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How to be Stealthy, Sneaky, and Silent

Updated on July 2, 2015

DISCLAIMER

I do not take responsibility and will not be held responsible for any/all actions that an individual(s) may use this information to carry out. This article is intended for mature audiences and is for informational purposes only. This article is not designed to replace any instructional manuals or training for any of the gear specified. Do not disregard clear instruction from any professionals as a result of this article, and always refer to the manufacturer for information regarding use of their product(s). The scenarios depicted are factitious, and are mostly subjective. As well, much of the information is based on speculation, opinion, experience, as well as being situation-dependant, and therefor we do not claim this information to be 100% viable in any/all situations. Any self-defence techniques discussed are just that, and should only ever be used against either willing participants, or in an absolute and clear-cut self-defensive manor. These instructions should never be used in connection to illegal activities, and is not intended to condone such activities. This information should only be used in appropriate situations. Please use responsibly.

Avoid light sources whenever possible.
Avoid light sources whenever possible.

Overview

Stealth is an ability that is often overlooked in our daily lives, and we have a tendency to miss out on opportunities as a result of being clumsy or easy to detect. With this article, you will learn how to:

  • Covertly avoid an individual or groups
  • Sneak up on individuals
  • Combine stealth skills with sports like Airsoft and Paintball
  • Generally improve your chances to go undetected

We will go through a series of steps to help you gear up, analyze what tactics to use, and show you how to get the best out of all situations. Following this, we will go through a check-list that you can use to determine what type of stealth is needed for a particular job. We will also be discussing stealth techniques - items such as silently landing jumps, or how to using diversions. Finally, we will break-down and shine light on the decision making habits of an inexperienced individual during moments of confrontation, versus the choices of someone who has plenty of experience with stealth.

The 7 Steps to Stealth

In this section, we will attempt to break down stealth into seven main components, list them in order, and explain them all in detail. We will go in the order that should be used when preparing for a tactical mission of any kind.

Walk on large, stable rocks to reduce noise while outdoors
Walk on large, stable rocks to reduce noise while outdoors

Step 1 - Know The Area

The single most important factor in a successful stealthy adventure is knowing your location inside and out - as well as having an established route to take. Even individuals who are skilled in stealth can end up like a "bull in a china shop" if they don't know how to navigate an area effectively.

While it may not always be possible to gather recon on an area before you go there, it is always advised to make an attempt. If you can't go to the place in person, then websites that offer satellite images of locations can be a valuable asset - as well as street level photography. Talking to someone who knows the area can also be useful if there are no other means of scouting an area.

Getting as much information as possible is the goal. Every bit counts, no matter how small. Knowing that there is a squeaky third-step on a flight of stairs can be the difference between being successful and getting caught. Learn about all the subtleties and oddities of your location, and teach yourself the most effective way to maneuver through it.

Here are some key things to consider, when you are scouting an area:

  • Where do the shadows fall naturally during the course of a day?
  • Where are the darkest areas, and how reliable are they?
  • What is the most prominent set of colours for the area?
  • Are there any potential hazards?
  • Are there routes through the area that make less noise that others?
  • Where is the ground stable vs. where is it weak, and risky?
  • Are there routes for you to make an easy escape, if need be?
  • What is the weather typically like in this area?
  • What type of stealth should be used? (see below for checklist)

Once you are comfortable with the area, you can begin to move through the next few steps. However, it needs to be said that this step should never be overlooked. The best knowledge that you can obtain in order to be stealthy is information on where you will be.

Step 2 - Consider, Plan, and Prepare

Now that you have all the information you could ever need on the location, it's time to put it all to good use. Every detail can have a meaning, you just need to look closely to see it. For example, an area with weak ground could indicate something buried, or a high traffic area. It could also simply mean that a hole that was filled in poorly, and it is now unstable to walk there. In either case, that area needs to be mentally flagged, as it could be the source of problems.

Having detailed recon is very important for this phase, as you will have to use it to project and predict where the safest, quietest, and most secure routes will be. you need this not only to escape, but you need to have route plans for when you need to double-back on yourself as a result of someone being where you didn't plan. Knowing the quiet areas to take a step back when you need to can be a big difference, and most people are caught because they refuse to fall-back. This happens either because they are scared and assume being still is best, or it's because they lack proper planning to get some distance.

Another part of planning is considering what clothing you are going to need. Some cases will require heavy armour, but for the vast majority of the time you should opt for more lightweight clothes that are easy to stay mobile in. You should either base your clothing's camouflage off the local colours, or go with flat black when you are unsure. Flat black tends to have a universal application, as you can use it to blend in with dark areas and shadows. However, it is the most ideal to use the exact colours required, because an item as simple as a flashlight can completely break your camouflage. We will go into more detail on this later.

