Choosing Colors For Survival

Choosing Colors For Survival

One aspect of survival that is touched upon but not discussed at length is the colors that are chosen for gear, containers, and clothing. So, in this article, I wanted to talk in more detail about something that may seem unimportant but the colors that you choose can make a real difference. 

Let’s start by first discussing some important differences between the two types of survival situations. 

Tactical Survival Versus General Survival 

When talking about survival situations, most of the time the word survival is just one big catch-all term but we need to be specific about different situations and how they pertain to colors. In this sense, there are two different types of survival: tactical survival and general survival situations. 

Tactical survival involves combat scenarios or situations in which a person is hiding or evading from a threat. General survival is a survival situation in which a person has lost their way or become stranded and needs to either self-rescue or be rescued with the help of outside resources. 

In a tactical situation, a person wants to blend in with their environment so their gear and clothing are usually designed with camouflage patterns that will match their surroundings (woodland, desert, urban, snow, etc.) or other dark colors such as black, green and brown. 

An issue arises because a lot of colors that are used for tactical situations are used for general outdoor activities. Yes camouflage may be needed when hunting but most other outdoor activities do not require those types of patterns and this turns into a problem if a person is put into a survival situation. 

Brighten Up Your Gear

As mentioned before, a lot of gear like flashlights, knives, and cordage, just to name a few, primarily come in tactical or neutral colors. These types of colors can be extremely difficult to see if that item is dropped in vegetation or if it is set upon the ground, log, or a rock. 

Think of a knife with a black coating on all the metal with a brown-colored handle. This would be hard to see against a natural colored background in the woods. To test this out, have someone scatter some of your gear in a backyard or other outdoor setting (be sure they keep track of where they place an item so it doesn’t become lost). Now, try and see how difficult it is to search for and find a particular item. If a tool blends in well and is hard to find, consider replacing the tool, or a cheaper option would be to paint or dye it or to simply wrap some brightly colored tape around it. This will help to make the item stand out better. 

This is a very simple tip that will help you save a lot of time when searching for a misplaced item. The color will also stand out to rescuers that may be looking for you. 



Color Code Your Pack 

I remember when I first started accumulating gear and trying to put it all into a survival kit or outdoor pack. At first, the inside of my pack was a mess and then I thought I had a brilliant idea of organizing the gear into layers inside the bag. I wasn’t the only one with this idea and I think many people do the same. The problem is that once you start using your pack, it won’t stay organized like this unless you are super OCD. You will take something out, use it, throw it back in the bag, and this process will repeat until the interior once again becomes disorganized.


A better way to organize the interior of the bag is to create smaller kits or toolboxes inside. Take this a step further and by color-coding the kits, you will be able to quickly identify and access your gear. The added benefit is that other people who know the color system will also be able to easily find supplies in your bag. Lastly, this will keep everything well protected, organized, and easier to transport if you ever need to separate a kit from the main bag.

Below is a color code system to try out:

  • Red = First Aid 
  • Yellow = Signaling/rescue me 
  • Blue = Water 
  • Orange = Fire
  • Green = Food 
  • Brown = Tools 



Clothing and Container Colors 

Another aspect to consider is the color of clothing and the containers that gear is stored in. The colors of these items can serve two purposes, signaling and temperature regulation. 

Darker colors will absorb more sunlight and thus make you or your gear warmer. 

This can be both a blessing and a curse depending on your needs and situation. Beware of storing temperature-sensitive gear, such as electronics, in dark-colored containers if they will be set out in the sun in warm climates. On the flip side, this may be helpful when you are operating in cool or cold regions. 

The same principle applies to clothing. Light-colored clothing will reflect more sunlight and be cooler whereas dark-colored clothing will absorb more sunlight and be warmer. Every aspect of the colors of your clothing and gear should be thought out depending on the climate of the region you are in. 

Signaling For Help 

When a normal situation goes bad and turns into a survival situation, all you have to depend on are the supplies you have and what can be used in the environment around you. By using bright colors for your containers, gear, and clothing, they can all be used as signal devices and will stand out better than traditional color choices.  



Final Thought 

If your goal is to prepare for a general survival situation that does not include tactical components, it would be wise to switch your thinking from popular colors of gear and clothing to unpopular colors. Examples include cordage that is neon or reflective orange, a pink bandanna, blue and yellow knife handles, and on the list goes. 

These bright colors may not be “cool” in the traditional sense and they may even get you the odd look or two while out hunting or at camping grounds. They will however limit the chances of you losing gear, increase the chances of being seen, help with temperature regulation, and help to keep you organized. All of which is important in a survival situation.  

Thanks for reading and stay better prepared by brightening up your loadout. 




Bryan grew up in the Midwest and spent every waking moment outdoors. Learning how to hunt, fish, read the land, and be self-reliant was part of everyday life. Eventually, he combined his passions for the outdoors, emergency preparedness, and writing. Bryan is a published author with Fox Chapel Publishing. In 2019, Bryan authored the book, Swiss Army Knife Camping and Outdoor Survival Guide. In March 2021, he released his second book, Paracord Projects For Camping and Outdoor Survival. 

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