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MARPAT Camouflage
- May 23, 2018 -

MARPAT (short for Marine pattern) is a multi-scale camouflage pattern in use with the United States Marine Corps, designed 

in 2001 and introduced between 2002 and 2004 with the Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform (MCCUU), which replaced 

the Camouflage Utility Uniform. Its design and concept are based on the Canadian CADPAT pattern. The pattern is formed of 

small rectangular pixels of color. In theory, it is a far more effective camouflage than standard uniform patterns because it 

mimics the dappled textures and rough boundaries found in natural settings. It is also known as the "digital pattern" or "digi-

cammies" because of its micropattern (pixels) rather than the old macropattern (big blobs).

The United States government has patented MARPAT, including specifics of its manufacture.[1] By regulation, the pattern and 

items incorporating it, such as the MCCUU and ILBE backpack, are to be supplied by authorized manufacturers only and are not 

for general commercial sale, although imitations are available such as "Digital Woodland Camo" or "Digital Desert Camo".


MARPAT was also chosen because it distinctively identifies its wearers as Marines to their adversaries, while simultaneously 

helping its wearers remain concealed. This was demonstrated by a Marine spokesman at the launch of MARPAT, who stated: 

"We want to be instantly recognized as a force to be reckoned with. We want them to see us coming a mile away in our new 

uniforms."[2] As such, the U.S. Marine Corps restricts use of the camouflage, preventing its use in most other divisions of the 

United States military with the exception of some elements of the U.S. Navy.


MARPAT was designed by Timothy O'Neill, Anabela Dugas,[3] John Joseph Heisterman, Jr.,[3] Luisa DeMorais Santos,[3]Gabriel 

R. Patricio,[3] and Deirdre E. Townes.[3]


The concept of using miniature swatches of color as opposed to large splotches is not new. In World War IIGerman troops 

used various patterns similar to the current German Flecktarn, which involved similar small dabs of color on a uniform to provide camouflage.

The Canadian Forces originally developed the pattern called CADPAT, on which MARPAT was based.[4]Timothy 

O'Neill's[5] USMC design team in charge of this process went through over 150 different camo patterns before selecting three 

samples that met their initial objectives. These were two versions of tigerstripe and an older design of Rhodesian Brushstroke

The influence of tigerstripe can still be seen in the final MARPAT. These three samples were then reconstructed using new 

shapes and unique color blends that would allow a more effective uniform in a great range of environments.


The new patterns were then field tested in different environments, day and night, with night vision and various optics. MARPAT 

did exceptionally well in their wet uniform test when viewed with night vision while illuminated with IR, where normally patterns 

appear as a solid. The MARPAT patent lists U.S. Army research into fractal pattern camouflage as the basis for MARPAT.


The MARPAT pattern was chosen in a run-off against seven other patterns at the USMC Scout Sniper Instructor School.[6]

Preliminary development of MARPAT began in April 2000,[7] with field testing of the pattern and the MCCUU beginning in 2001. 

The patent for the MARPAT pattern was filed on June 19, 2001,[3] whereas the patent for the MCCUU uniform was filed on 

November 7, 2001.[8] Early prototypes of the MARPAT desert pattern from 2001 featured grey, whereas the finished product did not.


The uniform made its official debut at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina on January 17, 2002,[9] and the changeover was completed on October 1, 2004, a year ahead of the original requirement date set in 2001, of October 1, 2005.[10][11][12][13]

The MARPAT uniform was officially fielded as standard issue to the recruits of 3rd BN Mike Company in late 2002 at MCRD San Diego;[14][self-published source] it continues to be the USMC's standard issue uniform pattern to date.

In all, the MARPAT development process from concept to completion took 18 months, the fastest time for a U.S. military-developed camouflage pattern.[15]

Design and colors[edit]

Different ratios and variations of colors were tested before final candidate patterns were actually printed to textile for field trials. 

A modified version of Vietnam War-era tiger stripe also made it to final trials but was eliminated due to MARPAT being superior 

in all environments. The purpose of the digitized pattern is to create visual "noise" and prevent the eye from identifying any 

visual templates. Thus, the pattern is intended to not register as any particular shape or pattern that could be distinguished. 

When compared to a white background the MARPAT does look surprising and would seem to catch attention, but when used in 

an operative environment, its textured appearance and lack of hard edges make it more effective than traditional patterns.


There were initially three MARPAT patterns tested: Woodland, Desert, and Urban. Only the Woodland and Desert patterns were 

adopted by the Marine Corps, replacing the U.S. Woodland pattern and the U.S. Three Color Desert pattern. Webbing and 

equipment worn with MARPAT Woodland and MARPAT Desert is produced in Coyote Brown, a mid-tone color common to both 

the woodland and desert patterns. Although a digital snow pattern has also been adopted on cold weather training over-

garments, this uses a different pattern from the Canadian company Hyperstealth.[16]


Authentic MARPAT material is distinguishable by a miniature "Eagle, Globe, and Anchor" emblem incorporated into the pattern above the letters "USMC", in both the woodland and desert patterns.[17]


Similar designs[edit]

U.S. Marine wearing Desert MARPAT (left) and sailor wearing the NWU (right)

MARPAT is aesthetically similar to Canadian Forces CADPAT, which was first developed in the 1990s.[18]

The United States Army used the same shapes in designing its Universal Camouflage Pattern, which uses a much paler three-color scheme of sage green, grey and sand for use on the Army Combat Uniform. After major questions about its effectiveness arose, the Army adopted the "Scorpion W2" Operational Camouflage Pattern in 2015, to be fully phased in by 2019.

The United States Air Force has designed its own Airman Battle Uniform (ABU) using a standard tiger stripe pattern and slight variation on the color scheme of ACU.

The United States Navy announced approval for a digital "BDU-style" work uniform in late 2008. The Navy Working Uniform (NWU) was chosen by surveyed sailors for consistency and longer life, while the blue-grey-black Type I pattern was 

designed for aesthetic purposes rather than camouflage to disguise them at sea. In January 2010, the Navy began considering 

new Navy Working Uniform patterns modified from MARPAT, named Type II and Type III, desert and woodland respectively. The 

Woodland pattern was actually an earlier coloration of the MARPAT scheme, not adopted following USMC trials.[19] These 

patterns are overall darker than their respective MARPAT progenitors, modified with different color shades,[20] and addressed 

the fact that the blue and grey Type I pattern was not meant for a tactical environment (the Battle Dress Uniform in M81 woodland and Desert Camouflage Uniform were still used for this purpose until the Type II and III patterns were 

introduced).[21] Backlash from Marines, including an objection from former Commandant Conway, led to restrictions when 

NAVADMIN 374/09 was released:[22] Type II pattern to Naval Special Warfare personnel, while Type III is restricted to Navy 

ground units.[23]



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