Step 3 - Enlist

In certain situations, a crucial aspect in a stealth mission is having someone to assist you. Some jobs simply cannot be done by one person, and our compulsion to perform stealth actions on our own can lead us into serious problems that could have been prevented by having back-up.

With that being said, an inexperienced partner can become just as large of a liability. The person(s) you decide to bring with you can either make or break the job, so you must select each one very carefully. Make sure that they are not only experienced with stealth, but are also informed of any plans or recon that was obtained prior to this step. In order for your partner to be the most effective one possible, they must be just as confident with any plans as you are. A hesitation during a critical moment can cost you everything, and all eventualities need to be planned for. While this becomes more complicated to plan for when there are multiple people attempting to utilize stealth together, complete failure to plan together will almost certainly lead to disaster.

Finally, communication needs to be set up between you and any other people that you decide to have working with you. Wireless headsets connected with radios can be an easy means of communication, but verbal communication can be impossible to achieve in some scenarios. To plan for this, hand signals are more than suggested - they are vital. This means that you either need to create your own, or use a system that is already in place. Either way, the main goal is to decrease you and your teams reliance on verbal communication.

General camouflage failing to blend in
General camouflage failing to blend in
AK-74U painted in Snow White
AK-74U painted in Snow White
A red filter for a flashlight
A red filter for a flashlight
White and red light colour comparison
White and red light colour comparison

Step 4 - Prepare Camouflaged Gear

People are not naturally silent. We have loud and clunky movement habits that are a result of a lifetime of not being concerned about generating noise. As well, we have definitive and recognizable outlines. One of the easiest ways to help correct that is using gear that can cut down on unwanted noises, as well as blurring our outlines.

After gaining information on the location, you should now have a good idea about what colour camouflage you will need. If you are not using plain-black gear, then you need to ensure that the type and colour is as correct as possible. There is a wide range of colours and styles of camouflage, and a "one-size-fits-all" camouflage will not be up to par. When someone hears you, their senses are instantly heightened. This means that when they are looking for you, they will be looking for any obvious and sharp deviations in colour. As well, unnatural and jerky movements will be more easily detected - having a good comfortable set of gear that isn't too tight can help deter that from happening.

With that being said, it would all be a waste if you're clothing was camouflaged, but your weapons and gear were not. Black weapons and gear can suffice, but the masters of stealth have appropriately coloured gear and weapons. In addition to the correct colours, sharp lines on weapons should be broken up somehow. This can be done by draping material around the gun. You must ensure that it is thin, coloured to match the terrain, and properly secured to the weapon.

A cheap, yet effective way of doing this is to use strands of burlap from burlap sacks. Lay out lengths of strands to paint, and then drape them over to the top of the weapon. You can attach the strands with Velcro strips, or elastic straps. Once attached, use scissors to cut off excess material, as long strands can get caught on the terrain.

Flashlights can be tempting, but they will almost certainly give you away. The best way to get past this, if you must use a flashlight, is to put a red filter over the light. Red light is less likely to ruin your natural night-vision, as well as being harder to spot at a distance. It will not be as bright, but you really should not be reliant on lights in the first place.

What weather do you prefer for stealth missions?

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Always maintain your equipment
Always maintain your equipment

Step 5 - Training & Mock-Up

If there is any time to make mistakes, it is during your practice sessions leading up to the mission. While you should always take time to practice, it is especially encouraged during the time leading up to a job. This is critical, as you need to assess your readiness for the task at hand. If you find yourself failing to complete stealth techniques correctly, or you do not have complete confidence in your abilities, then it may be advised to postpone the mission if possible. The key is being confident, as the mental strain of be uncertain can hamper your ability to make quick decisions.

In order to get the most effective practice, you will need to use your recon about the area to build a replica, or "mock-up" of the area. It doesn't have to be complicated - a system of coloured strings laid on the ground work as a simple layout that can be then be used in a rehearsal drill. Doing a run-through, and practising exactly what you will be doing on the day of the mission can help remove any time spent planning on-the-go. You must be able to arrive at the location, and know exactly where to go and what to do. As well, you need to practice contingency plans, as being able to recover can be just as essential as being able to be stealthy in the first place.

A good way of training, is considering the route that you will be taking, and what skills will be needed to traverse it. Begin by focusing your practice on those skills, such as stealth crawling or jumping. As well, consider any extra techniques that you may need to use during the job. Basic skills like climbing fences or sliding under something can have serious consequences if done incorrectly. You must be sure that you are physically ready to tackle any challenge ahead of you, and it can be easy to assume that you already are. Take the time to practice, even if you are feeling confident.

