When researching tactical gear you will run across garments (clothing) claiming to be NIR Compliant.
What does that mean?
NIR stands for Near InfraRed. It is the wavelength of light from 780 nm to 2500 nm. It is not visible with the naked eye.
But, it is visible with various kinds of night vision devices (NVDs), including tactical night vision goggles (NVGs).
NVGs work on the amplification of ambient light (Image Intensification or I2 technology)- but can utilize Near Infrared light also.
It is important to note that Image Intensification devices are different than thermal vision devices.
Thermal vision devices use the difference in temperatures of objects and their backgrounds to provide a view in the dark (or daytime!). “NIR Compliant” gear will not protect against your actual heat signature.
NIR compliant gear minimizes NIR reflected light – not the emission of thermal (hear) IR!
If you are trying to obscure your heat signature – wrap yourself in a space blanket, mylar blanket – or other blanket intended to “preserve body heat.”
NIR compliant gear will minimize your Near IR (Infra-red) signature and break up your patten on those wavelengths. Think of it as IR camouflage.
NIR compliant uniforms and garments use a special fabric blend that won’t reflect IR and UV light – or at least it will minimize the amount reflected.
Here’s a very informative video that has some real live examples. You should watch it (This is not my video – but is embedded via YouTube.)
How is this magic accomplished?
Special fabrics, patterns, and dyes in some cases.
Fabrics used in NIR compliant gear include Nyco, Rayon/Nylon blends, and Nomex.
Nyco is a 50% CORDURA nylon / 50% Cotton composition fabric.
Mil-spec CORDURA 1000D or 500D are NIR compliant. CORDURA is made with Nylon.
Polyester and Poly/Cotton blends are NOT used in NIR compliant gear.
Polyester is very IR reflective.
Regarding dyes, you’ve heard of “UV Brighteners” in your consumer detergents?
Think of these as anti-UV brighteners.
American Dye Source inc sells “near infrared absorption dyes.”
NIR compliant gear can require special care – for example, don’t use a detergent with UV or color enhancers.
Lastly, some patterns have been developed from the start to minimize near-IR – for example Crye Precision, creators of the MultiCam camo pattern claim:
“The MultiCam® pattern was developed to effectively limit the visual and near-IR signature of a person operating across a very wide range of physical environments and seasons.”
But, they offer little detail on how near-IR signature is actually reduced. Presumably, it is either via NIR compliant fabrics such as Nyco or special dyes used in the pattern on the fabric.
Examples of some NIR compliant gear include:
- Propper ACU Coat and Trouser – An authentic military uniform approved for active duty by the U.S. Army.
- Propper ABU (Airman Battle Uniform)
- Propper CWU 27/P NOMEX FLIGHT SUIT – In Tan or “Freedom Green” – not in Black
NIR Compliant Clothing
Use NIR compliant clothing and uniform items when you want to minimize the chance of being seen with light amplification night vision devices.
NIR compliant clothing cannot protect you from thermal vision – because that’s “heat vision” that sees differences in temperature.
Lastly, if you want to stand out MORE when viewed through NVGs – use an IR strobe, beacon or chemlight.
Propper – Manufacturer of many US military uniform items
Lots of fascinating info on NIR compliance (or lack thereof)
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