Ghillie Suits: Can You Truly Benefit from Using Them?

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Can You Truly Benefit from Using a Ghillie Suit?

By Matthew Dermody

Ghillie Suit

“Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.” Sun Tzu, the Art of War

Formlessness is the endeavor of every ghillie suit user. Detection of any kind can tip the scales of success and failure plummeting into failure’s favor. Sun Tzu, the famous Chinese war strategist, wrote that in order to directly control the fate of one’s opponent in battle you must be unseen and unheard. Even in the annals of ancient warfare the need for stealth was emphasized.

Today, personal concealment and camouflage relies heavily upon a working compromise created by printed camouflage fabric in order to overcome the drawbacks associated with ghillie suit use. But why a ghillie suit at all? With its added bulk, weight and potential fire hazard, are there any justifiable reasons for employing the use of a ghillie suit?

The answer is an unequivocal yes.

History of modern warfare has proven ghillie suit effectiveness on both sides of the battlefield. Better concealment than that offered by standard camouflage apparel can give one a tactical advantage; greatly increasing successful mission outcomes. While warfare technology and personal detection advancements such as FLIR (Forward Looking Infra-Red) and thermal imagery have been used with great success to detect and reveal troop movement, the ghillie suited soldier or operator can still reap the benefits of stealth movement. The ghillie suit is far from the fabled cloak of invisibility, but it’s tactical stealth advantages certainly should make it desirable to have in one’s arsenal.

Buy or DIY?

Material technology has reduced a good portion of the associated drawbacks of a ghillie suit to a more manageable or tolerable level. Now it boils down to the not so simple question of “Do I buy a ghillie suit or make my own?” If you have more money than time, or access to a government agency expense account, there are manufacturers available to make a custom ghillie suit to your exact specifications. But why not make your own suit?

The advantages of constructing your own ghillie suit begin to yield useful results that will sharpen fieldcraft skill-sets almost immediately. The information you learn from scouting an environment makes you a better, more skilled hunter or tactician. Studying information about the vegetation in the area also gives clues regarding diet, habitat and territorial range aiding those in wildlife photography or animal research.

Ghillie Suit Sample

A main drawback to pre-made suits is that they usually come in only two different environments depending on the suit manufacturer. Most environments have a predominant color and many pre-made suits still cannot accurately match that color. While color is very important, avoid getting too caught up with the colors at the expense of texture. Texture often provides subtle color nuances. Examine the surrounding vegetation and landscape. Pay attention to the textures and shapes. Ask yourself what textures can be adapted into your suit.

Based on your data determine whether strands or strips of material or a combination of both will make your suit the most effective. Lack of texture is the major downfall of all the inexpensive, Chinese-manufactured ghillie suits. These poorly performing suits incorporate only a synthetic burlap material and provide no means of attaching additional fabric or vegetation of any kind.

Research

Ghillie suit construction is a skill that can be easily learned. We’ve all learned how to tie simple knots, identify/mix different colors and recognize plant shapes. These three skills are the heart and soul of ghillie suit construction. Proper fieldwork is a necessary task if you’re making a custom ghillie suit. Your fieldwork research, photos and notes will assist with the basics of color matching.

  • Take a notepad, a pen, a camera and even a deluxe box of colored pencils
  • Make your observations based on the approximate time of day you plan to use your ghillie suit
  • Go out to the woods, grasslands, desert plateau, wherever you plan to use your suit and observe the coloration with your own eyes
  • Varying degrees of natural light cause photographs taken at dawn to differ in color and contrast from those taken in the morning, at midday, mid-afternoon, and dusk

Even if you supply the information to a custom manufacturer, it doesn’t reduce the need on your part to have accurate descriptions of the environment. Custom ghillie suit manufacturers thrive off the perception that it is too time-consuming for the average person to construct a quality ghillie suit. There is no doubt about the amount of time needed to assemble a ghillie suit, but the advantages of three-dimensional camouflage will far outweigh the hours you will put into the project. This is why I make my own ghillie suits and provide consultation and instruction for others to do likewise.

Most people find themselves in the “more time than money” category. Therefore, the major contributing factor affecting the decision to construct a ghillie suit is the price. High quality manufactured ghillie suits are expensive because they are labor-intensive with no fast, mass production methods to drive down costs.

Benefits of Making Your Own Ghillie Suit

Making a custom suit puts you in charge of deciding what options you put on it without having to pay extra for those items. Constructing your own custom suit gives you options and a tactical advantage. If you are using the suit for hunting, the addition of a recoil pad pocket may mean the difference between a clean kill, a wounded animal or a miss. The addition of a hydration pack or mesh vents may provide you with the added comfort required to stay out in warmer climates longer than you could without those modifications. In wet environments, waterproofing areas of your ghillie suit that come in contact with moisture can help you stay dry. If a different type of situation or environment presents itself, you can modify your suit without having to return the garment to a manufacturer to make the changes or ordering another suit.

Another great aspect of making your own ghillie suit is that you decide where something is tactically and practically functional for you, not where someone else thinks it would be functional for an average person. After the amount of time and money that you will put into constructing your custom ghillie suit, you’ll also feel a new level of excitement in the activities you utilize your new ghillie suit. Your suit will become part of you, another aspect of your fieldcraft skill-set and a useful tool in your arsenal regardless of the chosen application.

In the next article, we’ll introduce and illustrate some ghillie suit designs that are inexpensive, lightweight and allow for tactical movement.

Ghillie Headnet Demo

Editor-in-Chief’s Note: Please join us in welcoming Matthew Dermody of Hidden Success Tactical Concealment as a contributor on ITS Tactical. If you would like to learn about personal camouflage, concealment fieldcraft or even more information about ghillie suits, check out hiddensuccesstactical.com

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