Step 6 - Final Assessment

Now that you have the team, the training, and the gear, you will need to select the correct time to do the job. As simple as this task sounds, a lot of different elements need to be considered in order to maximize your potential to succeed. One of the hardest things to account for can be the weather. While you should always be prepared to endure harsh weather for extended periods of times, the problem lies in the fact that your target will often change their movement pattern - often to go indoors. Once indoors, your mission can become exponentially more difficult.

Another factor that needs to be considered again is the lighting situation. Are there areas that will be dark during the afternoon, but not in the morning? Would it be easier to go at night? How many lights are present in the area, and can they be turned off somehow? These are all important questions that you need to be asking yourself. Darkness can be your best friend when you are on a stealth based mission. Avoiding light sources and moving through the shadows can make all the difference in some scenarios.

Security in certain areas can be an issue, and you must always be prepared to work around it. However, there may be times where security is lower than normal, and that will always be your best chance. Sometimes you will need to do recon on an area for a longer period of time. This will allow you to learn the patterns and discipline of the guards, and set up a more effective strategy of dealing with them.


Step 7 - Execution

With all of the preparation done, it's time to move into the most difficult phase - the execution. This is where all of you training and preparation comes into play. When faced with an impending mission, individuals and professionals alike will feel a sense of nervousness, as well as anxiety. This is only natural, as our bodies are not used to such high pressure scenarios. This can cause us to perspire, shake, and even consider giving up the mission all together. Just remember all the preparation that went into the job, remind yourself that you are prepared, and keep your composure. There is nothing worse than putting in all of the previous effort, just to fail as a result of shaky hands or slow-response times.

While planning is helpful, it will only get you so far. Human nature can be unpredictable at times, and deviations from the plan will have to be made from time to time. You must be able to recognize situations where the plan could go wrong, and have contingency plans for those events. Even still, you can't plan for everything. A true master of stealth is able to create and execute new plans on the fly, with little or no hesitation. Being able to quickly adjust and change course will always be more successful than working with tunnel-vision.

When all is said and done, you better have a way to get out of there - and quickly. Serious problems can arise if you fail to organize a pick-up at the end of the job. As well, rides being late can pose just as big of a problem, if not, bigger. This can lead to your capture, as well as the capture of your driver. Any devices used to tell time need to be synchronized before setting off, and every member must stick to the planned time-table (unless otherwise specified during the mission.)

Stealth Assessment Checklist

 
Casual Stealth
Basic Stealth
Advanced Stealth
Your Target
Friend/Family
Defined Target
Defined Target/Unknown
Location Type
Outdoors
Indoors
Indoors & Outdoors
Security & Risk
None - Low
Low - Medium
Medium - High
*A Defined Target is when you or someone else has chosen a target to go after for a specific reason.

How To Use:

Consider the criteria for the job at hand, and ask yourself three questions:

  • Who is the target you are going after?
  • What type of location will the job be at?
  • How much security will be there, and how much risk/danger will be involved?

Using the answers provided in the table above, place a check-mark in the most appropriate answer for each question. The column with the most check-marks indicated the recommended type of stealth for the mission. In the event of a tie, basic stealth should be used, but advanced stealth is also an option. Remember: the lighter you can be on your feet, the better. Read below for the different types of stealth, and what they mean.


A light-weight tactical vest
A light-weight tactical vest

Casual Stealth

This is the type of stealth that should be used on the most casual of missions. And by missions, we mean jobs like stealing cookies from the cupboard. You will not require any kind of gear, as these jobs are often very short-term with minimal gain to be had. As well, being caught in gear can help complicate an issue that could otherwise be explained. Take being caught crawling on the ground, for instance. Without gear, you could claim that you were looking for something on the floor. If you were wearing night-vision goggles, that same lie becomes a lot more difficult to achieve.

Basic Stealth

This type of stealth is the most common, as it doesn't involve much heavy gear. The idea is to cover up any skin without adding unnecessary bulk. As well, your weapons will likely be small and light in order to maximize the compactness of your gear. In this type, your intent will be very clear as a result of your visible gear. In addition, the low amount of armour that you will have can be an issue if you begin to sustain fire. This type of stealth is best used for quick jobs that don't require a lot of firepower.

