Ultimate Hide ‘N’ Seek: Inside the World of Ghillie Suit Fans

Floris Hagenouw is the Netherlands-based creator of Tactical Ghillies, a YouTube channel and loose social collective dedicating to refining and perfecting the art of the ghillie suit.

Wait: what’s a ghillie suit? It’s a covering of webbing or netting to which are tied hundreds of strands of fabric, grass, and brush. More than printed camouflage, ghillie suits can render the wearers almost entirely invisible in bush, and Hagenouw and his friends challenge themselves to sneak up on each other undetected. For this reason, ghillie suits are popular amongst paintball and airsoft players, and even in video games. While most people buy pre-fab ghillies, some peoplelike Hagenouwprefer to make their own.

Tactical Ghillies quickly developed a large following. And in spite of hosting fewer videos these days (Hagenouw has started a new YouTube channel, expanding to bush skills) they have created an annual meetup, which draws ghillie suit enthusiasts from all over Europe for a weekend of ultimate hide ‘n’ seek.

FOR THE LOVE OF CAMO

For me it’s all about being invisible when you’re right under someone’s nose. I remember playing a mission for COD4; it was called All Ghillied Up.” You had to infiltrate a guarded, post-apocalyptic zone [destroyed by the Chernobyl explosion]. In this mission, the goal was to get to and over the watch position unseen. This was with the use of ghillies, of course. Playing this mission lit some sort of camouflage craze inside of me, and I think that’s when I started to take the video thing in hand and started producing content on YouTube.

After experiencing the first thrills of hiding in plain sight I’d gotten the taste for it and went outside with my camera to make videos showing how close I could get with my ghillie. At the time, YouTube was still a fairly new concept so it wasn’t hard to stand out in the crowd. So, the subscribers came relatively fast.

Stealth Mountain

One day, a mobile camp was posted near the village where I live. So, I decided to ghillie up and see how close I could get. Eventually, I crawled up to their feet without being compromised. This was a real awesome experience! Once you’ve experienced it for yourself, you know what the craze is about.

Ghil’ It Yourself

Making a ghillie takes up some time, but probably not as much as one might think. The most time-consuming part is shredding or separating jute bags into strings. If you want to make a really intricate suit it will take up some time. Some people made modular suits with lots of things on it. But if we look at making a simple suit based on a BDU it would take about 1-2 days. Not that much.

1. Start by sewing on the netting onto the BDU, takes up about two hours (a bit longer if you do it by hand)
2. Then you would dye the jute, takes up about 1 hour and then two hours to dry (depends on the humidity)
3. Now comes the arduous part: plucking out the jute bags. You can do it before the dying (four hours)
4. Now just simply tie bundles of jute strings into the netting on the suit (about two hours)

An Annual Meetup

We still host a meeting each year where enthusiasts are able to come over and test their skills. Besides that, we aren’t actively posting videos anymore. But people from all over Europe show up for this meeting.

I think that you have to take into account that it is a very “odd” hobby that we practice. So when people with like-minded interests get an opportunity to meet, they don’t let it go by. As of today, we and another party in Germany are the only ones in the world who host these kind of events, to my knowledge.

We go to the field or forest where we’ve planned the exercises. We arrive and the participants get to prepare their ghillies. This means going out in the field and applying natural vegetation to the suit to increase blending once in the field. Then we start with the exercises. These take up most of the day. Around 5 or 6 pm we head back to the tent and have a communal BBQ.

It’s not only skills and experiences you have to share with each other; the entire event is a fun and really social weekend. So once you’ve been there you want to go the next year!

Green Label is going to COMPLEXCON, and we’re bringing The Camo Collective with us. This immersive gallery experience showcases the history of camouflage throughout art, fashion, and technology. Visit us on November 4-5 at COMPLEXCON, Long Beach, California.

Watch our documentary on camo: The Fine Print: A History of Camouflage.

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