Your Guide To Avoiding Thermal Imaging Device Detection 

 September 21, 2021

By  Daniel Gray

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Last updated on June 27, 2022

Even if you're camouflaged to the best of your abilities, thermal imaging devices can still detect any heat signature. And yes, this means your body heat. So, for someone trying to avoid detection, thermal imaging can prove quite the challenge.  

But thankfully, we're here with a guide to avoid detection by thermal imaging devices. Read on to learn more.

What Is Infrared (IR)?

Infrared light or infrared radiation is undetectable to the human eye. Scientifically, IR's wavelengths are longer than the light we see, but it feels like warmth on the skin upon contact. 

But how do thermal imaging devices use infrared technology? That's a good question. 

Unlike night vision devices, infrared imaging tech does not require light for viewing. All that's necessary is warmth. 

Anything warmer than absolute zero (-459 F/-273 C) emits infrared radiation. Thermal imaging technology detects this radiation, then converts it into a visible picture with different shades representing hotter or colder temperatures. Bodies typically have an average temperature of 98.6 F (37 C), so they're easily detectable under the right circumstances.

Can You Hide From Thermal Imaging Devices?

As mentioned, thermal imaging requires no light to detect a body. And although particular weather can diminish the tech's ability, these devices can still see through smoke and mist. 

So, can you hide from devices that only need your warmth to “see”? Actually, yes, you absolutely can. And we'll tell you how. 

To avoid detection, you need to understand how thermal imaging devices work. These scanners remove a heat signature from an object and convert it to an image. If it's not directed at the target object, then that target is unidentifiable. 

Of course, this means you can leave the observation area to avoid detection, but that's not always possible. So how else can you hide? The answer: deprive the technology of its ability to “see” your temperature. Check out below for more details, tips, and tricks. 

Moving vs. Stationary 

Is it easier to avoid detection when you're moving vs. stationary? It can be. 

Unlike night vision optics, heat signature technology does not easily pin down moving objects. But, of course, if you're moving too fast, you're only heating your body up. In cases where you're moving about, avoiding detection means staying calm and moving slowly. 

You can increase your likelihood of hiding in either situation by acquiring certain materials or using specific backgrounds, which we cover in the following two sections. 

Materials For Avoiding Detection

Certain materials, either worn or hidden behind, can mask your heat signature from infrared radiation viewers. 

The best materials include: 

  • Glass: You'll hear glass is arguably the most efficient way to block infrared tech as the material absorbs the light. However, it's not the most practical. Think about it — do you want to carry around a pane of glass everywhere you go? And is wearing a glass suit the best idea? No. So let's check out more feasible materials.
  • Woolen Blankets: If you need a quick fix, your best bet is a wool blanket. Simply cover yourself with it to block heat. It's not ultra-efficient, but it can get the job done in a bind.
  • Space Blankets: Both simpler than glass and more efficient than wool, space blankets are essential to blocking infrared radiation. Space blankets are made from Mylar foil, which blocks the signature. However, be warned: when you're under one, your body heat accumulates. As it builds inside, it can slip out, which will show on thermal imaging devices.
  • Thick netting: Believe it or not, netted materials confuse thermal imaging. The webbing and holes cause your heat signature to disperse, skewing your presence.

If you're wondering what you should wear, the best choice is warm clothes. Specifically, choose a warm hat and a pair of pants. It is not 100% effective but does work to reduce your heat signature. For any openings on your body, you can temporarily disguise yourself by covering them with cool dirt. Remember: both warm clothes and cool soil only work temporarily. 

Backgrounds That Help You Hide 

Different objects and materials radiate heat in unique ways. Temperature contrasts make detection more pronounced, so try finding backgrounds similar to your internal temperature. 

A few examples include:

  • Brick: A brick wall on a sunny day can heat up, making it a prime background to avoid showing up on infrared optics.
  • Soil: The bare earth can emulate a person's body heat on a sunny day. Therefore, you can use it to lie low and hide.

Additionally, moisture in the air can help disguise you, too. Water molecules hold a surprising amount of heat, and remaining near bodies of water is an easy way to mask your heat signature. 

On the other hand, uniform backgrounds will make you stand out clearly. So it's in your best interest to avoid fields of snow or empty parking lots. Choose an area with plenty of other things going on. 

Encounter An Emergency? Here's What To Do

In the direst situation, you can set controlled fires. The presence of multiple heat sources confuses thermal optics and whoever is viewing them. In these moments of confusion, you have an opportunity to escape. Plus, particular objects emit loads of thermal particles. These particles entirely block thermal pictures because the wall of heat overpowers other signatures. 

However, always take necessary precautions and learn proper fire management. Inexperienced starters will cause more harm than good. 

So — How Can You Avoid Thermal Imaging Devices?

Avoiding infrared detection is not impossible, nor do you need to submerge yourself in subzero temperatures to hide. The best way to hide is to understand the technology and know how to trick it. Whether this is by covering up with a thick fishing net, hiding behind a warm brick wall, or lying low to hide. At the end of the day, it is up to you and your resources.

Refer back to our guide to refresh yourself on the best recommendations. Happy hiding!  

About the author 

Daniel Gray

As a digital marketing manager, Daniel is responsible planning and managing marketing campaigns at Smart Scouter. He has a masters degree from Indiana University and over 20 years of experience in the thermal imaging industry. In his spare time he likes hiking and traveling around South America.

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