Advanced Stealth

The most dangerous type of stealth, Advanced Stealth should not be attempted by beginners. These jobs pose a serious level of risk, and can be permanently life-altering if they are not done successfully. You will be in need of armour for this tier of stealth, and only the best in tactical gear should be brought with you. All weapons and gear need to be extensively tested before the mission, and you should always take ownership over the sighting of your own scopes. Missing a shot isn't an option, as you only get one sometimes.

Heavy boots can be difficult to be silent in
Heavy boots can be difficult to be silent in

Stealth Techniques

We have prepared a guide to teach some of the more basic stealth techniques. This is a work in progress, and more content will be added in the near future. A video tutorial is currently in development, and will be added to this article when it is complete.

Stealth Steps

This applies to many different stealth strategies, and is imperative to master this skill if you wish you complete some of the most difficult missions. Knowing how to step silently is only half the battle, knowing where to step is the other half. Walk on carpet or soft materials while you are indoors, as opposed to hardwood and metal. You need to be specific with you steps, such as on stairs. While walking on stairs, you should walk along the edge of the steps, closest to the walls. This is because the board is secured from both sides in this area, and should squeak the least. Also, be aware that your location can amplify the sound of your footsteps. Locations like tunnels or large empty rooms can be especially hazardous for this. To help reduce the weight placed down with each step, practice walking on your hands and knees - similar to an animal. This will not only make your steps have a lower impact, but will also allow you to focus and become more in-tune with your surroundings. To perform a stealth step, keep these tips in mind:

  • Look for the exact spot that you plan to step to - no step should go unplanned.
  • Place your foot on the ground toes first, as the heel tends to generate more noise upon connecting with the ground.
  • Slowly lower your heel once you have all your weight correctly balanced.

Stealth Jumps

Being able to silently land jumps can be one of your most useful skills. While avoiding targets, you may need to quickly get off of a vantage point. Being able to land the jump to the ground silently can help you complete the mission successfully, where a regular jump could risk you getting caught.

The key to a good stealth jump is the ability to land correctly, while slowing your weight down quickly but gradually. If you slow yourself down too fast, your gear can rattle or move around. Shifting your weight too slowly can cause the noise from landing to be amplified. The goal is to hit a sweet-spot, where you can land and keep your noise to a minimum. Figuring out how fast to shift your weight can be tricky, and will take a lot of practice to get perfect. Be sure to practice with varying degrees of gear on, as it will dramatically affect your performance. Here are some steps to follow when attempting to make a stealth landing:

  • Land on the toes of one of your feet, with your legs as straight out as possible. Landing on two feet at the exact same is not only difficult, but is louder in general.
  • If there is room, keep your arms out to the sides to help steady your balance when you land on the ground.
  • The exact moment when your foot hits the ground, you will need to bend your knee to reduce the shock from landing.
  • If this is timed correctly, it will allow you to absorb your downward momentum, as well as keeping your gear in place.
  • Shortly after touching your first foot to the ground, you should prepare your other foot to land the same way.
  • Remember: The goal is to slow down your body without any jerky or sudden movements. You should be trying to make your landing as smooth as possible.

Noise Distractions

There may be times on your mission where there is no other choice but to get the attention of your target or the areas security. This can either be because they are standing in an area that you need to pass, or are patrolling a route that prevents your passage. In either case, a simple sound distraction can often be arranged on short notice. If you do not have a noise emitting device, a rock or small object can accomplish the same job. Here are some tips that you can use when getting ready to use a noise distraction:

  • Be aware of how many people the sound distraction can alert, as more than one can be problematic.
  • Pick a small object to throw, as something too large could be seeing flying through the air.
  • Decide where you want the object to land. You want somewhere that will make noise, but won't be too loud. Other rocks or trees are usually ideal.
  • Throw the object in a direction that can only lead away from you, never past you.
  • You will want to hide for a moment after throwing the object, as anyone alerted will likely do a quick scan of the area before investigating.

Cover to Cover Movement

When you are on a stealth mission, you need to avoid any open areas such as empty rooms or the middle of fields. A master of stealth will always be near cover. To move, they will scout another piece of nearby cover, and make a stealthy advance towards it. This not only decreases the chance of being caught, but also allows you to be in a safer spot if you are detected and begin to take fire. There are a couple ways to perfect the usage of this method, such as:

  • Sticking close to cover, and considering the sight-lines of anyone who could catch you.
  • Bend your body around cover as you move, instead of simply walking around it. This can help reduce the number of places that you can be spotted from.
  • Be aware of what you are covered against. Areas of high traffic or animal nests can lead to some very unwanted surprises.

Beginner Mistakes

In this final section, we are going to dive into the details of specific scenarios, as well as the critical decision making skills of an inexperienced individual versus an experienced individual. We will highlight some natural responses that have been expressed by beginners, as well as demonstrating how to deal with those situations correctly.

