Camouflage textile for the military is probably one of the most high-value and fastest-growing units. Camouflage is not only effective in protecting the armed forces from visual detection but also helps in sweat and heat management, enabling soldiers to perform to the best of their ability, even under harsh climatic conditions.
This article provides valuable insights into the use and application of camouflage fabric in the military and also offers details on prominent military camouflage fabric suppliers.
Uses of camouflage in the military
Today, the defense sector is the largest consumer of camouflage fabrics, while other sectors also use the fabric, however in smaller proportions. The military has used camouflage fabric since the First World War, and by the 90s, it had become quite popular among different military forces worldwide. The rapid increase in popularity of the fabric around that time can be attributed to Operation Desert Storm, which was carried out by the United States Armed Forces with NATO Alliances in the Middle East.
Most of the armed forces, including the army, air force, paramilitary forces, and the navy, use camouflage, as the fabric is perceived to increase the safety of the troops. Over time, the nature of the fabric has been improved to enhance comfort level and durability. Besides conventional camouflage military uniforms, camouflage is used in various applications. Let’s have a look.
The basic application of camouflage fabric in the military is the making of uniforms that help in hiding and protecting the soldiers while enabling the identification of enemies and alliances. Camouflage military uniforms must be manufactured and supplied for a large number of troops, and it is why the designing and manufacturing of the uniforms rely on a trade-off between the impact of camouflage, recognition, and cost of the uniform and manufacturing capability.
Armed forces serving in different settings may require different uniforms to blend in with the environment of that specific region, for instance, jungle, desert, or temperate camouflage uniforms. The patterns of the uniform can be modified according to different landscapes, while different pieces of vegetation can also be added to the uniform to enhance concealment. For this purpose, troops’ helmets are covered with nets and jackets and have small loops to accommodate extra attachments. It then depends on the soldiers to acquire the requisite skill set and knowledge to find appropriate camouflage vegetation to modify their combat uniform and blend in better with their surroundings.
The infantry army requires tents for protection against adverse climatic conditions. Tents are equipped with a rubberized sheet at the base to provide protection from dampness. The tents come in an olive green hue on one side and white on the other to replicate the concept of camouflaging. The main purpose of using camouflage fabric in tents is to hide from the army by merging with nature.
Military backpacks, also called Modular lightweight load-carrying equipment (MOLLE), are designed to accommodate and adjust the equipment carried by a soldier. The backpacks are also made from camouflage fabric, so they look like a part of the uniform, and the wearer does not stand out due to them.
Tarps or tarpaulins are used like military nets but have specific characteristics. They are easy to install, protect against bad weather, and provide privacy. Camouflage tarps are made from quick-drying materials, so they can be stored easily when required. They are lightweight and easy to handle. It is also convenient to attach them to any kind of support, whether natural or designed for the purpose. Despite being lightweight, tarps are strong and resistant and ideal for use in the military.
Different Types of military camouflage fabric
Military textiles are intended to provide protection and must be durable and comfortable so that they can be used in different kinds of hostile environments. It is why water and flame resistance are often essential features of the fabric used to make military gear, particularly uniforms. Here is a brief insight into the materials and patterns used for military camouflage fabric
Camouflage Fabric Materials
Materials that are normally used in the military, including camouflage fabric, include polyester and cotton. Mostly you will find fabric made from polyester with a blend of cotton (30 to 35%) for making military camouflage uniforms.
However, besides these conventional materials, manmade fibers like Kevlar, Coolmax, and Meta Aramid are also used for making various items used by troops. Kevlar is a high-strength material that is spun into fabric sheets or ropes, which can be used as an ingredient for composite material constituents. Similarly, Coolmax is a breathable fabric like cotton. It is designed to draw moisture from the skin and increase evaporation over a wide surface area.
These fabrics can be treated for camouflage printing and are hence used to make various parts of military gear to provide protection.
Camouflage Fabric Patterns
Besides the type of camouflage fabrics, there are also different camouflage patterns developed and used by different militaries across the world. Here are a few commonly known camouflage patterns used in the military.
Brushstroke: British paratroopers originally developed the Brushstroke pattern during the Second World War when they would paint different color swaths over their khakis for concealment and blending in the surroundings.
Duck Hunter: Duck Hunter was first used by American troops during the Second World War. The pattern comprises a solid background color with large blobs of two or more colors overlaid on top.
ERDL: ERDL, developed by the US Army Engineer Research and Development Laboratory, is a common forest pattern mimicking the brown and green colors of leaves and grass.
Woodland: It is the most common camo pattern that has been modified the most, serving as the basis for other camo patterns. It is a four-color design with random overlapping splotches of green, dark and light brown, and tan.
Flecktarn: Flecktarn is mostly used by Germans. This leopard-like print is to Europe what woodland is to the US.
5 Military camouflage fabric suppliers
Manufacturing camouflage fabric for the military is complex and challenging as the fabric must be supplied in huge quantities and must be standardized across the board without any discrepancies and shortcomings in terms of quality. That said, here are five military camouflage fabric suppliers catering to a global market.
KECLOUD is an international contract manufacturer and wholesaler of premium tactical products. The company provides military camouflage textiles, fabrics, and other military gear like tactical boots, flashlights, and military goggles to the military, law enforcement agencies, retailers, government bodies, and other institutions.
KECLOUD works with manufacturers to bring superior quality military camouflage fabric in varying designs, colors, and price ranges. The camouflage fabric available at KCLOUD is made from 65% polyester and 35% cotton. Customization of the fabric is available, with the feature of infrared reflectance as optional. The featured colors include yellow, blue, navy, desert, and woodland, with varying patterns.
Burlington is a US-based advanced performance fabric supplier to contract markets, military, apparel, and activewear sector worldwide. The company has been providing services for ninety years and is a part of Elevate Textiles, operating in the US, China, and Mexico. Burlington caters to numerous militaries worldwide and offers customization services to cater to the exacting specification of the clients.
Besides fabric for conventional uniforms, Burlington also provides fabric for battle dress uniforms and technical outerwear. The company features a wide variety of fabrics and fibers to provide diverse military solutions for a wider market.
Navajo is a leading camouflage and solid color fabric supplier for various branches of the United States Military and Allied Forces. The company has more than four decades of experience and possesses the requisite skills and expertise to cater to the unique needs of its customers and provide a comprehensive range of fabrics globally.
Besides being a manufacturer of equipage fabrics, and military and police uniforms, Navajo is a leading supplier of camouflage fabric for the military, law enforcement agencies, medical units, public safety, and security solution services. The company supplies different camouflage patterns for specific environments and specialty missions.
Navajo works in collaboration with fiber producers, dyers, mills, and printers to provide a durable, high-quality fabric and also works in partnership with prime government contractors for the provision of uniforms and equipment covers.
UR Textiles is a China-based manufacturer and supplier of woven chemical fabrics made from chemical fibers. The company provides a wide range of fabrics that can be used for a variety of purposes, including uniforms, gear, training, outdoor activities, and even home textiles.
UR Textiles is renowned for its industrial silk jungle camouflage fabric that is waterproof, light, and breathable. The camouflage fabric featured at UR Textiles is made from 65% polyester and 35% cotton. The company features a wide range of military camouflage in varying colors and patterns, including digital camouflage fabric as well.
Diversitex is a major supplier of camouflage fabric worldwide. The company started with industrial fabrics and expanded into apparel and military over time. Diversitex features Nemesis camouflage, which was specifically developed by the tactical industry to provide effective results across different environments. The camouflage patterns may have different roles, but they are designed to work together to cater to the needs of any environment.