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The ghillie suit is one of the most iconic pieces of individual kit you will find in the military. For snipers, it is a vital piece of gear that has remained conceptually unchanged since it was first employed by Scottish gamekeepers in the late nineteenth century. The word ghillie (gille) is of Scottish origin, but while its origins may appear modest, its impact on the battlefield is significant. Camouflage and concealment are essential hallmarks of fieldcraft for snipers in their traditional tactical roles.
Ghillie suits are designed to break up the human form that is easily distinguished from the natural environment either due to shape, color contrast, or reflectivity of light from our skin or inorganic surfaces (metal or glass). A common misconception is that the ghillie is designed to make you appear as a shrub or some other natural feature, but the objective of the ghillie is to conceal you and fully integrate you into the environment. Your goal is to not exist.
The best ghillie is perhaps the one that you make, spending countless hours sewing, gluing, and tying in jute. This is a very detailed, deliberate process that took me multiple evenings to complete during sniper school. Thankfully, the market offers some incredible alternatives that will save you time and provide you with a quality piece of kit. While the ghillie is often associated with the battlefield, its original purpose as a piece of field gear for the modern hunter is still applicable.
In the next few sections, I’ll review some great products currently on the market tailored for either the tactical space or geared more specifically for those looking to utilize them recreationally or while hunting.
- Best Overall: Tactical Concealment Original Cobra Hood
- Best Value: BDU Ultra-Light Sniper Jacket and Pant Ghillie
- Editor’s Choice: First Lite Phantom Leafy Suit
- Best Lightweight: Tactical Concealment MCM Viper
- Best Recreational: Hybrid Ghillie Suit Woodland Brown
- Best 3D for Woodlands: Nomad Leafy 1/4 Zip and Pants
Researching ghillie suits available on the market is an interesting process. For the consumer, there is no lack of options available. Some of these range from products on Amazon that are probably better suited for Halloween to some of the reviewed products that are field-ready. Some of the criteria that I weighed heavily on were durability and construction, breathability, packability, color palette, and application. As an alternative, 3D leaf suit products were also reviewed that are more specific to hunting. Most of this research was conducted through field testing and prior experience.
The internet is full of forums and articles on ghillies. There’s no doubt there exists some great information out there, as well as not-so-great. My experience is diverse, but I don’t know everything. For additional reference, I also reached out to others with similar backgrounds like KUIU’s Justin Shaffer, who is also a former Army sniper, and Matt Zirnsak from The Push Archery who uses ghillies to hunt turkeys and white-tailed deer. With these additional perspectives, I jumped head-on into product reviews and other top ghillie lists.
Each product listed in this review was carefully researched, procured, and field-tested. I’m positive this list contains a product that will match your requirement whether it’s tactical in nature or as a hunter in the field. To learn more about Task & Purpose’s testing protocols, click here.
Choosing the best overall ghillie proved easier than I anticipated. Tactical Concealment has an array of great ghillie products, but the one that stood apart was the Original Cobra. It proved to be superior in construction, durability, and range of movement, and gives the user a light foundational color base to work with.
Tactical Concealment gives you the purchase options of adding an adjustable hood with different-sized grid patterns for jute application. As with any Tactical Concealment product, you can be confident the stitching is premium. Perhaps the greatest attribute of this product is the flexibility it gives the sniper. It’s lightweight compared to a traditional ghillie which also lends it to be more packable, saving precious space in what is probably an already tightly filled ruck.
The original ghillies, despite their effectiveness, were bulky and even awkward. Constructed using strips of burlap and netting, this simple yet effective tool has evolved but remains conceptually unchanged in many ways. The Cobra Hood is noteworthy in this ghillie evolution. With the adjustable hood, it can generously fit ballistic helmets, its chest straps are fully adjustable, and it has built-in venting. This product is designed to fit over any kit including body armor, a feature traditional ghillies weren’t designed to accommodate. Perhaps most importantly, the webbing for jute application is where you need them most: the head and shoulders.
The accompanying price tag for this product may be steep for some, and for those in units with budgeting for this kind of gear, it has an NSN number. That said, it’s not field-ready, and that’s the only downside. It still requires the user to tie in jute or other garnishes. Despite this, the Cobra Hood is unquestionably the best overall.
