One of the most common questions I get from students coming out to the Scout Course is “how do I build a ghillie?” prior to coming out there. Its a long an involved process, and certainly not something you’re going to build in the span of a weekend class, but I do cover the basics of how you’ll make them. Everyone wants to look like a badass guerrilla sniper roaming the hills, and you can’t do that without a decent ghillie. Let’s cover how I built my current go-to to give you some pointers.
First, understand the real purpose of a ghillie suit- its not to make you a yeti or look like a walking tree. Take this guy in the image- he just looks like a guy in a ghillie suit. Not very effective. The real purpose is to mask the human shape enough to fool other humans into thinking you’re not another human hunting them. If you can cover or obscure the head and shoulders, you’re 90 percent of the way there. The rest is successfully matching the terrain makeup of your background.
The old school way of building ghillies was somewhat impractical and not something I ever saw in common use other than ranges stateside. We’d take BDUs and sew on carhartt material (cotton duck) on the front thighs, chest, and elbows while adding a layer of sleeping pad / yoga mat to cushion where we’d make contact with the ground while crawling. Next you’d glue or sew on netting to place your jute twine on your back, topped off with a boonie cap done the same way. While it worked, it was extremely hot, impractical for any real world use other than stalking training, and could not be used with any other gear.
Later on I got turned on to the idea of a Cobra Hood. Its become pretty popular in the Sniper community and its basically a pair of lightweight sleeves and hood that has the netting sewn on to attach your jute twine. It fits over top of whatever gear you’re already running, so its quick to throw on and take back off and straps to the top of a pack. I built a couple of these at the same time, and even though its a pretty cheap rig, its held up very well in the three years since I first built them.
A ghillie is easy to build, it just takes time. First, grab your cobra hood and some jute twine. Mix and match the camo colors. Make it random. Nothing in nature is matching or symmetrical. Make a loop going from under the netting and pull the run end of the jute twine through. This creates a girth hitch, anchoring your twine in place. Start from the bottom and work your way to the top. This is going to take a while. Notice I’ve got a few different textures of twine- thin, multi-colored jute and thicker hay bale twine. This adds contrasting texture. You don’t need a huge amount of twine, either. Remember we’re not trying to look like a walking ape in the woods, we simply need to obscure the human shape and give a base layer to add vegetation during our stalk.
Once you’re done, fine the nearest mud pit and throw it in. Leave it there for a couple of weeks. Ghillies when built have a plasticky, unnatural shine to them. We want to get rid of that by aging them and introducing the fabric to as much of our environment as possible. Since you’re going to be crawling around in the mud anyway, the more mud, the better.
When you’re ready to wear it, keep in mind that jute is there as a base layer. As I said, its a supplement to the vegetation you’ll be putting on yourself during your stalk. The best camoflage is matching the vegetation and dominant colors of your background in an effort to fool the human eyes into thinking you’re not what you really are.
Making a ghillie top is not a complicated thing. Don’t make it one. My setup is a very simple rig that I’ve run quite a bit over the years and have had countless students do the same. Keep it simple and you’ll be very happy with it. And if you want to know what to do with it, some on out to the Scout Course.