Scenario 1:

You are following your target, and are about 15 feet behind them. You begin to speed up slightly to close the gap. In doing so, you have a momentary lapse in your thinking and end up stepping on a stick. A large snapping noise is emitted, and you see your target stop. You dive behind the tree to your right to give yourself a moment to regain your composure and stay out of sight. However, you can now hear that your target has started walking back towards you. He is only a matter of seconds away from discovering you. What do you do?

Beginner's Response:

The fear of having the target change direction, and having them come directly back towards you has frozen you. Your mind can't project a single thought, aside from the current one: "fear." This is common for beginners, as the concept of being caught can lead to us acting like a deer in headlights. Not only is this the most common reaction, but it can also be the most detrimental. Knowing the correct time to stay still is important, but staying still as a result of having no other plan is not acceptable. Waiting is a tactical choice, and is not done indefinitely. You need to have a cue to move out on, something that you are waiting for.

Experienced Response:

Now that your target is moving towards you, there is little time to make an effective choice. However, being experienced means that you already know what the choices are - one just needs to be selected. The first choice is to wait until the last possible second, jump out, and take the target by surprise. If there is no possible way for this to work, then a new cover-spot needs to be designated and moved to. In either case, the choice needs to be made quickly. This acts as testament to the fact that your critical thinking skills need to be honed as much as possible.

Scenario 2:

You are attempting to gain access to the front entrance of a building, and you have noticed a guard by the front door. He has a patrol from just inside of the front door, steps outside for a few seconds, and then goes back inside. He has been doing this for the past 15 minutes, as you are feeling certain that this is a repeating pattern. You have a car coming to pick you up soon, and you need to make a choice within the next 10 minutes or you will run into problems. What is the best next move?

Beginner Response:

After waiting another 5 minutes, you have noticed that there seems to be a pause when the guard leaves the house as he scans the area to the left, and then to the right. It could be possible to sneak into the door during the small gap, but the timing-window is small. You begin to feel the pressure of completing the mission, as well as realizing that you need to make a move now or never. You advance towards the door, but the guard spends less time than normal scanning the area, and turns around to spot you. You could lunge at the guard, but he already has his weapon ready in-front of him. This situation will not end well.

Experienced Response:

Having spotted the guard at the front door, you slowly work your way around the building to check if there is a back entrance. This is something you should always be considering, as the back door to a building is often less protected than the front. Usually you have already scouted the area, and will know the best way to gain access. Let's say that the back door was even more difficult to enter, so we returned to the front. You see shadows moving behind the glass near the front door, and feel that the guard is about to do his routine check. You move quickly and silently along the wall of the building, and pick up a small rock. You wait until you hear the sound of the door opening, and you count out 5 seconds in your head. You look around the corner to see the guard now has his back to you as he scans the area. He turns his head to the left, and you throw the rock to the right - quickly returning to cover. This captures the guards attention, and he scans everywhere quickly. You wait until you hear the sound of the guards footsteps. You count them in your head, as well as listening to see if they are getting louder or quieter. After you hear 5 steps, you carefully check around the corner to confirm the guard is out of the way. Using your newly-created advantage, you make a silent dash into this building. From here, a simple ambush can be set up to detain the guard as he attempts to re-enter the facility.

A home-made sniper with burlap strands as camouflage
A home-made sniper with burlap strands as camouflage

Summary

Stealth can be broken down into several elements, and is a lot more complicated than simply being silent. The most important detail in a successful stealth mission is extensive planning that can account for most, if not, all eventualities. It is imperative to learn about your target, as well as the location they will be in. Gear will need to be assembled, and you will more than likely need to recruit help. With all of the preparation done, you will need to get practice in before any serious attempt at a mission can be made. While you should still practice all the time, this the most appropriate time to practice - as you have all the gear, people, and recon that you could need to have an effective and accurate training session. Once you make the final choice on the date, it's time to execute the plan.

With every situation being dynamic in nature, it is important to consider the type of stealth that will be the most correct for the situation. Also, in order to master stealth you must hone your critical thinking abilities. This skill can help you get out of some of the most difficult situations. Not only that, but all of your other skills rely on this one working.

I would like to personally thank you for reading this far, and expressing your interest in stealth tactics. I look forward to feedback, and will always do my best to implement realistic suggestions if you have any. For the best results, simply comment directly on this article and I will get back to you!

This article will be updated regularly, so be sure to check back often!


Regards,

- Alex Chapman

© 2014 Alex Chapman

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