me for. These are the guys who will be trying to keep a lid on things. If an army of refugees is headed our way, the local LEOs will be the ones to organize the community to stop them.
    Anyway, as a volunteer with the sheriff’s dept I’ll wear military/tactical clothing to try to look official. I’ll try to look as sharp as possible too because nobody’s going to respect some hobo-looking dude.
    The time might come when I want to look/smell like a bum but not right away. That’s for the folks who want to hide instead of help.

  17. If you don’t know the term. Your 6 ,what do you know? Now get some books on Survial.read and read more. Depend on Yourself.

  18. Bob:

    I agree that there is both moral and practical value in helping out, but that doesn’t mean you have to publish an inventory of your supplies. I believe it is reasonable to balance helping the community with protecting yourself and your family.
    Also – and this is not an original idea of mine – communities will look at people as either members or resources. Helping out in keeping order and civility will help you be seen as a member to be protected by the group, rather than a resource to be devoured by the geoup.

  19. Lots of great explanations about watching your 6. And to those who derided Linda’s question, shame on you. We are here to help people with less experience and knowledge than ourselves, as well as share information and experience. I like the idea of having ‘smelly’ clothes left separate. IDK about bagging them, tho, cuz that could encourage mold and other less healthy issues. As far as bathing, well, none of us would be bathing like we do today. Think about camping, but for an extended period. We do a lot of ‘spit baths’ or ‘TPA’ baths while camping. Yeah, it’s nice to come home to a hot shower, but those will become the norm in dire straits. If you think about it, back in the day, a ‘bath’ was a weekly happening. The whole idea of this post is to not stand out. Get used to not bathing every day. Your skin will thank you (you can quit spending so much money on moisturisers!) When I worked from home, I wore the same clothes for several days, and showered every other day or so (I wasn’t sweating or doing hard physical work, in contact with the general public). Have you ever been camping? And I don’t mean glamping. You do a spit bath every morning. A hot shower when you get home is wonderful, granted. But ‘camping’ style bathing may well be your new norm. (We were without water/sewer for a week, and it didn’t bother us much) Letting hair/facial hair/body hair grow will be important in keeping under the radar, especially when the younger generation can no longer shave their bodies (they are gonna suffer a lot of itching, LOL). Nails are something that weren’t really discussed, girls, get used to not having your gels/fills…Dirty nails will be the flavor of the day, if your nails aren’t jagged and dirty, it will be a dead giveaway…

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