If you plan to make a ghillie suit, you will need supplies, time, effort, and patience. Depending on the purpose of the suit, as well as the quality and longevity you want from the finished product, you may spend many hours preparing, making, and seasoning it before you can put it to use. When a ghillie suit is made from scratch, these tasks can take as many as 100 hours to complete. For a small cost, however, you can buy most of the materials you need to put your camouflage together more quickly and easily. A third option is to buy a ghillie suit that is pre-made and ready to wear.
A ghillie suit starts with a foundation, usually a battle dress uniform (BDU) comprising pants and jacket, a flight suit, or simply an old pair of coveralls. If you improvise your own foundation suit by using such garments as old coveralls, make sure they are first washed with a detergent that has no scented chemicals added. When you need your ghillie suit to provide cover only from the waist up, leaving your legs free for movement, you can plan to make a net poncho covered with ghillie material rather than a full suit.
Dedicated people who are determined to make their own ghillie suits from scratch need to buy burlap in preparation for the most time-consuming and tedious part of the operation. This involves dyeing the burlap to various shades ranging from medium green to brown, cutting it into strips, and sewing the strips onto the foundation suit with the ends of the higher strips overlapping the attachment points of the lower strips by about half an inch to provide coverage. Alternatively, you can first sew and glue netting to the foundation suit, then attach the dyed burlap strips or jute twine to the netting. Be careful not to finish with blocks of strips in similar coloring, as this will defeat the aim of using the ghillie suit to merge into the background.
The dye colors should be chosen to blend in with the area where you will be wearing your ghillie suit. You can also increase the authentic look by taking the suit to the area and rolling it around in the local vegetation, or by adding some of the vegetation to the strips on the netting or the suit. Keep in mind, however, when making your ghillie suit, that burlap is hot and heavy. If you add too much to it, you may find it difficult to move as quickly as you may need, as well as being uncomfortable, particularly in hot weather.
You can omit the dyeing and cutting, but still have a hand in the making of your ghillie suit by buying a ghillie kit that includes all the materials you need, as well as assembly instructions. These can be ordered in the custom color combination you want or bought in available patterns, and can take from five to 10 hours to complete by hand. If time is a factor, a pre-made ghillie suit costs more than a kit, but saves time and effort.
When making your own ghillie suit, you need to remember that Hessian and burlap are highly inflammable and take appropriate precautions to treat it. This need should not apply to the ghillie suits and kits available for purchase, because they are usually treated with fire retardants before you buy them or are made of fire resistant materials. They are also often made of materials that are lighter and cooler than burlap, making them more comfortable, if less traditional, than the type of ghillie suit you would make yourself.