Recently I talked with a fellow Prepper who was positively giddy over the purchase of his new ghillie suit. I held my tongue, for once, but all I could think of was the “10 Ways Your Ghillie Suit Will Get You Killed” if you try to play sniper.
Now, there’s no doubt that in the right hands a Ghillie suit is a phenomenal piece of kit but like many types of military tech, this particular piece of kit is better suited to use within a military campaign than a Preppers storehouse or bug out bag. That may seem like a strange thing for me to say…as I often talk about the use of or adaptation of military techniques or technology to the Prepper’s use, but this is one piece of kit that you should carefully before including in your preparations. Now, if your reason for wanting a Ghillie suit is to improve your hunting odds and that’s all you’re going to do with it than only some of these cautionary statements will apply to you and you can probably safely look like a big bush while out hunting.
If you’re not familiar with the term ‘Ghillie Suit’ it’s used to describe a type of camouflage over-garment designed to make a person blend in with heavy foliage. These suits were reportedly first used by Scottish units in British service during the Second Boer War and have earned their place on the battlefield, in the hands of highly trained and specialized soldiers.
Depending on the situation, environment and wearer I find Ghillie suits amazing, cool, ridiculous or comical…and sometimes the wearer just looks like some kind of sasquatch wanna-be. Now if you’re a school trained sniper with a trusty spotter and the discipline to take a half day moving fifty feet while adapting your suit on the move to match the foliage you travel through… keep in mind that this article isn’t meant for you…it’s meant for the rest of us… the amateurs who haven’t developed the skills, discipline and team that it takes to properly use this particular military tool.
Top 10 Ways Your Ghillie Suit Will Get You Killed
- Make You Stand Out: It takes skill to build and modify a Ghillie suit to match the terrain, season and exact location that you intend to use it and merely moving a few dozen feet in any direction may require that the entire suit be modified to match its new surroundings. Professional snipers spend weeks learning and entire careers refining this skill so that they don’t stand out like a sore thumb.
- Telegraphs Movement: Professional snipers are taught the discipline to hold still for long periods of time and continue to practice that skill as long as they are operational. If you’re like me and have a hard time holding still you’re much better off behind a ‘blind’ that will hide, rather than telegraph your movements…bushes don’t move unless there’s wind…and if they move in the wind they move the same way the surrounding vegetation does… if you’re trying to look like a bush, you better move like one.
- No Cover: Wearing that Ghillie suit, which you know isn’t a magical cloak of invisibility, might still tempt you take up a position that’s more exposed than necessary. That exposed position won’t offer you the benefits of cover to stop incoming rounds. Remember that ‘cover’ and ‘concealment’ are both your friends but that cover stops or slows down bullets. A well built and maintained Ghillie suit may help conceal you…but it won’t provide any protection.
- Live Stuff: If you add live vegetation to your suit remember to replace it frequently as it will soon die and change color and texture which makes you more noticeable.
- Dead Stuff: Conversely, if you add dead vegetation to your suit you might make a great deal of noise when you move…think about walking on dried leaves stalks, etc.
- They Can’t See You But Can You See Them: Ghillie suits are meant to be a part of a sniper system that includes the sniper, his weapons and equipment and a spotter who helps provide security as well as a second set of eyes for the sniper. Many of the commercial Ghillie suits sold and patterns used to make custom suits limit the shooter’s field of view which is just one of the reasons to have a trained spotter.
- Time To Move: Ghillie suits can be heavy (especially when wet), bulky, awkward and can catch on the surrounding vegetation. This is not the outfit you want to be wearing if you have to run for your life and running for your life is a great survival skill when used at the appropriate time.
- Fire: Many of the commercially available Ghillie suits that are treated with a fire retardant but even if you get lucky and can buy one that matches the exact terrain, season and location where you need to use it…you’re going to need to add textures and colors from the surrounding environment so at least part of your suit will be vulnerable to fire. I can imagine few things worse than being caught in a Ghillie suit that catches fire and its scary how easy fires can start in the field from weapons fire, pyro & simulators or even a careless smoker. Flame retardant sprays are available for treating your suit back at your base or retreat but if you are properly using your Ghillie suit you will constantly be adding and removing items from the environment.
- Heat: Ghillie suits are very good insulation. That’s a good thing if you’re dealing with arctic temperatures but if it’s 105 in the shade then that extra insulation will aggravate your body’s ability to cool itself and potentially lead to life threatening dehydration or worse.
- Like An Anchor: Ghillie suits should never ever be worn over or near lakes, ponds, rivers, streams or ditches. There’s no swimming in a Ghillie suit because of the weight of the thing when it gets wet as well as the way it can entangle your limbs or become entangled with obstacles in the water.
A Ghillie suit is a great piece of military tech in the right hands but there are much better ways to spend time and money for the typical Prepper. If you want to dress up like a bush and go hunting…more power to you…that’s what the Scots used their Ghillie suits for before they headed to South Africa but leave the military/security use of the Ghillie suit to the trained professionals. I imagine there are more than 10 ways your ghillie suit will get you killed but these are the ones that came to mind. If you decide not to take my advice and want to get giddy over your own Ghillie suit… at least make your own!
Prepography‘s Firearms Editor, Infidel was kind enough to comment on an advanced draft of this article:
You are spot on. As you change environments, you need to change the suit and whatever vegitation you put on it. Just going 100 yards may make you stand out. I almost took first place in stalking at the FBI sniper course. 60% of the class had brand new ghillie suits. The others had standard military bdu, or marine corp stuff. Not me. I had a badly faded bdu top, bdu bottom, desert boots, a turkey hunting face mask and mesh gloves. All the guys that had ghillies, got busted because they came out of woods into a field and stuck out like a sore thumb. Using the terrain to mask myself instead of going straight in and using the previous paths of other snipers let me get within 60 yards of the objective…an easy shot but that would have neen dangerous in real life. So my point is be a sneeky mother*****r and you’ll be successful without the suit. Use terrain masking, bushes and large clumps of weeds instead.