Lightweight for size
Breathability due to integrated venting
Flexible design that accommodates all kits and body armor
Not field-ready, requires jute
I don’t want this category to deceive anyone. There are plenty of value-oriented ghillies out there. I’m assuming if you’re here, it’s not because you’re dressing up as Bob Lee Swagger for Halloween. Ghillie suit construction is a rite of passage in itself. If you want to skip the hours necessary in constructing your own, then the BDU Ultra-Light Sniper Jacket and Pant Ghillie by Miles Tactical is worth considering.
This full ghillie is fully customizable from the base uniform utilized to the color palette of the jute that it is tied to the webbing. Venting can be added for an additional charge, and I highly recommend this modification. The front torso and front of the pants are reinforced with a urethane-coated Cordura. These act as a “skid plate” and ultimately protect you and the garment as you low-crawl across terrain that would likely shred a normal uniform. This product also has premium stitching, a quality that can’t be overstated. Miles Tactical really pays attention to the details of this product. Thumb loops are sewn into the sleeves to prevent them from riding up your arms as you stalk. The hood is vented for airflow and assists in situational awareness with hearing since peaking above vegetation isn’t advisable and removing your hood is just more unnecessary movement.
There is no free lunch. This is a bombproof suit that is as durable as it is functional. It will come at a cost though, both in terms of overall weight and breathability. There are some great venting features that help in mitigating this but not completely. Don’t let the price scare you away, either. The value here is that you get a ghillie suit that is war-ready. That’s not hyperbole; these suits are superbly made and ready to take on whatever you’re willing to throw at them.
BDU and jute customization
Heavy due to its size
Bulky item limits its packability
Wearing a full-on ghillie for hunting may be a bridge too far for most hunters. For archery, concerns about weight and range of motion are valid, but a viable alternative exists — one that is very lightweight, breathable, packable, and just as effective. First Lite’s Phantom Leafy Suit gives the ground hunter all the advantages a ghillie suit provides at a fraction of the weight. With a combined weight of under 11 ounces, this piece of kit is easily compressible and can fit in a cargo pocket or a decoy bag. The 3D leaf material disrupts the signature eye-catching aspect of the human outline, especially that of the head and shoulders. While it’s vital that a traditional ghillie addresses this in the tactical environment, the game animals we chase in the field have an uncanny ability to pick this contour out as well.
First Lite is a hunting company based in central Idaho. It strives to provide the outdoorsman with quality apparel for any adventure afield. The Phantom Leafy Suit is available in all three of its proprietary camouflage patterns. This gives you the option to match which color palette is best for your environment. I used this product for spring turkey here in New York and it worked as advertised. One of the features that stand out is the overall fit. In New York, spring turkey season can see temperatures starting the season below freezing with snow to warm mornings in the mid-70s. This garment easily fits over any layering system you may need to match the conditions of your hunt. Even when worn over a single base layer, the jacket has a fitted feel to it. I wore it over my bino harness with no issues.
Due to its ultra-lightweight construction, durability may become an issue in the field through hard use. Unfortunately, that is generally the tradeoff when using ultralight products. That said, after multiple days in the field, I saw no evidence of wear and tear.
Extremely breathable due to design
Multiple camouflage patterns
Price point for both the jacket and balaclava
Durability due to lightweight construction
Tactical Concealment’s MCM Viper Ghillie gives the sniper or any other tactical team member the flexibility of an extremely lightweight ghillie geared for specific mission requirements. Due to its size, it fits in nearly any assault bag or ruck. While lightweight, its construction is designed for rigorous use.
The MCM Viper is constructed with a heavy-duty nylon mesh and the webbing is bar-tacked for extra durability. Bar tacking is a sewing technique that Tactical Concealment uses on its garments to ensure product confidence in the field. It’s a feature that makes these ghillies bombproof. The nature of the textiles used naturally makes the design breathable. The overall design accommodates customization for fit due to its multiple tension cords and adjustable chest strap.
When you purchase from Tactical Concealment, you can have the utmost confidence that you’re getting the best product on the market. For those in the tactical space, quality comes at a cost, but in this line of work, it’s a cost that’s an investment. The MCM Viper is not field-ready. Tactical Concealment recommends a break-in period to soften the mesh and the end-user will need to tie in jute and other garnishes for field use.
Integrates with and accommodates any tactical kit
Not field-ready, requires jute, and break-in is recommended due to mesh thickness
For the recreational weekend warrior, a ghillie becomes applicable for those playing airsoft and paintball. The North Mountain Gear Hybrid Ghillie is just what you’re looking for if disappearing and surprising the opposing team is your game. Also, if you’re a bowhunter, don’t sleep on this product either — it’s quiet, light, and field-ready.
