June 25, 2012
By Dr. Dave Samuel
What if there was a camouflage that literally made you invisible? Impossible, you say? I thought so too, but then I started looking on the Internet at what the military is doing, and now I'm not so sure.
I remember the camo my dad wore when I was a kid. It was that standard military woodland pattern of green and brown. Then there was the Tiger Stripe camo that was used in Viet Nam and many of us old-timers wore that. Obviously the first step in camouflage usually comes from the military, and that trend continues today.
But a guy named Jim Crumley from Virginia had a different idea. In 1972, Jim started tinkering with grays and browns, and leaves and bark, and magic markers. The end result, released in 1980, was called Trebark Camo.
Trebark led to a number of outdoor camo patterns that mimicked everything from trees to wetlands to moth wings and even rocks. Of course, after the release of Trebark came the biggest of all these — Realtree and Mossy Oak — as well as others along the way.
Google "new military camouflage," and you'll learn a great deal about camouflage technology that leads you to believe there is a new super camo coming. The terminology — fractal camo, adaptiv cloak, tac tex, etc. — is beyond me, but the innovations these companies are bringing to camouflage could well impact bowhunters in the future.
You can learn a lot about new camo innovations by going to the website of the Hyperstealth Biotechnology Corporation. There I read an interesting history of digital camo, which uses digital pixels to create a camo effect. There are several companies now using that technology to create hunting camouflage, but you ain't seen nothing yet.
Via the Hyperstealth website I ended up talking to Mr. Guy Cramer. He told me about something he calls "adaptive camo." This kind of camo changes brightness and/or color depending on the background. Cramer presented a paper on his version of adaptive camo, called "Smartcamo," at an international camouflage conference in 2010. This camo technology creates feedback loops that cause the camo to change colors "from desert to woodland and anything in between." On his website you can read a discussion on why this is so important to the military, whether it applies to a soldier's clothing or a military helicopter. There are also discussions on such things as a 200 percent increase in the time necessary to detect a target. Think about what that could mean for the bowhunter — longer detection time, plus a camo pattern that would work anywhere.
Hyperstealth Biotechnology Corporation also refers to their new "cloaking technology," which allows vehicles to be invisible to the viewer. No way, you say? Well, the BAE Systems website talks about the same idea. They've tested what they call an "adaptiv cloak" for vehicles, including tanks. Their website says that this "allows a vehicle to blend into its surroundings." Of course we want all camo to do that, and most of it does. However, they go on to point out that their "hexagonal pixels can change temperature very quickly." Cameras in or on the vehicles "pick up the background scenery" and display that on the vehicle. I have no idea how the pixels and temperature change plus the cameras picking up the surrounding environment provides camouflage in other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, but it does. They say they can even make one vehicle look like another, or make one side of the vehicle invisible or appear to be other objects when seen in the infrared spectrum.
I also found the website for MultiCam from Crye Precision. They are one of five companies given contracts to make patterns for the Army this year. The Crye Precision website says their pattern is not a pixelated pattern, but rather one that is "designed to reflect some of the surrounding colors of the environment." If so, this technology would allow you to wear one type of camo in any habitat or season!
So, will all the above technology lead to some super camo that will contribute to the evolution of our camouflage? I would not bet against it!