Image via USMC
Ghillie suits are a staple for hunters and snipers alike, helping them seamlessly blend into deep cover. Though there are many commercial ghillie suit suppliers, many hunters prefer to make their own because of the lower cost and customization possibilities. That’s not to say a homemade ghillie suit is cheap or easy to make — it’s going to take lots of time (somewhere between 20 to 40 hours) to make a quality camo addition to your hunting gear. Think of it as your next project for the off season.
Gather your supplies
Broadly speaking, when making your own ghillie suit, you need a base layer (either one-piece or two-piece) that matches your terrain, head covering, netting, jute (either in hanks or woven into burlap), dye and lots of patience. Watch these videos for the best construction techniques and ideas before you start.
Start your construction
Many ghillie suits begin with BDUs, which can use some reinforcement if you’ll be doing much crawling or laying down. Kneepads add another layer of protection, but require coverup with more camo. Think too of adding back vents to the top; ghillie suits get hot.
Next attach your netting; a synthetic is the best choice since it won’t rot. Members of the long-range surveillance community, U.S. Army, use camo netting for their ghillie suits since it’s easy to come by in the field; hunters can do the same or use more mundane garden netting or even a volleyball net. Attach the netting with stitches, glue or a combination of the two (for maximum durability).
Now comes the time-consuming part: preparing and attaching the jute fibers that act to break up the human form that’s inside the suit. Marines shred sandbags, then dye the threads to the proper colors. Hunters are better served starting with hanks of jute thread (separate out the fibers for a natural look) and strips of burlap to create texture.
Many suppliers sell pre-dyed jute; pick the colors that match your terrain and its shadows best. Dying the jute yourself allows for a more shades and customization, but adds time to the process. You’ll need anywhere from four to eight pounds of jute, depending on the type of suit you’re constructing. Safety tip: jute is highly flammable, so make sure to use a fire retardant on your fibers.
Once your jute is ready, attach it to the netting on your suit. Start at the bottom and work upwards, blending the colors to match your target environment. Knot work never looked so good. Don’t forget do work on your head covering as well — it’s the essential finishing touch.
Break in your ghillie suit
Before using your ghillie suit on the hunt, you’ll need to break it in. Techniques include dragging it behind a truck through the dirt, running it over, leaving it out in the rain for a few days… the idea is to soften the fibers to appear more natural as well as make the ghillie suit smell like the wilderness. After taking all this abuse, add natural materials — sticks, leaves, vines, dirt — that come from your hunting terrain.
Evaluate the results
No matter if it’s your first or your fourth ghillie suit (remember, you might need different ones for desert, woods, or even snow conditions), evaluate the results with the same criteria that U.S. Marine instructors use with their first-year recruits:
- Are all parts of the body and accompanying equipment covered?
- Will the suit hold up with hard use? Durability is just as important to hunters as snipers.
- How’s the concealment quality? Does the suit incorporate elements from the terrain itself, whether high grass or deep woods?