This hybrid ghillie is unique because it combines the jute and garnish of a traditional ghillie with the 3D cut fabric of a leafy suit. This results in a product that exhibits an excellent mix of texture and outline breakup. The suit is lightweight at three to five pounds (depending on the size selected). It offers good breathability and is easy to put on in the field. This ghillie comes with a carry bag for storage and ease of transport. This ghillie is well-constructed and provides an uninhibited range of movement for the ground hunter, notably the bowhunter.
While this product leans towards the recreational space, it is not designed for rugged use in the field. It is the most affordable option in this buyer’s guide, but you shouldn’t mistake that for being cheap. This ghillie is very capable and should be given consideration whether you’re playing capture the flag or chasing game.
Hybrid concept integrating 3D fabric and jute
Not designed for rugged field use
Hunting in the timber on those spring mornings chasing turkeys is some of the best times to be in the field. Watching and listening to the forest come to life, to the increscent glow of the rising sun over the horizon, is one of the great privileges we as hunters have. Blending into these situations in either dappled sunlight or full shade is where Nomad’s 3D leafy suit excels. It’s available in the classic Mossy Oak Bottomland or Mossy Oak Shadow Leaf.
This is a two-piece kit but was field-tested with just the jacket. The jacket is lightweight and made of a quiet four-way stretch material with a jagged leafy texture. Nomad advertises it as moisture-wicking, and both mornings in the field proved this jacket to be breathable and quick-drying. The hood is adjustable, and the zippered dump pouch is a nice touch for calls, a phone, and tags. The leafy pants are made from the same material and easily layer over other pants.
As with anything constructed that is lightweight, durability can become a concern through wear and tear or harsh field use. The 3D leaf design could be more dramatic to improve on obscuring the head and shoulder outline. The current 3D fabric is cut tight to the garment, but that didn’t appear to diminish its effectiveness in the field.
Moisture-wicking and antimicrobial (resists bacteria growth that makes it stink)
Durability may be a concern due to lightweight nature of textiles
Camouflage options are on a dark palette scale
Our verdict on ghillie suits
The market isn’t short on ghillie products. There are some great companies producing quality ghillie suits and components. There are also some that I wouldn’t wear on Halloween. As the consumer, you have specific requirements, and when purchasing a ghillie, you should approach this as an investment rather than a casual purchase. That said, after careful research and field testing, Tactical Concealment’s Original Cobra Hood earned the award for Best Overall. Its superior combination of durability, functionality, and lightweight construction set it apart from competing products. For those looking for the Best Value, look no further than Miles Tactical’s BDU Ultra Light Sniper Jacket and Pant Ghillie. This ghillie is field-ready, fit, and finished out of the box. First Lite’s Phantom Leafy Suit and Phantom Balaclava combo earned the Editor’s Choice award for best 3D suit design more specific to hunting.
What to consider when buying a ghillie suit
Types of ghillie suits
Finding the right ghillie for your intended purposes is a deliberate process. Ghillies designed for the tactical environment are going to be engineered to withstand the demands of the operational environment in which they will be employed. From urban to mountain operations, ghillie suits need to be constructed in such a way that they give the sniper the structure to integrate local vegetation to assist in concealment. These garments are created to be resilient against intense use that will compromise a lower-quality product. Generally, due to their weight, venting is required for increased breathability. The packability of a ghillie is worth considering since most snipers will be self-supported and this requires additional water, batteries, and optics that will fill much of a sniper’s ruck.
A lightweight tactical ghillie is an attractive option. It offers most of the concealment benefits at a fraction of the weight. Increased breathability and packability are added bonuses. In today’s modern battlefield, these lightweight ghillies can easily be worn over issued body armor or plate carriers. They often have hoods that accommodate current ballistic helmets as well.
Ghillies designed for recreational purposes will inherently lack the durability of those designed for tactical applications. They are generally lighter weight in construction and lack the quality of materials and stitching used in the aforementioned category. Due to their lighter weight, they are easier to transport, offer a good range of motion, and are breathable. A good recreational ghillie will adequately break up the human form. It should also be cost-effective for the role it’s intended for.
For the modern hunter, the ghillie in its 3D leaf suit variation has come full circle. Yes, you can use a traditional ghillie for pursuing game in the field, but the 3D suit offers the same concealment and outline breakup benefits without the weight penalty. The 3D leaf suits are lightweight and breathable. Generally, they are designed to be worn over your layering system, giving them a wide range of conditions in which they can be utilized.
