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Being the grey man

There is a thread on the forum regarding being the grey man which I think we will need to become unless we are going to live well away from others. Personally I live on the outskirts of a town and down a cul de sac. Most of the people here are older residents and less likely to be out and about after an event. In this environment I believe, and I’m betting my life on it, that I can keep my head down and out of the way for several months. There being no through road and nothing of strategic value, shops, warehouses, etc., in the area I’m betting on the fact that I can keep my head down and that the family can hide for long enough after an event. I can’t afford my first choice a more remote home and if the situation changes so will my plans.

In previous articles on this site I’ve commented that I would move into an abandoned house close to my existing home where I could access my hidden stores whilst allowing us to live and if necessary move around as required to avoid detection.

To this end I would need to be the grey man. I would need to be able to move around among the others and gather intelligence and distract people from my stores and family while I can. This means looking as down and out as the rest of them. Looking for food locally with the rest of them and defending our homes from invasions from others in the same boat.

It isn’t perfect, hiding a family is very difficult and will take a lot of organising especially when it comes to accessing the stores. Plus, I could easily get injured or killed while out and about, I’m very outspoken as well as tasty looking. I don’t see any choice though. Going out and diverting suspicion, looking as hungry as the rest and causing a distraction is going to be necessary.

I’m going to play it by ear although I am making a mass of assumptions, my close neighbours will go to their holiday home at a friend’s caravan site in North Wales at the first sign of trouble, that the old couples opposite will not last long without their medicines and that nobody in the street has any real stores. I’m also convinced we can organise sealing off the entry points to the street, disposal of bodies and a defensive perimeter and make it difficult to get in. What though if my chosen home is not vacated? What if I cannot give my family breathing room? It may need some organising.

One issue I have is being in the UK I can’t, legally, get a hold of a hand weapon. That is a big issue. I just hope that when things start to deteriorate I can get one then. Having a hidden weapon is more of a grey man situation than having a sawn off shotgun that you cannot hide and better tactically than the knives I will be forced to carry if I want to remain grey and protected.

The biggest issue though is that I will be out with people starving and desperate whom I know and watching as they deteriorate and I’m hoping I won’t at the same rate. Will they notice? How can I remain out there as they die one by one and keep my family hidden?

I would need to be;

  • Unwashed
    • personally
    • clothes
  • Keeping my head down and not attracting attention
  • Being an influencer rather than a leader

Knowing the family set up in my street one question that springs to mind is how will I handle seeing children starve especially if families share their food. Knowing I have food but not knowing how long it will be needed and therefore keeping it. How then would I feel if after letting them starve an airlift drops off a load of food and a long term event never occurs? It isn’t easy but I have made my plans and I can live with them.

Being the grey man isn’t going to be an easy task. I hope that I don’t have to perform this role.

10 comments to Being the grey man

  • JD1

    It’s a difficult one.

    I have a couple of elderly neighbours who are a great couple and would do anything to help you out if you needed it. I return the help, when the water went off for a couple of days earlier in the year I popped round with a few bottles of water so they could have a cup of tea etc and they are always offering to help with my garden and other areas.

    It would be easy for me to sit behind my computer screen and say that if tshtf then I would let them starve or die of thirst, but the reality for me is a bit different even if it is the logical choice. Thats not a critisism of people who take the opposite view just an observation from my particular circumstances

    Would I risk my wife and families health by giving food and water to the old folks next door ? No I wouldn’t.

    Would I help them out in a short term scenario ? Yes.

    The problem is that no one is going to tell you when ts has officially htf, or when there is no chance of things sorting themselves out, most likely it would be a gradual thing so you have to make a judgement. My way round it is to never get into prepping conversations and if things got worse I would explain away any food/water I gave them by saying it was just a little I had left in the cupboard.

    Some people on prepping/survival forums are of the opinion that they would even leave their family and kids if meant they would survive, I’m not one of them. I guess everyone has a line they draw in the sand and that line will change depending on an individuals circumstances.

