Being an avid hunter I’m always in search of new gear that will better my odds in the field. As I was given a glimpse into W.L. Gore & Associates (makers of the defiant GORE-TEX material found in waterproof clothing) facilities earlier this month, I was familiarized with just that; GORE OPTIFADE concealment.
I will be the first to admit that it’s pretty tough to fight the initial “camouflage isn’t supposed to look like that” reaction, when seeing Gore’s new digital concealment patterns for the first time. This however is how GORE separates its camouflage in the highly competitive camouflage market. Unlike other camouflage manufactures, who make you “look like something” – GORE OPTIFADE concealment challenges the status quo by making the hunter appear to be nothing.
Four years ago W.L. Gore & Associates adventured into the world of camouflage design and concealment in hopes of developing product concepts that will help its consumer (in this case the hunter) enjoy more success in the field. On my tour of the Gore laboratories in Elkton, Maryland I was invited as a hunter to look at concealment through the eyes of my prey, something I have never done before. Gore cleverly coined this phrase “The Science of Nothing.”
I was greeted at Gore by Larry Abbott, Dennis Zuck and Bill Foster who all aided in my tour through Gore’s complex and often secretive laboratories as I got a first hand glimpse into Gore’s unique and scientific approach. From one facility to the next, I was blown away at the amount of “laboratories” found within their facility. The reason according to Larry, was that with W.L. Gore & Associates core values, every product is to be tested and validated before it goes on the shelf for sale. As Bill stated: “We are making a promise to our consumer, and we want our product to do what we say it does.” Gore is using science to back their claims.
My favorite experience while at Gore was the “Rain Room.” This room was built to generate a controlled rain storm that can simulate some of the same conditions hunters face in the field. As I geared up head to toe in GORE-TEX attire, I experienced 30 minutes in the “Rain Room”, from a sprinkle to down right monsoon conditions. I quickly realized why GORE-TEX guarantees to keep you dry! These experiences also provided evidence that Gore is clearly committed to its stringent testing obligations in the harsh climates hunters often face in the field.
Gore recently took this scientific approach into the world of camouflage design and hunting. Their primary objective was to “make hunters become virtually nothing in the eyes of their prey.” As Lt. Col. Tim O’Neill’s (Father of digital camouflage design) research and scientific principles suggest: Digital camouflage isn’t about engineering and design, but in fact a science of vision and how we perceive things in the world. As a hunter we use camouflage to break up our human figure, but with questions about weather we want to break up the “human shape” or match the background, Lt. Col. O’Neill commented; “we want to do both.” This is one of the secrets that makes GORE OPTIFADE concealment so successful. O’Neill suggested that the human body is made up of identifiable lines and symmetrical shapes that are easily recognized by wildlife. GORE OPTIFADE interrupts those lines and symmetrical shapes with a “macro” pattern consisting of light and dark blobs. O’Neill also shared that; “nature is made up of more than just the light and dark’s that shape the world around us, but that fine texture’s define our world.” So overlapped on the “macro” pattern is a geometry based “micro” pattern that O’Neill relates to the patterns of a leopard and tiger. By using both of these techniques Gore is making configurations that both break up the geometry of the human form and blend it to the textures of the background.
Gore’s team of concealment technology, apparel design and hunting experts have seen hours of testing with these concepts on human subjects. The key in their test is that all imagery used has been put through various scientific research and photo filters that allow them to see concealment through the eyes of various wildlife species. This allows the Gore team to determine the effectiveness of various digital camouflage patterns. Lt. Col. O’Neill left me with this: “Unless your seeing things through the eyes of whose detection your trying to avoid, your not approaching concealment the right way.”
So when comparing GORE OPTIFADE concealment to traditional “mimicry” patterns the next time your shopping for camouflage remember those powerful words of Lt. Col. O’Niell. Also I challenge you to keep in mind that Gore’s “macro” and “micro” patterns may appear odd on display, but are scientifically tested and proven to conceal you both up close and at long range – making you virtually invisible through the eyes of your prey!
GORE OPTIFADE concealment is now available in open country, forest and marsh patterns.