Ghillie Suits
Constructing your own

1994
By Dave Reed

Ghillie Suits make good camouflage when in one position, or if you must move through somewhat open areas. They will entangle when you try to go through dense brush. Make your personal camouflage net by selecting material that blends in with the vegetation you are operating in.

I have received several requests for tips on Ghillie suit construction. I had considered having one made putting it up for sale, but it is time consuming and I'm not sure that anyone would buy it. Here are a few pointers that you should consider.

Two basic designs for ghillie suits:

  1. Simple net for fixed positions
  2. Suit construction

Your ghillie suit does not have to be elaborate to be effective. I have seen some for sale in a magazine that made whoever wore it look like exactly what it should not -- a guy in a ghillie suit. Now the very best one I can think of is the one Tom Berenger wore in that sappy movie -- "Sniper". If you saw the movie, did you notice how it magically transformed itself to match the background behind him? Amazing huh! By taking camouflage from the surrounding vegetation, and adding it to the netting, you can make it look just like the ground you are laying on. If you didn't see the movie, you didn't miss much. Or then again, maybe you missed a lot, like the magic rifle scopes!

Simple Net

Advantage - Light weight, rolls up into a small bundle, very adaptable to fixed positions.

Disadvantage - Difficult to crawl in, or move through brush.

Your net should be flexible enough for you to adapt to each situation. Keep it simple, and allow lots of room for improvement. A piece of camouflage netting will work well. All you need is a shroud, or short poncho, that covers your head, shoulders, and hangs down to your waste, with one side of it long enough to cover down to your knees. Cutting it out in an irregular shape, like a rounded triangle will help. You want to be able to adjust the shape of it so that it breaks the outline of your body. You can sew pieces of burlap to the netting in a haphazard fashion to increase it's effectiveness at short distances.

Go to a an army surplus store and look for a piece of camouflage netting. If you can't find a piece you can make a good one with a piece of fish net or shrimp net. The shrimp net must be cleaned very well and dried a couple of times to insure that it does not smell. You want your netting to be durable so it should be made of twisted line and treated with an anti-rot coating. All shrimp nets are coated with the stuff and it's a dark green color. The tail of a shrimp net will last forever when treated.

Put the net over your head and arrange it so that you can see out. You will need to shape it so that you'll have a large hood with a lot of overhang to cover your face. You can gather it using thin nylon web strap. Don't worry about buckles, just leave enough strap to tie it in place. This will keep it from coming off. Leave it longer in back so it will cover your upper legs.

Go to an Army surplus store or to Wal-Mart's hunting department and get some camouflage colored burlap. If they have it, get two or three different colors/textures.

Cut the burlap in strips that are shaped like bow ties. The skinny part in the middle is where you will tie the strip around a piece of the net. Don't make the sides of the bow tie the same length or width. The shortest should be about 5 -6" and the longest a side should be is about 9". Two half hitches should tie the bow on to the net securely. Leave room between strips, if you bunch them too tight you will look a guy wearing a funny suit. Alter the colors you use as you tie them onto the suit. Don't make the knots too tight until you have a lot of pieces on and are satisfied with the look and arrangement.

Two straps at the neck will keep your "hood" in place and another at the waist will keep you from losing the suit when tangled.

The simple net is easy to make, light, and can stretched overhead in a position and arranged in various manners to meet the situation. With all of the holes, and loose burlap, you can stick all manner of small branches, grasses, and leaves to the suit to match the terrain.

The next piece of the net solution is an apron. Police snipers and competition shooters can use elaborate shooting mats. Snipers need an apron. This will help you remain comfortable while laying on wet ground for long periods of time. It will keep you warm and make it easier to slide along the ground. A suitable apron can be made from a canvas shelter half. It doubles as something to keep you dry in the rain, or a blanket at night. Keep it short enough that you can run with it.

BDU method

Advantages - It stays on at all times, provides total coverage of all body parts.

Disadvantages - It is hot and much larger will rolled up.

Sniper training in the military includes this skill by starting with BDU's and sewing camouflage to them. When sewing strips of anything to your suit, DON'T make them all one length, color, and shape. You use camouflage to breakup outlines, you don't want to create new patterns that will look unnatural. Cut strips as described above only make them any shape you want. You may sew these strips to the BDUs or use some kind of net or mesh. Sew the net to the BDU's at the shoulders and small of back. On the pants sew to the waist, upper back of legs, and calves. Now you can sew the strips to the mesh.

In place of an apron you will need to add canvas from a shelter half to the front of the shirt and pants down to the knees.

For the sewing use a good strong thread and needle. This is the time consuming part. When I went to sniper school we did not have to make these, a simple camo net scrounged from the battalion supply sufficed. The suit is bulky and hot, if you must cover open ground without being seen then it would be nice to have.

If you need a suit that is light, and will only be used to supplement your other camouflage in a fixed position, the simple net will work well. A sniper must be resourceful.

Your ghillie suit will be a waste of time if you wear an exposed watch or ring. You must also wear gloves and of course your "camo" stick. You must cover all exposed body parts.

Camouflage for your weapon can be made in the same manner by wrapping the weapon with burlap. Take one long strip and sew a few smaller strips to it. Make sure you can reach your adjustment knobs and there is nothing obstructing the scope.


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