Tactical Survival

Ghillie Suit Guide: Where to buy and how to make your own

Here's everything you need to know about the ghillie suit: its origin story, where to buy one, and if you're feeling inspired, how to make your own.
Tessa Robinson Avatar
(Fort Benning, Ga) – In Week 3 of U.S. Army Sniper School, 35 students participate in the ghillie wash, which is designed to test the strength and durability of the suits as well as weather them. Sniper School students use sand, water and mud, all in an effort to perfect one of their most important tools: their camouflage. (U.S. Army photo by Patrick A. Albright, Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning Public Affairs)

Ah, the beloved Ghillie Suit. Whether you’re upping your wardrobe for Halloween, paintball, hunting or looking for an epic outfit for next year’s Army/Navy game, everyone needs a ghillie suit. Here’s everything you need to know about the ultimate disguise, from its history, where to buy one and even how to make your own.

From WATM’s Miguel Ortiz, here is the mythical origin of the ghillie suit:

What is a ghillie suit?

A ghillie suit is typically made of a net or cloth garment and covered in burlap strips, cloth, or twine. It has an irregular shape which breaks up a sniper’s outline and makes them more difficult to spot. Additionally, snipers can weave local flora into their ghillie suit in order to better blend with their surroundings. If done properly, this additional camouflage will even sway in the wind to match the environment it is replicating. Today, ghillie suits are used by snipers all around the world in foliage, sand, and even snow. Their origin, however, can be traced back to the game attendants and folklore of the Scottish Highlands.

Origin story

Derived from the Scottish Gaelic word “gille,” meaning lad or servant, a ghillie (the English misspelling) is a man or boy who serves as a game attendant and specializes in fishing, stalking and hunting. In Scottish folklore, the Gille Dubh was a timid but wild male fairy who roamed the Highlands. Like the suit that bears his name, the Gille Dubh was clothed in leaves and other vegetation which allowed him to camouflage in the Highlands and evade capture.

<em>Lovat scouts in their ghillie suits. Wikimedia Commons.</em>” title=”<em>Lovat scouts in their ghillie suits. Wikimedia Commons.</em>“/><figcaption class=Lovat scouts in their ghillie suits. Wikimedia Commons.

Scottish ghillies created the ghillie suit in the turn of the 20th century as a wearable hunting blind that would allow them to more stealthily stalk and hunt their game on the Highlands. These first ghillie suits were made primarily of burlap which were irregularly torn and cut to break up the ghillie’s silhouette. Almost immediately, the ghillie suit saw military application with the British Army during the Second Boer War (1899-1902). The Lovat Scouts, the British Army’s first sniper unit, were initially recruited from Scottish Highland estate workers. This included the ghillies who brought their burlap camouflage suits with them.

The ghillie suit went to war again in WWI where other nations took notice of its effectiveness and adopted it for themselves. As a concept, the ghillie suit has remained largely unchanged since its inception. One notable upgrade came in June 2003 when the U.S. Army introduced a new ghillie suit made of a lightweight, fire-resistant, and self-extinguishing fabric instead of the heavier and flammable burlap.

<em>A U.S. Army sniper wears the Flame Resistant Ghillie System. (U.S. Army photo/Released)</em>” title=”<em>A U.S. Army sniper wears the Flame Resistant Ghillie System. (U.S. Army photo/Released)</em>“/><figcaption class=A U.S. Army sniper wears the Flame Resistant Ghillie System. (U.S. Army photo/Released)

Today, snipers around the world continue to carefully craft their ghillie suits in order to camouflage themselves and evade detection by the enemy. Meanwhile, in the Scottish Highlands, professional ghillies continue to preserve their legacy as gamekeepers. They cull game herds and lead hunting expeditions, sometimes with the added camouflage of their iconic burlap suit.

Obviously you need one.

Where to buy a Ghillie Suit:

Ghillie suits are available at several online retailers. Our two picks are from The Ghillie Suits and North Mountain Gear.

It may be on the pricier side, but if you’re going for legit, the company The Ghillie Suits will custom build your suit to your specifications.

A promo ad for a ghillie suit in a desert camo pattern
Desert camo pattern.

The specs:

The Ultra-Light Heavy Sniper Style BDU (Battle Dress Uniform) Jacket and Pants Ghillie Suit is made in the USA. It is custom-built to your specifications and takes 5-10 days to build and ship. This BDU Sniper Ghillie Suit has a 3 layer construction design:

The Base Layer is a Military BDU that comes in 6 different pattern choices. On the front of the BDU, we sew a 1000-denier Cordura Plus fabric. The Plus has a urethane coating that makes it water proof, so you won’t get wet while lying down.

The company boasts all 5-star reviews, with one verified purchaser commenting: “I bought the sniper ghillie in moss. This is the second suit I’ve bought here due to the quality of manufacture and attention to detail. The heavy front panels are tough and protect you from rough ground for crawling or just laying on the ground. There is plenty of string on the webbing with room to add more or weave in foliage. Mine is oversized to fit a gore- Tex stealth suit and level 4 armour. The Velcro front closure and Velcro wrist closures are great for adjusting between not wearing armour/ Gore-Tex under the suit and wearing the full kit. I find these suits to be a good value. I use the synthetic product for the flame retardant properties.”

If you’re looking for a cheaper version, you can find 400+ options on Amazon. The suit with the best reviews is from North Mountain Gear, available on Amazon here.

A hunter points their gun in the woods while wearing a ghillie suit
North Mountain Gear

The specs:

  • A GHILLIE SUIT SECOND TO NONE: North Mountain Gear 3D Leafy Ghillie Suit brings on board huge improvements in fitting, performance & comfort; Soft, premium polyester camo hunting suit; Breathable material; Quiet, fleece-like performance
  • LEAFIER THAN EVER: Unlike ordinary camo hunting clothes, this ghillie suit for men & women features double-stitched, full-cut leaves for an incredible camouflage experience; 3D leafy suit with more leaves than any other camo suit on the market
  • HOODED CAMO HUNTING JACKET: This ghillie suit packs a resourceful camo hunting jacket with an attached hood & full front zipper closure; Two large, zippered, front slash pockets for easy storage & access; Elastic cuffs & waist for a perfect fit
  • EASY-WEAR CAMO HUNTING PANTS: The camo hunting pants included in this leafy suit present a comfortable fit thanks to the elastic waistband with durable drawstring; Knee-length zippers for swift on & off action; Two zippered front slash pockets
  • ALL WEATHER GHILLIE SUIT: Advanced mid-weight shell to enable use in hot as well as cold weather conditions; North Mountain Gear 3D Leafy Ghillie Suit is a perfect blend of economy & peerless performance; Click ‘Add to Cart’ & order right away

From a verified purchaser: “After ordering a bunch of cheap ones because all the local sporting goods stores don’t carry good leafy wear anymore, we finally ordered a pair of these. These are not the cheap junk everyone else is selling. Very impressed.”

More of a DIYer? Here’s how to make your own Ghillie Suit: