Ghillie Suits – Constructing your own

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.


Ghillie Suits – Making Your Own:

What is best to make a ghillie suit out of? BDU’s or flight jump suit?

D. West
USA – Sunday, September 27, 1998 at 00:53:23 (EDT)

Ghillie suits are best made using a two piece uniform.

Gooch out.

Sherwood, Ar USA – Sunday, September 27, 1998 at 14:57:08 (EDT)

I’am in the process of making a ghillie suit for “Stalking” and was wondering if I need to
put canvas on the knees and on the front of the jacket?? I put padding in the knees and in
the elbows but I’ve heard both pro and con on putting the heavy material on the front.
Some say its not necessary and makes the suit harder to roll up and that you dont crawl
that far to wear out the double padding anyway. If I have to use canvas would an old sea
bag work and what is the best way to put it on?? How much color variation should I put
into the suit?? I hunt prarrie so my hunting suit is pretty much just a dead grass color with
a touch of lite green here and there and as I said this one will be used differently. Thanks
for the help!!

USA – Monday, September 28, 1998 at 12:59:55 (EDT)

Pat: I’ll let Gooch or Rick give you the Correct Answer. I’ll just toss in my two cents
worth for grins. If you aren’t going to actually cralw a lot, don’t bother with the canvas.
Then again, if you crawl at all, Just as Basso about his elbows. I know were beat all to heck
with out the extra padding.

Spidertown, arracniphobia Webworld – Monday, September 28, 1998 at 14:03:49 (EDT)

Pat – Leave the blankity blank canvas off of the ghillie. It is a waste of material. If you are
in an area that will require crawling then use elbow and knee pads. That canvas will over
heat you, make noise that any ground animal can hear, to include deaf old farts like myself.
Use an old field jacket with the liner cut out. That materail is tough enough for most
crawls, excluding shale rock and the like. Seriously, with canvas sewn on the front, when
you walk or crawl on all fours the noise and discomfort is a real distractor. If you want to
use canvas, use a canvas of lighter weight than the sea bag (I am ASS-uming that the sea
bag material is similar to the duffel bag material). Find an old GP medium tent and attack
with a pair of scissors.

Fayetteville, NC USA – Monday, September 28, 1998 at 22:43:45 (EDT)

Mr. Bulllet – On the subject of reinforcing the front of a ghillie suit, all I can say is that
I’ve had ghillies with reinforcement and without it. It really depends what you are doing
with it.

When I first started building ghillies hardly anyone put stuff on the front. But back in those
days (1980 or so) our BDU’s were made of thin ripstop cotton without the extra layer on
the knees and elbows that we have now. After 5-6 school stalks the things were a mess.
Most school stalks require the students to do a lot of crawling (at least at the schools I
worked at/went through). This resulted in a lot of students going to the canvas. (This
ended up with snipers schools being real unpopular with the motor transport types.
Students were doing midnight raids on the duece and a half canvas tops!) Now with the
BDU’s having reinforced knees and elbows it may be redundent.

BUT! If I was building a ghillie to varmit hunt in or to use as a cop I would go ahead and
insert the padding into the BDU knee/elbow reinforcement. This is because in these two
instances you will not need to hump as much shit as an infantry guy on extended operations
and can afford a little more bulk and roof tops, gravel driveways, rocks etc. can be a pain.
Use thin padding such as the vinyl car roof padding I have talked about before. I would
then have the bottom jacket pockets moved to the side and the top pockets moved to the
shoulders for accessability while prone then have codura nylon sewn over the front of the
pants/top and elbows. I like the codura because it is much more durable, slicker and dries
faster than canvas. It can also be found in camo patterns that match the BDU material.

Gooch out.
Sherwood, AR USA – Tuesday, September 29, 1998 at 11:17:56 (EDT)

Did anyone else cach a program last night on the Discovery channel
called Science of the gun? It was a documentary on how the Army conducts its sniper training school at Ft. Benning. They took you thru the whole course, as well as interviews with Burl Branham of the AMTU and also interviews with Chuck Mawhinney.
It appears that the instructors at Ft. Benning are an unenlightened bunch and have never read the Duty Roster with regards to what makes a good Ghille suite. These instructors paint all offending students with orange spray paint whenever they feel that the student has not applied enough burlap to their costumes. Lots of orange paint was applied to the chest and stomach area…
Personally, I think that the whole Ghille business was a mean spirited joke played upon us by some Scottish gameskeepers as payback for the way we make fun of those girly skirts that they wear.