The hybrid ghillie is an interesting evolution for the hunter to consider. It’s also a texturing technique applicable to the tactical ghillie. Combining traditional jute and garnish with the 3D cut fabric improves outline breakup.
Key features of a ghillie suit
Without question, ghillie construction is the most important consideration. The textiles and stitching used will determine a ghillie’s durability in the field. Webbing requires bartacking and the webbing should provide flexibility for movement but also hold tight to the host fabric. Venting shouldn’t be overlooked; mesh panels sewn into the backs of jackets and hoods helps to dump heat (thermoregulate).
Some ghillies incorporate a hood, but the boonie is standard. It’s modified with venting on the top and webbing is bartacked as an overlay for jute and garnish application. Ideally, a boonie will have more webbing/mesh in the back that can serve as a veil. The sniper can use this veil to drape over optics, concealing them from being observed and mitigating the reflectiveness of the objective lens.
Quality construction and materials are expensive, but it’s an expense worth paying for. These garments are purpose-built, and for the sniper or other reconnaissance soldier, having confidence in your gear is paramount in the field.
Ghillie suits should incorporate colors that are lighter in nature. You will struggle to lighten a dark ghillie. Dark ghillies stand out in nearly any environment but a light ghillie can naturally be darkened with vegetation and shadows. The human eye will quickly pick out a dark shape and outline. The Marine Corps’ desert MARPAT and the Army’s Desert Combat Uniform (DCU) make excellent base garments for ghillie suits.
The primary area to focus on jute and garnish application is the head and shoulders. This is the most distinguishable part of the human form and special attention should be devoted to breaking up this outline. Quality ghillie suits will provide ample webbing and tie-in points for this specific purpose.
Due to the different applications for ghillie employment, ghillies are generally tailored for the intended use. Tactical ghillies are built for durability, which means they are generally heavier. Recreational ghillies lack this robust construction because it is neither required nor necessary. Often, recreational ghillies are worn over other clothes and are lightweight and compressible. Understanding your application will help you to better determine which ghillie is the ideal fit.
Ghillie suit pricing
There are some budget-oriented ghillie products out there, but you won’t find that cheap option in this guide. You can construct your ghillie very economically with a pair of old BDUs using your grandmother’s sewing machine, mesh, and webbing. It requires patience and time. If that doesn’t sound enticing, then this guide will provide you with quality options for your needs.
Tactical ghillies will run you $200 to $500, while quality recreational ghillies can be had for as little as $100. These prices may appear steep, but a quality ghillie will outlast most of your needs.
Tips and tricks
- Lighter is better than darker. You can always darken a light palette, but you can’t lighten a dark one.
- Shadows — from the tactical environment to the field, shadows are your friend. Shadows conceal movement and glare, and they naturally make you (or anything) more difficult to distinguish.
- When tying in jute, less is more. There are too many examples of ghillies making the wearer look like Chewbacca — that’s poor execution.
- The key to a great ghillie is using the same vegetation in the area in which you’re operating or hunting. Don’t forget to “reveg” as you transition from point A to B. Unless you’re stalking across an agricultural field that is a monoculture, you will need to take time to update the vegetation you use to match that of your surroundings.
- Women’s hair ties are perfect for tying in vegetation.
- Ghillies require periodic maintenance, so inspect the stitching, webbing, and jute for general condition and security.
FAQs about ghillie suits
You’ve got questions, Task & Purpose has answers.
Q: How effective are ghillie suits for hunting?
A: They are certainly an effective tool for the ground hunter, from the turkey to the deer woods. Matt Zirnsak from The Push Archery had a close call with multiple black bears on a hunt. Luckily, black bears are generally shy creatures. For the mobile hunter, the ghillie gives you great concealment, but you still have to be mindful of the wind and thermals.
Q: Are ghillie suits legal?
A: Yes, there’s nothing illegal about them. I know an insurance fraud investigator who used one to capture footage of a claimant in violation of his worker’s compensation claim. However, the main conflict is the hunting field where you may be required by local or state law to wear orange.
Q: What ghillie suit does the military use?
A: Generally, the individual sniper makes his/her own ghillie, but some units may issue ghillie kits to those in sniper or reconnaissance units.
Q: Do snipers wear ghillie suits?
A: Yes, but it’s very mission-specific. Not all situations will require them, and it’s a piece of kit that most won’t carry unless it’s necessary due to its bulk. That said, they do make great blankets in the field on those cold nights/mornings along the Euphrates River.