    There probably isn’t a right or wrong way to do it, just different ways.

    JD …. Waiting for the “wolf” and “lamb” comments to flood in 😉

  • grumpy old man

    sometimes the right choices are the hardest to make only you know how you feel with you actions. people can say i would leave every one to die but in the long term that choices could cause you to die or you could help keep someone alive that could kill you later as well.
    for me i know i would help some people i know that have not preped but their will be a price to pay for that help i know there are things i can’t do alone and some things i just can’t do at all. i know that the best results often come from team work and have a good idea what needs to be done to survive and for that a one man band just can’t cut it. unless your rambo lol.
    and for the wolf and lamb comments well both get killed, in fact the wolf nearly went for good but the lambs keep coming.

  • iaaems

    I am not so sure that ‘grey man’ is an appropriate term or description for a survival scenario insofar as we all might be in a really severe situation – which is not the case just now.
    In an orderly society grey men flourish and are able to come and go as they please largely, I suspect, because everyone is doing reasonably well also and would not notice him due to their own personal focus on life.
    In my early childhood I remember a relative referring to someone as a ‘spiv’. The word was spat out with some venom – clearly the experience of meeting this other man had not been pleasant or satisfactory. I am talking about a time when rationing was still in effect and things generally were a good deal tougher than they are right now. Some years later I was given a pocket dictionary – I still have it – so I looked up the word spiv and was rewarded with ‘man who lives by his wits within the law’.
    So if we return to the ‘survival’ scene it is quite possible that the grey man would have to exercise his flexibilty and change to a more acceptable shade and the spiv would have to do the same. It is possible that they would become the same shade. In fact a ‘mix’. So I looked up the word ‘mixer’ and I got ‘one who is agreeable to all’.
    In the uncertain future learning to be a ‘mixer’ might just be the ticket we all need?

  • Skean Dhude

    The issue we have is we have no idea how long the scenario will last. We have planned for our needs and have invested our finances and time in preparing. Are we going to sacrifice ourselves on the chance that we will be restocked? If so why did we waste our time and money preparing.

    Now if food was arriving and it was clear it was on its way then we would share but if we are uncertain we cannot do too much.

    I would like to think that if I came across a starving person we would be able to accommodate them. A starving group or even family would be beyond our means unless we were in the position of having crops and stores in which case we would help.

    It just depends on so much.


    It’s just a phrase we recognise for being incognito and not identified for what we are4.

    A spiv was completely different from my understanding; A crook and con man.

  • iaaems

    A crook and con man – my understanding too, until I looked it up.
    I suppose what I am trying to get at is that instead of all this awful mistrust and aggressive behaviour that we envisage, it might pay to co-operate instead of confront.
    Optimistic? Yes. Foolish? Possibly. Non confrontational? Yes – most of the time!!?

  • Skean Dhude


    I can agree with that. I will where I can but I’m not going to compromise my family for others. We may as well just stop prepping and enjoy life while we can now. The reason we want to be grey is to avoid confrontation. The confrontation that comes with a group taking something that is yours for ‘the greater good’

  • Northern Raider

    Must admit to being delighted to see someone else seeing and understanding the full value of the Grey Man principle, its something we have covered on out preppers forum, and its nice to see other inteligent brits coming to the same conclusion.

  • Skean Dhude


    It seems very controversial here. I suspect because of where many of us draw the line in our minds. It is a tactic and one of many that we need to consider if we are in that situation.

  • northern raider

    Controvertial maybe but totally common sense in many circles. on PUK we have debated it in depth and though we all have individual plans most of us can see the grey man scenario partially useful. As an ex infantry scout and NCO I always prefered to go unseen and undetected where possible 🙂

  • […] Some people will never see another soul after an event. Some will not survive meeting refugees and some will survive. Make sure you are among the latter by considering, where appropriate, being the grey man. […]

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