S.C.D.H., Ohio USA – Thursday, November 05, 1998 at 19:09:07 (EST)

TO: Steve “nato”

RE: Discovery Channel Sniper School coverage

Yes, I saw that bit of footage regarding the Army’s Sniper School, and I too found that spray paint thing a little curious, not that they used it, but where they used it! (All over the front of the suits!) That stress shoot they did looked a little funky too, where the shooters had to shoot through a bank of thick smoke with all the usual noise of rounds going off, etc. Anyway, it was a pretty good look at a military sniper school’s training regime. The scariest part was looking at the babyfaces of the chilluns that were graduating from the school. Babes At Arms. They were KIDS. Guess we all were once.

Scott (T.O.O.)
PA USA – Thursday, November 05, 1998 at 20:30:16 (EST)

Ft. Benning and its dreaded orange spray paint.

When I was preparing to go through Benning in ’96 (Since the fricking Army doesn’t recognize the USMC MOS) I had a buddy warn me about the spray paint deal. I replied that sounded too stupid and that they couldn’t still be doing that.

Well big as shit during the first ghillie suit inspection “rattle, rattle, rattle” “what the f$??” If you had a spot larger than a fist they will nail you and if your glue job on the front canvas (which must be double layer on the knees and elbows they will spray it too. Talk about stupid.

I was so pissed I couldn’t stand it. But being a National Guard guy I had to keep my mouth shut as a Guard guy will be sent home for breathing through the wrong nostril. So I just went along with the program and ghillied up like a chewbacka. They spent more time sweating ghillies than they did teaching to read the wind.

USA – Thursday, November 05, 1998 at 22:09:12 (EST)

On orange paint and Ghillie Suits – I have no idea who started that crap, but it has been going on since the beginning of that school back in 87. We were in awe when we first heard about it and I called down thinking it was a nasty rumor. They said it was the “best way” to insure the students correted their problems. I asked what type of problems and when they told me how much of a Burlap wad of junk they wanted, I almost cried. They are teaching the Ghillie (or burlap srting monster) Suit wrong. They have yet to understand that a Ghillie ONLY aids in blending. Burlap looks like burlap, not grass, not trees, only burlap. Burlap breaks the outline, natural camo blends the sniper into the surronding terrain. You still have to worry and work on the other “Reasons Why Things Are Seen”. And I’m glad a bunch of you guys realized that fact. And yes, as we get older they get younger “looking”. Amazing isn’t it! I have to remind myself of that every day of a course.

Fayetteville, NC USA – Thursday, November 05, 1998 at 23:43:22 (EST)


Back to field craft.

Gooch or Rick or Rod, what have you found to be the most useful method of carrying a
ghillie, outside of stuffing it in a ruck? I have seen some guys cut out the sides of a butt
pack and stuff it in there, but this left tell tails hanging down the back. I try to wrap mine
into itself and carry it below a butt pack on the provided straps but you still get the tell
tails if not carefull. Fixing it high up on an LBE has the same problem. Maybe an O.D. stuff
sack so it looks like a sleeping bag from a distance? If you do not need a ruck for the
mission, what good alternatives have you found? I ask this question as I saw a few student
actually WEAR their ghillies for the entire portion of a stalk! Talk about masocitic

USA – Tuesday, September 29, 1998 at 15:26:53 (EDT)

Ghillie Suit carry – Compressed stuff sacks work the best for the full Ghillie. For the net
drape I just stuff it in my pocket and bring it out when I need it.

Fayetteville, NC USA – Tuesday, September 29, 1998 at 23:02:37 (EDT)

For Scott: I’ve found that the issue NBC bag is a great way to carry your ghillie. It’s made
of heavy, camo cordura with sturdy compression straps that allow you to really shrink the
load. It appears to be a sleeping bag attached to the bottom of your ruck, or if you really
cinch it down, it will pass for a buttpack on your LBE. Replace the velcro with a good
zipper. I have not seen them in surplus stores yet, but a statement of charges on a “lost”
one is 20-30 bucks.

Albany, Oregon USA – Wednesday, September 30, 1998 at 03:31:12 (EDT)

Scott: I concure with Kevin in ref to the ghillie, the new NBC bag is the way to go, all nice
and tight and no target indicators hanging out your backside. It’s basically a small
compression sack with a few extra straps.

Rod Ryan
Elk Garden, WV USA – Wednesday, September 30, 1998 at 09:22:08 (EDT)

One of our local surplus stores has the NBC bags, brand new, and they charge something
between $10 and $20 for them as I recall. I agree that they are great bags, I use one as a
stuff sack for my sleeping bag. If anyone wants one of these bags let me know and I’ll see
what I can do.

Gooch at SMTC? Oh, my poor wallet.

San Jose, CA USA – Wednesday, September 30, 1998 at 14:09:42 (EDT)

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