Of the many dozens types of camouflage, do they all work or not?
Simply the answer is yes and no. Different camouflage works in different conditions, work example many of the Mossy Oak and Realtree styles of camouflage work well in Eastern forests, but do not work as well in Western hunting situations where sage brush is the primary cover, and the lighter green of the Sage Country camouflage would not work well in the East. Many of the manufacturers realizing that one camouflage pattern does not fit all circumstances, have developed other patterns or variations of their original pattern, such as the new Realtree Max1 which is for the Western Sage country hunter, and of course was to counter the loss of sales to other manufacturers like Sage Country.
Cabelas have a very good guide to camouflage on their website here which would help a buyer determine which kind of camouflage will work best in most circumstances.
Selecting the right camouflage for the surroundings is key to creating the illusion that you are not there, but equally important can be ensuring that your camouflage does not glow under UV light or so manufacturers of products to eliminate UV reflected light would have us believe.
So, is there any independent evidence to confirm their claims or not?
A study was performed in 1992, here is a brief extract:
In August 1992, a group of leading deer researchers and vision scientists gathered at The University of Georgia (UGA) in Athens to conduct this landmark study. The group of researchers included Drs. R. Larry Marchinton and Karl V. Miller, and Brian Murphy from UGA, Dr. Gerald H. Jacobs and Jess Degan from the University of California, and Dr. Jay Neitz from the Medical College of Wisconsin.
The results of their study confirmed that deer possess two (rather than three as in humans) types of cones allowing limited color vision (Figure 1). The cone that deer lack is the “red” cone, or the one sensitive to long wavelength colors such as red and orange. This suggests that wearing bright colors while hunting does not affect hunting success. This does not mean that these colors are invisible to deer, but rather that they are perceived differently.
Deer are essentially red-green color blind like some humans. Their color vision is limited to the short (blue) and middle (green) wavelength colors. As a result, deer likely can distinguish blue from red, but not green from red, or orange from red. Therefore, it appears that hunters would be equally suited wearing green, red, or orange clothing but perhaps slightly disadvantaged wearing blue.
The results regarding the UV capabilities of deer were equally fascinating. The results confirmed that deer lack a UV filter in their eye and that their vision in the shorter wavelengths was much better than ours. Deer also were found to have a relatively high sensitivity (good vision) in the short wavelengths where UV brighteners and dyes are active.
While not entirely conclusive, this finding suggests that deer are capable of seeing some UV light and that fabrics containing UV dyes and brighteners may be more visible to deer than to humans.
One can safely deduce that eliminating brighteners and UV reflected light is likely to be an asset to a hunter. There is no question that scent and movement are far more important than the color of your clothing or whether or not it contains UV brighteners.
An interesting comparison of different animal vision is here
The best way to confirm or refute claims like those made by these manufacturers is to conduct tests yourself, so that is exactly what this writer decided to do.
First we obtained a blue light or two to conduct the test with, one a light sold buy one of the manufacturers, the other a cheap Chinese off ebay light that supposedly emits light in the 340nM wavelength, but seems to emit quite a bit more in the visible spectrum, and could arguably be more similar to the range of sensitivity of a deer’s vision, but turned out to be quitw useless for this test. Also Single LED’s were purchased that emit light in the purple light range and also illuminated anything that had brighteners in them. Initially test were conducted with paper that had brighteners in it to check on the effectiveness of the lights. Then tests were conducted with several different types of camouflage clothing, all of which was several years old, and had not been washed using any soaps/detergents that contained brighteners. Naturally most appeared not to contain any brighteners with a few exceptions.
In particular, the whites in the newer camouflage seemed to stand out, implying that they indeed have brighteners, however at no time did we get the results that the manufacturers of the products that claim to eliminate UV demonstrate in their advertising, where the entire clothing glowed blue, except when viewing the inside of some of the shirts. Since this was still not to our satisfaction as far as being able to confirm or refute the claims, we purchased some new camouflage clothing from a lower end store in the hope that they would have used brighteners to attract the hunters.
Test were performed on jackets as well as shirts as it is less likely the former would have been washed compared to the shirts, and as such any UV brighteners are more likely to show up.
The results were as follows:
A Woolrich shirt in Realtree Hardwoods had very little UV reflected
An Outfitters Ridge shirt in a Fusion 3-D camouflage had parts of the pattern that glowed (the white parts), but the inside of the shirt glowed implying that even though washed several times there are residual UV brighteners in the material. Conversely a bomber style jacket by the same company showed no signs of UV, and was obviously a better buy.
A Truesage shirt in Truesage pattern also had lighter parts of the shirt that glowed, and the inside was glowing brightly again implying the use of brighteners.
An older Rattlers Brand shirt in Realtree pattern showed very little residual UV, but this shirt has had dozens of washes and the amount of UV was barely noticeable. A Rattlers Brand one piece suit in Ducks Unlimited pattern showed no use of brighteners reflecting no UV.
Like many of the others a relatively new Browning shirt in Mossy Oak Break Up pattern showed more UV when viewing the inside of the shirt than on the patterning on the outside, again implying that some brighteners had been used.
A similar result was found with a Mossy Oak brand shirt which although had very little reflected UV on the outside reflected much more when viewing the inside of the shirt. A really excellent performer was the polyester under shirt in Mossy Oak “Brush” pattern, showing no sign of UV at all.
Showing slight signs of brighteners were a Realtree brand T shirt and ling sleeve overshirt/lightweight jacket, again like many of the others this is more apparent when looking inside the shirt.
Two DuxBac shirts in different patterns were checked an demonstrated UV reflection, so had some brighteners.
A Realtree brand in Realtree Advantage Max 1 pattern purchased at Wal-Mart was extraordinary in that it had no visible UV reflected light using the test light, and therefor an extremely good purchase.
Another extremely good performer was a lightweight jacket made by Redhead in a Realtree pattern, demonstrating virtually no UV light reflection.
Possibly the absolute best was a Fleece Bushshirt by Ridgeline (a New Zealand company) in their own pattern which had absolutely no UV reflected except from their logo tag which is on the chest pocket and could be removed.
A poorer performer in the jackets was a Walls Blizzard Proof insulated jacket in Advantage camouflage pattern that had substantial brighteners and as such reflected substantial UV light.
Possibly the worst performer was a Jerzees Outdoors long sleeve cotton T shirt style shirt in Mossy Oak Forest Floor.
Another great performer all-be-it very dark pattern was a Redhead long sleeve undershirt.
All of the pants tested showed UV, except a pair of sweat pants by Liberty in Realtree Hardwoods, and Military BDU’s in Desert pattern.
Camouflage used on a Fieldline daypack showed no signs of UV brighteners, which is a good sign as this was new and had never been exposed to any water.
So in conclusion, it is probably a good idea to do some research before buying camouflage clothing, to determine whether or not brighteners have been used. Of course whether deer see the UV the way manufacturers claim is another debate, however it seems prudent to minimize that possibility by choosing the right came to begin with.
Future test will be conducted to see if the UV inhibiting sprays or soap/detergents actually work now that we have a base line.
Also tested were some Blaze Orange/Hunter orange clothing which will be covered in another report.
Here is a fun site to test your ability to see deer